Home  »  Volume XI: November  »  SS. Milles, Bishop of Susa, Ambrosimus, Priest, and Sina, Deacon, Martyrs in Persia

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

November 10

SS. Milles, Bishop of Susa, Ambrosimus, Priest, and Sina, Deacon, Martyrs in Persia

  ST. MILLES was born in the province of the Razichæans, 1 was educated in the Persian court, and had a considerable post in the army, till, being converted to the Christian faith, he withdrew from the court of Lapeta, and retired to Ilam or Elam near Susa. By his example and exhortations he converted many to the faith, and to the fervent practice of virtue; and for the service of that infant church consented to receive holy orders. Not long after, he was chosen bishop of Susa, and consecrated by St. Gadiabes, bishop of Lapeta, afterwards a martyr. Our saint took much pains for some years to reclaim men from superstition and vice; but reaped no other advantages than that of discharging his own duty, and of suffering for the faith. The infidels often dragged him through the streets and highways, beat him unmercifully, and treated him with unheard-of cruelties and indignities. Riches, sloth, and plenty, were the bane of this great city, and though it bad been plundered by Alexander the Great, it was still in a flourishing condition; and the old palace, which was said to have been built by Mardochai, and was one of the largest in extent, and most stately that ever was erected in the world, was still standing. But pride and luxury were not perhaps carried higher in Sodom than in this city. The small number of Christians that were there, were infected in some measure with the vices of the infidels with whom they conversed. St. Milles finding them incorrigible, and seeing his residence amongst them rendered impossible by the rage of the persecutors, and by the tumults of a civil war, left the city, having first denounced the divine vengeance to the inhabitants. Three months after his departure, king Sapor, for punishment of a rebellion which this city and the Elamites had raised, sent hither an army and three hundred elephants, with an order to put the inhabitants to the sword, raze the houses and all the other buildings to the ground, remove their very foundations, plough up the soil, and sow corn upon it. This order was rigorously executed, but the city has been since rebuilt, and Susa shows at this day stupendous ruins of its ancient grandeur. It had been the winter seat of the ancient kings of Persia, from Cyrus; the summer they spent in a colder climate, at Ecbatana.  1
  As for St. Milles, a desire of seeing holy places, and conversing with eminent servants of God for his improvement in sacred knowledge and devotion, led him to travel to Jerusalem and Alexandria. He carried nothing with him but a book of the gospels, and made this truly a journey of penance, piety, and recollection. In Egypt he visited St. Ammonius, the disciple of St. Antony, the father of the Mourners, as the Persians and Syrians to this day call monks, because they wear black or mourning habits. In those deserts he staid some time in a cave with a certain monk, who used to feed a serpent of the species called Nosephus, which came to his cave at certain hours, without doing him any hurt. St. Milles liked not such a guest, and burst the serpent, perhaps by poisoning its food. In his return he made a visit to St. James of Nisibis, who was then building his great church. After some stay with that holy prelate, he went into Assyria, and bought there a great quantity of silk, which he sent to St. James for the use of his church. Coming to Seleucia and Ctesiphon, 2 he found the numerous church there thrown into great disorder by the insufferable pride and arrogance of Papas, the primate, who had alienated the minds of the clergy, and by a very irregular conduct given occasion to a pernicious schism which was raised amongst them. A synod being assembled at Seleucia, to reform the abuses which Papas had introduced in the discipline, and to hear the complaints of several bishops against him, St. Milles spoke to him with great liberty and gravity. “Whence comes it,” said he, “that you despise your colleagues? Do you forget the precept of Christ: 3 He that is the greatest among you, let him be as a servant?” Papas replied in a fit of brutish anger: “Foolish man, would you pretend to teach me, as if I knew not my duty!” St. Milles taking the book of the gospels out of his pocket, laid it upon the table, and addressing himself to Papas, said: “If you are ashamed to learn your duty of me, who am a base mortal man, learn it at least from the holy gospel.” Papas no longer possessing himself, in his rage, striking the book with his hand, said: “Speak then, gospel, speak.” St. Milles, shocked at these impious words, took up the sacred book, respectfully applied it to his mouth and eyes, and then raising his voice, said to Papas: “The angel of the Lord will punish the insult you have offered to the word of life. Half your body shall this moment become without motion; neither yet shall you soon die. God will prolong your life some years, that you may be to others a living example of his justice.” That instant Papas was struck with a palsy, which seized one side of his body, and he fell to the ground. 4 This happened in 314. Beausobre thinks 5 his palsy might be naturally produced by the extravagant fit of rage into which he threw himself, yet be an effect of the divine vengeance, for which natural causes are often employed. Papas survived this accident twelve years, took for his coadjutor St. Simeon, and died in 326, the year after the council of Nice, at which St. Sciadustes or Sadoth assisted as deputy for him.  2
  St. Milles retired into the country of Maisan, called by the Latins Mesene, upon the Euphrates, and took up his abode with a hermit. The lord of that country, who had been sick two years, recovered his health by our saint’s prayers, and this miracle converted many infidels. Our saint afterwards returned into the province of the Razichæans, his own country, and there baptized many. In 341, the bloody edicts of Sapor against the Christians coming abroad, Hormisda Guphrizius, governor of that province, caused him and his two disciples, Abrosimus, a priest, and Sina, a deacon, to be apprehended, and sent them in chains to Maheldagdar, the capital city of the Razichæans. They were twice scourged, and solicited many ways to offer sacrifice to the sun. The martyrs ceased not repeating the divine praises in their dungeons. In the beginning of the year, that is, in October (for the Chaldæans to this day begin their year on the 1st of that month), Hormisda had made preparations for a great hunt of wild beasts. The day before this diversion he sent for St. Milles, and after many reproachful words, threatened to despatch him like one of the wild beasts in the woods, unless he demonstrated to him the truth of his religion. The martyr’s answers were modest, but firm: and the inhuman governor put an end to his discourse, by rushing upon him and stabbing him through the shoulder. Narses, Hormisda’s brother, seeing this, drew his sword, and ran him through the other shoulder, of which wound he died. Hormisda commanded Abrosimus and Sina to be stoned to death by the soldiers, upon the tops of two hills which faced each other: which was forthwith executed. The two impious brothers were both slain on the day following, by chance arrows shot at a stag; and their bodies were left upon the spot, that the flesh might be devoured by the beasts and birds of prey: after which the bones were gathered and buried, according to the ancient Persian custom, which subsisted till the sixth century, as appears from Agathias, 6 but was extirpated by the Mahometans when they became masters of the country. The Christians always interred their dead in Persia, as in other countries. The bodies of these three martyrs were conveyed to the castle of Malcan, and deposited in a tomb prepared for them. The inhabitants attributed to the blessing of God for the sake of his martyrs, that the Sabæan Arabs who had often infested that country, never made their appearance there from that time. These martyrs suffered in the year 341, the 32d of Sapor II., on the 13th day of the moon of November, which that year was the 5th of November, according to the solar computation. The Roman Martyrology joins these with several other Persian martyrs on the 22nd of April: the Grecian Menæa mentions them on the 10th of November, which was perhaps the day of their burial. See their genuine Chaldaic Acts, with the notes of Monsignor Steph. Evodius Assemani, Act. Mart. Orient, t. 1, p. 66. See also Sozomen, l. 2, c. 13.  3
Note 1. This and the neighbouring provinces of Susiana, Uxios, or of the Huzites, Lapeta and Ilam (or of the Elymaits founded by Elam, son of Sem, Gen. x. 20,) nearly make up the present province of Chusistan, of which Susa, now called Sus, is the capital. See Steph. Evod. Assemani in Not. in Hæc. Acta. [back]
Note 2. Seleucia and Ctesiphon, which stand on the opposite banks of the Tigris, might be called the same city, and were the capital of Persia under the Saxanite race; the king’s often residing there, though sometimes at Ledan, the capital of the Huzites, and frequently at Lapeta. Bagdad was built by the Saracens upon the ruins of Seleucia, which they had destroyed in the conquest of that country, and is thirty miles from the ruins of Babylon upon the Euphrates in Chaldea, which Strabo and Diodorus Siculus say was almost a desert when they wrote, in the reign of Augustus. Eusebius (in Isa. xiii.) tells us, it was a desert in his time: and St. Jerom (in eund. text.) says, that the kings of Persia made use of it for a park for the keeping of wild beasts for their hunting. Benjamin of Tudela in Navarre, a Jew, in the twelfth age, giving an account of his travels, says, that he found Babylon entirely destroyed, that the ruins of Nebuchodonosor’s palace were conspicuous, and that the spot was literally the habitation of serpents, which were so numerous, that no one durst go near the place. At present the very spot where Babylon stood seems uncertain to many judicious critics. The archbishops of Seleucia took the title of Catholicos, which expresses a kind of patriarchal dignity. Hence their successors who fell into Nestorianism, are styled patriarchs of the Nestorians, and reside at Bagdad. [back]
Note 3. Luke xxii. 26. [back]
Note 4. Jos. Assemani, Bibl. Orient. t. 3, part 2, p. 320. [back]
Note 5. Hist. de Manichée, l. 2, ch. 3, p. 184, 185. [back]
Note 6. L. 2, p. 60. [back]