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Theodotus, martyr at Ancyra

Theodotus (9), May 18, martyr at Ancyra in Galatia in Diocletian's persecution. The narrative of his martyrdom is intermingled with that of the Seven Virgins of Ancyra. Theodotus was a devout dealer in provisions. THEOTECNUS, the apostate from Christianity, was sent with ample power to enforce conformity to the imperial edicts, and began by ordering all provisions sold in the market to be first presented to the gods. This would render them unfit for use in the Holy Communion. Theodotus supplied the Christians with bread and wine free from pollution. The persecution waxing hot, he was compelled to fly from Ancyra to a place, distant some 40 miles, where a cave, through which the Halys flowed, was a refuge for some fugitive Christians. The narrative shews us how quietly Christians in country districts pursued their occupations and enjoyed daily worship, while those in the cities were suffering tortures and death, and is most valuable as illustrating the general condition of the Christians in Asia Minor during the earlier years of Diocletian's persecution. In the cave Theodotus found certain brethren who had overturned the altar of Diana, and were being carried by their relations for judgment to the prefect when Theodotus had bribed the accusers to let them off. They were delighted to see their deliverer, and invited him to a meal, of which we have a graphic picture: the fugitives reclining on the abundant grass, surrounded with trees, wild fruit, and flowers, while grasshoppers, nightingales, and birds of every kind made music around. In this passage (§ 11) we find one of the few instances where an early Christian author seems capable of appreciating the beauty of nature. We then have a glimpse of the religious life of the time. Before he would eat, Theodotus sent some of their number to summon the presbyter from the neighbouring village of Malus to dine with them, pray with them before they started afresh on their journey, and ask a blessing on their food, for, says the Acts, "the saint never took food unless a presbyter blessed it." The presbyter, whose name was Fronto, or, according to the Bollandist Papebrochius, Phorto, was just leaving the church after the midday hour of prayer. The village dogs attacked the messengers, and the priest ran to drive them away, asked if they were Christians, and informed them that he had seen them in a vision the night before, bringing a precious treasure to him. They told him they had the most precious of treasures with them, the martyr Theodotus, to whom the presbyter at once departed. During the meal Theodotus suggested the spot as a fit place for a martyrium or receptacle for relics, and exhorted the priest to build one. When he said he possessed no relics, Theodotus gave him a ring off his finger in token that he would provide them. He then returned to Ancyra, which he found greatly disturbed by a violent persecution. [ANCYRA, SEVEN MARTYRS OF.] A writer in the Rev. archéol. (t. xxviii. p. 303) notes a passage in the Acts of these sufferers (§ 14) as a valuable illustration of the paganism of Galatia. Theodotus, having rescued the bodies of the nuns from the lake into which Theotecnus had cast them, prepared to suffer. He prayed with the brethren, and told them to give his relics to Fronto if he brought a ring as a token. Then he went to the tribunal, where the priests of Minerva were demanding his arrest as the leader of the Christian opposition. The Acts now offer some of the most striking illustrations used by Le Blant in his Actes des Martyrs (cf. pp. 25, 62, 78, 80). They illustrate every detail of Roman criminal procedure, especially the offer made to the martyrs of high promotion and imperial favour if they recanted. Theodotus was offered the high-priesthood of Apollo, now esteemed the greatest of all the gods, but in vain, till at last the president ordered him to be beheaded and his body burned. He was executed and his body placed on a pyre, when suddenly a bright light shone around it, so that no one dared approach. The president ordered it to be guarded all night, in the place of common execution, by soldiers whom he had just flogged for suffering the bodies of the nuns to be carried off. Fronto, who was a farmer, and kept a vineyard where he made wine, came to Ancyra to sell his wine, bringing the ring of Theodotus with him, and arriving at the place of execution just when night was falling and the gates of the city had been closed, found the guard erecting a hut of willow branches wherein to spend the night. The soldiers invited him to join them, which he did. Discovering what they were guarding, he made them drunk with his own wine and carried off the martyr's body, placing it in the spot Theodotus had marked as the site of a martyrium. The Acts purport to have been written by one Nilus, an eye-witness. They speak of the chapel erected to the memory of Theodotus, which could only have been done when peace was restored to the church. They are in Ruinart, Acta Sinc. p. 354, and translated 980into English as an appendix to Mason's Persecution of Diocletian.

[G.T.S.]

« Theodotus the banker Theodotus, martyr at Ancyra Theodotus, bishop of Laodicea »





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