Saints Abdon and Sennen
Persian Martyrs at Rome
The emperor Decius, enemy of Christians, had defeated the king of Persia and become master of several countries over which he reigned. He had already condemned to torture and death Saint Polychrome, with five members of his clergy. Saint Abdon and Saint Sennen, illustrious Persian dignitaries of the third century whom the king of Persia had highly honored, were secretly Christian; it was they who had taken up the body of the martyred bishop, which had been cast contemptuously before a temple of Saturn, to bury it at night, with honor. The two royal officials, now fallen under the domination of Rome, were grieved to witness the emperor’s cruelty towards the faithful, and believed it their duty to make known their love for Jesus Christ; thus, without fear of their new sovereign, they undertook by all possible means to spread and fortify the faith, to encourage the confessors and bury the martyrs.
Decius, learning of their dedication, was extremely irritated. He sent for the two brothers to appear before his tribunal, and attempted to win them over to sacrifice to the gods, by appealing to his recent victory as a sign of their favor. The Saints replied, however, that this victory was not at all a proof of such power, since the unique true God, Creator of heaven and earth with His Son, Jesus Christ, gives victory to some and defeat to others, for reasons hidden in the designs of His providence. They said they could never adore any but Him, and Decius imprisoned them. Soon afterwards, when he learned of the death of the viceroy he had left to govern in his place at Rome, he returned to Rome and took his two captives with him to serve as splendid trophies of his Persian victory. In effect, these magistrates were wearing jewels and rich fabrics under their chains.
He arraigned them before the Senate, in whose presence they again testified to the divinity of Christ, saying they could adore no other. The next day they were flogged in the amphitheater; then two lions and four bears were released to devour them. But the beasts lay down at their feet and became their guardians, and no one dared approach for a time. Finally the prefect sent out gladiators to slay them with the sword, which with the permission of God was done. Their bodies remained three days without burial, but a subdeacon, who afterwards wrote their history, took them up and buried them on his own terrain.
Under Constantine the Great, their tombs were discovered by divine revelation and their relics reburied in the Pontian cemetery, which afterwards was called by their names. We see them in a picture of the catacombs, crowned by Our Lord Himself. Their glorious martyrdom occurred in the year 254.
Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 9