October 20 – Artemius of Antioch

Artemius of Antioch the Greatmartyr (or “Megalomartyr,” which has such a great ring) (d. 363) was a Roman general. On orders of Constantine the Great (May 21), he delivered the relics of Apostles Luke (Oct 18) and Andrew (Nov 30) to Constantinople, and in reward was made “dux” (prefect) of Egypt. (Go ahead, get the “ducks” jokes out of your system. Ready?) There he spread the Gospel of Christ, and tore down a bunch of pagan temples, which were blocking the view or in the way of new roads or something. When Constantine was succeeded by Julian the Apostate, things began to go ill for Artemius (and all Christians). Julian, as you doubtless know, forsook his baptism, returned to the worship of the pagan gods, destroyed churches, killed Christians, and in general ensured his eternal niche in the hall of infamy. (Is that well put or what?) For example, he most impiously mingled the bones of the prophets Elisha (Jun 14) and John the Baptist (Jan 7) with those of animals and “impious men”, burned the lot, and scattered the ashes to the wind. Fortunately John’s head (Feb 24) was somewhere else, waiting to be found again. And again.

After a skirmish with the Persians, Julian was billeted in Antioch, where he, as per his wont, was trying and executing Christians, converting churches to pagan temples, and in general scaring the chickens. For some reason Artemius, by this time an old man, was in town, and he was dragged before Julian. He upbraided the apostate for his barbarity, faithlessness, and bad taste in coffee. (Or postum, or whatever they had in those days.) When he had had an earful of this, Julian accused Artemius of killing his (Julian’s) brother Gallus, and had him stripped of his rank, tortured, and thrown in prison.

The next day Artemius was brought before the emperor again, where he professed his innocence of Gallus’ death (he was in Egypt at the time, for crying out loud), and recounted the Occurrence at Milvian Creek Bridge. He was allowed to ramble for a few pages (in one source), then thrown back in prison again, where he was healed by Our Lord Himself, and fed by the holy angels. Meanwhile Julian went to sacrifice to Apollo at Daphne. Daphne, however, had lost her glasses—wait, that’s Thelma. Sorry. This particular statue of Apollo was an oracle, but remained mute because the relics of a saint were nearby. Julian had the relics removed, whereupon lightning from heaven (as opposed to lightning from some other source, such as, um—) struck the temple and reduced it to rubble. Julian was convinced that Christians had come by night and set the temple on fire, but word of the disaster had reached Artemius, and he mocked Julian when next they met. By this point Julian was right well fed up with Artemius, and ordered that he be crushed inside a humongous boulder that had been split in twain (love that word) for the purpose. The rock did a fine job, CHILDREN LOOK AWAY, squishing Artemius until his eyes popped out and his guts flowed.

CHILDREN LOOK BACK. Although flattened by the boulder, Artemius was miraculously kept alive. Like something from Julian’s blackest dreams (or like Judge Doom in Roger Rabbit), he stood up and condemned the apostate one last time, foretelling his all-too-timely death. Realizing the whole torture and flattening thing wasn’t working, Julian (finally) had Artemius beheaded. The body was later gathered by a pious Christian named Arista and shipped to Constantinople for burial. Meanwhile Julian perished fighting the Persians, and a Christian once again mounted the imperial throne.

Our readers will not be surprised to learn that Artemius is the patron saint of (and I do not jest) people who suffer from hernia.