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Euphrosyne

In Greek mythology, Euphrosyne ("you FROSS uh nee": mirth or joy) was one of the Charites, known in English also as the "Three Graces." Her best remembered representation in English is in Milton's poem of the active, joyful life, "L'Allegro."


In Catholicism, St. Euphrosyne (fifth century CE) belongs to that group of legendary virgins who flee advantageous marriages and adopt male attire and pass for men, in order to lead lives of celibacy and asceticism.

Her "life", narrated in the VitŠ Patrum, has some unmistakable hallmarks of the sentimental Hellenistic novel . Euphrosyne was the beloved only daughter of a rich man of Alexandria, miraculously born in her parents' old age in answer to a monk's prayer. Her loving father desired to marry her to a wealthy youth. But having already consecrated her life to God and under pressure to break this vow, she clothed herself as a man and, as "Smaragdus," gained admittance to a monastery nearby. There she made rapid strides toward a perfected ascetic life, under the guidance of the abbot, who was the very monk who had prayed for her birth. When her own father appealed to the abbot for comfort in his bereavement, the abbot committed him to the care of the alleged young man. The father received from his own daughter, whom he also failed to recognize, helpful advice and comforting exhortation. Not until she was dying did Euphrosyne reveal herself to him as his lost daughter. Her feast is celebrated both in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

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Euphrosyne was also the name of two Byzantine empresses. An Empress Euphrosyne, (9th century) a daughter of Constantine VI, the last representative of the Isaurian dynasty, was taken from a convent and made to marry Michael II "Psellus", in order to strengthen his shaky dynastic claims. The highly controversial marriage proved barren and after his death and the accession of her stepson she again retired.


The more dynamic Empress Euphrosyne (died ca. 1210) was the wife of Alexius III Angelus who secured the election of her husband to the throne by wholesale bribery. She virtually took the government into her hands, working through the minister Vatatzes and temporarily restored the waning influence of the monarchy over the nobles. Her reputation for profligate extravagance undercut the dynasty's popularity, however, in spite of her talent for government. In the sack of Constantinople in 1203 by the crusaders she was abandoned by her husband but joined him in exile and died in Epirus.


31 Euphrosyne is the name given to one of the larger asteroids within the orbit of Jupiter.

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