The Martyrs Anicetus and Photius (his nephew) were natives of Nicomedia. Anicetus, a military official, denounced the emperor Diocletian (284-305) for setting up in the city square an implement of execution for frightening Christians. The enraged emperor ordered Saint Anicetus to be tortured, and later condemned him to be devoured by wild beasts. But the lions they set loose became gentle and fawned at his feet.
Suddenly there was a strong earthquake, resulting in the collapse of the pagan temple of Hercules, and many pagans perished beneath the demolished city walls. The executioner took up a sword to cut off the saint’s head, but he fell down insensible. They tried to break Saint Anicetus on the wheel and burn him with fire, but the wheel stopped and the fire went out. They threw the martyr into a furnace with boiling tin, but the tin became cold. Thus the Lord preserved His servant for the edification of many.
The martyr’s nephew, Saint Photius, saluted the sufferer and turned to the emperor, saying, “O idol-worshipper, your gods are nothing!” The sword, held over the new confessor, struck the executioner instead. Then the martyrs were thrown into prison.
After three days Diocletian urged them, “Worship our gods, and I shall give you glory and riches.” The martyrs answered, “May you perish with your honor and riches!” Then they tied them by the legs to wild horses. Though the saints were dragged along the ground, they remained unharmed. They did not suffer in the heated bath house, which fell apart. Finally, Diocletian ordered a great furnace to be fired up, and many Christians, inspired by the deeds of Saints Anicetus and Photius, went in themselves saying, “We are Christians!” They all died with a prayer on their lips. The bodies of Saints Anicetus and Photius were not harmed by the fire, and even their hair remained whole. Seeing this, many of the pagans came to believe in Christ. This occurred in the year 305.
Saints Anicetus and Photius are mentioned in the prayers for the Blessing of Oil and the Lesser Blessing of Water (BOOK OF NEEDS, 1987, p. 230).