Then Again




Acts of the Scillitan Martyrs



While this account comes from Christian sources, its form is very close to that of Roman court records. The Christians on trial were from Scili in North Africa. The date of the hearing was July 17, 180. 

When Praesens, for the second time, and Claudian, were the consuls, on the seventeenth day of July, at Carthage, there were arraigned in the judgment hall the following: Speratus, Nartzalus, Cittinus, Veturius, Felix, Aquilinus, Laetantius, Januaria, Generosa, Donata, Secunda, and Vestia [seven men and five women].

The proconsul Saturninus said: "You can obtain the forgiveness of our Lord the Emperor if you return to your senses."

Speratus: "We have never done ill; we have not lent ourselves to wrong; we have never spoken ill, but when ill-treated we have given thanks, for we pay heed to our Emperor."

Saturninus: "We too are religious, and our religion is simple. We swear by the Genius of our Lord the Emperor, and pray for his welfare, as you also ought to do."

Speratus: "If you will give me a peaceful hearing, I can tell you the real truth of simplicity."

Saturninus: "I will not listen to you when you begin to speak evil of our sacred rites; rather, swear by the Genius of our Lord the Emperor."

Speratus: "I do not recognize the Empire of this world, but rather I serve that God 'Whom no man has seen, nor with these eyes can be seen. 'I have committed no theft; but if I have bought anything I pay the tax, for I acknowledge my Lord, the King of Kings, and Emperor of all nations."

Saturninus (to all the accused): "Cease to be of this persuasion."

Speratus: "An ill persuasion is to do murder, to speak false witness."

Saturninus (ignoring Speratus, addresses the others): "Be no partakers in his folly!"

Cittinus: "We have none other to fear, save only our Lord God, who is in heaven."

Donata: "Honor Caesar as Caesar; but it is God we fear."

Vestia: "I am a Christian."

Secunda: "What I am, that I wish to be."

Saturninus (to Speratus): "Do you persist in being a Christian?"

Speratus: "I am a Christian." (And all agreed with him.)

Saturninus: "Do you want time to reconsider?"

Speratus: "In a matter so straightforward, there is no need for consideration."

Saturninus: "What are the things in your case?"

Speratus: "Books and letters of Paul, a just man."

Saturninus: "You are granted a reprieve of thirty days to think it over."

Speratus: "I am a Christian." (And all the others agreed with him.) Then Saturninus the proconsul read out his decision from a tablet:

"Whereas Speratus, Nartzalus, Cittinus, Donata, Vestia, Secunda, and the others have confessed that they live according to the Christian rite; and since after opportunity was offered them of returning to the custom of the Romans, they have obstinately persisted; it is determined that they be put to the sword."

Speratus: "We give thanks to God."

Nartzalus: "Today we are martyrs in heaven; thanks be to God."

Saturninus the proconsul ordered the following to be declared by the herald:

"Speratus, Nartzalus, Cittinus, Veturius, Felix, Aquilinus, Laetantius, Januaria, Generosa, Vestia, Donata, and Secunda, I have ordered to be executed." 

They said: "Thanks be to God." Immediately they were all beheaded for the name of Christ.

From The Ancient World: Readings in Social and Cultural History (Englewood CLiffs, NJ; Prentice Hall, 1995) p. 314-315.


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