Christian Martyrs in Colosseum

Christian Martyrs in Colosseum



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The Colosseum: a Symbol of Martyrs

ROME, 03 April 2013 (ZENIT)
This year again on Good Friday, the Colosseum was the magnificent framework of the Via Crucis, presided over by Pope Francis.

But was the Flavius amphitheater a place of persecutions and martyrdoms? Although the possibility is not excluded, there are no written or literary documents that confirm it. In fact, during the period of the great Christian persecutions it was already in disuse.

The Colosseum is, in fact, the symbol of many amphitheaters of the Roman age in which martyrdoms took place. There are written documents to this effect by pagan historians, leaving no room for doubt.

ZENIT interviewed professor Fabrizio Bisconti, one of the most important contemporary scholars on the subject, who is secretary and professor of the Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology, as well as professor at the University Roma Tre. He is the author of more than 100 publications.

ZENIT: The Via Crucis took place in the Colosseum on Good Friday. Was this the place of Christians' martyrdom or is this just a legend?

Bisconti: I developed the theme of this thinking in my last book published in February, titled "The First Christian, the Stories, the Monuments and the Figures." The phenomenon of martyrdoms is certain. We are told about it by pagan sources, such as the historians of the time Tacitus and Suetonius, who wrote about the martyrdom under Nero, and the Christian sources, beginning with Clement of Rome, as well as by the Fathers of the Church: Tertullian and Minucius Felice, and later on in the mature age of the Church, by Augustine and Ambrose.

The great persecutions, after those of Nero, took place in the time of Domitian in the 3rd century and in the middle years with Decius in 250 and Valerian around 258. And then there was the great persecution of Diocletian, at the beginning of the 4th century, which affected the whole ancient Christian world.

ZENIT: Did everything change with the Edict of Milan in 313?

Bisconti: The persecutions ended with this edict of tolerance. There had already been a measure of tolerance under Valerian, but paganism did not end, in the sense that Christianity was not the official religion until the end of the 4th century with [Emperor] Theodosius.

Bisconti: The pagan temples were brought down and the churches restored, because during the previous persecutions churches and cemeteries had been confiscated. The great basilicas were built during the time of Constantine, and are in fact called Constantinian: the Lateran, Saint Peter's in the Vatican, Saint Paul Outside the Walls, the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Apostoleion in Constantinople. Many shrines, including Roman ones and others in the world, monumentalize the tombs of martyrs and attract pilgrims to these tombs. The Roman circuit of shrines was very important in the High Middle Ages.

ZENIT: Which were the main places of martyrdom in Rome?

Bisconti: The small persecutions took place in open environments, not always specified. During Nero's time, they were carried out especially in amphitheaters, not in fact in the Colosseum, but in amphitheaters and amusement places and also in the emperor's gardens. It is known that, in gardens of the emperor Nero, Christians were burnt as human torches at sunset ancient authors tell us. Many Christians were also crucified in several urban and suburban places of Rome during the circus games. Tacitus and Suetonius tell us that some were destroyed by beasts, while others were murdered by the "retiari," the gladiators, with nets and tridents. But also in other cities such as Lyon in France, in the amphitheater of Carthage in Africa, where there is more detailed information because they are recorded in the minutes of the martyrdoms.

ZENIT: And if martyrdoms took place in amphitheaters, one can suppose that they also took place in the Colosseum?

Bisconti: Yes, but we don't have literary information or any other sort of information to give us certainty. The persecutions took place in the 3rd century, when the Colosseum was no longer being used. This is the historical or chronological problem.

ZENIT: So it has been regarded as a symbol?

Bisconti: The amphitheaters were the places designed for the performance of games, and among them we know that tortures could be included. We can theorize about something sporadic in Rome's Colosseum. However, persecutions, such as Nero's, were delimited, and could hardly have taken place in an amphitheater as large as the Colosseum. In the 3rd century, when the persecutions were at their height, this amphitheater had fallen into decadence.

ZENIT: In what other places of Rome did martyrdoms take place?

Bisconti: We don't have precise sources other than the Vatican's gardens. We know that persecutions existed under Julian the Apostate, who tried to restore paganism. Not excluded is the possibility that Saints John and Paul were in fact murdered in their "domus" in the Celio, where there is a basilica. In fact, it is the only shrine of martyrs with a confessio that remembered them in the 5th century.

Bisconti: They received the bodies of martyrs, but were not places of martyrdom or hiding. They are cemeteries, large dormitories of the community awaiting the resurrection. For instance, they received martyrs, such as Peter and Marcellinus on the via Labicana, Agnes in the via Nomentana, Lawrence in the Lateran, etc.

ZENIT: At times there are confusions about names and places. Are there documents that are beyond doubt?

Bisconti: There are very important documents, such as the Depositio Martyrum, as well as the Depositio Episcoporum, written in all probability around 336. We are in the 4th century, an ancient period. There are even older documents in the archives. The one of the martyrs is the most reliable. It is a document taken up by the Martyrologium Hieronymianum, which extends the previous one to the 5th century. It is the surest one. They are undoubtedly the martyrs that were in Rome. The Medieval accounts are less reliable.

ZENIT: And the tombs with more than 2,000 martyrs in Saint Praxedes?

Bisconti: They are probably not martyrs but Christians who were brought to the catacombs in the Middle Ages at the time of Pope Paschal I, in the 9th century. They were brought as martyrs to the crypt of this High Middle Ages basilica.

ZENIT: What does your recent book, "The First Christians, the Stories, the Monuments and the Figures" include?

Bisconti: It takes up a series of articles published by L'Osservatore Romano on the Paleo-Christian period. It discusses the three great topics, the history of the Old and New Testament, the monuments, and the figures in Christian imagery of the first centuries. It has an Introduction by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi.

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History, Facts and Information about Christian Persecution
The content of this article provides interesting history, facts and information about life in Ancient Rome including Christian Persecution by the Romans. Many early Christians were persecuted due to the edicts of various Roman Emperors. Many of the early Christians were tortured and sentenced to terrible deaths, some of which took place in the Colosseum. The most notorious persecutor of the early Christians was Emperor Diocletian (r.284-305). For information about these terrible persecutions click the following link:

Christian Persecution
Christians were expected to take part in rituals and sacrifices to the pagan gods and goddesses of the Romans. Many Christians went into hiding to avoid the order and converting to Christianity during this period was highly dangerous of Christian Persecution. Statues or idols of gods and goddesses were erected at the corners of the streets, in the market-places and over the public fountains making it impossible for a Christian to go out without being put to the test of offering sacrifice. To refuse would mean torture and death under the Edict of Diocletian and Christian Persecution.

Christian Persecution – The Martyrs who became Saints
Many Christian Martyrs who died during the Christian Persecution were later canonised by the Catholic Church. The history, biography together with descriptions of the lives and deaths of early Christians are detailed in the following recommended website:

Persecution of Christian Martyrs
The following men and women were tortured and put to death during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian and his notorious Christian Persecution. Christians were scourged till the flesh parted from the bones, and then the wounds were rubbed with salt and vinegar. Other Christians who were persecuted were racked till their bones were out of joint, and others hung up by their hands to hooks, with weights fastened to their feet. No Roman citizen could be sentenced to crucifixion. Despite being found guilty of the same crime, St. Paul and St. Peter faced different fates. St. Paul was beheaded because he was a Roman Citizen. St. Peter who was not a Roman citizen, was crucified. A short description of the tortures suffered and forms of execution inflicted on saints and martyrs during the Christian Persecution by the Romans are illustrated in the following descriptions:

Christian Persecution – Saint Dorothy
Her family converted to Christianity and her parents were sentenced to death for their convictions. Dorothy was offered leniency if she would renounce Christianity, worship the Roman gods and take a husband. She refused to renounce her faith and was tortured. She still would not renounce her faith and was sentenced to death by beheading.

Saint Elmo
Elmo was tortured by having his intestines wound onto a winch or capstan and then finally he was beheaded.

Saint Euphemia
Euphemia was tortured on the wheel but still refused to renounce her faith. She was sentenced to death in the arena where she died of wounds inflicted by the wild animals who attacked her.

Saint Florian
Christian Persecution – He was sentenced to death but first tortured by a variety of cruel tortures. He was thrown into the Enns River with a mill stone tied around his neck.

Saint George
George was a Roman soldier and rose to the rank of tribune in the Roman army. He converted to Christianity, confessed his faith and sentenced to torture followed by death by beheading.

Saint Hippolytus
Hippolytus was martyred by being bound by the feet to the tails of two wild horses and dragged to his death.

Saint Ignatius (the First Martyr at the Colosseum)
Ignatius was the Bishop of Antioch who was sentenced to death in the Roman arena by the Emperor Trajan in 107AD. He was torn to pieces by wild beasts at Rome.

Saint Januarius
Januarius was martyred with by first being first thrown to wild beasts in the arena and when the animals would not attack him he was beheaded.

Saint Justina
Justina was a devout Christian and had taken vows of chastity. She was ordered to go to the Roman temple to Minerva to worship the Roman goddess and offer her virginity as sacrifice and renounce Christianity. She refused and was stabbed to death with a sword.

Saint Lucy
Lucy was a devout Christian and had taken vows of chastity. Rather than accept the hand in marriage of a lover who desired her for the sake of her beautiful eyes, she plucked them out. According to legend her sight was restored to her the next day. Her martyrdom, instigated by her rejected lover, was accomplished by a dagger thrust into her neck in AD 303.

Saint Margaret
Margaret was thrown into a dungeon and beheaded.

Saint Pancras
Pancras announced his Christian faith publicly. He was arrested and then beheaded.

Saint Pantaleon
The story and history of Saint Pantaleon. Pantaleon was denounced as a Christian. He was put to torture but refused to renounce his faith. He bound to an olive tree, with a nail driven through his body and then beheaded.

Saint Phocas
Phocas is said to have dug his own grave prior to his death by beheading.

Saint Sebastian
He was shot with arrows, and left for dead but he survived and nursed back to health. He then returned to preach to Diocletian, the Roman emperor who had him beaten to death in Rome.

Saint Vincent
Vincent was put to the torture by his flesh being lacerated by iron forks and thrown into the sea.

Saint Vitus
Vitus was condemned to death in the arena. Legend tells that the wild beasts and lions refused to attack Vitus and he was killed by the terrible fate of being boiled in oil.

Christian Persecution – Saint Agnes
Agnes was only twelve years old when she was led to the altar of Minerva at Rome and commanded to obey the laws of Diocletian by offering incense. Her clothes were stripped off, and she had to stand in the street before a pagan crowd she was then beheaded

Saint Dorothy
Dorothy was stretched upon the rack, then she was buffeted in the face and her sides burned with plates of red-hot iron. She was finally beheaded.

Saint Eulalia
Eulalia was twelve years old when the bloody edicts of Diocletian were issued. Two executioners tore her sides with iron hooks, so as to leave the very bones bare. Next lighted torches were applied to her breasts and sides. The fire at length catching her hair, surrounded her head and face, and she was stifled by the smoke and flame.

Christian Persecution – Saint Eusebius
Eusebius was beheaded on the orders of Emperor Maximian.

Saint George
George was a soldier who at first obtained the favor of Diocletian. He was subjected to a lengthened series of torments, and finally beheaded.

Saint Pantaleon
After suffering many torments Pantaleon was condemned to lose his head.

Saint Sabinus
The hands of Sabinus were cut off, he was scourged, beaten with clubs, and torn with iron nails and then beheaded.

Saint Sebastian
Sebastian was an officer in the Roman army, led before Diocletian, and, at the emperor’s command, pierced with arrows and at last beaten to death by clubs.

Christian Persecution – Saint Vincent
Vincent was stretched on the rack, his flesh was torn with hooks and he was bound in a chair of red-hot iron lard and salt were rubbed into his wounds and he finally died.

Christian Persecution
The content of this Christian Persecution category on life in Ancient Rome provides free educational details, facts and information for reference and research for schools, colleges and homework. Refer to the Colosseum Sitemap for a comprehensive search on interesting different categories containing the history, facts and information about Ancient Rome.


The Coliseum and the martyrs

Pope St. Pius V (1566-72) is said to have recommended persons desirous of obtaining relics to procure some sand from the arena of the Coliseum, which, the pope declared, was impregnated with the blood of martyrs. The opinion of the saintly pontiff, however, does not seem to have been shared by his contemporaries. The practical Sixtus V (1585-90) was only prevented by death from converting the Coliseum into a manufactory of woollen goods. In 1671 Cardinal Altieri regarded so little the Coliseum as a place consecrated by the blood of Christian martyrs that he authorized its use for bullfights. Nevertheless from the middle of the seventeenth century the conviction attributed to St. Pius V gradually came to be shared by the Romans. A writer named Martinelli, in a work published in 1653, put the Coliseum at the head of a list of places sacred to the martyrs. Cardinal Carpegna (d. 1679) was accustomed to stop his carriage when passing by the Coliseum and make a commemoration of the martyrs. But it was the act of Cardinal Altieri, referred to above, which indirectly effected a general change of public opinion in this regard. A pious personage, Carlo Tomassi by name, aroused by what he regarded as desecration, published a pamphlet calling attention to the sanctity of the Coliseum and protesting against the intended profanation authorized by Altieri. The pamphlet was so completely successful that four years later, the jubilee year of 1675, the exterior arcades were closed by order of Clement X from this time the Coliseum became a sanctuary. At the instance of St. Leonard of Port Maurice, Benedict XIV (1740-58) erected Stations of the Cross in the Coliseum, which remained until February, 1874, when they were removed by order of Commendatore Rosa. St. Benedict Joseph Labre (d. 1783) passed a life of austere devotion, living on alms, within the walls of the Coliseum. "Pius VII in 1805, Leo XII in 1825, Gregory XVI in 1845, and Pius IX in 1852, contributed liberally to save the amphitheatre from further degradation, by supporting the fallen portions with great buttresses" (Lanciani). Thus at a moment when the Coliseum stood in grave danger of demolition it was saved by the pious belief which placed it in the category of monuments dearest to Christians, the monuments of the early martyrs. Yet, after an exhaustive examination of the documents in the case, the learned Bollandist, Father Delehaye, S.J., arrives at the conclusion that there are no historical grounds for so regarding it (op. cit.). In the Middle Ages, for example, when the sanctuaries of the martyrs were looked upon with so great veneration, the Coliseum was completely neglected its name never occurs in the itineraries, or guide-books, compiler for the use of pilgrims to the Eternal City. The "Mirabilia Romae", the first manuscripts of which date from the twelfth century, cites among the places mentioned in the "Passions" of the martyrs the Circus Flaminius ad pontem Judaeorum, but in this sense makes no allusion to the Coliseum. We have seen how for more than a century it served as a stronghold of the Frangipani family such a desecration would have been impossible had it been popularly regarded as a shrine consecrated by the blood, not merely of innumerable martyrs, but even of one hero of the Faith. The intervention of Eugenius IV was based altogether on patriotism as an Italian the pope could not look on passively while a great memorial of Rome's past was being destroyed. "Nam demoliri urbis monumenta nihil aliud est quam ipsius urbis et totius orbis excellentiam diminuere."


Early Christian Martyrdoms: Persecution in the Roman Empire

In the book of Acts (5: 34-39), Luke records the prescient words of a Pharisee called Gamaliel, who had questioned the wisdom of the persecution of Peter and other apostles:

“But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: ‘Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men you will only find yourselves fighting against God.’”

Did Christianity die down, as predicted by Gamaliel, or did the faith grow in number based upon its Godly inspiration? Historians offer the answer: by 300 A.D., Christianity had between five and six million adherents (Wawro, 2008). Following legalization in 313 A.D. by Constantine, Christianity grew even more dramatically. By 350 A.D., Christians numbered over 33 million (Wawro, 2008). “In terms of world-historical significance, few developments can rival the enduring impact of the triumph of Christianity within the Roman world” (Bryant, 1993, p. 303).

Christian Persecution

Yet life was not easy for early Christians. In the New Testament, numerous reports by authors such as Luke and Paul document early Christian persecution. Acts 7: 54-60 documents the stoning of Stephen, while Acts 12:2 documents the way Herod Agrippa put James, the brother of John, to death by the sword. Paul was also stoned, beaten, jailed, which he documented in his New Testament books. His beheading by Nero was documented by Origen, Tertullian, and Dionysius of Corinth (Habermas & Licona, 2004). The martyrdom of Jesus’ half- brother James was documented by Josephus, Hegesippus, and Clement of Alexandria (Habermas & Licona, 2004). Peter was crucified upside down, as confirmed by Eusebius, the first church historian, in his book “Ecclesiastical History” and also by Dionysius of Corinth, Tertullian, and Origen.

While we have significant documentation of the earliest Christian martyrs, documentation of those who were persecuted in the next generations prior to the legalization of Christianity is less prevalent. The intention of the present blog is to draw from the academic literature to shed more light on the early years of Christianity.

The Roman Empire

In Annals (15:44), Tacitus documented the way that Nero singled out Christians to blame for the great fire in Rome in 64 A.D. Tacitus stated that Christians were singled out for their “hatred of the human race” and “abominations.” According to Tacitus, Nero punished Christians by nailing them to crosses, burning them as torches for light after sundown, and covering them in animal skins so they could be eaten by dogs. “Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car.”

“Nero’s mass executions had in any event set a precedent, and thereafter the mere fact of ‘being a Christian’ was sufficient for state officials to impose capital punishment. This situation is strikingly illustrated in the famous correspondence between Emperor Trajan and Pliny the Younger (61 – 113 A.D.), the provincial governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor in A.D. 112 (Bryant, 1993, p. 314).”

In his Letters (to Emperor Trajan 10:96-97), Pliny the Younger states: “It is my practice, my lord, to refer to you all matters concerning which I am in doubt. For who can better give guidance to my hesitation or inform my ignorance? I have never participated in trials of Christians. I therefore do not know what offenses it is the practice to punish or investigate, and to what extent. And I have been not a little hesitant as to whether there should be any distinction on account of age or no difference between the very young and the more mature whether pardon is to be granted for repentance, or, if a man has once been a Christian, it does him no good to have ceased to be one whether the name itself, even without offenses, or only the offenses associated with the name are to be punished.

Meanwhile, in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished. There were others possessed of the same folly but because they were Roman citizens, I signed an order for them to be transferred to Rome.

Soon accusations spread, as usually happens, because of the proceedings going on, and several incidents occurred. An anonymous document was published containing the names of many persons. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ–none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do–these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshipped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.

They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food–but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations. Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition.

I therefore postponed the investigation and hastened to consult you. For the matter seemed to me to warrant consulting you, especially because of the number involved. For many persons of every age, every rank, and also of both sexes are and will be endangered. For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms. But it seems possible to check and cure it. It is certainly quite clear that the temples, which had been almost deserted, have begun to be frequented, that the established religious rites, long neglected, are being resumed, and that from everywhere sacrificial animals are coming, for which until now very few purchasers could be found. Hence it is easy to imagine what a multitude of people can be reformed if an opportunity for repentance is afforded.”

Trajan responded: “You observed proper procedure, my dear Pliny, in sifting the cases of those who had been denounced to you as Christians. For it is not possible to lay down any general rule to serve as a kind of fixed standard. They are not to be sought out if they are denounced and proved guilty, they are to be punished, with this reservation, that whoever denies that he is a Christian and really proves it–that is, by worshiping our gods–even though he was under suspicion in the past, shall obtain pardon through repentance. But anonymously posted accusations ought to have no place in any prosecution. For this is both a dangerous kind of precedent and out of keeping with the spirit of our age.”

According to Bryant (1993, p. 314), “Tertullian provides the classic summary, observing that the pagans take the Christians to be the cause of every public disaster, of every misfortune of the people if the Tiber reaches the walls or if the Nile does not rise to the fields, if the sky doesn’t move or if the earth does, if there is famine or a pestilence, at once the cry goes up: ‘Christians to the lion’. (Apology 40.1-2).

The Roman Colosseum

“The first Christian martyrs to be thrown to the wild beasts died in the arena of the Colosseum and, because of these martyrs, who succeeded the gladiators, the Colosseum was venerated greatly during the Middle Ages. It was considered to be a monument consecrated to the martyrdom of the early Christians. Only for that reason was it saved and for the same reason the vast structure, partially in ruins but still impressive in character, is still revered by many in the civilized world” (Rutledge, 1940).

“Immediately after registering Marcus Aurelius’ succession to Antoninus Pius [in 161 A.D.], Eusebius reports that, at the time discussed, there were great persecutions in Asia (IV, 14, io-i5, I) and that Polycarp was one of the martyrs of these persecutions…. Before telling the story of Polycarp’s arrest, torture, and execution Eusebius makes references to ‘the other martyrs’ with a summary characterization and some gory details of the barbarous treatment of these victims in this round of anti-Christian violence in Smyrna. For Polycarp was the twelfth martyr in this city, all the other martyrs being from Philadelphia (IV, 15, 45). Apart from Polycarp, Eusebius mentions only one other martyr by name, Germanicus (IV, I5,5 (Keresztes, 1968, p. 322).”

“According to the Martyrdom of Polycarp, it was the noonday crowd [at the Colosseum] that reacted ‘with uncontrollable wrath’ when [Bishop] Polycarp confessed to being a Christian. They first cried out to Philip the Asiarch to let a lion lose on Polycarp, but Philip could not do that, for the morning hunts were closed. Then the crowd cried out ‘with one mind that he should burn Polycarp alive’” (Thompson, 2002, p. 33)…. “Polycarp gazed directly at the crowd as he said ‘Away with the atheists’” (Mart. Pol. 9.2 cited in Thompson, 2002, p. 43). He was soon burned at the stake.

“Among the martyrs at Lyons was Sanctus, whose ‘body bore witness to his sufferings, being all one bruise and one wound, stretched and distorted out of any recognizably human shape but Christ suffering in him achieved great glory, overwhelming the Adversary, and showing as an example to all the others that nothing is to be feared where the Father’s love is, nothing painful where we find Christ’s glory.’ The slave girl, Blandina, after being tortured, was ‘hung on a post and exposed as food for the wild beasts that were let loose on her. She seemed to hang there in the form of a cross … and with their physical eyes they [the other martyrs] saw in the person of their sister him who was crucified for them.’” (Mart. Pol. 1.2 cited in Thompson, 2002, p. 48).

Roman Emperor Decius (201 – 251 A.D.) instituted what was considered to be the first organized persecution of Christians throughout the Roman Empire (Scarre, 1995). Prior to Decius, persecutions of Christians had been more sporadic and local. Decius required that all citizens to perform a sacrifice to the Roman gods and the well-being of the Emperor in the presence of a Roman magistrate. The magistrate then issued a signed and witnessed certificate. Refusal to make this sacrifice resulted in the martyrdoms of some Christians, such as Babylas of Antioch, Alexander of Jerusalem, and Pope Fabian. Others, such as Bishop Cyprian of Carthage, went into hiding (Chapman, 2013). The next Emperor Gallienus paid less attention to Christianity, so the laws went into abeyance.

They were resurrected again with Diocletian, who came into office in 284. In 303, Emperors Diocletian, Maximian, Galerius, and Constantius issued a series of edicts that rescinded Christians’ legal rights and required compliance with traditional Pagan religious practices.

That ended when Constantine came into office in 306 A.D. Constantine restored Christians to full legal equality and returned property to them that had been confiscated. In 313 A.D., he signed the Edict of Milan, which offered Christians a comprehensive acceptance. Constantine himself had converted to Christianity when he had a vision of a Christian symbol, which helped him to win a battle and his seat as the Roman Emperor. Thank God for Constantine!

What is truly amazing about Christianity is the fact that the movement not only survived early Christian persecution, but thrived despite such persecution. Building from the words of Gamaliel, let us note that no one could put an end to Christianity, even though many, such as Nero, Decius, and Diocletian, tried. How is it possible that a small Jewish sect led by a humble carpenter, several fishermen, a tent maker, and a tax collector could spur a movement that had between five and six million followers while still illegal in 300 A.D.? Nothing is impossible with God.

Christianity is now the most widespread religion in the world with over two billion followers. It is the only religion that is not centered around the location of its origin. And it is the only religion with an active, personal Lord who loves and forgives His children.

Bryant, J.M. (1993). The sect-church dynamic and Christian expansion in the Roman Empire: Persecution, penitential discipline, and schism in sociological perspective. The British Journal of Sociology, 44(2): 303-339.

Chapman, J. (2013). St. Cyprian of Carthage. The Catholic Encyclopedia, 4. Robert Appleton Company, 1908.

Habermas, G.R. & Licona, M.R. (2004). The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.

Keresztes, P. (1968). Marcus Aurelius a persecutor? The Harvard Theological Review, 61(3): 321-341.

Rutledge, H.T. (1940). Restoring Rome’s Colosseum. Scientific American, 162(3): 150-151.

Scarre, C. (1995). Chronicle of the Roman Emperors: the reign-by-reign record of the rulers of Imperial Rome. Thames & Hudson.

Thompson, L.L. (2002). The martyrdom of Polycarp: Death in the Roman games. The Journal of Religion, 82(1): 27-52.

Wawro, G. (2008). Historical Atlas: A Comprehensive History of the World. Elanora Heights, Australia: Millennium House.


Christian Persecution

Christian Persecution
Christians were expected to take part in rituals and sacrifices to the pagan gods and goddesses of the Romans. Many Christians went into hiding to avoid the order and converting to Christianity during this period was highly dangerous of Christian Persecution. Statues or idols of gods and goddesses were erected at the corners of the streets, in the market-places and over the public fountains making it impossible for a Christian to go out without being put to the test of offering sacrifice. To refuse would mean torture and death under the Edict of Diocletian and Christian Persecution.

Christian Persecution - The Martyrs who became Saints
Many Christian Martyrs who died during the Christian Persecution were later canonised by the Catholic Church. The history, biography together with descriptions of the lives and deaths of early Christians are detailed in the following recommended website:

Persecution of Christian Martyrs
The following men and women were tortured and put to death during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian and his notorious Christian Persecution. Christians were scourged till the flesh parted from the bones, and then the wounds were rubbed with salt and vinegar. Other Christians who were persecuted were racked till their bones were out of joint, and others hung up by their hands to hooks, with weights fastened to their feet. No Roman citizen could be sentenced to crucifixion. Despite being found guilty of the same crime, St. Paul and St. Peter faced different fates. St. Paul was beheaded because he was a Roman Citizen. St. Peter who was not a Roman citizen, was crucified. A short description of the tortures suffered and forms of execution inflicted on saints and martyrs during the Christian Persecution by the Romans are illustrated in the following descriptions:

Christian Persecution - Saint Dorothy
Her family converted to Christianity and her parents were sentenced to death for their convictions. Dorothy was offered leniency if she would renounce Christianity, worship the Roman gods and take a husband. She refused to renounce her faith and was tortured. She still would not renounce her faith and was sentenced to death by beheading.

Saint Elmo
Elmo was tortured by having his intestines wound onto a winch or capstan and then finally he was beheaded.

Saint Euphemia
Euphemia was tortured on the wheel but still refused to renounce her faith. She was sentenced to death in the arena where she died of wounds inflicted by the wild animals who attacked her.

Saint Florian
Christian Persecution - He was sentenced to death but first tortured by a variety of cruel tortures. He was thrown into the Enns River with a mill stone tied around his neck.

Saint George
George was a Roman soldier and rose to the rank of tribune in the Roman army. He converted to Christianity, confessed his faith and sentenced to torture followed by death by beheading.

Saint Hippolytus
Hippolytus was martyred by being bound by the feet to the tails of two wild horses and dragged to his death.

Saint Januarius
Januarius was martyred with by first being first thrown to wild beasts in the arena and when the animals would not attack him he was beheaded.

Saint Justina
Justina was a devout Christian and had taken vows of chastity. She was ordered to go to the Roman temple to Minerva to worship the Roman goddess and offer her virginity as sacrifice and renounce Christianity. She refused and was stabbed to death with a sword.

Saint Lucy
Lucy was a devout Christian and had taken vows of chastity. Rather than accept the hand in marriage of a lover who desired her for the sake of her beautiful eyes, she plucked them out. According to legend her sight was restored to her the next day. Her martyrdom, instigated by her rejected lover, was accomplished by a dagger thrust into her neck in AD 303.

Saint Margaret
Margaret was thrown into a dungeon and beheaded.

Saint Pancras
Pancras announced his Christian faith publicly. He was arrested and then beheaded.

Saint Pantaleon
The story and history of Saint Pantaleon. Pantaleon was denounced as a Christian. He was put to torture but refused to renounce his faith. He bound to an olive tree, with a nail driven through his body and then beheaded.

Saint Phocas
Phocas is said to have dug his own grave prior to his death by beheading.

Saint Sebastian
He was shot with arrows, and left for dead but he survived and nursed back to health. He then returned to preach to Diocletian, the Roman emperor who had him beaten to death in Rome.

Saint Vincent
Vincent was put to the torture by his flesh being lacerated by iron forks and thrown into the sea.

Saint Vitus
Vitus was condemned to death in the arena. Legend tells that the wild beasts and lions refused to attack Vitus and he was killed by the terrible fate of being boiled in oil.

Christian Persecution - Saint Agnes
Agnes was only twelve years old when she was led to the altar of Minerva at Rome and commanded to obey the laws of Diocletian by offering incense. Her clothes were stripped off, and she had to stand in the street before a pagan crowd she was then beheaded

Saint Eulalia
Eulalia was twelve years old when the bloody edicts of Diocletian were issued. Two executioners tore her sides with iron hooks, so as to leave the very bones bare. Next lighted torches were applied to her breasts and sides. The fire at length catching her hair, surrounded her head and face, and she was stifled by the smoke and flame.

Christian Persecution - Saint Eusebius
Eusebius was beheaded on the orders of Emperor Maximian.

Saint George
George was a soldier who at first obtained the favor of Diocletian. He was subjected to a lengthened series of torments, and finally beheaded.

Saint Pantaleon
After suffering many torments Pantaleon was condemned to lose his head.

Saint Sabinus
The hands of Sabinus were cut off, he was scourged, beaten with clubs, and torn with iron nails and then beheaded.

Saint Sebastian
Sebastian was an officer in the Roman army, led before Diocletian, and, at the emperor's command, pierced with arrows and at last beaten to death by clubs.

Christian Persecution - Saint Vincent
Vincent was stretched on the rack, his flesh was torn with hooks and he was bound in a chair of red-hot iron lard and salt were rubbed into his wounds and he finally died.

Christian Persecution
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Christian Persecution

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The Tribute

As for the martyrdom of Christians it has to be remembered that history is often written by the victors and that the persecution of Christians was limited to a number of particular periods and circumstances. Clearly this doesn't mean that atrociously gory persecutions and martyrdoms didn't happen, they did, but in the midst of a huge number of other gory executions. The Jews were also persecuted for example, in fact for a long time the Christians were simply regarded as a Jewish sect.

We simply have to consider some of the antics displayed in the Colosseum to imagine the variety of attractions which were dreamt up to keep the plebs distracted whilst at the same time minimising anti Imperial sentiments amongst the wider population.

Although historically Christian martyrdom has been closely associated with the Amphitheatre the execution of Christians was more likely to be held in the Circus of chariot races . It was usual for the executions to take on other forms such as crucifixion, for example rather than Gladiatorial fight or "damnatio ad bestia" (thrown to the wild beasts).

The Catholic church of the Middle Ages and Renaissance maintained and strengthened this view of the Colosseum. Various crosses in the middle of the arena and the twelve stages of the Crucifixion were regularly used for religious displays and processions. The Colosseum became closely associated with Christian martyrdom, providing a useful counterpoise and memorial to the Christian religion's belief in life.

The first Christian martyred in the Coliseum is said to have been St Ignatius who was thrown to the lions and (aparently) exclaimed "I am as the grain of the field and must be ground by the teeth of the lions, that I may become fit for His table."

Although some Christians certainly died in the Colosseum there seems to be little reference to the supposed rivers of (Christian) blood which were supposed to have flowed out of that building in particular during Domitian's notorious "Second Persecution".

Nevertheless we do know that 115 Christians were executed with arrows, shortly after Ignatius. At the beginning of the third century a family of Christians, who also happened to be Roman Patricians, were reputedly roasted (in a bull) and that four Christians called Sempronius, Olympius, Theodolus and Exuperia were burned alive in front of Nero's colossal statue, which had been stood by the Colosseum: Jews and Christians were often given a last chance of respite by paying their respects to the Emperor-Divinity's image, which of course monotheism doesn't allow.

This refusal to join in any of the state's religious practices was the really irreconcilable problem: on one occasion during the reign of the benevolent Emperor Marcus Aurelius the Christians gave rise to a new wave of hate against them as they refused to participate in the religious rites aimed at checking an epidemic of plague which was decimating the population. The Emperor had little choice but to persecute thousands of them to a hideous death in the Amphitheatre and for as much as he hated the gladiator shows he attended out of a sense of duty.

As for Nero's persecution of the Christians, this could not have had any episodes in the Colosseum, given that the Flavian Amphitheatre as it was then known, was not yet constructed. This of course doesn't mean that Nero didn't persecute the Christians: he did. Quite awful things too, like dousing them with oil and setting them alight for example or dressing them up in animal skins and setting dogs onto them.

All this sounds like an excuse for the various Christian persecutions which certainly did happen and often they were quite forceful and brutal, especially since the Christians were increasingly viewed as subversive traitors by both the authorities and the non Christian population. Truth of the matter is they were subversive traitors who were trying to change the system and, true to its nature, the system reacted against them in a brutal way.


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Christian missionaries have taught people in Papua, New Guinea who had many gods before their conversion to recite the Hebrew Shema announcing only ONE GOD. Watch the video below.

GERMANICUS’ BAKERY

IN TRAJAN’S MARKET

BEST BREAD IN ROME!!

1. There were only 8 people in Noah’s Ark. T/F

2. Jonah was in the belly of the “whale” 4 days. T/F

3. The meaning in Hebrew of the word “day” always means a 24 hour period of time. T/F

4. All the names for our week days come from Roman and Norse/Anglo-Saxon gods. T/F

5. Jesus sent out 70 Disciples to preach His Good News.
T/F


What happened to Christians in the Colosseum?

Starting in 250 AD, empire-wide persecution took place as an indirect consequence of an edict by the emperor Decius. This edict was in force for eighteen months, during which time some Christians were killed while others apostatised to escape execution.

Secondly, were people killed in the Colosseum? The amphitheatre was used for entertainment for 390 years. During this time more than 400,000 people died inside the Colosseum. It's also estimated that about 1,000,000 animals died in the Colosseum as well.

Simply so, how many Christians died in Colosseum?

About 3000 Christian martyrs in all died in the Colosseum.

What happened to the floor of the Colosseum?

The floor was removed by emperor Domitian in AD 84 to build the underground area of the arena. After the completion of the work it was no longer possible to continue the naumachia (representations of naval battles) in the amphitheater, like in the first years (80-84).


Colosseum turns red to remember persecuted Christians

Rome’s most famous landmark, the Colosseum, will be lit up in red on Saturday as a sign of solidarity with all those who are persecuted for their faith.

The event, which takes place at 6pm on the 24th, is the initiative of Aid to the Church in Need, the Pontifical Foundation that supports suffering Christians in over 140 countries around the world.

At the same time, in Syria, the Maronite Cathedral of St Elijah in war torn Aleppo and St Paul’s church in the Iraqi city of Mosul will also be illuminated in red, symbolising the blood of the many recent Christian martyrs there.

The Rome event will include testimonies of two families who have been targeted for their Christian faith: the husband and youngest daughter of Asia Bibi from Pakistan, who received a death sentence in 2010, and Nigerian Rebecca Bitrus who spent two years as a hostage to the extremist group Boko Haram.

Asia’s daughter, Eisham Ashiq, told me the family believes she will be released from jail soon, though they will have to leave Pakistan immediately, as her safety cannot be guaranteed. They appeal to the president to grant her a pardon and they hope to meet with Pope Francis on Saturday to ask him to pray for her freedom.

Rebecca Bitrus told me that despite her ordeal at the hands of Boko Haram, she never lost her trust in God. Not even when her one-year-old son was killed, or when she was tortured and raped, resulting in the birth of another child. When she finally managed to escape, she says many people urged her to get rid of the child, but with the help of local Church leaders she has learnt to accept, and even to love, the son of her captors. She urges other women held hostage in Nigeria to continue trusting in the Lord and she wants to ask Pope Francis if it’s possible to truly forgive those who cause so much pain and suffering.

2000 years ago, Christians were tortured and killed in the Colosseum for refusing to renounce their faith. In many countries around the world, that practice continues today, with over 3.000 Christian martyrs killed in 2017 alone. While their stories rarely make news headlines, organisers hope this event will make their voices heard and end the indifference that surrounds their plight.


Christian martyrs in the Colosseum

As for the martyrdom of Christians it has to be remembered that history is often written by the victors and that the persecution of Christians was limited to a number of particular periods and circumstances.

INDEXANCIENTROME

INDEXANCIENTROME

Clearly this doesn’t mean that atrociously gory persecutions and martyrdoms didn’t happen, they did, but in the midst of a huge number of other gory executions. The Jews were also persecuted for example, in fact for a long time the Christians were simply regarded as a Jewish sect.

We simply have to consider some of the antics displayed in the Colosseum to imagine the variety of attractions which were dreamt up to keep the plebs distracted whilst at the same time minimising anti Imperial sentiments amongst the wider population.

Although historically Christian martyrdom has been closely associated with the Amphitheatre the execution of Christians was more likely to be held in the Circus of chariot races . It was usual for the executions to take on other forms such as crucifixion, for example rather than Gladiatorial fight or “damnatio ad bestia” (thrown to the wild beasts).

The Catholic church of the Middle Ages and Renaissance maintained and strengthened this view of the Colosseum. Various crosses in the middle of the arena and the twelve stages of the Crucifixion were regularly used for religious displays and processions. The Colosseum became closely associated with Christian martyrdom, providing a useful counterpoise and memorial to the Christian religion’s belief in life.

The first Christian martyred in the Coliseum is said to have been St Ignatius who was thrown to the lions and (aparently) exclaimed “I am as the grain of the field and must be ground by the teeth of the lions, that I may become fit for His table.

Although some Christians certainly died in the Colosseum there seems to be little reference to the supposed rivers of (Christian) blood which were supposed to have flowed out of that building in particular during Domitian’s notorious “Second Persecution”.

Nevertheless we do know that 115 Christians were executed with arrows, shortly after Ignatius. At the beginning of the third century a family of Christians, who also happened to be Roman Patricians, were reputedly roasted (in a bull) and that four Christians called Sempronius, Olympius, Theodolus and Exuperia were burned alive in front of Nero’s colossal statue, which had been stood by the Colosseum: Jews and Christians were often given a last chance of respite by paying their respects to the Emperor-Divinity’s image, which of course monotheism doesn’t allow.

This refusal to join in any of the state’s religious practices was the really irreconcilable problem: on one occasion during the reign of the benevolent Emperor Marcus Aurelius the Christians gave rise to a new wave of hate against them as they refused to participate in the religious rites aimed at checking an epidemic of plague which was decimating the population. The Emperor had little choice but to persecute thousands of them to a hideous death in the Amphitheatre and for as much as he hated the gladiator shows he attended out of a sense of duty.

As for Nero’s persecution of the Christians, this could not have had any episodes in the Colosseum, given that the Flavian Amphitheatre as it was then known, was not yet constructed. This of course doesn’t mean that Nero didn’t persecute the Christians: he did. Quite awful things too, like dousing them with oil and setting them alight for example or dressing them up in animal skins and setting dogs onto them.

All this sounds like an excuse for the various Christian persecutions which certainly did happen and often they were quite forceful and brutal, especially since the Christians were increasingly viewed as subversive traitors by both the authorities and the non Christian population. Truth of the matter is they were subversive traitors who were trying to change the system and, true to its nature, the system reacted against them in a brutal way.


Watch the video: Top 10 Most Horrible Executions of Christian Martyrs