Saint Eleutherius, the son of an illustrious Roman citizen, was raised in Christian piety by his mother. His virtue was such that at the age twenty, he had been elevated to bishop of Illyria. In the reign of the emperor Hadrian, Saint Eleutherius was tortured for his bold preaching about Christ, then was beheaded at Rome with his mother Evanthia. The Eparch Caribus, who had tortured Saint Eleutherius, also came to believe in Christ and was executed.
This Saint had Rome as his homeland. Having been orphaned of his father from childhood, he was taken by his mother Anthia to Anicetus, the Bishop of Rome (some call him Anencletus, or Anacletus), by whom he was instructed in the sacred letters (that is, the divine Scriptures). Though still very young in years, he was made Bishop of Illyricum by reason of his surpassing virtue, and by his teachings he converted many unbelievers to Christ. However, during a most harsh persecution that was raised against the Christians under Hadrian (reigned 117-138), the Saint was arrested by the tyrants. Enduring many torments for Christ, he was finally put to death by two soldiers about the year 126. As for his Christ-loving mother Anthia, while embracing the remains of her son and kissing them with maternal affection, she was also beheaded.
From a good tree comes good fruit. This wonderful saint had noble and greatly eminent parents. Eleutherius was born in Rome, where his father was an imperial proconsul. His mother Anthia heard the Gospel from the great Apostle Paul and was baptized by him. Having been left a widow early, she entrusted her only son for study and service to Anicetus the Bishop of Rome. Seeing how Eleutherius was gifted by God and illumined by the grace of God, the bishop ordained him a deacon at the age of fifteen, a priest at the age of eighteen, and a bishop at the age of twenty. Eleutherius’s God-given wisdom made up for what he lacked in years, and this chosen one of God was appointed Bishop of Illyria with his seat in Valona (Avlona), Albania.
The good shepherd guarded his flock well and increased their number day by day. Emperor Hadrian, a persecutor of Christians, sent the commander Felix with soldiers to seize Eleutherius and bring him to Rome. When the raging Felix arrived in Valona and entered the church, he saw and heard the holy hierarch of God; suddenly his heart changed, and he became a Christian. Eleutherius baptized Felix and departed for Rome with him, returning joyfully as if he were going to a feast and not to trial and torture. The emperor subjected the noble Eleutherius to harsh torture: flogging, roasting on an iron bed, boiling in pitch, and burning in a fiery furnace. But Eleutherius was delivered from all these deadly tortures by God’s power.
Seeing all this, Caribus the Roman eparch declared that he also was a Christian. Caribus was tortured and then beheaded, and so was Blessed Felix. Finally, the imperial executioners cut off the honorable head of St. Eleutherius. When his mother, the holy Anthia, came and stood over the dead body of her son, she also was beheaded. Their bodies were translated to Valona, where even today St. Eleutherius glorifies the name of Christ by his many miracles. He suffered during the reign of Hadrian in the year 120 A.D.
Apolytikion of Hieromartyr Eleutherios and Anthia
Adorned with flowing priestly vesture and with dripping streams of blood you at once went to your Lord Christ, O blessed wise Eleftherios, annihilator of Satan. Wherefore, do not cease to intercede for those who honor your blessed struggles in faith.
Source: oca.org / goarch.org / westserbdio.org