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A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

Leontius, Priest And Martyr of Armenia

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Leontius (74), priest and martyr of Armenia in the reign of Isdigerd II. of Persia. He acted a conspicuous part in the stand of the Armenian church against the court of Persia, as related chiefly in the History of Varian by Elisha Vartabed and in the historical work of Lazarus of Barb. In Nov. 450 700 magian priests, sent under escort to instruct the Armenians in the court religion, arrived at Ankes in the centre of Armenia. There having lain encamped for 25 days, they ordered the church to be broken open. Thus commenced the persecuting violence of Persia. Leontius, putting himself at the head of his people, drove the magian party to flight, after which divine service went on in the church unmolested through the day. A general rising followed, and in 451 66,000 Armenian Christians mustered under prince Vartan in the plain of Artass to encounter the Persian army. Joseph and a large body of his clergy, including Leontius, were present to encourage the Christian forces (Lazarus, § 34 in Langl. ii. 296, 297; Elisha, u. inf. ). Leontius, who is everywhere mentioned with Joseph, and is usually the orator, as he is the chief inspirer, of the whole movement, delivered a fervent address before the battle (given fully by Langlois), dwelling on the examples of Phineas, Elijah, Gideon, and other famous believers in O.T. (Langl. ii. 218). The battle (June 2, 451, ib. 298 note) was lost and a remnant found refuge in the stronghold of Pag. This too was taken and many clergy were put to death. Joseph, Leontius, and their companions, were taken to the court of Persia, and put on their defence. Finally they and four others were executed on the 25th of the month Hroditz in the 16th year of Isdigerd (a.d. 455), in the province of Abar, near a village of the Mogs named Révan. The account of the martyrdom has every appearance of being a genuine coeval record, simple, natural, unlegendary. Lazarus himself wrote in the following generation, and his position gave him access to the best authorities, which he describes, especially assuring his readers that he faithfully reports the last words of the martyrs. The most severely dealt with was Leontius, he being regarded as the chief instigator of the Armenian resistance. The general history of these events may be read in Saint-Martin's Le Beau, t. vi. pp. 258–318.


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Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Leontius, Priest And Martyr of Armenia'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. 1911.

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