Carpus, Papylus, (Pamfilus), and Agathonice

(d. c. 170)

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(d. c.170),

martyrs. The Acts of these martyrs who died at Pergamum (Asia Minor), were used by Eusebius. Their deaths are usually dated to the reign of Marcus Aurelius, but some scholars prefer that of Decius. Carpus was a bishop, Papylus a deacon, and Agathonice his sister. The proconsul Optimus ordered them to sacrifice in the name of the emperor. Carpus answered: ‘The living do not sacrifice to the dead…(the gods) look like men, but they are unfeeling. Deprive them of your veneration…and they will be defiled by dogs and crows.’ When the proconsul insisted that he must sacrifice, Carpus said: ‘I have never before sacrificed to images which have no feeling or understanding…I have pity on myself, choosing as I do the better part.’ After this exchange, Optimus ordered him to be hung up for torture by being scraped with claws. In torment Carpus said: ‘I am a Christian and because of my faith and the name of our Lord Jesus Christ I cannot become one of you.’ Ultimately the pain was so great that he could no longer utter a sound.

Papylus' turn came next. He admitted to being a wealthy citizen and to having many children. At this point a bystander shouted: ‘He means he has children in virtue of the faith of the Christians.’ And indeed Papylus agreed that he had spiritual children in every province and city. Like Carpus he steadfastly refused to sacrifice, with the same result. He too was hung up and scraped with claws. Three pairs of torturers were employed but he did not cry out. A little later he said: ‘I feel no pain because I have someone to comfort me: one whom you do not see suffers within me.’ Both were then sentenced to be burnt alive.

At this point Agathonice was interrogated. She too confessed that she was a Christian and that she had never sacrificed to demons, but only to God. ‘If I am worthy,’ she continued, ‘I desire to follow the footsteps of my teachers.’ On being called on to have pity on her children, she replied: ‘My children have God, who watches over them; but I will not obey your commands nor will I sacrifice to demons.’ She was then sentenced to the same death as Carpus and Papylus. When she was led to the place of execution, she removed her clothes and gave them to the servants. When the crowd saw how beautiful she was, they grieved and lamented. The servants hung her over the fire, and she cried out three times: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, help me because I am enduring this for your sake.’ She died soon after. Feast: 13 April.

A.C.M., pp. xv–xvi, 22–37;Eusebius, H.E., iv. 15;Propylaeum, pp. 136–7;B.L.S., iv. 92.

Subjects: Christianity.

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