Martyrs of Christianity

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Christian Martyrs in Ancient Rome

This page will tend to concentrate on Christian martyrs of Ancient Rome although we should also note that dying for one's cause was not a Christian prerogative: the Ancient Romans themselves before the period of Christ had traditions of self sacrifice for common causes.

One such example was the belief that if a general sacrificed himself to "Jupiter, Mars, the Earth and the Infernal Gods" he would ensure that the misadventures and misfortunes which were assailing himself and his soldiers would be thrown over to the enemies. A concrete example of this is given to us by the Roman family of the Decii of whom the grandfather, father and son all sacrificed themselves for the good of their armies, the first at war with the Latins, the second against the Etruscans and the son in the war against Pyrrhus. In all three cases the battles and wars were won against the odds.

The  poet Juvenal immortalised the deeds of this family in verse:

From a mean stock the pious Decii came,

Small their estates and vulgar was their name,

Yes such their virtue, that their loss alone,

For Rome and all our legions could atone,

Their country's doom they by their own retrieved,

Themselves more worth than all the host they saved.

But on to Christian martyrs.... Being bloodthirsty times it is not surprising that the death of martyrs was often quite gory. A few examples are listed below:

The Four Crowned Saints.

These four Christians were martyred by having crowns of thorns nailed into their heads. The crowns themselves were made of metal. A church commemorates their martyrdom.

St. Cecilia

Became quite a figure, particularly during the Renaissance when during restoration work in the church bearing her name her body was found under the altar. The body is said to have been perfectly preserved like the very day she was buried.

A statue was sculpted in the very position she was found in and a copy may be viewed in the catacombs. Her hands are tied behind her back and her body is clearly contorted in anguish.

Cecilia was a Roman citizen.

St. Agnes


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This page about Rome history was written by Giovanni Milani-Santarpia for - Rome apartments