The story of the Cave of Seven Sleepers says that during the persecutions by the Roman emperor Decius, around 250 AD, seven young men were accused of following Christianity. They were given some time to recant their faith but chose instead to give their worldly goods to the poor and retire to a mountain cave to pray, where they fell asleep. The emperor, seeing that their attitude towards paganism had not improved, ordered the mouth of the cave to be sealed.
At some later time – usually given as during the reign of Theodosius II (408–450) – the landowner decided to open up the sealed mouth of the cave, thinking to use it as a cattle pen. He opened it and found the sleepers inside. They awoke, imagining that they had slept but one day, and sent one of their to Ephesus to buy food, with instructions to be careful lest the pagans recognize and seize him.
Upon arriving in the city, this person was astounded to find buildings with crosses attached; the townspeople for their part were astounded to find a man trying to spend old coins from the reign of Decius. The bishop was summoned to interview the sleepers; they told him their miracle story and died praising God.