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Scillitan Martyrs, in North Africa

Commemorated on July 17

The Scillitan Martyrs were a company of twelve North African Christians (seven men and five women) who were executed for their beliefs on July 17, 180. The martyrs take their name from Scilla (or Scillium), a town in Numidia. The Acts of the Scillitan Martyrs are considered to be the earliest documents of the church of Africa.

Their names were Speratus, Nartzalus, Cintinus (Cittinus), Veturius, Felix, Aquilinus, Laetantius, Januaria, Generosa, Vestia, Donata, and Secunda. In their Acts, Speratus, their principal spokesman, wrote that they had lived a quiet and moral life, paying their dues and doing no wrong to their neighbors. However, when called upon to swear an oath to the emperor, he replied: “I recognize not the empire of this world; but rather do I serve that God whom no man hath seen, nor with these eyes can see.”

The martyrs were offered a thirty-day reprise to reconsider their decision, but they all refused.

Their trial and execution took place in Carthage under Governor Vigellius Saturninus, who was the first persecutor of Christians in Africa.

The fame of the martyrs led to the building of a basilica in their honor at Carthage.

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