Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

"A monarch more wicked than all the nations of the earth" ~ Julian the Apostate and the martyrdom of Saints Juventius and Maximus
Gloria Romanorum ^ | January 25, 2021 | Florentius

Posted on 01/25/2021 3:29:46 PM PST by Antoninus

January 25 is the feast day of the ancient martyrs, Juventius and Maximus (sometimes called Juventinus and Maximinus). These two were soldiers during the time of Julian the Apostate and suffered martyrdom at his hands, most likely in AD 363.

You may remember from similar posts on this blog that although Julian had a deep animosity toward Christianity, he refrained from enacting a wholesale persecution in the style of Diocletian because he had seen that such methods failed to suppress the Faith and indeed, seemed to enhance its appeal. As a result, Julian had taken a more subtle approach to suppressing Christianity, as demonstrated in a previous post on Saint Eupsychius, a martyr who had participated in the destruction of the Temple of Fortune in Caesarea.

Unlike many of the semi-legendary martyrs of the late 4th century, we can be fairly certain that Juventius and Maximus not only existed, but that their acts are authentic. They are recorded in two near-contemporary sources: a homily of Saint John Chrysostom who eulogized the martyrs about 30-40 years after their deaths, and the Ecclesiastical History written by Theodoret, bishop of Cyrrhus who wrote in the mid-5th century AD.

The account of Theodoret is rather detailed, and seems to jive nicely with the historical portrait of Julian gleaned from friendly sources like Ammianus Marcellinus and hostile ones like Hermias Sozomen and Socrates Scholasticus, as well as Julian's own surviving writings. The whole of Theodoret's account of the deaths of Juventius and Maximus runs as follows:

Julian continued to oppose religion with greater and greater boldness and effrontery, while he assumed the specious appearance of clemency, in order to lay snares to entrap men, and seduce them to irreligion. He cast things offered to idols into the fountains of the city of Antioch, and into those of Daphne, so that no one could drink of the streams without partaking of the hateful sacrifices. He defiled in the same way everything that was sold in the marketplace, for he had water which had been offered to idols sprinkled on the bread, meat, fruit, herbs, and all the other articles of food.

The Christians wept and lamented at witnessing these abominations, yet they partook of the food according to the precept of the apostle, for it is said, "Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake." (1 Corinthians 10:25).

Two of the emperor's guards, who were his shield-bearers and companions in arms, vehemently deplored, at a certain convivial party, the perpetration of such hateful deeds, and borrowed the admirable words used by the young man who gained so high a celebrity at Babylon: "You have delivered us," they said, " to a monarch who is more wicked than all the nations of the earth."

One of those at table acquainted the emperor with this speech. The emperor sent for these two men, and asked what it was that they had said. This question giving them an opportunity of speaking freely, they, in the warmth of their zeal, made the following reply:

"Having been brought up, O emperor, in the true religion, and having been accustomed to obey the admirable laws enacted by Constantine, and by his sons, we cannot but be deeply grieved at witnessing everything filled with abominations, and the very food contaminated by being mixed with the sacrifices offered to idols. We have lamented over this in our own houses, and now, in your presence, we publicly express our regret. This is the only cause of sorrow which we experience under your government."

On hearing these words the mildest and wisest of emperors, as he is called by those who resemble him, threw off the mask of clemency, and disclosed his real impiety. Such excruciating tortures were at his order inflicted on these two men, that they expired under them or, rather, they obtained a release from the misery of the age, and received the crowns of victory. It was declared, that their boldness of speech, and not the religion which they defended, was the cause of their execution: they were punished, it was said, because they had insulted the emperor. This account of the transaction Julian ordered to be universally circulated, for he was apprehensive lest these champions of truth should obtain the honor of being regarded as martyrs.

Their names were Juventius and Maximus. The church of Antioch honored them as defenders of religion, and interred them in a magnificent tomb; and even to this day an annual festival is celebrated in their honor. [Theodoret, Ecclesiastical History, Book III, Chapter 15]

These martyrs are also mentioned in a homily given by Saint John Chrysostom. As one-time bishop of Antioch, Saint John no doubt was very familiar with these two martyrs who would have been slain during his own lifetime. Indeed, he would have been a young man at the time, most likely living in Antioch during the reign of Julian.

I could not locate a full literal English translation of this homily, but fragments may be found in Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other scholarly sources around the internet. The account in Butler’s mentions that when the martyrs refused to retract their statements about the emperor, they were scourged, their property was confiscated and finally, they were beheaded in prison. Following the execution, some local Christians in Antioch obtained the bodies and built for them a magnificent tomb. In his homily, John Chrysostom urges his listeners to visit the shrine of these martyrs regularly and embrace the relics, feeling confident that they may obtain blessings. In fact, this homily provides yet another example of the early Church believing in the efficacy of prayers to the saints in heaven as mediators with God as St. John makes clear in a very dramatic fashion:

“For just as soldiers, showing off the wounds received in battle, boldly converse with the emperor, so too these [martyrs], by brandishing in their hand the heads which were cut off and putting them on public display, are easily able to procure everything we wish from the King of Heaven.” [See Garbarino, Resurrecting the martyrs: The role of the Cult of the Saints, AD 370-430 – page 128]

A final ancient source on these martyrs is also worth citing. In a hymn of Severus of Antioch, a Monophysite bishop of the early 6th century AD, a third martyr is mentioned along with Juventius and Maximus—another soldier named Longinus, who along with his companions, was accounted a valiant man, a champion and a soldier of Christ who confounded Julian and stripped off his cloak of deceitfulness. See Hymns of Severus in Patrologia Orientalis, Tomus Septimus, page 612 [200]

For more posts on Julian the Apostate, see:

• A passionate longing to acquire (and destroy) books ~ The cognitive dissonance of Julian the Apostate

• "You have won, O Galilean!" ~ Who killed Julian the Apostate?

• "He hated the entire city intensely" ~ St. Eupsychius and Julian the Apostate's reaction to the destruction of the Temple of Fortune in Caesarea in Cappadocia

• "Martyrs Neither Ignoble Nor Few" ~ The death of Hypatia and mob violence against Christians during the reign of Julian the Apostate

TOPICS: Catholic; History; Orthodox Christian
KEYWORDS: 4thcentury; lateantiquity; martyrs
For their feast day today. In communion with Saint John Chrysostom, let us confidently ask the martyrs Juventius and Maximus (and Longinus) to place our petitions before the throne of Almighty God. May all the holy martyrs pray for us!
1 posted on 01/25/2021 3:29:46 PM PST by Antoninus
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: ebb tide; Salvation; Mrs. Don-o

Catholic ping!

2 posted on 01/25/2021 3:30:28 PM PST by Antoninus (Republicans are all honorable men.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Antoninus


3 posted on 01/25/2021 3:56:25 PM PST by Southside_Chicago_Republican (The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog. )
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Antoninus; Al Hitan; DuncanWaring; Fedora; irishjuggler; Jaded; JoeFromSidney; kalee; ...


4 posted on 01/25/2021 5:38:23 PM PST by ebb tide (We have a rogue curia in Rome.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson