December 5, 2022

Saint Savvas the Sanctified, a Man of the People in Time of Famine and Plague

During the reign of Emperor Anastasios (491-518), a great famine visited the villages of Jerusalem, and there ensued much loss of life. With the passage of time, it spread into others areas of the Eastern Roman Empire and Constantinople. From this scourge, numerous homes were deserted and left uninhabited.

The various bureaus of the state and the emperor himself, in order to avoid a great loss of revenue, enacted a decree, whereby the unpaid taxes of the deceased were to be paid by their survivors. When the merciful Savvas heard of this unjust and absurd law, he journeyed “once more to Constantinople” to see the emperor, expressing his disapproval of it, demonstrating that the needy would be totally annihilated and that it was not in the best interests of the realm, but to its detriment and destruction. For it was utter injustice for those that were spared by two evils - the famine and the deadly plague - to be further tormented at the hands of the state by having to shoulder an unjust tax burden. Oppressed by the state and driven by necessity, they might attempt something that would be injurious to the realm.

Saint Savvas said this, begging the emperor with all his heart and with many pleas to repeal such an oppressive and unlawful decision.The emperor was moved by the Saint and was inclined to grant him the wish. However, present at that time was Marinos, an advisor to the emperor, who said the following: “My lord Emperor, the majority of the people in Palestine are Nestorians; therefore, you should not grant them such a dispensation.”

The Saint was provoked and replied: “Do not sow old seeds of strife in the emperor, but repent for what you have said, else, in a few days, your memorial will cease and your glory will vanish as well.”

Not withstanding, Marinos persisted in his iniquity and did not take the Saint’s warning seriously. Saint Savvas, meanwhile, was granted one thousand additional drachmas by the emperor, and departed for Palestine. As for the sordid Marinos, several days after the Saint had prophesied those things concerning him, an insurrection broke out in The City, resulting in the loss of his property and the complete destruction of his home. He barely escaped with his head, repenting and weeping, acknowledging the prediction of the holy man.

Many people noted this story in Constantinople, and especially the Emperor’s son Pompeos and Anastasia his wife, marveling at the foresight of the Saint. But the unjust law remained in force until the death of Anastasios and even to the days of Justin (518-527), during whose reign the divine Savvas dispatched letters to him and succeeded in reducing the tax, which was altogether abolished by Justinian, who ruled after him (527-565).