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The Forty Martyrs (320) - Frozen to Death

The Forty Martyrs (320) - Frozen to Death


We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 1 John 3:16 (NRSV)

In the year 320, when the emperor Licinius announced that Christians in the East should give up their faith or die, 40 Christian soldiers of different nationalities stationed in Sebaste (Sivas), Lesser Armenia, refused to renounce Christ.

They were left naked on the ice of a frozen pond whilst baths of hot water were stood on the banks as a temptation to recant their faith. Most died on the first day. The youngest of them, Melito, who survived till the second day, was encouraged by his widowed mother. Only one of the soldiers could not undergo the torture, but one of the guards, who had been converted to Christianity by a dream of angels and by the heroism of those who were being tortured, took his place.

Flung to the heedless winds,
Or on the waters cast,
The martyrs’ ashes, watched,
Shall gathered be at last;
And from that scattered dust,
Around us and abroad,
Shall spring a plenteous seed
Of witnesses for God.

The Father hath received
Their latest living breath;
And vain is Satan’s boast
Of victory in their death;
Still, still, though dead, they speak,
And, trumpet-tongued, proclaim
To many a wakening land
The one availing name.

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Translated by John A. Messenger (fl. 1843)


Dr Patrick Sookhdeo is the International Director of Barnabas Fund and the Executive Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


The Forty Martyrs (320) - Frozen to Death

Originally appeared on Isaac Publishing


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