Martyr Acacius the Centurion at Byzantium

The Holy Martyr Acacius, who lived mostly in the third century, was born at Cappadocia and was a centurion of the Martesian regiment under the military officer Firmus. When the persecution against Christians began on orders from the emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311), Firmus interrogated his soldiers one after the other about their faith. Saint Acacius firmly and openly confessed himself a Christian. Seeing the steadfastness of Saint Acacius, Firmus sent him to his superior officer, who was named Vivianus. Vivianus gave the saint over to fierce torture.

After the tortures they put him in heavy chains and locked him up in prison. A while later they led the martyr and other prisoners to Byzantium, to the prefect. The soldiers marched quickly, showing the prisoners no mercy. Saint Acacius weakened along the way from his wounds, from his chains, and from hunger and thirst. When finally they halted for the night, Saint Acacius offered thanks to God, for permitting him to suffer for His holy Name. As he prayed the saint heard a voice from the heavens, “Courage, Acacius, and be strong!” This voice was heard also by the other prisoners, and many of them believed in Christ and asked the saint to instruct them in the Christian Faith.

At Byzantium they placed the holy martyr in jail, while the other prisoners were held under less severe conditions. At night the other prisoners saw how radiant youths appeared to Saint Acacius and attended to him, washing his wounds and bringing him food. After seven days, Vivianus again summoned Saint Acacius before him and was struck by his fresh appearance. Supposing that the prison guard was bribed to give the prisoner both respite and food, he summoned the guard to question him. Since he did not believe his answers, Vivianus had the guard severely beaten. Saint Acacius himself then answered Vivianus, “My power and strength are given me by the Lord Jesus Christ, Who has healed my wounds.” Vivianus gave orders to beat the martyr about the face and to smash his teeth for his words.

Determined to intensify and prolong the torture of Saint Acacius, Vivianus sent him to the prefect Flaccinus with a letter. When he read the letter, Flaccinus became annoyed that Vivianus had tortured a centurion for so long and so cruelly, and he gave orders to behead the martyr without further delay.

At the place of execution Saint Acacius lifted up his eyes to the heavens, giving thanks to God for being granted a martyr’s death for His sake. Then he bowed his head beneath the sword. This occurred in the year 303.

Under Constantine the Great the relics of the holy martyr Acacius rested at Constantinople in a church built in his honor, and later they were transferred to Calabria, to the city of Scillatio. The holy martyr Acacius particularly helps those who struggle against temptations of the flesh, as attested by Saint Epiphanius, a disciple of Saint Andrew the Fool-for-Christ.