Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Chrysogonus, martyr under Diocletian
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Chrysogonus, martyr under Diocletian
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Chrysogonus (1), martyr in the persecution of Diocletian, whose name was inserted in the Canon of the Mass from a very early period, which shews his importance, though little is now known of him. In the Menology he is commemorated along with Anastasia, Dec. 22. He was of "great Rome," "a man that feared God," "teacher of the Christians"; "and when persecution was set on foot he was arrested and cast into prison." "Diocletian, staying at Nice, wrote to Rome that all the Christians should die, and that Chrysogonus should be brought bound to Nice, and when he was brought he beheaded him." For Nice we should probably read Nicomedia. In these acts it is easy to trace the effects of the first and second of Diocletian's edicts. Chrysogonus evidently was not one of the traditors, so numerous at Rome under the first edict, Feb. a.d. 303. Hence, when by the second edict, not long after, all the clergy were committed to jail, he exercised great influence from his prison on the faithful, still for the most part unscathed and at large. The question is to what we are to refer the statement about the decree that all Christians should be killed, and that Chrysogonus should be brought to Bithynia. His passion is assigned to Dec. 22. By the third edict, on the great anniversary festival of the emperor on the 21st, the clergy were to sacrifice if they were to be included in the general release of prisoners; if not, torture was to be employed to induce them. But there were no general orders for the arrest of all Christians. The rescript of Trajan was still in force. But the great festival must have brought to light many a recusant. They might not be executed, but if they died under torture it was strictly legal. When, in the spring of a.d. 304, the fourth edict appears, it sets forth no new penalties; it merely interprets the previous decrees in all the grim pregnancy of their meaning: "certis poenis intereant."
It may well be that the constancy of men like Chrysogonus, under their tortures, was among the things that drove Diocletian mad; and that he left word at his hurried departure from Rome (Dec. 22, a.d. 303), "Send him after me." The martyrdom is assigned by several Western authorities to Aquileia or the neighbouring Aquae Gradatae in Friulia. The day to which it is almost universally assigned in the West, from the Calendar of Carthage onwards, is Nov. 24. Anastasia's commemoration in the West is on Dec. 25, and in some of the Hieronymian martyrologies her passion is assigned to Sirmium, which was probably the scene of Diocletian's illness. But Usuard tells that she was transported to the little isle Palmaruola (about lat. 41°, long. 31°) in the Tyrrhene sea.