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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. 43-45.

The Lives of the Popes,
B. Platina

Volume I.

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A.D. 230-235.

PONTIANUS, a Roman, son of Calphurnius, lived in the time of the Emperor Alexander, in the year nine hundred and seventy-four from the building of Rome, and the year of our Lord two hundred and thirty.

But between the reign of Heliogabalus and Alexander there are reckoned three other emperors, Macrimus, Diadumenus, and Albinus — whose names I intended to have left out, not only because they governed but a very little while, but chiefly because they did nothing memorable: only Albinus became notorious to posterity for his gluttony, eating, if we may believe the authority of Cordus, an hundred large peaches, ten choice melons, five hundred dried figs, and four hundred oysters at one meal. But to pass by these monsters of men, I come to Alexander, a singular pattern of virtue, who being created emperor by the Senate and the army, immediately applied himself to the settling of the commonwealth, which had been very much impaired by the miscarriages of former princes. To which end he made use of Julius Frontinus, a very learned man, and Ulpian and Paul, two excellent civilians, as assistants and coadjutors in that affair. He was so upright in all his dealings, that no man could ever complain of any injury received from him; and so far removed from any kind of vanity or ostentation, that he appeared but once in the costly robes belonging to his office, while he was consul. All those who in their addresses to him were sneakingly obsequious in their carriage, or affectedly complaisant in their words, he would reject as fawning fellows: 44 for he was so wise and discerning that no man could impose upon him; one instance of which was his proceeding with Turinus, to whom, for his taking bribes upon the pretence of his being the emperor’s mighty favourite, he allotted this remarkable punishment: that being bound to a stake in the Transitory Forum, a place of greatest concourse, and the most public thoroughfare, he should be suffocated with smoke — the common crier in the meantime proclaiming these words, “He that sold smoke, is punished with smoke.” Though his mother Mammæa, as she was a woman, had a great love for money, yet he was altogether above it; and for jewels he slighted them as feminine trifles, being often wont to say that in Virgil (whom he called the Plato of the poets), there were more and more precious gems to be found. The revenue which arose from bawds, and whores, and catamites, he forbade to be laid up in the sacred treasury, and judged it more fit to be assigned to the defraying some public charge, as the repairing of the theatre, the cirque, the amphitheatre, and the stadium. Having after great search gotten a collection of the images of famous men, he caused them to be put up in the Transitory Forum; and likewise finished and beautified those which are at this time called the Antoninian Baths, having been begun by Antoninus Caracalla. He had it in his design to acknowledge our Saviour to be a God, and build a temple to Him, and did actually set up the effigies of Christ, and Abraham, and Orpheus in his domestic chapel. Being renowned for so many excellent qualities, and created emperor while he was very young, he immediately engaged in a war against the Persians, and bravely vanquished the king Xerxes. In reforming the military discipline he was so strict that he cashiered some whole legions at once; which severity of his was the occasion of his being slain in a tumult of the soldiers at Mentz.

Pontianus being now Bishop of Rome, at the instigation of the idol priests both he and Philip, a presbyter, were at the emperor’s command transported from the city of Rome to the island Sardinia, much about that time when Germanus a presbyter of Antioch, and Beryllus, a bishop of Arabia, were converted to the faith by Origen. The heresy of Beryllus was his denial that Christ had any being before his incarnation. He wrote some small pieces, and particularly certain epistles, in which he returns thanks to Origen for his sound doctrine. There is extant likewise a dialogue between them, 45 wherein Origen convicts Beryllus of heresy. As for Origen himself, he was a person of so great wit and learning that seven amanuenses, taking their turns, were scarce sufficient for him. He had also as many transcribers and young women well skilled in writing,, all of which he wearied out with the copiousness and fertility of his inventions. Being sent for from Antioch to Rome by Mammæa, the pious emperor’s mother, he was in great esteem with her, and having fully instructed her in the Christian faith, he returned to Antioch. But Pontianus, having suffered diverse calamities and severe torments for the faith of Christ, at length died in Sardinia, his body being afterwards at the request of the whole clergy brought back with great veneration to Rome by Bishop Fabian, and interred in the Via Appia in the cemetery of Calistus. At the ordination which he held twice in the month of December, he made six presbyters, five deacons, and six bishops. He was in the chair fie years, five months, two days; and from his martyrdom the see was vacant ten days.

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Previous Pope:  18. St. Urbanus I. 19. St. Pontianus. Next Pope: 20. St. Anterus.

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