Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saints Potamiana or Potamiena, and Basilides, Martyrs

Article

These two also owed their instruction in virtue to the same master with the former, as Henry Valesius proves from Eusebius’s history, and as Rufinus assures us. Potamiana was by condition a slave, but had the happiness to be educated in the faith by a pious mother, whose name was Marcella, and seeking the ablest master of piety, applied herself to Origen. She was young, and of amazing beauty, and her heathen master conceived a brutish desire to abuse her; but finding her resolution and virtue invincible, and all his artifices, threats, and promises in vain, he delivered her to the prefect Aquila, entreating him not to hurt her if she could be prevailed upon to consent to his passion, and on that condition promising him a considerable sum of money. The prefect not being able to persuade her, made her undergo several torments, and at length caused a caldron of boiling pitch to be prepared, and then said to her: “Go, obey your master, or you shall be thrown into this caldron.” She answered, “I conjure you by the life of the emperor whom you respect, that you do not let me appear uncovered; command me rather to be let down by degrees into the caldron with my clothes on, that you may see the patience with which Jesus Christ, of whom you are ignorant, endues those who trust in him.” The prefect granted this request, and delivered her to Basilides, one of her guards, to carry her to execution. Basilides treated her with mildness and civility, and kept off the people, who pressed on to insult her modesty, with lewd and opprobrious speeches, all the way she went. The martyr, by way of requital, bade him be of good courage; and promised, that “after her death she would obtain of God his salvation,” as Eusebius expresses it. When she had spoken thus, the executioners put her feet into the boiling pitch, and dipped her in by degrees to the very top of her head; and thus she finished her martyrdom. Her mother, Marcella, was burnt at the same time. Tertullian 1 and Origen 2 testify that many were then called to the faith by visions and apparitions. 3 By such a favour was the conversion of the soldier Basilides wrought through the prayers of Saint Potamiana, who whilst alive had promised he should feel the effects of her gratitude when she should be gone to Christ. A little after her martyrdom, the soldiers who were his comrades, being about to make him swear by their false gods, he declared that he was a Christian, and could by no means do it. They at first thought he jested; but finding him to persist in his resolution, they carried him to the prefect, who caused him to be put in prison. The Christians who came to visit him there, asked him the cause of his sudden change. He answered them, that Potamiana had appeared to him on the night after the third day from her martyrdom, and had placed a crown on his head, saying, that she had besought the Lord to give him the grace of salvation, and had obtained her request; and that he should shortly be called by Him to glory. After this, having received from the brethren the seal of the Lord (that is, baptism), he made the next day, a second time, a glorious confession of the faith before the tribunal of the prefect, and sentence of death being passed upon him, his head was cut off with an axe. Saint Potamiana appeared to several others in dreams, and they were converted to the faith.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saints Potamiana or Potamiena, and Basilides, Martyrs”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. Saints.SQPN.com. 26 June 2013. Web. 26 October 2014. <>