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Scillitan Martyrs

A group from Scilli in Numidia (location unknown) beheaded at Carthage on 17 July 180 by the proconsul Saturninus, the first persecuting governor in Roman Africa, according to Tertullian. The account of their trial is the earliest literary evidence of African Christianity and the oldest dated Christian document in Latin. Saturninus's sentence lists seven men and five women, but apparently only three of each were tried on this occasion (the others perhaps previously, if they are not interpolated). Their names suggest they belonged to the noncitizen classes. They had with them “the books” (gospels?) and Paul's epistles, indubitably in Latin. Their simple steadfastness verged on provocative defiance (“I do not recognize the empire of this world”).

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