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E00947: Prudentius, in his Latin Crowns of the Martyrs (Peristephanon), written c. 400 in Calahorra (northern Spain), in a poem on the martyrdom of *Romanos (martyr of Antioch, S00120) addresses the saint and asks him for the gift of eloquence to compose his poem.

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posted on 2015-12-07, 00:00 authored by mszada
Liber Peristephanon, Poem X.1-15

Romane, Christi fortis adsertor dei,
elinguis oris organum fautor moue,
largire comptum carmen infantissimo,
fac ut tuarum mira laudum concinam,
5 nam scis et ipse posse mutos eloqui.

Plectrum palati et faucium saeuus tibi
tortor reuulsit nec tamen silentium
indixit ori quo fatebaris deum.
Vox ueritatis testis extingui nequit,
10 nec si recisis palpitet meatibus.

Sic noster haerens sermo lingua debili
balbutit et modis laborat absonis,
sed, si superno rore respergas iecur
et spiritali lacte pectus inriges,
15 uox inpeditos rauca laxabit sonos.

'Romanus, stout defender of the divine Christ, grant thy favour and stir up the tongue within my speechless mouth, bountifully bestow graceful song on the mutest of men and enable me to sing the wonders of thy glory; for thou knowest, thyself too, that the dumb can speak. The cruel torturer tore out from thee the tongue that played on palate and throat, and yet did not impose silence on the lips wherewith thou wert confessing God. The voice that bears witness to the truth cannot be annihilated, even if its passage be cut away and it can only gasp. So my speech sticks and stammers with feeble tongue and labours in inharmonious measures; but if thou sprinkle my heart with the dew from on high and flood my breast with the milk of the spirit, my hoarse voice will unloose the sounds which are now obstructed.'

Text: Cunningham 1966, 330. Translation: Thomson 1953, 228-231.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Romanos from Caesarea, martyr in Antioch, ob. 303 : S00120

Saint Name in Source


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



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).


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). Hanke, R., Studien zum Romanushymnus des Prudentius, (Frankfurt am Main, Bern, New York: Peter Lang, 1983). 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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