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CH A P. X.
Of the DANGER of False LEGENDS and
ANKIND have been too long imposed
upon by fallhood : it is therefore time that we fould come to the knowledge of the few truths that can be distinguished from amidst the clouds of fiction which cover the Roman History from the times of Tacitus and Suetonius, and with which the annals of the other nations of antiquity have almost always been obscured.
Can any one, for example, believe that the Romans, a grave and modest people, couldhave condemned Christian virgins, the children of persons of the first quality, to common proffitution ? This is assuredly very inconsistent with the noble austerity of that nation, from whom we received our laws, and who punished so rigorously the least transgression of chastity in their vestals. These shameful stories may in deed be found in the Aftes finceres of Ruinart.
But should we believe those acts before the acts of the Apostles? The Actes Sinceres tell us from Bollandus, that there were in the city of Ancira seven Christian virgins, each of them upwards of seventy, whom the governor Theodectes ordered to be deflowered by the young men of the place; but these poor maidens having escaped this disaster (as indeed there was great reason they should), he compelled them to afist stark naked at the mysteries of Diana, at which, by the way, no one ever allisted but in a veil. St. Theodotus, who, though indeed nothing more than an inn-keeper, was not the Jess pious for that, besought God devoutly that he would be pleased to take away the lives of these holy maidens, left they should yield to temptation. God heard his prayer. The governor ordered them all to be thrown into a lake with a stone about their neck; immedia ately after which they appeared to Theodotus, and begged of him, “ that he would not suffer " their bodies to be devoured by the fishes. 'a These, it feems, were their own words.
Hereupon the inn-keeper saint, and some of his companions, went in the night-time to the hade of the lake, which was guarded by a party
of soldiers, a heavenly torch going all the way before, to light them. When they came to the place where the guards were posted, they saw a heavenly horseman armed cap-a-pee, with a launce in his hand, who fell upon the soldiers and dispersed them, while St. Theodotus drew the dead bodies of the virgins out of the water. He was afterwards carried before the governor, who ordered his head to be struck off, without the heavenly horseman interfering to prevent it. However disposed we may be to pay all due reverence to the true martyrs of our holy religion, we must confefs it is very hard to believe the story of Bollandus and Buinart.
Need I add to this the legend of young St. Romanus ? Eusebius tells us, that having been condemned to be burnt, he was accordingly thrown into the fire, when some Jews, who were present, made a mock of Jesus Christ, who suffered his followers to be burnt when God had delivered Shadrac, Meschec, and Abednego out of the firy furnace. No sooner had the Jews uttered this blasphemy, than they beheld St. Romanus walking triumphant and unhurt from forth the flaming pile : this being reported to the emperor, he gave orders for his F 6.
being being pardoned, telling the judge that he would not have an affair upon his hands with God, (a strange expression for Dioclefian!) Thejudge, however, notwithstanding the emperor's clemency, ordered St. Romanus to have his tongue cut out; and, though he had executioners ac hand, commanded the operation to be performed by a furgeon. Young Romanus, who had from his birth laboured' under on impediment of speech, no sooner lost his tongue than he spoke distinctly and with great volubility. Upon this, the surgeon received a severe reprimand; when, in order to show that he had performed his operation, secundum artem, he laid hold of a man who was going by, from whom he eut juft the same portion of tongue, as he had done from S. Romanus, of which the patient inftant. ly died, for, adds our author very learnedly,
Anatomy teaches us, that a man cannot live “ without his tongue.” If Eufebius did really write fuch fuff, and it has not been added by fume other hand, what degree of credit can we give to his history?
We have the relation of the martyrdom of St. Felicity and her seven children, who are said
to have been condemned to death by the wise and pious Antoninus, but without giving us the author's name ; who, most probably, possessed of more zeal than veracity, had a mind to imitate the history of the Maccabees. He begins bis relation in the following manner: “ St.
Felicity was by birth a Roman, and lived in " the reign of Antoninus :" it is clear by these words, that the author did not live at the same time with St. Felicity. He says, that they were judged before the pretor in the Campus Marrius : whereas the Roman prefe&t's tribunal was not in the Campus Martius, but in the capitol ; for, although the Comitishad been held there formerly, yet at this time it was used only as a place for reviewing the soldiers, for chariotraces, and for military games: this alone is fuf: ficient to detect the fiction.
The author adds furthermore, that after fen. tence was passed, the emperor committed the care of seeing it executed to different judges; a circumstance which is entirely repugnant to the usual forms in those times, and in every other.
We also read of St. Hypolitus, who is said to have been drawn in pieces by horses, as was