Vigellius Saturninus, the proconsul (Roman administrator) of North Africa in 180 A.D., spoke generously. "You can have the forgiveness of our Lord the Emperor if only you return to your senses," he said.
Speratus, one of twelve Christians who faced him, replied for the rest. "We have never done evil; we have not lent ourselves to wrong; we have never spoken ill, but when ill-treated we have given thanks, for we pay heed to our Emperor."
Evidently Saturninus was stung by that reply. "We too are religious, and our religion is simple," he said defensively. "We swear by the genius of our Lord the Emperor, and pray for his welfare, as you also ought to do."
Speratus offered to instruct Saturninus in true simplicity of worship, but the proconsul brushed him off and turned to the other offenders. "Abandon this way of thinking," he commanded.
Speratus reminded Saturninus that to murder and to lie were the real evils, not the Christian faith. Saturninus ignored him and addressed the other Christians. "Don't share his folly!" he urged them. But the others (five were women) responded as firmly as Speratus.
Cittinus said, "We have no other to fear, save only our Lord God, who is in heaven." Donata added, "Honor Caesar as Caesar; but it is God we fear." Vestia declared, "I am a Christian." Secunda assured the proconsul, "What I am, that I wish to be."
Saturninus turned back to Speratus. "Do you persist in being a Christian?" he asked.
Speratus never wavered. "I am a Christian," he replied, and all the others agreed with him.
Saturninus offered them time to reconsider. To that dangerous bait Speratus answered, "In a matter so plain, we don't need to consider."
Saturninus changed the direction of his inquiry. What were the documents he had found in Speratus lock box? he asked curiously.
"Books and letters of Paul," answered Speratus.
The proconsul made one last effort to change the minds of the Christians. When he saw that they would not bend, he read his decision from a tablet. Heralds then announced his decree: "Speratus, Nartzalus, Cittinus, Veturius, Felix, Aquilinus, Laetantius, Januaria, Generosa, Vestia, Donata, and Secunda, I have ordered to be executed."
The Christians responded with joy. "Thanks be to God," they exclaimed. This was their chance to show their love for Jesus! On this day, July 17, 180, they were beheaded for the sake of Christ, at Scilli, near Carthage, North Africa.
- Aland, Kurt. Saints and Sinners; men and ideas in the early church. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1970.
- Chadwick, Henry. The Early Church. Pelican History of the Church, Volume 1. Hammondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1967, p.31.
- Hassett, Maurice M. "Martyrs of Scillium." The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton, 1914 [note: this article claims there were only six].
- "Persecution in the Early Church." Christian History, Issue 27.
- Rutherford, Andrew; translated by J. A. Robinson. "The Passion of the Scillitan Martyrs." http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/scillitan.html
- Scilli, Martyrs of. New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1954.
- "Scillitan Martyrs." The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Edited by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone. Oxford, 1997.
- Various internet articles, including one at North Park University.
Last updated June, 2007