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E00801: Prudentius, in his Latin Crowns of the Martyrs (Peristephanon), written c. 400 in Calahorra (northern Spain), in a poem on the *Eighteen Martyrs of Saragossa (north-eastern Spain, S00485), lists the saintly patrons of various places in Spain, Gaul and North Africa, who will be presented by their cities at the Last Judgement, and singles out Saragossa for special praise, because of the number of its martyrs.

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posted on 2015-10-20, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Liber Peristephanon, Poem IV.1-64

Hymnus in honorem Sanctorum Decem et Octo Martyrum Caesaraugustanorum.

Bis nouem noster populus sub uno
martyrum seruat cineres sepulcro,
Caesaraugustam uocitamus urbem
res cui tanta est.

5 Plena magnorum domus angelorum
non timet mundi fragilis ruinam
tot sinu gestans simul offerenda
munera Christo.

Cum deus dextram quatiens coruscam
10 nube subnixus ueniet rubente
gentibus iustam positurus aequo
pondere libram,

orbe de magno caput excitata
obuiam Christo properanter ibit
15 ciuitas quaeque pretiosa portans
dona canistris.

Afra Carthago tua promet ossa,
ore facundo Cypriane doctor.
Corduba Acisclum dabit et Zoëllum
20 tresque coronas.

Tu tribus gemmis diadema pulchrum
offeres Christo, genetrix piorum
Tarraco, intexit cui Fructuosus
sutile uinclum.

25 Nomen hoc gemmae strofio inligatae est,
emicant iuxta lapides gemelli
ardet et splendor parilis duorum
igne corusco.

Parua Felicis decus exhibebit
30 artubus sanctis locuples Gerunda.
Nostra gestabit Calagurris ambos
quos ueneramur.

Barchinon claro Cucufate freta
surget et Paulo speciosa Narbo,
35 teque praepollens Arelas habebit,
sancte Genesi.

Lusitanorum caput oppidorum
urbs adoratae cineres puellae
obuiam Christo rapiens ad aram
40 porriget ipsam.

Sanguinem Iusti, cui Pastor haeret,
ferculum duplex geminumque donum
ferre Complutum gremio iuuabit
membra duorum.

45 Ingeret Tingis sua Cassianum,
festa Massylum monumenta regum,
qui cinis gentes domitas coegit
ad iuga Christi.

Singulis paucae, tribus aut duobus,
50 forsan et quinis aliquae placebunt
testibus Christi prius hostiarum
pignere functae.

Tu decem sanctos reuehes et octo,
Caesaraugusta studiosa Christo,
55 uerticem flauis oleis reuincta,
pacis honore.

Sola in occursum numerosiores
martyrum turbas domino parasti,
sola praediues pietate multa
60 luce frueris.

Vix parens orbis populosa Poeni,
ipsa uix Roma in solio locata
te, decus nostrum, superare in isto
munere digna est.

'A Hymn in Honour of the Eighteen Holy Martyrs of Caesaraugusta [Saragossa].

Eighteen martyrs' ashes our people keeps in a single grave, and Caesaraugusta is the name we call the city which has this great possession. A house that is filled with great saints fears not the downfall of this mortal world, since it bears in its bosom so many gifts to be offered together to Christ. (9) When God, seated on a fiery cloud and shaking his flashing hand, shall come to set up his true balance for the nations and weigh them justly, then from out the great world every city will raise its head and go quickly to meet Christ, carrying its costly gifts in baskets. (17) African Carthage will bring forth your bones, Cyprian, teacher of the eloquent lips. Corduba will give Acisclus and Zoellus and her three crowns. You, Tarraco [Tarragona], mother of godly children, will offer to Christ a beauteous diadem with three jewels, for Fructuosus weaves you a band in which they are set. (25) This name belongs to one jewel fastened on the band, and beside it shine twin stones, both blazing in equal lustre with a flash of fire. Little Gerunda [Gerona] will present Felix, her glory, for his holy body makes her rich; and our own Calagurris bring the two whom we venerate. (33) Barchinon [Barcelona] will rise up in reliance on famed Cucufas, fair Narbo [Narbonne] on Paulus, and great Arelas [Arles] will have you, holy Genesius. The city which is head of the towns of Lusitania [i.e. Mérida] will take the ashes of the girl it reverences to meet Christ and present them at the very altar. (41) It will be Complutum [Alcala's] delight to bring in her arms the blood of Justus, with Pastor close beside, bearing on two carriers a twofold gift, the bodies of the two. His native Tingis [Tangier], memorial of Massylian kings, will joyously present Cassian, the ashes of him who subdued her pagans and brought them under the yoke of Christ. (49) A few cities will find favour because of only one, some because of two or three, perhaps even of five witnesses to Christ, the sacrifices they gave in pledge before. But you, Caesaraugusta, that are zealous for Christ, will bring again your holy eighteen, your head wreathed with golden olives, the ornament of peace. (57) In number greater than any other city you have companies of martyrs ready to meet the Lord; you will enjoy great light because you surpass all in the riches of your devotion. The populous mother of the Punic world [Carthage] and Rome herself, set on her throne, are scarcely worthy to exceed you, our glory, in this offering.'

Text: Cunningham 1966, 286-288. Translation: Thomson 1953, 157-161, lightly adapted.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (Africa) and martyr, ob. 258 : S00411 Eighteen martyrs of Saragossa (Spain), ob. before 304 : S00485 Acisclus, martyr of Córdoba (Spain), ob. 303/312 : S00487 Zoellus, martyr of Córdoba (Spain), ob. 303/312 : S00494 Fa

Saint Name in Source

Cyprianus Decem et Octo Martyres Caesaraugustanorum Acisclus Zoellus tres coronae Fructuosus ... [et] lapides gemelli Felix ambos quos Calagurris gestabit Cucufas Paulus Genesus Lusitanorum caput oppidorum urbs adoratae cineres puellae Iu

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 - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Saint as patron - of a community

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Miraculous protection - of communities, towns, armies

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


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).


On the hymn see E00799 In the quoted passage Prudentius presents a highly interesting vision of Christian cities competing with each other with the number of martyrs they own. This curious picture is a high point of Prudentius' inclination to see martyrs in the first place as patrons of cities. It also involves an intriguing vision of the end of time, when peoples (gentes) and cities (rather than individuals) will be judged for their merits and will present their martyrs as tokens of their fidelity. The cities mentioned by Prudentius are located in Spain, southern Gaul and Latin North Africa. He even claims that Saragossa more-or-less equals Carthage and Rome in the number of its martyrs. Prudentius' text clearly presents a very particular vision of the Christian world as divided into cities protected by their saints. Since Prudentius is interested in the number of saints rather than their exact identity, not all names are mentioned in the hymn. Listing all of them would be in many cases also very difficult, given the limitations of the metre. The list opens with *Cyprian (bishop and martyr of Carthage, S00411) and moves then to the cities of Spain, starting with Córdoba and *Acisclus (martyr of Córdoba, S00487) and *Zoellus (martyr of Córdoba, S00494). We cannot be sure who were the three other saints of the city referred to, in line 20, as the 'three crowns'. In later centuries, three martyrs, named *Faustus (S00497), Ianuarius (S00498) and Martialis (S00499), were venerated in Córdoba (Fábrega Grau 1953: 156-157); it is possible, but by no means certain that Prudentius had these in mind. The Martyrologium Hieronymianum, a 7th century Gallic redaction of a late antique calendar, notes feasts of these saints at Córdoba on 9 November (E05014). There are however also other martyrs from Córdoba mentioned in the Martyrologium, who should be taken into consideration, e.g. *Lupus (S00500), commemorated on 14 October (E04986). The martyrs of Tarragona (Tarraco) are certainly *Fructuosus, bishop of Tarragona and his companion martyrs, the deacons Auguris and Eulogis (S00496), whose martyrdom Prudentius recounts in Poem VI of the Crowns of the Martyrs (E00897). Prudentius further lists *Felix (martyr of Gerona, S00408) and refers, without giving their names, to the two martyrs of his home city Calahorra – *Emeterius and Celidonius (S00410), to whom he dedicates the first hymn of the collection (E00761). There follow *Cucuphas (martyr of Barcelona, S00502) and two saints from Gaul: *Paul (bishop of Narbonne, S00503) and *Genesius (notary and martyr of Arles, S00263).


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: Fábrega Grau, Á., Pasionario hispánico (siglos VII-IX), vol. 1, (Madrid, Barcelona: Atenas A.G, 1953). 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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