Perpetua et Felicitas, Martyres Pro Christo

The martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas took place in Carthage around 200 B.C. under the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus. Perpetua was a young, recently married Roman woman and Felicitas was Perpetua’s slave and the new mother of a baby girl. “The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas” is partly written by Perpetua herself and gives an account of their arrest, imprisonment, and hearing. An actual account of their martyrdom was added later by a witness. Perpetua and Felicitas were part of a group of Christians who were arrested and condemned to die by means of wild animals in the arena.

The account presents the martyrs as not only accepting of their impending doom, but as embracing and even looking forward to it. The martyrs saw their suffering and death as a share in the suffering and death of Our Lord. The martyrs’ attitudes about their suffering and death is reminiscent of John’s portrayal of Jesus’ attitude about His death. Like Jesus, the martyrs give their lives freely of their own accord, as evidenced by “The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas in paragraph 21, speaking of the actual martyrdom of Perpetua, “It was as though so great a woman, feared as she was by the unclean spirit, could not be dispatched unless she herself were willing.” Jesus, too, gave His life freely, and is portrayed by John as being totally in control of His fate by means of His calm acceptance of suffering and death. Through Jesus’ death, the world gained salvation and through the deaths of the martyrs, the Gospel message was spread throughout the world and the faith of believers was strengthened.

I’ve heard it said that the blood of the martyrs sowed the seeds of salvation and I think that it was because the courageous deeds of the martyrs were so different from anything anyone would expect of dying people.  Seeing such courage and joy in the face of impending doom would have truly been inspiring, whether you were a Christian or not. Thus, the martyrs gained eternal life for themselves and perhaps for others who were inspired by their actions for the sake of the Gospel.

5 thoughts on “Perpetua et Felicitas, Martyres Pro Christo

  1. Pingback: Martyrs in America? Maybe | Broken Believers ♥

  2. There are a lot of interesting connections between the martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas and that of Polycarp. Both victims freely accepted their own deaths as means of becoming closer to Christ. I agree that all three of these martyrs must have been at least somewhat comforting to other persecuted Christians at this time through their steadfast devotion to Christ and total confidence in his promise of eternal life.

  3. Great “exegesis” of the death of Jesus in comparison to the death of Perpetua! Perpetua does die a lot like Jesus in John’s Gospel insofar as both seem to be (with God’s help) in full control of events as they unfold. Just like Jesus dies when he sees that everything he was supposed to do has been fulfilled, so Perpetua determines that there is nothing more for her to do in this world and all that remains for her is to taste the glory of eternal life.

  4. What I found most interesting about your post was how you talked about the women giving their lives freely just like Jesus did in John’s account. This was very accurate from the way it seemed like they wouldn’t die until they decided it was time for them to die.

  5. Pingback: Blog #9 Highlights | Foundations of Theology

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