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.