September 3, 2016

Holy Hieromartyr Anthimos, Bishop of Nicomedia

St. Anthimos the Martyr of Nicomedia (Feast Day - September 3)


You were beheaded with the sword Martyr Anthimos,
And though dead the hairs on your head blossom to the glory of God.
On the third Anthimos was beheaded with a sharp sword.

Saint Anthimos was Bishop of Nicomedia in Bithynia (Asia Minor) during the reign of Emperor Maximian (286-305),* and in 304 at his command 20,000 Christians in Nicomedia perished in a fire while in church on Christmas day. Bishop Anthimos escaped their fate and hid himself in the village of Omana not far from Nicomedia at the request of his flock. From there he sent letters to the Christians, urging them to keep firmly the holy Faith and not to fear tortures.

One of his letters, that was sent with Deacon Theophilos, was intercepted and turned over to Emperor Maximian. Deacon Theophilos was cruelly questioned and died under torture, without revealing the whereabouts of Bishop Anthimos to his torturers. Maximian soon managed to learn the whereabouts of Bishop Anthimos. A detachment of soldiers was sent after him. Anthimos met them along the way, but the soldiers did not recognize him. The bishop invited them to join him for a meal that he provided. After the meal, Anthimos revealed that he was the one they sought. The surprised soldiers did not know what to do. They were ready to leave him and lie to the emperor that they had not found him. However, Anthimos was not one to tolerate a lie. So, he would not consent to their plan.

The soldiers came to believe in Christ and received holy Baptism. The bishop ordered them to carry out the emperor's instructions. After Anthimos was brought before the emperor, Maximian ordered that the instruments of execution be brought out and placed before him. "Do you think, emperor, to frighten me with these tools of execution?" asked Anthimos. "No indeed, you cannot frighten one who wishes to die for Christ! Execution is frightening only for the cowardly, for whom the present life is most precious." The emperor then directed that Anthimos be fiercely tortured by being beaten with rods, made to walk in red-hot bronze sandals and finally fixed to a wheel that broke his limbs, while the executioners burnt his body with flaming torches.

Through all this the Saint remained steadfast, and like gold refined in fire he shone more brightly in the midst of torments. After Anthimos prophesied to the emperor that his pagan empire would soon come to an end and Christianity would triumph, the emperor rent in two his purple cloak and ordered Anthimos beheaded. Bishop Anthimos joyfully glorified God with his last breath and received the crown of martyrdom.

It is said that after the death of Bishop Anthimos the hair on his head continued growing in a strange yet wondrous manner. His skull is kept today in the Athonite Monastery of Saint Panteleimon, and portions of his skin are in the Chapel of Saint Xenia the Fool for Christ in Mandra of Attica.


* Though Eusebius dates the martyrdom of Anthimos to 303 or 304, a fragmentary letter preserved in the Chronicon Paschale, written in prison by the Priest Lucian of Antioch, who was awaiting death, mentions Anthimos, bishop of Nicomedia, as having just suffered martyrdom. Schaff and Wace note that Lucian was imprisoned and put to death during the persecution of Emperor Maximinus Daia, in 311 or 312, and therefore conclude that, if the fragment is genuine, Anthimos suffered martyrdom not under Diocletian and Maximian but under Maximinus.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
Thou didst protect thy flock with thy blood, not fearing thine adversaries. Now thou dost rejoice in heaven, standing before the throne. Glory to Christ Who has strengthened thee; glory to thy courage; glory to thine endurance, O holy Heiromartyr Anthimos.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Illustrious priest and steadfast martyr, Anthimos worthy of praise, thou didst assail idol-worship, and champion thy flock who fervently cry out to thee: By thine intercessions deliver us from dangers.