Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VI:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Fragments of the Epistle of Phileas to the People of Thmuis.
Fragments of the Epistle of Phileas to the People of Thmuis.1
Having before them all these examples and signs and illustrious tokens which are given us in the divine and holy Scriptures, the blessed martyrs who lived with us did not hesitate. but, directing the eye of their soul in sincerity to that God who is over all, and embracing with willing mind the death which their piety cost them, they adhered steadfastly to their vocation. For they learned that our Lord Jesus Christ endured man's estate on our behalf, that He might destroy all sin, and furnish us with the provision needful for our entrance into eternal life. "For He thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, taking upon Him the form of a servant: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself unto death, even the death of the cross."2 For which reason also these Christ-bearing3 martyrs sought zealously the greater gifts, and endured, some of them, every kind of pain and all the varied contrivances of torture not merely once, bat once and again; and though the guards showed their fury against them not only by threatenings m word, but also by deeds of violence, they did not swerve from their resolution, because perfect love casteth out fear.4
And to narrate their virtue and their manly endurance under every torment, what language would suffice? For as every one who chose was at liberty to abuse them, some beat them with wooden clubs,5 and others with rods, and others with scourges, and others again with thongs, land others with ropes. And the spectacle of these modes of torture had great variety in it, and exhibited vast malignity. For some had their hands bound behind them, and were suspended on the rack and bad every, limb in their body stretched with a certain kind of pulleys.6 Then after all this the torturers, according to their orders, lacerated with the sharp iron claws7 the whole body, not merely, as in the case of murderers, the sides only, but also the stomach and the knees and the cheeks. And others were hung up in mid-air, suspended by one hand from the portico, and their sufferings were fiercer than any other kind of agony by reason of the distention of their joints and limbs. And others were bound to pillars, face to face, not touching the ground with their feet, but hanging with all the weight of the body, so that their chains were drawn all the more tightly by reason of the tension. And this they endured not simply as long as the governor8 spoke with them, or had leisure to hear them, but well-nigh through the whole day. For when he passed on to others he left some of those under his authority to keep watch over these former, and to observe whether any of them, being overcome by the torture, seemed likely to yield. But he gave them orders at the same time to cast them into chains without sparing, and thereafter, when they were expiring, to throw them on the ground and drag them along. For they said that they would not give themselves the slightest concern about us, but would look upon us and deal with us as if we were nothing at all. This second mode of torture our enemies devised then over and above the scourging.
And there were also some who, after the tortures, were placed upon the stocks and had both their feet stretched through all the four holes, so that they were compelled to lie on their back on the stocks, as they were unable (to stand) in, consequence of the fresh wounds they had over the whole body from the scourging. And others being thrown upon the ground lay prostrated there by the excessively frequent application of the tortures; in which condition they exhibited to the onlookers a still more dreadful spectacle than they did when actually undergoing their torments, bearing, as they did, on their bodies the varied and manifold tokens of the cruel ingenuity of their tortures. While this state of matters went on some died under their tortures putting the adversary to shame by their constancy. And others were thrust half-dead into the prison, where in a few days, worn out with their agonies, they met their end. But the rest, getting sure recovery under the application of remedies, through time and their lengthened detention in prison, became more confident. And thus then, when they were commanded to make their choice between these alternatives, namely, either to put their hand to the unholy sacrifice and thus secure exemption from further trouble, and obtain from them their abominable sentence of absolution and liberation,9 or else to refuse to sacrifice, and thus expect the judgment of death to be executed on them, they never hesitated, but went cheerfully to death.10 For they knew the sentence declared for us of old by the Holy Scriptures: "He that sacrificeth to other gods," it is said, "shall be utterly destroyed."11 And again12 "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me."13
Next: The Epistle of the Same Phileas of Thmuis to Meletius, Bishop of Lycopolis.
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