St Potamaena
[I] THIS blessed man Isidore, who had met Antony of blessed memory, told me a
story which is worth recording, which he had heard from Antony. There lived in the
time of Maximianus the persecutor a very beautiful maiden called Potamiaena, a
certain man's slave. Her master failed to seduce her, though he besought her eagerly
with many promises. [2] At last mad with rage he handed her over to the then
prefect of Alexandria, giving her up as a Christian and one who abused the times and
the Emperors because of the persecutions, and suggesting this to him with the help
of money: " If she falls in with my design, keep her without punishment." But if she
should remain puritanical, he asked that she might be punished, lest continuing to
live she should mock at his licentious ways. [3] She was brought before the tribunal
and the fortress of her soul was attacked by various instruments of torture. For one
of them, the judge had a great cauldron filled with pitch and ordered it to be heated.
When the pitch was now bubbling and terribly hot, he gave her the choice: "Either go
away and obey the wishes of your master, or know that I shall order you to be
plunged into the cauldron." But she answered and said: "God forbid that there should
be another such judge, who orders one to submit to licentiousness." [4] So in a fury
he ordered her to be stripped and thrown into the cauldron; but she lifted up her
voice and said: "By the head of your Emperor whom you fear, if you have decided to
punish me thus, order me to be let down gradually into the cauldron that you may
know what endurance the Christ, Whom you know not, bestows on me." And being
let down gradually during a space of one hour she died where the pitch reached her
Sts. Potamiana and Basilides[2]
THESE two also owed their instruction in virtue to the same master with the former,
as Henry Valesius proves from Eusebiuss 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 mothers Marcella, was burnt at the same time.
Tertullian and Origen testify that many were then called to the faith by visions and
apparitions. By such a favor was the conversion of the soldier Basilides wrought
throught the prayers of St. Potamiana, who while alive had promised he should feel
the effects of her gratitude when she should be gone to Christ. A little after her
marytrdom, the soldiers who were his comrades, being about to make him swear by
their false gods, declared 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 his 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 ax. St. Potamiana appeared to several others in
dreams and they were converted to the faith.   
[1] cf. Palladius - The Lausiac History.
[2] Butler's Lives of the Saints – June 28.
Lives of the Saints