Chapter IX.—Martyrdom of the Saints Eusebius, Nestabus, and Zeno in the City of Gaza.
As I have advanced thus far in my history, and have given an account of the death of George and of Theodoritus, I deem it right to relate some particulars concerning the death of the three brethren, Eusebius, Nestabus, and Zeno. 1381 The inhabitants of Gaza, being inflamed with rage against them, dragged them from their house, in which they had concealed themselves and cast them into prison, and beat them. They then assembled in the theater, and cried out loudly against them, declaring that they had committed sacrilege in their temple, and had used the past opportunity for the injury and insult of paganism. By these shouts and by instigating one another to the murder of the brethren, they were filled with fury; and when they had been mutually incited, as a crowd in revolt is wont to do, they rushed to the prison. They handled the men very cruelly; sometimes with the face and sometimes with the back upon the ground, the victims were dragged along, and were dashed to pieces by the pavement. I have been told that even women quitted their distaffs and pierced them with the weaving-spindles, and that the cooks in the markets snatched from their stands the boiling pots foaming with hot water and poured it over the victims, or perforated them with spits. When they had torn the flesh from them and crushed in their skulls, so that the brain ran out on the ground, their bodies were dragged out of the city and flung on the spot generally used as a receptacle for the carcasses of beasts; then a large fire was lighted, and they burned the bodies; the remnant of the bones not consumed by the fire was mixed with those of camels and asses, that they might not be found easily. But they were not long concealed; for a Christian woman, who was an inhabitant, though not a native of Gaza, collected the bones at night by the direction of God. She put them in an earthen pot and gave them to Zeno, their cousin, to keep, for thus God had informed her in a dream, and also had indicated to the woman where the man lived: and before she saw him, he was shown to her, for she was previously unacquainted with Zeno; and when the persecution had been agitated recently he remained concealed. He was within a little of being seized by the people of Gaza and being put to death; but he had effected his escape while the people were occupied in the murder of his cousins, and had fled to Anthedon, a maritime city, about twenty stadia from Gaza and similarly favorable to paganism and devoted to idolatry. When the inhabitants of this city discovered that he was a Christian, they beat him terribly on the back with rods and drove him out of the city. He then fled to the harbor of Gaza and concealed himself; and here the woman found him and gave him the remains. He kept them carefully in his house until the reign of Theodosius, when he was ordained bishop; and he erected a house of prayer beyond the walls of the city, placed an altar there, and deposited the bones of the martyrs near those of Nestor, the Confessor. Nestor had been on terms of intimacy with his cousins, and was seized with them by the people of Gaza, imprisoned, and scourged. But those who dragged him through the city were affected by his personal beauty; and, struck with compassion, they cast him, before he was quite dead, out of the city. Some persons found him, and carried him to the house of Zeno, where he expired during the dressing of his cuts and wounds. When the inhabitants of Gaza began to reflect on the enormity of their crime, they trembled lest the emperor should take vengeance on them.
It was reported that the emperor was filled with indignation, and had determined upon punishing the decuria; but this report was false, and had no foundation save in the fears and self-accusations of the criminals. Julian, far from evincing as much anger against them as he had manifested against the Alexandrians on the murder of George, did not even write to rebuke the people of Gaza. On the contrary, he deposed the governor of the province, and held him as a suspect, and represented that clemency alone prevented his being put to death. The crime imputed to him was, that of having arrested some of the inhabitants of Gaza, who were reported to have begun the sedition and murders, and of having imprisoned them until judgment could be passed upon them in accordance with the laws. “For what right had he,” asked the emperor, “to arrest the citizens merely for retaliating on a few Galileans the injuries that had been inflicted on them and their gods?” This, it is said, was the fact in the case.
Soz. alone reports this, probably from local martyrology or from Bishop Zeno.