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E01751: Augustine of Hippo, when quoting a passage from Xystus, bishop of Rome (either *Xystus/Sixtus I, S00130, or *Xystus/Sixtus II, S00201), for polemical purposes, emphasises the fact that he was a martyr. Written in Latin in Hippo Regius (North Africa), c.415.

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posted on 2016-07-19, 00:00 authored by robert
Augustine of Hippo, On nature and grace 64.77

Quis item christianus ignorat, quod beatissimum Xystum romanae ecclesiae episcopum et Domini martyrem dixisse commemorat, quia libertatem arbitrii sui permisit hominibus deus, ut pure et sine peccato uiuentes similes fiant deo?

'What Christian, again, is unaware of what he quotes the most blessed Xystus, bishop of Rome and martyr of Christ, as having said, "God has conferred upon men liberty of their own will, in order that by purity and sinlessness of life they may become like God".'

Text: Vrba and Zycha 1913, 291. Translation: Holmes and Wallis 1887.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Xystus I, martyr and bishop of Rome (ob. c. 130) : S00130 Xystus II, martyr and bishop of Rome, ob. c. 258 : S00201

Saint Name in Source

Xystus Xystus

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 - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - Popes


The treatise On nature and grace is one of Augustine's anti-Pelagian treatises, and was written c. 415-416.


This passage does not prove a real cult in Africa of any of the Roman bishops named Xystus. Augustine also quotes Lactantius, Ambrose of Milan, Jerome, and other authors. Still, he emphasises that this author was not only a bishop, but also a martyr, which gives an additional credit to his witness. Interestingly, the attribution of this passage is erroneous. In the Retractationes 4.22 Augustine acknowledges that he confounded bishop Xystus with the pagan philosopher of the same name: 'In this work sundry short passages, which were quoted by Pelagius as the words of the Roman bishop and martyr, Xystus, were vindicated by myself as if they really were the words of this Sixtus. For this I thought them at the time; but I afterwards discovered, that Sextus the heathen philosopher, and not Xystus the Christian bishop, was their author.'


Edition: Vrba, C.F,. and Zycha, J., De natura et gratia (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 60; Vienna: Tempsky, 1913), 233-299. English translation: Holmes, P., and Wallis, E., rev. by Warfield, B.B., On nature and grace (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 5; Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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