8.1. Martyrs from among Roman officers of the first four centuries
The anonymous text “Martyr Soldiers” in Chapter 10, published by a Russian emigre in 1929, gives an overview of martyrs having served in the Roman army before St. Constantine the Great. The following names haves been taken by the author from the Slav Menaion, but their feast days are the same as in the Greek Church calendar. The details about their lives come mainly from their synaxaria. We provide the overview as a tool for further study of their lives and martyrdom.
Feast Day, Name, Rank, Martyred under
6/Sep, St. Martyr Eudoxius,Comitus Hegemon (general),Diocletian (285-305)
6/Sep, St. Martyr Romillus,Preposit of the imperial court,Trajan (98-117)
13/Sep, St. Hieromartyr Cornelius, Centurion, 1st Century
20/Sep, Great-Martyr Eustaphios Placidus, Stratilatus (warlord, general), Trajan (98-117)
4/Oct, St. Martyr Davictus, Duke and eparchus, Maximian (286-305)
7/Oct, St. Martyr Sergius, Primikyrios (senior aide-de-camp), Maximian (286-305)
7/Oct, St. Martyr Bacchus, Secundokyrios, Maximian (286-305)
16/Oct, St. Hieromartyr Longinus, Centurion, Tiberius (14-37)
19/Oct, St. Martyr Ouar, Commander of the Tiana Cohorte, Maximian (286-305)
20/Oct, Holy Great-martyr Artemius, Duke (commander of the troups), Julian (361-363)
26/Oct, Great-Martyr Dimitrios, Antipatus of Thessaloniki, Maximian (286-305)
24/Nov, St. Martyr Mercurius, Duke (equal to general), Decius (249-251)
3/Jan, St. Martyr Gordias, Centurion, Lincinius (307-324)
8/Feb, Great-Martyr Theodore, Stratilatus (general), Licinius (307-324)
1/Mar, St. Martyr Marcellus, Centurion, ?
17/Mar St. Martyr Marinus, Junior Officer (below Centurion), ?
23/Mar, Great-Martyr George, Comitus Hegemon (general), Diocletian (285-305)
24/Apr, St Martyr Sabas Stratilatus, Stratilatus, Aurelian (270-275)
10/May, St. Martyr Ischios, Magistrus (high-ranking general), Maximian (286-305)
8/Jun, Great-Martyr Theodore, Stratilatus (general), Licinius (307-324)
14/Aug, St. Martyr Ursakios, Tribune, Maximian (286-305)
19/Aug, St. Martyr Andrew Stratilatus, Stratilatus (General), Maximian (286-305)
20/Aug, St. Martyr Memnon, Centurion, ?
Note by the author: This list is far from complete, but it leads to several conclusions. More than half the names (12 out of 29) belong to the period of Diocletian, Maximianus and Licinius. This cannot be explained only by the growing number of Christians in the empire and in the army. We witness another tendency here: the desire to clear the army of Christians.
8.2. Monastic Peacemaking in Kosovo
Press Reports about Activities of the Monks of Decani Monastery
During the 1999 conflict in Kosovo, the Decani Monastery, one of the province’s most important spiritual and cultural sites, has played a unique role. Not only did the monks provide accurate and reliable information to the outside world over the internet; on the local level, the small monastic community succeeded in achieving small miracles of peace-making. We present below a number of descriptions of the Monastery’s role from the international press.
Serb Monastery Protects All Peoples
When withdrawing Serb forces pillaged this Southwest Kosovo town, the abbot of the Serbian Orthodox monastery sheltered scores of ethnic Albanian villagers within the 14th-century building’s stone walls. On Thursday, it was still sheltering frightened people. But this time they were Serb monks and townspeople, fearful of violence at the hands of the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army. Local Albanians remembered the monastery’s courage and kindness and vowed to protect those inside. “If they are going to kill them, they must kill us first,” an ethnic Albanian villager, Shaban Bruqi, said of the monks. “They saved us.”
From Saturday to Monday, when Serb soldiers went on a final rampage of burning, looting and raping in western Kosovo, the monastery’s abbot made its green grounds an oasis of peace for Serb and ethnic Albanian residents alike. It was a rare act in Kosovo. Faith and nation are almost one and the same in Serbia, for both predominantly Serbian Orthodox Serbs and predominantly Muslim ethnic Albanians. “They were honest people of all faiths and nations,” the Abbot Theodosia said Thursday as black-robed monks around him hacked at weeds and pushed wheelbarrows. “It was the Christian thing to do. It was the human thing to do.”
The town outside the monastery held about 6,000 ethnic Albanians and 700 Serbs before the war. Fighting that started months before the NATO bombing campaign chased out all but 350 of the ethnic Albanians and reduced their mosque to ruins. On June 11, with the peace accord signed, armed Serbs broke into the homes of the remaining ethnic Albanian villagers, robbing them, beating both women and men, and threatening women at gun point with rape. “I told the soldier, ‘Here, you can have my five dinars [a few cents], just don’t kill me and my father,’” 8-year-old Duresa Malaj said, sitting on her father’s lap in one of the buildings still standing in Decani. “He took my money.”
The abbot had helped the ethnic Albanians throughout the fighting, giving them food, going to their homes and stopping them on the streets to check on their well-being.
Saturday, after the rampage of the previous night, he sent for the threatened families, dispatching cars to fetch 150 ethnic Albanians and bring them to shelter inside the monastery’s walls.
In the town, monks took up positions outside the gated courtyards of those ethnic Albanian families who stayed in their homes. When Serb attackers came looking for ethnic Albanians, the monks told them there were none, the villagers said. Families cowered inside the monastery and their homes for three days, while a Serb woman from the town guided Serb fighters looking for homes to burn.
Serb fighters appeared at the arched gate of the monastery one day only to tell the monks blocking their way that they were there to pray for forgiveness for what they had done.
– Decani, Yugoslavia, Associated Press, June 17, 1999, Monastic refuge for Kosovars
As Serb forces withdrew from western Kosovo, some of them burning and looting as they retreated, Father Iguman and Father Sava moved among them, asking them to spare the houses of their neighbours and bringing terrified Albanians here, to this revered Serbian Orthodox monastery near Pec. “They are the best people you can ever see,” said Venera Lokaj. “They are people of God. They heard Decani was burning, and they came to search for people. They found us there in the open, with everything burning, and they told us, ‘We are blessed to see you alive. Please come with us. Please come to the monastery.’”
Miss Lokaj is an Albanian, one of the 200 or so who have taken refuge in this monastery, under cooling trees, retrieved from misery by the fathers here. She had lived in nearby Pec, which was destroyed by Serb forces and paramilitaries in their rampage of revenge when NATO began bombing Yugoslavia in March. She moved with her father, Nimon, to Decani, because it had already been destroyed by Serbs the previous summer. “I thought it would be safer,” she said. They were ordered to remain inside by the Serbs, and had little chance to buy food in the destroyed town. But they were otherwise left alone. “We stayed inside for two and a half months,” she said. “Until two days ago.” But after Belgrade capitulated and the Serb forces were given six days to pull out of this region, “they got mad at everything,” Miss Lokaj said, “and they began to burn again.” The Serbs “took anything they wanted, and they started driving people out of the centre.”
The Serbs arrived at their apartment building about 9 pm on Saturday and set fire to the first floor, Miss Lokaj said. “We were terrified and screamed at them from the balcony, ‘We’re here!’ They looked up, but didn’t say anything.” They ran downstairs, leaving the canvasses of her father, a well-known painter, to the flames. One Serb neighbour became angry, but was ordered to be quiet, she said. So the Lokajs and two other families hid outside in the dark, fearing the Serbs would be back to kill them.
Early the next morning, Father Iguman and Father Sava found them and brought them to Decani. Father Sava, a tall man of 33 with a curly tan beard and eyeglasses, said he had only done what anyone would do. “We offered them hospitality and I am very pleased they accepted.” Last year, he said, the monastery was host to 50 Serb refugees expelled from surrounding villages by the Kosovo Liberation Army, and they remained here through the bombing by NATO, whose forces here are known as KFOR. “But now, all of them became afraid and left,” Father Sava said sadly. “We begged them to stay and told them that KFOR would protect them, but they said there was a vacuum and they couldn’t stay.”
Of the 2,000 Serbs of Decani, he said, only about 10 remain. “This is a biblical catastrophe, with the flight first of the Albanian population and then the Serb population,” Father Sava said as he offered the monastery’s home-made brandy, thick bread and pepper spread. Father Sava is not an overtly political person, but his views are sharply expressed. “National traditions were misused by irreligious and immoral people who don’t care about God or tradition at all,” he said. “And people were pushed and forced to believe in things that were wrong.” The church, he said, took a clear position against violence, ethnic purging and for the democratisation of both Serbia and Albania, which was not the policy of the Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic.
In his view, NATO’s bombing campaign, which the church opposed, set off the very humanitarian disaster it was intended to prevent. Father Sava had himself warned Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright in Washington in February what would happen to the Kosovo Albanians if NATO bombed, he said. “I told her clearly what would happen.”
Bishop Artemije of Rasca and Prizren, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo, published an open letter calling the bombing a mistake. “The bombs gave the pretext to the expulsion of a great number of Albanians and gave the pretext to the exodus of the Serbs,” he said. “And democratic forces in Serbia are now almost non-existent, and President Milosevic is triumphant in his phantom victory, and there is a lot of anti-Western feeling among Serbs that will stop democratic processes in this area for a long time to come.”
Sincere diplomacy could have solved the problem without war, Father Sava said, and if the unarmed monitors of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe had remained in Kosovo, but in larger numbers, Anything like this would have happened.” The problems here “would not have been easy to resolve,” Father Sava said. “But it could have been done. And now we’ve ethnically cleansed Kosovo and destroyed it and produced enormous suffering on all sides.” Miss Lokaj had worked for the security organisation in Pec. She speaks fluent English. She, too, is very angry. “When the OSCE left, they told us they would be back in two weeks and everything would be the way we wanted it,” she said bitterly. “We hoped so, but after three days, everything changed. When NATO started bombing, the police and the paramilitaries started destroying everything that was Albanian.”
The Serbs “made a war against civilians, against people with empty hands,” she said. “There was no KLA in Decani or in Pec, and they had no right to do what they did. This is a catastrophe. And the world saw this, it saw everything, and the world is too late. I know the world felt it had the best intentions, but there is a fatality about good intentions, and they always come too late.”
She turned away, brushing her brown hair from blazing eyes. “I hate the words, ‘I’m sorry,’” she said. “The world always says, ‘I’m sorry,’ and it’s always too late. The British said, ‘Be patient. You have the sympathy of the world.’ Well, the ground burned under our feet, and the world says we have its sympathy.” Miss Lokaj stopped again, and then said, keeping her voice slow and even: “Don’t ever be sorry about the people who are still alive. Just be sorry for the dead.”
– Decani, Yugoslavia, Steven Erlanger, The New York Times, June 16, 1999
endnotes from chapter 8:
1 Many other officers and soldiers died with him, in all more than 1000.
2 Inspected the troups by orders of the emperor.
3 Called hieromartyr but actually was a confessor, since he was released.
4 Fought under Titus.
5 Commander of the troups and governor; high-ranking general.
6 Protector saint of St. Sergius of Radonezh; Officer of the guard or of a cadet regiment close to the emperor.
7 Officer of the guard or of a cadet regiment.
8 Patrician and Duke of Alexandria (Egypt).
9 Governor and commander of the troups. Son of the commanding officer of Thessaloniki.
10 A Scythe by birth, son of a Roman veteran; started as a junior officer in the famous 10th Legion of Martenses.
11 Governor of Heraclia of Pontus.
12 Officer of the Trajan (2nd) Legion (Africa).
13 A Goth by birth, converted 70 persons to Christianity.
14 With him over 2500 soldiers were martyred.
15 Suffered in Philippolis (Thrace); with him 37 men.