There was a great persecution of Christians during the reign of Decius. The emperor himself came to Ephesus and there arranged a boisterous and noisy celebration in honor of the lifeless idols as well as a terrible slaughter of Christians. Seven young men, soldiers, refrained from the impure offering of sacrifices and they earnestly prayed to the one God to save the Christian people. They were the sons of the most influential elders of Ephesus and their names were Maximilian, Jamblichus, Martin [Martinian], John, Dionysius, Exacustodianus, and Antonin [Antoninus]. When they were accused before the emperor, they retreated to a hill outside Ephesus called Celion and there they hid in a cave. When the emperor learned of this, he commanded that the cave be sealed off. However, God according to His far-reaching Providence caused a miraculous and long-lasting sleep to fall upon the young men. The imperial courtiers, Theodore and Rufinus, secret Christians, built in that wall a copper sarcophagus with lead plaques on which were written the names of these young men and their martyr's death during the reign of Emperor Decius. More than two hundred years then passed. During the reign of Emperor Theodosius the Younger (408-450 A.D.), there was a great dispute about the resurrection. There were some that doubted the resurrection. Emperor Theodosius was in great sorrow as a result of this dispute among the faithful and prayed to God that He, in some way, would reveal the truth to men. At that time of turmoil in the Church some sheepherders of Adolius, who owned the hill Celion began to build folds for the sheep and removed stone after stone from that cave. The youths then awakened from their sleep young and healthy, the same as when they fell asleep. The news of this miracle was spread abroad on all sides so that even Theodosius himself came with a great entourage and with delight conversed with the youths. After a week, they again fell into the sleep of death to await the general resurrection. Emperor Theodosius wanted to place their bodies in gold sarcophagi but they appeared to him in a dream and told him to leave them in the earth as they were laid out.
HYMN OF PRAISE
When the last rays of the sun turned the west bloody red,
Seven Youths, to God prayed,
That, on the morrow again find themselves alive and healthy,
Before Emperor Decius, brought forth to torture
And lay down to sleep a long dream a deep dream,
Time walked by a wide step
One morning, from the east, the sun dawned
And the Seven from their deep sleep awakened.
And Jamblichus the youngest, to Ephesus hurried
To see, to hear, about everything he inquired
Does Decius, even them, seek to slaughter
And bread to buy for the Seven of them.
But behold, what kind of miracle: this is not the gate!
And even the town is totally different!
Everywhere, beautiful churches, domes, crosses,
Jamblichus asks himself: are those not dreams?
Nowhere a familiar face, nowhere kinsmen,
There are no persecutions; there are no martyrs.
Tell me brethren, the name of this town,
And tell me the name of the emperor, who now reigns?
Thus Jamblichus inquires. The people, at him, look,
And about him, everyone judges differently.
This town is Ephesus, now and before,
In Christ, reigns Emperor Theodosius
This Antipater [The Consul] heard and [Martin] the graying bishop,
The entire town was perplexed,
Everyone, to the cave hurries.
And saw the miracle, glorified God,
And the resurrected servants of Christ the Resurrected One.