“I do not recognize the empire of this world, but rather I serve that God, ‘whom no man has seen or can see!’” The Six Martyrs from Scillium – 180 A.D.
The time: 180 A.D. The place: A small province in northern Africa in the expansive Roman Empire. The context: Commodus has succeeded his father, Marcus Aurelius, as emperor. Just as the emperors before him, Commodus commanded unyielding loyalty from all Romans. Those who defied the Roman Emperor usually met their death at the end of a sword or a pit of lions.
On a hot July day in Scillium, three men and three women stood in chains in front of the province’s governor. They were charged with not giving the Roman Emperor their full loyalty. This was their last opportunity to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ and pledge allegiance to Commodus. Renounce or die were their only choices. “When you speak evil of our sacred rites, I will not listen,” said Saturnius, the provincial governor. “Instead, swear by the genius of our emperor!”
Speratus, speaking for the group said, “I do not recognize the empire of this world, but rather I serve that God, ‘whom no man has seen or can see!’”
Saturnius began to insult the six Christians. He called them mad. He yelled. He badgered them. “Cease to be of this persuasion,” he demanded of them.
“Do you remain a Christian?” he asked. “I am a Christian,” Speratus replied. Others had already voiced their love of Christ.
“Wait 30 days and rethink,” Santurnius begged the group.
Yet each insisted, “I am a Christian!”
The debate had finished. None budged. So Saturnius read the decree for their sentencing. “Speratus, Nartalus, Cittimus, Donata, Vestia, Secunda, and the rest have confessed to [being Christian]. Since they obstinately persist, after an opportunity to return to Roman custom, it is decided to punish them with the sword.”
Speratus declared, “We thank God.”
“Today we are martyrs in heaven, thanks to God,” Nartalus said.
(Source: Foxe’s Book of Martyrs)