challenged Muhammad to tell them the story of the Companions of the Cave, if he could, in order to test his claim to inspiration. The story was evidently therefore current among them in some form, perhaps in more than one. There was a dispute concerning the number of persons who went into the cave, and various opinions were stated on the subject. Muhammad, as is evident from verses 22 and 23 which we have omitted, promised to give them an answer on the morrow, purposing apparently to inquire of some one about the matter. He evidently failed to obtain certain information, hence he left the question of the number of the youths unsettled, and his attempt to get out of the difficulty is not very successful. Nor does he tell the place where or the time when the event is said to have occurred. He ventures, however, to assert positively just one fact, — that the time spent in the cave was 309 years. Unfortunately, as we shall see, even in this he was wrong. He has no doubt, however, that the event recorded in the story — really occurred. From the whole style of the passage we perceive that Muhammad had no written document and no reliable informant at hand who could give him exact particulars of the affair. None the less we possess more than one form of the legend, written before Muhammad's time: and it is clear that to an oral form of the story he was indebted for the particulars given in the Qur'an, and not to Divine revelation, as he claimed to be.


The Syriac writer, Jacob of Sarug, in a homily published in the Acta Sanctorum, gives the myth at some length. He died A.D. 521. Other early Syriac forms of the story are known 1. Most accounts say that there were "Seven Sleepers," hence the name by which the tale is generally known in Europe, but one Syriac MS. of the sixth century 2 in the British Museum says they numbered eight. Muhammadan commentators 3 on the Qur'an relate traditions, some of which say that they were seven, others asserting that they numbered eight, a point which Muhammad practically in the Qur'an acknowledged his inability to decide. As far as we know, the first European writer to relate the legend was Gregory of Tours 4. He tells us that in the reign of the Emperor Decius (A.D. 249-51) seven noble young Christians of Ephesus fled from persecution and took refuge in a cave not far from the city. After a time, however, their enemies discovered where they were and blocked up the entrance to the cave, leaving them to die of hunger. When Theodosius II was on the throne, 196 years later, a herdsman found and opened the cave. The Seven Sleepers then awoke from the slumber in which they had remained during the whole time, and (as the Qur'an says also) sent one

1 Vide Bar Hebraeus, Chron. Ecc., I. 142 sqq.; Assemani, Bibl. Orient. I. 335, sqq.
2 Cat. Syr. MSS., p. 1090.
3 Vide Jalalain and 'Abbasi in loco.
4 De Gloria Martyrum, cap. 95.