The Eighth Persecution Under Valerian A D 257

Began under Valerian, in the month of April, 257, and continued for

three years and six months. The martyrs that fell in this persecution

were innumerable, and their tortures and deaths as various and painful.

The most eminent martyrs were the following, though neither rank, sex,

or age were regarded.

Rufina and Secunda, two beautiful and accomplished ladies, daughters of

Asterius, a gentleman of eminence
in Rome. Rufina, the elder, was

designed in marriage for Armentarius, a young nobleman; Secunda, the

younger, for Verinus a person of rank and opulence. The suitors, at the

time of the persecution's commencing, were both christians; but when

danger appeared, to save their fortunes, they renounced their faith.

They took great pains to persuade the ladies to do the same, but,

disappointed in their purpose, the lovers were base enough to inform

against the ladies, who, being apprehended as christians, were brought

before Junius Donatus, governor of Rome, where, A. D. 257, they sealed

their martyrdom with their blood.

Stephen, bishop of Rome, was beheaded in the same year, and about that

time Saturnius, the pious orthodox bishop of Thoulouse, refusing to

sacrifice to idols, was treated with all the barbarous indignities

imaginable, and fastened by the feet to the tail of a bull. Upon a

signal given, the enraged animal was driven down the steps of the

temple, by which the worthy martyr's brains were dashed out.

Sextus succeeded Stephen as bishop of Rome. He is supposed to have been

a Greek by birth or by extraction, and had for some time served in the

capacity of a deacon under Stephen. His great fidelity, singular wisdom,

and uncommon courage, distinguished him upon many occasions; and the

happy conclusion of a controversy with some heretics is generally

ascribed to his piety and prudence. In the year 258, Marcianus, who had

the management of the Roman government, procured an order from the

emperor Valerian, to put to death all the christian clergy in Rome, and

hence the bishop with six of his deacons, suffered martyrdom in 258.

Laurentius, generally called St. Laurence, the principal of the deacons,

who taught and preached under Sextus, followed him to the place of

execution; when Sextus predicted, that he should, three days after, meet

him in heaven.

Laurentius, looking upon this as a certain indication of his own

approaching martyrdom, at his return gathered together all the christian

poor, and distributed the treasures of the church, which had been

committed to his care, among them.

This liberality alarmed the persecutors, who commanded him to give an

immediate account to the emperor of the church treasures. This he

promised to do in three days, during which interval, he collected

together a great number of aged, helpless, and impotent poor; he

repaired to the magistrate, and presenting them to him, said, "These are

the true treasures of the church." Incensed at the disappointment, and

fancying the matter meant in ridicule, the governor ordered him to be

immediately scourged. He was then beaten with iron rods, set upon a

wooden horse, and had his limbs dislocated. These tortures he endured

with fortitude and perseverance; when he was ordered to be fastened to a

large gridiron, with a slow fire under it, that his death might be the

more lingering. His astonishing constancy during these trials, and

serenity of countenance while under such excruciating torments, gave the

spectators so exalted an idea of the dignity and truth of the christian

religion, that many became converts upon the occasion, of whom was

Romanus, a soldier.

In Africa the persecution raged with peculiar violence; many thousands

received the crown of martyrdom, among whom the following were the most

distinguished characters:

Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, an eminent prelate, and a pious ornament of

the church. The brightness of his genius was tempered by the solidity of

his judgment; and with all the accomplishments of the gentleman, he

blended the virtues of a christian. His doctrines were orthodox and

pure; his language easy and elegant; and his manners graceful and

winning: in fine, he was both the pious and polite preacher. In his

youth he was educated in the principles of Gentilism, and having a

considerable fortune, he lived in the very extravagance of splendour,

and all the dignity of pomp.

About the year 246, Coecilius, a christian minister of Carthage became

the happy instrument of Cyprian's conversion: on which account, and for

the great love that he always afterward bore for the author of his

conversion, he was termed Coecilius Cyprian. Previous to his baptism,

he studied the scriptures with care, and being struck with the beauties

of the truths they contained, he determined to practise the virtues

therein recommended. Subsequent to his baptism, he sold his estate,

distributed the money among the poor, dressed himself in plain attire,

and commenced a life of austerity. He was soon after made a presbyter;

and, being greatly admired for his virtues and works, on the death of

Donatus, in A. D. 248, he was almost unanimously elected bishop of


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."

A. D. 250, Cyprian was publicly proscribed by the emperor Decius, under

the appellation of Coecilius Cyprian, bishop of the christians; 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 rigour of the persecution abating, he returned to

Carthage, and did every thing 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 now governor, who condemned him to be beheaded; which sentence was

executed on the 14th of September, A. D. 258.

The disciples of Cyprian, martyred in this persecution, were Lucius,

Flavian, Victoricus, Remus, Montanus, Julian, Primelus, and Donatian.

At Utica, a most terrible tragedy was exhibited: 300 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


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 accordingly.

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


This tyrant, by a stratagem, 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 83

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.