On this day in 1940, the first Tacoma Narrows Bridge (Galloping Gertie) collapsed, augmenting course offerings in civil engineering departments everywhere.
Hieron of Mytilene (d. ca. 300) was born in Tyana (just 90 minutes north of Tarsus on the O-21), in either Great Cappadocia or Greater Cappadocia, depending on your source. Sadly no saints were born in Greatest Cappadocia, leading one to wonder just what was so greatest about it. At this time Diocletian and Maximian were co-ruling the Empire, and when they jointly heard that Cappadocians (great or small) were neglecting the worship of the little-g gods, they had a mutual hissy fit, and sent Lysias thither to kill all such Christians and round up a bunch of stropping lads for the army, which was a few quarts short of a punchbowl. (Does that figure work? Maybe not.)
Now Hieron was the stroppingest man in the district, so Lysias dispatched a squad to “recruit” him. Wishing neither to be an idolater nor to serve with same, Hieron picked up a handy stick and started giving the soldiers righteous Hades. He chased them “like a lion pursuing goats,” one source says, despite the documented lack of National Geographic TV specials in third-century Greater Cappadocia (which is a pity because they’re the greatest). The soldiers rounded up more of their comrades and tried again, but Hieron had their number (18, according to one source). Thus they had to report back to Prince Lysias that they couldn’t bring in their man. (Having lost the number for the RCMP.)
The Prince changed his tack, and sent Hieron’s friend Cyriacus to try to talk some sense into him. Hieron was conflicted, because although he was as ready to face martyrdom as the next guy (he was not a tame lion), he also had to take care of his blind and widowed mother. But the soldiers had shown up by this point, and dragged him away as his mother wept. Hieron entrusted her to God the Father of widows and succor of orphans (or vice versa), and allowed himself to be escorted (kof) to prison. There he met a bevy of Christians, and standing amongst them, exhorted them to bravely give their lives for Christ. With one voice, they made a rather lengthy speech, leading one to wonder if they had rehearsed it beforehand. The guards heard all this and reported it to the Prince Lysias, who waxed wroth (with carnauba, if you must know).
The next day he excoriated the Christians, and they defied him. One of the soldiers pointed to Hieron and said, “There’s the guy who attacked us.” “Are you he?” asked Lysol. Hieron allowed he was the man, adding, “I beat those cowards until they ran like frightened bunnies.” (Actually he said “hares” but “bunnies” sounds funnier, I hope you’ll agree.) The Prince had Hieron’s arm cut off at the elbow, and had the other Christians beaten. One of them, Victor, called for the keeper of the rolls, and asked to have his name taken off the list of Christians, in return for which he deeded over his village. No sooner had he (Victor) left the building, however, than he fell down dead, thus losing his life, his lands, and his crown of glory. Let that be a lesson, boys and girls.
In the morning Hieron made both a loud and long paragraph of lamentation over Victor, and his last will and testament, giving one of his estates to his sister, and everything else (including his arm) to his mother. (Wait, why couldn’t his sister take care of his mother? My head hurts.) Then he and all the prisoners were beheaded. Two (other) Christians begged for his body, but Lysol demanded much gold, of which they had nary. Another man bought the head (for an equal volume in gold), and in the confusion the two grabbed the arm and took it to Hieron’s mother. “Alas!” she cried, “My son went to Mytilene, and all I got was this lovely arm. But he died a martyr, and that’s the thing.” She enshrined the arm with honor, and the owner of the head did likewise, albeit somewhere else.
Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.
This Day in History for 7th November
The Great Collection of the Lives of the Saints, Vol. 3: November (book on paper) – Main source
Martyr Hieron of Melitene (OCA)
Saint Hieron of Mytilene (SQPN)
Driving Directions from Tarsus to Kemerhisar, Turkey (Google Maps)
Icon from OCA (copyright unknown)