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E00761: Latin poem on the martyrdom of *Emeterius and Celidonius (soldiers and martyrs of Calahorra, S00410) is composed by Prudentius, writing c. 400 in Calahorra (northern Spain). The poem, part of his Crowns of the Martyrs (Peristephanon) contains several details on the two martyrs' cult.

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posted on 2015-10-09, 00:00 authored by mtycner
Liber Peristephanon, Poem I


The poem begins with the statement that Emeterius and Chelidonius are venerated in Calahorra in Spain, where they suffered martyrdom (see $E00762).

Prudentius praises martyrdom and compares it to baptism. He tells the story of Emeterius and Chelidonius: they are soldiers who convert to Christianity. They witness the persecutions of Christians who refuse to sacrifice to the pagan gods and decide to share their fate. They are tortured, but no details of their martyrdom are known, because a soldier had deliberately taken the written account of this, in order to prevent the spread of the saints' fame (see $E00763). At their death, the ring of one of the martyrs and the handkerchief of the other are taken up to heaven. At their martyrdom, and later, miracles happen at the saints' bodies and they forever serve as patrons and protectors of the city of Calahorra (see $E00764).

Text: Cunningham 1966: 251-256. Translation: Thomson 1953, 98-108. Summary: M. Tycner.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Emeterius and Celidonius, soldier martyrs of Calahorra (Spain), ob.? : S00410

Saint Name in Source

Emeterius, Chelidonius

Type of Evidence

Literary - Poems Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Iberian Peninsula

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Calahorra Osset Osset Osen (castrum) Osser castrum

Major author/Major anonymous work


Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle at martyrdom and death Miracle after death Power over objects Assumption/otherworldly journey Exorcism Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives



Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (348–after 405) was a Christian aristocrat from Calahorra in the Spanish province of Tarraconensis. He was a high official in the imperial bureaucracy in Rome, but withdrew from public life, returned to Calahorra, and dedicated himself to the service and celebration of God. Most of what we know about his biography comes from the preface to the ensemble of his works, which can be reliably dated to 404 (Cunningham 1966, 1-2), and other autobiographical remarks scattered throughout his works (for a detailed discussion, see Palmer 1989, 6-31). He composed several poetical works, amongst them the Peristephanon (literally, On the Crowns [of the Martyrs]), a collection of fourteen poems of different length describing martyrdoms of saints. We do not know exactly at which point in his literary career Prudentius wrote the preface (possibly at the very end, just before publication); for attempts at a precise dating of the Peristephanon, see Fux 2013, 9, n. 1. The poems in the Peristephanon, written in elegant classical metres, deal mainly with martyrs from Spain, but some of them are dedicated to saints of Rome, Africa and the East. The poems were widely read in the late antique and medieval West, and had a considerable influence on the diffusion of cult of the saints included. In later periods they were sometimes used as hymns in liturgical celebrations and had an impact on the development of the Spanish hymnody. Some indications in the poems suggest that they were written to commemorate the saints on their feast days, but Prudentius probably did not compose them for the liturgy of his time. Rather, they probably provided 'devotional reading matter for a cultured audience outside a church context' (Palmer 1989, 3; see also Chapter 3 in her book).


The poem on Emeterius and Celidonius (Chelidonius) opens Prudentius' collection, the author consecrating his first poem to the martyrs of his home city. He refers several times to the veneration of both saints at the place of their martyrdom and at their tombs which were located in Calahorra and at which miracles happened; he also explicitly describes both martyrs as patrons of the city (see E00762, E00764). The historical context of the story of Emeterius and Chelidonius is unclear; Prudentius himself feels obliged to give an explanation of the lack of any details on their martyrdom (see E00763). The only episode which seems to be well known to the author is the miracle at their death: the ring and the handkerchief of the martyrs are taken up to heaven. This unusual detail attracted the attention of Christians in Late Antiquity: Gregory of Tours, who knew at least some of Prudentius' poems on the martyrs, quotes this particular passage in his Glory of the Martyrs (see E00643). The poem is written in trochaic tetrameter catalectic. For a detailed philological commentary on the poem see Fux 2013: 23-62.


Editions of the Peristephanon: Cunningham, M.P., Prudentii Carmina (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 126; Turnhout: Brepols, 1966), 251-389. Bergman, J., Prudentius, Carmina (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 61; Vienna, 1926), 291-431. Translations of the Peristephanon: Eagan, C., Prudentius, Poems (Fathers of the Church 43; Washington D.C.: Catholic University Press, 1962), 95-280. English translation. Thomson, H.J., Prudentius, vol. 2 (Loeb Classical Library; London Cambridge, Mass: W. Heinemann; Harvard University Press, 1953), 98-345. Edition and English translation. Further reading: Fux, P.-Y., Prudence et les martyrs: hymnes et tragédie. Peristephanon 1. 3-4. 6-8. 10. Commentaire, (Fribourg: Academic Press, 2013). Malamud, M.A., A Poetics of Transformation: Prudentius and Classical Mythology (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989). Palmer, A.-M., Prudentius on the Martyrs (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989). Roberts, M., Poetry and the Cult of the Martyrs: The "Liber Peristephanon" of Prudentius (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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