Edesius and Frumentius
Edesius and Frumentius,
brothers from Tyre, Phoenician, introduced Christianity into Abyssinia;
the latter a saint and first Bishop of Axum is styled the Apostle of Abyssinia,
d. about 383.
When still mere boys
they accompanied their uncle Metropius on a voyage to Abyssinia. When
their ship stopped at one of the harbor of the Red Sea, people of the
neighborhood massacred the whole crew, with the exception of Edesius and
Frumentius, who were taken as slaves to the King of Axum. This occurred
about 316. The two boys soon gained the favor of the king, who raised
them to positions of trust and shortly before his death gave them their
The widowed queen,
however, prevailed upon them to remain at the court and assist her in
the education of the young prince Erazanes and in the administration of
the kingdom during the prince's minority. They remained and (especially
Frumentius) used their influence to spread Christianity. First they encouraged
the Christian merchants, who were temporarily in the country, to practice
their faith openly by meeting at places of public worship; later they
also converted some of the natives.
When the prince came
of age, Edesius returned to his friends and relatives at Tyre and was
ordained priest, but did not return to Abyssinia. Frumentius, on the other
hand, who was eager for the conversion of Abyssinia, accompanied Edesius
as far as Alexandria, where he requested St. Athanasius to send a bishop
and some priests to Abyssinia. St. Athanasius considered Frumentius himself
the most suitable person for bishop and consecrated him in 328, according
to others between 340-46.
to Abyssinia, erected his episcopal see at Axum, baptized King Aeizanas,
who had meanwhile succeeded to the throne, built many churches, and spread
the Christian Faith throughout Abyssinia. The people called him Abuna
(Our Father) or Abba Salama (Father of Peace), titles still given
to the head of the Abyssinian Church.
In 365 Emperor Constantius
addressed a letter to King Aeizanas and his brother Saizanas in which
he vainly requested them to substitute the Arian bishop Theophilus for
Frumentius (Athanasius, "Apol. ad Constantium" in P.G., XXV, 631).
The Latins celebrate
the feast of Frumentius on 27 October, the Greeks on 30 November, and
the Copts on 18 December.
credits him with the first Ethiopian translation of the New Testament.
Ecclesiastica, lib. I, cap. ix, in P.L., XXI, 478-80; Acta
SS. Oct., XII, 257-70; DUCHESNE, Les missiones chrétienne
au Sud de l'empire romain in Mélanges d'archéologie et
d'histoire (Rome, 1896), XVI, 79-122; THEBAUD, The Church and the
Gentile World (New York, 1878), I, 231-40; BUTLER, Lives of the
Saints, 27 Oct.; BARING-GOULD, Lives of the Saints (London,
1872), 27 Oct.
Transcribed by WGKofron
With thanks to St. Mary's Church, Akron, Ohio
The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume V
Copyright © 1909 by Robert Appleton Company
Online Edition Copyright © 1999 by Kevin Knight
Nihil Obstat, May 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor
Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York