The Martyrdom of Sts. Epictetus and Astion
Epictetus was a zealous believer born of Christian parents. Since his youth he left his home for an ascetical life, somewhere in the desert lands of Phrygia (Asia Minor), being later ordained as priest. From this position, he started to preach the Gospel among the pagans in the region, baptizing some of them and working healing wonders in the name of the Savior. Astion was one of his spiritual sons, who came from the family of a Roman senator named Julian. Following his Baptism, Astion started an ascetical life similar to one of a monk.
Around 290, the two came in the province of Scythia Minor, in order to preach the Gospel in this region situated at the borders of the empire. They arrived in a city named Halmyris, situated on a hill near the Danube Delta. Settling here, they started an ascetical life in the service of God. Further both of them made some wonders, especially exorcisms.
Epictet and Astion became quickly famous in the town. In one day, the commander of the Roman troops stationed there, named Latronianus, came in town with some administrative and military business and heard about them, as they would be wizards practicing a strange rite, and that through their speeches many citizens were converted to the new religion. So he commanded the imprisonment of the two until the sunset and forced them in various ways to deny their faith in Christ. At the time, Epictetus was about 60 years and and Astion was 35. Latronianus wanted to give his best to be observed by the emperor Diocletian, who haven’t started yet his persecution. During the torture, the saints didn’t abjure their faith, but they decided not to say a word about their families in the homeland, in order not to put them in danger. Anyway they confessed repeatedly that they are Christians, and that “this is their name, their ancestry and their homeland”.
On the fifth day of the process, Epictetus kept a longer speech which ended with the words “We are Christians”, which angered extremely Latronianus, who commanded that the wounds of the saints to be rubbed with salt and vinegar. After this, as if it was not enough pain, they were thrown into a cauldron of boiling pitch. However, through their faith Christ, the two saints remained unharmed, and after that they were thrown in the cell, having no food or drink for 30 days.
After passing the 30 days of starvation, the two saints were brought back to court, where they confessed Christ once more, saying that their miracles were no witchcraft, but power given by their Lord. "Hearing this, that crazy with a beast soul ordered his servants to crush with stones the faces of martyrs. He asked also to bring some ash rods and to hit them until giving their souls […] but because as many blows they endured, they received them always happy and fully hearted in confessing their Lord, then the servant of the devil, seeing that his madness cannot in any way overcome their constancy, he commanded the servants to take them out of the city and to cut their heads with the sword”.
|The crypt where the relics were found|
|The skeletons of the two martyrs|
|traces of sword on a bone (humerus) of St. Astion|