Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Eusebius, EH.6.41: Dionysius Describes the Decian Persecution

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History Book 6, chapter 41. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

This chapter continues the report of the Decian persecutions from Dionysius of Alexandria, here citing his letter to Fabius of Antioch.

He notes that the persecution in Alexandria actually began a year before Decian’s edict against Christians and reflected a spiritual battle.

First, an old man named Metras was stoned when he refused to blaspheme.

Next, a woman named Quinta was dragged through the streets and stoned when she refused to participate in pagan worship.

Then, the goods of the Christians were plundered, as the believers mentioned in Hebrews 10:3 had also suffered.

Next, a virgin named Apollonia had her teeth broken by blows and cast herself into the fire prepared for her.

Serapion was tortured, had his limbs broken, and was thrown headlong from upper story to his death.

When news came of the edict, the persecution only intensified.

All were filled with fear; some recanted their faith, but others were faithful to death.

Among the martyrs the first after the edict was Julian, a man unable to walk. He was put to death along with one of the men who helped to carry him, named Cronion Eunus. The two were paraded through town on camels, then beaten and burned in quicklime.

A soldier named Besas, who stood by at the death of these two, also confessed faith and was beheaded.

Three others, Macar [Blessed] of Lybia, and Epimachus and Alexander, were imprisoned and then burned to death alive.

Four women were put to death, including Ammonarion, a “holy virgin,” Mercuria, an older woman, and Dionysia, a mother of many children.

Three Egyptians, Hero, Ater, and Isidore, were seized and tortured, along with a boy of about 15 named Dioscurus. The first three were killed, but the governor released Dioscurus impressed by his character.

A certain Nemesion was falsely accused of being a robber and then of being a Christian. He was tortured worse than robbers and was burnt between them, thus becoming like Christ in his crucifixion between thieves.

When a Christian on trial was wavering, he was encouraged by a group of Christian soldiers, Ammon, Zeno, Ptolemy, and Ingennus, along with an old man named Theophilus. When this prisoner did not deny Christ, thanks to their support, attention turned to these men and they too confessed they were Christians, knowing their suffering, but exulting in their witness.


This chapter continues to describe the Decian persecution and offers praise to the heroic martyrs. These are described like athletes who engaged in “contests” for the faith, and, though killed, were victorious.


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