The Emperor Severus, in the year 202, the tenth of his reign, raised a bloody persecution which filled the entire empire with martyrs, but especially Egypt. The most illustrious of those who by their triumphs ennobled and edified the city of Alexandria was Leonides, father of the great Origen. He was a Christian philosopher and excellently versed both in the profane and sacred sciences. He had seven sons; the eldest was Origen, whom he brought up with very great care, returning thanks to God for having blessed him with a son of such an excellent disposition for learning, and so remarkable a piety. After his son was baptized, he would come to his bedside while he was asleep and, bending over the child, would kiss his breast respectfully, as the temple of the Holy Spirit.
When the persecution reached Alexandria in 202, under Laetus, governor of Egypt, Leonides was cast into prison. Origen, who was then only seventeen years of age, burned with a fervent desire for martyrdom, and sought every opportunity of facing it. His ardor redoubled at the sight of his father's chains, and his mother was forced to lock up all his clothes to oblige him to stay at home. She conjured him not to forsake her; thus, unable to do more, he wrote a letter to his father in very moving terms, strongly exhorting him to look at the crown that was offered him with courage and joy. He added this exhortation: Take heed that for our sakes you do not change your mind! Leonides was indeed beheaded for the faith in 202.