The Persecution under Decius
Source: Eusebius Eccl. Hist. 6.39–41. Translated by Arthur Cushman McGiffert. From Nicene
and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series,
Vol. 1. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Buffalo, NY: Christian
Literature Publishing Co., 1890.
After a reign of seven years Philip was succeeded by Decius. On account of his hatred of Philip, he commenced a persecution of the churches, in which Fabianus suffered martyrdom at Rome, and Cornelius succeeded him in
In Palestine, Alexander, bishop of the church of Jerusalem, was
brought again on Christ’s account before the governor’s judgment seat in Cæsarea,
and having acquitted himself nobly in a second confession was cast into prison,
crowned with the hoary locks of venerable age.
And after his honorable and illustrious confession at the
tribunal of the governor, he fell asleep in prison, and Mazabanes became his
successor in the bishopric of Jerusalem.
Babylas in Antioch, having like Alexander passed away in prison
after his confession, was succeeded by Fabius in the episcopate of that church.
But how many and how great things came upon Origen in the
persecution, and what was their final result—as the demon of evil
marshaled all his forces, and fought against the man with his utmost craft and
power, assaulting him beyond all others against whom he contended at that
time,—and what and how many things he endured for the word of Christ,
bonds and bodily tortures and torments under the iron collar and in the
dungeon; and how for many days with his feet stretched four spaces in the
stocks he bore patiently the threats of fire and whatever other things were
inflicted by his enemies; and how his sufferings terminated, as his judge
strove eagerly with all his might not to end his life; and what words he left
after these things, full of comfort to those needing aid, a great many of his
epistles show with truth and accuracy.
I shall quote from the epistle of Dionysius to Germanus an
account of what befell the former. Speaking of himself, he writes as follows: I
speak before God, and he knows that I do not lie. I did not flee on my own
impulse nor without divine direction.
But even before this, at the very hour when the Decian
persecution was commanded, Sabinus sent a frumentarius to search for me, and I
remained at home four days awaiting his arrival.
But he went about examining all places—roads, rivers, and
fields—where he thought I might be concealed or on the way. But he was
smitten with blindness, and did not find the house, for he did not suppose,
that being pursued, I would remain at home. And after the fourth day God
commanded me to depart, and made a way for me in a wonderful manner; and I and
my attendants and many of the brethren went away together. And that this
occurred through the providence of God was made manifest by what followed, in
which perhaps we were useful to some.
Farther on he relates in this manner what happened to him after
“For about sunset, having been seized with those that were with
me, I was taken by the soldiers to Taposiris, but in the providence of God,
Timothy was not present and was not captured. But coming later, he found the
house deserted and guarded by soldiers, and ourselves reduced to slavery.”
After a little he says:
And what was the manner of his admirable management? For the
truth shall be told. One of the country people met Timothy fleeing and
disturbed, and inquired the cause of his haste. And he told him the truth.
And when the man heard it (he was on his way to a marriage
feast, for it was customary to spend the entire night in such gatherings), he
entered and announced it to those at the table. And they, as if on a
preconcerted signal, arose with one impulse, and rushed out quickly and came
and burst in upon us with a shout. Immediately the soldiers who were guarding
us fled, and they came to us lying as we were upon the bare couches.
But I, God knows, thought at first that they were robbers who
had come for spoil and plunder. So I remained upon the bed on which I was,
clothed only in a linen garment, and offered them the rest of my clothing which
was lying beside me. But they directed me to rise and come away quickly.
Then I understood why they had come, and I cried out,
beseeching and entreating them to depart and leave us alone. And I requested
them, if they desired to benefit me in any way, to anticipate those who were
carrying me off, and cut off my head themselves. And when I had cried out in
this manner, as my companions and partners in everything know, they raised me
by force. But I threw myself on my back on the ground; and they seized me by
the hands and feet and dragged me away.
And the witnesses of all these occurrences followed: Gaius,
Faustus, Peter, and Paul. But they who had seized me carried me out of the
village hastily, and placing me on an ass without a saddle, bore me away.
Dionysius relates these things respecting himself.
The same writer, in an epistle to Fabius, bishop of Antioch,
relates as follows the sufferings of the martyrs in Alexandria under Decius:
The persecution among us did not begin with the royal decree,
but preceded it an entire year. The prophet and author of evils to this city,
whoever he was, previously moved and aroused against us the masses of the
heathen, rekindling among them the superstition of their country.
And being thus excited by him and finding full opportunity for
any wickedness, they considered this the only pious service of their demons,
that they should slay us.
They seized first an old man named Metras, and commanded him to
utter impious words. But as he would not obey, they beat him with clubs, and
tore his face and eyes with sharp sticks, and dragged him out of the city and
Then they carried to their idol temple a faithful woman, named
Quinta, that they might force her to worship. And as she turned away in
detestation, they bound her feet and dragged her through the entire city over
the stone-paved streets, and dashed her against the millstones, and at the same
time scourged her; then, taking her to the same place, they stoned her to
Then all with one impulse rushed to the homes of the pious, and
they dragged forth whomsoever any one knew as a neighbor, and despoiled and
plundered them. They took for themselves the more valuable property; but the
poorer articles and those made of wood they scattered about and burned in the
streets, so that the city appeared as if taken by an enemy.
But the brethren withdrew and went away, and ‘took joyfully the
spoiling of their goods,’ like those to whom Paul bore witness. I know of no
one unless possibly some one who fell into their hands, who, up to this time,
denied the Lord.
Then they seized also that most admirable virgin, Apollonia, an
old woman, and, smiting her on the jaws, broke out all her teeth. And they made
a fire outside the city and threatened to burn her alive if she would not join
with them in their impious cries. And she, supplicating a little, was released,
when she leaped eagerly into the fire and was consumed.
Then they seized Serapion in his own house, and tortured him
with harsh cruelties, and having broken all his limbs, they threw him headlong
from an upper story. And there was no street, nor public road, nor lane open to
us, by night or day; for always and everywhere, all of them cried out that if
any one would not repeat their impious words, he should immediately be dragged
away and burned.
And matters continued thus for a considerable time. But a
sedition and civil war came upon the wretched people and turned their cruelty
toward us against one another. So we breathed for a little while as they ceased
from their rage against us. But presently the change from that milder reign was
announced to us, and great fear of what was threatened seized us.
For the decree arrived, almost like that most terrible time
foretold by our Lord, which if it were possible would offend even the elect.
All truly were affrighted. And many of the more eminent in
their fear came forward immediately; others who were in the public service were
drawn on by their official duties; others were urged on by their acquaintances.
And as their names were called they approached the impure and impious
sacrifices. Some of them were pale and trembled as if they were not about to
sacrifice, but to be themselves sacrifices and offerings to the idols; so that
they were jeered at by the multitude who stood around, as it was plain to every
one that they were afraid either to die or to sacrifice.
But some advanced to the altars more readily, declaring boldly
that they had never been Christians. Of these the prediction of our Lord is
most true that they shall ‘hardly’ be saved. Of the rest some followed the one,
others the other of these classes, some fled and some were seized.
And of the latter some continued faithful until bonds and
imprisonment, and some who had even been imprisoned for many days yet abjured
the faith before they were brought to trial. Others having for a time endured great
tortures finally retracted.
But the firm and blessed pillars of the Lord being strengthened
by him, and having received vigor and might suitable and appropriate to the
strong faith which they possessed, became admirable witnesses of his kingdom.
The first of these was Julian, a man who suffered so much with
the gout that he was unable to stand or walk. They brought him forward with two
others who carried him. One of these immediately denied. But the other, whose
name was Cronion, and whose surname was Eunus, and the old man Julian himself,
both of them having confessed the Lord, were carried on camels through the
entire city, which, as you know, is a very large one, and in this elevated
position were beaten and finally burned in a fierce fire, surrounded by all the
But a soldier, named Besas, who stood by them as they were led
away rebuked those who insulted them. And they cried out against him, and this
most manly warrior of God was arraigned, and having done nobly in the great
contest for piety, was beheaded.
A certain other one, a Libyan by birth, but in name and
blessedness a true Macar, was strongly urged by the judge to recant; but as he
would not yield he was burned alive. After them Epimachus and Alexander, having
remained in bonds for a long time, and endured countless agonies from scrapers
and scourges, were also consumed in a fierce fire.
And with them there were four women. Ammonarium, a holy virgin,
the judge tortured relentlessly and excessively, because she declared from the
first that she would utter none of those things which he commanded; and having
kept her promise truly, she was dragged away. The others were Mercuria, a very
remarkable old woman, and Dionysia, the mother of many children, who did not
love her own children above the Lord. As the governor was ashamed of torturing
thus ineffectually, and being always defeated by women, they were put to death
by the sword, without the trial of tortures. For the champion, Ammonarium,
endured these in behalf of all.
The Egyptians, Heron and Ater and Isidorus, and with them
Dioscorus, a boy about fifteen years old, were delivered up. At first the judge
attempted to deceive the lad by fair words, as if he could be brought over
easily, and then to force him by tortures, as one who would readily yield. But
Dioscorus was neither persuaded nor constrained.
As the others remained firm, he scourged them cruelly and then
delivered them to the fire. But admiring the manner in which Dioscorus had
distinguished himself publicly, and his wise answers to his persuasions, he
dismissed him, saying that on account of his youth he would give him time for
repentance. And this most godly Dioscorus is among us now, awaiting a longer
conflict and more severe contest.
But a certain Nemesion, who also was an Egyptian, was accused
as an associate of robbers; but when he had cleared himself before the
centurion of this charge most foreign to the truth, he was informed against as
a Christian, and taken in bonds before the governor. And the most unrighteous
magistrate inflicted on him tortures and scourgings double those which he
executed on the robbers, and then burned him between the robbers, thus honoring
the blessed man by the likeness to Christ.
A band of soldiers, Ammon and Zeno and Ptolemy and Ingenes, and
with them an old man, Theophilus, were standing close together before the
tribunal. And as a certain person who was being tried as a Christian, seemed
inclined to deny, they standing by gnashed their teeth, and made signs with
their faces and stretched out their hands, and gestured with their bodies. And
when the attention of all was turned to them, before any one else could seize
them, they rushed up to the tribunal saying that they were Christians, so that
the governor and his council were affrighted. And those who were on trial
appeared most courageous in prospect of their sufferings, while their judges
trembled. And they went exultingly from the tribunal rejoicing in their
testimony; God himself having caused them to triumph gloriously.
Constantine Founds Constantinople, 324 CE
Source: Sozomen Ecclesiastical History, II.3. From: William Stearns Davis, ed., Readings in
Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources, 2 Vols. (Boston: Allyn
and Bacon, 1912-13), Vol. II: Rome and the West, 295-296
The Emperor [Constantine] always intent on the advancement of
religion erected splendid Christian temples to God in every
place—especially in great cities such as Nicomedia in Bithynia, Antioch
on the Orontes, and Byzantium. He greatly improved this latter city, and made
it equal to Rome in power and influence; for when he had settled his empire as
he was minded, and had freed himself from foreign foes, he resolved on founding
a city which should be called by his own name, and should equal in fame even
Rome. With this intent he went to the plain at the foot of Troy on the
Hellespont… and here he laid out the plan of a large and beautiful city, and
built gates on a high spot of ground, whence they are still visible from the
sea to sailors. But when he had proceeded thus far, God appeared to him by
night and bade him seek another site for his city.
Led by the divine hand, he came to Byzantium in Thrace, beyond
Chalcedon in Bithynia, and here he desired to build his city, and render it
worthy of the name of Constantine. In obedience to the command of God, he
therefore enlarged the city formerly called Byzantium, and surrounded it with
high walls; likewise he built splendid dwelling houses; and being aware that
the former population was not enough for so great a city, he peopled it with
men of rank and their families, whom he summoned from Rome and from other
countries. He imposed special taxes to cover the expenses of building and
adorning the city, and of supplying the inhabitants with food. He erected all
the needed edifices for a great capital—a hippodrome, fountains,
porticoes and other beautiful adornments. He named it Constantinople and New
Rome—and established it as the Roman capital for all the inhabitants of
the North, the South, the East, and the shores of the Mediterranean, from the
cities on the Danube and from Epidamnus and the Ionian Gulf to Cyrene and
He created another Senate which he endowed with the same honors
and privileges as that of Rome, and he strove to render the city of his name
equal in every way to Rome in Italy; nor were his wishes in vain, for by the
favor of God, it became the most populous and wealthy of cities. As this city
became the capital of the Empire during the period of religious prosperity, it
was not polluted by altars, Grecian temples, nor pagan sacrifices. Constantine
also honored this new city of Christ by adorning it with many and splendid
houses of prayer, in which the Deity vouchsafed to bless the efforts of the
Emperor by giving sensible manifestations of his presence.