But the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus believed Christianity undermined patriotism to the empire, so he determined to persecute Christians, focusing his attention on North Africa. Among the first to be arrested were five Christians taking classes to prepare for baptism, one of whom was Perpetua. Her father tried to talk her out of her faith, but Perpetua could not be swayed.
Time and again he tried to convince her to relent in her faith, but she would not. As a pagan, he realized there was an easy way for Perpetua to save herself: simply deny she was a Christian.
"Father do you see this vase here?" she replied. "Could it be called by any other name than what it is?"
"No," he replied.
"Well, neither can I be called anything other than what I am, a Christian."
Time and again the father walked out of the prison dejected.
The day of the hearing arrived. The governor Hilarianus, probably wanting to avoid executing a mother still nursing a child, added, "Have pity on your father’s gray head; have pity on your infant son. Offer the sacrifice for the welfare of the emperors."
"I will not."
"Are you a Christian, then?" asked the governor.
"Yes, I am," Perpetua replied. Perpetua and her friends were condemned to die in the arena. Perpetua, her friends, and Felicitas (who also had been arrested) were dressed in belted tunics before they entered the stadium. Wild beasts and gladiators roamed the arena floor, and in the stands, crowds roared to see blood.
Immediately a wild heifer charged the group. Perpetua was tossed into the air and onto her back. She sat up, adjusted her ripped tunic, and walked over to help Felicitas. Next a leopard was let loose, and it wasn’t long before it attacked and mauled the Christians.
Still, the crowd was impatient, and began screaming for the deaths of the Christians. Perpetua and her friends were lined up, and one by one, slain by a gladiator’s sword. Perpetua climbed with Jesus.
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