Martyrs of Scillium

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St Augustine (354—430) Doctor of the Church


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(d. 180).

The early and authentic Acts of these twelve martyrs have always been highly esteemed, but the place of Scillium has not been definitively identified. It was somewhere in North Africa; a basilica was built over the martyrs' tomb, where Augustine preached three sermons in their honour.

Their interrogation took place at Carthage. The pro-consul P. Vigellius Saturninus (mentioned by Tertullian) presided. Speratus was the principal spokesman for the Christians, supported vocally by other men and women. Saturninus opened the proceedings by telling them that if they returned to their senses, they could still obtain the emperor's pardon. Speratus answered: ‘We have never done wrong, we have never lent ourselves to wickedness; we have never uttered curses, but when we are unjustly treated we have given thanks because we honour our own emperor.’ Later he said: ‘I do not recognize the empire of this world. Rather do I serve God whom no man has seen…I have not stolen; on any purchase I pay tax because I acknowledge my lord as emperor of kings and of all nations.’ To the others Saturninus said: ‘Have no part in this folly of his!’ Cittinus said: ‘We have no one else to fear but our Lord God who is in heaven.’ Donata added: ‘Pay honour to Caesar as Caesar, but reverence only to God.’ Vestia said: ‘I am a Christian.’ Secunda said: ‘I wish to be what I am.’ Secundinus asked Speratus again: ‘Do you persist in remaining a Christian? He answered: ‘I am a Christian.’ And all the others agreed with him. They were then granted a reprieve of thirty days.

Saturninus again examined them; again Speratus said: ‘I am a Christian’, again all the others agreed. Saturninus then read his decision: ‘Whereas these have confessed that they have been living in accordance with the rites of the Christians, and whereas though given the opportunity to return to the usage of the Romans they have persevered in their obstinacy, they are hereby condemned to be executed by the sword.’ Speratus answered: ‘We thank God.’ Nartzalus added: ‘Today we are martyrs in heaven; thanks be to God.’ Straightaway they were beheaded for the name of Christ. Feast: 17 July.

A.C.M., pp. xxii–xxiii, 86–89;AA.SS. Iul. IV (1725), 204–16;H. Delehaye, Les passions des martyrs (1921), pp. 60–3: B.L.S., vii. 133; ‘Passio martyrum Scillitanorum’, Anal. Boll., viii (1889).

Subjects: Christianity.

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