Saint NamePerpetua, Felicitas and their companions, martyrs in Carthage, ob. 203 : S00009
Saint Name in SourceΠερπετούα, Φηλικητάτη, Σάτυρος, Σατουρνῖλος, Ῥεουκάτος
Type of EvidenceLiterary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom
Evidence not before300
Evidence not after900
Activity not before300
Activity not after900
Place of Evidence - RegionConstantinople and region
Latin North Africa
Rome and region
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Constantinople
Cult activities - Festivals
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsComposing and translating saint-related texts
Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, ScepticismAcceptance/rejection of saints from other religious groupings
SourceThe text is preserved in one manuscript, the Codex Hierosolymitanus 1 (10th-12th century), in the Library of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
DiscussionThe first editor of this text, James Rendell Harris, believed that it was the original text of the Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas, preceding the Latin one. But it is now generally accepted that the Latin text precedes it. Our text has attracted attention mainly for the evidence it provides for the reconstruction of the original text, since it is amongst the most complete versions surviving. The date of the translation itself, however, has not been sufficiently discussed.
The pre-Constantinian period is unlikely, because one would have expected that such an important martyrdom account would have been known to Eusebius of Caesarea, had it circulated in Greek during his time. It therefore is reasonable to ascribe our text to later times. The introductory note on the date of the martyrdom seems to rely on the probably 4th- or 5th-century Acts of Saturus, Saturninus, Revocatus, Felicitas, and Perpetua (see E01726). Accordingly, the Greek translation must be later. Possible contexts could the 6th- and 7th-century occupation of Africa by the Byzantines, or the 8th to 9th centuries, when several Latin hagiographic texts were translated into Greek and vice-versa, mostly at the Greek monasteries of Rome. The latter scenario seems to be the likeliest.
It is remarkable that the translator chose to use the long text of the early 3rd-century Martyrdom (Passio) in its fullness rather than the briefer and much more popular acta. Yet it seems that the version of the text he/she translated was not devoid of modifications. In several parts, there are ‘corrections’ which remove or moderate extravagant expressions of the original Martyrdom, which reveal the Montanist background of the text.
The translation of the text effected the successful transmission of the cult of Perpetua and her companions into the tradition of the Greek Church. It is probable that other versions of the text were in circulation, since Byzantine calendars (the 10th-century Typikon and Synaxarion of the Church of Constantinople) record the feast on 2 February (after our text), but also on 4 and 14 March. The March dates suggest that other versions of the Greek hagiography of Perpetua and Felicitas were in circulation. The 14 March entry, in particular, describes the saints as martyrs of Rome.
BibliographyText and translations:
Amat, J. Passion de Perpétue et de Felicité, suivi des Actes. Introduction, texte critique, traduction, commentaire et index. Sources Chrétiennes 417. Paris: CERF, 1996. (with French translation)
Rendel Harris, James, and Seth K. Gifford. The Acts of the Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas: The Original Greek Text. Cambridge: C. J. Clay and Sons, 1890.
Further reading :
Lequex, X. 'Latin Hagiographical Literature Translated into Greek.' In: S. Efthymiadis (ed.), The Ashgate Research Companion to Byzantine Hagiography I: Periods and Genres. Farnham: Ashgate, 2011, 385-399.