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THE PERSECUTION OF SEVERUS, AND SPARTIAN'S
TESTIMONY TO IT.
I. The time of the reign of Severus, and that for a while he
was favourable to the christians. II. Accounts of his persecution from christian writers. III. How long it lasted. IV. His edict against the christians from Spartian, with Remarks. V. An observation of Balduinus upon this reign.
1. THE« reign of Septimius Severus is computed from June 1, 193, to Feb. 4,211. He reigned, therefore, seventeen years, eight months, and three days.
Severus is supposed to have been favourable to the christians in the former part of his reign. Says Tertullian in his book to the proconsul Scapula, wbich we suppose to have been written soon after the death of Severus, and the ascension of his son, Antoninus Caracalla: • Avd Severus him
self, father of Antoninus, was favourable to the christians. * For when he came to be emperor, he inquired after Pro*culus, a christian, surnamed Torpacion, and steward to • Euhodia, who had cured him by anointing him with oil,
and kept him in his palace so long as he lived ; whom • Antoninus also knew very well, he having been nursed by
a christian woman. Moreover, Severus openly withstood • the fury of the people against some men and women of the ' first quality, whom he knew to be of this sect; and was so • far from bearing hard upon them, that he gave thein an • honourable testimony."
a Vid. Pagi ann. 211. num. ii. et Basnag. 193. num. xv.
Ipse etiam Severus, pater Antonini, christianorum memor fuit. Nam et Proculum christianum, qui Torpacion cognominabatur, Euhodiæ procuratorem, qui eum per oleum aliquando curaverat, requisivit, et in palatio suo habuit, usque ad mortem ejus; quem et Antoninus optime noverat, lacte christiano educatus. Sed et clarissimas feminas et clarissimos viros, Severus, sciens hujus sectæ fuisse, non modo non læsit, verum testimonio exornavit, et populo furenti in os palam restitit. Ad. Scap. cap. 4. p. 87.
© Concerning the cure wrought by Proculus upon Severus, or, as others understand it, upon Euhodus, may be seen Basnag. ann. 193. num. xxii. Fabric. Bib. Gr. T. viii. p. 460. Lúx. Evangel. p. 232. Jortin's Remarks upon Ecc. History. vol ii. p. 289, &c. Tillem. Persecution sous Severe, art. 1.
To which I shall now add from Spartian's Life of Caracalla, ó thatd at seven years of age, when he heard that a boy his play-fellow had been severely beaten, because he was of the jewish religion, he would not for soine while after look upon his own father, nor the father of the boy, uor those who had beaten him.'
By the jewish religion,' very probably, is here meant the christian religion.
These passages, partly from Tertullian a christian, and partly from Spartian a heathen, are sufficient to show, that the emperor Severus was not unacquainted with men who by profession were christians, and that they were well known in his family.
Instead of Eubodia, in Tertullian, it is thought by some, that we ought to read Euhodus, or Evodus, freedman of Severus, who by Dion Cassius f is said to have been charged with the education of Caracalla; who therefore, as is supposed, had given binn a christian woman for his nurse.
II. But, however favourable Severus may have been to some christians from personal respects, it is certain, that in his reign the christians underwent many sufferings. And, as that excellent lawyer Francis Balduinus observes, Thats
place of Tertullian shows, that Septimius Severus was not • always averse to the christians: nevertheless, that favour ' for them was rather owing to a personal benefit, than to • any regard for their religion. The favour was personal, • without restraining the cruelty with which christians were openly treated; nor did Severus, by any edict, forbid the hard usage which christians then met with, and of which · Tertullian bimself is a good witness.' Orosius
• thath in the fifth persecution, which was
a Septennis puer, quum collusorem suum puerum ob judaïcam religionem gravius verberatum audïsset, neque patrem suum, neque patrem pueri, vel [al. velut.]
auctores diu respexit. Spartian. Ant. Carac. cap. i. e Loco Euhodiæ, legendum esse Evodi, existimamus, &c. Basnag. ann. 193. f Δι' Ευοδο τροφεως αυτό.
Dion. I. 76. p. 1273. al. p. 861. Vid. et p. 1287. lib. 77. in.
& Hic Tertulliani locus testis est, Septimium Severum alieno abs christianis animo semper non fuisse. Sed favor propter curationem magis fuit, quam propter religionem ; et privatus quidem favor, propter quem interea nihil sit remissum de publicâ illâ sævitiâ, quâ christiani vexabantur. Nam neque Severus ullo edicto, ut christianis parceretur, publice imperavit; qui tamen quam eo tempore crudeliter vexabantur, ex ipso quoque Tertulliano intelligi potest. Balduin. de Edict. Princ. Roman. p. 99.
h Quinta, post Neronem, persecutione christianos excruciavit, plurimique sanctorum per diversas provincias martyrio coronati sunt. Hanc profanam in christianos et ecclesiam Dei præsumtionem Severi cælestis ultio e vestigio acta subsequitur. Oros. l. vii. cap. 17. p. 501.
' under Severus, very many of the saints obtained the crown • of martyrdom in several countries.'
Sulpicius Severus i calls this the sixth persecution, and observes particularly, that Leonidas, father of Origen, then suffered.
In the Chronicle of Eusebius k this is reckoned the fifth persecution, and is placed at the tenth year of Severus. In his Ecclesiastical History he does not, I think, expressly say when it began; but he intimates, that it was very grievous in the tenth year of Severus, and afterwards; and, according to him, the persecution was general, and very grievous. So he begins the sixth book of his Ecclesiastical History: Andm when Severus raised a persecution against • the churches, there were every where in all the churches
glorious martyrdoms of the champions for religion; but • especially were they numerous at Alexandria, to which • city, as to the noblest stadium of God, were brought the most eminent champions from Thebais, and from all
Egypt, that by invincible patience under various torments, 6 and divers sorts of death, they might obtain from God a
glorious crown.' He then relates the death of Leonidas, Origen's father, who was beheaded ; and afterwards the deaths of several others, and particularlyn Potamiana, a virgin, who with her mother Marcella was burnt to death, by order of Aquila the judge, and as he relates, in a slow and painful inanner, scalding pitch having been by little and little poured upon the several members of her body, from the soles of the feet to the crown of the head; which, nevertheless, she endured with great patience and fortitude.
He says, that' at that time there were innumerable martyrdoms. And soon after, in a following chapter : ' Atr
that time lived Judas, who published a Commentary upon • Daniel's seventy weeks, concluding his computation of the • times at the tenth year of Severus; who likewise thougbt, • that the so much talked of coming of Antichrist was then • at hand. So strangely did the raising that persecution disturb the minds of many.' That Commentary of Judas concluded at the tenth of
Sexta deinde, Severo imperante, christianorum, vexatio fuit. Quo tempore Leonidas, Origenis pater, sacrum in martyrio sanguinem fudit. Sul. Sever. 1. ii
. cap. 32. al. 46. k Chron. p. 172.
1 H. E. I. vi. cap. 2. p. 201. C. In “Ως δε και Σεβηρος, διωγμον κατα των εκκλησιων εκινει, λαμπρα μεν των υπερ ευσεβειας αθλητων εν άπασαις ταις εκκλησιαις κατα παντα απετελειτo μαρτυρια. κ. λ. Cap. i. p. 201. Α. Β.
τους κατα μαρτυριον αναδεμενων σεφανους. Cap. 2. p. 202. A.
P Cap. vii. p. 208.
n Ibid. cap.
Severus; but it is likely, that the work was not finished until some while after that year; he therefore had been a witness of the sufferings of bis brethren, after the beginning of the persecution, before he published his work.
At this time suffered in Africa, at Tuburbium, or, as others more probably, at Carthage, Perpetua and Felicitas and their companions; of whomo notice was taken formerly.
During this reign, likewise, the Scillitan Martyrs' are supposed to have suffered in Africa; though the Acts of their Martyrdom which we now have, are not allowed by all to be genuine.
Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem, who afterwards suffered martyrdom in the time of Decius, was imprisoned now.
Tertullian has mentioned another martyr, named Rutilius, who suffered in this persecution, though the year is not exactly known. Rutilius u had absconded and fled from place to place, and had likewise given money to some officers to secure himself from suffering ; and yet he was at Jength apprehended, and through the mercy of God suffered very patiently; though be was at first grievously tormented, and then burnt alive. Tertullian could not avoid speaking honourably of him; though be then condemned both flight in persecution, and pecuniary redemptions.
And in his book to Scapular he mentions Mavilus, an inhabitant of Adrumetumn, whom that proconsul had himself condemned to be devoured by wild beasts.
I do not mention Irenæus here, as some do, because I do not think he died by martyrdom, as was formerly shown.
III. Mr. Dodwell* computed the persecution under Severus to have lasted two years only. "Basnage y shows, that it lasted more than six years. Mosheim“ observes,
9 See vol. ii. chap. xl. num. ii. r Vid. Basnag. ann. 211. num. viii. Ruinart. Acta Mart. p. 84, &c. Tillem. la Persecu. de Severe, sect. iii. Moshem. de Ætate Apol. Tertull. num. x. s Vid. Euseb. H. Ė. I. vi. cap. 39, et 46.
+ L. vi. cap. xi. u Rutilius, sanctissimus martyr, cum toties fugisset persecutionem de loco in locum, etiam periculum, ut reputabat, nummis redemisset, post totam securitatem, quam sibi prospexerat, ex inopinato apprehensus, et Præsidi oblatus, tormentis dissipatus, credo pro fugæ castigatione, dehinc ignibus datus, passionem, quam vitârat, misericordiæ Dei retulit. De Fugâ, &c. cap. v. p. 693.
" Tibi quoque optamus admonitionem solam fuisse, quod cuin Adrumeticum Mavilum ad bestias damnâsses, et statim hæc vexatio subsecuta est. Ad Scap. cap. 3. p. 87.
w Credib. P. 2. vol. ii. p. 169. * Durâsse autem constat duobus annis. Diss. Cyp. xi. num. xli. y Plus igitur sexennio persecutio continuata est. Basn. ann. 202. num. ii.
2 De fine belli hujus silent veteres. Quum vero certis auctoribus, maxime ex Tertulliano, constet, sub Severi etiain filio Caracallà, nonnullis in locis
that some christians suffered in the beginning of the reign of Caracalla. "They therefore,' says he judge rightly, ' who think, that this persecution did not end before the • death of Severus.'
Sulpicius Severus, having spoken of this persecution, says, thata from that time to the persecution of Decius, the church enjoyed peace eight and thirty years, excepting * some disturbance given to the christian clergy by Max
imin.' It is hence argued by Pagi, that Sulpicius supposed this persecution did not end before the year 211, in which the emperor Severus died.
It is also supposed by the same learned chronologer, that the ceasing of this persecution, and the peace of the churches, are hinted at in a passage of Dion Cassius, who relates, that Antoninus Caracalla, after killing his brother Geta, and committing other acts of cruelty, coming into the senate said: - Let als bear what is of great importance, at • which all the world may rejoice. Let all exiles, whatever • be their crimes, and however they have been condemned, * be restored. The same is ind Spartian. Ande christians may have been included in this act of indemnity.
And that the persecution continued some while after the death of Severus, is argued from Tertullian's book to the proconsul Scapula, not written before the year 211, or 212; for at that time the christians underwent heavy sufferings. By that proconsulf some seem to have been condemned to
christianos vexatos esse, recte illi judicare videntur, qui non ante mortem Severi cessâsse illud existimant. De Rebus Christianorum, &c. p. 455.
Interjectis deinde annis viii. et xxx. pax christianis fuit; nisi quod medio tempore Maximinus nonnullarum ecclesiarum clericos vexavit. Sul. Sever. I. ii. cap. 46. al. 32.
• Ab anno autem 211, Severi emortuali, ad annum 249, quo Decius persecutionem instauravit, anni 38 interjiciuntur. Quare Severus usque ad mortem suam christianos vexavit, vel vexari permisit, quod perinde illis erat. Pagi ann. 207. num. iii.
c Pax itaque ecclesiæ non reddita, nisi post Severi interitum. Quod indicare videtur Dio. lib. 77. [p. 1290.] ubi, postquam retulit Caracallam, Severi filium et successorem, occidisse fratrem Getam, ait, illum dixisse in Senatu : . Audite, inquit, rem maximam, ut totus terrarum orbis gaudeat. Omnes ex
ules rei facti, cujusvis sceleris, et quomodocumque damnati sint, restituantur, &c. Persecutio igitur Severiana non solum sanguinolenta, sed etiam longa exstitit. Pagi ann. 207. num. iii.
a Post hoc, relegatis deportatisque reditum in patriam restituit. Spartian. in Vitâ Anton. Carac. cap. 3. p. 710.
e Quibus et includi christianos, qui impietatis causâ deportati fuerunt, non est negandum. Basn. ann. 212. num. vi.
pro veritate, pro Deo vivo, cremamur. Nam et nunc a Præside legionis, et a Præside Mauritaniæ vexatur hoc nomen, sed gladio tenus, sicut a primordio mandatum est, animadverti in hujusmodi. Ad Scap. cap. 4. p. 88. A.