305: Feast Day of St. Philemon the Actor

This is the feast day for St. Philemon the actor, supposed to have been hurled into the sea at Alexandria, Egypt, during the persecutions under Diocletian.

The fate of this otherwise obscure saint — he’s not to be confused with the first-century prelate to whom St. Paul addressed the shortest of his canonical epistles — is, of course, a byproduct of Christianity’s centuries-in-coming overthrow of the pagan world in which it incubated.

And in fact, Philemon the Actor’s martyrdom would have occurred towards the very end of the reign which saw the very last major anti-Christian persecutions. Already by this time, the young man whose sword arm would bear Christianity to its political triumph was a major political figure in the Empire.

The very next year, Constantine received the imperial purple, and over the ensuing years overcame his partners and rivals in that station to win unchallenged hegemony over the Roman World.

Laurels for Philemon and many others of his ilk would soon be policy for the empire that had put him to death, as celebration (perhaps exaggeration) of such travails cemented the newfound legitimacy of the formerly illicit religion elevated by Constantine.

Part of the Themed Set: The Church confronts its competition.

Themed Set: The Church confronts its competition

This blog takes a broad view of martyrdom, but for martyrs of the classically pious cast, nobody fills the cemeteries like Holy Mother Church.

Heck, Rome has been using this blog’s concept since way before Movable Type. No, I mean way before movable type.

Say what you will about the official martyrology and those that populate it — like all martyrs, they have something to tell us about their world and ours.


CC image of a Notre Dame gargoyle from Brian Jeffery Beggerly

Join Executed Today over the next four days as we listen to some martyrs’ stories of the violently negotiated boundaries — geographical, temporal, political, and spiritual — of Church authority and identity as against the communities that disputed it.