- In his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius tells of many martyrs in the Christian church prior to 324 C. E.. On this page are descriptions of the martyrdom of twenty-two of them. These Christians were put to death by heathen emperors, governors, and judges. What was their crime? It was admitting to being Christian. They did not have proper trials. They were tortured before being put to death. The one way to avoid the ordeal was to denounce one’s faith A few took this way out; but most, including those listed in this paper, did not. They frustrated their tormentors by cheerfully submitting to the torture.
This list briefly describes the horrors that these Christians faced. The details are not pleasant to read. However, every present-day Christian should read about such atrocities as these which were inflicted on believers. Then he should evaluate his own faith. Would he be willing to die for his faith if he were faced with the same decision? Or would he find it easier to turn his back on his faith and save his life temporarily?
The names are in alphabetical order. The number in parentheses at the end of each account indicates where the information can be found in Ecclesiastical History.
- He was brought to the arena with a murderer to be cast to wild animals. The emperor gave clemency to the murderer. When the Christian refused to accept liberty by renouncing his faith, he rushed against a bear let loose upon him. After being mauled by the bear, he was taken to prison. Surviving for one day, stones were bound to his feet, and he was thrown into the sea. (357)
- He was scourged and scraped with iron hooks and severe bonds. He received different tortures on the rack, having his feet stretched a night and a day to the fourth hole in the stocks. At length, he was beheaded. (350)
- They seized this elderly woman, beat her jaws, and broke out all her teeth. They built a fire and threatened to burn her alive unless she would repeat their impious expressions. She appeared to shrink a little, but when allowed to go, she suddenly sprang into the fire and was consumed. (258)
- He was renowned for his learning and wisdom. After he gave an eloquent defence of the faith before the judge, he was decapitated according to the decree of the senate. (205)
- When this youth tried to prevent Urbanus from sacrificing to a god, he was seized and torn by the soldiers. He received innumerable stripes on his whole body and was cast into prison. There he was stretched with both feet a night and a day on the rack. When he was brought before the judge and refused to make a sacrifice, his sides were furrowed and scraped to the bone while he was being beaten on the face and neck. When he still did not yield, they covered his feet with linen steeped in oil and set fire to the cloth. The fire penetrated to the bones, but the youth did not die or yield. Defeated, the tormentors returned him to prison. After three days, he was taken again to the judge. This time, as he remained faithful to his belief, he was thrown into the sea and drowned. (355)
- She was tortured by tormentors who took turns from morning till night until they were overcome. She continued to live despite her whole body being torn asunder and pierced. Later, she was bound and suspended on a stake, being exposed as food for wild animals. When none of the animals would touch her, she was taken down from the stake and returned to prison for another time. Then, after scourging, exposure to animals, and roasting, she was thrown into a net and cast before a bull. After much tossing from the animal, she died. (172-179)
- [See the account of Julian. These two received their like torture together.] (259)
- She was dragged by force and brought before the judge. After being scourged and enduring dreadful abuses, she was stripped of her clothes above the loins. As she was led about the city, she was beaten with thongs of hide. She remained cheerful through this; and, when she was taken back before the judge, she was condemned to the flames. (365, 366)
- He was an old man who was afflicted with gout. Having confessed the Lord in front of his accusers, he was carried on a camel throughout the city. In this elevation, he was scourged and finally consumed in an immense fire, surrounded by the thronging crowds of spectators. (259)
- An aged man, he was called upon to utter impious statements. When he did not obey, his tormentors beat his body with clubs, and pricked his face and eyes. After that, they led him to the suburbs, where they stoned him. (257)
- He endured many torments to the body because of his faith. He was under an iron collar, spent time in the deepest recesses of the prison, for many days was extended and stretched to four holes on the rack, was threatened by fire, and had other tortures. The judge tried hard to protract his life in order to prolong his sufferings. (255)
- He was a teacher from Asia who taught multitudes not to sacrifice to the gods nor worship them. Through a vision he had, he said that he must be burned alive. After he was bound to the stake, he prayed and awaited the fire. The flames gave the appearance of an oven around him. He was in the midst, not like burning flesh, but like gold and silver purified in the flames. A fragrant odour, like the fumes of incense, or other precious aromatic drugs, was perceived. When the persecutors saw that his body could not be consumed by fire, they commanded the executor to plunge his sword into him. When this was done, such a quantity of blood gushed forth that the fire was extinguished. His body was later burned according to the custom of the Gentiles, and his bones were buried. (143)
- He had performed the ministrations of the episcopate of Lyons. Although past ninety years of age, very infirm of body, he was taken to the tribunal where he stood firm in his faith. He was unmercifully dragged away and endured many stripes, while those nearby abused him with their hands and feet. Then, after two days in prison, he died. (174)
- Before he was tried by imprisonment, he was taken before the tribunal of the governor. When commanded to sacrifice to the gods, he declared that he knew only one to whom it was proper to sacrifice. When ordered to make libations [the ritual of pouring out wine or oil in honor of a god] to the four emperors, he stated a sentence which did not please his accusers. Immediately, he was beheaded. (349)
- They took her to the temple of an idol and tried to force her to worship. When she turned away in disgust, they tied her by the feet and dragged her through the city, dashing her against the millstones and scourging her at the same time. When they completed the dragging where they started, they stoned her. (257)
- He suffered many torments devised by men. When these men could do no more, they fastened hot plates of brass to the most tender parts of his body. He withstood all the suffering, but his body was one continued wound, mangled and shrivelled, that had entirely lost the form of man to the external eye. Again, he passed through the tortures. These included the strokes of the scourge, the draggings and lacerations from the beasts, other tortures demanded by the audience, and the iron chair upon which his body was roasted. Other tortures followed until he died. (172-176)
- He was seized in his own house. After torturing him with the severest cruelties and breaking all his limbs, they threw him headlong from an upper storey of the house. (258)
- He was the son of Cleophas, a descendant of David, and the second bishop of Jerusalem. When he was one hundred and twenty years old, a search was made for any descendants of David. Simeon was one who was taken into custody. After he had been tormented for several days, he was crucified. (118)
- She was not yet eighteen years old, yet was distinguished for her faith and virtue. As she approached some prisoners before the judgment seat to salute them, she was seized by the soldiers and led away to the commander. She was tortured cruelly, having her sides and breasts furrowed with instruments even to the bones. She kept a cheerful and joyful countenance throughout. Then she was ordered to be cast into the sea. (359)
- He endured a multitude of tortures. Then he was condemned to be consumed by a slow and gentle fire. Throughout it all, he exhibited an undeniable proof of his sincere devotedness to God. (352)
- He was a young man who suffered dreadful torments and the most severe scourgings. After all of these, he was sewn in a raw bull’s hide, together with a dog and a poisonous asp, and thrown into the sea. (357)
- [See the account of Alpheus. These two received their like torture together.] (350)
- These accounts may not seem to be believable, yet they are documented in the writings of the best-known and most reliable historian in the early Christian church. How can people treat others so cruelly?
Those were pagans; but Christians would never do that, would they? They would, and they have. A classic account of this is Foxe’s Christian Martyrs of the World. Much of his chronicle describes events in England during the reign of Queen Mary, the sister of Queen Elizabeth I. Many of the victims saw abuses and false teachings in the Roman Catholic church and had left it. During this time, that church was the official one in the country. Non-Catholics were outcasts and suffered cruel punishments. Other martyrs, including the apostles and European reformers are also described. The Catholics, too, suffered when the official church was a Protestant one. The Spanish Inquisition was a period when civil authorities persecuted, expelled, or killed Catholics who had renounced their faith, Protestants, Jews, and Muslims.
What happened to early-day Mormons who tried to leave the group in what is now Utah? What happens to members of some cults who discover that they have been deceived? What happens to Christians who try to teach the Gospel in a country that forbids Christianity? What did Christians do to Jews during the Crusade expeditions and during World War II? What happens to Muslims in Western nations? Many of the first colonists in the United States were Christians seeking freedom of worship that they did not have in their homelands which had an official so-called “Christian” religion. Some Christians are guilty of ostracization and other psychological means to attack those who leave their churches. Many Christians today are very apathetic about their proclaimed faith. They take for granted the religious freedom which they have.
- Eusebius. The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius Pamphilus. Reprint. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1994.
[This book is in public domain.]