The holy martyrs Sergius and Bacchus, noble Romans, are among the earliest authenticated and most celebrated Christian martyrs, originally commemorated in the Eastern and Western churches. It seems that the two saints were openly gay, but secretly Christian - the opposite of today's closeted gays who are openly Christians. The oldest record of their martyrdom describes them as erastai (Greek for "lovers"). They were lovers, but it was for their Christian faith that they were persecuted by the Romans.
They were Roman soldiers, officers in the army of Emperor Maximian, and both were his friends. Sergius is said to have been 'primicerius gymnasii trionum' (commandant of the recruits' school) at Trieste, and Bacchus a subaltern officer.
When they did not enter a temple of Jupiter with the Emperor who was sacrificing to the god, he ordered them to do so. When they further refused his order that they sacrifice to pagan gods, they were stripped of their arms and badges of rank, and then humiliated by being led through the streets of Arabissus (near Comana in Cappadocia), dressed in women's clothing.
Then they were sent to Resapha in Syria (Augusta Euphratesiae in Mesopotamia), where they were tortured. Bacchus was scourged with thongs of raw hide so terribly that his whole body was torn, and he gave up the ghost while confessing Christ. He died on Oct. 1, 290. His body was thrown out on to the highway, and it is said that vultures protected it from the attacks of dogs.
Sergius's faith faltered with the death of his lover, but only to return when Bacchus appeared to him in a vision and said, "I am still with you in the bond of our union." Sergius kept faith and he was then tortured further. His feet were fixed in boots spiked with nails and he was made to walk a long distance. As he remained steadfast in the faith, he was sentenced to be beheaded. He was decapitated on Oct. 7, 290. Like his lover, he died a martyr to the new religion.
The tomb of S. Sergius at Resapha (Siria) around 305 a.d. become a famous shrine and was honored by great gatherings of Christians because of the frequent miracles there.
Sergius and Bacchus became the heavenly protectors of the Byzantine army, with the two Theodores, Demetrius, Procopius and George. Their "acts" are preserved in Latin, Greek and Syriac.
Many churches in many towns bore the name of Sergius (sometimes with Bacchus), and his cultus was extraordinarily widespread and popular; the nomads of the desert looked on him as their special patron saint.
Emperor Justinian I enlarged and fortified Resapha, that was then renamed Sergiopolis. Sergius was venerated as patron of Syria. Parts of his relics were transferred to Venice, where these saints were patrons of the ancient cathedral. In the seventh century a church was dedicated to them in Rome.
During the Middle Ages, the relationship of Sergius and Bacchus was considered an exemplar of compassionate union, and possibly even marriage, based on agape (brotherly love) and mutual respect.