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E00099: Optatus, bishop of Milevis (North Africa), writing in Latin in Africa c. 364/384, calls Rome the see of *Peter (the Apostle, S00036) and doubts if Macrobius, a Donatist bishop of Rome, probably his contemporary, ever had any association with the memoriae (most probably graves) of the Apostles Peter and *Paul (S00008) in Rome or even approached them. From Optatus' polemical treatise Against Parmenianus.

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posted on 2014-10-28, 00:00 authored by robert
Optatus of Milevis, Against Parmenianus 2.4.1

Sed et habere uos in urbe Roma partem aliquam dicitis; ramus est uestri erroris, protentus de mendacio, non de radice ueritatis. Denique si Macrobio dicatur ubi illic sedeat, numquid potest dicere in cathedra Petri? Quam nescio si uel oculis nouit, et ad cuius memoriam non accedit quasi schismaticus contra apostolum faciens, qui ait: memoriis sanctorum communicantes. Ecce praesentes sunt ibi duorum memoriae apostolorum. Dicite si ad has ingredi potuit aut obtulit illic ubi sanctorum memorias esse constat.

'But you [the Donatists] say that you have a certain party in the city of Rome. It is a branch of your error, springing from a lie, not from the root of truth. Moreover, if Macrobius were to say where he has his see, could he say, in the see of Peter? I do not know if he has ever seen it with his eyes, and he has not approached Peter's memorial, acting like a schismatic against the Apostle, who speaks of communicating with the memorials of the saints (memoriae sanctorum). See, there are memorials of the two Apostles. Tell me if he was able to come up to these or made an offering [i.e. celebrated the Eucharist] in the place where the memorials of the saints are agreed to be.'

Text: Labrousse 1995. Translation: Edwards 1997, 33-34.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Peter the Apostle : S00036 Paul, the Apostle : S00008

Saint Name in Source

Petrus Paulus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Latin North Africa

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Milevis Carthage Carthago Karthago قرطاج‎ Qarṭāj Mçidfa Carthage

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Eucharist associated with cult

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


Optatus was the bishop of Milevis, a little town in Numidia. He wrote his treatise probably shortly after the death of the emperor Julian (363), since he mentions this event and says that the great persecution ended about sixty years ago (in Africa it ended in 305). It is quite probable, however, that he re-edited his work after 384, because at one point he refers to Siricius (elected in 384) as bishop of Rome. Only this (hypothetical) second edition survived. The treatise's original title is unknown. Jerome says that it was directed against Parmenianus, the Donatist bishop of Carthage. Be this as it may, it is important to remember that it is a highly polemical text and the image of Donatists, which it presents, should not be taken at face value.


This passage does not tell us a lot about the cult of the Apostles among Donatists in Rome. Optatus is most probably right when he says that they were not allowed to celebrate the eucharist at the graves of Peter and Paul (the practice is frequently mentioned in 4th century and later evidence, see E###), and so bears witness to a jealous protection of the tombs of famous saints by one religious group. Yet his statement that the Donatists could not even approach these tombs may well be rhetorical exaggeration.


Edition and French translation: Labrousse, M., Optat de Milève: Traité contre les Donatistes. Vol. 1 (Sources Chrétiennes 412; Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1995). English translation: Edwards, M.J., Optatus: Against the Donatists (Translated Texts for Historians 27; Liverpool, Liverpool University Press, 1997). Further reading: See commentaries in both editions of the text named above.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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