of the party to the city to purchase provisions. He found Christianity everywhere triumphant, to his boundless surprise. At a shop where he bought some food, he produced a coin of Decius to pay for it. Accused of having discovered a hidden treasure, he told the story of himself and his companions. When he led the way to the cave, the appearance of his companions, still young and radiant with a celestial brightness, proved the truth of his story. The Emperor soon heard of it, and went in person to the cave, where the awakened sleepers told him that God had preserved them in order to prove to him the truth of the immortality of the soul. Having delivered their message, they expired.

It is quite unnecessary to comment on the exceeding silliness of the tale as told in the Qur'an, though in this respect Muhammad cannot be deserving of more blame for accepting it as true than the ignorant Christians, by whom it was so widely spread and in all probability invented. It is quite possible that the story was originally intended to be an allegory, or more probably a religious romance, framed with the intention of showing with what wonderful rapidity the Christian faith had spread, through the courage and faithfulness even unto death of so many of its professors. Be this as it may, it is undoubtedly the case that long before Muhammad's day the legend had obtained credence in many parts of the East,


and even apparently in Mecca it was believed in his time. Muhammad's fault lay in pretending that he had received it as a Divine revelation, whereas it is as little worthy of credence as the tale of St. George and the Dragon (also probably an allegory), or Cinderella and the Glass Slipper or the Batrachomyomachia among the Greeks, or the tales of Rustam's marvellous exploits among the Persians 1.

2. Story of the Virgin Mary.

The history of Mary, as related in the Qur'an and the Traditions of the Prophet, is taken almost entirely from the apocryphal Gospels and works

1 There can be little doubt that we may trace the origin of the Syriac tale of “The Seven Sleepers” to a classic Greek source. It is evidently borrowed from the tale of Epimenides’ long sleep, as related by Diogenes Laertius in the following words:— Ουτός ποτε πεμφθεις παρα του πατρος εις αγρον επι πρόβατον, της οδου κατα μεσημβρίαν εκκλίνας, υπ αντρω τινι κατεκοιμήθη επτα και πεντήκοντα ετη. σιαναστας δε μετα ταυτα, εζήτει το πρόβατον, νομίζων επ ολίγον κεκοιμησθαι. ως δε ουχ ευρισκε, παρεγενετο εις τον αγρον, και μετεσκευασμένα πάντα καταλαβων και παρ ετέρω την κτησιν, πάλιν ηκεν εις αστυ διαπορούμενος κακει δε εις την εαυτου εισιων οικίαν, περιέτυχε τοις πυνθανομένοις, τίς ειη εως τον νεώτερον αδελφον ευρών, τότε ηδη γέροντα οντα, πασαν εμαθε παρ εκείνου την αλήθειαν .... και επανελθων επ οικου μετ ου πολυ μετήλλαξεν, ως φησι Φλέγων εν τω περι μακροβίων, βιους ετη επτα και πεντηκοντα και εκατον ως δε Κρητες λέγουσι, ενος δέοντα τριακόσια ως δε Ξενοφάνης ο Κολοφώνιος ακηκοεναι φησί, τέτταρα προς τοις πεντήκοντα και εκατόν (Diog. Laertii, De Vitis Philosophorum, lib. I, cap. X. 2, 4). The tale has obtained a new lease of life in the New World under the form of Rip Van Winkle’s somewhat similar adventure.