The Fifth Persecution Commencing With Severus A D 192

Severus, having been recovered from a severe fit of sickness by a

christian, became a great favourer of the christians in general; but the

prejudice and fury of the ignorant multitude prevailing, obsolete laws

were put in execution against the christians. The progress of

christianity alarmed the pagans, and they revived the stale calumny of

placing accidental misfortunes to the account of its professors, A. D.


But, though persecuting malice raged, yet the gospel shone with

resplendent brightness; and, firm as an impregnable rock, withstood the

attacks of its boisterous enemies with success. Turtullian, who lived in

this age, informs us, that if the christians had collectively withdrawn

themselves from the Roman territories, the empire would have been

greatly depopulated.

Victor, bishop of Rome, suffered martyrdom in the first year of the

third century, A. D. 201. Leonidus, the father of the celebrated Origen,

was beheaded for being a christian. Many of Origen's hearers likewise

suffered martyrdom; particularly two brothers, named Plutarchus and

Serenus; another Serenus, Heron, and Heraclides, were beheaded. Rhais

had boiled pitch poured upon her head, and was then burnt, as was

Marcella her mother. Potamiena, the sister of Rhais, was executed in the

same manner as Rhais had been; but Basilides, an officer belonging to

the army, and ordered to attend her execution, became her convert.

Basilides being, as an officer, required to take a certain oath,

refused, saying, that he could not swear by the Roman idols, as he was a

christian. Struck with surprise, the people could not, at first, believe

what they heard; but he had no sooner confirmed the same, than he was

dragged before the judge, committed to prison, and speedily afterward


Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, was born in Greece, and received both a polite

and a christian education. It is generally supposed, that the account of

the persecutions at Lyons was written by himself. He succeeded the

martyr Pothinus as bishop of Lyons, and ruled his diocese with great

propriety; he was a zealous opposer of heresies in general, and, about

A. D. 187, he wrote a celebrated tract against heresy. Victor, the

bishop of Rome, wanting to impose the keeping of Easter there, in

preference to other places, it occasioned some disorders among the

christians. In particular, Irenaeus wrote him a synodical epistle, in the

name of the Gallic churches. This zeal, in favour of christianity,

pointed him out as an object of resentment to the emperor; and in A. D.

202, he was beheaded.

The persecutions now extending to Africa, many were martyred in that

quarter of the globe; the most particular of whom we shall mention.

Perpetua, a married lady, of about twenty-two years. Those who suffered

with her were, Felicitas, a married lady, big with child at the time of

her being apprehended; and Revocatus, catechumen of Carthage, and a

slave. The names of the other prisoners, destined to suffer upon this

occasion, were Saturninus, Secundulus and Satur. On the day appointed

for their execution, they were led to the amphitheatre. Satur,

Saturninus, and Revocatus, were ordered to run the gauntlet between the

hunters, or such as had the care of the wild beasts. The hunters being

drawn up in two ranks, they ran between, and were severely lashed as

they passed. Felicitas and Perpetua were stripped, in order to be thrown

to a mad bull, which made his first attack upon Perpetua, and stunned

her; he then darted at Felicitas, and gored her dreadfully; but not

killing them, the executioner did that office with a sword. Revocatus

and Satur were destroyed by wild beasts; Saturninus was beheaded; and

Secundulus died in prison. These executions were in the year 205, on the

8th day of March.

Speratus, and twelve others, were likewise beheaded; as was Andocles in

France. Asclepiades, bishop of Antioch, suffered many tortures, but his

life was spared.

Cecilia, a young lady of good family in Rome, was married to a gentleman

named Valerian. She converted her husband and brother, who were

beheaded; and the maximus, or officer, who led them to execution,

becoming their convert, suffered the same fate. The lady was placed

naked in a scalding bath, and having continued there a considerable

time, her head was struck off with a sword, A. D. 222.

Calistus, bishop of Rome, was martyred, A. D. 224; but the manner of

his death is not recorded; and Urban, bishop of Rome, met the same fate

A. D. 232.