Sometimes you have to stick up for the Roman emperors. The martyrdom of Saint Heliconis is one of those times.
Heliconis was a third century Thessalonican who had the noble idea of preaching the Gospel in Corinth. Of course the Corinthians had a church since the first century -- that's why Saint Paul wrote to them -- but perhaps they needed a little boost. Naturally, the local polytheists didn't view her Testament Tour as favorably as the Corinthian Christians.
Heliconis herself, however, was a hit, especially with Governor Perinus. He said he hated to see a hottie like her being roasted alive or fed to wild beasts. Didn't she want to come back to his palace and hear more about Cupid and Psyche?
Predictably, she declined, following which the dutiful governor caused her to be thrown into a furnace. Never one to allow a quick martyrdom when a splashy display of miracles can be made, Michael the Archangel cooled the furnace. Perinus turned up the heat (literally) by searing the flesh on her breasts. He also shredded the skin from her head. She must have seemed to waver because he followed that up with an offer to make her a priestess if she would offer a sacrifice. Rather than protesting her faith again, she asked to be led to the temple.
Once there, standing apart and ready to offer sacrifice, she stunned the crowd by going banzai on the idols. Smashy, smashy, as Bart Simpson said when the animatronics took over Duff Gardens. They labeled (or perhaps libeled) Heliconis "Sorceress" and demanded that she be killed. Yeah, like they had any control over that.
A good sound beating and five days in prison without food or water ought to have done her in. (Cue the Scooby Doo villain voice: "And it would have, if it weren't for those meddling angels.") Given her ability to thwart death, they determined that the most public and popular form of execution would be the best choice. [Who handled their PR?] To the lions with her!
The lions lay down at her feet. When the crowd started shouting for the beasts to kill the sorceress, they got jumpy. So jumpy, in fact, that they hopped the boards and ran amok in the stands, satisfying the bloodthirsty polytheists with their own blood.
Perinus knew there was nothing for it by a quick chop to the neck. Beheading never fails, and sure enough, it didn't.
When, you may be wondering, will I stick up for the Roman emperor? This murder has been hung around the neck of the Emperor Gordian. There were three emperors named Gordian. The first two, a father and son, ruled thirty-six whole days before succumbing to the hazards of the job. The third, a grandson of Gordian I, got six years on the throne, starting at age thirteen and ending before his twentieth birthday. Nothing in his reign suggests a renewal of the persecutions against the Christians. Gordian3's successor, Philip the Arab, appears to have been openly sympathetic to the Christians.
It is entirely possible that Heliconis was killed in 244, the year in which Philip replaced Gordian3. Still, just as we ought not hang everything that happens from Fairbanks to Fort Lauderdale on the President, we can hardly hold the Emperor responsible for an execution in Corinth.