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Martyrdom of a pagan priest

Having taken the control of the Roman State christians began to persecute the pagans. Companies of fanatical christians set on fire the temples, killed the priests, forced the pagans to escape from their houses and got hold of their property.

We would know little or nothing of these enterprises, if the christians themselves had not handed on us their version of these massacres, priding themselves.

In the " Memories of Dioscoro " the traditional religion is introduced under form of cult of demons, must be extirpated with every means and the fire is the better means.

The death between flames of the supreme pagan priest was not the first, but it was not even the last one.

Giordano Bruno, a millenium later, victim of the same power, will die between flames.

The stakes did not succeed in destroying the thought of the man.

Locality: Egypt - Roman Empire

Age: V-VI century A.D.

Text: The text that follows is drawn from the " Memories of Dioscoro ", published by Revillout in Mém. Ac. Inscr. Belles Lettres, I série, VIII. (see Bibliography). Some adaptations have been made in order to render the reading much easier.

TEXT (extracts)

The pagans adore their god

There was a city, to the west of the lake, in which people worshipped an idol whose name was Kothos, that was raised on one window in a house; and when they entered into the house, they bent their heads to the ground, and adored it.

The christians denounce to the civil authorities the pagans accusing them of human sacrifices

The presbyters of that locality went and reported to my spiritual father every thought that was had by the pagans, and how they kidnapped the children of the christians and made sacrifices of them to their god Kothos...

Arrest, interrogation and "confession" of the pagans

So they took a few of them and they interrogated them orally, and they declared without torture: "We have often killed the children of the christians... We pour their blood on the altar, and extract their viscera and we stretch them as nerves for our citherns and sing with them to our gods "...

The civil authorities do not believe the accusation and release the pagans

The men who had been taken gave money in order to free themselves, as the men of that province are people eager of money.

The bishop prepares the expedition

As he had heard this from the presbyters, the saint bishop Abba Macario rose and went with them. And I and other two personages went with him; and these two presbyters walked in front of us.

Assault to the pagan temple

When we had entered the province for five miles, we saw the temple that belonged to them...Bishop Macario said "As it is true that god is alive, even if they had to kill me I will not go away before I enter there!" and he proceeded on the side of the temple door...

The women and the priests defend the temple

Hearing that the priests came outside - and they had weapons in their hands, and lances and axes - and the women went togheter on the roof of the temple in order to throw stones to us...

The negotiation begins: bishop Macario wants to search the temple

...Bishop Macario said: "What have you in common with the sons of the christians whom you immolate to the idols ". And they replied: "That is not true ".

And the saint said to them: "If this is not true let me enter and visit the temple ". And they said to him: "Come in".

The pagans send to call their supreme priest

Then twenty men rose and closed the door behind us, ready to kill us. We were four in all... Their head said: "Go and inform our supreme priest first of all. Before to kill them, call him to the sacrifice of our god Kothos ". The rest agreed with hem and the name of their head was Omero.

Conclusion of the negotiation: The christians assault the temple

...Here that the saint Apa Visa knocked at the door. They did not answer, and he screamed from outside... and immediately the door of the temple opened and the saint Apa Visa entered with some monks; and they were fourteen men...

The temple is set on fire

Immediately we were untied and the saint Apa Visa said to my father: "Make one of these two things: or you set fire and I pray, or you pray, and I set fire ". My father said to him: " No, but on the contrary rise to our feet and pray together, till the fire descendes from the sky and burns the temple "...

.. And a large flame encircled all around the entire temple, and the walls of the temple fell to the ground, and the fire devoured them until the foundations...

To hunting of pagans

And in that moment an impure demon entered in a man, and went to the city shouting: "That all the pagans escape, beacuse, here, Visa and Macario of Tkou have come!".

My father met Omero, their head, on the way... Immediately my father made a signal to his men saying: " Seize him and tie him up!"... My father said to him: "I will burn you alive with your god Kothos "...

The supreme priest was burnt on the stake

.. They went and they reached the city, and the crowd of the orthodox ones came out and it headed towards them. Then he ordered that they lighted a fire and they threw the priest Omero in it; and they burnt him with other idols that they found in his house.

Conversion of the pagans

The rest of the pagans, an amount of them became christian and took the baptism.

The pagans escape

Some others did not want, but they took what they possessed and threw it in the lake and in wells, and they went away, they and their idols, in a desert place.

Destruction of cult objects

We made the account of the idols that had been destroyed in that occasion, and we found that they added to three hundred and six idols.

Expropriation of the pagans' property

For what concerns those who had escaped, the christians went to live in their houses.


Bibliographical references:

Donadoni S.

Testi religiosi egizi