Saint Apollonia was born sometime in the second century and lived during the reign of Emperor Philip the Arabian in Alexandria, Egypt (then still part of the Roman Empire). During the end of his reign the Emperor threw festivities to celebrate the millennium of the founding of Rome. An unnamed poet of Alexandria prophesized that a terrible destruction would soon fall upon the city during these festivities and so the citizens took out their anger on the Christians, believing them to be the cause. The authorities took no steps in protecting the Christians, with many administrators joining in on the anger and blame.
A mob first took two Christians by the name of Metras (Seomtimes called Metrius) and Quinta and had them both tortured and stoned to death. Quinta's refusal to pay worship to the pagan gods was so strong that the crowd scourged her before stoning her. The large crowd then moved into the Christian neighborhoods, destroying and looting homes. It was then though, that they seized a deaconess by the name of Apollonia. Saint Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria, wrote to Saint Fabius, the Bishop of Antioch and described what happened next:
At that time Apollonia, parthénos presbytis was held in high esteem. These men seized her also and by repeated blows broke all her teeth. They then erected outside the city gates a pile of wood and threatened to burn her alive if she refused to repeat after them impious words (either a blasphemy against Christ, or an invocation of the heathen gods). Given, at her own request, a little freedom, she sprang quickly into the fire and was burned to death
Saint Augustine , refuting any thoughts that Saint Apollonia and the martyrs committed suicide rather than martyrdom wrote in his The City of God:
"But, they say, during the time of persecution certain holy women plunged into the water with the intention of being swept away by the waves and drowned, and thus preserve their threatened chastity. Although they quitted life in this wise, nevertheless they receive high honour as martyrs in the Catholic Church and their feasts are observed with great ceremony. This is a matter on which I dare not pass judgment lightly. For I know not but that the Church was divinely authorized through trustworthy revelations to honour thus the memory of these Christians. It may be that such is the case. May it not be, too, that these acted in such a manner, not through human caprice but on the command of God, not erroneously but through obedience, as we must believe in the case of Samson? When, however, God gives a command and makes it clearly known, who would account obedience there to a crime or condemn such pious devotion and ready service?"
Saint Apollonia's feast day is celebrated on February 9th in both the Catholic church and Eastern Orthodox Church. Due to the torture of having her teeth removed she is honored as the patroness of dentists, people suffering from toothache, and dental disease sufferers. She is often pictured with a pair of pincers and a tooth or with a golden tooth suspended from a golden chain necklace. Her relics are currently spread across Europe in several churches. A church originally dedicated to her in Rome no longer exists but the square in front of it, the Piazza Sant'Apollonia remains. The British Dental Association has her image in the side support in it's coat of arms.