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this age, informs us, that if the christians had collectively withdrawn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