Perinus was the governor of the region that included Thessalonica in Greece. As governor he was charged with keeping order for the Roman establishment so that what passed for “peace” in Rome might be kept and those in power might remain in power. He had a nice title and a significant amount of power and wanted to keep both. So, he knew what to do with Christians and with people who would not pledge their greatest allegiance to Rome. In a way, you could call him progressive because in the year 250 he was already very willing to torture and kill Christians on account of their faith.But there was another tactic that he was especially fond of: character assassination.Sometimes, as in the case of Heliconis, he would have a Christian locked in the temple of Aesculapius after being beaten and tortured for their insistence in believing in Jesus. Then, after some time he would release them with congratulations and comfort–insisting that they had sacrificed to Aesculapius while they were captive in the temple. Though they often had not done so it was very tempting for them to allow Perinus to lie on their behalf.“After all,” they reasoned to themselves, “I didn’t sacrifice or say I did…so what’s the harm in pretending?” Heliconis, however, knew that such a deception was apostasy. To accept the benefit of worshiping an idol was to worship it with your mind. Plus, this lie would be used to demoralize Christian brothers and sisters.
So, when Heliconis was ordered to worship Aesculapius she was ready to resist no matter what. Perinus demanded that she sacrifice to the idol even though it was her denunciation of idols that had landed her in his presence. She responded, “Hear me, and know that I am a servant of Christ; as for Aesculapius, I do not know who he is. Do what you will.” So, Perinus had the woman beaten severely while other soldiers heated brands in a blazing fire. When the brands were ready, the soldiers burned and branded Heliconis’ body without mercy at the command of Perinus. The soldiers never doubted the justice in what they were doing–torturing an unarmed and unresisting woman for the sake of causing pain–because they had learned that Rome’s power was an absolute power that accepted no questioning. After torturing Heliconis cruelly for quite some time Perinus finally decided to lock her in a temple with a very large idol so that he might manipulate her into apostasy. They tossed her beaten body into the temple and locked the doors behind her.
They opened the doors much quicker than they expected, though, when they heard a thundering crash from within. As they looked into the temple they saw Heliconis grinning through her pain as she lie suffering on the floor and they saw the idol shattered around her.While they had waited outside the doors, Heliconis had summoned a thin remnant of her strength with a prayer and mounted the pedestal upon which the idol stood. With all that remained of her earthly might she pushed against it but it wouldn’t move. She said a prayer and tried again but it only seemed to move a fraction of an inch. Fearing that the guards would soon come and take her from the temple, she prayed to God and insisted that if God wanted her to do this thing, then God would have to make it possible.With this faithful prayer she pushed once again and the statue fell forward. The idol broke on the floor and made an indelible statement to Perinus, the soldiers, and all to whom Rome might try to lie. None could believe that Heliconis made a sacrifice to the god she had shattered with the help of her own God. In a rage, Perinus commanded that she be beheaded for this crime and the soldiers were quick to comply because they knew that Perinus had the power to do the same to them. Heliconis died a martyr and a destroyer of gods.
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