Monday, July 13, 2020
Eusebius, EH.8.10: The Report of Phileas on the Martyrs of Alexandria
This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 8, chapter 10.
Notes and Commentary:
This chapter features a first-person report from Phileas, bishop of Thmuis, a town in lower Egypt, on the tortures and martyrdoms that took place in Alexandria during the Diocletian persecution. Phileas is described as “a true lover both of wisdom and of God.” He wrote this while he was himself imprisoned, and it was reported in the previous chapter (8.9) that he himself had eventually suffered martyrdom by beheading.
Phileas expressed his admiration for the “Christ-bearing” martyrs for their ability to remain steadfast despite undergoing various gruesome tortures and sufferings for their faith. He draws upon the example of Christ from the Servant Song of Philippians 2:5-11.
After cruel torture some were placed in stocks, while others thrown to the ground. Some died under torture, others later died from wounds suffered, while still others recovered and “gained confidence.” When those in this last category were given the choice either to go free and unmolested, if they offered abominable sacrifices, or to face death if they remained steadfast, they chose death.
This chapter continues the account of the sufferings of Egyptian Christians during the Diocletian persecution. It is striking in that it comes from a first-hand report from an imprisoned bishop who would himself suffer martyrdom. Again, the courage and steadfastness of the Diocletian martyrs is remembered with admiration.