The Twelve Martyred Saints: Pamphilus the Presbyter, Porphyrios, Valentus the Deacon, Paul, Seleucius, Theodoulos, Julian, Samuel, Ilias, Daniel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah suffered during the time of a persecution against Christians, initiated by the emperor Diocletian in the years 308-309 at Caesarea in Palestine.
The holy martyr Pamphilus, a native of the city of Berit (Beirut), received his education at Alexandria, after which he was made presbyter at Caesarea. He laboured much over the collation and correction of copyist errors in texts of the New Testament. The corrected texts of Saint Pamphilus were copied out and distributed to those wanting them. In such form many pagans were converted to Christ through them. His works and concerned matters at Caesarea were gathered up into the extensive library of spiritual books available for the enlightening of Christians. Blessed Jerome deeply respected Saint Pamphilus and considered himself fortunate to have located and come into possession of several of his manuscripts. Actively assisting Saint Pamphilus in proclaiming the faith in Christ were Saint Valentus, deacon of the church at Eleia – a man bent over with age and well-versed in the Holy Scriptures, and Saint Paul, ardent in faith and love for Christ the Saviour. All three were imprisoned for two years by the governor of Palestinian Caesarea, Urban.
During the rule of his successor Firmilian, 130 christians were sentenced in Egypt and sent off to Cilicia (Asia Minor) to work in the gold mines. Five young brothers accompanied them there to the place of exile. On the return journey to Egypt they were detained at Caesarea and thrown into prison for confessing Christ. They brought the youths for judgement to Firmilian, together with those imprisoned earlier – Saints Pamphilus, Valentus, and Paul. Having been named with names of Old Testament prophets – Ilias, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Samuel, and Daniel, the youths answered the question of their fatherland by saying that they were citizens of Jerusalem, meaning by this the heavenly Jerusalem. Firmilian knew nothing about a such-named city, since on the site of Jerusalem – razed to the ground by the emperor Titus in the year 70 – had been constructed a new city by the emperor Adrian (117-138), which at the time was named Eleia-Adrian. Firmilian tortured the youths for a long time. He sought to learn the location of the unknown city, and he sought to persuade the youths to apostacise. But nothing was accomplished, and the governor gave them over for beheading by the sword together with Pamphilus, Valentus and Paul.
Before this occurred, a servant of presbyter Pamphilus was given to suffer – this was the 18 year old youth Porphyrius, meek and humble. He had heard the sentence of death for the condemned martyrs, and asked the governor’s permission to bury the bodies after execution. For this he was sentenced to death and given over to burning on a bonfire.
A witness of this execution – the pious Christian Seleucius, a former soldier – in saluting the deeds of the sufferers, went up to Pamphilus before execution and told him about the martyr’s end of Saint Porphyrius. He was seized upon by soldiers and, on orders from Firmilian, was beheaded by the sword together with the condemned.
One of the governor’s servants, Thoedoulos, a man of venerable age and secretly a Christian, greeted the martyrs being led to execution, gave them a kiss and asked them to pray for him. He was taken by soldiers for questioning to Firmilian, on whose orders he was crucified on a cross.
The youth Julian, a native of Cappadocia who had come to Caesarea, caught view of the bodies of the saints which had been thrown to wild beasts without burial. Julian went down on his knees and venerated the bodies of the sufferers. Soldiers standing by at the wall seized hold of him and took him to the governor, who condemned him to burning. The bodies of all twelve martyrs stayed without burial for four days. Neither beasts nor birds would touch them. Embarrassed by this situation, the pagans permitted Christians to take the bodies of the martyrs and bury them.