September 17, 2016

154 Holy Martyrs of Egypt and Palestine

On the seventeenth of this month [September], we commemorate the Holy Martyrs Peleus and Nilus the Bishops, Patermuthius, Elias and another 100 Martyrs of Egypt, and 50 Martyrs of Palestine.


For September 17

To Peleus and Nilus the Bishops of Egypt
How is Peleus as great as Peleus,
And Nilus who entered into the midst of the fire?*

To Patermouthius and Elias of Egypt
Patermouthios fell into the furnace,
Spurring Elias towards equal zeal.

To the One Hundred Martyrs of Egypt
Egyptian Martyrs ten times ten,
Together eagerly have their heads cut off.

To the Fifty Martyrs of Palestine
Godly-minded men of prudence,
Despise the fire and the sword.**

For September 29***

To the One Hundred and Fifty Martyrs of Palestine
Ten times ten martyrs and five times ten,
Contested and were crowned with crowns.

By Eusebius of Caesarea
(The History of the Martyrs in Palestine)

In the Seventh Year of the Persecution of our Days (310 A.D.)

It was the nineteenth day of Elul,*** and during the same wonderful conflict of the martyrs of God, a great spectacle was assembled in Phaeno, in this same Palestine; and all the combatants were perfect, and in number they were about a hundred and fifty.

Many of them, also, were Egyptians, amounting to more than a hundred. And the same in the first place had their right eyes and their left legs in their sinews destroyed by cautery of fire and by the sword. And then after these things they were delivered over to dig copper in the mines. Those, also, who belonged to Palestine had to endure afflictions in the same manner as the Egyptians; and they were all assembled together in a place called Zoar, as a congregation consisting of many persons. There was also much people with them, who came from other places to see them, and many others who ministered to them in their necessities, and visited them in love, and filled up their lack. And all the day they were occupied in the ministry of prayer, and in the service of God, and in teaching and reading; and all the afflictions which passed over them were esteemed by them as pleasures, and they spent all that time as if it had been in a festive assembly.

But the enemy of God and wicked envier was not able to bear these things, so there was immediately sent out against them one of those generals of the Romans that is styled Dux; and first of all he separated them one by one from each other, and some of them were sent to that wretched place Zoar, and some not; and some of them to Phaeno, the place where the copper is dug; and the others went to different places. Afterwards he selected from among those in Phaeno four of them who were of great excellence, in order that by them he might terrify the rest. Having, therefore, brought them to the trial, and not one of them having shown any signs of dismay, this merciless judge, thinking that no punishment was so severe as that by fire, delivered up God's holy martyrs to this kind of death. When, therefore, they were brought to the fire, they cast themselves into the flames without fear, and dedicated themselves as an offering more acceptable than all incense and oblations; and presented their own bodies to God as a holocaust more excellent than all sacrifices.

And two of these were Bishops Peleus and Nilus; and the other two were selected of the laity, Patermuthius and Elias; and by race they were all of them Egyptians. They were pure lovers of that exalted philosophy which is of God, and offered themselves like gold to the fire to be purified. But He who gives strength to the weak, and multiplies comfort to the afflicted, deemed them worthy of that life which is in heaven, and associated them with the company of angels.****


* The first Peleus is a reference to the hero in Greek mythology described by Homer. This verse therefore states that Peleus the hero of Greek mythology was not as great as Peleus and Nilus the Martyrs.

** Elsewhere the last verse reads: "Despise the fire with courage."

*** On September 29th are commemorated the One Hundred and Fifty Martyrs of Palestine, with no other information about them. It can be assumed they are the same as the Holy Martyrs commemorated on September 17th.

**** A Jewish month that fell in the months of our current August and September.

***** It should be noted that St. John Chrysostom has a homily dedicated to these Martyrs titled "An Encomium on Egyptian Martyrs," which was delivered most likely on an occasion when some of their relics were brought to Antioch. Also, according to the Synaxarion, the 100 Martyrs of Egypt were martyred by beheading, while the other fifty-four were martyred by being burnt to death.