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July 2, 2020

Holy Martyr Anthimos the Elder Together With the Thirty-Six Martyrs of Egypt

St. Anthimos the Elder and the 36 Martyrs of Egypt (Feast Day - July 2)

We know about the Holy Martyr Anthimos from the narration of the lives of the Thirty-Six Martyrs of Egypt who contested in Thessaloniki during the reign of Emperor Maximian (286-305).

Anthimos was an elder in age and probably Greek in origin, as we see from his name, and it appears he was martyred a day before four of the thirty-six martyrs whom we know by name - Paul, Belon, Theon and Heron - that is, he was martyred on July 1st and served as an inspiration for the others. It was for this reason that Maximian reminds the four of the martyrdom of Anthimos to threaten them with what he was capable of inflicting upon them.

The thirty-six martyrs were from Tanis in Egypt, according to the Georgian manuscripts which contain their synaxarion. Although their memory is not recorded in any Greek source, it is considered possible that the text of their synaxarion is a translation of an ancient Greek original. We only know the names of four of the thirty-six - Paul, Belon, Theon and Heron - who showed special bravery, endured more torture and were martyred after the rest.

When the edict that began the persecution of Christians was issued by Maximian, and it arrived in Egypt, the governor of Egypt, Amplianos, ordered for the examination of all those who didn't worship the gods. A group of thirty-six Christians refused to worship the gods, and for their confession of Christ as the one true God, they were subjected to inhumane tortures. Throughout their tortures they remained steadfast in their faith, and for this reason Amplianos sent them to Thessaloniki, where Maximian was staying at the time.

The thirty-six martyrs arrived in Thessaloniki wounded and weary from the long journey. Thirty-two of them in particular were in no condition to appear before the emperor, so they were immediately ordered to be beheaded by the sword. The other four - Paul, Belon, Theon and Heron - were deemed strong enough to endure more torture if necessary. They boldly confessed their faith in Christ before the emperor, who in turn tried to persuade them to renounce their faith. One way he tried to do this was by reminding them of the martyrdom of Anthimos and how he was burned alive, but this only inspired them to fight the good fight till the end. They were therefore tied to wooden stakes, where their flesh was first lacerated, then it was ordered for them to be burned alive.

The fours Saints endured their tortures bravely, and Christ appeared to them in the fire to strengthen them and extinguish the flames. Maximian in his superstitious beliefs thought they did this by the power of magic, and for this reason he ordered they be tortured even more ruthlessly. He had them brought to the middle of the amphitheater, where a large crowd gathered, and unleashed wild animals on them. These wild animals, however, approached the Saints and encircled them submissively in order to receive a blessing from them. When the crowd saw this, they were in awe, and with one voice began to cry out: "Great is the God of the Christians!" "Free the Holy Martyrs!" This enraged Maximian to the point that he ordered for the slaughter of the crowd. When the crowd was slaughtered, their dead bodies were thrown into the stadium to be devoured by the wild animals, but the wild animals refused, and for this reason they too were all slaughtered.

Finally, in order for Maximian to get rid of the four martyrs, he ordered them to be beheaded. They were led outside the city, where they were beheaded. This took place on July 2nd, a day or two after the thirty-two were martyred.

After their martyrdom, a certain Egyptian named Pani purchased their bodies and had them buried in a secret place. Later on, Pani brought their bodies back to their homeland in Egypt, where they were buried with honors. Miracles took place at their graves.