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E01668: The Latin Martyrdom of *Perpetua and Felicitas, of the early 3rd c., mentions a blood-covered ring, given by the martyr Saturus (companion of Perpetua, S00009) to his guardsman, Pudens, in memory of his martyrdom. Written in Latin North Africa.

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posted on 2016-06-27, 00:00 authored by erizos
Martyrdom of Perpetua and her Companions (BHL 6633)

For a summary and discussion of the whole text, see $E01666

[21] Item Saturus in alia porta Pudentem militem exhortabatur dicens: ‘Ad summam’, inquit, ‘certe, sicut praesumpsi et praedixi, nullam usque adhuc bestiam sensi. Et nunc de toto corde credas: ecce prodeo illo, et ab uno morsu leopardi consummor’.
ii. Et statim in fine spectaculi leopardo obiectus de uno morsu tanto perfusus est sanguine, ut populus revertenti illi secundi baptismatis testimonium reclamaverit: ‘Salvum lotum! Salvum lotum!’
iii. Plane utique salvus erat qui hoc modo laverat.
iv. Tunc Pudenti militi inquit: ‘Vale’, inquit, ‘et memento fidei et mei; et haec te non conturbent, sed confirment’.
v. Simulque ansulam de digito eius petiit, et vulneri suo mersam reddidit ei hereditatem, pignus relinquens illi et memoriam sanguinis.
vi. Exinde iam exanimis prosternitur cum ceteris ad iugulationem solito loco.

‘21. Likewise Saturus, at another gate, encouraged the soldier Pudens saying: “Overall,” he said, “just as I thought and predicted, I have not been touched by a beast so far. And now, believe me whole-heartedly: behold, I am going out there and am going to be consumed by a leopard in one bite.”
ii. And right away, at the end of the spectacle, he threw himself to a leopard and with one bite was covered in so much blood that the people, bearing witness to his second baptism, shouted: “Well bathed! Well bathed!"
iii. And certainly well was he who had bathed like that.
iv. Then to the soldier Pudens he said “Farewell, and remember the faith and me; and let these things not undermine, but strengthen you!”
v. And at the same moment he asked for the little ring from Pudens’ finger, put it into his own wound, and gave it to Pudens as a legacy, leaving it to him as a pledge and reminder of his blood.
vi. Then, already dead, he was thrown together with the rest in the usual place for the final thrust.’

Text: Amat 1996. Translation: Farrell and Williams 2012, modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Perpetua, Felicitas and their companions, martyrs in Carthage, ob. 203 : S00009

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • 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

Thuburbo Minus

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

Thuburbo Minus Carthage Carthago Karthago قرطاج‎ Qarṭāj Mçidfa Carthage

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives


Cult Activities - Relics

Privately owned relics Bodily relic - blood Contact relic - other


The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas is among the earliest known martyrdom accounts. It is thus a source of the utmost interest for the history of the cult of saints at its inception, allowing an understanding of the ideas concerning it, as they circulated among the Christian communities of Latin North Africa, and further afield, in the early 3rd century. The text is a synthesis of three documents: (1, 2) A brief introduction by the unnamed editor. (3-9) A personal diary purportedly written by Perpetua in gaol, recounting the arrest, incarceration, and trial of the martyrs, and describing four dream visions she received before her martyrdom. (11-13) A note by Saturus, recounting a vision he received before martyrdom. (14-21) The account of the martyrs’ deaths, written by the editor who also wrote paragraphs 1 and 2. It purports to be an eye-witness account. The text was most probably written in the first decade of the 3rd century. It survives in nine manuscripts, on which see Amat 1996, 84-90. There is also a Greek translation (see E01667). In the 4th century or later, the narrative was reworked into the so-called Acts of *Saturus, *Saturninus, *Revocatus, *Felicitas and *Perpetua (see E01726), which became the most popular version of the legend in the Middle Ages.


In a text generally devoid of references to relics and any allusion to cult, the laconic mention of the ring of Pudens is particularly interesting. Pudens appears twice in the text, in paragraph IX (part of the section ascribed to the hand of Perpetua) and in XXI (the anonymous martyrdom account section). He is a soldier (optio), head of the prison garrison, who has started to revere the martyrs and to recognise the special grace resting with them, and apparently he is present in the arena on the day of their execution. It thus is one of the earliest examples of the hagiographic topos of the sympathetic guard, who is converted to Christianity. His presence in the narrative may be meant to present him as an eye-witness source of the text. The blood-covered ring is a motif which reappears in several cases in later hagiography, usually as a wonderworking relic (E01675; E01688). The absence of any such statement in our text is characteristic of the reserved stance of this early martyrdom account towards posthumous devotional practices. A ring covered with the blood of a martyr is a legacy, a pledge and a reminder, thus exemplifying the fact that, in the 3rd century, commemoration rather than devotion was the dominant form of the cult of martyrs. It seems, however, that the treasuring of venerable material remains was not unknown. Remarkably, however, this episode is omitted in the later hagiography of Perpetua and Felicitas (the Acta), suggesting that the blood-stained ring of Saturus did not survive as a venerated relic.


Text 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) Farrell, J., and Williams, C. "The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity." In Perpetua's Passions, edited by Jan N. Bremmer and Marco Formisiano, 1-34. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. (Text edition and English translation). Rebillard, E. Greek and Latin Narratives About the Ancient Martyrs. Oxford Early Christian Texts. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017, 295-329. Further reading : Various papers in : Bremmer, J. N., and Formisiano, M. eds. Perpetua's Passions: Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Passio Perpetuae Et Felicitatis. Oxford: Oxford Univeristy Press, 2012. Butler, R. D. The New Prophecy and New Visions: Evidence of Montanism in the Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas. Patristic Monograph Series 18. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2006.

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