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From The Lives of the Popes from the Time of our Saviour Jesus Christ to the Accession of Gregory VII. Written Originally in Latin by B. Platina, Native of Cremona, and translated into English (from an anonymous translation, first printed in 1685 by Sir Paul Rycaut), Edited by William Benham, Volume I, London: Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh, [1888, undated in text]; pp. 36-38.

The Lives of the Popes,
B. Platina

Volume I.

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Circa A.D. 202-219.

ZEPHYRINUS, a Roman, son of Habundius, lived in the time of Severus the emperor, who, being by birth an African, of the town of Leptis, upon the death of Julian succeeded in the empire, and took the surname of Pertinax. He was first an officer of the exchequer, then a colonel in the army, till, by several steps, he advanced himself to the dignity of imperator. He was of a very frugal temper. The cruelty of his nature was heightened by the many wars he had been engaged in; and he exercised great valour in defending, and great care in governing, his subjects. He was eminent not only for his skill in arms, but 37 in letters too, taking very much delight in the study of philosophy. He conquered the Parthians and Adiabeni, and made Arabia Interior a province of the Roman empire. For this achievement he triumphed, and upon the arch erected to him in the Capitol he was styled Parthicus Arabicus and Adiabenicus. Moreover, he adorned the city with public buildings. For he made those which from his own name are called the Severian Baths, and erected the famous Septizonium — that part of which noble pile that is now remaining, hardly escaped being pulled down some years ago by order of Pope Paul the second, to make the best of the stones.

But Bishop Zephyrinus, being more intent upon ecclesiastical than secular affairs, decreed, that every deacon and priest should be ordained in the presence of the faithful, both clergy and laity; which was afterwards confirmed in the council of Chalcedon. He decreed likewise, that the wine at the communion should not be consecrated, as had been before used, in a wooden chalice, but in glass. Though this constitution was altered in following times; wherein order was given that it should neither be in wood, because of its sponginess, whereby some of the sacrament might soak into it; nor of glass, because of its brittleness, and the danger of its being broken; nor of any ordinary coarse metal, by reason of the ill taste it might contract from it; but only in vessels of gold or silver, or at least of pewter; as appears in the canons of the councils of Triburia and Reims. He also ordained that all Christians of fourteen years of age should communicate every year upon Easter Day, which in aftertimes Innocent the Third extended not only to communion, but confession too. He commanded likewise, that no bishop being accused by his patriarch, or primate, or metropolitan, should have sentence passed against him but by the authority of the see apostolic. Lastly, he ordained that when the bishop celebrated, all his presbyters should be present. In his time flourished Heraclius, who wrote a comment upon the apostle; Maximus, who in a large book decided the great controversy of this age (viz., concerning the author of evil and the original of matter); Candidus, who composed an Hexaëmeron; and Origen, who in the tenth year of Severus Pertinax, a great persecution being raised against the Christians, and his father Leonidas put to death for his religion, whom he himself, being yet a youth, did very much confirm in his constancy and resolution, 38 was left with his mother, a widow, and six brethren, in a very low condition — all his father’s estate being confiscated, because they owned Christ to be the true God. Hereupon he was forced to teach a grammar school to get a livelihood for himself and his relations; and among others he had for his scholar, Plutarchus, who afterwards became a martyr. Not long after applying himself wholly to religion, he undertook the office of a catechist or preacher. He was a person of very great parts and skilled in all languages and kinds of learning. He was wonderfully temperate and abstemious as to meat and drink and all other things; imitating the poverty of Christ, and for many years walking barefoot; and, moreover, in his younger days he made himself an example of that passage in the gospel, “There be Eunuchs which have made themselves Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake.”1 Many were so encouraged in religion by his pattern, that they did with great constancy lay down their lives for Christianity, and particularly a woman named Potamiena, who was put to death by pouring scalding pitch upon her head. As for Zephyrinus, having at four Decembrian ordinations made thirteen presbyters, seven deacons, thirteen bishops, he died in the time of Severus, and was buried in the Via Appia, not far from the sepulchre of Calistus, August the 26th. He was in the chair seventeen years, seven months, ten days; and the see was vacant six days.


 1  Matt. xix. 12.

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Previous Pope:  15. St. Victor I. 16. St. Zephyrinus. Next Pope: 17. St. Calistus I.

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