MARTYRS

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MARTYRS (from the Greek naprvp, a witness) ; a name applied, by the Christian church, to those persons, in particular, who, in the early ages of Christianity, and during the great persecutions, suffered ignominy and death, rather than renounce their faith, and thus testified their unshaken confidence in the truth and divine origin of the new doctrines. The animation which faith inspires in noble minds, wherever it is opposed and oppressed, has given to the Christian church many heroic examples of this sort; and, in all ages and countries, religious tyranny has aroused the spirit of martyrdom, which leads to the sacrifice of life and of worldly good for faith. An account of the life, persecutions and death of the Christian martyrs, is called martyrology. Clement I, bishop of Rome, was the first who attempted a work of this kind. The Roman martyr ology is the most celebrated. (On the worship of martyrs, see the article Saints.) Martyr, in a wider sense, is used for any innocent person who surfers in a good cause, or in a cause which he considers so; thus we say, to be a martyr to the truth, to a cause, &c. (For further information, see Persecutions.) Martyrs, Mr a of. (See Epoch.) Martyrs, Festivals of the, seem to have been observed as early as the second century. The Christians offered prayers at the tombs of the martyrs, and thanked God for the example which they had given to the world. The rite was concluded with the sacrament of the Lord's supper and the distribution of arms. Eulogies were also delivered, and accounts of the lives and actions of the deceased read. These festivals were called the birthdays of the martyrs, because on the day of their death they were born to the joys of eternal life. The churches or chapels consecrated to the martyrs were styled martyria. They sometimes, though not alwaj^s, contained their bones, and sometimes were particular rooms in the great churches.