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Christians in Carthage
     Perpetua and Felicity

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Perpetua and Felicity: AD 203

Perpetua is a well-born young woman of Carthage - twenty years old, mother of a young son, perhaps widowed. Felicity is a young slave, heavily pregnant and probably part of the same household as Perpetua. They and three men are being instructed in Christianity, but their acceptance into the Christian community is interrupted by a local campaign of persecution.

In 203 it is announced that the Christians of Carthage must perform the official act of ritual sacrifice for the emperor. Refusing to do so, the five are placed under house arrest. In privacy they are baptized. Soon they are moved to the common gaol.

What makes their story unique, for this early period, is that Perpetua writes an account of what happens. At first she has her young son with her in the prison, until he is taken away home to her parents. Felicity, the slave-girl, brutally treated by the warders, gives birth to a daughter - who is immediately adopted by a Christian family. Eventually the little group appears for judgement before the local governor. Perpetua's description of the scene evokes vividly the Pressures to conform.

They are condemned to be sent into the ring with wild beasts. Someone else completes Perpetua's document, telling how the martyrs are mauled by the animals but survive to kiss each other before being killed by a sword thrust.