8. THE SIXTH PERSECUTION UNDER MAXIMUMUS
After the death of Alexander the emperor, who, with his mother Mammea, (as is said,) was murdered in Germany, followed Maximinus, chosen by the will of the soldiers, rather than by the authority of the senate, about the year of our Lord two hundred thirty and seven; who, for the hatred he had to the house of Alexander, (as Eusebius recordeth,) raised up the sixth persecution against the Christians, especially against the teachers and lead ers of the church, thinking thereby the sooner to vanquish the rest, if the captains of them were removed out of the way. Whereby I suppose the martyrdom of Urbanus the bishop, and of the rest above specified, to have happened rather under the tranny of this Maximinus than under Alexander. In the time of this persecution Origen wrote his book on martyrdom; which book, if it were extant, would give us some knowledge, I doubt not, of such as in this persecution did suffer, which now lie in silence unknown; and no doubt but a great number they were, and more should have been, had not the provident mercy of God shortened his days and bridled his tyranny, for he reigned but three years. After whom succeeded Gordianus, in the year of our Lord two hundred and thirty-eight, a man no less studious for the utility of the commonwealth than mild and gentle to the Christians. This Gordianus, after he had governed with much peace and tranquillity the monarchy of Rome the space of six years, was slain of Philip, emperor after him.
In the days of these emperors above recited was Pontianus, bishop of Rome, who succeeded next after Urbanus above rehearsed, about the year of our Lord two hundred thirty and six, in the twelfth year of Alexander, declaring him to sit six years. Contrary. Damasus and Platina write, that he was bishop nine years and a half; and that in the time of Alexander, he, with Philippus his priest, was banished into Sardinia, and there died. But it seemeth more credible that he was banished rather under Maximinus, and died in the beginning of the reign of Gordianus. In his epistles deCretal (which seem likewise to be feigned) he appeareth very devout, after the common example of other bishops, to uphold the dignity of priests, and of clergymen; saying that God hath them so familiar with him, that by them he accepteth the offerings and oblations of others, and forgiveth their sins, and reconcileth them unto him; also, that they do make the body of the Lord with their own mouth, and give it to others, &c.; which doctrine, how it standeth with the testament of God and glory of Christ, let the reader use his own judgment.
Other notable fathers also in the same time were raised up in the church, as Philetus, bishop of Antioch, which succeeded after Asclepiades aforementioned, in the year of our Lord two hundred and twenty; and after him Zebennus, bishop of the same place, in the year of our Lord two hundred thirty and one.
To these also may be added Ammonius, the schoolmaster of Origen, as Suidas supposeth; also the kinsmen of Porphyry, the great enemy of Christ: notwithstanding, this Ammonius, endued with better grace, as he left divers books in defence of Christ's religion, so did he constantly persevere (as Eusebius reporteth) in the doctrine of Christ, which he had in the beginning received, who was about the days of Alexander.
Julius Africanus also, about the time of Gordianus aforesaid, is numbered among the old and ancient writers, of whom Nicephorus writeth that he was the scholar of Origen, and a great writer of histories of that time.
Unto these doctors and confessors may be adjoined the story of Natalius, mentioned in the first book of Eusebius. This Natalius had suffered persecution before like a constant confessor, and was seduced and persuaded by Asclepiodotus and Theodorus (which were the disciples of Theodocus) to take upon him to be bishop of their sect, promising to give him every month a hundred and fifty pieces of silver: and so he joining himself to them was admonished by vision and revelation from the Lord; for such was the great mercy of God, and of our Lord Christ Jesus, that he would not have his martyr, which had suffered so much for his name before, now to perish out of his church: for the which cause (saith Eusebius) God by certain visions did admonish him; but he not taking great heed thereunto, being blinded partly with lucre, partly with honour, was at length all the night long scourged of the angels, insomuch that he being made thereby very sore; and early on the morrow putting on sackcloth, with much weeping and lamentation went to Zephirinus, the bishop above mentioned, where he falling down before him and all the Christian congregation, showed them the stripes of his body, and prayed them for the mercies of Christ, that he might be received into their communion again, from which he had sequestered himself before, and so was admitted according as he desired.
After the decease of Pontianus, bishop of Rome, aforementioned, succeeded next in that place Anterius, of whom Isuardus writeth, that Pontianus departing away did substitute him in his room; but Eusebius writeth that he succeeded immediately after him. Damasus saith, that because he caused the acts and deaths of the martyrs to be written, therefore he was put to martyrdom himself by Maximinus the judge. Concerning the time of this bishop our writers do greatly jar. Eusebius and Marianus Scotus affirm that he was bishop but one month; Sabellicus saith that not to be so. Damasus assigneth to him twelve years and one month. Volateranus, Bergomensis, and Henricus Erford give to him three years and one month. Nauclerus writeth that he sat one year and one month. All which are so far discrepant one from another, that which of them most agreeth with truth it lieth in doubt. Next to this bishop was Fabianus, of whom more is to be said hereafter.
Of Hippolytus also both Eusebius and Hieronymus make mention that he was a bishop; but where they make no relation. And so likewise doth Theodoretus witness him to be a bishop, and also a martyr, but naming no place. Gelatius saith he died a martyr, and that he was bishop of a head city in Arabia. Nicephorus writeth that he was bishop of Ostia, a port town near to Rome. Certain it is he was a great writer, and left many works in the church, which Eusebius and Jerome do recite: by the calculation of Eusebius, he was about the year of our Lord two hundred and thirty.
Prudentius, making mention of great heaps of martyrs buried by threescore together, speaketh also of Hippolytus, and saith that he was drawn with wild horses through fields, dales, and bushes, and describeth thereof a pitiful story.
After the emperor Gordianus, the empire fell to Philippus, who with Philip his son governed the space of seven years, in the year of our Lord two hundred forty and four. This Philippus, with his son and all his family, was christened and converted by Fabianus and Origen, who by letters exhorted him and Severa his wife to be baptized, being the first of all the emperors that brought in Christianity into the imperial seat. Howsoever Pomponius Letus reporteth him to be a dissembling prince, this is certain, that for his Christianity he with his son was slain of Decius, one of his captains. Sabellicus showeth this hatred of Decius against Philippus to be conceived, for that the emperor Philip, both the father and the son, had committed their treasures unto Fabianus, then bishop of Rome.