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bishop of the Church of Rome, died after an episcopate of eight years, and was
succeeded by Eleutherus, the twelfth from the apostles. In the seventeenth year
of the Emperor Antoninus Verus, the persecution of our people was rekindled more
fiercely in certain districts on account of an insurrection of the masses in the
cities; and judging by the number in a single nation, myriads suffered martyrdom
throughout the world. A record of this was written for posterity, and in truth
it is worthy of perpetual remembrance.
full account, containing the most reliable information on the subject, is given
in our Collection of Martyrdoms, which constitutes a narrative instructive as
well as historical. I will repeat here such portions of this account as may be
needful for the present purpose.
writers of history record the victories of war and trophies won from enemies,
the skill of generals, and the manly bravery of soldiers, defiled with blood and
with innumerable slaughters for the sake of children and country and other
But our narrative of the government of God will record in ineffaceable letters the most peaceful wars waged in behalf of the peace of the soul, and will tell of men doing brave deeds for truth rather than country, and for piety rather than dearest friends.
It will hand down to imperishable remembrance the discipline
and the much-tried fortitude of the athletes of religion, the trophies won from
demons, the victories over invisible enemies, and the crowns placed upon all
The number of those who fought for religion in Gaul under Verus
and the nature of their conflicts.
1. The country in
which the arena was prepared for them was Gaul, of which Lyons and Vienne are
the principal and most celebrated cities. The Rhone passes through both of them,
flowing in a broad stream through the entire region.
2. The most
celebrated churches in that country sent an account of the witnesses to the
churches in Asia and Phrygia, relating in the following manner what was done
among them will give their own words.
servants of Christ residing at Vienne and Lyons, in Gaul, to the brethren
through out Asia and Phrygia, who hold the same faith and hope of redemption,
peace and grace and glory from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord."
4. Then, having
related some other matters, they begin their account in this manner: "The
greatness of the tribulation in this region, and the fury of the heathen against
the saints, and the sufferings of the blessed witnesses, we cannot recount
accurately, nor indeed could they possibly be recorded.
5. For with all
his might the adversary fell upon us, giving us a foretaste of his unbridled
activity at his future coming. He endeavored in every manner to practice and
exercise his servants against the servants of God, not only shutting us out from
houses and baths and markets, but forbidding any of us to be seen in any place
But the grace
of God led the conflict against him, and delivered the weak, and set them as
firm pillars, able through patience to endure all the wrath of the evil one. And
they joined battle with him, undergoing all kinds of shame and injury; and
regarding their great sufferings as little, they hastened to Christ, manifesting
truly that `the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared
with the glory which shall be revealed.
First of all,
they endured nobly the injuries heaped upon them by the populace; clamors and
blows and dragging and robberies and stoning and imprisonments, and all things
which an infuriated mob delight in inflicting on enemies and adversaries.
8. Then, being
taken to the forum by the chiliarch and the authorities of the city, they were
examined in the presence of the whole multitude, and having confessed, they were
imprisoned until the arrival of the governor.
afterwards, they were brought before him, and he treated us with the utmost
cruelty, Vettius Epagathus, one of the
brethren, and a man filled with love for God and his neighbor, interfered. His
life was so consistent that, although young, he had attained a reputation equal
to that of the elder Zacharias.
For he walked
in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless,' and was untiring
in every good work for his neighbor, zealous for God and fervent in spirit. Such
being his character, he could not endure the unreasonable judgment against us,
but was filled with indignation, and asked to be permitted to testify in behalf
of his brethren, that there is among us nothing ungodly or impious.
11. But those about
the judgment seat cried out against him, for he was a man of distinction; and
the governor refused to grant his just request, and merely asked if he also were
a Christian. And he, confessing this with a loud voice, was himself taken into
the order of the witnesses, being called the Advocate of the Christians.
12. But having the
Advocate in himself, the Spirit more abundantly than Zacharias. He showed this
by the fullness of his love, being well pleased even to lay down his life in
defense of the brethren. For he was and is a true disciple of Christ, `following
the Lamb whithersoever he goes.'
the others were divided, and the proto-witnesses were manifestly ready, and
finished their confession with all eagerness. But some appeared unprepared and
untrained, weak as yet, and unable to endure so great a conflict.
14. About ten of
these proved abortions, causing us great grief and sorrow beyond measure, and
impairing the zeal of the others who had not yet been seized, but who, though
suffering all kinds of affliction, continued constantly with the witnesses and
did not forsake them.
15. Then all of us
feared greatly on account of uncertainty as to their confession; not because we
dreaded the sufferings to be endured, but because we looked to the end, and were
afraid that some of them might fall away.
But those who
were worthy were seized day by day, filling up their number, so that all the
zealous persons, and those through whom especially our affairs had been
established, were collected together out of the two churches.
17. And some of our
heathen servants also were seized, as the governor had commanded that all of us
should be examined publicly. These, being ensnared by Satan, and fearing for
themselves the tortures which they beheld the saints endure, and being also
urged on by the soldiers, accused us falsely of Thyestean banquets and
Oedipodean intercourse, and of deeds which are not only unlawful for us to speak
of or to think, but which we cannot believe were ever done by men.
18. When these
accusations were reported, all the people raged like wild beasts against us, so
that even if any had before been moderate on account of friendship, they were
now exceedingly furious and gnashed their teeth against us. And that which was
spoken by our Lord was fulfilled: `The time will come when whosoever killed you
will think that he doeth God service.'
19. Then finally
the holy witnesses endured sufferings beyond description, Satan striving
earnestly that some of the slanders might be uttered by them also?
whole wrath of the populace, and governor, and soldiers was aroused exceedingly
against Sanctus, the deacon from Vienne,
and Maturus, a late convert, yet a noble
combatant, and against Attalus, a native
of Pergamos where he had always been a pillar and foundation, and Blandina,
through whom Christ showed that things which appear mean and obscure and
despicable to men are with God of great glory, through love toward him
manifested in power, and not boasting in appearance.
21. For while we
all trembled, and her earthly mistress, who was herself also one of the
witnesses, feared that on account of the weakness of her body, she would be
unable to make bold confession, Blandina was filled with such power as to be
delivered and raised above those who were torturing her by turns from morning
till evening in every manner, so that they acknowledged that they were
conquered, and could do nothing more to her.
22. And they were
astonished at her endurance, as her entire body was mangled and broken; and they
testified that one of these forms of torture was sufficient to destroy life, not
to speak of so many and so great sufferings.
23. But the blessed
woman, like a noble athlete, renewed her strength in her confession; and her
comfort and recreation and relief from the pain of her sufferings was in
exclaiming, `I am a Christian, and there is nothing vile done by us.'
24. "But Sanctus
also endured marvelously and superhumanly all the outrages which he suffered.
While the wicked men hoped, by the continuance and severity of his tortures to
wring something from him which he ought not to say, he girded himself against
them with such firmness that he would not even tell his name, or the nation or
city to which he belonged, or whether he was bond or free, but answered in the
Roman tongue to all their questions, `I am a Christian.' He confessed this
instead of name and city and race and everything besides, and the people heard
from him no other word.
25. There arose
therefore on the part of the governor and his tormentors a great desire to
conquer him; but having nothing more that they could do to him, they finally
fastened red-hot brazen plates to the tenderest parts of his body.
26. And these
indeed were burned, but he continued unbending and unyielding, firm in his
confession, and refreshed and strengthened by the heavenly fountain of the water
of life, flowing from the bowels of Christ.
27. And his body
was a witness of his sufferings, being one complete wound and bruise, drawn out
of shape, and altogether unlike a human form. Christ, suffering in him,
manifested his glory, delivering him from his adversary, and making him an
ensample for the others, showing that nothing is fearful where the love of the
Father is, and nothing painful where there is the glory of Christ.
28. For when the
wicked men tortured him a second time after some days, supposing that with his
body swollen and inflamed to such a degree that he could not bear the touch of a
hand, if they should again apply the same instruments, they would overcome him,
or at least by his death under his sufferings others would be made afraid.
But not only
did not this occur, but to all human expectation, his body arose and stood erect
in the midst of the subsequent torments, and resumed its original appearance and
the use of its limbs, so that, through the grace of Christ, these second
sufferings became to him, not torture, but healing.
30. "But the
devil, thinking that he had already consumed Biblias,
who was one of those who had denied Christ, desiring to increase her
condemnation through the utterance of blasphemy, brought her again to the
torture to compel her, as already feeble and weak, to report impious things
recovered herself under the suffering, and as if awaking from a deep sleep, and
reminded by the present anguish of the eternal punishment in hell, she
contradicted the blasphemers, stating. “How could those children eat that do
not think it lawful to taste the blood even of irrational animals?' And
henceforth she confessed herself a Christian, and was given a place in the order
of the witnesses.
the tyrannical tortures were made by Christ of none effect through the patience
of the blessed, the devil invented other contrivances, -confinement in the dark
and most loathsome parts of the prison, stretching of the feet to the fifth hole
in the stocks, and the other outrages which his servants are accustomed to
inflict upon the prisoners when furious and filled with the devil. A great many
were suffocated in prison, being chosen by the Lord for this manner of death,
that He might manifest in them his glory.
though they had been tortured so cruelly that it seemed impossible that they
could live, even with the most careful nursing, yet destitute of human
attention, remained in the prison, being strengthened by the Lord, and
invigorated both in body and soul; and they exhorted and encouraged the rest.
But such as were young, and arrested recently, so that their bodies had not
become accustomed to torture, were unable to endure the severity of their
confinement, and died in prison.
blessed Pothinus, who had been entrusted
with the bishopric of Lyons, was dragged to the judgment seat. He was more than
ninety years of age, and very infirm, scarcely indeed able to breathe because of
physical weakness; but he was strengthened by spiritual zeal through his earnest
desire for martyrdom. Though his body was worn out by old age and disease, his
life was preserved that Christ might triumph in it.
35. When he was
brought by the soldiers to the tribunal, accompanied by the civil magistrates
and a multitude that shouted against him in every manner as if he were Christ
himself, he bore noble witness.
36. Being asked by
the governor, who was the God of the Christians, he replied, `If
thou art worthy, thou shalt know.' Then he was dragged away harshly,
and received blows of every kind. Those near him struck him with their hands and
feet, regardless of his age; and those at a distance hurled at him whatever they
could seize; all of them thinking that they would be guilty of great wickedness
and impiety if any possible abuse were omitted. For thus they thought to avenge
their own deities. Scarcely able to breathe, he was cast into prison and died
after two days.
37. "Then a
certain great dispensation of God occurred, and the compassion of Jesus appeared
beyond measure, in a manner rarely seen among the brotherhood, but not beyond
the power of Christ. For those who had recanted at their first arrest were
imprisoned with the others, and endured terrible sufferings, so that their
denial was of no profit to them even for the present.
But those who
confessed what they were imprisoned as Christians, no other accusation being
brought against them. But the first were treated afterwards as murderers and
defiled, and were punished twice as severely as the others.
39. For the joy of
martyrdom, and the hope of the promises, and love for Christ, and the Spirit of
the Father supported the latter; but their consciences so greatly distressed the
former that they were easily distinguishable from all the rest by their very
countenances when they were led forth.
40. For the first
went out rejoicing, glory and grace being blended in their faces, so that even
their bonds seemed like beautiful ornaments, as those of a bride adorned with
variegated golden fringes; and they were perfumed with the sweet savor of
Christ, so that some supposed they had been anointed with earthly ointment.
41. But the others
were downcast and humble and dejected and filled with every kind of disgrace,
and they were reproached by the heathen as ignoble and weak, bearing the
accusation of murderers, and having lost the one honorable and glorious and
life-giving Name. The rest, beholding this, were strengthened, and when
apprehended, they confessed without hesitation, paying no attention to the
persuasions of the devil."
42. After certain
other words they continue: "After these things, finally, their martyrdoms
(were divided into every form. For plaiting a crown of various colors and of all
kinds of flowers, they presented it to the Father. It was proper therefore that
the noble athletes, having endured a manifold strife, and conquered grandly,
should receive the crown, great and incorruptible.
therefore, and Sanctus and Blandina
and Attalus were led to the amphitheater
to be exposed to the wild beasts, and to give to the heathen public a spectacle
of cruelty, a day for fighting with wild beasts being specially appointed on
account of our people.
44. Both Maturus
and Sanctus passed again through every
torment in the amphitheater, as if they had suffered nothing before, or rather,
as if, having already conquered their antagonist in many contests, they were now
striving for the crown itself. They endured again the customary running of the
gauntlet and the violence of the wild beasts, and everything, which the furious
people called for or desired, and at last, the iron chair in which their bodies
being roasted, tormented them with the fumes.
45. And not with
this did the persecutors cease, but were yet more mad against them, determined
to overcome their patience. But even thus they did not hear a word from Sanctus
except the confession, which he had uttered from the beginning.
46. These, then,
after their life had continued for a long time through the great conflict, were
at last sacrificed, having been made throughout that day a spectacle to the
world, in place of the usual variety of combats.
was suspended on a stake, and exposed to be devoured by the wild beasts who
should attack her. And because she appeared as if hanging on a cross, and
because of her earnest prayers, she inspired the combatants with great zeal. For
they looked on her in her conflict, and beheld with their outward eyes, in the
form of their sister, him who was crucified for them, that he might persuade
those who believe on him, that every one who suffers for the glory of Christ has
fellowship always with the living God.
48. As none of the
wild beasts at that time touched her, she was taken down from the stake, and
cast again into prison. She was preserved thus for another contest, that, being
victorious in more conflicts, she might make the punishment of the crooked
serpent irrevocable; and, though small and weak and despised, yet clothed with
Christ the mighty and conquering Athlete, she might arouse the zeal of the
brethren, and, having overcome the adversary many times might receive, through
her conflict, the crown incorruptible.
was called for loudly by the people, because he was a person of distinction. He
entered the contest readily on account of a good conscience and his genuine
practice in Christian discipline, and, as he had always been a witness for the
truth among us.
50. He was led
around the amphitheater, a tablet being carried before him on which was written
in the Roman language `This is Attalus the
Christian,' and the people were filled with indignation against him.
But when the governor learned that he was Roman, he commanded him to be taken
back with the rest of those who were in prison concerning whom he had written to
Caesar, and whose answer he was awaiting.
51. "But the
intervening time was not wasted nor fruitless to them; for by their patience the
measureless compassion of Christ was manifested. For through their continued
life the dead were made alive, and the witnesses showed favor to those who had
failed to witness. And the virgin mother had much joy in receiving alive those
whom she had brought forth as dead.
their influence many who had denied were restored, and re-begotten, and
rekindled with life, and learned to confess. And being made alive and
strengthened, they went to the judgment seat to be again interrogated by the
governor; God, who desires not the death of the sinner, but mercifully invites
to repentance, treating them with kindness.
commanded that they should be put to death, but that any who might deny should
be set free. Therefore, at the beginning of the public festival which took place
there, and which was attended by crowds of men from all nations, the governor
brought the blessed ones to the judgment seat, to make of them a show and
spectacle for the multitude. Wherefore also he examined them again, and beheaded
those who appeared to possess Roman citizenship, but he sent the others to the
Christ was glorified greatly in those who had formerly denied him, for, contrary
to the expectation of the heathen, they confessed. For they were examined by
themselves, as about to be set free; but confessing, they were added to the
order of the witnesses. But some continued without, who had never possessed a
trace of faith, nor any apprehension of the wedding garment, nor an
understanding of the fear of God; but, as sons of perdition, they blasphemed the
Way through their apostasy.
55. But all the
others were added to the Church. While these were being examined, a certain Alexander,
a Phrygian by birth, and physician by profession, who had resided in Gaul for
many years, and was well known to all on account of his love to God and boldness
of speech (for he was not without a share of apostolic grace), standing before
the judgment seat, and by signs encouraging them to confess, appeared to those
standing by as if in travail.
56. But the people
being enraged because those who formerly denied now confessed, cried out against
Alexander as if he were the cause of
this. Then the governor summoned him and inquired who he was. And when he
answered that he was a Christian, being very angry he condemned him to the wild
beasts. And on the next day he entered along with Attalus.
For to please the people, the governor had ordered Attalus
again to the wild beasts.
57. And they were
tortured in the amphitheater with all the instruments contrived for that
purpose, and having endured a very great conflict, were at last sacrificed. Alexander
neither groaned nor murmured in any manner, but communed in his heart with God.
58. But when Attalus
was placed in the iron seat, and the fumes arose from his burning body, he said
to the people in the Roman language: `Lo! This which ye do is devouring men; but
we do not devour men; nor do any other wicked thing.' And being asked, what name
God has, he replied, `God has not a name as man has.'
59. After all
these, on the last day of the contests, Blandina
was again brought in, with Ponticus, a
boy about fifteen years old. They had been brought every day to witness the
sufferings of the others, and had been pressed to swear by the idols. But
because they remained steadfast and despised them, the multitude became furious,
so that they had no compassion for the youth of the boy nor respect for the sex
of the woman.
60. Therefore they
exposed them to all the terrible sufferings and took them through the entire
round of torture, repeatedly urging them to swear, but being unable to effect
this; for Ponticus, encouraged by his
sister so that even the heathen could see that she was confirming and
strengthening him, having nobly endured every torture, gave up the ghost.
61. But the blessed
Blandina, last of all, having, as a noble
mother, encouraged her children and sent them before her victorious to the King,
endured herself all their conflicts and hastened after them, glad and rejoicing
in her departure as if called to a marriage supper, rather than cast to wild
62. And, after the
scourging, after the wild beasts, after the roasting seat, she was finally
enclosed in a net, and thrown before a bull. And having been tossed about by the
animal, but feeling none of the things which were happening to her, on account
of her hope and firm hold upon what had been entrusted to her, and her communion
with Christ, she also was sacrificed. And the heathen themselves confessed that
never among them had a woman endured so many and such terrible tortures.
63. But not even
thus was their madness and cruelty toward the saints satisfied. For, incited by
the wild beast, wild and barbarous tribes were not easily appeased, and their
violence found another peculiar opportunity in the dead bodies
64. For, through
their lack of manly reason, the fact that they had been conquered did not put
them to shame, but rather the more enkindled their wrath as that of a wild
beast, and aroused alike the hatred of governor and people to treat 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 they cast
to the dogs those who had died of suffocation in the prison, carefully guarding
them by night and day, lest any one should be buried by us. And they exposed the
remains left by the wild beasts and by fire, mangled and charred, and placed the
heads of the others by their bodies, and guarded them in like manner from burial
by a watch of soldiers for many days.
66. And some raged
and gnashed their teeth against them, desiring to execute more severe vengeance
upon them; but others laughed and mocked at them, magnifying their own idols,
and imputed to them the punishment of the Christians. Even the more reasonable,
and those who had seemed to sympathize somewhat, reproached them often, saying,
`Where is their God, and what has their religion, which they have chosen rather
than life, profited them?'
67. So various was
their conduct toward us; but we were in deep affliction because we could not
bury the bodies. For neither did night avail us for this purpose, nor did money
persuade, nor entreaty move to compassion; but they kept watch in every way, as
if the prevention of the burial would be of some great advantage to them."
68. In addition,
they say after other things: "The bodies of the martyrs, having thus in
every manner been exhibited and exposed for six days, were afterward burned and
reduced to ashes, and swept into the Rhone by the wicked men, so that no trace
of them might appear on the earth.
69. And this they
did, as if able to conquer God, and prevent their new birth; `that,' as they
said, `they may have no hope of a resurrection, through trust in which they
bring to us this foreign and new religion, and despise terrible things, and are
ready even to go to death with joy. Now let us see if they will rise again, and
if their God is able to help them, and to deliver them out of our hands.'"
The martyrs, beloved of God, kindly ministered unto those who
fell in the persecution.
1. Such things
happened to the churches of Christ under the above-mentioned emperor, from which
we may reasonably conjecture the occurrences in the other provinces. It is
proper to add other selections from the same letter, in which the moderation and
compassion of these witnesses is recorded in the following words:
2. "They were
also so zealous in their imitation of Christ, -`who, being in the form of God,
counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God,'-that, though they had
attained such honor, and had borne witness, not once or twice, but many times,
-having been brought back to prison from the wild beasts, covered with burns and
scars and wounds, -yet they did not proclaim themselves witnesses, nor did they
suffer us to address them by this name. If any one of us, in letter or
conversation, spoke of them as witnesses, they rebuked him sharply.
3. For they
conceded cheerfully the appellation of witness to Christ `the faithful and true
Witness,' and `firstborn of the dead,' and prince of the life of God; and they
reminded us of the witnesses who had already departed, and said, `They are
already witnesses whom Christ has deemed worthy to be taken up in their
confession, having sealed their testimony by their departure; but we are lowly
and humble confessors.' And they besought the brethren with tears that earnest
prayers should be offered that they might be made perfect.
4. They showed in
their deeds the power of `testimony,' manifesting great boldness toward all the
brethren, and they made plain their nobility through patience and fearlessness
and courage, but they refused the title of Witnesses as distinguishing them from
their brethren, being filled with the fear of God."
5. A little
further on they say: "They humbled themselves under the mighty hand, by
which they are now greatly exalted. They defended all, but accused none. They
absolved all, but bound none. And they prayed for those who had inflicted
cruelties upon them, even as Stephen, the
perfect witness, `Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.' But if he prayed for
those who stoned him, how much more for the brethren!"
6. And again after
mentioning other matters, they say: "For, through the genuineness of their
love, their greatest contest with him was that the beast, being choked, might
cast out alive those whom he supposed he had swallowed. For they did not boast
over the fallen, but helped them in their need with those things in which they
themselves abounded, having the compassion of a mother, and shedding many tears
on their account before the Father.
7. They asked for
life, and he gave it to them, and they shared it with their neighbors.
Victorious over everything, they departed to God. Having always loved peace, and
having commended peace to us they went in peace to God, leaving no sorrow to
their mother, nor division or strife to the brethren, but joy and peace and
concord and love."
8. This record of
the affection of those blessed ones toward the brethren that had fallen may be
profitably added on account of the inhuman and unmerciful disposition of those
who, after these events, acted unsparingly toward the members of Christ.
The vision, which appeared in a dream to the witness Attalus.
The same letter
of the above-mentioned witnesses contains another account worthy of remembrance.
No one will object to our bringing it to the knowledge of our readers. It runs
as follows: "For a certain Alcibiades,
who was one of them, led a very austere life, partaking of nothing whatever but
bread and water.
endeavored to continue this same sort of life in prison, it was revealed to Attalus
after his first conflict in the amphitheater that Alcibiades
was not doing well in refusing the creatures of God and placing a stumbling
block before others.
11. And Alcibiades
obeyed, and partook of all things without restraint, giving thanks to
God. For they were not deprived of the grace of God, but the Holy Ghost was
their counselor." Let this suffice for these matters.
of Montanus, Alcibiades and Theodotusin Phrygia were now first giving wide
circulation to their assumption in regard to prophecy, -for the many other
miracles that, through the gift of God, were still wrought in the different
churches caused their prophesying to be readily credited by many, -and as
dissension arose concerning them, the brethren in Gaul set forth their own
prudent and most orthodox judgment in the matter.
13. And published
also several epistles from the witnesses that had been put to death among them.
These they sent, while they were still in prison, to the brethren throughout
Asia and Phrygia, and also to Eleutherus,
who was then bishop of Rome, negotiating for the peace of the churches.
Irenaeus commended by the witnesses in a letter.
14. The same
witnesses also recommended Irenaeus, who
was already at that time a presbyter of the parish of Lyons, to the
above-mentioned bishop of Rome, saying many favorable things in regard to him,
as the following extract shows:
15. "We pray, father
Eleutherus, that you may rejoice in God in all things and always. We have
requested our brother and comrade Irenaeus
to carry this letter to you, and we ask you to hold him in esteem, as zealous
for the covenant of Christ. For if we thought that office could confer
righteousness upon any one, we should commend him among the first as a presbyter
of the church, which is his position."
Why should we
transcribe the catalogue of the witnesses given in the letter already mentioned,
of whom some were beheaded, others cast to the wild beasts, and others fell
asleep in prison, or give the number of confessors still surviving at that time?
17. For whoever
desires can readily find the full account by consulting the letter itself,
which, as I have said, is recorded in our collection of martyrdoms. Such were
the events, which happened under Antoninus.
· God sent rain from Heaven for Marcus Aurelius Caesar in answer to
the prayers of our people.
18. It is reported
that Marcus Aurelius Caesar, brother of Antoninus, being about to engage in
battle with the Germans and Sarmatians, was in great trouble on account of his
army suffering from thirst. But the soldiers of the so-called Melitene legion,
through the faith which has given strength from that time to the present, when
they were drawn up before the enemy, kneeled on the ground, as is our custom in
prayer, and engaged in supplications to God.
This was indeed
a strange sight to the enemy, but it is reported that a stranger thing
immediately followed. The lightning drove the enemy to flight and destruction,
but a shower refreshed the army of those who had called on God, all of whom had
been on the point of perishing with thirst.
20. This story is
related by non-Christian writers who have been pleased to treat the times
referred to, and it has also been recorded by our own people. By those
historians who were strangers to the faith, the marvel is mentioned, but it is
not acknowledged as an answer to our prayers. But by our own people, as friends
of the truth, the occurrence is related in a simple and artless manner.
21. Among these is
Apolinarius, who says that from that time the legion through whose prayers the
wonder took place received from the emperor a title appropriate to the event,
being called in the language of the Romans the Thundering Legion.
22. Tertullian is a
trustworthy witness of these things. In the Apology for the faith, which he
addressed to the Roman Senate, and which work we have already mentioned, he
confirms the history with greater and stronger proofs.
23. He writes that
there are still extant letters of the most intelligent Emperor Marcus in which
he testifies that his army, being on the point of perishing with thirst in
Germany, was saved by the prayers of the Christians. And he says also that this
emperor threatened death to those who brought accusation against us.
24. He adds
further: "What kind of laws
are those which impious, unjust, and cruel persons use against us alone? Which
Vespasian, though he had conquered the Jews, did not regard; which Trajan
partially annulled, forbidding Christians to be sought after; which neither
Adrian, though inquisitive in all matters, nor he who was called Pius
sanctioned." But let any one treat these things as he chooses; we must pass
on to what followed.
25. Pothinus having
died with the other martyrs in Gaul at ninety years of age, Irenaeus succeeded
him in the episcopate of the church at Lyons. We have learned that, in his
youth, he was a hearer of Polycarp.
26. In the third
book of his work Against Heresies he has inserted a list of the bishops of Rome,
bringing it down as far as Eleutherus (whose times we are now considering),
under whom he composed his work. He writes as follows: