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E01030: Augustine of Hippo, in his treatise Against the Letter of Parmenian, states that the Donatists celebrate the feasts of the members of their sect who were either punished by secular authorities or killed themselves by jumping off cliffs. Written in Latin in Hippo Regius (North Africa), c. 400.

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posted on 2015-12-29, 00:00 authored by robert
Augustine, Against the Letter of Parmenian 3.6.29

Quales turbas isti auertentes a Christi unitate et ad suum nomen conuertere cupientes interim temporalia supplicia schismatis sui conferre audent passionibus martyrum, ut eis poenarum suarum natalicia celebrentur magno conuentu hominum furiosorum, quorum e numero illi sunt, qui etiam nullo persequente se ipsos ultro per montium abrupta praecipitant, ut malam uitam peiore morte consumant.

'Since they [the Donatists] tear such crowds from the unity of Christ and want to convert them to their own name, they dare to compare the secular punishments (temporalia supplicia) inflicted on their schism with the passions of martyrs, and the feasts (natalitia) which commemorate these punishments are celebrated with great gatherings of insane men. To their number belong also those who, when nobody was persecuting them, by their own will threw themselves down from the cliffs and so completed a bad life with an even worse death.'

Text: Petschenig 1908. Translation: Robert Wiśniewski.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Anonymous martyrs : S00060

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

Hippo Regius

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

Hippo Regius Carthage Carthago Karthago قرطاج‎ Qarṭāj Mçidfa Carthage

Major author/Major anonymous work

Augustine of Hippo

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Acceptance/rejection of saints from other religious groupings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Crowds Heretics


Against the Letter of Parmenian (Contra epistulam Parmeniani) is one of Augustine's anti-Donatist treatises. It was written c. 400.


This is not the only passage in which Augustine claims that some Donatists who desired to become martyrs committed suicide, and that subsequently both they and those who were sentenced to death by secular (Christian) authorities were venerated by their community. Augustine often emphasises that it is suffering for the true religion, not the punishment of death as such, which makes the martyr.


Edition: Petschenig, M., Ad Catholicos de secta Donatistarum (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 51; Vienna: Tempsky, 1908), 19-141. For the Donatist suicides see: Shaw, B.D., Sacred Violence: African Christians and Sectarian Hatred in the Age of Augustine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 758-770. Donatist martyrological literature can be found in: Tilley, M.A., Donatist Martyr Stories: The Church in Conflict in Roman North Africa (Translated Texts for Historians 24; Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1996).

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity