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E00960: Pope Zosimus, in a letter written in Latin at Rome in 417 to Bishop Hilarius of Narbonne, justifies the primacy of the see of Arles over Narbonne (both southern Gaul) on the grounds that its founder, *Trophimus (reputed first bishop of Arles, S00617), was the first bishop in Gaul, and was sent by the see of Rome.

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posted on 2015-12-10, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Epistolae Arelatenses 3 = Pope Zosimus, Letter 6 ('Mirati admodum', JK 332/JH 738)

Mirati admodum sumus, dum nobis studiosius requirentibus relatio tua de ordinandis in provintia Narbonensi prima sacerdotibus legeretur, quod, dum adsertioni et desideriis tuis copis esse consultum, praetermissa viri fide, relatione tua sub honestatis specie colorasti, asserens, in aliena provintia ab alio non debere fieri sacerdotes; cum utique debueris, non quid tibi rectum videatur, set, quid habuerit antiqua consuetudo, suggerere. Ideoque vacuatum eum, quod obtinuisse a sede apostolica subrepticie conprobaris, quia satis constitit, Arelatensis eclesie sacerdoti prisca id institutione concessum, ut non solum in provintia Viennensi, set etiam per duas Narbonenses episcopos faciat; nam sancte memorie Trophymus sacerdos quondam Arelatensi urbi ab apostolica sede transmissus ad illas regiones et tanti nominis reverentiam primus exibuit et in alias non inmerito ea qua acceperat auctoritate transfudit; adque hanc ordinandi consuetudinem et pontificatum loci illius, quem obtinuerat primus et iustus, custoditum usque in proximum tempus, gestis apud nos habitis multorum consacerdotum testimoniis adprobatur. Ergo licet sola, que in sede apostolica habita sunt, potuissent gesta sufficere, tamen etiam hac te auctoritate constringimus, ut praesumptioni tue, quam extulisse contra veterem consuetudinem videbaris, modum noveris iuste presscriptionis indictum, neque estimes tibi ulterius pontificatum de ordinandis sacerdotibus vindicandum, cum hoc videas Arelatensis episcopo civitatis et per apostolicam sedem et per sancti Trophymi reverentiam et per veterem consuetudinem et nostra recenti evidentissima definitione deferri. Si quid contra hec, frater carissime, que a nobis sunt sub Dei iudicio statuta, temtaveris: non solum, quos faciendos credideris, episcopatum optinere non posse, sed etiam ipse catholica communione discretus sero de inlicitis praesumptionibus ingemescas.
Data sub die VI. Kalendas Octobris, Onorio XI. et Constantio II. consulibus.

We were absolutely astonished, when your message to us, when we were urgently enquiring about ordinations of bishops in the province of Narbonensis Prima, was read, that while you wish your statement and your wishes to be taken seriously, you, ignoring true faith, have coloured your reply with the appearance of honesty, asserting that bishops should not be ordained in a different province by another [bishop], when in fact you ought to have suggested not what seems right to you, but what ancient tradition holds. That which you are shown to have obtained deceitfully from the Apostolic See is therefore rendered void, because it has been sufficiently established that this has been granted to the bishop of the church of Arles by an ancient arrangement: that he should ordain bishops not only in the province of Viennensis but also through the two provinces of Narbonensis. For Trophymus of holy memory, formerly bishop of the city of Arles, sent to those regions by the Apostolic See, both first displayed the reverence of such a great name, and not undeservedly passed on to others what he had received by that authority. And this practice of ordaining, and the pontificate of that place, which he had obtained first and justly, preserved into the most recent time, is proved in the acts [of a council] held by us by the testimony of many fellow-bishops.

Therefore, even though the acts [of the council] held in the Apostolic See would alone have been able to be sufficient, we also, however, bind you by this authority: that you should know that a measure of just limitation has been imposed on your presumption, which you appear to have raised against the old custom, and you should not consider that any further pre-eminence is to be claimed by you in ordaining bishops, since you should see that this is bestowed on the bishop of the city of Arles through the Apostolic See, and through reverence for Saint Trophymus, and through the old custom, and through our recent very clear ruling. If you attempt anything against these things, dearest brother, which have been established by us under the judgement of God, not only will those you believe should be made bishops be unable to obtain the episcopate, but also, cut off from catholic communion yourself, you may groan too late at your illicit presumptions.

Given on the 6th day before the Kalends of October in the 11th consulship of Honorius and the 2nd consulship of Constantius [26 September 417].'

Text: Gundlach 1892, 9-10. Translation: David Lambert.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Trophimus, first bishop of Arles : S00617

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Rome and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Rome Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

Cult activities - Places

Place associated with saint's life

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Awarding privileges to cult centres

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


Epistolae Arelatenses 3 (= Zosimus, Letter 6, 'Mirati admodum') is a letter from Pope Zosimus (Pope 417-418) to Hilarius, bishop of Narbonne, dated 26 September 417. The letter survives among the so-called Epistolae Arelatenses (Arlesian Letters), also known as the Collectio Arelatensis or the Liber auctoritatum ecclesiae Arelatensis, a collection of 56 letters and other documents relating to the see of Arles, dating from 417 to 557. The collection was compiled at some point after 557, presumably from the archives of the see. This letter is addressed to the Bishop of Narbonne, but no doubt a copy was sent to Arles (whose privileges the letter orders Narbonne to recognise), and thus entered the archive there. The text is quoted here from the MGH edition by W. Gundlach, which deliberately retains the irregularities in grammar and spelling transmitted in the early medieval manuscripts. These were almost certainly not in Zosimus' original.


This letter, addressed to Bishop Hilarius of Narbonne, was written by Pope Zosimus some six months after his first letter to the bishops of Gaul, in which he had granted substantial privileges to the bishop of Arles and justified them by reference to the figure of Trophimus, who according to Zosimus had been sent to Arles by the See of Rome as its first bishop, and from there had spread Christianity throughout Gaul (for fuller discussion, see E00954). One of the privileges granted by Zosimus to the Bishop of Arles was the right to ordain bishops not only in his own province of Viennensis, but the two neighbouring provinces of Narbonensis I and II, thus depriving the metropolitans of those provinces (the bishops of Narbonne and Aix-en-Provence) of much of their power and status, an act which appears to have been unprecedented (Dunn 2015, 44-45). The letter of 26 September 417 indicates that Zosimus had written to Hilarius about 'ordinations of bishops in the province of Narbonensis Prima' (de ordinandis in provintia Narbonensi prima sacerdotibus). Hilarius replied with a formal memorandum (relatio) in which he evidently asserted his right, as metropolitan of his province, to ordain bishops, on the basis of the general principal that bishops should be ordained only in their own province by bishops of that province (in aliena provintia ab alio non debere fieri sacerdotes). He also cited some kind of recognition which the metropolitan status of Arles had received from the See of Rome, referred to by Zosimus as 'that which you are shown to have obtained deceitfully from the Apostolic See' (eum, quod obtinuisse a sede apostolica subrepticie conprobaris). For full discussion of these details see Dunn 2015. In response, Zosimus makes reference to a synod which had met at Rome in September 417, just before the letter was written. This synod had approved Zosimus’ decisions on the southern Gallic ecclesiastical hierarchy: it was the source of the acts (acta) which Zosimus cites repeatedly in his letter. The greater part of Zosimus’ justification, however, relies on the peremptory assertion that the higher status of the bishop of Arles was not an innovation, but an ancient tradition based on reverence for Trophimus. Modern scholars have generally assumed that Zosimus was aware that his arguments about Trophimus were specious, even if they believe that it was the contemporaneous bishop of Arles, Patroclus, rather than Zosimus himself who had originated them, and that his real purpose in promoting the see of Arles to higher status was entirely to do with ecclesiastical politics (e.g. Mathisen 1989, 48-49; Kulikowski 1996; Dunn 2015). While this may be so, it is worth noting that Zosimus makes no reference to such considerations in any of his letters about the see of Arles: in all of them, the legacy of Trophimus is put forward as a sufficient and self-evident justification.


Edition: Gundlach, W., Epistolae Arelatenses genuinae, in: Epistolae Merowingici et Karolini Aevi (Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Epistolae 3; Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1892), 5-83. Further reading: Dunn, G., “… Quid habuerit antiqua consuetudo: Zosimus of Rome and Hilary of Narbonne,” Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique 110: 1-2 (2015), 31-55. Kulikowski, M., “Two Councils of Turin,” Journal of Theological Studies 47 (1996), 159-168. Mathisen, R.W., Ecclesiastical Factionalism and Religious Controversy in Fifth-Century Gaul (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1989).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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