Vibia Perpetua and Felicitas by Thomas John
This has been recorded so beautifully by Tertullian himself. ‘The day of their victory dawned, and they marched from the prison 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. For the young women, however, the Devil had prepared a mad heifer. This was an unusual animal, but it was chosen that their sex might be matched with that of the beast. So they were stripped naked, placed in nets and thus brought out into the arena. Even the crowd was horrified when they saw that one was a delicate young girl and the other was a woman fresh from child-birth with the milk still dripping from her breasts. And so they were brought back again and dressed in unbelted tunics.
First the heifer tossed Perpetua and she fell on her back. Then sitting up, she pulled down the tunic that was ripped along the side so that it covered her thighs, thinking more of her modesty than of her pain. Next she asked for pin to fasten untidy hair for it was not right that a martyr should die with her hair in disorder, lest she might seem to be mourning in her hour of triumph.
Then she got up. And seeing that Felicitas had been crushed to the ground, she went over to her, gave her hand, and lifted her up .... Then she called for her brother and spoke to him together with the catechumens and said: "You must all stand fast in the faith and love one another, and do not be weakened by what we have gone through". All of them were thrown in the usual spot to have their throat cut. But the mob asked that their bodies be brought out in the open that their eyes might be the guilty witnesses of the sword that pierced their flesh. And so the martyrs got up and went to the spot of their own accord as the people wanted them to, and kissing one another they sealed their martyrdom with the ritual kiss of peace. The others took the sword in silence and without moving, ... Perpetua, however, had yet to taste more pain. She screamed as she was struck on the bone; then she took the trembling hand of the young gladiator, and guided it to her throat. It was as though so great a woman, feared as she was by the unclean spirit, could not be dispatched unless she herself were willing’. (Mururilo, op.cit., pp. 125-131.)