Agnes and Anastasia
Martyrs in the Diocletian Persecution
Martyred 303 A.D.
While Diocletian was noted as an organizer and ruler, he became notorious as the instigator of the “tenth persecution.” By his order, in 303, churches were torn down, sacred writings were ordered given up and destroyed, all assemblies of Christians were prohibited, Christians in public office were removed from their positions, and all were subject to torture. The emperor’s purpose was to exterminate the Christian religion.
Agnes and Anastasia were two of the many who suffered death as a result of the bloody edict. Agnes was a young maiden of wealth and beauty, and many of the young noblemen sought her in marriage, but she refused them all on the ground that she devoted her life to the service of Christ. Her suitors accused her to the governor, expecting that threats and torture would cause her to give up her religion. She was entreated and threatened by the judge, and the instruments of torture were shown to her. She was then commanded to sacrifice to the idols, but she steadfastly refused. The enraged judge then ordered her to be beheaded.
Anastasia’s father was a pagan, but her mother was a Christian. The death of her mother was a sad blow. Her father compelled her to marry a pagan. Her husband, finding that she was a Christian, treated her cruelly and squandered her property. In a few years he died, and Anastasia devoted herself to works of charity, using what remained of her fortune in relieving the poor Christians, many of whom were in prison. Her works excited suspicion. She and three female servants were arrested, and commanded to sacrifice idols. This they refused to do. The servants were executed at once. Anastasia was banished for a time, but subsequently was brought back to Rome and burned alive.
Christians died, but Christianity lived on and grew under persecution. Diocletian abdicated in 305 A.D. In 311 was issued the edict of universal toleration.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.