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E01168: Augustine of Hippo, in his treatise On the Care of the Dead, mentions the story of the burning of the bodies of the *Martyrs of Lyon (S00316), which he knew from Eusebius of Caesarea's Ecclesiastical History. Written in Latin in Hippo Regius (North Africa), c. 420/422.

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posted on 2016-03-02, 00:00 authored by robert
Augustine, On the Care of the Dead 6.8

Legimus in ecclesiastica historia, quam graece scripsit Eusebius et in latinam linguam uertit Rufinus, martyrum corpora in Gallia canibus exposita canumque reliquias atque ossa mortuorum usque ad extremam consumptionem ignibus concremata eosdem que cineres fluuio Rhodano, ne quid ad memoriam qualemcumque relinqueretur, inspersos.

'We read in the Ecclesiastical History which Eusebius wrote in Greek, and Rufinus turned into the Latin tongue, of martyr's bodies in Gaul exposed to dogs, and how the leavings of those dogs and bones of the dead were, even to uttermost consumption, by fire burned up; and the ashes of the same scattered on the river Rhone, lest any thing should be left for any sort whatever of memorial.'

Text: Zycha 1900. Translation: Browne 1887.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martyrs of Lyon (Gaul), ob. 177 : S00316

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 - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Destruction/hostile attempts to prevent veneration of relics

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives


Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - bones and teeth Bodily relic - corporeal ashes/dust


Augustine wrote the treatise On the Care of the Dead c. 420-422, in response to a letter in which Paulinus of Nola asked whether burials ad sanctos bring any profit to the dead. The response was nuanced. If Augustine rejected any direct advantage for such interments and argued that even the total lack of burial cannot affect directly the posthumous fate of the soul, he acknowledged that the practice can bring consolation to the living and indirectly help the dead for whom people visiting the graves of saints will pray.


This passage shows no more than that Augustine was familiar with the episode from Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, translated by Rufinus at the beginning of the 5th century and that he did not know yet the story of the discovery of the relics of the Martyrs of Lyon, which is attested by Gregory of Tours (see E00548).


Edition: Zycha, J. De cura pro mortuis gerenda (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 41; Vienna: Tempsky, 1900), 619-660. English translation: Browne, H., On the Care of the Dead (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, vol. 3; Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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