Fox's Book of Martyrs by John Foxe

A history of the lives, sufferings and triumphant deaths of many early Christian martyrs.

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Chapter III



Persecutions of the Christians in Persia

The Gospel having spread itself into Persia, the pagan priests,
who worshipped the sun, were greatly alarmed, and dreaded the loss of
that influence they had hitherto maintained over the people's minds and
properties. Hence they thought it expedient to complain to the emperor
that the Christians were enemies to the state, and held a treasonable
correspondence with the Romans, the great enemies of Persia.

The emperor Sapores, being naturally averse to Christianity,
easily believed what was said against the Christians, and gave orders
to persecute them in all parts of his empire. On account of this
mandate, many eminent persons in the church and state fell martyrs to
the ignorance and ferocity of the pagans.

Constantine the Great being informed of the persecutions in
Persia, wrote a long letter to the Persian monarch, in which he
recounts the vengeance that had fallen on persecutors, and the great
success that had attended those who had refrained from persecuting the

Speaking of his victories over rival emperors of his own time, he
said, "I subdued these solely by faith in Christ; for which God was my
helper, who gave me victory in battle, and made me triumph over my
enemies. He hath likewise so enlarged to me the bounds of the Roman
Empire, that it extends from the Western Ocean almost to the uttermost
parts of the East: for this domain I neither offered sacrifices to the
ancient deities, nor made use of charm or divination; but only offered
up prayers to the Almighty God, and followed the cross of Christ.
Rejoiced should I be if the throne of Persia found glory also, by
embracing the Christians: that so you with me, and they with you, may
enjoy all happiness.

In consequence of this appeal, the persecution ended for the time,
but it was renewed in later years when another king succeeded to the
throne of Persia.

Persecutions Under the Arian Heretics

The author of the Arian heresy was Arius, a native of Lybia, and a
priest of Alexandria, who, in A.D. 318, began to publish his errors.
He was condemned by a council of Lybian and Egyptian bishops, and that
sentence was confirmed by the Council of Nice, A.D. 325. After the
death of Constantine the Great, the Arians found means to ingratiate
themselves into the favor of the emperor Constantinus, his son and
successor in the east; and hence a persecution was raised against the
orthodox bishops and clergy. The celebrated Athanasius, and other
bishops, were banished, and their sees filled with Arians.

In Egypt and Lybia, thirty bishops were martyred, and many other
Christians cruelly tormented; and, A.D. 386, George, the Arian bishop
of Alexandria, under the authority of the emperor, began a persecution
in that city and its environs, and carried it on with the most infernal
severity. He was assisted in his diabolical malice by Catophonius,
governor of Egypt; Sebastian, general of the Egyptian forces;
Faustinus, the treasurer; and Heraclius, a Roman officer.

The persecutions now raged in such a manner that the clergy were
driven from Alexandria, their churches were shut, and the severities
practiced by the Arian heretics were as great as those that had been
practiced by the pagan idolaters. If a man, accused of being a
Christian, made his escape, then his whole family were massacred, and
his effects confiscated.

Persecution Under Julian the Apostate

This emperor was the son of Julius Constantius, and the nephew of
Constantine the Great. He studied the rudiments of grammar under the
inspection of Mardonius, a eunuch, and a heathen of Constantinople.
His father sent him some time after to Nicomedia, to be instructed in
the Christian religion, by the bishop of Eusebius, his kinsman, but his
principles were corrupted by the pernicious doctrines of Ecebolius the
rhetorician, and Maximus the magician.

Constantius, dying the year 361, Julian succeeded him, and had no
sooner attained the imperial dignity than he renounced Christianity and
embraced paganism, which had for some years fallen into great
disrepute. Though he restored the idolatrous worship, he made no
public edicts against Christianity. He recalled all banished pagans,
allowed the free exercise of religion to every sect, but deprived all
Christians of offices at court, in the magistracy, or in the army. He
was chaste, temperate, vigilant, laborious, and pious; yet he
prohibited any Christian from keeping a school or public seminary of
learning, and deprived all the Christian clergy of the privileges
granted them by Constantine the Great.

Biship Basil made himself first famous by his opposition to
Arianism, which brought upon him the vengeance of the Arian bishop of
Constantinople; he equally opposed paganism. The emperor's agents in
vain tampered with Basil by means of promises, threats, and racks, he
was firm in the faith, and remained in prison to undergo some other
sufferings, when the emperor came accidentally to Ancyra. Julian
determined to examine Basil himself, when that holy man being brought
before him, the emperor did every thing in his power to dissuade him
from persevering in the faith. Basil not only continued as firm as
ever, but, with a prophetic spirit foretold the death of the emperor,
and that he should be tormented in the other life. Enraged at what he
heard, Julian commanded that the body of Basil should be torn every day
in seven different parts, until his skin and flesh were entirely
mangled. This inhuman sentence was executed with rigor, and the martyr
expired under its severities, on June 28, A.D. 362.

Donatus, bishop of Arezzo, and Hilarinus, a hermit, suffered about
the same time; also Gordian, a Roman magistrate. Artemius, commander
in chief of the Roman forces in Egypt, being a Christian, was deprived
of his commission, then of his estate, and lastly of his head.

The persecution raged dreadfully about the latter end of the year
363; but, as many of the particulars have not been handed down to us,
it is necessary to remark in general, that in Palestine many were burnt
alive, others were dragged by their feet through the streets naked
until they expired; some were scalded to death, many stoned, and great
numbers had their brains beaten out with clubs. In Alexandria,
innumerable were the martyrs who suffered by the sword, burning,
crucifixion and stoning. In Arethusa, several were ripped open, and
corn being put into their bellies, swine were brought to feed therein,
which, in devouring the grain, likewise devoured the entrails of the
martyrs, and in Thrace, Emilianus was burnt at a stake; and Domitius
murdered in a cave, whither he had fled for refuge.

The emperor, Julian the apostate, died of a wound which he
received in his Persian expedition, A.D. 363, and even while expiring,
uttered the most horrid blasphemies. He was succeeded by Jovian, who
restored peace to the Church.

After the decease of Jovian, Valentinian succeeded to the empire,
and associated to himself Valens, who had the command in the east, and
was an Arian and of an unrelenting and persecuting disposition.

Persecution of the Christians by the Goths and Vandals.

Many Scythian Goths having embraced Christianity about the time of
Constantine the Great, the light of the Gospel spread itself
considerably in Scythia, though the two kings who ruled that country,
and the majority of the people continued pagans. Fritegern, king of
the West Goths, was an ally to the Romans, but Athanarich, king of the
East Goths, was at war with them. The Christians, in the dominions of
the former, lived unmolested, but the latter, having been defeated by
the Romans, wreaked his vengeance on his Christian subjects, commencing
his pagan injunctions in the year 370.

In religion the Goths were Arians, and called themselves
Christians; therefore they destroyed all the statues and temples of the
heathen gods, but did no harm to the orthodox Christian churches.
Alaric had all the qualities of a great general. To the wild bravery
of the Gothic barbarian he added the courage and skill of the Roman
soldier. He led his forces across the Alps into Italy, and although
driven back for the time, returned afterward with an irresistible

The Last Roman "Triumph"

After this fortunate victory over the Goths a "triumph," as it was
called, was celebrated at Rome. For hundreds of years successful
generals had been awarded this great honor on their return from a
victorious campaign. Upon such occasions the city was given up for
days to the marching of troops laden with spoils, and who dragged after
them prisoners of war, among whom were often captive kings and
conquered generals. This was to be the last Roman triumph, for it
celebrated the last Roman victory. Although it had been won by
Stilicho, the general, it was the boy emperor, Honorius, who took the
credit, entering Rome in the car of victory, and driving to the Capitol
amid the shouts of the populace. Afterward, as was customary on such
occasions, there were bloody combats in the Colosseum, where
gladiators, armed with swords and spears, fought as furiously as if
they were on the field of battle.

The first part of the bloody entertainment was finished; the
bodies of the dead were dragged off with hooks, and the reddened sand
covered with a fresh, clean layer. After this had been done the gates
in the wall of the arena were thrown open, and a number of tall, well-
formed men in the prime of youth and strength came forward. Some
carried swords, others three-pronged spears and nets. They marched
once around the walls, and stopping before the emperor, held up their
weapons at arm's length, and with one voice sounded out their greeting,
Ave, Caesar, morituri te salutant! "Hail, Caesar, those about to die
salute thee!"

The combats now began again; the glatiators with nets tried to
entangle those with swords, and when they succeeded mercilessly stabbed
their antagonists to death with the three-pronged spear. When a
glatiator had wounded his adversary, and had him lying helpless at his
feet, he looked up at the eager faces of the spectators, and cried out,
Hoc habet! "He has it!" and awaited the pleasure of the audience to
kill or spare.

If the spectators held out their hands toward him, with thumbs
upward, the defeated man was taken away, to recover if possible from
his wounds. But if the fatal signal of "thumbs down" was given, the
conquered was to be slain; and if he showed any reluctance to present
his neck for the death blow, there was a scornful shout from the
galleries, Recipe ferrum! "Receive the steel!" Privileged persons
among the audience would even descend into the arena, to better witness
the death agonies of some unusually brave victim, before his corpse was
dragged out at the death gate.

The show went on; many had been slain, and the people, madly
excited by the desperate bravery of those who continued to fight,
shouted their applause. But suddenly there was an interruption. A
rudely clad, robed figure appeared for a moment among the audience, and
then boldly leaped down into the arena. He was seen to be a man of
rough but imposing presence, bareheaded and with sun-browned face.
Without hesitating an instant he advanced upon two gladiators engaged
in a life-and-death struggle, and laying his hand upon one of them
sternly reproved him for shedding innocent blood, and then, turning
toward the thousands of angry faces ranged around him, called upon them
in a solemn, deep-toned voice which resounded through the deep
inclosure. These were his words: "Do not requite God's mercy in
turning away the swords of your enemies by murdering each other!"

Angry shouts and cries at once drowned his voice: "This is no
place for preaching!--the old customs of Rome must be observed!--On,
gladiators!" Thrusting aside the stranger, the gladiators would have
again attacked each other, but the man stood between, holding them
apart, and trying in vain to be heard. "Sedition! sedition! down with
him!" was then the cry; and the gladiators, enraged at the interference
of an outsider with their chosen vocation, at once stabbed him to
death. Stones, or whatever missiles came to hand, also rained down
upon him from the furious people, and thus he perished, in the midst of
the arena.

His dress showed him to be one of the hermits who vowed themselves
to a holy life of prayer and self-denial, and who were reverenced by
even the thoughtless and combat-loving Romans. The few who knew him
told how he had come from the wilds of Asia on a pilgrimage, to visit
the churches and keep his Christmas at Rome; they knew he was a holy
man, and that his name was Telemachus--no more. His spirit had been
stirred by the sight of thousands flocking to see men slaughter one
another, and in his simple-hearted zeal he had tried to convince them
of the cruelty and wickedness of their conduct. He had died, but not
in vain. His work was accomplished at the moment he was struck down,
for the shock of such a death before their eyes turned the hearts of
the people: they saw the hideous aspects of the favorite vice to which
they had blindly surrendered themselves; and from the day Telemachus
fell dead in the Colosseum, no other fight of gladiators was ever held

Persecutions from About the Middle of the Fifth, to the Conclusion of
the Seventh Century

Proterius was made a priest by Cyril, bishop of Alexandria, who
was well acquainted with his virtues, before he appointed him to
preach. On the death of Cyril, the see of Alexandria was filled by
Discorus, an inveterate enemy to the memory and family of his
predecessor. Being condemned by the council of Chalcedon for having
embraced the errors of Eutyches, he was deposed, and Proterius chosen
to fill the vacant see, who was approved of by the emperor. This
occasioned a dangerous insurrection, for the city of Alexandria was
divided into two factions; the one to espouse the cause of the old, and
the other of the new prelate. In one of the commotions, the Eutychians
determined to wreak their vengeance on Proterius, who fled to the
church for sanctuary: but on Good Friday, A.D. 457, a large body of
them rushed into the church, and barbarously murdered the prelate;
after which they dragged the body through the streets, insulted it, cut
it to pieces, burnt it, and scattered the ashes in the air.

Hermenigildus, a Gothic prince, was the eldest son of Leovigildus,
a king of the Goths, in Spain. This prince, who was originally an
Arian, became a convert to the orthodox faith, by means of his wife
Ingonda. When the king heard that his son had changed his religious
sentiments, he stripped him of the command at Seville, where he was
governor, and threatened to put him to death unless he renounced the
faith he had newly embraced. The prince, in order to prevent the
execution of his father's menaces, began to put himself into a posture
of defence; and many of the orthodox persuasion in Spain declared for
him. The king, exasperated at this act of rebellion, began to punish
all the orthodox Christians who could be seized by his troops, and thus
a very severe persecution commenced: he likewise marched against his
son at the head of a very powerful army. The prince took refuge in
Seville, from which he fled, and was at length besieged and taken at
Asieta. Loaded with chains, he was sent to Seville, and at the feast
of Easter refusing to receive the Eucharist from an Arian bishop, the
enraged king ordered his guards to cut the prince to pieces, which they
punctually performed, April 13, A.D. 586.

Martin, bishop of Rome, was born at Todi, in Italy. He was
naturally inclined to virtue, and his parents bestowed on him an
admirable education. He opposed the heretics called Monothelites, who
were patronized by the emperor Heraclius. Martin was condemned at
Constantinople, where he was exposed in the most public places to the
ridicule of the people, divested of all episcopal marks of distinction,
and treated with the greatest scorn and severity. After lying some
months in prison, Martin was sent to an island at some distance, and
there cut to pieces, A.D. 655.

John, bishop of Bergamo, in Lombardy, was a learned man, and a
good Christian. He did his utmost endeavors to clear the Church from
the errors of Arianism, and joining in this holy work with John, bishop
of Milan, he was very successful against the heretics, on which account
he was assassinated on July 11, A.D. 683.

Killien was born in Ireland, and received from his parents a pious
and Christian education. He obtained the Roman pontiff's license to
preach to the pagans in Franconia, in Germany. At Wurtzburg he
converted Gozbert, the governor, whose example was followed by the
greater part of the people in two years after. Persuading Gozbert that
his marriage with his brother's widow was sinful, the latter had him
beheaded, A.D. 689.

Persecutions from the Early Part of the Eighth, to Near the Conclusion
of the Tenth Century

Boniface, archbishop of Mentz, and father of the German church,
was an Englishman, and is, in ecclasiastical history, looked upon as
one of the brightest ornaments of this nation. Originally his name was
Winfred, or Winfrith, and he was born at Kirton, in Devonshire, then
part of the West-Saxon kingdom. When he was only about six years of
age, he began to discover a propensity to reflection, and seemed
solicitous to gain information on religious subjects. Wolfrad, the
abbot, finding that he possessed a bright genius, as well as a strong
inclination to study, had him removed to Nutscelle, a seminary of
learning in the diocese of Winchester, where he would have a much
greater opportunity of attaining improvements than at Exeter.

After due study, the abbot seeing him qualified for the
priesthood, obliged him to receive that holy order when he was about
thirty years old. From which time he began to preach and labor for the
salvation of his fellow creatures; he was released to attend a synod of
bishops in the kingdom of West-Saxons. He afterwards, in 719, went to
Rome, where Gregory II who then sat in Peter's chair, received him with
great friendship, and finding him full of all virtues that compose the
character of an apostolic missionary, dismissed him without commission
at large to preach the Gospel to the pagans wherever he found them.
Passing through Lombardy and Bavaria, he came to Thuringia, which
country had before received the light of the Gospel, he next visited
Utrecht, and then proceeded to Saxony, where he converted some
thousands to Christianity.

During the ministry of this meek prelate, Pepin was declared king
of France. It was that prince's ambition to be crowned by the most
holy prelate he could find, and Boniface was pitched on to perform that
ceremony, which he did at Soissons, in 752. The next year, his great
age and many infirmities lay so heavy on him, that, with the consent of
the new king, and the bishops of his diocese, he consecrated Lullus,
his countryman, and faithful disciple, and placed him in the see of
Mentz. When he had thus eased himself of his charge, he recommended
the church of Mentz to the care of the new bishop in very strong terms,
desired he would finish the church at Fuld, and see him buried in it,
for his end was near. Having left these orders, he took boat to the
Rhine, and went to Friesland, where he converted and baptized several
thousands of barbarous natives, demolished the temples, and raised
churches on the ruins of those superstitious structures. A day being
appointed for confirming a great number of new converts, he ordered
them to assemble in a new open plain, near the river Bourde. Thither
he repaired the day before; and, pitching a tent, determined to remain
on the spot all night, in order to be ready early in the morning. Some
pagans, who were his inveterate enemies, having intelligence of this,
poured down upon him and the companions of his mission in the night,
and killed him and fifty-two of his companions and attendants on June
5, A.D. 755. Thus fell the great father of the Germanic Church, the
honor of England, and the glory of the age in which he lived.

Forty-two persons of Armorian in Upper Phyrgia, were martyred in
the year 845, by the Saracens, the circumstances of which transactions
are as follows:

In the reign of Theophilus, the Saracens ravaged many parts of the
eastern empire, gained several considerable advantages over the
Christians, took the city of Armorian, and numbers suffered martyrdom.

Flora and Mary, two ladies of distinction, suffered martyrdom at
the same time.

Perfectus was born at Corduba, in Spain, and brought up in the
Christian faith. Having a quick genius, he made himself master of all
the useful and polite literature of that age; and at the same time was
not more celebrated for his abilities than admired for his piety. At
length he took priest's orders, and performed the duties of his office
with great assiduity and punctuality. Publicly declaring Mahomet an
impostor, he was sentenced to be beheaded, and was accordingly
executed, A.D. 850; after which his body was honorably interred by the

Adalbert, bishop of Prague, a Bohemian by birth, after being
involved in many troubles, began to direct his thoughts to the
conversion of the infidels, to which end he repaired to Dantzic, where
he converted and baptized many, which so enraged the pagan priests,
that they fell upon him, and despatched him with darts, on April 23,
A.D. 997.

Persecutions in the Eleventh Century

Alphage, archbishop of Canterbury, was descended from a
considerable family in Gloucestershire, and received an education
suitable to his illustrious birth. His parents were worthy Christians,
and Alphage seemed to inherit their virtues.

The see of Winchester being vacant by the death of Ethelwold,
Dunstan, archbishop of Canterbury, as primate of all England,
consecrated Alphage to the vacant bishopric, to the general
satisfaction of all concerned in the diocese.

Dustain had an extraordinary veneration for Alphage, and, when at
the point of death, made it his ardent request to God that he might
succeed him in the see of Canterbury; which accordingly happened,
though not until about eighteen years after Dunstan's death in 1006.

After Alphage had governed the see of Canterbury about four years,
with great reputation to himself, and benefit to his people, the Danes
made an incursion into England, and laid siege to Canterbury. When the
design of attacking this city was known, many of the principal people
made a flight from it, and would have persuaded Alphage to follow their
example. But he, like a good pastor, would not listen to such a
proposal. While he was employed in assisting and encouraging the
people, Canterbury was taken by storm; the enemy poured into the town,
and destroyed all that came in their way by fire and sword. He had the
courage to address the enemy, and offer himself to their swords, as
more worthy of their rage than the people: he begged they might be
saved, and that they would discharge their whole fury upon him. They
accordingly seized him, tied his hands, insulted and abused him in a
rude and barbarous manner, and obliged him to remain on the spot until
his church was burnt, and the monks massacred. They then decimated all
the inhabitants, both ecclesiastics and laymen, leaving only every
tenth person alive; so that they put 7236 persons to death, and left
only four monks and 800 laymen alive, after which they confined the
archbishop in a dungeon, where they kept him close prisoner for several

During his confinement they proposed to him to redeem his liberty
with the sum of 3000 pounds, and to persuade the king to purchase their
departure out of the kingdom, with a further sum of 10,000 pounds. As
Alphage's circumstances would not allow him to satisfy the exorbitant
demand, they bound him, and put him to severe torments, to oblige him
to discover the treasure of the church; upon which they assured him of
his life and liberty, but the prelate piously persisted in refusing to
give the pagans any account of it. They remanded him to prison again,
confined him six days longer, and then, taking him prisoner with them
to Greenwich, brought him to trial there. He still remained inflexible
with respect to the church treasure; but exhorted them to forsake their
idolatry, and embrace Christianity. This so greatly incensed the
Danes, that the soldiers dragged him out of the camp and beat him
unmercifully. One of the soldiers, who had been converted by him,
knowing that his pains would be lingering, as his death was determined
on, actuated by a kind of barbarous compassion, cut off his head, and
thus put the finishing stroke to his martyrdom, April 19, A.D. 1012.
This transaction happened on the very spot where the church at
Greenwich, which is dedicated to him, now stands. After his death his
body was thrown into the Thames, but being found the next day, it was
buried in the cathedral of St. Paul's by the bishops of London and
Lincoln; from whence it was, in 1023, removed to Canterbury by
Ethelmoth, the archbishop of that province.

Gerard, a Venetian, devoted himself to the service of God from his
tender years: entered into a religious house for some time, and then
determined to visit the Holy Land. Going into Hungary, he became
acquainted with Stephen, the king of that country, who made him bishop
of Chonad.

Ouvo and Peter, successors of Stephen, being deposed, Andrew, son
of Ladislaus, cousin-german to Stephen, had then a tender of the crown
made him upon condition that he would employ his authority in
extirpating the Christian religion out of Hungary. The ambitious
prince came into the proposal, but Gerard being informed of his impious
bargain, thought it his duty to remonstrate against the enormity of
Andrew's crime, and persuade him to withdraw his promise. In this view
he undertook to go to that prince, attended by three prelates, full of
like zeal for religion. The new king was at Alba Regalis, but, as the
four bishops were going to cross the Danube, they were stopped by a
party of soldiers posted there. They bore an attack of a shower of
stones patiently, when the soldiers beat them unmercifully, and at
length despatched them with lances. Their martyrdoms happened in the
year 1045.

Stanislaus, bishop of Cracow, was descended from an illustrious
Polish family. The piety of his parents was equal to their opulence,
and the latter they rendered subservient to all the purposes of charity
and benevolence. Stanislaus remained for some time undetermined
whether he should embrace a monastic life, or engage among the secular
clergy. He was at length persuaded to the latter by Lambert Zula,
bishop of Cracow, who gave him holy orders, and made him a canon of his
cathedral. Lambert died on November 25, 1071, when all concerned in
the choice of a successor declared for Stanislaus, and he succeeded to
the prelacy.

Bolislaus, the second king of Poland, had, by nature, many good
qualities, but giving away to his passions, he ran into many
enormities, and at length had the appellation of Cruel bestowed upon
him. Stanislaus alone had the courage to tell him of his faults, when,
taking a private opportunity, he freely displayed to him the enormities
of his crimes. The king, greatly exasperated at his repeated freedoms,
at length determined, at any rate, to get the better of a prelate who
was so extremely faithful. Hearing one day that the bishop was by
himself, in the chapel of St. Michael, at a small distance from the
town, he despatched some soldiers to murder him. The soldiers readily
undertook the bloody task; but, when they came into the presence of
Stanislaus, the venerable aspect of the prelate struck them with such
awe that they could not perform what they had promised. On their
return, the king, finding that they had not obeyed his orders, stormed
at them violently, snatched a dagger from one of them, and ran
furiously to the chapel, where, finding Stanislaus at the altar, he
plunged the weapon into his heart. The prelate immediately expired on
May 8, A.D. 1079.

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 2 Samuel 2:1 (KJV)
And it came to pass after this, that David enquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah? And the LORD said unto him, Go up. And David said, Whither shall I go up? And he said, Unto Hebron.
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