This - will blow your mind.
About 1800 years ago two young women were martyred. Vibia Perpetua was a noble woman of 22, with an infant son, and Felicitas, a pregnant slave martyred with her. They were new converts to Christianity along with a few other individuals - converted - but not yet baptized - and had actually been arrested on their way to their baptism. It's not ultimately clear how Perpetua and Felicitas came to be arrested - it is possible that they were arrested due to a decree by Emperor Septimus Severus. It's also possible that they were arrested under a local law after being reported by Perpetua's father. However the arrest came about - the group of 5 was arrested - Saturus, Revocatus, and Secundulus. Saturinus seems to have also been martyred at the same time - at a series of games held in honor of Emperor Septimus Severus's birthday. The Diary of Perpetua and Felicitas was by Vibia Perpetua and is at times an astonishingly raw portrayal of the last days of an early martry. While it includes several visions - it also records Vibia's emotions as she slides in and out of the most formal style of writing at that time - to the most blunt and undecorated descriptions of their desperate situation.
Here's some dialogue from the trial where they were condemned:
'Have pity on your father's grey head; have pity on your infant son. Offer the sacrifice for the welfare of the emperors.'
'I will not', I retorted.
'Are you a Christian?' said Hilarianus.
And I said: 'Yes, I am.'
When my father persisted in trying to dissuade me, Hilarianus ordered him to be thrown to the ground and beaten with a rod. I felt sorry for father, just as if I myself had been beaten. I felt sorry for his pathetic old age.
Then Hilarianus passed sentence on all of us: we were condemned to the beasts.
When the two women for whom the diary is named are taken out to face the beasts - Perpetua has another vision - and Saturus completes the last diary entry - including a description of Perpetua's and Felicitas's deaths.
The day of their victory dawned, and they marched from the prison to the amphitheater joyfully as though they were going to heaven, with calm faces, trembling, if at all, with joy rather than fear. Perpetua went along with shining countenance and calm step, as the beloved of God, as a wife of Christ, putting down everyone's stare by her own intense gaze. With them also was Felicitas, glad that she had safely given birth so that now she could fight the beasts, going from one blood bath to another, from the midwife to the gladiator, ready to wash after childbirth in a second baptism.
They were then led up to the gates and the men were forced to put on the robes of priests of Saturn, the women the dress of the priestesses of Ceres. But the noble Perpetua strenuously resisted this to the end.
'We came to this of our own free will, that our freedom should not be violated. We agreed to pledge our lives provided that we would do no such thing. You agreed with us to do this.'
The two women met other people condemned to die in the arena where beasts were to be let loose after they'd been scourged by soldiers. Felicitas died first being crushed - whereas Pertpetua's death was hastened by a young soldier who relieved her from a slow, agonizing death.
I first read of this account several years ago and every now and then stumble across it again in my files and think, "Do I really need to keep this" - only to find myself pulled into the story again and so encouraged by the examples set by the believers in it. It may not be the most mind-blowing diary ever - but it is an incredible account.