Cyprian's care not only extended over Carthage, but to
Numidia and Mauritania. In all his transactions he took great
care to ask the advice of his clergy, knowing that unanimity
alone could be of service to the Church, this being one of his
maxims, "That the bishop was in the church, and the church in the
bishop; so that unity can only be preserved by a close connexion
between the pastor and his flock."
In A.D. 250, Cyprian was publicly proscribed by the emperor
Decius, under the appellation of Coecilius Cyprian, bishop of the
Christrians; and the universal cry of the pagans was, "Cyprian to
the lions, Cyprian to the beasts." The bishop, however, withdrew
from the rage of the populace, and his effects were immediately
confiscated. During his retirement, he wrote thirty pious and
elegant letters to his flock; but several schisms that then crept
into the Church, gave him great uneasiness. The rigor of the
persecution abating, he returned to Carthage, and did everything
in his power to expunge erroneous opinions. A terrible plague
breaking out in Carthage, it was as usual, laid to the charge of
the Christians; and the magistrates began to persecute
accordingly, which occasioned an epistle from them to Cyprian, in
answer to which he vindicates the cause of Christianity. A.D.
257, Cyprian was brought before the proconsul Aspasius Paturnus,
who exiled him to a little city on the Lybian sea. On the death
of this proconsul, he returned to Carthage, but was soon after
seized, and carried before the new governor, who condemned him to
be beheaded; which sentence was executed on the fourteenth of
September, A.D. 258.
The disciples of Cyprian, martyred in this persecution, were
Lucius, Flavian, Victoricus, Remus, Montanus, Julian, Primelus,
At Utica, a most terrible tragedy was exhibited: three
hundred Christians were, by the orders of the proconsul, placed
round a burning limekiln. A pan of coals and incense being
prepared, they were commanded either to sacrifice to Jupiter, or
to be thrown into the kiln. Unanimously refusing, they bravely
jumped into the pit, and were immediately suffocated.
Fructuosus, bishop of Tarragon, in Spain, and his two
deacons, Augurius and Eulogius, were burnt for being Christians.
Alexander, Malchus, and Priscus, three Christians of
Palestine, with a woman of the same place, voluntarily accused
themselves of being Christians; on which account they were
sentenced to be devoured by tigers, which sentence was executed
Maxima, Donatilla, and Secunda, three virgins of Tuburga,
had gall and vinegar given them to drink, were then severely
scourged, tormented on a gibbet, rubbed with lime, scorched on a
gridiron, worried by wild beasts, and at length beheaded.
It is here proper to take notice of the singular but
miserable fate of the emperor Valerian, who had so long and so
terribly persecuted the Christians. This tyrant, by a stretagem,
was taken prisoner by Sapor, emperor of Persia, who carried him
into his own country, and there treated him with the most
unexampled indignity, making him kneel down as the meanest slave,
and treading upon him as a footstool when he mounted his horse.
After having kept him for the space of seven years in this abject
state of slavery, he caused his eyes to be put out, though he was
then eighty-three years of age. This not satiating his desire of
revenge, he soon after ordered his body to be flayed alive, and
rubbed with salt, under which torments he expired; and thus fell
one of the most tyrannical emperors of Rome, and one of the
greatest persecutors of the Christians.
A.D. 260, Gallienus, the son of Valerian, succeeded him, and
during his reign (a few martyrs excepted) the Church enjoyed
peace for some years.
The Ninth Persecution Under Aurelian, A.D. 274
The principal sufferers were: Felix, bishop of Rome. This
prelate was advanced to the Roman see in 274. He was the first
martyr to Aurelian's petulancy, being beheaded on the twenty-
second of December, in the same year.
Agapetus, a young gentleman, who sold his estate, and gave
the money to the poor, was seized as a Christian, tortured, and
then beheaded at Praeneste, a city within a day's journey of
These are the only martyrs left upon record during this
reign, as it was soon put to a stop by the emperor's being
murdered by his own domestics, at Byzantium.
Aurelian was succeeded by Tacitus, who was followed by
Probus, as the latter was by Carus: this emperor being killed by
a thunder storm, his sons, Carnious and Numerian, succeeded him,
and during all these reigns the Church had peace.
Diocletian mounted the imperial throne, A.D. 284; at first
he showed great favor to the Christians. In the year 286, he
associated Maximian with him in the empire; and some Christians
were put to death before any general persecution broke out.
Among these were Felician and Primus, two brothers.
Marcus and Marcellianus were twins, natives of Rome, and of
noble descent. Their parents were heathens, but the tutors, to
whom the education of the children was intrusted, brought them up
as Christians. Their constancy at length subdued those who
wished them to become pagans, and their parents and whole family
became converts to a faith they had before reprobated. They were
martyred by being tied to posts, and having their feet pierced
with nails. After remaining in this situation for a day and a
night, their sufferings were put an end to by thrusting lances
through their bodies.
Zoe, the wife of the jailer, who had the care of the before-
mentioned martyrs, was also converted by them, and hung upon a
tree, with a fire of straw lighted under her. When her body was
taken down, it was thrown into a river, with a large stone tied
to it, in order to sink it.
In the year of Christ 286, a most remarkable affair
occurred; a legion of soldiers, consisting of six thousand six
hundred and sixty-six men, contained none but Christians. This
legion was called the Theban Legion, because the men had been
raised in Thebias: they were quartered in the east until the
emperor Maximian ordered them to march to Gaul, to assist him
against the rebels of Burgundy. They passed the Alps into Gaul,
under the command of Mauritius, Candidus, and Exupernis, their
worthy commanders, and at length joined the emperor. Maximian,
about this time, ordered a general sacrifice, at which the whole
army was to assist; and likewise he commanded that they should
take the oath of allegiance and swear, at the saame time, to
assist in the extirpation of Christianity in Gaul. Alarmed at
these orders, each individual of the Theban Legion absolutely
refused either to sacrifice or take the oaths prescribed. This
so greatly enraged Maximian, that he ordered the legion to be
decimated, that is, every tenth man to be selected from the rest,
and put to the sword. This bloody order having been put in
execution, those who remained alive were still inflexible, when a
second decimation took place, and every tenth man of those living
was put to death. This second severity made no more impression
than the first had done; the soldiers preserved their fortitude
and their principles, but by the advice of their officers they
drew up a loyal remonstrance to the emperor. This, it might have
been presumed, would have softened the emperor, but it had a
contrary effect: for, enraged at their perseverance and
unanimity, he commanded that the whole legion should be put to
death, which was accordingly executed by the other troops, who
cut them to pieces with their swords, September 22, 286.
Alban, from whom St. Alban's, in Hertfordshire, received its
name, was the first British martyr. Great Britain had received
the Gospel of Christ from Lucius, the first Christian king, but
did not suffer from the rage of persecution for many years after.
He was originally a pagan, but converted by a Christian
ecclesiastic, named Amphibalus, whom he sheltered on account of
his religion. The enemies of Amphibalus, having intelligence of
the place where he was secreted, came to the house of Alban; in
order to facilitate his escape, when the soldiers came, he
offered himself up as the person they were seeking for. The
deceit being detected, the governor ordered him to be scourged,
and then he was sentenced to be beheaded, June 22, A.D. 287.
The venerable Bede assures us, that, upon this occasion, the
executioner suddenly became a convert to Christianity, and
entreated permission to die for Alban, or with him. Obtaining
the latter request, they were beheaded by a soldier, who
voluntarily undertook the task of executioner. This happened on
the twenty-second of June, A.D. 287, at Verulam, now St. Alban's,
in Hertfordshire, where a magnificent church was erected to his
memory about the time of Constantine the Great. The edifice,
being destroyed in the Saxon wars, was rebuilt by Offa, king of
Mercia, and a monastery erected adjoining to it, some remains of
which are still visible, and the church is a noble Gothic
Faith, a Christian female, of Acquitain, in France, was
ordered to be broiled upon a gridiron, and then beheaded; A.D.
Quintin was a Christian, and a native of Rome, but
determined to attempt the propagation of the Gospel in Gaul, with
one Lucian, they preached together in Amiens; after which Lucian
went to Beaumaris, where he was martyred. Quintin remained in
Picardy, and was very zealous in his ministry. Being seized upon
as a Christian, he was stretched with pullies until his joints
were dislocated; his body was then torn with wire scourges, and
boiling oil and pitch poured on his naked flesh; lighted torches
were applied to his sides and armpits; and after he had been thus
tortured, he was remanded back to prison, and died of the
barbarities he had suffered, October 31, A.D. 287. His body was
sunk in the Somme.
The Tenth Persecution, Under Diocletian, A.D. 303
Under the Roman emperors, commonly called the Era of the
Martyrs, was occasioned partly by the increasing number and
luxury of the Christians, and the hatred of Galerius, the adopted
son of Diocletian, who, being stimulated by his mother, a bigoted
pagan, never ceased persuading the emperor to enter upon the
persecution, until he had accomplished his purpose.
The fatal day fixed upon to commence the bloody work, was
the twenty-third of February, A.D. 303, that being the day in
which the Terminalia were celebrated, and on which, as the cruel
pagans boasted, they hoped to put a termination to Christianity.
On the appointed day, the persecution began in Nicomedia, on the
morning of which the prefect of that city repaired, with a great
number of officers and assistants, to the church of the
Christians, where, having forced open the doors, they seized upon
all the sacred books, and committed them to the flames.
The whole of this transaction was in the presence of
Diocletian and Galerius, who, not contented with burning the
books, had the church levelled with the ground. This was
followed by a severe edict, commanding the destruction of all
other Christian churches and books; and an order soon succeeded,
to render Christians of all denomination outlaws.
The publication of this edict occasioned an immediate
martyrdom, for a bold Christian not only tore it down from the
place to which it was affixed, but execrated the name of the
emperor for his injustice. A provocation like this was
sufficient to call down pagan vengeance upon his head; he was
accordingly seized, severely tortured, and then burned alive.
All the Christians were apprehended and imprisoned; and
Galerius privately ordered the imperial palace to be set on fire,
that the Christians might be charged as the incendiaries, and a
plausible pretence given for carrying on the persecution with the
greater severities. A general sacrifice was commenced, which
occasioned various martyrdoms. No distinction was made of age or
sex; the name of Christian was so obnoxious to the pagans that
all indiscriminately fell sacrifices to their opinions. Many
houses were set on fire, and whole Christian families perished in
the flames; and others had stones fastened about their necks, and
being tied together were driven into the sea. The persecution
became general in all the Roman provinces, but more particularly
in the east; and as it lasted ten years, it is impossible to
ascertain the numbers martyred, or to enumerate the various modes
Racks, scourges, swords, daggers, crosses, poison, and
famine, were made use of in various parts to dispatch the
Christians; and invention was exhausted to devise tortures
against such as had no crime, but thinking differently from the
votaries of superstition.
A city of Phrygia, consisting entirely of Christians, was
burnt, and all the inhabitants perished in the flames.
Tired with slaughter, at length, several governors of
provinces represented to the imperial court, the impropriety of
such conduct. Hence many were respited from execution, but,
though they were not put to death, as much as possible was done
to render their lives miserable, many of them having their ears
cut off, their noses slit, their right eyes put out, their limbs
rendered useless by dreadful dislocations, and their flesh seared
in conspicuous places with red-hot irons.
It is necessary now to particularize the most conspicious
persons who laid down their lives in martyrdom in this bloody
Sebastian, a celebrated martyr, was born at Narbonne, in
Gaul, instructed in the principles of Christianity at Milan, and
afterward became an officer of the emperor's guard at Rome. He
remained a true Christian in the midst of idolatry; unallured by
the splendors of a court, untained by evil examples, and
uncontaminated by the hopes of preferment. Refusing to be a
pagan, the emperor ordered him to be taken to a field near the
city, termed the Campus Martius, and there to be shot to death
with arrows; which sentence was executed accordingly. Some pious
Christians coming to the place of execution, in order to give his
body burial, perceived signs of life in him, and immediately
moving him to a place of security, they, in a short time effected
his recovery, and prepared him for a second martyrdom; for, as
soon as he was able to go out, he placed himself intentionally in
the emperor's way as he was going to the temple, and reprehended
him for his various cruelties and unreasonable prejudices against
Christianity. As soon as Diocletian had overcome his surprise,
he ordered Sebastian to be seized, and carried to a place near
the palace, and beaten to death; and, that the Christians should
not either use means again to recover or bury his body, he
ordered that it should be thrown into the common sewer.
Nevertheless, a Christian lady named Lucina, found means to
remove it from the sewer, and bury it in the catacombs, or
repositories of the dead.
The Christians, about this time, upon mature consideration,
thought it unlawful to bear arms under a heathen emperor.
Maximilian, the son of Fabius Victor, was the first beheaded
under this regulation.
Vitus, a Sicilian of considerable family, was brought up a
Christian; when his virtues increased with his years, his
constancy supported him under all afflictions, and his faith was
superior to the most dangerous perils. His father, Hylas, who
was a pagan, finding that he had been instructed in the
principles of Christianity by the nurse who brought him up, used
all his endeavors to bring him back to paganism, and at length
sacrificed his son to the idols, June 14, A.D. 303.
Victor was a Christian of a good family at Marseilles, in
France; he spent a great part of the night in visiting the
afflicted, and confirming the weak; which pious work he could
not, consistently with his own safety, perform in the daytime;
and his fortune he spent in relieving the distresses of poor
Christians. He was at length, however, seized by the emperor
Maximian's decree, who ordered him to be bound, and dragged
through the streets. During the execution of this order, he was
treated with all manner of cruelties and indignities by the
enraged populace. Remaining still inflexible, his courage was
deemed obstinacy. Being by order stretched upon the rack, he
turned his eyes toward heaven, and prayed to God to endue him
with patience, after which he underwent the tortures with most
admirable fortitude. After the executioners were tired with
inflicting torments on him, he was conveyed to a dungeon. In his
confinement, he converted his jailers, named Alexander, Felician,
and Longinus. This affair coming to the ears of the emperor, he
ordered them immediately to be put to death, and the jailers were
accordingly beheaded. Victor was then again put to the rack,
unmercifully beaten with batoons, and again sent to prison.
Being a third time examined concerning his religion, he
persevered in his principles; a small altar was then brought, and
he was commanded to offer incense upon it immediately. Fired
with indignation at the request, he boldly stepped forward, and
with his foot overthrew both altar and idol. This so enraged the
emperor Maximian, who was present, that he ordered the foot with
which he had kicked the altar to be immediately cut off; and
Victor was thrown into a mill, and crushed to pieces with the
stones, A.D. 303.
Maximus, governor of Cilicia, being at Tarsus, three
Christians were brought before him; their names were Tarachus, an
aged man, Probus, and Andronicus. After repeated tortures and
exhortations to recant, they, at length, were ordered for
Being brought to the amphitheater, several beasts were let
loose upon them; but none of the animals, though hungry, would
touch them. The keeper then brought out a large bear, that had
that very day destroyed three men; but this voracious creature
and a fierce lioness both refused to touch the prisoners.
Finding the design of destroying them by the means of wild beasts
ineffectual, Maximus ordered them to be slain by the sword, on
October 11, A.D. 303.
Romanus, a native of Palestine, was deacon of the church of
Caesarea at the time of the commencement of Diocletian's
persecution. Being condemned for his faith at Antioch, he was
scourged, put to the rack, his body torn with hooks, his flesh
cut with knives, his face scarified, his teeth beaten from their
sockets, and his hair plucked up by the roots. Soon after he was
ordered to be strangled, November 17, A.D. 303.
Susanna, the niece of Caius, bishop of Rome, was pressed by
the emperor Diocletian to marry a noble pagan, who was nearly
related to him. Refusing the honor intended her, she was
beheaded by the emperor's order.
Dorotheus, the high chamberlain of the household to
Diocletian, was a Christian, and took great pains to make
converts. In his religious labors, he was joined by Gorgonius,
another Christian, and one belonging to the palace. They were
first tortured and then strangled.
Peter, a eunuch belonging to the emperor, was a Christian of
singular modesty and humility. He was laid on a gridiron, and
broiled over a slow fire until he expired.
Cyprian, known by the title of the magician, to distinguish
him from Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, was a native of Natioch.
He received a liberal education in his youth, and particularly
applied himself to astrology; after which he traveled for
improvement through Greece, Egypt, India, etc. In the course of
time he became acquainted with Justina, a young lady of Antioch,
whose birth, beauty, and accomplishments, rendered her the
admiration of all who knew her. A pagan gentleman applied to
Cyprian, to promote his suit with the beautiful Justina; this he
undertook, but soon himself became converted, burnt his books of
astrology and magic, received baptism, and felt animated with a
powerful spirit of grace. The conversion of Cyprian had a great
effect on the pagan gentleman who paid his addresses to Justina,
and he in a short time embraced Christianity. During the
persecutions of Diocletian, Cyprian and Justina were seized upon
as Chrisitans, the former was torn with pincers, and the latter
chastised; and, after suffering other torments, both were
Eulalia, a Spanish lady of a Christian family, was
remarkable in her youth for sweetness of temper, and solidity of
understanding seldom found in the capriciousness of juvenile
years. Being apprehended as a Christian, the magistrate
attempted by the mildest means, to bring her over to paganism,
but she ridiculed the pagan deities with such asperity, that the
judge, incensed at her behavior, ordered her to be tortured. Her
sides were accordingly torn by hooks, and her breasts burnt in
the most shocking manner, until she expired by the violence of
the flames, December, A.D. 303.
In the year 304, when the persecution reached Spain, Dacian,
the governor of Terragona, ordered Valerius the bishop, and
Vincent the deacon, to be seized, loaded with irons, and
imprisoned. The prisoners being firm in their resolution,
Valerius was banished, and Vincent was racked, his limbs
dislocated, his flesh torn with hooks, and he was laid on a
gridiron, which had not only a fire placed under it, but spikes
at the top, which ran into his flesh. These torments neither
destroying him, nor changing his resolutions, he was remanded to
prison, and confined ina small, loathsome, dark dungeon, strewed
with sharp flints, and pieces of broken glass, where he died,
January 22, 304. His body was thrown into the river.
The persecution of Diocletian began particularly to rage in
A.D. 304, when many Christians were put to cruel tortures and the
most painful and ignominious deaths; the most eminent and
paritcular of whom we shall enumerate.
Saturninus, a priest of Albitina, a town of Africa, after
being tortured, was remanded to prison, and there starved to
death. His four children, after being variously tormented,
shared the same fate with their father.
Dativas, a noble Roman senator; Thelico, a pious Christian;
Victoria, a young lady of considerable family and fortune, with
some others of less consideration, all auditors of Saturninus,
were tortured in a similar manner, and perished by the same
Agrape, Chionia, and Irene, three sisters, were seized upon
at Thessalonica, when Diocletian's persecution reached Greece.
They were burnt, and received the crown of martyrdom in the
flames, March 25, A.D. 304. The governor, finding that he could
make no impression on Irene, ordered her to be exposed naked in
the streets, which shameful order having been executed, a fire
was kindled near the city wall, amidst whose flames her spirit
ascended beyond the reach of man's cruelty.
Agatho, a man of a pious turn of mind, with Cassice,
Philippa, and Eutychia, were martyred about the same time; but
the particulars have not been transmitted to us.
Marcellinus, bishop of Rome, who succeeded Caius in that
see, having strongly opposed paying divine honors to Diocletian,
suffered martyrdom, by a variety of tortures, in the year 324,
conforting his soul until he expired with the prospect of these
glorious rewards it would receive by the tortures suffered in the
Victorius, Carpophorus, Severus, and Severianus, were
brothers, and all four employed in places of great trust and
honor in the city of Rome. Having exclaimed against the worship
of idols, they were apprehended, and scourged, with the
plumbetae, or scourges, to the ends of which were fastened leaden
balls. This punishment was exercised with such excess of cruelty
that the pious brothers fell martyrs to its severity.
Timothy, a deacon of Mauritania, and Maura his wife, had not
been united together by the bands of wedlock above three weeks,
when they were separated from each other by the persecution.
Timothy, being apprehended, as a Christian, was carried before
Arrianus, the governor of Thebais, who, knowing that he had the
keeping of the Holy Scriptures, commanded him to deliver them up
to be burnt; to which he answered, "Had I children, I would
sooner deliver them up to be sacrificed, than part with the Word
of God." The governor being much incensed at this reply, ordered
his eyes to be put out, with red-hot irons, saying, "The books
shall at least be useless to you, for you shall not see to read
them." His patience under the operation was so great that the
governor grew more exasperated; he, therefore, in order, if
possible, to overcome his fortitude, ordered him to be hung up by
the feet, with a weight tied about his neck, and a gag in his
mouth. In this state, Maura his wife, tenderly urged him for her
sake to recant; but, when the gag was taken out of his mouth,
instead of consenting to his wife's entreaties, he greatly blamed
her mistaken love, and declared his resolution of dying for the
faith. The consequence was, that Maura resolved to imitate his
courage and fidelity and either to accompany or follow him to
glory. The governor, after trying in vain to alter her
resolution, ordered her to be tortured, which was executed with
great severity. After this, Timothy and Maura were crucified
near each other, A.D. 304.
Sabinus, bishop of Assisium, refusing to sacrifice to
Jupiter, and pushing the idol from him, had his hand cut off by
the order of the governor of Tuscany. While in prison, he
converted the governor and his family, all of whom suffered
martyrdom for the faith. Soon after their execution, Sabinus
himself was scourged to death, December, A.D. 304.
Tired with the farce of state and public business, the
emperor Diocletian resigned the imperial diadem, and was
succeeded by Constantius and Galerius; the former a prince of the
most mild and humane disposition and the latter equally
remarkable for his cruelty and tyranny. These divided the empire
into two equal governments, Galerius ruling in the east, and
Constantius in the west; and the people in the two governments
felt the effects of the dispositions of the two emperors; for
those in the west were governed in the mildest manner, but such
as resided in the east felt all the miseries of oppression and
Among the many martyred by the order of Galerius, we shall
enumerate the most eminent.
Amphianus was a gentleman of eminence in Lucia, and a
scholar of Eusebius; Julitta, a Lycaonian of royal descent, but
more celebrated for her virtues than noble blood. While on the
rack, her child was killed before her face. Julitta, of
Cappadocia, was a lady of distinguished capacity, great virtue,
and uncommon courage. To complete the execution, Julitta had
boiling pitch poured on her feet, her sides torn with hooks, and
received the conclusion of her martyrdom, by being beheaded,
April 16, A.D. 305.
Hermolaus, a venerable and pious Christian, or a great age,
and an intimate acquaintance of Panteleon's, suffered martyrdom
for the faith on the same day, and in the same manner as
Eustratius, secretary to the governor of Armina, was thrown
into a fiery furnace for exhorting some Christians who had been
apprehended, to persevere in their faith.
Nicander and Marcian, two eminent Roman military officers,
were apprehended on account of their faith. As they were both
men of great abilities in their profession, the utmost means were
used to induce them to renounce Christianity; but these endeavors
being found ineffectual, they were beheaded.
In the kingdom of Naples, several martyrdoms took place, in
particular, Januaries, bishop of Beneventum; Sosius, deacon of
Misene; Proculus, another deacon; Eutyches and Acutius, two
laymen; Festus, a deacon; and Desiderius, a reader; all, on
account of being Christians, were condemned by the governor of
Campania to be devoured by the wild beasts. The savage animals,
however, would not touch them, and so they were beheaded.
Quirinus, bishop of Siscia, being carried before Matenius,
the governor, was ordered to sacrifice to the pagan deities,
agreeably to the edicts of various Roman emperors. The governor,
perceiving his constancy, sent him to jail, and ordered him to be
heavily ironed; flattering himself, that the hardships of a jail,
some occasional tortures and the weight of chains, might overcome
his resolution. Being decided in his principles, he was sent to
Amantius, the principal governor of Pannonia, now Hungary, who
loaded him with chains, and carried him through the principal
towns of the Danube, exposing him to ridicule wherever he went.
Arriving at length at Sabaria, and finding that Quirinus would
not renounce his faith, he ordered him to be cast into a river,
with a stone fastened about his neck. This sentence being put
into execution, Quirinus floated about for some time, and,
exhorting the people in the most pious terms, concluded his
admonitions with this prayer: "It is no new thing, O all-powerful
Jesus, for Thee to stop the course of rivers, or to cause a man
to walk upon the water, as Thou didst Thy servant Peter; the
people have already seen the proof of Thy power in me; grant me
now to lay down my life for Thy sake, O my God." On pronouncing
the last words he immediately sank, and died, June 4, A.D. 308.
His body was afterwards taken up, and buried by some pious
Pamphilus, a native of Phoenicia, of a considerable family,
was a man of such extensive learning that he was called a second
Origen. He was received into the body of the clergy at Caesarea,
where he established a public library and spent his time in the
practice of every Christian virtue. He copied the greatest part
of the works of Origen with his own hand, and, assisted by
Eusebius, gave a correct copy of the Old Testament, which had
suffered greatly by the ignorance or negligence of former
transcribers. In the year 307, he was apprehended, and suffered
torture and martyrdom.
Marcellus, bishop of Rome, being banished on account of his
faith, fell a martyr to the miseries he suffered in exile,
January 16, A.D. 310.
Peter, the sixteenth bishop of Alexandria, was martyred
November 25, A.D. 311, by order of Maximus Caesar, who reigned in
Agnes, a virgin of only thirteen years of age, was beheaded
for being a Christian; as was Serene, the empress of Diocletian.
Valentine, a priest, suffered the same fate at Rome; and Erasmus,
a bishop, was martyred in Campania.
Soon after this the persecution abated in the middle parts
of the empire, as well as in the west; and Providence at length
began to manifest vengeance on the persecutors. Maximian
endeavored to corrupt his daughter Fausta to murder Constantine
her husband; which she discovered, and Constantine forced him to
choose his own death, when he preferred the ignominious death of
hanging after being an emperor near twenty years.
Constantine was the good and virtuous child of a good and
virtuous father, born in Britain. His mother was named Helena,
daughter of King Coilus. He was a most bountiful and gracious
prince, having a desire to nourish learning and good arts, and
did oftentimes use to read, write, and study himself. He had
marvellous good success and prosperous achieving of all things he
took in hand, which then was (and truly) supposed to proceed of
this, for that he was so great a favorer of the Christian faith.
Which faith when he had once embraced, he did ever after most
devoutly and religiously reverence.
Thus Constantine, sufficiently appointed with strength of
men but especially with strength of God, entered his journey
coming towards Italy, which was about the last year of the
persecution, A.D. 313. Maxentius, understanding of the coming of
Constantine, and trusting more to his devilish art of magic than
to the good will of his subjects, which he little deserved, durst
not show himself out of the city, nor encounter him in the open
field, but with privy garrisons laid wait for him by the way in
sundry straits, as he should come; with whom Constantine had
divers skirmishes, and by the power of the Lord did ever vanquish
them and put them to flight.
Notwithstanding, Constantine yet was in no great comfort,
but in great care and dread in his mind (approaching now near
unto Rome) for the magical charms and sorceries of Maxentius,
wherewith he had vanquished before Severus, sent by Galerius
against him. Wherefore, being in great doubt and perplexity in
himself, and revolving many things in his mind, what help he
might have against the operations of his charming, Constantine,
in his journey drawing toward the city, and casting up his eyes
many times to heaven, in the south part, about the going down of
the sun, saw a great brightness in heaven, appearing in the
similitude of a cross, giving this inscription, In hoc vince,
that is, "In this overcome."
Eusebius Pamphilus doth witness that he had heard the said
Constantine himself oftentimes report, and also to swear this to
be true and certain, which he did see with his own eyes in
heaven, and also his soldiers about him. At the sight whereof
when he was greatly astonished, and consulting with his men upon
the meaning thereof, behold, in the night season in his sleep,
Christ appeared to him with the sign of the same cross which he
had seen before, bidding him to make the figuration thereof, and
to carry it in his wars before him, and so should we have the
Constantine so established the peace of the Church that for
the space of a thousand years we read of no set persecution
against the Christians, unto the time of John Wickliffe.
So happy, so glorious was this victory of Constantine,
surnamed the Great! For the joy and gladness whereof, the
citizens who had sent for him before, with exceeding triumph
brought him into the city of Rome, where he was most honorably
received, and celebrated the space of seven days together;
having, moreover, in the market place, his image set up, holding
in his right hand the sign of the cross, with this inscription:
"With this wholesome sign, the true token of fortitude, I have
rescued and delivered our city from the yoke of the tyrant."
We shall conclude our account of the tenth and last general
persecution with the death of St. George, the titular saint and
patron of England. St. George was born in Cappadocia, of
Christian parents; and giving proofs of his courage, was promoted
in the army of the emperor Diocletian. During the persecution,
St. George threw up his command, went boldly to the senate house,
and avowed his being a Christian, taking occasion at the same
time to remonstrate against paganism, and point out the absurdity
of worshipping idols. This freedom so greatly provoked the
senate that St. George was ordered to be tortured, and by the
emperor's orders was dragged through the streets, and beheaded
the next day.
The legend of the dragon, which is associated with this
martyr, is usually illustrated by representing St. George seated
upon a charging horse and transfixing the monster with his spear.
This fiery dragon symbolizes the devil, who was vanquished by St.
George's steadfast faith in Christ, which remained unshaken in
spite of torture and death.