Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Church History of Eusebius.: Chapter II
1. What occurred to Romanus on the same day 2627 at Antioch, is also worthy of record. For he was a native of Palestine, a deacon and exorcist in the parish of Cæsarea; and being present at the destruction of the churches, he beheld many men, with women and children, going up in crowds to the idols and sacrificing. 2628 But, through his great zeal for religion, he could not endure the sight, and rebuked them with a loud voice.
2. Being arrested for his boldness, he proved a most noble witness of the truth, if there ever was one. For when the judge informed him that he was to die by fire, 2629 p. 344 he received the sentence with cheerful countenance and most ready mind, and was led away. When he was bound to the stake, and the wood piled up around him, as they were awaiting the arrival of the emperor before lighting the fire, he cried, “Where is the fire for me?”
3. Having said this, he was summoned again before the emperor, 2630 and subjected to the unusual torture of having his tongue cut out. But he endured this with fortitude and showed to all by his deeds that the Divine Power is present with those who endure any hardship whatever for the sake of religion, lightening their sufferings and strengthening their zeal. When he learned of this strange mode of punishment, the noble man was not terrified, but put out his tongue readily, and offered it with the greatest alacrity to those who cut it off.
4. After this punishment he was thrown into prison, and suffered there for a very long time. At last the twentieth anniversary of the emperor being near, 2631 when, according to an established gracious custom, liberty was proclaimed everywhere to all who were in bonds, he alone had both his feet stretched over five holes in the stocks, 2632 and while he lay there was strangled, and was thus honored with martyrdom, as he desired.
5. Although he was outside of his country, yet, as he was a native of Palestine, it is proper to count him among the Palestinian martyrs. These things occurred in this manner during the first year, when the persecution was directed only against the rulers of the Church.
We learn from the Syriac version that the death of Romanus occurred on the same day as that of Alphæus and Zacchæus. His arrest, therefore, must have taken place some time before, according to §4, below. In fact, we see from the present paragraph that his arrest took place in connection with the destruction of the churches; that is, at the time of the execution of the first edict in Antioch. We should naturally think that the edict would be speedily published in so important a city, and hence can hardly suppose the arrest of Romanus to have occurred later than the spring of 303. He therefore lay in prison a number of months (according to §4, below, a “very long time,” πλεῖστον χρόνον). Mason is clearly in error in putting his arrest in November, and his death at the time of the vicennalia, in December. It is evident from the Syriac version that the order for the release of prisoners, to which the so-called third edict was appended, preceded the vicennalia by some weeks, although issued in view of the great anniversary which was so near at hand. It is quite possible that the decree was sent out some weeks beforehand, in order that time might be given to induce the Christians to sacrifice, and thus enjoy release at the same time with the others.343:2628
There is no implication here that these persons were commanded, or even asked, to sacrifice. They seem, in their dread of what might come upon them, when they saw the churches demolished, to have hastened of their own accord to sacrifice to the idols, and thus disarm all possible suspicion.343:2629
As Mason remarks, to punish Romanus with death for dissuading the Christians from sacrificing was entirely illegal, as no imperial edict requiring them to sacrifice had yet been issued, and therefore no law was broken in exhorting them not to do so. At the same time, that he should be arrested as a church officer was, under the terms of the second edict, legal, and, in fact, necessary; and that the judge should incline to be very severe in the present case, with the emperor so near at hand, was quite natural. That death, however, was not yet made the penalty of Christian confession is plain enough from the fact that, when the emperor was appealed to, as we learn from the Syriac version, he remanded Romanus to prison, thus inflicting upon him the legal punishment, according to the terms of the second edict. Upon the case of Romanus, see Mason, p. 188 sq.344:2630
Valesius assumes that this was Galerius, and Mason does the same. In the Syriac version, however, he is directly called Diocletian; but on the other hand, in the Syriac acts published by Assemani (according to Cureton, p. 55), he is called “Maximinus, the son-in-law of Diocletian”; i.e. Galerius, who was known as Maximianus (of which Maximinus, in the present case, is evidently only a variant form). The emperors conduct in the present case is much more in accord with Galerius character, as known to us, than with the character of Diocletian; and moreover, it is easier to suppose that the name of Maximinus was later changed into that of Diocletian, by whose name the whole persecution was known, than that the greater name was changed into the less. I am therefore convinced that the reference in the present case is to Galerius, not to Diocletian.344:2631
See above, Bk. VIII. chap. 2, note 8.344:2632
See above, Bk. IV. chap. 16, note 9, and Bk. VIII. chap. 10, note 5.
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