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E00938: Latin poem on the martyrdom of Cassianus (teacher and martyr of Imola, ob. 361/363, S00309) composed by Prudentius, writing c. 400 in Calahorra (northern Spain). The poem, part of Prudentius' Crowns of the Martyrs (Peristephanon), mentions the author's visit to the martyr's tomb, an image depicting the martyrdom and Prudentius' prayer to the saint.

online resource
posted on 2015-12-07, 00:00 authored by mtycner
Liber Peristephanon, Poem IX


Prudentius says that he visited the tomb of Cassianus in Forum Cornelii [Imola in Italy] on his way to Rome and admired there an image depicting Cassianus's martyrdom – see $E00942.

A custodian told him the story of Cassianus:

Cassianus is a teacher of boys, trained in shorthand; he is disliked by his pupils. Being a Christian, during the persecutions he refuses to venerate pagan gods, and his persecutor decides to hand him over him to his class, for the children to stab him with their styluses. The boys beat him with their tablets and stab and cut him with their styluses. Cassianus tries to tame them with his words, but he doesn't succeed; the boys claim that with their styluses they write on their teacher's body. Finally, Cassianus dies.

The custodian asks Prudentius to pray to Cassianus and Prudentius does so – see $E00945.

Text: Cunningham 1966: 326-329. Translation: Thomson 1953, 220-229. Summary: M. Tycner.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Cassian, bishop of Brescia (Italy), teacher and martyr of Imola, ob. 361/363 : S00309

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Poems Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts


  • 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 - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Public display of an image

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people Children


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 is written in the distichs formed from a dactylic hexameter and a iambic trimeter.


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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