Thursday, December 26, 2019
Eusebius, EH.5.21-22: Martyrdom of Apollonius of Rome
This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 5, chapters 21-22. Listen here.
Notes and Commentary:
These chapters describe the life of the church during the reign of the Emperor Commodus.
Chapter 21 describes the relative peace from persecution that the Christians enjoyed during the reign of Commodus, but how Satan struck back in the martyrdom of Apollonius, a man famous among the Christians “for his education and philosophy.” He was accused by a servant, but that servant was then executed for betraying his master. After making a learned defense of the faith, Apollonius was sentenced to death by beheading by the judge Perrinius. Eusebius notes that the account of Apollonius’s defense and his death are recorded in his compilation of the ancient martyrs.
Chapter 22 provides a summary of transitions in leadership among the bishops in several key cities:
In Rome, Victor succeeded Eleutherus.
In Alexandria, Demetrius succeeded Julius.
Serapion was at Antioch, eighth from the Apostles.
Theophilus was at Caesarea.
Narcissus was at Jerusalem.
Bacchylus was at Corinth.
Polycrates was at Ephesus.
This account confirms the relative peace enjoyed by Christians at the time of Commodus, despite interruptions to that peace as occurred in the martyrdom of Apollonius. Whatever turbulences which arose, or difficulties faced, the churches were served in key cities by faithful bishops, who succeeded one to another.