The early Christian saint, Sebastian, who died a martyr’s death around 288, served in the army under the Roman emperor Diocletian. Having initiallly concealed his faith from Diocletian who sought to persecute Christians, Sebastian was condemned to death. He was shot by archers armed with bows and arrows but, according to legend, did not die and was rescued by Irene of Rome. Sebastian sought to reprimand Diocletian who then ordered Sebastian to be clubbed to death. In art, Saint is traditionally depicted tied to a tree and pierced by arrows rather than being cudgeled.
The martyrdom of Saint Sebastian was first mentioned in the 4th century by Bishop Ambrose of Milan (later Saint Ambrose) in a sermon. Sebastian reputedly came from that same city and was already venerated at that time. He became the patron saint of plague victims and of athletes.