Little Bits of History

The 42 Martyrs of Amorium

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 6, 2015
42 Martyrs of Amorium

42 Martyrs of Amorium

March 6, 845: The 42 Martyrs of Amorium are killed. The Arab-Byzantine wars began in 629 and lasted until the 1050s and were a series of wars between Arab Muslims and the East Roman or Byzantine Empire. They were initiated by the expansionist Rashidun and Umayyad caliphs and raged across the Arab Peninsula and across the centuries. The Sack of Amorium was part of the series of battles and took place in mid-August 838. The Byzantine Emperor Theophilos was defending his land in what is today Turkey. His army consisted of around 40,000 men in the field with another 30,000 in the city itself. Caliph al-Mu’tasim led a force of about 80,000. The city was taken and razed with around 30,000-70,000 military and civilian dead.

Amorium had been the capital of the Anatolic Theme as well as the birthplace of the reigning Byzantine Amorian dynasty. When the city fell, 42 officers and leaders of the city were taken as hostages to Samarra in present day Iran and then the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate. The Emperor had survived the attack on the city and made repeated attempts to ransom the 42 men. Theophilos died in 842 at the age of 28, the result of failed health after continued battles with both the Arabs and the Serbs. Michael III and Empress-regent Theodora continued attempts to obtain the release of the prisoners but they were continually rebuffed.

Most of the 42 men’s names were not recorded for posterity. A few were noted. Theodore Krateros, a eunuch and perhaps a strategos (literally means “army leader” and is analogous to general) of the Bucellarian Theme (a military-civilian province) was regarded as the leader of the 42 in the hagiographic texts written in honor of the men. Aetios was the strategos of the Anatolic Theme. Theophilos, a patrikios or eunuch member of the court hierarchy was also among the named. Empress Theodor’s brother-in-law, Constantine Baboutzikos was the first to be executed. Kallistos is given special treatment in the hagiographies with more biographical data included. Constantine was a secretary to the royal Constantine.

A hagiography is a biography of a saint or other church leader which often tell the story of miracles or other redeeming qualities of their lives. The 42 martyrs were held captive for seven years. After their execution by Ethiopian slaves on the banks of the Euphrates River, the monk Euodios wrote their stories and used it as an means to admonish the Emperor for his return to Iconoclasm. Retribution befell the 42 after they refused to abandon their faith and convert to Islam. They are commemorated by the Eastern Orthodox Church on March 6, the date of their mass execution.

‘Tis not the dying for a faith that’s so hard, Master Harry — every man of every nation has done that — ’tis the living up to it that is difficult, as I know to my cost. – William Makepeace Thackeray

Faith without doubt is addiction. – Salman Rushdie

Ah! what a divine religion might be found out if charity were really made the principle of it instead of faith. – Percy Bysshe Shelley

You can change your faith without changing gods, and vice versa. – Stanislaus Lec

Also on this day: Edgar Allan Poe – In 1831, Poe was expelled from West Point.
Missouri Compromise – In 1820, the Missouri Compromise was signed into law.
Remember the Alamo – In 1836, the Alamo fell.
Aches and Pains – In 1899, aspirin was patented.
Inspirational Americana – In 1943, Norman Rockwell’s painting is published.

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