Detail: The Life & Miracles of Saint Nicholas
Artist: Alexander Boguslawski
During the time of Emperor Constantine, unrest and revolt would break out here and there around the empire. Soldiers would then be sent to restore order. Three generals* were sent to put down a revolt in Phrygia. These generals, with their troops, landed in Andriaki, to wait for wind so they could continue on their way.
Some soldiers came ashore and went to Myra to buy bread and other supplies. Seeing an opportunity, troublmakers impersonated the soldiers, looting and causing general mayhem. Townspeople mobbed the soldiers, thinking they were causing the problems.
Hearing the noise and fearing a riot, Bishop Nicholas hurried to the port to restore order. There the generals greeted the Bishop and asked his blessing on their mission. Then the generals admonished their soldiers to bring order and avoid arrest. The Bishop invited the generals to return with him to Myra.
As they approached the town, people came running to tell the bishop, "If you had been in the city, three innocent men would not have been handed over to death." Nicholas asked, "Are the men still alive?" "Yes," they answered, and told him where they had been taken.
Still with the generals and hoping it wasn't too late, Nicholas ran to the place. The three men were in position with their faces covered and hands bound behind their backs, expecting death. The executioner held the sword up in readiness. Fearlessly, Nicholas grabbed the sword, throwing it to the ground. He freed the men and took them into the city.
They went to the Pretorium where Bishop Nicholas confronted the Prefect Eustathios for accepting bribes and nearly causing the deaths of three innocent men. Frightened, Eustathios confessed his crimes. Nicholas pardoned him after the charges against the men had been cleared.
The generals, joining Bishop Nicholas for refreshments, asked him to pray for them. He blessed them and said good-bye as they left to sail on to carry out their mission.
* Nepotianus, Ursus, and Eupoleonis
This is the first part of the oldest recorded St. Nicholas episode, found in the only surviving chapter from the anonymous Greek Life of Nicholas, written in the 4th to 5th century.
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