After the death of the Emperor Volusian, the son of Decius, Aemilian, an Ethiopian, ascended the imperial throne; but since it is stated that he reigned only three months, and that Valerian had previously already been declared Emperor, his reign is not taken into account. It follows, therefore, that Valerian was acknowledged Emperor; who, together with his son Gallien, began to reign about the year 255, as set forth by Seb. Frank; but the persecution, according to the testimony of different authors, did not begin until the year 259.
The author of the Introduction to the Martyrs Mirror writes, concerning this, as follows, "In A. D. 259 the eighth persecution against the Christians arose under the Emperor Valerian. He issued an edict against the Christians, in which he commanded that the Christians were not to assemble themselves; and as this was not observed, a great persecution arose everywhere." Fol. 41, Col. 1.
Concerning this, J. Gysius records the following, "Valerian and Gallien, who in the beginning of their reign, were favorable to the Christians, soon afterwards changed their course, being misled by an Egyptian sorcerer, and by divers torments compelled the Christians to idolatry." Fol. 20, Col. 3, 4.
P. J. Twisck, speaking (for the year 255) of the beginning of the reign of Emperor Valerian, says, "Truly, this Emperor, as history tells us, was in the beginning a very pious and praiseworthy Prince, a censor, who excelled all others; in regard to which many commendatory passages may be read in the Tijdthresoor by Paul Merula. But, what of it? Although at first he was very favorable to the Christians, and so honored their ministers, that his house was considered a church of the Lord, he was nevertheless afterwards corrupted by a doctor, a wicked lord and prince of all the sorcerers of Egypt; who made the Emperor believe that fortune would not be on his side as long as he tolerated the Christians at his court, or in the land. Then the Emperor commanded that these holy and just men should be persecuted and put to death as such who were opposed to the sorcery with which he was polluted.
This sorcerer also prevailed upon the Emperor to slaughter and sacrifice children and human beings in honor of the devil. He accordingly commanded that little children should be put to death, so that he could perform his unclean ceremonies and abominable sacrifices; and thus robbed parents of their children, and became such a despiser and oppressor of the Christian faith, that he, spared neither old nor young, men nor women, nor any state and condition, but most miserably murdered all that were brought to him, in Alexandria and other places too numerous to mention. At Rome also there was much innocent blood shed at this time, even as this city has ever been a place of slaughter for the poor ,Christians." Third book, for the year 255, page 71, Col. 2.
P. J. Twisck, having concluded his account of the aforementioned matter, proceeds immediately to show how cruelly and lamentably the innocent Christians were treated at that time."The martyrdoms," he writes,"were manifold: they were cast before wild beasts; they were beaten, wounded, executed with the sword, burned, torn limb from limb, rent asunder, pinched with red-hot tongs; red-hot nails were driven in their fingers and nerves. Some were hung up by their arms, and heavy weights tied to their feet, and thus were torn asunder gradually and with great pain. Others, whose wounded bodies had been smeared over with honey, were placed naked on the earth in the hot sun, to be tormented and stung to death by flies, bees, and other insects. Others were beaten with clubs, and cast into prison, until they miserably perished.", "Under the reign of the afore-mentioned cruel and tyrannical Emperors," he writes a little further on,"many Christians had to wander and roam
about in foreign countries, in secluded places, along shores, in caverns, on mountains, in caves, amidst want and poverty; leaving comfort, honor, prosperity, peace, friends, money, and property." Among many others, there is an account given in the Keyser's Chronijk, of a youth of sixteen years, called Paul, well versed in different languages, and the son of a rich man, who, in order to escape the persecution, went out into a village to live with his sister. But his brother-in-law was moved by avarice to betray him, that thus he might obtain possession of his property. His sister having warned him of his danger, he fled into the mountains, gladly leaving behind him all his possessions. However, God prepared him there a secret cave, where he could quench his thirst with pure water, and satisfy his hunger with roots, herbs, and the fruits of the trees. Idem. Ibidem, from Euseb. Fasc. Temp., fol. 94. Chron. Mich., fol. 161. Chron. Seb. Franc., fol. 18, HisE. Andr., fol. 177, 178, 2d part, fol. 174. Paul Merula, fol. 217, 218, 221, Jan. Crespin, fol. 65.
After different letters of Dionysius, bishop at Alexandria (recorded by Abr. Mellinus from Eusebius), concerning the persecution he suffered, there follows one which Dionysius wrote to Domitius and Didymus, about the oppression of the Christians under Valerian, as well as how he himself was oppressed at that time. Among other statements, it contains these words, "It is not necessary to mention all the names of the Christian martyrs, because their number is very great, and you do not know them; but know ye of this persecution, in general, that innumerably many men and women, old and young people, old women and young girls, of every state and condition, were, some scourged, some burned, some beheaded, or made martyrs in some other manner; and still the proconsul continues in his cruelty; putting to death those that were made known to him, causing some to be rent asunder by divers torments, holding others in bonds and severe confinement, and letting them perish through hunger and thirst, forbidding all to come to them, yea closely watching those who but endeavor to get near them., "Nevertheless, the Lord has thus strengthened the hearts of the brethren, that they, for the name of Christ, have constantly visited these oppressed prisoners, notwithstanding it was interdicted un der penalty of death. And although this persecution has lasted for a considerable length of time, there have still been some whom God did not deem worthy to take to Himself as martyrs. Among whom, says Dionysius, I myself yet remain, until the Lord will otherwise dispose of me; since He doubtless preserves me for some other time, which appears to Him more suitable. At present I, together with Gaius and Peter, am separated from all the rest of the brethren, confined in a desert place of Lybia, three days' journey from Paraetonium." Compare A. Melt., 1st book, fol. 79, cot. 2, from Euseb., lib. 7.
We selected this letter of Dionysius from all the rest, because there is stated in it, on the .one hand, the severity of this persecution in general, and, on the other hand, the oppression which this friend of God himself suffered; inasmuch as he, after much wandering, was separated, together with his two dear friends, Gaius and Peter, from all the rest of his brethren, and confined in a desert place of Lybia, there expecting death for the name of the Lord.
Of Dionysius P. J. Twisck states, that he as well as Tertullian held a figurative or spiritual view of the Lord's Supper, i.e., that the words of Christ, "This is my body," signify, "This is a figure of my body." Second book, for the year 200, page 53, cot. 1, concerning Tertullian.
The same author, speaking of Origen, says among other things of Dionysius, that after Origen and Heracles he presided over the schools of the catechumens (that is, those who were instructed in the Christian doctrine, before baptism) at Alexandria. Third book, for the year 231, page 61, cot. 1.
In another place the afore-mentioned author states that Dionysius, whom he calls a catechetical preacher, accompanied Pancratius, when the latter was baptized at Mount Celinus. In. the same book, for the year 253, page 71, cot. 1, from Wicelius, in Chorosanctorum. Grond. Bew., letter B., Leonhard, lib. 1.
In the second book, 13th chapter, D. Vicecomes cites Dionysius (from Eusebius) as saying, "Many heathen adopted at their baptism the name of the apostle John, from special love and admiration for him, as well as because of the zeal which animated them, to follow him, and because they desired to be loved by the Lord, as he was. For the same reason the names of Peter and Paul became prevalent among the believing children of God., "All these," says the writer who has recorded this,"are beautiful reminders, which were administered to the catechumens before and after baptism; which certainly cannot apply to infants." Baptism. Hist., printed at Dortmund, A. D. 1646, and 1647, 2d part, concerning the third century, page 320.
It is stated that at this time, Fxuctuosus, bishop of the church of Tarragona in Spain, and Agurius and Eulogius, his deacons, were apprehended at the command of Aemilian, the Proconsul, and held in prison six days, before they were brought before the tribunal of the Proconsul. When they were standing before the judgment seat, Aemilian commanded them to kneel before the altars, and worship the gods standing thereon, and sacrifice to them, saying to Fructuosus, "I understand that thou art a teacher of a new-devised religion, and that thou incitest giddy young women, no longer to:go to the groves, where the gods are worshiped, yea, to forsake Jupiter himself. Go on, then, despising our religion, but know thou, that the Emperor Gallien has, with his own lips, issued a decree by which he binds all his subjects, to serve the same gods which the prince, that is, the Emperor, serves or honors."
Thereupon Bishop Fructuosus answered, "I worship the eternal Prince, who has created the days and the gods, and is Lord even over the Emperor Gallien; and Christ, who is begotten of the eternal Father Himself, whose servant, and the shepherd of whose flock I am."
The Proconsul derisively said, "Yea, who hast been it till now; but thou art so no longer." With this, he sentenced Fructuosus and his two deacons, Augurius and Eulogius, to be burned alive.
These faithful martyrs, having received the sentence of death, for the name of Christ, rejoiced in their impending martyrdom, and when they saw the people weep, as they were led to death, they forbade them to weep. When some offered Fructuosus a drink on the way, that he might refresh his heart, he refused it, according to the example of Christ, saying, "Now is our fast-day. I do not wish to drink; it is not yet the ninth hour of the day (that is three o'clock in the afternoon, before which time those who fasted did not eat); and death itself shall not break my fast-day."
When they arrived in the arena, where the executioner had been ordered to build a great fire in which to burn these pious martyrs, a dispute (proceeding, however, from heartfelt love) arose among the faithful Christians, as to who should first untie the latchets of the shoes of the bishop, their beloved shepherd and teacher. But Fructuosus would not permit it, saying, "I shall untie them myself from my feet, so that I can go unhindered into the fire." And perceiving that they wept, he said, "Why weep ye? and why do you ask me to remember you? I shall pray for all of Christ's people."
Standing with his bare feet by the fire, he said to all the people, "Believe me! what you see before your eyes is no punishment; it passes away in a moment of time, and does not take away life, but restores it. O happy souls! who through this temporal ascend into heaven unto God, and who on the last day, shall be saved from everlasting fire."
All at once they hastened towards the fire, which indeed burned off in a moment the bands with which their hands had been fastened on their backs, thus freeing these; but their bodies remained intact in this great heat, so that with outstretched hands they prayed God to suffer the flames speedily to deliver them from the agony of death. Their prayer having been heard, they, leaving their frail bodies here as pledges, committed their souls unto God, and the three martyrs fell calmly asleep in the Lord, from whom, on the day of judgment, they will receive, in reward of their faithful services and steadfast testimonies, the martyr's crown, and white robes in token of their victory. Abr. Mell., 1st book, fol. 81, col. 4, and fol. 82, col. 1, 2, from Prudent. Stephan. Hym.. 6, ex Actis Proconsul.
In the ancient records of the pious witnesses of Jesus Christ, an account is given of Marinus, a citizen of Jerusalem, of noble descent, who, although he belonged to the nobility, entertained a sincere affection far the true Christians, who at that time were oppressed beyond measure. On this account his enviers, who were jealous of the honor of his nobility, severely accused and charged him with being a Christian; which he also confessed, when he was brought before the judge; yea, he declared with a loud and clear voice, that he was certainly rn Christian. The Judge then gave him three hours' respite to consider, whether he would die as a Christian, or whether he would sacrifice to the gods and the Emperor.
As he went away from the tribunal, Theotecnes, the bishop of the church in that city, took him by the hand, and led him to the meeting, in the meeting-place, strengthened him with many words in the faith, and, placing before him the sword which he was wont to carry at his side, and also the Gospel [book], he asked him which of the two he would choose?
When Marinus, with a firm faith, stretched forth his hand for the Gospel, choosing it instead of the sword, Theotecnes said to him, "O my son I keep that which thou host chosen, and, despising this present life, hope for the eternal. Depart in good confidence, and receive the crown which the Lord has prepared for thee."
Marinus accordingly returned to the tribunal, and was forthwith called by the lord's servant, for the appointed time had come; he did not delay or
wait until he was asked, but said of his own accord: that he had considered the matter, and that it was established by the law of the fathers, that God must be obeyed rather than men. Eusebius Pamphilius writes, that when Marinus had answered thus, the judge immediately gave sentence that he should be beheaded. Lib. 7, cap. 15.
P. J. Twisck gives the following account of this Marinus, "When Marinus confessed .that he was a Christian, and chose the Bible in preference to the sword, he was called before the tribunal, sentenced, and beheaded." Third book, for the year 262, page 73, col. 2; from Euseb. Compare this with the Introduction, fol. 41, col. 2.
In this persecution under Valerian there were three very noted and God-fearing martyrs at Cesarea, in Palestine, who nevertheless were but simple peasants, the first called Priscus, the second Malchus, the third Alexander. Eusebius writes, that, as they lived near the suburbs of Cesarea, a divine zeal for the faith was kindled within them, and they accused each other (and each himself, says Mellinus), of slothfulness, since heavenly crowns of martyrdom were distributed, or at least offered, in the city, and they were so little inclined to ask for them, notwithstanding our Lord and Saviour had said that the kingdom of heaven must be taken by violence, and therefore it did not become them to remain so earthly and slothful. Having exhorted one another with such words, they went into the city, and addressed and reproved that cruel tyrant, the criminal judge, demanding of him, why he shed so much Christian blood. The tyrant instantly replied saying, "They shall be thrown before wild beasts, to be torn by them, who do not like to see the blood of the Christians shed; which, it is stated, was done to them." Compare Eu ~eb., lib. 7, cap. 12, fol. 131, col. 1, 2, letter Fa G, with the Introduction, fol. 4, col. 2. Also, loh. Gys., fol. 21, col. 2.
A. Mellinus, writing in defense of the aforementioned three peasants, against those who would pronounce them too bold, says after other remarks, "Who are you that judge your brethren? How do you know of what spirit they were? No one has courage of himself; but it is the gift of God, not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for His name: hence, neither is of ourselves. They also did not seek their own honor, but to magnify the name of Christ by their death; to which, no doubt, they were impelled by divine zeal, since their zeal was not without knowledge, but proceeded from the power of faith; whereby they were prepared through the divine Spirit to proclaim the honor of God through their death; for this was their sole object." First book, fol. 79, col. 4.
Besides the afore-mentioned martyrs who were put to death in this persecution, certain other authors have noted various other pious witnesses of Jesus Christ, who, loving the honor of God more than their own lives, were put to death at that time, and under that same Emperor; which we shall presently relate. Besides the three hundred Christians whom P. J. Twisck places in the year 264, as having been burned in a limekiln, because they would not throw incense on the coals, for a sacrifice in honor of Jupiter, as may be seen in the 3d book, page 75, col. 1, from Histor. Adr., fol. 30, several names are mentioned, as, Philip, bishop of the church at Alexandria, who was put to death with the sword in this persecution, for the testimony of Jesus Christ. J. Gys., fol. 21, col. 2, from Vinc. Spec. Hist., lib. 11, cap. 23. Henr. d' Oxf., lib. 6; cap. 21. Also, Florentin and Pontius, pious men, are stated to have been put to death in France, for the name of the Lord, together with others, who are also mentioned. Introduction, fol. 41, col. 2, Seb. Franck, fol. 22, col. 4.
UNDER AURELIAN, COMMENCED ABOUT A. D. 273
A. Mellinus writes, "Aurelian was a stern, cruel, and bloodthirsty Emperor by nature, and although at first he had a good opinion of the Christians, he nevertheless afterwards became averse to, and estranged from them: and having, undoubtedly, by some talebearers, been instigated against the Christians, he allowed himself to be seduced so far, as to raise the ninth general persecution of the Roman monarchy against them, which persecution .he, however, did not carry out. For at the very moment in which the decrees written against the Christians, were laid before him by his secretary, that he might sign them, and when he was about to take the pen in hand, the hand of God suddenly touched him, smiting his hand with lameness, and thus preventing him in his purpose, so that he could not sign them." First book, fol. 87, col. 3; from hopisc. Victor. Eus., lib. 7. Post. Literal, Aug. de Civit. Dei., lib. 18, cap. 52. Oral.. lib. 7, cap. 16. Theodoret. Hilt., lib. 4, cap. 17.
He writes, "Emperor Aurelian commenced the ninth persecution against the Christians. He was by nature inclined to tyranny, and was a furious bloodhound, as Eutropius writes, so that he did not hesitate to kill his sister's son, and finally, through the atrocity of his own wicked nature, and evil counsel suggested to him, he became an enemy and persecutor of the Christians. He sent letters to the Governors of the Roman country, that they should vex the Christians; but when he was about actually to carry the persecution into effect, he could not sign the decrees which were to be issued against the Christians, because God smote him, so that his hand was paralyzed. Through divine judgment he was terrified by thunder, lightning, and fire-darts, at the time that he was constantly meditating how. he might slay and exterminate the Christians; and shortly after was himself killed by his notary." Third book, for the year 270, page 76, col. 2, from Chron. Mich. Sac., fol. 178. Euseb., lib. 7. Chron. Seb. Fr., fol. 18. Chron. Carionis, lib. 3, Hist. Andrew, fol. 178, Zd part, fol. 175. Paul. Mer., fol. 226. Jan. Crespin., fol. 62. Chron. Andrew, lib. 13, fol. 343.
In A. D. 273 arose the ninth persecution of the Christians, under the Emperor Aurelian; but it was not as great as the former, because death suddenly overtook him as he proposed to himself, to begin it. Under him were killed . . . and many others, concerning whom no special accounts are extant. Fol. 41, col. 2.
Notwithstanding Emperor Aurelian could not himself sign the above-mentioned decrees against the -Christians, the persecution nevertheless proceeded in some places, so .that here and there some laid down their lives for the testimony of Jesus Christ; of whom we shall mention only a few, whom we have selected as true martyrs.
When Chorus, the king of the Germans, in the time of Valerian and Aurelian, yea, up to the time of Probus, devastated France, he found among other martyrs who dwelt separated from men in deserts and mountains, a certain pious man, called Privatus, Bishop of the church at Gevauldan. This man, sojourning in the mountains, fasting and praying, was taken prisoner by the Germans, and because he, as behooves a good shepherd, would not deliver his lambs into the claws of the wolves, by himself sacrificing to Satan, which he would in no wise do, he was beaten with sticks by them for a very long time, till they left him lie for dead; in consequence of which treatment he also died a few days after. This happened, as some have supposed, under Valerian and Gallien, but in reality, under Aurelian. Compare A. Mell., 1st book, fol. 89, col. 1, from Greg. Turon. Hist., lib. 1, cap. 34, with Introduction, fol. 41, col. 2, where he is called Privatus, Bishop of Gablen.
Mamas, a shepherd, who pastured his sheep upon the mountains and in the wildernesses of Cappadocia, lived very poorly, without a hut, dwelling under the blue heavens, and subsisting on the milk and cheese of his flock, as Basilius testifies. Nazianzenus adds, that the hinds also suffered themselves to be milked by him daily, and that he was thus fed by them.
Basilius says, that from the course of the heavenly bodies he learned to know the wonderful works of God, his Creator, and thus His eternal power and wisdom. However, the accounts written concerning him state that he had the Word of God with him in the desert, and that he read in it daily.
It is quite probable, writes Mellinus, that this Mamas, in order to escape the persecution in the time of Decius and Valerian, went into the wilderness, and remained there till the time of Aurelian, whose proconsul of Cappadocia, Alexander, caused him to be brought out of the wilderness, and to appear before him, at Caesarea, the capital of Cappadocia.
The proconsul called him a sorcerer or conjurer, because the wild animals of the wilderness so tamely submitted to him.
Mamas answered, "I am a servant of Christ, and know nothing about sorcery; but would rather live among the wild animals, than among you
for they feel the power of their Creator in and through me; but ye will not know God. I cannot sufficiently wonder that you, who have attained to gray hairs, are still in such gross darkness of ignorance, as to forsake the true and living God, and give divine honor to deaf and dumb idols."
When he was requested to say at least with his lips, that he would sacrifice to the gods, so 'as to escape punishment, Mamas replied, "I shall never, either with my lips, or with my heart, deny the true God and King, Jesus Christ. So far am I from seeking to escape suffering for the name of Christ, that I, on the contrary, consider it the highest honor, the greatest gain, and the utmost benefit, which you can confer upon me."
Upon this confession, the proconsul had him placed on the rack, cruelly scourged, tormented with pincers, burnt on his sides with lamps and torches, and tortured in various other ways. But
seeing that in all these and other torments he remained steadfast, he finally had him thrust through with a three-pronged spear; and thus Mamas became a faithful martyr for his Saviour, under Emperor Aurelian, at Caesarea in Cappadocia. A. Mell., 1st book, fol. 89, col. 2, 3, ex Basilii Concio, in Mart. Mamant. Nazianz. Orat. 43. Act. per Metaphrast.
It is stated that at this time, as the heathen at Augustodunum, now called Autum, in Burgundy, on a feast-day of the goddess Cybele, whom they called the mother of the gods, carried around her image on a wagon, in procession, a certain pious Christian, called Symphorianus, met this image, and refused to worship it; in consequence of which he was apprehended as an impious person, or despiser of the gods, and brought before Heraclius, the Proconsul, who, in that city, exercised the strictest vigilance over the Christians. When he stood:before the judgment seat, the Proconsul asked him for his name. Symphorian replied that he was a Christian by religion, was born of Christian parents, and had received the name Symphorian.
The Judge said, "Why didst thou not honor the mother of the gods, or worship her image?"
Symphorian answered, "Because, I am a Christian, and call only upon the living God, who reigns in heaven. But as to the image of Satan I not only do not worship it,:but, if you will let me, I will break it in pieces with a hammer."
The Judge said, "This man is not only sacrilegious at heart, but also obstinate and a rebel; but perhaps he knows nothing of the ordinances or decrees of the Emperor. Let the officer, therefore, read to him the decrees of the Emperors."
The decrees having been read to him, Symphorian said, "I shall notwithstanding never confess that this image is anything but a worthless idol of Satan, by which he persuades men that he is a god; while it is an evident demonstration of their eternal destruction for all those who put their trust in it, "
Upon this confession; the judge caused him to be scourged and cast into prison, to keep him for some other day. Some time after, he had him brought again before his judgment seat, and addressed him with kind words, saying, "Symphorian, sacrifice to the gods, that thou mayest be promoted to the highest honor and state at court. If not, I ,call the gods to witness that I am compelled this day, after various tortures, to sentence thee to death."
Symphorian answered, "What matters it, if we deliver up this life to Christ, since, by reason of debt, in any event we must pay it to Him? Your gifts and presents are mingled with the sweetness of the adulterated honey, with which you poisor the minds of the unbelieving. But our treasure; and riches are ever in Christ, our Lord, alone; and do not perish through age or length Of time whereas your desire is insatiable, and you posses nothing, even though you have everything in abundance. The joy and mirth which you enjoy in this world, is like fine glass, which, if placed in the radiance and heat of the sun, cracks and breaks in two; but God alone is our supreme happiness."
After Symphorian had said these and like things before the judge, Heraclius, the Proconsul, pronounced sentence of death upon him, saying, "Symphorian, having openly been found guilty of death, because he hath blasphemed against the holy altars, shall be executed with the sword."
When this godly confessor was led to death, to be offered up to Christ, his mother called down to him from the wall of the city this comforting admonition, "Symphorian, my son! my son! remember the living God; let thy heart be steadfast and valiant. We can surely not fear death, which beyond doubt leads us into the true life. Lift up thy heart to heaven, my son, and behold Him who reigns in heaven I Today thy life will not be taken from thee, but be changed into a better one. If thou remainest steadfast today, thou shalt make a happy exchange: leaving this earthly house, thou shalt go to dwell in the tabernacle not made with hands."
Symphorian, having been thus strengthened by his mother, was taken out of the city, and beheaded there, having commended his soul into the hands of God, in the time of Emperor Aurelian, and Herachus, the Proconsul, at Autum in Burgundy. His dead body was buried by certain Christians. 'Compare A. Mell., lst book, fol. 19, col: 4, and fol. 90, col. 1, ex Actis Proconsul. Greg. Turan. Degl. Confess., cap. 77, and Hist., lib. 2, cap. 15, with different other authors concerning Symphorian.
Before the tenth general and severe persecution of the Christians began, A. D. 302, many Christians were put to death in different places, and throughout this whole period, by virtue of the first edict of Diocletian. Of these we shall present a few, and then, with the beginning of'the next century, proceed to the tenth and severest persecution.
It is stated that in the second year of the reign of Emperor Diocletian, which coincides with the year 285, three pious Christians, spiritual as well as natural brothers, called Claudius, Asterius, and Neon, were accused to the judge of the City of Aegaea, in Cilicia, of being Christians, by their stepmother, who, as it seems, was a heathen woman.
Two God-fearing Christian women, named Donuina, and Theonilla, were also accused with them. They were all imprisoned till the arrival of Lysias, the Proconsul, who, on his tour through the provinces of Cilicia, also came to Aegxa, and there held criminal court against the Christians.
How Claudius was examined first.-Claudius being first brought before his judgment seat, Lysias asked him for his name, and admonished him, not thus rashly to throw away the bloom of his youth, but to sacrifice to the gods, and thus obey the command of the Emperor, that he might escape the ready penalty.
Claudius answered, "Our God does not need these sacrifices; He has more pleasure in works of love and mercy towards our fellow men, and in holiness of life; but your gods are unclean evil spirits, and delight in such sacrifices, by which they bring eternal punishment upon those who offer them. You shall therefore never be able to persuade me to honor them."
Lysias said, "Bind him, and scourge him with rods; for there is no other way to tame his folly."
Claudius said, "By these severe tortures thou shalt not harm me, but wilt bring down upon thyself eternal punishment."
Lysias said, "Our lords, the Emperors, have commanded that the Christians shall sacrifice to the gods. It is their will, that the disobedient be punished; while to them who obey their commandment they promise honor and office."
Claudius replied, "These gifts and benefits endure but a short time, but the confession of Christ imparts eternal glory."
Lysias commanded that they should suspend him on the torture stake, put fire under his feet, and cut off pieces from his heels.
Claudius said, "They who fear God with all their hearts cannot be overcome either by fire or by other torments; for they know that even these things are serviceable to them unto eternal life."
Lysias commanded, "Let him be tormented with pincers, scraped or cut with potsherds, and burned with torches."
Claudius said, "I say nevertheless, that thou doest all this for Satan, and that it conduces to myn welfare, but tends to thy eternal perdition. Yea, thy fire and all these torments promote my salvation. Such is our condition, that those who thus suffer for the name of Christ, obtain eternal life."
Lysias then commanded, "Desist from him; lead him back into prison, and bring forth another."
Asterius examined.-When Asterius, the second brother, stood before the Proconsul, Lysias said, "Obey me, Asterius! sacrifice to the gods, and thus escape punishment."
Asterius answered, "I shall not do it; for I worship the only true God, who has created heaven and earth, and who shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
Lysias said, "Throw him on the rack, tear his flesh from his sides with pincers, and say to him
'Believe now at least, and sacrifice to the gods."' Asterius replied, "I am a brother of him who was tormented just now, and we hold the same confession of faith in Christ. Do what thou mayest; my body is in thy power, but not my soul."
Lysias commanded, "Bind him hand and foot, stretch him out, and torture him; take the pincers, throw hot coals under his feet, scourge him with rods and thongs."
Asterius said to the Proconsul, "Thou doest foolishly, since thou art preparing, not for me, but for thyself, much severer torments. Do thy best, for aught I care. I can stand it, if not one member of my body remains untormented."
Lysias said, "Loose him, and keep him in custody with the other; and let the third one be brought forth." This was done.
Neon examined.-When Neon stood before the judgment seat, Lysias said to him, "Son, listen to me, and sacrifice to the gods, so that thou needst not suffer all this."
Neon said, "There are no gods, neither have they any power. You worship idols, but I honor the God of heaven."
Lysias said, "Take him by the throat and let the crier announce to him, to desist blaspheming the gods."
Neon answered, "He that speaks does not blaspheme the truth."
Lysias commanded, "Stretch him out on the rack; put coals under him; beat and cut him."
Neon said, "I know what is needful for me. Whatever, then, is profitable to my soul, that shall I do; but I cannot be moved from my faith."
Lysias having gone within to the other members of the tribunal, and having drawn the cover over the court, determined with them upon the sentence of death for the three brothers. When he came out, he read from a tablet their sentence, which was as follows, "Claudius, Asterius, and Neon, brothers, who are Christians, who blaspheme the gods, and refuse to sacrifice, shall be crucified before the forum, and their bodies be given to the birds of heaven as food, to be devoured by them; and
this shall be executed by Eulalius, the jailer, and Archelaus, the executioner."
However, before they were led forth to death, they were taken back to prison. Then Eulalius, the jailer, brought out Donuina, one of the women imprisoned, to whom Lysias, the Proconsul, said, "See, woman, this fire and these torments are ready for you. If you desire to escape unhurt by them, sacrifice before the gods."
Donuina replied, "I shall not do it, lest I fall into the everlasting pains of hell. I serve God and His anointed Christ, who has created heaven and earth, and all that is therein: Your gods are of wood and stone, and are made by human hands."
Donuina examined on the rack.-Lysias said, "Strip her stark naked, stretch her, and lacerate all her members with rods." While they were beating her she died. Then said Archelaus, the executioner, to the Proconsul, "Your highness, Donuina has died." Lysias commanded, "Let her dead body be thrown into the river."
Eulalius, the jailer, then said, "Here is Theonilla." Lysias said to her, "Woman, thou hast seen, what punishment they who were disobedient have suffered, and how they have been tormented: Honor the gods, therefore, and sacrifice, so that thou mayest be delivered from these punishments."
Theonilla answered, "I fear Him who has power to cast both soul and body into the fire of hell; and who will burn with it all those who depart from God, and give honor to Satan."
Lysias said, "Smite her on the cheeks, throw her down, bind her feet, and torment her greatly."
Theonilla answered, "Does it seem to thee, to be right and proper, thus to maltreat a well-born woman? Thou knowest, that thou canst not conceal from God what thou doest to me."
Lysias commanded, "Hang her up by the braids of her hair, and smite her on the cheeks."
Theonilla severely examined on the rack.-Having been stripped naked, Theonilla said, "Art thou not ashamed to uncover my nakedness seeing that through me, thou puttest to like shame thy mother and thy wife, who are also women?"
Lysias asked whether she had a husband, or whether she was a widow?
Theonilla replied, "I have been a widow now for over twenty-three years, and have remained thus single, in order to more zealously serve God with fasting, watching and praying; which God I did not know until after I had renounced the world and the idols.
Lysias commanded them, in order to disgrace her the more, to shave the hair from her head, put bundles of thorns around her body, and stretch her out between four stakes, then, to beat her over her whole body, and put hot coals upon her, that she might be consumed. When Eulalius, the jailer, and Archelaus, the executioner, had done all this, death ensued, and they said to Lysias, "Sir, she is dead now." Lysias commanded that her dead body should be sewed up in a leathern bag, and thrown into the water; which was done. Thus did these holy martyrs suffer, under Lysias, the Proconsul of Cilicia, in Aegaea, on the 23d of August, in the second year of Diocletian, when he was Burgomaster with Aristobulus, A. D. 285. These acts have for the most part been taken from the records of the clerk of the criminal court of the city of Aegaea, and were gathered by the ancient Christians. These court documents were called Acta Proconsularia. Compare this with A. Mell., lst book, fol. 92, eol. 3, 4, and fol. 93, col. 1.
Not long afterwards, under the same Emperor and Proconsul, and in the same year, Zenobius, Bishop of the church of Aegxa in Cilicia, and his sister, were apprehended; and when there were held out to him on the one hand, great wealth, honor, and position, if, in accordance with the command of the Emperor, he would serve the gods, but on the other hand, manifold torments, Zenobius answered, "I love Jesus Christ more than all the riches and honor of this world. Death and the torments with which you threaten me, I do not consider a disadvantage, but my greatest gain."
Having received this answer from the martyr, Lysias caused him to be suspended on the rack, and inhumanly tormented on his whole body.
While the executioners were busy with Zenobius, his sister Zenobia, having learned of it, came running, crying with a loud voice, "Thou tyrant, what villainy has my brother committed, that thou dost thus cruelly torment him?"
Having thus addressed Lysias, and set at naught his entreating as well as his threatening words, she, too, was seized by the servants, stripped naked, and stretched out, and roasted beside her brother on a red-hot iron bed, or roasting pan. The tyrant, deriding the martyrs, said, "Now let Christ come and help you, seeing you suffer these torments for Him."
Zenobius replied, "See, He is already with us, and cools, with His heavenly dew the flames of fire on our bodies; though thou, surrounded as thou art with the thick darkness of wickedness, canst not perceive it on us."
Lysias, almost beside himself, commanded that they should be put naked into boiling caldrons. But seeing that the boiling water did not injure them, or at least, that they could not thereby be made to apostatize, he had them taken out of the city and beheaded. Their dead bodies were buried by Caius and Hermogenes in the nearest cave. This happened A. D. 285, on the 30th day of October, in the city of Aegaea in Cilicia. Idem. Ibideire. ex Actis Zenobii pracons. per Metaphorast.