Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Church History of Eusebius.: Chapter VIII
1. Up to the sixth year the storm had been incessantly raging against us. Before this time there had been a very large number of confessors of religion in the so-called Porphyry quarry in Thebais, which gets its name from the stone found there. Of these, one hundred men, lacking three, together with women and infants, were sent to the governor of Palestine. When they confessed the God of the universe and Christ, Firmilianus, 2663 who had been sent there as governor in the place of Urbanus, directed, in accordance with the imperial command, that they should be maimed by burning the sinews of the ankles of their left feet, and that their right eyes with the eyelids and pupils should first be cut out, and then destroyed by hot irons to the very roots. And he then sent them to the mines in the province to endure hardships with severe toil and suffering.
2. But it was not sufficient that these only who suffered such miseries should be deprived of their eyes, but those natives of Palestine also, who were mentioned just above as condemned to pugilistic combat, since they would neither receive food from the royal storehouse nor undergo the necessary preparatory exercises.
3. Having been brought on this account not only before the overseers, but also before Maximinus himself, and having manifested the noblest persistence in confession by the endurance of hunger and stripes, they received like punishment with those whom we have mentioned, and with them other confessors in the city of Cæsarea.
4. Immediately afterwards others who were gathered to hear the Scriptures read, were seized in Gaza, and some endured the same sufferings in the feet and eyes; but others were afflicted with yet greater torments and with most terrible tortures in the sides.
5. One of these, in body a woman, but in understanding a man, would not endure the threat of fornication, and spoke directly against the tyrant who entrusted the government to such cruel judges. She was first scourged and then raised aloft on the stake, and her sides lacerated.
6. As those appointed for this purpose applied the tortures incessantly and severely at the command of the judge, another, with mind fixed, like the former, on virginity as her aim,—a woman who was altogether mean in form and contemptible in appearance; but, on the other hand, strong in soul, and endowed with an understanding superior to her body,—being unable to bear the merciless and cruel and inhuman deeds, with a boldness beyond that of the combatants famed among the Greeks, cried out to the judge from the midst of the crowd: “And how long will you thus cruelly torture my sister?” But he was greatly enraged, and ordered the woman to be immediately seized.
7. Thereupon she was brought forward and having called herself by the august name of the Saviour, she was first urged by words to sacrifice, and as she refused she was dragged by force to the altar. But her sister continued to maintain her former zeal, and with intrepid and resolute foot kicked the altar, and overturned it with the fire that was on it.
8. Thereupon the judge, enraged like a wild beast, inflicted on her such tortures in her sides as he never had on any one before, striving almost to glut himself with her raw flesh. But when his madness was satiated, he bound them both together, this one and her whom she called sister, and condemned them to death by fire. It is said that the first of these was from the country of Gaza; the other, by name Valentina, was of Cæsarea, and was well known to many.
9. But how can I describe as it deserves the martyrdom which followed, with which the thrice-blessed Paul was honored. He was condemned to death at the same time with them, under one sentence. At the time of his martyrdom, as the executioner was about to cut off his head, he requested a brief respite.
10. This being granted, he first, in a clear and distinct voice, supplicated God in behalf of his fellow-Christians, 2664 praying for their pardon, and that freedom might soon be restored to them. Then he asked for the conversion of the Jews to God through Christ; and proceeding in order he requested the same things for the Samaritans, and besought that those Gentiles, who were in error and were ignorant of God, might come to a knowledge of him, and adopt the true religion. Nor did he leave neglected the mixed multitude who were standing around.
11. After all these, oh! great and unspeakable forbearance! he entreated the God of the universe for the judge who had condemned him to death, and for the highest p. 350 rulers, and also for the one who was about to behead him, in his hearing and that of all present, beseeching that their sin toward him should not be reckoned against them.
12. Having prayed for these things with a loud voice, and having, as one who was dying unjustly, moved almost all to compassion and tears, of his own accord he made himself ready, and submitted his bare neck to the stroke of the sword, and was adorned with divine martyrdom. This took place on the twenty-fifth day of the month Panemus, 2665 which is the eighth before the Kalends of August.
13. Such was the end of these persons. But not long after, one hundred and thirty admirable athletes of the confession of Christ, from the land of Egypt, endured, in Egypt itself, at the command of Maximinus the same afflictions in their eyes and feet with the former persons, and were sent to the above-mentioned mines in Palestine. But some of them were condemned to the mines in Cilicia.
Of Firmilianus, the successor of Urbanus, we know only what is told us here and in chaps. 9 and 11, below. In the latter chapter, §31, his execution is recorded.349:2664
i.e. July 25 (a.d. 308). See the table on p. 403, below.
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