Conversion and Empire: Byzantine Missionaries, Foreign Rulers, and Christian Narratives (ca. 300-900)
Angelov, Alexander Borislavov
Doctor of Philosophy (History), in The University of Michigan (2011)
At some time around A.D. 340, a Roman immigrant to Persia stood on a trial before the shah Shapur II himself (r. 309-379). The defendant Pusicius had moved from Rome years before, managed to integrate well into his new state, married, worked hard, and eventually became a supervisor of an artisan guild at the Persian court. “On paper,” therefore, Pusicius seemed like a good Persian subject. Yet, he was now being tried for a crime so severe that it required no less than the direct attention of the shah himself. Pusicius was a declared Christian, and in the eyes of the Persian authorities, this made him a criminal of the worst kind. He was, therefore, easily convicted for breaking Persian religious laws, for bringing up his daughter as a Christian, for transmitting his dangerous ideas, and for urging other religious converts to public sedition.
In the face of such evidence, Pusicius himself must have cherished no illusions that the trial before the shah was only a legal formality with no chance of actual appeal. The verdict, which came as an immediate executive command, was to be an execution so brutal and uncompromising that it intended both to penalize and to serve as a radical example for the future. His neck pierced and his tongue dragged out slowly, Pusicius died in protracted agony while witnessing the parallel execution of his convicted daughter.