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Martyrs of the Serapeum

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Death: 390

When in the late fourth century the patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt obtained permission from the Byzantine emperor Theodosius to convert a pagan temple of his city into a Christian church, some of Alexandria's pagans rose up in revolt. In the ensuing rioting, many were killed. A contingent of pagan militants turned the temple of the idol Serapis into a base of operations for their violence, going out on raids to capture Christians and drag them back to the temple. They then ordered the prisoners to offer sacrifice to the temple idol. The Christian captives, upon refusing to venerate the pagan god, were executed with great brutality. Having learned of these events in Alexandria, the emperor Theodosius recognized the victims as heroic martyrs. So as not to cast any shadow upon their sacrifice, the emperor acted with clemency toward the perpetrators, pardoning their crimes. The subsequent destruction of the temple idol Serapis accelerated the conversion of Egyptian pagans to Christianity, as the people came to realize that pagan prophecies of doom if the idol was destroyed had proved false.


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