“Learn from my torments,“ Arcadius is said to have told onlookers as he was dying. “Your gods are nothing. The only true God is the one for whom I am suffering and about to die. To die for him is to live.“
Jan. 12 also marks the feast days for three different groups of martyrs, spanning three different continents: the Martyrs of Ephesus in A.D. 762, in present-day Turkey; the Martyrs of Iona in A.D. 806, in present-day Scotland; and the Martyrs of Africa, whose specific date and location is unknown.
The Ephesus martyrs numbered between 40 and 50 monks who were persecuted under a fellow Christian, Byzantine Emperor Constantine V. They were killed for opposing the ruler’s adherence to and enforcement of the heresy of iconoclasm, which opposed the veneration of icons and manifested in the destruction of holy images throughout the East.
The Iona martyrs were more than 60 monks who were killed when Danish pirates raided the island, burned down the monastery, and slaughtered the occupants. This was one of many Viking raids on the British Isles by Norse pagans.
Most of the details of the African martyrdom honored on Jan. 12 have been lost to history, but the feast honors about 50 soldiers who were killed for their faith.
Although these martyrdoms occurred more than 1,000 years ago, many Christians around the world still face the threat of martyrdom in 2024.
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