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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. 41-43.

The Lives of the Popes,
B. Platina

Volume I.

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A.D. 223-230.

URBANUS, a Roman, son of Pontianus, was Bishop of Rome in the time of the Emperor M. Aurelius Antoninus, A.D. 223.

This Antoninus, supposed to be the base son of Caracalla, coming to Rome, and being advanced to the empire not without an universal expectation of good from him, took the name of Heliogabalus from the sun, so called by the Phœnicians, to which he built a temple and was himself a priest of it. But he led a life so contrary to the hopes and opinion men had entertained of him, that he has left no other memory of himself than that of his exorbitant villanies and all kinds of debauchery. For he violated the chastity of the Vestal virgins, made his palace no better than a stews, and in a rage commanded Sabinus, a man of consular dignity (and to whom Ulpian, the famous civilian wrote) to be immediately put to death. He conferred all places of trust and honour upon the vilest of men, with whom he was wont sometimes to make himself sport after this manner: he would make them lie down with him at supper, but it should be upon large bellows, which being raised and distended, they would all of a sudden tumble down under the table. He had such a loud and indecent way of laughing, that in a full theatre his voice 42 might be heard above all the company. He was the first among the Romans who wore velvet, and used tables and other utensils of silver. When some of his friends advised him to beware that by his luxury he did not reduce himself to want: “Can I do better,” says he, “than to make myself my own and my wife’s heir?” He was once so extravagantly freakish as to cause a collection to be made of ten thousand pound weight of spiders, from whence he pretended an estimate might be taken of the bigness of the city of Rome; and to get together ten thousand mice, and as many weazels, and rats. These mad pranks by degrees rendered him so contemptible in the eyes of all men, that himself and his mother were both slain in military tumult. It is said that some Syrian priests having told him that he should undergo a violent death, he thereupon fairly provided himself of a decent scarlet silken halter to do his own work withal. He died in the fourth year of his reign, at the same time when the city of Nicopolis in Palestine (formerly called Emmaus) was built — Africanus, the historian and chronologer, undertaking an embassy to promote that affair.

Urban, who lived in the time of this monster, not of Diocletian (as some would have it), by his eminent piety and learning proselyted multitudes to the Christian faith; and among others, particularly Valerianus, an excellent person, and contracted to St Cecilia, with his brother Tiburtius, both which afterwards suffered martyrdom with great constancy of mind; as did also the espoused virgin herself, in her father’s house, which was at her request consecrated and made a church by Urban. The same Urban also ordained that the Church might receive estates in land or houses, given and bequeathed to her by any of the faithful, but that the revenues of them should not be any one’s property, but for the common good be distributed among the whole clergy, to every one his share — a constitution long since antiquated through the covetousness and rapacity of following ages. Some attribute to him the distinction of the four stated annual times of fasting, or Ember-weeks, which through men’s ignorance were before kept very confusedly. In his time lived Tryphon, one of Origen’s disciples, remarkable for the book he composed concerning the red heifer in Deuteronomy. Minutius Felix, also a famous pleader at Rome, wrote a dialogue, in which he introduces a Christian and a heathen disputing; besides 43 another book against the mathematicians, of which Lactantius makes mention. Moreover, Alexander, Bishop of Jerusalem, at this time founded the famous library there, by which he has gained so great a reputation. As for Urban himself, having at five Decembrian ordinations made nine presbyters, five deacons, nine bishops, he received a crown of martyrdom, and was buried in the cemetery of Prætextus, in the Via Tiburtina; having been in the chair seven years, ten months, twelve days; and the see was vacant thirty days.

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Previous Pope:  17. St. Calistus I. 18. St. Urbanus I. Next Pope: 19. St. Pontianus.

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