Early Women Martyrs Nothing is more tragic than those women

Early Women Martyrs
Nothing is more tragic than those women killed for their religious beliefs -they are known as martyrs. Yet, there is something heroic in dying for a belief.
This is not the case with that special category of martyrs, those women killed
accused as being witches. They died not for their beliefs, but for what someone else
believed. This in every case was the murder of innocents. A Jesuit priest, Frederick
von Spee, when asked by the Elector of Mainz why his hair had turned white by age
40, replied, “Sire, it is because I have accompanied to the stake so many women
accused of witchcraft -- not one of whom was guilty.”
Hypatia, born 370 BC
Hypatia was born to a famous mathematician and astronomer of Alexandria
named Theon. Theon carefully educated his precocious child in his own subjects
and called in other teachers of philosophy and rhetoric. As she reached womanhood
she was not only recognized by everyone for her great intellectual abilities but also
for her beauty and character.
This was the period when the new Christian Church was furiously
attempting to stamp out all vestiges of pagan (Greek and Roman) religion, but even
leading Christians admired this young lady. She took it upon herself to be the
champion of her native religion and began giving lectures based on her knowledge
of Greek philosophy. Her lecture halls were filled as she sought to win her people
back from Christianity to their native beliefs.
Soon a Christian fanatic named Cyril was chosen to succeed his uncle,
Theophilus, as the archespicopal chair of Alexandria. His immediate aim was to
take political power and make the Church dominant in public affairs. He began by
expelling the Jews and then turned his attention to paganism and Hypatia in
particular. On the first day of March, 415, he had his accomplice, deacon Peter,
wait in an alley near the lecture hall in which Hypatia was to speak. As her chariot
passed by, Peter and his zealots seized the horses, dragged her into a nearby
Christian church and murdered her.
Blandina, c. 161 – 180 AD
Blandina was a slave girl whom the Roman magistrates decided to torture in
order to break her confession of Christianity. She was tortured from morning to
evening with forms of torture which were sufficient to kill most people, but to the
astonishment of her persecutors her renewed confessions only gave her additional
Traditional torture failing, Blandina was taken to the amphitheater to be
exposed to the wild beasts, as a demonstration to the public of what fate the
Christians might expect. She was suspended on a cross and left to the mercy of any
of the numerous wild beasts prowling around, but the animals left her unmolested.
Next, she was placed in a net and thrown before a bull, who tossed her around while
she gave no cry of pain before dying.
Felicitas, c. 161 – 180 AD
Felicitas was a Roman lady of a good family and the mother of 7 sons, all of
whom had accepted the new Christian religion. Under the Emperor Marcus
Aurelius, who is known to us as a philosopher, the persecution of the Christians was
left to local magistrates.
In the case of Felicitas, all other threats having had no effect, the magistrate
decided that if he could change the mind of the mother, perhaps the sons might be
saved. But Felicitas had instilled the principles of the new religion too firmly in the
minds of her sons and as all 7 were given a choice of life or death, all 7 were
executed before her eyes. After they were all dead, Felicitas herself was beheaded.
Perpetua and Felicitas, c. 193 -- 211 AD
These two ladies of Carthage were persecuted together under the reign of
Severus. Perpetua carried an infant in her arms before the magistrate and Felicitas
was pregnant. The magistrate presented numerous arguments in trying to offer
them an opportunity to renounce Christianity -- that they should think of their
children and families, that it was their religion which had placed them in this
position and that this was an argument against it, etc. All reasoning failing, they
were returned to prison, where Felicitas gave birth to a girl.
On the day of their execution, Perpetua and Felicitas were taken to the
amphitheater and exposed to an enraged bull. The animal attacked them, but did
not kill them and it was left to an officer of the court and his sword to finish their
Potamiæna, c. 193 -- 211 AD
Potamiæna, said by early writers to have been a disciple of the Church
leader, Origen, was a slave girl. Her tragedy ensued because she refused to submit
to the passion of her master. He accused her to the magistrates as being a Christian,
hoping that the subsequent tortures might break her will and that she might then be
returned to him.
Having been unable to break her resolution, the magistrates sentenced her to
death, by having burning tar poured slowly over her entire body.
Valeria, Daughter to the Roman Emperor Diocletian, c. 286 -- 312 AD
Valeria, daughter to the Emperor Diocletian, together with her mother,
Prisca, were Christians who had been spared martyrdom only by agreeing to make
a sacrifice to a pagan god. Diocletian had arranged a marriage of Valeria with
Galerius, who became Emperor upon the resignation of her father. She adopted the
illegitimate son, Candidianus, of her husband and gave him all the affection of a real
Upon the death of Galerius, Valeria became the object of the passion of the
next Emperor, Maximian, even though his own wife was still alive. Maximian was
one of the more licentious of the Roman emperors, often sending his eunuchs to the
homes of the noblest families to carry away their wives and daughters for his sexual
gratification. When he sent his agents to announce to Valeria that he intended to
marry her, she replied that even if honor could permit a woman of her character to
consider a second marriage, she could not do so while the ashes of her husband were
still warm and while she was still wearing mourning garments. Her answer threw
Maximian into a mad fury during which he confiscated her estates, put her servants
to torture and killed several innocent friends of hers under a false accusation of
Valeria and her mother were condemned to exile in a sequestered village in
the desert of Syria. Diocletian, who had given up his throne and was now powerless,
made pleas that his family might be returned to share his retirement at Salona.
These pleas were denied, giving Maximian the satisfaction of treating Diocletian as a
suppliant and his daughter as a criminal.
The unexpected death of Maximian and the favorable reception given her
son, Candidianus, by the next Emperor, Licinius, gave hope to Valeria. However
Licinius proved to be a tyrant even more inhuman than Maximian and so Valeria
and her mother departed the court and wandered another 15 months through the
provinces, disguised as nuns.
In time they were discovered at Thessalonica and their death sentence
pronounced. They were immediately beheaded and their bodies thrown into the sea.
Flora, 9th Century
Flora was the daughter of a Moorish father and a Christian mother in ninth
century Moorish Spain. Reared by her father as a Mohammedan, after his death
the sacrifices which she saw Christian martyrs making caused her to turn to her
mother’s faith and she left home to join a group of Christians.
Her Mohammedan brother in searching for her accused some priests with
abducting her. When the priests were faced with imprisonment, Flora gave herself
up confessing that she was no longer a Moslem. This automatically led to her being
brought before a judge on the charge of apostasy, for which the usual sentence was
death. The judge was lenient, however, and only sentenced her to a severe flogging,
with the command that her brother take her home and further instruct her in the
faith of Mohammed.
Before long Flora escaped again and this time came into contact with a young
priest, Eulogius, who, on some level, fell in love with the beautiful young Flora. He
praised her for her steadfastness and reminded her that it was a proud distinction to
die at the hands of the infidel.
When Flora was again brought before a judge, she this time openly cursed
the Prophet and his religion. Flora was thrown into prison, where Eulogius urged
her to stand fast in her faith and to look upon her death as the most glorious of all
crowns, that of martyrdom. Eulogius wrote of her beheading,
She seemed to me an angel. A celestial illumination surrounded her;
her face lightened with happiness; she seemed already to be tasting the joys
of the heavenly home.... When I heard the words of her sweet mouth, I
sought encourage her in her resolve, by showing her the crown that awaited
her. I worshiped her, I fell down before this angel, and besought her to
remember me in her prayers; and strengthened by her speech, I returned
less sad to my somber cell.