The Martyrdom of Saints Marcellus and Cassian

(From A Treasury of Early Christianity, edited by Anne
Fremantle, New York: Viking Press, 1953, pp. 233-236)

martyrdom

Marcellus was a native of Tingis (now Tangier), and a centurion during the reign of Diocletian. He cast away his arms and declared himself a Christian, for which he was sentenced [in 298] by the governor Fortunatus to be beheaded. At the time of Marcellus's trial Cassian was a shorthand writer in the court. He declared that the sentence of Marcellus was unjust, for which heresy he himself was imprisoned and a little later suffered the same martyrdom.

In the city of Tingis, during the administration of Fortunatus as governor, the time came for the birthday of the Emperor. When all in that place were feasting at banquets and sacrificing, a certain Marcellus, one of the centurions of the Trajan legion, deeming those banquets to be heathen, cast away his soldier's belt in front of the standards of the legion which were then in camp, and testified in a loud voice, saying: "I serve Jesus Christ the Eternal King." He also threw away his vine-switch and arms, and added: "Henceforward I cease to serve your Emperors, and I scorn to worship your gods of wood and stone, which are deaf and dumb idols. If such be the terms of service that men are forced to offer sacrifice to gods and Emperors, behold I cast away my vine-switch and belt, I renounce the standards, and refuse to serve."

The soldiers were dumbfounded at hearing such things; they laid hold on him, and reported the matter to Anastasius Fortunatus the commander of the legion, who ordered him to be thrown into prison. When the feasting was over, he gave orders, sitting in council, that the centurion Marcellus should be brought in. When Marcellus, one of the centurions of Asta, was brought in, Anastasius Fortunatus the governor said: "What did you mean by ungirding yourself in violation of military discipline, and casting away your belt and vineswitch?"

Marcellus answered: "On the twenty-first of July, in presence of the standards of your legion, when you celebrated the festival of the Emperor, I made answer openly and in a loud voice that I was a Christian and that I could not serve under this allegiance, but only under the allegiance of Jesus Christ the Son of God the Father Almighty."

Anastasius Fortunatus the governor said, "I cannot pass over your rash conduct, and therefore I will report this matter to the Emperors and Caesar. You yourself shall be referred unhurt to my lord, Aurelius Agricolan, Deputy for the Prefects of the Guard." [The shorthand writer who took down the official proceedings was Caecilius.]

On the 30th of October at Tingis, Marcellus, one of the centurions of Asta, having been brought into court, it was officially reported: "Fortunatus the governor has referred Marcellus, a centurion, to your authority. There is in court a letter dealing with his case, which at your command I will read."

Agricolan said: "Let it be read."

The official report was as follows: "From Fortunatus to you, my lord, and so forth. This soldier, having cast away his soldier's belt, and having testified that he was a Christian, spoke in the presence of all the people many blasphemous things against the gods and against Caesar. We have therefore sent him on to you, that you may order such action to be taken as your Eminence may ordain in regard to the same."

After the letter had been read, Agricolan said: "Did you say these things as appear in the official report of the governor?"

Marcellus answered: "I did."

Agricolan said: "Did you hold the rank of a centurion of the first class?"

Marcellus answered: "I did."

Agricolan said: "What madness possessed you to cast away the signs of your allegiance, and to speak as you did?"

Marcellus answered: "There is no madness in those who fear the Lord."

Agricolan said: "Did you make each of these speeches contained in the official report of the governor?"

Marcellus answered: "I did."

Agricolan said: "Did you cast away your arms?"

Marcellus answered: "I did. For it was not right for a Christian, who serves the Lord Christ, to serve the cares of the world."

Agricolan said: "The acts of Marcellus are such as must be visited with disciplinary punishment." And he pronounced sentence as follows: "Marcellus, who held the rank of centurion of the first class, having admitted that he has degraded himself by openly throwing off his allegiance, and having besides put on record, as appears in the official report of the governor, other insane expressions, it is our pleasure that he be put to death by the sword."

When he was being led to execution, he said to Agricolan: "May God bless thee! For so ought a martyr to depart out of this world."

And when he had said these words he was beheaded, dying for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is glorious for ever and ever. Amen.

When Aurelius Agricolan was acting as deputy for the Prefects of the Praetorian Guard, at the time when he was preparing to hear the case of the holy martyr Marcellus, the blessed Cassian was a shorthand writer under the orders of his staff. So when Marcellus, one of the centurions of Asta, was brought into court at Tingis on the 30th of October, Aurelius Agricolan by his power as judge strove with many threats to seduce him from perseverance in his confession. But the blessed Marcellus by the power of his constancy, so that all henceforward considered him his judge's judge, proclaimed that he was the soldier of Christ, and could not serve the cares of the world, while Aurelius Agricolan on the other hand poured forth words full of fury. Cassian was taking down these statements, but, when he saw Aurelius Agricolan, beaten by the devotion of so great a martyr, pronounce sentence of death, he vowed with an imprecation he would go no farther, and threw on the ground his pen and note book. So, amid the astonishment of the staff and the laughter of Marcellus, Aurelius Agricolan trembling leapt from the bench and demanded why he had thrown down his note books with an oath. Blessed Cassian answered that Agricolan had dictated an unjust sentence. To avoid further contradiction, Agricolan ordered him to be at once removed and cast into prison.

Now the blessed martyr Marcellus had laughed because, having knowledge of the future through the Holy Spirit, he rejoiced that Cassian would be his companion in martyrdom. On that very day, amid the eager expectation of the city, blessed Marcellus obtained his desire. After no long interval, namely, on the 3rd of December, the worshipful Cassian was brought into the same court in which Marcellus had been tried, and by almost the same replies, the same statement as holy Marcellus had made, merited to obtain the victory of martyrdom, through the help of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom belong honour and glory, excellency and power for ever and ever. Amen.


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