Persecutions of Christians


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    I never saw, heard, nor read that the clergy were beloved in any nation where Christianity was the religion of the Country. Nothing can render them popular but some degree of persecution.
    Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Thoughts on Religion


    Anyone who has benefited from a conventional Western education will be familiar with the dreadful persecutions endured by untold numbers of early Christians. According to the conventional story these early Christians were meek and innocent, and invariably went to the lions with extraordinary bravery inspired by their great faith. For their part, the Roman oppressors were brutal and merciless, and killed the unfortunate Christians for no better reason than that they chose a new and harmless faith. Yet even these heartless pagans could not help but be impressed by the fortitude of their victims. The steadfast courage of Christians as they were torn to shreds by wild animals in the Coliseum was astonishing to all who witnessed it.

    Detail from The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer by Leon Gerome (1824–1904)
    This is a nineteenth century fantasy painting, commissioned William T. Walters of Baltimore in 1863

    Enjoyable as the story is, it is flawed in almost every respect, a fact that has been known to scholars for many centuries, and to the educated classes at least since the publication of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. Religious persecution was virtually unknown in the ancient world. The Romans especially were universally tolerant. Their principal reactions to the religions of others were interest and occasional amusement. Their toleration did not extend to cults that acted merely as a cover for sedition or criminality, but all genuine faiths were respected and protected. As far as we know, no one in the classical world hit upon the idea of exterminating others because of the god they chose to worship1. As Gibbon put it, quoting Seneca the Younger: "The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people as equally true, by the philosopher as equally false, and by the magistrate as equally useful. And thus toleration produced not only mutual indulgence, but even religious concord"2.

    Third-century AD mosaic in the Museum of El Djem (Tunisia).
    This image is often used as an example of how Christians were martyred in the Coliseum. The truth is that we have not a single example of Christians being killed in the Coliseum in this way. This image shows the punishment of Damnatio ad bestias by which the worst criminals were executed.This mode of execution was used under a long line of Christian Emperors. The practice of damnatio ad bestias was abolished in Rome only in 681 AD. It was used after that in the Byzantine Empire. The bishop of Saare-Lääne was sentencing criminals to damnatio ad bestias at the Bishop's Castle in modern Estonia into the Middle Ages.

    How strict the Roman principle of tolerance was is illustrated by the Roman attitude to the Jews, the sole dissenters from the religious harmony of the ancient world. Gibbon noted of Jewish beliefs that "according to the maxims of universal toleration, the Romans protected a superstition which they despised"3. Soldiers were transferred or executed for offending Jewish sensibilities. Legions by-passed Judæa to avoid offence by carrying the imperial portraits on their standards across Jewish soil. The Judæan coinage was unique within the Roman provinces in that it did not bear the Emperor's face, again because of Jewish sensibilities. In place of emperor worship, the Jews were permitted to show their respect for the State by offering sacrifices on behalf of the Emperor. Jews could become full Roman citizens — Paul of Tarsus was one of many. All in all, the Romans were flexible and tolerant.

    There was no obvious reason why Christians should not have been tolerated as the Jews were, and yet they were not. Christians seem to have provoked a great deal of hostility and to have made themselves outstandingly unpopular. Tacitus wrote around AD 110 that they were "notoriously depraved". Nero, he noted, had arrested Christians in Rome for arson and for other antisocial behaviour4. Suetonius (AD 70-160) recorded that Claudius expelled them from Rome for causing continual disturbances5. Because of widespread misgivings about them, Pliny the Younger made enquiries but found only squalid superstition carried to great length6.

    One way or another Christians made enemies everywhere. Some Christian leaders, like Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, noted that Christians deserved the treatment they were getting7. The philosopher Celsus disapproved of their intolerance. In 248 Origen noted that hostility to the Church was increasing rapidly. Soon the citizens of Antioch were asking that Christians be forbidden from living in their city8. The citizens of Nicomedia made similar requests9, and so did other cities.

    In 312 the Emperor Maximin Daia was being petitioned to suppress the disloyal Christians10. Despite popular dislike of the Christians, the authorities were generally still tolerant. In response to Pliny's requests for guidance the Emperor Trajan advised moderation. There should be no general inquisition. Anonymous accusers should be ignored, and accusations made by responsible citizens should be properly investigated.

    Christians were sporadically investigated by the authorities, mainly because they were believed to have been promoting sedition. They seem to have been unnecessarily secretive and did little or nothing to counter beliefs that they opposed the established government, apparently because they did oppose the established government. They reviled the Imperial capital, referring to it as the Whore of Babylon. They looked forward to its destruction (as in Revelation 14:8). They prayed for the end of the world: "Let grace come and let this world pass away"11. Indeed it was widely believed that they tried a number of times to ignite fires that would destroy the world and hasten the coming of their new kingdom.

    Christians were also accused of cannibalism and incest. The charge that they ate human flesh might well have arisen through misinterpretations of the Lord's Supper. Had not their dead leader claimed that "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no lifein you" (John 6:53)? If the charge was mistaken, then the mistake could easily have been explained. Instead, accused Christians refused to explain their practices or to refute stories that they ate children at their ceremonies. Some declined to answer any questions at all — even refusing to give their names or nationalities12. Sometimes they lied, for example claiming to be Old Testament characters like Elijah or Daniel. They also refused to take oaths.

    No doubt the accusations of cannibalism were mistaken, but Christians were certainly guilty of other crimes. Infused with the truth of their own religion they were openly hostile to the religions of others, in a manner frequently amounting to criminal behaviour. They reviled the Roman and other gods, razed temples, set fires, vandalised sacred sites, destroyed images, and incited riots. Since Christians considered vandalism directed at the holy places of other religions to be entirely justifiable, they did not seek to conceal it once they came to power. When Christians were executed for vandalism or arson, their fellow believers openly acclaimed them as martyrs and saints. According to Christian martyrologies Theodore of Amasea (aka St. Theodore Tyro) was a soldier in the Roman Army at Pontus on the Black Sea. He became a Christian, deserted from the army and set fire to the temple of Cybele near Amasea in Pontus. For this he was executed, and is now acclaimed as a martyr and a saint. Christian hagiographies claim that Saint Martin of Tours (a soldier charged with cowardice, who either deserted or was cashiered from the Roman army) was another prolific arsonist, causing his followers to destroy countless non-Christian holy places. He ordered the destruction of temples, altars and sculptures in Gaul. Gibbon tells us of Martin and another fanatical Christian saint in Chapter XXVIII of his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

    In Gaul, the holy Martin, bishop of Tours, marched at the head of his faithful monks to destroy the idols, the temples, and the consecrated trees of his extensive diocese; .... In Syria, the divine and excellent Marcellus, as he is styled by Theodoret, a bishop animated with apostolic fervor, resolved to level with the ground the stately temples within the diocese of Apamea. ... Elated with victory, Marcellus took the field in person against the powers of darkness; a numerous troop of soldiers and gladiators marched under the episcopal banner, and he successively attacked the villages and country temples of the diocese of Apamea. ... A small number of temples was protected by the fears, the venality, the taste, or the prudence, of the civil and ecclesiastical governors. The temple of the Celestial Venus at Carthage, whose sacred precincts formed a circumference of two miles, was judiciously converted into a Christian church; and a similar consecration has preserved inviolate the majestic dome of the Pantheon at Rome. But in almost every province of the Roman world, an army of fanatics, without authority, and without discipline, invaded the peaceful inhabitants; and the ruin of the fairest structures of antiquity still displays the ravages of those [Christian] Barbarians ...

    In later accounts Saint Christopher became a good looking giant, but this is the earlier version, though missing his tusksSurviving accounts of martyrdom, even though they are fictitious, tell us how Christians were expected to behave, and how pagan rulers might react. These stories are revealing. Here for example is the story of the martyrdom of the fictitious Saint Christopher from The Passion of St. Christopher (BHL 1764), before he became a giant, in later accounts. He arrived in Antioch, from a distant land, with a dog's head and boars' tusks [sic]. Having been miraculously provided with the ability to speak a language he did not know, the first thing he does is to publicly describe the Roman gods as cursed demons [2]. He then claims in front of soldiers that he is suffering under a "tyrant" [5] - even though he has only just arrived - and says that the soldiers' father [presumably meaning the King] is Satan. The solders offer to let him rest [6], but he wants no delay and says to them, "Let us go to the king, therefore, that we might receive a better crown [of martyrdom]." [8]. When Christopher sees the king he addresses him "O most unfortunate and corrupt king". [9]Refusing to worship he says "Do what you want, then: for I will not offer sacrifice to the demons who are deaf, just as you yourself are also deaf." [9] The king now tries to convert Christopher with the help of a couple of prostitutes, but Christopher turns the tables and converts one of them, Gallenice, so that she can tortured and martyred.[14]. The other, Aquilina, also converts and seeks her own death. The kings begs her to "take pity on yourself", but she is determined. She topples over and breaks into pieces statues of Jupiter, Apollo and Hercules [16]. As a result she is tortured and executed [18]. Christopher brought again before the king, now induces the soldiers to desert and be martyred. Christopher addresses the king as "Demon of many forms, son of Satan" [22]. The King tries to have Christopher burned alive, but instead, by God's will, 30 houses and many pagans are burned alive [23] causing 10,000 people to convert [24]. After some more miracles the King summons Christopher again, and Christopher now addresses him as "Inventor of every wickedness, disciple of the devil, partner in eternal damnation," The King finally sentences him to death, after which a great earthquake, kills the crowd then present. [27] after which Christopher achieves the martyrdom he had worked so hard for [27].

    This story is entirely typical - a wish for death, abuse of the authorities, pagan pleas for Christians to have mercy on themselves, mass conversions and martyrdoms, the miraculous killing of countless pagans, miracles, large fires, the destruction of temples or statues, and finally the desired martyrdom of the protagonist. Tucked away in these stories are some enticing elements that hint at the nature of true "martyrdoms". We know from independent records that Christians sought their own martyrdom. We know that rulers begged them to have mercy on themselves. We know that Christians destroyed temples and statues. We know that Christians were frequently accused of arson. In fact, apart from the miracles, both sources tell the same story: how some Christians sought and finally achieved their own deaths.

    Christian crimes such as arson seem to have been motivated by apocalyptic literature like the Book of Revelations. The idea was that they could trigger not just the destruction of Rome but the end of the world, and hence the promised day of Judgement which would ensure their place in heaven. (If this sounds improbable then it is worth bearing in mind that there are many Christians today in the USA, including influential politicians, who hold almost identical views. So called “End-Timers” will freely admit that they seek to trigger a Third World War, since this will, they believe, herald the End of the World, and the consequent Day of Judgement.)

    The Romans thought Christians were atheists. They denied the gods and were known to revere a condemned criminal who had been executed for his opposition to the state. They declined to acknowledge the head of state, refusing to refer to Caesar by his honorific Lord. For them Jesus was the only Lord and the only ruling monarch13. People believed that this sort of disrespect angered the gods. The gods sent famines, droughts and plagues to punish the Empire for allowing such blasphemy. By the fourth century the phenomenon was proverbial: "no rain because of the Christians".

    Christianity defeated and wiped out the old faith of the pagans. Then with great fervour and diligence it strove to cast out and utterly destroy every last possible occasion of sin; and in doing so it ruined or demolished all the marvelous statues, besides the other sculptures, the pictures, mosaics and ornaments representing the false pagan gods; and as well as this it destroyed countless memorials and inscriptions left in honor of illustrious persons who had been commemorated by the genius of the ancient world in statues and other public monuments….their tremendous zeal was responsible for inflicting severe damage on the practice of the arts, which then fell into total confusion.
    Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574), Lives of the Artists.

    Saint Aemilianus, known for his destruction of ancient temples and libraries
    Here he is shown using ropes to pull down a statue.
    His followers are breaking up statues with picks and axes.

    Christians were not only cultural vandals, perjurers and blasphemers; they were also treasonable army deserters (like Theodore of Amasea and Martin of Tours). As Robin Fox Lane, a prominent Oxford historian, notes of the supposed persecutions prompted by an edict of the Emperor Gallienus:

    We know of at least one martyrdom which followed its despatch, but it occurred in a province which was not at first under Gallienus's control: otherwise, we have no knowledge of martyrdoms, as opposed to Christian fictions of them, between 260 and the 290s. When we find Christians being martyred, they are soldiers in the army. The charge against them is not their religion and their refusal to sacrifice, but their refusal to serve in the ranks, an offence which was punishable on other grounds14.

    Christian leaders actively encouraged soldiers to desert from the army. So all in all there was plenty of evidence that Christians were seditious. They did little or nothing to counter the charge, again apparently because it was true. Paul himself had been accused not only of stirring up trouble but also of offending against Caesar (Acts 25:8). The fact that Christians posed a threat to public order is demonstrated by an imperial decree that they might practise their faith unmolested as long as they were not "scheming against the Roman Government" and according to another decree "on condition that they do nothing contrary to public order"15. Christians were widely hated and became the victims of mob violence throughout the Empire. It cannot have been surprising in view of their open displays of disloyalty and hostility to the state, their trouble making, their arson and vandalism, and their refusal to refute a range of charges from sedition to baby-eating. There must also be a suspicion that Christians were adept at murdering their enemies. Time and time again surviving records boast of the untimely deaths of these enemies. They died in agony with their insides mysteriously eaten away, they unexpectedly committed suicide in private, or they somehow toppled over cliffs. Invariably these deaths are explicitly or implicitly attributed to God by Christian chroniclers. Those who do not believe in murder-miracles might suspect that God enjoyed the benefit of his followers' assistance.

    Despite all this, the persecution of Christians was slight, intermittent, and limited geographically. Moreover it was not religiously motivated. The authorities were invariably cautious about proceeding against Christians. In the few cities where they were thought to pose a threat only a few of those suspected were charged. Not all of those were indicted. Of those indicted, not all were convicted, while those who were convicted were generally imprisoned or exiled, many subsequently being reprieved under the terms of amnesties. It is certainly true that criminals were torn apart by animals in the Coliseum in front of an audience, but we have not a single account of an innocent Christian, or indeed any Christian at all being fed to the lions there. The familiar Christian stories of pagan audiences baying for innocent Christian blood is pure fantasy. Most of this fantasy dates from the Middle ages, and is marked by anachronism, self contradiction and stereotyped sadomasochistic themes.

    Despite their crimes, ancient rights of sanctuary were extended to the most guilty Christians. Under Roman law all burial places were regarded as sacrosanct, so all Christian criminals enjoyed inviolable sanctuary in the catacombs.

    If we look at those who are generally held responsible for the persecution of Christians we encounter another surprise. Instead of bloodthirsty monsters we find men of culture and moderation. The emperor most usually cited as a bloodthirsty monster, Diocletian, turns out to have been a humane, prudent, and magnanimous statesman, whose reign, as Gibbon pointed out, was more illustrious than that of any of his predecessors16. For most of his reign the Christians appear to have suffered no persecution at all, and one cannot help but wonder what happened towards the end of his reign to excite his displeasure. In his most savage persecution Diocletian was responsible for perhaps 2,000 Christian deaths throughout the known world, though this may be an overestimate. To put things in scale it might be noted that in centuries to come Christian churchmen would be responsible for the deaths of ten times as many Christians in a single city in a single day17.

    title="Saint Ignatius: martyr of suicide?"A major reason for the execution of Christians in Roman times was that they actively sought their own deaths. They believed that martyrdom guaranteed immediate and automatic admission to Paradise. As Eusebius said, they despised this transient life18. Many of them therefore sought their complimentary ticket to the hereafter — "glorious fulfilment" Eusebius called it19. Christians spoke of winning the crown of martyrdom, as though death was the ultimate prize. Ignatius of Antioch., a famous early martyr, who won his crown early in the second century, would probably have been released if he had wanted to be. He begged the church at Rome not to intervene with the authorities on his behalf. In a letter to them he said "it is going to be very hard to get to God unless you spare me your intervention" (Ignatius's Letter to the Romans 1 ). He was yearning for death with all the passion of a lover (Romans 7 ) and he wanted no more of what men call life (Romans 8 ). He mentioned his yearning for death in another letter, and said that he was praying for combat with the lions (Letters to the Trallians 4 and 10). His death wish shines through all his surviving letters. So does his delight at being bound in chains during his journey to execution. He clearly sees himself as a sacrifice (Romans 4), and in another letter considers himself invested with a title worthy of a god (Letter to the Magnesians 1). We do not know what he did to warrant his arrest, but we do know that he wanted to die. Yet the modern Church regards him not as a suicide, but as a saint.

    Other Christians also committed public suicide, vying to kill themselves before anyone else did. At Alexandria an old woman called Apollonia voluntarily jumped into a fire and was burned to ashes20. At Nicomedia "men and women alike leapt on to the pyre with an inspired and mystical fervour"21. Fellow martyrs must have sought their deaths even more fervently, for in the early centuries the Church criticised many of its own number as suicides. So did non-Christians. For Romans, suicide was generally an honourable death if carried out with discretion. No one thought less of Seneca, for example, because he took his own life. The Emperor Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180) had no objection to suicide in principle, but he found the Christian examples vulgar and theatrical. The Roman authorities begged accused Christians to spare themselves. Judges tried to find reasons not to execute them. They were allowed to relent and save their lives right up to the last moment. Some did. Possibly most did. But a few fervent ones would be satisfied with nothing short of their crown of martyrdom.

    The death of Polycarp, a Bishop of Smyrna (modern Izmir) in AD 155 or 156, is well known to modern Christians but the circumstances are not quite so well known. His crimes, including the destruction of sacred images, were sufficient to incite the "whole mass of Smyrnaeans, gentiles and Jews alike" to boil with anger. According to Eusebius he was burned alive in order to fulfil a prophecy revealed to him in a dream. The Smyrnaeans were sufficiently generous to play their part in its fulfilment22. A little earlier a Christian called Germanicus had faced death there. The governor urged him to have pity on his own youth, but Germanicus desired a speedy release from this world. He was faced with savage beasts, and when they failed to attack him he dragged one of the animals towards him, and goaded it, no doubt with the required result23.

    Origen, destined to become a Church Father, craved martyrdom as a boy. His fervour cannot have been as vigorous as that of others, for it was frustrated by his mother's expedient of hiding his clothes. Still, the young Origen played his part and sent letters to his father encouraging him to face a martyr's death instead24. His father did die, leaving a destitute widow and seven children, whereupon the eldest child, the divinely inspired 17-year-old Origen, now the head of the household, left home and got himself adopted by a rich female heretic. After this, as a teacher, he inspired a clutch of his pupils to embrace martyrdom as well Somehow Origen never quite got round to winning his own crown of martyrdom.

    Those who witnessed Christian martyrdom-suicides were bewildered and horrified by the Christian desire for death. Perpetua and her pregnant slave Felicity were two Christian women driven by this desire. Romans were too civilised to kill pregnant women, so Felicity was obliged to live. She was delighted when she gave birth prematurely, since the birth meant that she could now win her crown of martyrdom25. The two women succeeded in securing their deaths in Carthage in AD 203, Felicity's breasts still wet with milk for her new-born infant. Christians were impressed. Others were appalled. A few years earlier a group of Christians had approached a proconsul in Asia, asking him to have them killed. "Unhappy men!" he said "if you are thus weary of your lives, is it so difficult to find ropes and precipices?"26 Neither are these isolated incidents. There were numerous cases of Christians, alone or in groups, explicitly asking to be martyred, sometimes turning up with their hands already bound27. It is hardly surprising that pagans dumped the bodies of Christian "martyrs" in the same place as other suicides27a - they presumably failed to notice any distinction.

    Even including suicides the number of those executed was not great. Reliable numbers are hard to come by, but where they are available they are low. Eusebius described a mere 146 of them in the whole Empire, and some of those sound rather fanciful to modern ears. Polycarp, the Episcopal vandal already mentioned — "destroyer of our gods" — became the twelfth martyr in Smyrna in the middle of the second century28. This number included martyrs from nearby Philadelphia (modern-day Alaşehir), and may well have included genuine criminals as well as suicides. The Church Father Origen stated openly that few Christians had died for their faith. They were he said "easily counted"29. The fact is that we do not know how many Christians died during the persecutions of the first few centuries. In all probability they numbered only a few thousand. If we discount those who were genuinely guilty of sedition, those who chose not to mount a defence, and those who actively sought their own deaths, we may not have any real martyrs left at all. For centuries, Christian suicides continued to be hailed as martyrs. Thomas Becket is one of many examples30. In any case it is certain that in total the number of Christians who died at the hands of pagan persecutors can have been at most only a tiny fraction of the number who later died at the hands of their fellow Christians. From the reign of the first Christian emperor onwards, Christians were persecuted far more savagely by other Christians than they were by anyone else.

    The Myth of Persecution, by Candida Moss, professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana in the USA was published by Harper Collins in 2013 (ISBN 978-0-06-210452-6 )
    Professor Moss demonstrates that the "Age of Martyrdom", when Christians suffered persecution from the Roman authorities and lived in fear of being thrown to the lions, is fictional. There was never sustained, targeted persecution of Christians by Imperial Roman authorities. Most stories of individual martyrs are pure invention, and even the oldest and most historically accurate stories of martyrs and their sufferings have been altered and re-written by later editors, so that it is impossible to know for sure what any of the martyrs actually thought, did or said, or what happened to them.

    We still hear occasional stories of how Christians are viciously persecuted for their beliefs. Such stories were told of the treatment of Christians in the USSR before the thawing of relations between East and West in the late 1980s. Strangely, they lost their appeal when Soviet communism crumbled and it became possible to investigate the allegations. A good example was provided by Vasily Shipilov, a Christian Priest who had been imprisoned in the Soviet Union for his religious convictions. The Reverend Dick Rogers had led an international campaign for the release of this persecuted Christian hero. In 1988 Shipilov was released. When he visited Britain he turned out to have been imprisoned not for his religious beliefs but for vagrancy. He was not a priest and was uncertain whether he had ever been baptised31. We also discovered that the Orthodox hierarchy, far from being persecuted by the communists, had been working with them and had been paid money for their extensive cooperation. If religious propaganda can distort contemporary truth so wildly, one must wonder how much it might have done over two millennia.

    We now look at the other side of the coin and review a few of the principal groups that have been persecuted by Christians. Here the evidence of heavy and sustained persecution is stronger:



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    1. Socrates, who might appear to be an exception, had been given the option of exile.

    2. Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Penguin, p 50.

    3. Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Penguin, p 262.

    4. Tacitus, Annals of Imperial Rome 15:44 (Penguin translation by Michael Grant, 1971, pp 365-6).

    5. This is generally assumed to have been what is meant by the following: "Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [Claudius] expelled them from the city". Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, Penguin translation by Robert Graves, p 202

    6. Pliny the Younger writing to Trajan c. AD 112. Pliny: Letter 10, 96, para. 8. See Kidd, Documents Illustrative of the History of the Early Church p 39.

    7. Cyprian, Epistle 11.1.

    8. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 9:2.

    9. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 9:9 {p 372 cf. 362}.

    10. Chadwick, The Early Church, p 122, citing an inscription from Arycanda in Lycia translated in J. Stevenson, A New Eusebius (1957), p 297.

    11. Didache, x, 6.

    12. Eusebius cites with approval one Sanctus, who refused to give any information at all to the authorities. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 5:1.

    13. The Martyrdom of Polycarp 8 and 21, see Andrew Louth (ed.), Maxwell Staniforth (trans.) Early Christian Writings, pp 127 and 132.

    14. Fox, Pagans and Christians, p 553.

    15. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 4:13 and 8:17.

    16. Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Penguin, p 181.

    17. To take a single example, a papal legate claimed that his forces had killed 20,000 citizens at Béziers on 22 nd July 1209.

    18. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 8:8, referring to Egyptian martyrs.

    19. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 8:13, again referring to Egyptian martyrs.

    20. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 6:41.

    21. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 8:6.

    22. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 4:15, cf. The Martyrdom of Polycarp 12 in Andrew Louth (ed.), Maxwell Staniforth (trans.) Early Christian Writings, p 129.

    23. The Martyrdom of Polycarp 3 and 4, see Andrew Louth (ed.), Maxwell Staniforth (trans.) Early Christian Writings, p 126.

    24. Eusebius, The History of the Church, 6:2 {p 240}.

    25. Quéré-Jaulmes, La Femme, "La Passion de Saintes Felicité et Perpétua" pp 194-210, cited by Warner, Alone of All Her Sex, p 70.

    26. Tertullian, Ad. Scap. 5. Cited by Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Penguin p 327.

    27. For an example of Christians asking to be martyred see Fox, Pagans and Christians, PP 442-3.

    27a. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, of 1912 under St. Symphorosa "The Greek word biodanatos, or rather biaiodanatos, was employed for self-murderers and, by the pagans, applied to Christians who suffered martyrdom.

    28. The Martyrdom of Polycarp 19, see Andrew Louth (ed.), Maxwell Staniforth (trans.) Early Christian Writings, p 131.

    29. Origen, Contra Celsum, 3:8.

    30. In December, 1170 Becket remarked to Alexander Llewellyn, his crucifier: “One martyr, Saint Alfege, you have already; another if God wilt, you will have soon.” In his sermon on Christmas Day he informed the congregation, “I am come to die among you.” He ensured his martyrdom by the liberal application of excommunications and at the end by taunting the four knights, inviting them to kill him

    31. ";Freed Soviet Priest is Layman", The Observer, 12 th June 1988.



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