Saints Sergius and Bacchus (also Serge and Bacchus or Sergios and Bakchos), were third century Roman soldiers who are commemorated as martyrs by the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches. They are noted as a classic example of paired saints, considered by some (such as scholar John Boswell) to be the most influential example of such a couple, even better an example of such an archetype than Saints Peter and Paul. Serge and Bacchus were officers in Caesar Maximian's army, and were held high in his favor until they announced that they were secretly Christians. They were then severely punished in 303, with Bacchus dying during torture, and Sergius eventually beheaded. Churches in their honor have been built in several cities, including Constantinople and Rome. Their feast day is on 7 October.
Officers of the Roman Army and secretly Christians, their martyrology reports their religion was discovered when they attempted to avoid accompanying a Roman official into a pagan temple with the rest of his bodyguard. After they persisted in refusing to worship Roman gods they were exiled to the front lines in Syria ca. 303 by order of Roman Emperor Maximian, where they were tortured and killed. Bacchus is thought to have died while being flogged. Sergius survived torture to later be beheaded. Both were killed in Syria; the traditional site of Sergius' death is Resafa. According to legend, upon being tortured to death, Bacchus appeared (in spirit) to Sergius who was still being tortured and encouraged him to remain strong, as they would soon be reunited in Heaven.
In the Byzantine Empire, they were venerated as the protectors of the army. A large monastery church was dedicated to them in Constantinople by Justinian I, probably in 527. Sergius was a very famous saint in Syria and Christian Arabia. The city of Resafa, which became a bishop's see, took the name, Sergiopolis, and preserved his relics in a fortified basilica. The church was adorned and the place further strengthened by Justinian. It became one of the greatest pilgrimage centers in the east.
Many churches were built dedicated in the name of Sergius, sometimes with Bacchus. The nomads of the desert looked upon Sergius as their special patron saint. Their feast day in the West is celebrated on October 7.
A church dedicated to them was built in Rome in the 9th century.
Sergius and Bacchus's close relationship has led some modern commenters to believe they were lovers. The most popular evidence for this view is that the oldest text of their martyrology, in the Greek language, describes them as "erastai", or lovers. Yale historian John Boswell considers their relationship to be an example of an early Christian same-sex union, reflecting his contested view of tolerant early Christians attitudes toward homosexuality. The artist Robert Lentz advocated this view, portraying the men as a gay couple in his religious iconography painting. In his study on "The Origin of the Cult of SS. Sergius and Bacchus" David Woods classified some of Boswell's arguments as "superficial". Other historians and Byzantine analysts, along with the official stance of the Eastern Orthodox Church, argue that the ancient Eastern tradition of adelphopoiia, which was done to form a "brotherhood" in the name of God, and is traditionally associated with these two saints, had no sexual implications. No suggestion of any sexual union between the saints is found on the websites of the Orthodox Church in America or the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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