On December 21 the Greek Orthodox Church commemorates the Holy Martyr Themistocles, protector of persecuted Christians.
Holy Martyr Themistocles lived in the city of Myra of Lycia during the reign of the persecutor of Christians, Decius (249-251). Themistocles was a shepherd. During the persecution he concealed within his home a certain Christian named Dioskorides, while he himself went out to the pursuers. They tortured him cruelly, and he received a martyr’s crown for Christ in the year 251.
St. Themistocles was born in Myra of Lycia in the 3rd century AD. He was a shepherd in trade and a fervent Christian full of goodness. In the mid 3rd century AD emperor Decius began a great persecution against Christians. The leader of Lycia then was Asclepius. His soldiers were searching for Christians of the area and led them to the Asclepius to try them.
One of those Christians was Dioscorides. In 250 AD the soldiers of Asclepios pursued Dioscorides who fled to the mountain where St. Themistocles was herding his sheep. He sought help from the Saint, who naturally hid Dioscorides from his pursuers. At one point the soldiers arrived there and asked St. Themistocles if he had seen the “fugitive”. The Saint told them to stop pursuing Dioscorides and to grant him life. They told him that unless he would reveal what he knew, they would take him. And this is what happened.
The Saint was led to Asclepius’ court where he amazed those who were standing near with the goodness of his word and the wisdom of his responses. Asclepius ordered him to give up Dioscorides that he save his life and be saved from tortures which he would face. St. Themistocles, fervent Christian that he was, responded that it did not matter if they tortured or killed him. He responded that it would be his joy to witness for his faith in Jesus Christ.
Asclepius ordered them to torture the Saint and deliver him to the executioners. They stretched the Saint’s limbs and beat him in the stomach where his internal organs were. They continued to hang him from a tree in order to flay him with iron claws. The Saint from the tree said to Asclepius that on the tree (in other words the Cross) Christ was glorified and saved the world from its sins. Asclepius then ordered the death of St. Themistocles who was led by the executioners outside of the city where he was finally martyred. He was thrown onto bushes with thorns and there delivered his soul to the Creator.
The Christians of the city buried the body of St. Themistocles and “planted” the shepherd’s staff that he had, as a shepherd, next to his grave. This staff, in a miraculous manner, sprouted and became an almond tree. For many years after the death of the Saint, the almonds healed the sick.
Today is the Name Day of Themis, Themistoklis, Ioulianos, Iouliani.