EXAMPLES OF MARTYRS
FR. TADROS Y. MALATY
ACTS OF MARTYRS
Through the waves of persecution, many spiritual leaders
devoted themselves to strengthen the martyrs and
confessors6. They visited the prisons and kept their company
on their trial, or even to the place of their execution. Some
virtuous men not only kept the martyrs' company but dared
to take their holy bodies or relics, and wrote the biography
of their trail and martyrdom as eye-witnesses, which are
called "Acts of Martyrs."
1. THEODORE THE VIRGIN
She was summoned to the court, during the Diocletian
persecution. She was accused of being a Christian, perhaps it
was because of her refusal to marry a certain noble man. She
was taken away to a den of sin and infamy, but a Christian
soldier called Didymius saved her by giving her his own
cloak. When Didymius was sent to be martyred, Theodora
appeared to share with him the crown of martyrdom.
2. ST. MENA THE MIRACLE-MAKER
St. Mena is most well-known in both the East and West,
due to the many miracles that are performed by his prayers
for us. That is evident from the numerous little clay bottles
that got his picture and name engraved on them, which were
found by the archaeologists in various cities around the
world, such as Heidleburg in Germany, Milan in Italy,
Dalmata in Yugoslavia, Marseilles in France, Dongula in Sudan, and Jerusalem.
St. Mena was born in the year 285, in the city of Niceous
which follows the provision of Mymph. His parents were real
ascetic Christians, the father Audexios, and the mother
Aufimia. On the feast of St. Mary, the mother who did not
have any children prayed in front of the icon of the Virgin
with tears, that God may give her a blessed son. A sound
came to her ears saying "Amen," and thus she called her son
His father, a ruler of one of the provisions of Egypt died
when Mena was fourteen years old. At fifteen he joined the
army, and was given a high rank, because of his father's
reputation, and was appointed in Algeria. Three years later
he left the army longing to devote his whole life to Christ,
and headed towards the desert to lead a different kind of life.
After spending five years as a hermit, he saw the angels
crowning the martyrs with glamorous crowns, and longed to
join them. He hurried to the ruler, declaring his Christian
faith. His endless endurance of the tortures that he
underwent, had attracted many of the pagans not only to
Christianity, but also to martyrdom. His body was buried in
Marriute, near Alexandria. It was discovered by the daughter
of King Zinon, who was healed from sickness when she slept
at the site of his burial. The King built a church there, and a
large city was established. Sick people from all over the
world used to visit that city for recovery. Pope Cyril VI
established a new monastery in this area.
3. ST. REFKA
She and her five children, natives of a village in Upper-
Egypt at the province of "Quous," submitted themselves to
the ruler of Quous after giving all their belongings to the
poor and the needy. St. Refka's family was well-known and
loved by the natives of Quous, therefore, in order not to
punish them in Quous, they were sent to Armanius, the ruler
of Alexandria who was visiting Shoubra (a suburb of
Damanhour) at that time. There they suffered cruel tortures and finally they were beheaded, giving great example of the love of martyrdom.
4. ST. DIMIANA
She is one of the popular martyrs of Egypt, she lived
together with forty virgins in her palace as a nunnery. During
the reign of Diocletian, she rebuked her father Markos, the
ruler of El-Borollos (Zaafaran), for his denial of Christ, and
urged him to be martyred with her and the forty virgins.
5. ST. CATHERINE
In the seventh century, Tillemont wrote that it would be
hard to find a saint more famous than St. Catherine, the
Alexandrian virgin7, who met her martyrdom at the early age
of eighteen in A.D 307. Baronius states that in his own
country, Belgium, no city or town is without some church or
altar built to her glory8; even her feast was celebrated as a
holiday in some European countries such as England, in the
It is said that she endured horrible tortures and even dared to argue and reason in public with the philosophers of Alexandria and succeeded in converting them and many of the court's officers to Christianity... Her saintly corpse was transported to Mount Sinai by the angels9.
Generally she is regarded as the patron saint of schools, probably because of her controversial arguments with the philosophers of Alexandria. In Europe (in A.D 1063) a semimonastery was instituted in her honor, where those who joined it made a vow to live in virginity.
6. ARIANUS, THE RULER OF ANTIONIE10
The Roman Empire did not know a ruler more cruel than
Arianus, who devoted all his strength to impose severe
tortures upon Christians, to the extent that some rulers from
outside Egypt used to send him those Christians who refused
to abandon the Christian faith. He found great pleasure in
visiting other cities, such as Esnah (Latopolis) in Upper-
Egypt where he killed its Bishops and all his people.
He came to know about a Christian deacon in Antionie
named Apollnius. As he summoned Apollnius, in fear, he
asked his pagan friend, Philemon the piper, to appear before
the ruler and bribed him with gold to offer sacrifice to the
idols. Philemon, disguised in the deacon's clothes and went
before the ruler. But there, the grace of God converted
Philemon and he refused to offer the sacrifice!
After many failing attempts from Arianus, he sent for
Philemon the piper, with the assumption that the man before
him is Appolnius, hoping that through the piper's music, and
influence, a change of faith could occur. But the messenger's
search ended in vain, till the piper's brother was obliged to
tell the truth. In great anger Arianus ordered both the piper
and the deacon to come before him, submitting them to great
punishments, throwing arrows at them; but non of the arrows
hit the two Christians. One of the arrows reflected back, hurt
the ruler's eye. Philemon told the ruler, as he was crying for
help, to wait until the next day and use dust from their tomb to heal his eye, as they were to be killed if they did not abandon the Christian faith.
The two Christians were beheaded, Arianus could not
sleep all night, and in the morning he went to the martyrs'
tomb and did as Philemon told him. At once his eye was
cured. In sorrow and repentance the ruler accepted the
Christian faith, and liberated all the Christians from prison.
Diocletian, who was visiting Alexandria, was agitated. Not believing what he had heard, he sent messengers to summon Arianus before him. He obeyed the order, but before traveling to Alexandria he visited the martyrs' tomb, and the messengers who were with him heard a voice encouraging him to be martyred.
God granted Arianus the gift of making miracles. In the end he was martyred along with the messengers who were converted to Christianity.
7. THE THEBAEAN LEGION
In A.D 286 as some tribes of Gaul under two Roman
officers, Aelianus and Amondus revolted against the
Emperor Maximian who summoned to his aid from the East
a legion called Thebaean, (because it was raised in the
neighborhood of Thebais in Egypt). They were all Christians
(6666 members). Before entering the war, the emperor held
a review of the troops and called upon them to swear
allegiance with all the usual pagan ceremonies. Encouraged
by the exhortation of their commander Mauritius, they
refused. One tenth were beheaded before all the soldiers, but
instead of submitting they wrote a letter to the Emperor, in
which they said:
"O Great Caesar, we are your soldiers, but at the same time we are God's servants.
We have to serve in the National (military) service, but we also submit heartedly to God...
We receive the temporary reward from you, but the eternal one from Him.
We never obey orders which oppose God's commandments..."
On reading the message he ordered that another one-tenth be beheaded. The rest still refused to sacrifice to the idols. Then they were all martyred.
1. Fr. T. Malaty: The Coptic Church, Melbourne 1978, p 79-109.
2. Strom. 4:14:96.
3. In Jer. hom 14:17.
4. Origen: In Joan. hom 14:17.
5. Mourad Kamel: Coptic Egypt, p 33.
6. Smith & Wace: Dict. of Christian Bibliog., vol 1, p. 422.
7. Mem. Eccl. VII, p. 447.
8. Baronius: Ann. Eccl. (ed. Theiner) 111, p. 397.
9. Martin: Vies des Saints, t. 3, p. 1841 f.
10. Now Know as "Shekh-Abbada," a village in Mallawi.