Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume II: February. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. Phileas, and St. Philoromus, Bishop of Thmuis, Martyrs
PHILEAS was a rich nobleman of Thmuis1 in Egypt, very eloquent and learned. Being converted to the faith, he was chosen bishop of that city; but was taken and carried prisoner to Alexandria by the persecutors, under the successors of Dioclesian. Eusebius has preserved part of a letter which he wrote in his dungeon, and sent to his flock to comfort and encourage them.2 Describing the sufferings of his fellow confessors at Alexandria, he says, that every one had full liberty allowed to insult, strike, and beat them with rods, whips, or clubs. Some of the confessors, with their hands behind their backs, were tied to pillars, their bodies stretched out with engines, and their sides, belly, thighs, legs, and cheeks hideously torn with iron hooks: others were hung by one hand, suffering excessive pain by the stretching of their joints: others hung by both hands, their bodies being drawn down. The governor thought no treatment too bad for Christians. Some expired on the racks; others expired soon after they were taken down: others were laid on their backs in the dungeons, with their legs stretched out in the wooden stocks to the fourth hole, &c. Culcian, who had been prefect at Thebais, was then governor of all Egypt, under the tyrant Maximinus, but afterwards lost his head in 313, by the order of Licinius. We have a long interrogatory of St. Phileas before him from the presidial registers. Culcian, after many other things, asked him, Was Christ God? The saint answered, Yes; and alleged his miracles as a proof of his divinity. The governor professed a great regard for his quality and merit, and said: If you were in misery, or necessity, you should be despatched without more ado; but as you have riches and estates sufficient not only for yourself and family, but for the maintenance almost of a whole province, I pity you, and do all in my power to save you. The counsellors and lawyers, desirous also of saving him, said: He had already sacrificed in the Phrontisterium (or academy for the exercises of literature.) Phileas cried out: I have not by any immolation; but say barely that I have sacrificed, and you will say no more than the truth. Having been confined there some time, he might perhaps have said mass in that place.3
His wife, children, brother, and other relations, persons of distinction, and Pagans, were present at the trial. The governor hoping to overcome him by tenderness for them, said:See how sorrowful your wife stands with her eyes fixed upon you. Phileas replied: Jesus Christ, the Saviour of souls, calls me to his glory: and he can also, if he pleases, call my wife. The counsellors, out of compassion, said to the judge: Phileas begs a delay. Culcian said to him: I grant it you most willingly, that you may consider what to do. Phileas replied: I have considered, and it is my unchangeable resolution to die for Jesus Christ. Then all the counsellors, the emperors lieutenant, who was the first magistrate of the city, all the other officers of justice, and his relations, fell down together at his feet, embracing his knees, and conjuring him to have compassion on his disconsolate family, and not to abandon his children to their tender years whilst his presence was absolutely necessary for them. But he, like a rock unshaken by the impetuous waves that dash against it, stood unmoved; and raising his heart to God, protested aloud that he owned no other kindred but the apostles and martyrs. Philoromus a noble Christian was present: he was a tribune or colonel, and the emperors treasurer-general in Alexandria, and had his tribunal in the city, where he sat every day hearing and judging causes, attended by many officers in great state. Admiring the prudence and inflexible courage of Phileas, and moved with indignation against his adversaries, he cried out to them: Why strive ye to overcome this brave man, and to make him, by an impious compliance with men, renounce God? Do not you see that, contemplating the glory of heaven, he makes no account of earthly things? This speech drew upon him the indignation of the whole assembly, who in rage demanded that both might be condemned to die. To which the judge readily assented.
As they were led out to execution, the brother of Phileas, who was a judge, said to the governor: Phileas desires his pardon. Culcian therefore called him back, and asked him if it were true. He answered: No: God forbid. Do not listen to this unhappy man. Far from desiring the reversion of my sentence, I think myself much obliged to the emperors, to you, and to your court, for by your means I become co-heir with Christ, and shall enter this very day into the possession of his kingdom. Hereupon he was remanded to the place of execution, where having made his prayer aloud, and exhorted the faithful to constancy and perseverance, he was beheaded with Philoromus. The exact time of their martyrdom is not known, but it happened between the years 306 and 312. Their names stand in the ancient martyrologies. See Eusebius, Hist. l. 8. c. 9. St. Hier. in. Catal. in Philea; and their original beautiful acts, published by Combefis, Henschenius, and Ruinart.
Note 1. Thmuis, capital of the Nomos, or district of Mendes, is called by Strabo, Mendes, which word in the Egyptian tongue signifies a goat, Pan being there worshipped with extraordinary superstition under the figure of a goat. This city was anciently one of the largest and richest in Egypt, as Amm. Marcellinus (l. 22.) testifies; but is now reduced to the condition of a mean village, and called Themoi, or rather Themowia. See Le Quieu, Oriens Christ. t. 2. p. 538. [back]