Pionius, with Sabina, Asclepiades, Macedonia, and Limnos, was arrested on 23 February, the anniversary of St. Polycarp's martyrdom.
They had passed the previous night in prayer and fasting. Knowing of his impending arrest, Pionius had fastened fetters round the necks of himself and his companions to signify that they were already condemned. People seeing them led off unbound might suppose that they were prepared, like so many other Christians in Smyrna, the bishop included, to sacrifice.
At Smyrna there were two manifestations of Nemesis, more akin to Aphrodite than to Artemis; it is suggested that they represent two aspects of the goddess, the kindly and the implacable, or the goddesses of the old city and the new city refounded by Alexander the Great. The martyrology Acts of Pionius, set in the "Decian persecution" of AD 250–51, mentions a lapsed Smyrnan Christian who was attending to the sacrifices at the altar of the temple of these Nemeses.
Early in the morning, after they had partaken of the Holy Bread and of water, they were conducted to the forum. The place was thronged with Greeks and Jews, for it was a great Sabbath and therefore a general holiday in the city—an indication of the importance of the Jews in Smyrna. Pionius harangued the multitude. He begged the Greeks to remember what Homer had said about not mocking the corpse of an enemy. Let them refrain therefore from mocking those Christians who had apostatized. He then turned to the Jews and quoted Moses and Solomon to the same effect.
He ended with a vehement refusal to offer sacrifice. Then followed the usual interrogatories and threats, after which Pionius and his companions were relegated to prison, to await the arrival of the proconsul. Here they found other confessors, among them a Montanist.
Many pagans visited them, and Christians who had sacrificed, lamenting their fall. The latter Pionius exhorted to repentance. A further attempt before the arrival of the proconsul was made to force Pionius and his companions into an act of apostasy. They were carried off to a temple where every effort was made to compel them to participate in a sacrifice.
On 12 March, Pionius was brought before the proconsul who first tried persuasion and then torture. Both having failed, Pionius was condemned to be burnt alive. He suffered in company with Metrodorus, a Marcionite priest.
The true day of his martyrdom, according to the Acts, was 12 March. Eusebius ("H.E.", IV, xv; "Chron.", p. 17, ed. Schoene) places the martyrdom in the reign of Antoninus. His mistake was probably because he found the martyrdom of Pionius in a volume containing the Acts of Martyrs of an earlier date. Possibly his MS. lacked the chronological note in our present ones.
- Pionius at the Catholic Encyclopedia
- The Martyrdom of Pionius and his Companions
- Orthodox Church in America
- E. Leigh Gibson. Jewish Antagonism or Christian Polemic: The Case of the Martyrdom of Pionius. Journal of Early Christian Studies, Volume 9, Number 3, Fall 2001. pp.339-358.
- Great Synaxaristes: (Greek) Ὁ Ἅγιος Πιόνιος ὁ Μάρτυρας ὁ Πρεσβύτερος. 11 Μαρτίου. ΜΕΓΑΣ ΣΥΝΑΞΑΡΙΣΤΗΣ.