Athanasius the Martyr of Sabaste

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The Holy martyr Athanasius was a member of the Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste who refused to sacrifice to pagan gods, and suffered for Christ around 320. He is remembered on March 9 with the other thirty-nine martyrs.


Athanasius was a member of the army of Licinius who was co-emperor of the Roman Empire with Constantine the Great. Licinius, who had reneged on his acceptance of the Edict of Milan and reverted to paganism, was preparing his army to fight against Constantine. Fearing mutiny, he decided to remove all Christians from his army. At the time, a company of forty Cappadocians that included Athanasius was stationed in the Armenian city of Sebaste under the command of the pagan Agricola.

When these brave soldiers, who had distinguished themselves in many battles, refused to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, Agricola locked them up in prison. As punishment, Agricola had the holy soldiers thrown into a lake near the city with a guard stationed on the shore to prevent them from coming out of the water. As it was a severely cold winter, a warm bath house had been set up on the shore as an enticement to break the will of the martyrs and encourage them to sacrifice to the pagan gods. Under these conditions one of the soldiers came out of the water to offer sacrifice, but one of the guards, Aglaius, took his place. As morning came, the pagans were surprised to see the martyrs still alive with their guard Aglaius amongst them glorifying Christ. This led to the next stage of torture as the guards led the holy soldiers out of the water and broke their legs. As the martyrs died, their bodies were placed on a cart and committed to a fire, after which their charred bones were thrown into the water, so that Christians would not gather them up.

Three days later, the martyrs appeared in a dream to St. Peter, Bishop of Sebaste, and commanded him to bury the remains of the martyrs. Bishop Peter, together with several clergy, gathered the relics of Athanasius and the glorious martyrs by night and buried them with honor.