According to legend, Sebastian was born at Narbonne, Gaul; other sources place him from Milan. He became a soldier in the Roman army at Rome in about 283 in order to defend confessors and martyrs without drawing attention to himself. He encouraged Marcellian and Marcus, under sentence of death, to remain firm in their faith. Sebastian made numerous converts, including the master of the rolls, Nicostratus, who was in charge of prisoners, and his wife, Zoe, a deaf mute whom he cured; the jailer, Claudius; Chromatius, prefect of Rome, whom he cured of gout; and Chromatius's son, Tiburtius. Chromatius set the prisoners free, freed his slaves and resigned as prefect, Sebastian also is credited with healing others of the plague.
Sebastian was named captain in the Praetorian guards by Emperor Diocletian, and again by Emperor Maximian when Diocletian went to the East. Neither knew that Sebastian was a Christian. When it was discovered during Maximian's persecution of the Christians that Sebastian was a Christian, he was sentenced to be executed. He was shot with arrows by archers from Mauretania and left for dead. Irene, the widow of the martyr St. Castulus, went to collect his body and discovered him still alive. She nursed him back to health. Recovered, he went before Diocletian and denounced him for his cruelty to Christians. The astonished emperor ordered him to be clubbed to death. This time the sentence was carried out successfully.
His remains were buried on the Via Appia with other martyrs. T he basilica San Sebastiano is named after him. He was venerated in the times of Ambrose.
Sebastian is often portrayed in art—he was especially popular with Renaissance painters and sculptors - tied to a column and shot full of arrows. His symbol is the arrow.
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