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 22d 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 Rome.
These are the only martyrs left upon record during this reign, as it was
soon put a stop to by the emperor's being murdered by his own domestics,
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 favour 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
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 6666 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 till 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 same 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 were 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, 22d Sept. 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 22d of June, A. D. 287, at Verulam,
now St. Albans, in Hertfordshire, where a magnificent church was erected
to his memory about the time of Constantine the Great. This 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 structure.
Faith, a christian female, of Acquitain, in France, was ordered to be
broiled upon a gridiron, and then beheaded; A. D. 287.
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
Being seized upon as a christian, he was stretched with pullies till 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.