15 September 2017

Nikitas the Great-Martyr

𐌷𐌰𐌹𐌻𐌰𐌲𐍃 𐌽𐌹𐌺𐌹𐍄𐌰𐍃

The Great-Martyr Nikitas, whom we venerate today, was a Germanic warrior from the Þerving tribe of the Western Goths, which at that time lived in the Danube Basin in what is now Romania and Serbia.

At the time in which the Great-Martyr lived, the Goths were coming under severe pressure from the Huns. A civil war between two rival þiudanōs (chieftains), Friþugairns and Aþanareiks, was brewing – partially in response to the urgency of the Hunnish pressures, and partially in response to the inroads Christianity was making among the Gothic people. Aþanareiks, who worshipped the heathen gods, gained the upper hand against Friþugairns, who was either already Christian or who looked kindly on the troth of Christ. The latter requested Roman help, and began pushing back against Aþanareiks – even, in imitation of Emperor Saint Constantine, marking the Sign of the Cross on the battle-vanes of his here. He fought Aþanareiks in bloody weapon-weather, but the latter flinched and fled with his life, and a handful of his thegns.

Saint Nikitas himself fought in the here of Friþugairns. Nikitas was baptised into the Orthodox Church in his youth, by the Gothic bishop Theophilos who had attended the Council of Nicæa and who was among those bishops who had affirmed the Nicene Symbol of Faith. Nikitas, educated in Christian teachings by Bishop Theophilos, lived a holy life and converted many of his fellow Goths by his own example to Christianity, working together with Theophilos and his successor, the bishop Wulfila (who would later lapse into the condemned Arian heresy), who invented the Gothic script and used it to translate the Scriptures and many other holy texts into the Gothic language.

Aþanareiks, however, recovered his forces and began to retake the territory of the Goths from the Christian Friþugairns. Holy Nikitas, foremost among Friþugairns’ thegns, loudly denounced Aþanareiks as a wicked and ungodly tyrant, and called upon his folk to stand fast in Friþugairns’ troth, even if it were to mean martyrdom. The bold and fearless weapon-tree was soon captured by the heathen þiudana, who had him set to fell and unright painings – though he was steadfast through them all, by the help of an ikon of the Theotokos and the Christ Child which he held to his body. He was thrown into a burning hearth and there killed, but his body was not harmed by the fire: when it was taken out, it was glowing with a holy light.

A fellow Christian, Marianus, took the body of the Great-Martyr from the heathen Goths and had it smuggled out and buried at Manistra, a town on the mouth of the Pyramus in Asia Minor. From thence it was taken to Micklegarth, where a church was raised in his name. Saint Nikitas is held most dear by believers in Russia, in Serbia and in Romania – the modern name Nikita derives from the Great-Martyr.

I have no ulterior motive for posting about Great-Martyr Nikitas this time; I just think it’s awesome that the Orthodox Church has a Gothic warrior-saint.
You defeated error and triumphed in martyrdom,
Nikitas, namesake of victory;
For you conquered the ranks of the enemy
And ended your contest by fire.
Pray to Christ our God to grant us His great mercy.

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