Apollonius the Apologist
|Saint Apollonius the Apologist|
|Martyr and Apologist|
|Born||unknown (2nd century)
|Died||21 April 185
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church|
|Feast||18 April; July 23 (Eastern Orthodox Church)|
Saint Apollonius the Apologist or Saint Apollonius of Rome was a 2nd-century Christian martyr and apologist (not to be confused with Apollinaris Claudius, another contemporary apologist) who was martyred in 185 under the Emperor Commodus (161-192).
Four different sources speak of Saint Apollonius of Rome:
- a record of the trial incorporated into the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius of Caesarea (265-340);
- chapters 40 and 42 of the De Viris Illustribus by Saint Jerome (347-420),
- two versions of the Passio of Apollonius, one Greek, the other Armenian, which were discovered in the late 19th century.
These sources present Apollonius as an illustrious Roman, even, it seems, a senator, and an exceedingly talented man, well versed in philosophy. He was denounced as a Christian to the Pretorian Prefect Perennius. Summoned to defend himself, he read to the senate, according to Saint Jerome, "a remarkable volume" in which, instead of recanting, he defended the Christian faith. As a result, he was condemned to death on the basis of the law established by the Emperor Trajan.
The sources say he was subjected to two investigations, the first by the Prefect Perennius, the second, three days later, by a group of senators and jurists. The hearings were conducted in a calm and courteous manner. Apollonius was permitted to speak with only rare interruptions, aimed at getting him to tone down his remarks, which were making him liable to punishment.
Apollonius was not afraid to die, because, he said: "There is waiting for me something better: eternal life, given to the person who has lived well on earth." And he argued for the superiority of Christianity's concepts of death and life.
The sources disagree on the manner of his death. The Greek Passio says he died after having his legs crushed, a punishment inflicted also on the slave who denounced him; but in the Armenian account he is decapitated.
Apollonius was not mentioned in the earliest Christian martyrologies, not being at first the object of individual commemoration. In the Middle Ages he was confused with two other saints, Apollo of Alexandria and the Apollonius who was martyred with Saint Valentine and whose feast is on 18 April. As a result, this date was attributed also to Saint Apollonius of Rome, even in editions of the Roman Martyrology, the latest editions of which have, however, restored the date of 21 April.
The account in the Roman Martyrology (21 April) is as follows:
- At Rome, commemoration of Saint Apollonius, philosopher and martyr. Under the Emperor Commodus, he defended, before the Prefect Perennius and the Senate, the cause of the Christian faith in a finely argued address, and then, after being condemned to death, confirmed it by the witness of his blood.
- Enciclopedia dei Santi: Sant'Apollonio di Roma
- Older sources give 18 April, due to confusion with another Saint Apollonius
- Saint of the Day
- Martyrologium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 88-209-7210-7).
Earlier editions of the Roman Martyrology had, under 18 April, the following text:
- At Rome, blessed Apollonius, a senator under Emperor Commodus and the prefect Perennius. He was denounced as a Christian by one of his slaves, and being commanded to give an account of his faith, he composed an able work which he read in the Senate. He was nevertheless beheaded for Christ by their sentence. (Confraternity of Ss. Peter & Paul. "April 18". The Roman Martyrology. Retrieved 2007-03-03.