The Patron Saint of Bachelors, and His Husband

Out of curiosity, I went on the interwebs to find out who else shares my birthday. While looking, I saw that April 22 is the feast day of Saint Epipodius and Saint Alexander.

Epipodius and Alexander

A Wikipedia article revealed that Epipodius and his companion Alexander were Christians living in the second century, under the reign of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. Epipodius is said to have been a confirmed bachelor, though he never joined a religious order. He devoted his time to Christian works and was betrayed to imperial authorities by a servant. Both men were subsequently imprisoned, tortured, and condemned to be devoured by wild beasts in the amphitheater, thus becoming Christian martyrs. Epipodius is the patron saint of bachelors. The wiki entry provides a link to a Catholic website with an article entitled (unironically) Two Inseparable Friends. The editors of the Catholic site write: (unironically):

The example of two Christians who lived in the second century will help us to perceive the value of a truly Christian friendship. One was called Epipodius, the other Alexander. They had been close friends since childhood. Epipodius was born in Lyon. Alexander was of Greek origin. But they had grown up together, studied together, and known, loved and served our Lord Jesus Christ together. Their relatives were among the most powerful people in the Empire; but the two friends had resolved to live their lives in poverty, chastity, and devotion to relieving all the misery of their fellow men. They had therefore refused to marry or to accept the fine positions offered to them.

Translation from Catholic-ese to Reality-ese:
In all likelihood, Epipodius and Alexander were in love and lived together as a married couple in every way except on paper. Had they not both come from well-connected families, either man may have felt pressure to marry a higher-stationed woman for political or financial gain. Marriage was, after all, a political and financial union for the upper Roman classes, not a romantic one. Thus, marriage was probably not “refused” out of piety, but rather simply ignored as irrelevant. They two men may very well have been devout Christians and lived openly as a couple within their community. Openly homosexual couples were not uncommon, of course, in Greek and Roman culture of the era. And Professor John Boswell has pointed out that some records suggest that homosexual unions may even have received a sanctioned blessing from the early Christian church. Centries later, the history of Epipodius and Alexander, like so much of Christian history, would be white-washed and rewritten by the Church to serve its political needs.


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