St. Theodore the General and Great Martyr
St. Theodore lived during the reign of emperor Licinius (c. 320 AD). He was born in Euphraita of Galatia (central Turkey), but spent most of his life in the city of Heraklia, near the Black Sea. He surpassed most of his contemporaries in spiritual matters, bodily beauty, and eloquence of speech. Consequently, he won the admiration of many, including that of emperor Licinius, who appointed St. Theodore the chief commander of the area. St. Theodore worked hard to teach Christianity to those around him. As a result, his enemies sent messages to the emperor about his Christian life and activities. The emperor sent some of his officers from Nicomedia with orders to bring the saint honorably to him so he could find out whether the rumors were true.
St. Theodore sent a reply to the emperor with his own messengers that it was best if he came to Heraklia with his greater gods, both for other reasons as well as for matters of public interest.
Licinius immediately went to Heraklia together with his golden and silver gods. In the meantime, St. Theodore was encouraged for martyrdom with dreams and vision, which were sent to him by God.
As soon as he heard that Licinius was approaching the city wall, he mounted a horse and went out to meet the emperor honorably, as it was fitting. The emperor entered the city with St. Theodore by his side and immediately asked the saint to publicly sacrifice to the Roman gods. Instead, the saint asked to do so in his home first. At midnight he broke the statues to pieces and gave them to the poor. The next day, Maxentius, one of Licinius’ key men, saw a poor man carry the head of the goddess Diana through the streets of Heraklia. The emperor ordered his spearmen to arrest St. Theodore. Then he had them strip the saint naked and stretch him from his four limbs. Next, they whipped seven hundred wounds on the saint’s back, fifty wounds on this stomach; they also hit his neck with balls of lead. Following this, they scraped him and burnt him with candles. They also rubbed his wounded flesh with bricks and tiles. Then they threw him in prison, securing his legs with a punishing blank, and left him there without food for seven days.
After this severe punishment, they brought him out of prison and nailed his hands and feet on a cross, inflicting even more painful tortures. The saint remained on the cross all night long. The emperor thought that after this inhumane punishment, the saint would have died. But the foolish man was deceived, not knowing the power of God, for an angel of the Lord freed the martyr from his bonds, and he was found wholly cured, chanting and praising God.
At dawn, the emperor sent several soldiers to take St. Theodore’s body and throw it into the Black Sea. But when the men saw the saint alive and healthy, the all pledge their faith in Christ. When Licinius saw that the city was in turmoil, he ordered the saint to be beheaded, which the saint allowed. Thus he received the crown of martyrdom. His holy body was delivered from Heraklia to his hometown Euphraita and was placed in his father’s house, as he had instructed this scribe Augaros, who was present at the martyrdom and wrote down the conversation between the martyr and the emperor.
(This is a condensed version of the life of St. Theodore as it was published by Saint Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain toward the end of the 19th century.)
~Adapted from the web site of Saint Theodore Greek Orthodox Church, 7101 Cipriano Road, Lanham, Maryland, 20706: http://sttheodores.org/