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Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume I: January. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

February 20

SS. Tyrannio, Bishop of Tyre, Zenobius, and Other Martyrs in Phœnicia

        From Eusebius, Hist. l. 8. c. 7. 13. 25. St. Jerom in Chron. Euseb.

A.D. 304. 310.

EUSEBIUS, the parent of church history, and an eye-witness of what he relates concerning these martyrs, gives the following account of them: “Several Christians of Egypt, whereof some had settled in Palestine, others at Tyre, gave astonishing proofs of their patience and constancy in the faith. After innumerable stripes and blows, which they cheerfully underwent, they were exposed to wild beasts such as leopards, wild bears, boars, and bulls. I myself was present, when these savage creatures, accustomed to human blood, being let out upon them, instead of devouring them, or tearing them to pieces, as it was natural to expect, stood off, refusing even to touch or approach them, at the same time that they fell foul on their keepers, and others that came in their way. 1 The soldiers of Christ were the only persons they refused, though these martyrs, pursuant to the order given them, tossed about their arms, which was thought a ready way to provoke the beasts, and stir them up against them. Sometimes, indeed they were perceived to rush towards them with their usual impetuosity, but, withheld by a divine power, they suddenly withdrew; and this many times, to the great admiration of all present. The first having done no execution, others were a second and a third time let out upon them, but in vain; the martyrs standing all the while unshaken, though many of them very young. Among them was a youth not yet twenty, who had his eyes lifted up to heaven, and his arms extended in the form of a cross, not in the least daunted, nor trembling nor shifting his place, while the bears and leopards, with their jaws wide open, threatening immediate death, seemed just ready to tear him to pieces; but, by a miracle, not being suffered to touch him, they speedily withdrew. Others were exposed to a furious bull, which had already gored and tossed into the air several infidels who had ventured too near, and left them half dead: only the martyrs he could not approach; he stopped, and stood scraping the dust with his feet, and though he seemed to endeavour it with his utmost might, butting with his horns on every side, and pawing the ground with his feet, being also urged on by red hot iron goads, it was all to no purpose. After repeated trials of this kind with other wild beasts, with as little success as the former, the saints were slain by the sword, and their bodies cast into the sea. Others who refused to sacrifice were beaten to death, or burned, or executed divers other ways.” This happened in the year 304, under Veturius, a Roman general, in the reign of Dioclesian.
  The church on this day commemorates the other holy martyrs, whose crown was deferred till 310. The principal of these was St. Tyrannic, bishop of Tyre, who had been present at the glorious triumph of the former, and encouraged them in their conflict. He had not the comfort to follow them till six years after; when, being conducted from Tyre to Antioch, with St. Zenobius, a holy priest and physician of Sidon, after many torments he was thrown into the sea, or rather into the river Orontes, upon which Antioch stands, at twelve miles distant from the sea. Zenobius expired on the rack, whilst his sides and body were furrowed and laid open with iron hooks and nails. St. Sylvanus, bishop of Emisa, in Phœnicia, was, some time after, under Maximinus, devoured by wild beasts in the midst of his own city, with two companions, after having governed that church forty years. Peleus and Nilus, two other Egyptian priests, in Palestine, were consumed by fire with some others. St. Sylvanus, bishop of Gaza, was condemned to the copper mines of Phœnon, near Petra, in Arabia, and afterwards beheaded there with thirty-nine others.  2
  St. Tyrannio is commemorated on the 20th of February, in the Roman Martyrology, with those who suffered under Veturius, at Tyre, in 304. St. Zenobius, the priest and physician of Sidon, who suffered with him at Antioch, on the 29th of October: St. Sylvanus of Emisa, to whom the Menology gives many companions, on the 6th of February: St. Sylvanus of Gaza, on the 29th of May.  3
  The love of Christ triumphed in the hearts of so many glorious martyrs, upon racks, in the midst of boiling furnaces, or flames, and in the claws or teeth of furious wild beasts. How many inflamed with his love have forsaken all things to follow him, despising honours, riches, pleasures, and the endearments of worldly friends, to take up their crosses, and walk with constancy in the narrow paths of a most austere penitential life! We also pretend to love him: but what effect has this love upon us? what fruit does it produce in our lives? If we examine our own hearts, we shall be obliged to confess that we have great reason to fear that we deceive ourselves. What pains do we take to rescue our souls from the slavery of the world, and the tyranny of self-love, to purge our affections of vice, or to undertake anything for the divine honour, and the sanctification of our souls? Let us earnestly entreat our most merciful Redeemer, by the power of this his holy love to triumph over all his enemies, which are our unruly passions, in our souls, and perfectly to subdue our stubborn hearts to its empire. Let it be our resolution, from this moment, to renounce the love of the world, and all self-love, to seek and obey him alone.  4
Note 1. Rufinus adds, that these beasts killed several of the keepers and spectators. It is in this sense that some have translated this passage with Nicephorus. See Vales, in Annot. p. 165. But it seems improbable that the spectators, who were separated from the arena by iron rails, and seated on stone benches gradually ascending, ten or twenty men deep all round, should be killed or injured by the beasts, unless some were so rash as to venture within the rails with the keepers; which we see several do in the combats of wild beasts. This, therefore, we are to restrain to the keepers and those who kept them company. [back]