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E00959: Optatus, bishop of Milevis (North Africa), writing in Latin in Africa c. 364/384, states that the Donatists venerate *Marculus (Donatist bishop and martyr, ob. 347, S00618) and *Donatus, probably Donatist bishop of Carthage (ob. c. 355, S00619) as martyrs, and swear by them. From Optatus' polemical treatise Against Parmenianus.

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posted on 2015-12-09, 00:00 authored by robert
Optatus of Milevis, Against Parmenianus 3.6.1

Inuitus cogor hoc loco etiam illorum quorum nolo hominum facere mentionem, quos uos inter martyres ponitis, per quos tamquam per unicam religionem uestrae communionis homines iurant! Quos quidem uellem silentio praeterire, sed ratio ueritatis se sileri non patitur, et ex ipsis nominibus contra unitatem inconsiderate rabida latrat inuidia et aspernantes aliqui accusandam aut fugiendam aestimant unitatem, quod Marculus et Donatus dicantur occisi et mortui.

'Against my will, I am forced at this point to mention those whom I would not, those whom you set among the martyrs, through whom the people of your communion swear, as if this were the one true religion. These indeed I would willingly pass over in silence, but the cause of truth does not tolerate our silence, and the very names provoke rabid spleen to bark mindlessly against unity, and some in their contempt for unity hold that it should be accused and shunned, because Marculus and Donatus are said to be slain and dead.'

Text: Labrousse 1996. Translation: Edwards 1997, 72.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Marculus, Donatist bishop and martyr in Africa, ob. 347 : S00618 Donatus, Donatist bishop of Carthage, d. ob. c. 355 : S00619

Saint Name in Source

Marculus Donatus

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 - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Uncertainty/scepticism/rejection of a saint

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives



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.


The cult of the Donatist martyrs, victims of the conflict with the Catholics, is also well attested in later evidence, particularly in Augutine: see E01030.


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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