The document, “The Passion of Saints Perpetua andFelicity,” shows just how mighty and fearless the faith ofthe martyrs were in Rome around 203 A.D. in which our storytakes place. During the rule of Diocletian, Christianity wasnot the religion of popular belief.
Many of Romanspracticed polytheism. As a result, numerous Christianbelievers were persecuted for their divine faith in God. Surprisingly, the Christian martyrs did not care that theywere sentenced to death. They believed that by dying forwhat they believe, it would only bring them closer to Godand the Gates of Heaven. The document states, “For thiscause have we devoted our lives, that we might do no suchthing as this; this we agreed with you” (para. 18). To themartyrs, nothing was more important than fulfilling God’sduties. The martyrs in the document take on the role ofmediator between God and man, spreading the Word of God tothe masses of people and the relaying to them his holymessage, in a sense taking on the role of Jesus Christ, theSon of God.
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Perpetua, one of the martyrs when confrontedabout her faith by her father retorts, “I am Christian”(para.6). Another martyr, Felicity, confidently defendsher faith and proclaims it openly by stating, “Stand fast inthe faith, and love you all one another; and be not offendedbecause of our passion” (para.20). This statement portraysto the reader the martyrs general attitude towards theirfaith and how they embraced the lifestyle of Christ and histeachings with no fear for death.
The way these martyrs died is a crucial element in therise of Christianity. When Christian martyrs were sentencedto death, they were not executed in a private manner, butrather were tormented and killed publicly, allowing all thecitizens of Rome to witness the account. The official ofthe Roman government hoped that by making the martyrs’execution public, it would deter others from joining thereligion and moving away from the traditions of Roman life,which in essence secured the wealth and social status of theRoman elite. Despite the cruelty and crudeness of thegladiator contest, the citizens of Rome wanted to witnessthe brutal torment of these martyrs in expectations thatthey would give up their proclaimed faith, in fear of death. However, regardless of the Roman officials’ and citizens’intentions, the martyrs in fact viewed death as the Gatewayto Heaven, thus making the act of dying more appealing tothem.
In early Christian perception, the boundary betweensupernatural and natural was that of one’s willingness todie for his faith. Throughout the document, the martyrs areregarded as being saintly and embodying the holy spirit inits entirety, that they would give up their life on earth,for the chance to live in heaven. This was and still issomething that most people would not do, or are even capableof doing. Therefore, in early Christian times, thissacrifice was considered something out of a person’s”natural” state and thus being “supernatural.”