Terence

Jesus in Love Blog: Saints Sergius and Bacchus: Male couple martyred in ancient Rome

In saints on October 7, 2012 at 2:43 pm

“Sts. Sergius and Bacchus” by Plamen Petrov, St. Martha Church, Morton Grove, IL

Sergius and Bacchus were third-century Roman soldiers, Christian martyrs and gay men who loved each other. Their story is told here in words and pictures to honor their feast day today (Oct. 7).

The couple was openly gay, but secretly Christian — the opposite of today’s closeted Christians. They were killed around 303 in present-day Syria.

More Sergius and Bacchus images are at the end of this post, including the work of British photographer Anthony Gayton and American artists Robert Lentz, Tony de Carlo and Ryan Grant Long.

The close bond between Sergius and Bacchus has been emphasi zed since the earliest accounts, and recent scholarship has revealed their homosexuality. The oldest record of their martyrdom describes them as erastai (Greek for “lovers”). Scholars believe that they may have been united in the rite of adelphopoiesis (brother-making), a kind of early Christian same-sex marriage.

A classic example of paired saints, Sergius and Bacchus were high-ranking young officers. Sergius was primicerius (commander) and Bacchus was secundarius (subaltern officer). They were tortured to death after they refused to attend sacrifices to Zeus, thus revealing their secret Christianity.

The men were arrested and paraded through the streets in women’s clothing in an unsuccessful effort to humiliate them. Early accounts say that they responded by chanting that they were dressed as brides of Christ. They told their captors that women’s dress never stopped women from worshiping Christ, so it wouldn’t stop them, either. Then Sergius and Bacchus were separated and beaten so severely that Bacchus died.

 

-continue reading at Jesus in Love Blog

 

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