Translations and Reprints

Date: 1871

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Eusebius Dindorf Leipzig 1871 IV 183–198 University of Pennsylvania IV

The Blood of the Martyrs

[c.178 A.D.]

The servants of Christ, living at Vienne and Lyons in Gaul, to the brethren throughout Asia and Phrygia who have the same faith and hope of redemption that we have, peace, grace and glory from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

[Then after some other preliminary remarks they begin their account in the following words:]

The magnitude of the tribulation here, the great fury of the heathen against the saints, and how much the blessed martyrs endured, we cannot fully recount, nor indeed is it possible to express these in writing. For with all his might the adversary broke loose upon us, showing even now how unrestrained his future coming would be. He tried every means of training and exercising his followers against the servants of God, so that not only were we excluded from houses, baths and markets, but also forbidden, every one of us, to appear in any place whatsoever.

But the grace of God fought against the adversary, rescued the weak, and arrayed firm pillars, able through patience to withstand every attack of the Evil One. They engaged in conflict with him, suffering every kind of shame and injury, and, counting their great trials as small, they hastened to Christ, showing that "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us afterward."

First, indeed, they endured nobly the sufferings heaped upon them by the general populace: clamors, blows, being dragged along, robberies, stonings, imprisonments, and all that an enraged mob loves to inflict on opponents and enemies. Then they were taken to the forum by the chiliarch1 and the ordained authorities of the city and were examined in the presence of the whole multitude. Having confessed, they were imprisoned until the arrival of the governor. When they were afterwards brought before him and he treated us with all manner of cruelty, Vettius Epagathus, one of the brethren, filled with love for God and his neighbor, interfered. His daily life was so consistent that, although young, he had a reputation like the elder Zacharias, for he "walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless" and was untiring in every good office for his neighbor, filled with zeal for God and fervent in spirit. Such a man could not endure the unrighteous judgment against us, but was filled with indignation and demanded that he should be permitted to testify in behalf of the brethren, that there was no atheism nor impiety in us. Those about the tribunal cried out against him, and with reason, for he was a man of mark; and the governor denied his just request, but asked only this one question, if he also was a Christian; and on his confessing this most distinctly, placed him also in the number of the martyrs. He was called the advocate of the Christians, but he had the Advocate in himself, the Spirit more fully than Zacharias. This he manifested by the fulness of his love, counting himself happy to lay down his own life in the defence of the brethren. For he was and is a true disciple of Christ, "following the Lamb whithersoever he goeth."

After that the others were divided and the proto-martyrs were known and held in readiness. They with all eagerness finished the confession of martyrdom. But some appeared unprepared and untrained and still weak, unable to endure the strain of a great contest. Of these about ten became apostates, who caused us great pain and excessive sorrow, and weakened the zeal of the others, who had not yet been seized, and who, although suffering all kinds of evil, were constantly with the martyrs and did not abandon them. Then indeed all were in great fear on account of the uncertainty of the confession, not fearing the sufferings to be endured, but looking to the end and fearing lest some one should apostatize. Yet those who were worthy were seized each day, filling up their number, so that all the zealous and those through whom especially our affairs had been managed were gathered together from the two churches. And some of our servants who were heathens were seized because the governor had ordered that we should all be examined in public.

These, by the wiles of Satan, fearing the tortures which they saw the saints suffering and urged by the soldiers to do this, accused us falsely of Thyestean banquets and Oedipo-dean incests and of deeds which it is not lawful for us to speak or think of, and which we do not believe men ever committed. When these accusations were reported all raged like wild beasts against us, so that even those who had previously restrained themselves on account of kinship, then became exceedingly enraged and gnashed their teeth against us. And the saying of our Lord was fulfilled that "the time will come when whosoever kill-eth you will think that he doeth God’s service." Then finally the holy martyrs endured sufferings beyond all description and Satan strove earnestly that some blasphemies might be uttered by them also.

But the whole rage of the people, governor and soldiers was aroused exceedingly against Sanctus, deacon from Vienne, and against Maturus, a recent convert but a noble combatant, and against Attalus, a native of Perga-mus, who had always been a pillar and a foundation in that place, and against Blandina through whom Christ showed that what appears mean, deformed and contemptible to men is of great glory with God through love for Him shown in power and not boasting in appearance. For while we all, together with her mistress on earth who was herself also one of the combatants among the martyrs, feared lest in the strife she should be unable to make her confession on account of her bodily weakness, Blandina was filled with such power that she was delivered and raised above those who took turns in torturing her in every manner from dawn till evening; and they confessed that they were defeated and had nothing more which they could do to her. They marvelled at her endurance for her whole body was mangled and broken; and they testified that one form of torture was sufficient to destroy life, to say nothing of so many and so great tortures. But the blessed one, like a noble athlete, renewed her strength in the confession; and her comfort, refreshment and relief from suffering was in saying, "I am a Christian" and "Nothing vile is done by us."

Sanctus also himself, marvellously and beyond all men, endured all human outrages, while the wicked hoped by the duration and severity of the tortures to wring from him something which he ought not to utter, he withstood them with such firmness, that he did not even tell his own name nor the nation nor the city whence he came, nor whether he was a bondsman or free, but to all questions be replied in the Roman tongue, "I am a Christian." This he confessed instead of name and city and race and everything else, and the people did not hear him utter another word.

Then the governor and those who were torturing him became exceedingly obstinate against him, so that when they had nothing else that they could do to him, they at last applied red-hot brass plates to the most tender parts of his body. These indeed were burned, but he remained unsubdued and unshaken, firm in his confession, refreshed and strengthened by the celestial spring of the Water of life flowing from the bowels of Christ. But his body was a witness of his sufferings, all one wound and scar, shriveled up and without human appearance externally. Christ, suffering in him, showed great wonders, defeating the adversary and exhibiting art example to the others that there is nothing fearful where the love of the Father exists, nothing painful where the glory of Christ is. For when the lawless men tortured the martyr again after some days and thought that, as his body was swollen and inflamed, if they applied the same tortures, they would overcome him, since he could not bear the touch of a hand; or that, if he died under the tortures, it would strike the others with terror; not only no such thing happened to him, but even contrary to all human expectations, his body rose and stood up straight during the remaining tortures and took on its former appearance and recovered the use of the limbs, so that through the grace of Christ the second torture was not suffering but healing.

But the devil, thinking he had already consumed a certain Biblias, one of those who had recanted, wishing also to condemn her on account of blasphemy, led her to the torture to compel her, as she was already feeble and weak, to utter impious things concerning us. But she recovered herself in her suffering and as if aroused from a deep sleep and reminded by the present anguish of the eternal torture in hell, she contradicted the blasphemers, saying: "How could they eat children for whom it is not lawful even to taste the blood of irrational animals?" And after that she confessed herself a Christian and was placed in the order of the martyrs.

But as the tyrannical tortures were deprived of effect by Christ, through the patience of the blessed, the devil invented other contrivances: confine-merit in the dark and in the most loathsome place in the prison, stretching the feet in stocks extended to the fifth hole, and other torments such as attendants when enraged and filled with the devil are accustomed to inflict, upon prisoners, so that very many were suffocated in prison whom the Lord willed to depart, thus manifesting His glory. For some who had been tortured cruelly, so that it seemed impossible for them to live, even if every means should be applied to heal them, remained in the prison, destitute of care from men, strengthened by the Lord and invigorated in body and soul exhorting and encouraging the others. But the young and those recently arrested, whose bodies were not inured to torture, could not endure the severity of the imprisonment and died in prison.

The blessed Pothinus, who had been entrusted with the office of bishop in Lyons, was dragged to the tribunal. He was over ninety years of age and very weak in body, breathing with difficulty on account of his physical weakness, but invigorated with spiritual zeal because of his intense eagerness for martyrdom. His body was worn out by old age and disease, but life was preserved in him in order that Christ might triumph in him. When he was carried by the soldiers to the tribunal and was accompanied by the magistrates of the city and the whole multitude who uttered all kinds of outcries against him, as if he were Christ Himself, he bore noble witness.

On being asked by the governor who was the god of the Christians, he said, "If you are worthy you shall know." Then he was dragged off harshly and endured many blows. Those near him stuck him with their hands and feet in every manner, regardless of his age; those at a distance threw at him whatever they had in their hands; all thinking that they would sin extremely and be guilty of great impiety if any insult to him was omitted, for they thought thus to avenge their own gods. And scarcely breathing, he was cast into prison and died after two days.

[After some other remarks they again continued:]

Finally after this their martyrdom was divided into all kinds of forms. For plaiting a crown of various colors and of all kinds of flowers they offered it to the Father. It was fitting indeed that the noble athletes who had sustained a manifold conflict and had conquered grandly should obtain the great crown of immortality. Mat-urns, Sanctus, Blandina and Attalus were therefore led to the wild beasts in the amphitheatre and, in order to give to the heathen public a spectacle of cruelty, a day was especially appointed for our people to fight with the wild beasts. Accordingly Maturus and Sanctus again passed through the whole torture in the amphitheatre, not as if they had suffered nothing at all before, but rather as if, having overcome the adversary already in many kinds of contests, they were now striving for the crown itself. They endured again the running the gauntlet customary in that place and the attacks from the wild beasts and everything that the raging multitude, who cried out from one place or another, desired, and at last the iron chair in which their bodies were roasted and tormented with the fumes. Not even with this did the tortures cease, but they raged still more, desiring to overcome their patience, and they did not hear a word from Sanctus except the confession which he had made from the beginning. These, accordingly, after their life had continued for a very long time through the great conflict, died at last, after having furnished a spectacle to the world throughout that day instead of all the varieties of gladiatorial combats.

But Blandina, suspended on a stake, was exposed as food for the wild beasts which should fall upon her. Because she seemed to be suspended in the manner of a cross and because of her earnest prayers she encouraged the contestants greatly. They looking upon her in her conflict, beheld with their eyes, through their sister, Him who had suffered for them in order to persuade those who trust in Him that everyone who suffers for the glory of Christ has eternal fellowship with the living God. And as none of the beasts touched her at that time she was taken down from the stake and led away again to the prison, to be preserved for another contest, in order that, by conquering in more trials, she might make the condemnation of the crooked serpent irrevocable, and that she, small, weak and despicable, yet filled with Christ the great and victorious Athlete might encourage the brethren, and that she, after having overcome the antagonist in many contests, might obtain through the conflict the crown of immortality.

These having endured all the tortures which served as punishments in the amphitheatre and having conquered in a great conflict were finally put to death. Alexander did not groan nor cry out at all, but communed in his heart with God. Attalus, when he was set in the iron chair and was burned so that the fumes rose from his body, said to the multitude, in the Roman tongue: "See this, which ye do is devouring men. But we do not devour men, nor do anything else which is evil." When he was asked what name God has, he replied: "God does not have a name like a man."

After all of these, on the last day of the contests, Blandina was again brought in together with Ponticus, a boy of about fifteen. These had been brought every day to witness the sufferings of the others, and had been urged to swear by the idols. But as they had remained firm and had despised the idols, the multitude was furious against them, so that they had no compassion for the youth of the boy nor the sex of the woman. But they subjected them to all the sufferings and led them through the whole round of torture, repeatedly urging them to swear, but not being able to accomplish this. For Ponticus, supported by his sister, so that even the heathen saw that she was encouraging and strengthening him, gave up his life after having nobly endured every torture. But the blessed Blandina last of all, like a noble mother having encouraged her children and having sent them before her victorious to the King, herself endured all the conflicts in which the children had suffered and hastened after them rejoicing and joyful in her departure, as if summoned to a marriage feast, rather than thrown to the wild beasts. After the scourg-ings, after the wild beasts, after the roasting, at last, enclosed in the net she was thrown before a wild bull. She was well tossed about by the animal, but she did not feel her sufferings on account of her hope, trust and communion with Christ, and at last she too died. And the heathen themselves confessed that no woman among them had ever suffered so many and so great tortures.

But not even thus was their madness and cruelty against the saints satisfied. For urged on by the wild beast, wild and barbarous tribes are not easily appeased, and their rage found another peculiar opportunity in the dead bodies. For the fact that they were conquered did not put them to shame, as they did not have any manly reason, but rather increased their wrath like that of a wild beast, and incited the hatred of the governor and people alike so that they treated us unjustly, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, "He that is lawless, let him be lawless still, and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still." For those who had been suffocated in the prison they threw to the dogs, carefully watching them night and day so that no one should be buried by us. And then they exposed the remnants left by the wild beasts and the fire, mangled and burnt. And the heads of the others together with their unburied bodies, they likewise guarded with soldiers for many days.

Some raged and gnashed their teeth against these, desiring to find some more severe vengeance against them. But others laughed and mocked at them, magnifying at the same time their own idols and imputing to the latter the punishment of the former. The more moderate, and those who had seemed to have some sympathy for them, reproached them frequently, saying, "Where is their God and what has their religion which they have preferred to their own lives, profited them?"

Such were the varied feelings among them, but we grieved greatly because we were not able to bury the bodies in the ground. For neither did night avail us for this purpose, nor bribes succeed, nor prayers move them. But they kept watch in every manner, as if it would profit them greatly if these were not buried.

[The eyewitnesses to the martyrdom concluded:] The bodies of the martyrs after having been exposed and exhibited in every manner for six days, were afterwards burned and reduced to ashes by the lawless men and thrown in the river Rhone which flows close by, so that no remnants of them might still be seen on the earth. And they did tiffs as if they were able to overcome God and prevent their coming to life again, in order, as some said, that they may have no hope of resurrection, trusting in which they bring to us a certain foreign and strange religion, and despise awful punishments and are ready with joy to suffer death. Now let us see whether they will rise again, and if their God is able to aid them and rescue them from our hands.

1The commander in chief of a thousand men.

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Chicago: Eusebius, ed., Translations and Reprints in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris (Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Co., 1951), Original Sources, accessed December 6, 2022, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=7LU5BJ7LI5TPC6B.

MLA: . Translations and Reprints, edited by Eusebius, Vol. IV, in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, edited by Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris, Harrisburg, Pa., Stackpole Co., 1951, Original Sources. 6 Dec. 2022. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=7LU5BJ7LI5TPC6B.

Harvard: (ed.), Translations and Reprints. cited in 1951, History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. , Stackpole Co., Harrisburg, Pa.. Original Sources, retrieved 6 December 2022, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=7LU5BJ7LI5TPC6B.