Monday, April 13, 2020
Eusebius, EH.7.15-17: Marinus the Martyr-Soldier & Astyrius the Senator
Image: Representations of Marinus and Astyerius
This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 7, chapters 15-17. Listen here.
Notes and Commentary:
These chapters, though set at the time of the church’s peace after the end of the Valerian persecution, describe the martyr-soldier Marinus of Caesarea, as well as the Christian Roman senator Astyrius.
Chapter 15 relays the account of Marinus, a man distinguished by birth and rank, who on the verge of being made a centurion was accused by a rival of being a Christian and thus unfit to hold this position since he could not offer sacrifices to the emperor. The judge (Achaeus) gave Marinus three hours to consider his response. In that time he met with the bishop Theotecnus who dramatically asked him to choose either his sword or a copy of the Gospels. When he extended his hand without hesitation to “the divine book”, he was exhorted to hold fast to God and departed to be “perfected” in death as a martyr and was beheaded.
Chapter 16 describes how Astyrius, a Christian who was a wealthy Roman senator and friend of the emperor was present at Marinus’s martyrdom and took the body on his shoulders, wrapped it in a costly robe and gave him a fitting burial.
Chapter 17 provides another anecdote about Astyrius which occurred at Caesarea Philippi where the pagans claimed that at a certain springs during one of their festivals a sacrifice when offered would disappear from sight. Astyrius prayed that God would put an end to this deception and the demon who caused it, and, after he did so, the sacrifice floated on the springs bringing this supposed “miracle” to an end, never to be repeated at this spot again.
The account of Marinus’s martyrdom is a reminder that even in times of relative peace, the Christians were in danger of malicious charges. The fact that Marinus was a soldier from a noble family who was nearly placed at the rank of centurion and that Astyrius was a respected senator shows how adherents from this new religion were rising to positions of prominence within Roman society but also coming into conflict with the traditional, pagan religions.