July 18, 2017

Holy Martyrs Paul, Thea and Valentina at Caesarea in Palestine (+ 308)

Sts. Paul, Valentina and Thea at Caesarea (Feast Day - Slav. July 16; Gr. July 18)


To Paul.
You are an Egyptian Paul by tongue and race,
But not by faith, therefore you were beheaded by the sword.

To Valentina and Thea.
Make ready Valentina and Thea,
For enemies of God thrash you, out of the enmity of their error.

The History of the Martyrs in Palestine

By Eusebius of Caesarea

The Confession of Paul, Thea and Valentina

In the Sixth Year of the Persecution of our Days (A.D. 308).

Up to the sixth year of the persecution which was in our days, the storm which had been raised against us was still raging; and great multitudes of confessors were in the mines which are called Porphyrites, in the country of Thebais, which is on one side of Egypt; and on account of the purple marble which is in that land, the name of Porphyrites has also been given to those who were employed in cutting it. This name, therefore, was also extended to those great multitudes of confessors who were under sentence of condemnation in the whole of the land of Egypt, for there were a hundred martyrs there all but three. And these confessors were sent, the men together with the women and children, to the governor in Palestine, whose name was Firmillianus. For he had superseded the governor Urbanus in his office, and he was a man by no means of a peaceful turn; indeed he even surpassed his predecessor in ferocity, having been a soldier that had been engaged in war, and had had much experience in blood and fighting.

There is a large city in the land of Palestine, teeming with population, of which all the inhabitants were Jews. It is called in the Aramaic tongue Lud, and in the Greek it is called Diocaesarea. To this city the governor Firmillianus went, and took thither the whole assembly of those hundred confessors. And this was a great sight which well deserves to be recorded in writing. And the Jews were spectators of this marvelous contest, having surrounded the place of judgment on all sides; and as if it were for a rebuke to themselves, they looked on with their own eyes at what took place, while the whole company of the confessors, with much confidence and immense courage, made their confession of belief in God's Christ. And they being Jews, to whom the coming of that Christ had been foretold by their prophets, whose coming their fathers looked for, had not received him when he was come; but these Egyptians, who had been of old the enemies of God, confessed, even in the midst of persecutions, their faith in God, the Lord of all, and in the manifestation from him. And these Egyptians, who had been taught by their fathers to worship idols only, were at that time, from the conviction of their reason, undergoing this conflict, in order that they might avoid the worship of idols; while those Jews, who had always been accused by their prophets on account of their worship of idols, were surrounding them, standing and looking on, and listening as the Egyptians repudiated the gods of their own fathers, and confessed their faith in the same God as they also did; and bare witness for Him whom they had many times denied. And they were still more cut to the heart and rent, when they heard the criers of the governor shouting and calling Egyptians by Hebrew names, and addressing them with the names of the prophets. For the crier, shouting aloud, called to them and said: Elias, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and other appellations similar to these, which their fathers had chosen from among the Hebrews, in order that they might call their sons after the names of the prophets. Moreover, it also came to pass that their deeds corresponded with their names; and the Jews greatly wondered both at them and at their names, as well as at their words and their deeds, being rendered despicable themselves both by their own vice and infidelity. And I myself am convinced that these things were not done without the will of God. However, after this trial they were deprived of the use of their left leg, by having the muscles of the knee cauterized with fire, and then again they had their right eyes blinded with the sword, and then destroyed by fire. And not only were they men who endured these things, but really children and many women. And after this they were delivered over to the copper mines to see afflictions there.

St. Valentina

And after a short time, the three men from Palestine, whom I mentioned a little while ago as having been for the moment handed over to the Ludus, were called to undergo similar sufferings, because they would not take the food from the royal provision, nor would give themselves up to that exercise and instruction which were requisite for pugilism; and they suffered many evils which we are not competent to describe, and at the end of all their afflictions they underwent this severe sentence. And others in the city of Gaza, being in the habit of assembling themselves for prayer, and being constant in reading the Holy Scriptures, were seized, and had to endure the same sufferings as their companions, being tortured on their legs and eyes. Others also had to contend in conflicts even greater than these, and after having been tortured both in their legs and eyes, were severely torn on their sides with combs. And others again more than these attained to this great excellence, and at the end of all contended with death itself.

And when he had turned himself away from these, he came to judge one who, although a woman in body, was a hero in the bravery of mind, which she possessed. She was also a virgin in her mode of life, and could not bear the threat of pollution which she heard, but at once gave utterance to harsh words against the tyrannical emperor, for having given authority to a vile and wicked judge. On this account, therefore, he in the first place bruised her body all over with stripes; then she was hung up and her sides were lacerated; and this not once only, but two and three times in one hour, and for a great while and also repeatedly, until those who inflicted the punishment became wearied and tired; then others succeeded them against her, and, at the commands of the furious governor, tortured her most severely. For these judges were barbarous in their manners, and enemies in their hearts. Moreover, it happened that while this furious judge was insulting this girl with his tortures, another young woman, small indeed in person, but courageous in soul -- for she was possessed of a large mind, which supplied strength to the smallness of her person -- being no longer able to tolerate the wickedness and cruelty of those things which were inflicted upon her sister, called out from the midst of the crowd of persons who were standing before the governor, and cried out complaining, and said: "How long do you intend to tear my sister to pieces in so cruel and merciless a manner?" And when the wicked Firmillianus heard this saying, he was bitterly incensed, and gave orders for the young woman who had complained to be brought before him. Her name was Valentina. Having therefore caught her up they brought her into the midst of the place of judgment. But she placed her trust in the holy name of Jesus. Then the murderous governor in his fury commanded her to offer sacrifice. But the maiden Valentina despised the word even of the threatener. Then he gave orders for those who were ministering to his will to lay hold upon the girl by force, and to take her up to the side of the altar, so that she might be polluted by the sacrifices. Then at that time of terror the noble maiden showed the courage of her mind, and gave the altar a kick with her foot, and it was overturned, and the fire that had been kindled upon it was scattered about; and because she did all these things without showing any fear, the rage of the governor was roused like a wild beast, and he gave command for her to be tortured with the combs, without any mercy, so that no one man was ever torn to such a degree; and I think that, had it been possible, he would even have devoured the girl's flesh. And when at length his fury was satisfied with the sight of her blood, and he had learned, both by deeds and words, how divine is that invincible power which arms and strengthens even little girls with courage and valor, he caused both the young women, Thea and Valentina, to be bound together, and gave sentence against them of death by fire. The name of the first was Thea, and her father's house was in the land of Gaza; and the other was from Caesarea, our own city, and she was well known to many, and her name was Valentina.**

St. Valentina

And after these things, Paul the confessor was called to the conflict. And he also endured it bravely, and in the same hour was condemned to be put to death, and his sentence was to be beheaded by the sword. When, then, this blessed man came to the place of execution where he was to be put to death, he besought the officer who was to behead him to have patience with him for a little while; and when the officer had granted him this desire, in the first place, with a mild and cheerful voice, he offered up thanksgiving, and worship, and glory, and supplication to God for having accounted him worthy of this victory. Then he prayed for tranquillity and peace for our people, and entreated God speedily to grant them deliverance. After this he offered up prayer for our enemies, the Jews, many of whom at that time were standing around him. Then he went on in his supplication, and prayed for the Samaritans, and for those among the Gentiles who were without knowledge; he prayed that they might be converted to the knowledge of the truth. Nor was he unmindful of those who were standing around him, but prayed also for them. And oh, the perfection -- which cannot be described -- that he prayed even for that judge who had condemned him to death, and for all rulers in every place; and not only for them, but also for that officer who was then going to cut off his head. And as he was offering his supplications to God, the officers heard him with their own ears praying for them, and beseeching God not to lay to their charge that which they did to him. And as he prayed for all with a suppliant voice, he turned the whole multitude that was standing by and looking on to sorrow and tears; and then, of his own accord, he bent down his body, and put out his neck to be cut off by the sword. The conflict of this victorious martyr was consummated on the twenty-fifth of the month Thamuz.


* Thea is known in other sources as Chionia, and Valentina is known as Alevtina.