By virtue of a reference in an epistle to Augustine [Letter #16 = NPNF ser.1 1.233-234] from one of his old “pagan” teachers, Maximus the grammarian, from the locale of Madauros, we may gather that a small cluster of at least four, presumably native North Africans, were caught up at about the same time as the “Scillitan martyrs” in a persecution which began within weeks of the accession as sole emperor of Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus [161-192, co-emperor from 177 with his father Marcus Aelius Aurelius Verus (121-17 March 180); see Carrington 1957:II.291].
In the interchange of letters Maximus speaks rather derisively of these four, naming each in sequence, pretending to associate each on a par with some higher Roman deity, from which we learn there was included three men and one woman. Of the woman Maximus charges that she [Samae] is honored “above Juno, Minerva, Venus, and Vesta” [Letter #16 = NPNF ser.1 1.233].
Augustine in reply [Letter #17 = NPNF ser.1 1.234-235] restated the significance of those who had been martyred, not as deified ones against whom Maximus made jest, but as confessors of the Christian faith.
Unfortunately neither court record, nor detail of the executions, survives. For what little else can be indicated relative to these events, see the main entry on “Namphanio” as well as the entry on “Speratus,” leader of the “Scillitan martyrs”.
Clyde Curry Smith
Bibliography (see link to abbreviations table below):
Carrington 1957 The Early Christian Church, by Philip Carrington. Cambridge: At the University Press. 2 volumes.
This article, received in 2004, was researched and written by Dr. Clyde Curry Smith, Professor Emeritus of Ancient History and Religion, University of Wisconsin, River Falls.