The Hieromartyr Anthimus, Bishop of Nicomedia, and those with him suffered during the persecution against Christians under the emperors Diocletian (284-305) and Maximian (305-311). The persecution became particularly intense after a fire at the imperial court at Nicomedia. The pagans accused the Christians of setting the fire and reacted against them with terrible ferocity.
In Nicomedia alone, on the day of the Nativity of Christ, as many as twenty thousand Christians were burned inside a church. However, this monstrous inhumanity did not frighten the Christians, who firmly confessed their faith and endured martyrdom for Christ.
Sts Dorotheus, Mardonius, Migdonius, Peter, Indes and Gorgonius died during this period. One of them was beheaded by the sword, others perished by burning, or being buried alive, or by drowning in the sea. The soldier Zeno boldly denounced the emperor Maximian, for which he was stoned, and then beheaded.
Then the holy Virgin Martyr Domna, a former pagan priestess, perished at the hands of the pagans, and also St Euthymius, because of their concern that the bodies of the holy martyrs should be buried. Bishop Anthimus, who headed the Church of Nicomedia, hid himself in a village not far from Nicomedia at the request of his flock. From there he sent letters to the Christians, urging them to cleave firmly to the holy Faith and not to fear tortures.
One of his letters, sent with Deacon Theophilus, was intercepted and given to the emperor Maximian. Theophilus was interrogated and died under torture, without revealing to his torturers the whereabouts of Bishop Anthimus. After a while Maximian managed to learn where St Anthimus was, and sent a detachment of soldiers after him.
The bishop met them along the way, but the soldiers did not recognize the saint. He invited them to join him and provided a meal, after which he revealed that he was the one they sought. The soldiers did not know what to do. They wanted to leave him and tell the emperor that they had not found him. Bishop Anthimus was not one to tolerate a lie, and so he would not consent to this.
The soldiers came to believe in Christ and received holy Baptism. The saint ordered them to carry out the emperor’s instructions. When Bishop Anthimus was brought before the emperor, the emperor ordered that the instruments of execution be brought out and placed before him. “Do you think, emperor, to frighten me with these tools of execution?” asked the saint. “No indeed, you cannot frighten one who wishes to die for Christ! Execution is frightening only for the cowardly, for whom the present life is most precious.” The emperor then directed that the saint be fiercely tortured and beheaded by the sword.
Bishop Anthimus joyfully glorified God with his last breath, and received the crown of martyrdom. (See December 28 for another account of the Nicomedian martyrs.)