It was not an option for Vibia Perpetua, a 22-year-old noblewoman and mother of a nursing child. In the winter of 203, she was arrested with other Christians, including four new converts who, like her, had been catechized in preparation for baptism. Among these were two of Perpetua’s brothers and an enslaved young woman named Felicitas, who was eight-months pregnant. The new converts were baptized while in prison.
They lived in Theourba, a small town about 30 miles from Carthage – one of the greatest centers of early Christianity (home of Cyprian and of the Scillian Martyrs). They were taken to Carthage to be tried, and were eventually executed in the city’s amphitheater, one of the largest in North Africa.
What sets the story of Perpetua and Felicitas apart from those of other martyrs of their time was the fact that they were both mothers and that Perpetua wrote a diary – one of the first documents ever written by a Christian woman. (Perpetua’s brother Saturus wrote a diary as well, making this persecution one of the best documented).