The holy, glorious and right-victorious Martyrs Anicetus and Photius (also Aniketos meaning unconquerable and Photinus or Photios meaning light) of Nicomedia were murdered with others during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian in the year 288. Anicetus is honored as one of the Holy Unmercenaries. They are commemorated by the Church on August 12.
Ss. Anikitos and Photios lived in the Nicomedia during the third century. St Anikitos was from a wealth Christian family and was educated as a physician. His nephew Photios was orphaned so Anikitos took him in and trained him as a physician as well.
They adopted an unmercinary (ανάργυροι = anargyroi, meaning without silver i.e. reward) style of practice never taking any money or gifts for their services. God blessed them with healing powers and they cured all that came to them.
In those days the Emperor Diocletian was a ferocious persecutor of Christians. Diocletian found it entertaining to have his soldiers bring Christians to the Arena and discovered new methods of torture sparing them only if they denounced God and worshipped pagan idols.
When St Anikitos refused to denounce his faith he was beaten until his bones were exposed and thrown to a lion. By God’s intervention the lion was tame as a kitten, wiping the perspiration off St Anikitos with its paw. St Anikitos expressed his gratitude to God with a prayer of thanks for his deliverance. At the end of the prayer a violent earthquake erupted destroying the idol of Hercules after it toppled over.
This provoked the ire of Diocletian who ordered St Anikitos’ immediate persecution. The guards hands became unexplainably frozen and they could not harm St Anikitos. The next torture was to tie him on a wheel and roll him into fire. Although severely burned St Anikitos prayed and all his wounds were healed. While observing the brutal torment of his uncle, Photios approached to comfort him and he too gave witness to Christ in the company of the vicious Diocletian.
The emperor was now enraged and ordered that the guards behead the two Christian men. After several failed attempts to end their lives he ordered that the huge furnace be lit and cast them inside to burn alive. As Ss. Anikitos and Photios approached the furnace they prayed to God to put an end to their torments and to allow them to die in peace. The Holy Unmercenaries Anikitos and Photios gave up their souls on August 12. Their bodies were stolen by the hidden Christians who were always present at these games. They were secretly buried and a church was built next to their tombs later in time when Christians practiced freely.
Appalled by the treatment of Christians under Diocletian's tyranny, Anicetus presented himself publicly at a Christian, denouncing emperor and idol worship as senseless. He was taken and beaten with rods so forcefully his bones appeared from the wounds in his flesh. While suffering his torments, his nephew Photius comforted him, embracing his uncle. He was put through the tortures with him and subsequently imprisoned for three years. Finally they were both cast into a furnace, where they gave up their spirits, but their bodies were left unharmed by the flames.