Hieromartyr Simeon the Bishop in Persia, and those with him in Persia

The Hieromartyr Simeon, Bishop of Persia, suffered during a persecution against Christians under the Persian emperor Sapor II (310-381). They accused the saint of collaborating with the Roman Empire and of subversive activities against the Persian emperor.

In the year 344, the emperor issued an edict which imposed a heavy tax upon Christians. When some of them refused to pay it, this was regarded as an act of rebellion, so the emperor began a fierce persecution against Christians.

St Simeon was brought to trial in iron fetters as a supposed enemy of the Persian realm, together with the two hieromartyrs Habdelai and Ananias. The holy bishop would not even bow to the emperor, who asked why he would not show him the proper respect. The saint answered, “Formerly, I bowed because of your rank, but now, when you ask me to renounce my God and abandon my faith, it is not proper for me to bow to you.”

The emperor urged him to worship the sun, and he threatened to eradicate Christianity in his land if he refused. But neither urgings nor threats could shake the steadfast saint, and they led him off to prison. Along the way the eunuch Usphazanes, a counsellor of the emperor, saw the saint. He stood up and bowed to the bishop, but the saint turned away from him because he, a former Christian, out of fear of the emperor, now worshipped the sun.

The eunuch repented with all his heart, he exchanged his fine attire for coarse garb, and sitting at the doors of the court, he cried out bitterly, “Woe to me, when I stand before my God, from Whom I am cut off. Here was Simeon, and he has turned his back on me!”

The emperor Sapor learned about the grief of his beloved tutor and asked him what had happened. He told the emperor that he bitterly regretted his apostasy and would no more worship the sun, but only the one true God. The emperor was surprised at the old man’s sudden decision, and he urged him not to abjure the gods whom their fathers had reverenced. But Usphazanes was unyielding, and they condemned him to death. St Usphazanes asked that the city heralds report that he died not for crimes against the emperor, but for being a Christian. The emperor granted his request.

St Simeon also learned about the death of Usphazanes, and he gave thanks to the Lord. When they brought him before the emperor a second time, St Simeon again refused to worship the pagan gods and confessed his faith in Christ. The enraged emperor gave orders to behead all the Christians in the prison before the saint’s eyes.

Without fear the Christians went to execution, blessed by the holy hierarch, and they bent their heads beneath the sword. St Simeon’s companion, the Priest Habdelai, was also beheaded. When they came to the Priest Ananias, he suddenly trembled. Then one of the dignitaries, St Phusicus, a secret Christian, was afraid that Ananias would renounce Christ, and he cried out, “Do not fear the sword, Elder, and you will see the divine light of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

St Phusicus betrayed himself by this outburst. The emperor gave orders to pluck out his tongue and to flay the skin off him. Along with St Phusicus, his daughter Askitrea was also martyred. St Simeon was the last to go before the executioner, and he placed his head on the chopping-block (April 13, 344). Executions continued all during Bright Week until April 23.

St Azates the Eunuch, a close official to the emperor, also received the crown of martyrdom. The sources indicate that 1,150 Martyrs perished because they refused to accept the Persian religion.