Saint Sebastian
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Basic Information

The 3rd Century Emperor Diocletian is known for the last great official persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. Which is why he probably found it highly embarassing that one of his trusted Praetorian Guard, a young captain named Sebastian, was a Christian.

Sebastian came from Milan in Italy. According to legend, he gave encouragement to Christians who were imprisoned and due to be executed. He healed many — sometimes just by his mere presence. When Sebastian converted a local Prefect, moving the official to release all his Christian prisoners, the Emperor had enough.

He ordered Sebastian tied to a tree before a firing squad of archers who, according to one account, "shot at him till he was as full of arrows as an urchin". Sebastian did not die, however, and was nursed back to health by Irene of Rome, the widow of another saint named Castulus known for sheltering fugitive Christians during the Persecution.

Diocletian had Sebastian seized and beaten to death and this time tossed into a privy just to make sure he was really dead this time. An apparition of Sebastian appeared to one of his friends telling her where to find his body so that it could be recovered and interred in the catacombs.

St. Sebastian was a popular subject for artists during the Renaissance, as it gave artists an excuse to render a semi-nude male form in a contorted posture, such that people often don't know that it wasn't the arrows which actually killed him. Some critics have found seen homoerotic imagery in St. Sebastian art. Maybe it's the bondage and the being pierced by phallic objects.

Soldiers and athletes sometimes wear St. Sebastian medals as sacramentals.

St. Sebastian died c. 288 and his Feast Day is January 20.


Game and Story Use

  • In a historical or time travel campaign set during the reign of Diocletian, PCs might meet Sebastian
    • If shooting him full of arrows didn't kill him, who's to say beating him would.
    • Alternatively, good for a case of miraculously tough skin - piercing and slashing weapons inflict relatively superficial injuries but bludgeoning weapons can still kill through internal trauma.
  • A character might have a St. Sebastian medal, either one of his own, or a memento of a close friend of relative who was a soldier.
  • For a Darklands style game, or anything else involving Christian theurgy, invoking Sebastian might provide protection from arrows (or indeed any ranged weapons) and/or bonuses to healing skills.
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