University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E02011: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (1.25), mentions several 1st, 2nd, and 3rd century martyrs, namely *Peter (the Apostle, S00036), *Paul (the Apostle, S00008), *James ('the brother of the Lord', S00058), *Mark (the Evangelist, S00293), *Stephen (the first martyr, S00030), *Clemens (bishop of Rome, martyr of the Crimea, S00111), *Symeon (bishop and martyr of Jerusalem, S01139), *Ignatios, (bishop of Antioch and martyr of Rome, S00649), *Iustinus (philosopher and martyr of Rome, S01140), *Polycarp (bishop and martyr of Smyrna, S00004), *Cornelius (bishop and martyr of Rome, S00172), and *Cyprian (bishop and martyr of Carthage, S00411). Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 575/594.

online resource
posted on 2016-11-18, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 1.25

Nam Nero ille luxoriosus, vanus atque superbus virorum succuba et rursum virorum appetitor, matris, sororum ac proximarum quaeque mulierum spurcissimus violator, ad complendam malitiae suae molem primus contra Christi cultum persecutione excitat in credentes. Habebat enim secum Simonem magum, virum totius malitiae et omnes magicae artis argumento magistrum. Hunc elisum per apostolus Domini Petrum atque Paulum, commotus contra eos, cur Christum, filium Dei, praedicarent et idola adorare contempnerent, Petrum crucem, Paulum gladio iubet interfice.

'For Nero, this vain and arrogant debauchee, who submitted himself to the blandishments of other men and then lusted after them in his turn, this filthy seducer of his own mother, his sisters and any other women who were closely related to him, was the first to persecute the true believers and to satisfy his boundless hatred for the cult of Christ. To help him in this he had Simon Magus, a man of immense malice and a master of every form of necromancy, who had been rejected by Peter and Paul, the Apostles of our Lord. The Emperor was furious with them for preaching Christ the Son of God and for the scorn with which they refused to worship idols. He ordered Peter to be killed on the cross and Paul by the sword.'

Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 1.26

Tunc Iacobus, frater Domini, et Marcus euangelista pro Christi nomine glorioso martyrio coronati sunt. Primus tamen omnium hanc viam levita Stefanus [et] martyr intravit. Magna post Iacobi apostoli necem Iudaeos calamitas adsecuta est. Nam adveniente Vispasiano et templum incensum est, et sexcenta milia Iudaeorum eo bello gladio et fame adfectae sunt.

'At this time James, the brother of our Lord, and Mark the Evangelist received in Christ’s name the glorious crown of martyrdom; but the first man to walk the martyr’s path was Stephen the Levite. After the death of the Apostle James, a great disaster happened to the Jews: for with the coming to power of Vespasian the Temple was burned down and six hundred thousand of them died in battle, from famine and the sword.'

Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 1.27

Tertius post Neronem persecutionem in christianos Traianus movet. Sub quo beatus Clemens - tertius Romanae eclesiae fuit episcopus - passus et sanctus Simion Hierusolimitanus episcopus, Cleuphe filius, pro Christi nomine crucefixus adseritur, et Ignatius Anthyocinsis episcopus Romae ductus, bisteis deputatur.

'Trajan was the third Emperor after Nero to persecute the Christians. Saint Clement, who was the third Bishop of the church in Rome, suffered death during his reign. Saint Symeon, Bishop of Jerusalem and son of Cleophas, is said to have been crucified in Christ’s name; and Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, was taken to Rome and handed over to the wild beasts.'

Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 1.28

Nam sub Antonini imperio Marcionitana et Valentiniana hereses insana surrexit; et Iustinus philosophus post scriptos catholicae ecclesiae libros martyrio pro Christi nomine coronatur. In Asia autem, orta persecutione, beatissimus Policarpus, Iohannis apostoli et euangelistae discipulus, octoginsimo aetatis suae anno velut holocaustum purissimum per ignem Domino consecratur.

'When Antoninus was Emperor there began the absurd heresy of Marcion and Valentinus; and the philosopher Justin, who wrote a number of works on the Catholic Church, was crowned as a martyr in the name of Christ. Persecution started in Asia, and Saint Polycarp, who had been the disciple of John the Apostle and Evangelist, was consecrated by fire to our Lord, becoming a pure holocaust in his eightieth year.'

Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 1.32

Vicinsimo septimo loco Valerianus et Gallienus Romanum imperium sunt adepti, qui gravem contra christianus persecutionem suo tempore conmoverunt. Tunc Romae Cornilius, Cyprianus Cartaginem felici sanguinem inlustrarunt.

'Valerianus and Gallienus were the twenty-seventh in succession to rule the Roman Empire and in their days they began a bitter persecution of the Christians. It was then that Cornelius made Rome famous by shedding his blood in glory there, and Cyprian did the same for Carthage.'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 20, 21, 24. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 84-86, 88 (lightly adapted).


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Clement, bishop of Rome and martyr, ob. c. 100 : S00111 Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, martyred in Rome ob. 98/117 : S00649 Polycarp, bishop and martyr, and other martyrs in Smyrna, ob. 2nd c. : S00004 Cornelius, martyr and bishop of Rome, ob. c. 25

Saint Name in Source

Clemens Ignatius Anthyocinsis Policarpus Cornilius Cyprianus Simion Hierusolimitanus Iustinus Petrus Paulus Marcus Iacobus Stefanus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Tours Tours Tours Toronica urbs Prisciniacensim vicus Pressigny Turonorum civitas Ceratensis vicus Céré

Major author/Major anonymous work

Gregory of Tours

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


Gregory of Tours wrote the Histories (Historiae) during his episcopate in Tours (573–594). They constitute the longest and most detailed historical work of the post-Roman West. Gregory's focus is Gaul under its Frankish kings, above all the territories of Tours and (to a lesser extent) Clermont, where he had been born and brought up. Much of his work tells of the years when, as bishop of an important see, he was himself centrally involved in Frankish politics. The Histories are often wrongly referred to as a History of the Franks. Although the work does contain a history of the rulers of Francia, it also includes much hagiographical material, and Gregory himself gave it the simple title the 'ten books of Histories' (decem libri historiarum), when he produced a list of his own writings (Histories 10.31). The Histories consist of ten books whose scope and contents differ considerably. Book 1 skims rapidly through world history, with biblical and secular material from the Creation to the death in AD 397 of Martin of Tours (Gregory’s hero and predecessor as bishop). It covers 5596 years. In Book 2, which covers 114 years, the focus moves firmly into Gaul, covering the years up to the death of Clovis in 511. Books 3 and 4, which cover 37 and 27 years respectively, then move fairly swiftly on, closing with the death of king Sigibert in 575. With Book 5, through to the final Book 10, the pace slows markedly, and the detail swells, with only between two and four years covered in each of the last six books, breaking off in 591. These books are organised in annual form, based on the regnal years of Childebert II (r. 575-595/6). There continues to be much discussion over when precisely Gregory wrote specific parts of the Histories, though there is general agreement that none of it was written before 575 and, of course, none of it after Gregory's death, which is believed to have occurred in 594. Essentially, scholars are divided over whether Gregory wrote the Histories sequentially as the years from 575 unfolded, with little or no revision thereafter, or whether he composed the whole work over the space of a few years shortly before his death and after 585 (see Murray 2015 for the arguments on both sides). For an understanding of the political history of the time, and Gregory's attitude to it, precisely when the various books were written is of great importance; but for what he wrote about the saints, the precise date of composition is of little significance, because Gregory's attitude to saints, their relics and their miracles did not change significantly during his writing-life. We have therefore chosen to date Gregory's writing of our entries only within the broadest possible parameters: with a terminus post quem of 575 for the early books of the Histories, and thereafter the year of the events described, and a terminus ante quem of 594, set by Gregory's death. (Bryan Ward-Perkins, David Lambert) For general discussions of the Histories see: Goffart, W., The Narrators of Barbarian History (A.D. 550–800): Jordanes, Gregory of Tours, Bede, and Paul the Deacon (Princeton, 1988), 119–127. Murray, A.C., "The Composition of the Histories of Gregory of Tours and Its Bearing on the Political Narrative," in: A.C. Murray (ed.), A Companion to Gregory of Tours (Leiden and Boston, 2015), 63–101. Pizarro, J.M., "Gregory of Tours and the Literary Imagination: Genre, Narrative Style, Sources, and Models in the Histories," in: Murray, A Companion to Gregory of Tours, 337–374.


Gregory's knowledge of these events from the early history of the Church comes mostly from Rufinus' Latin translation of the Ecclesiastical History by Eusebius.


Edition: Krusch, B., and Levison, W., Gregorii episcopi Turonensis Libri historiarum X (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum I.1; 2nd ed.; Hannover, 1951). Translation: Thorpe, L., Gregory of Tours, The History of the Franks (Penguin Classics; London, 1974). Text of Rufinus: Schwartz, E., and Mommsen, T., Eusebius Werke 2/1 (Die Griechische Christlichen Schriftsteller 9/1; Leipzig, 1903-08). Further reading: Murray, A.C., "The Composition of the Histories of Gregory of Tours and Its Bearing on the Political Narrative", in: A.C. Murray (ed.), A Companion to Gregory of Tours (Leiden-Boston 2015), 63-101. Vieillard-Troiekouroff, M., Les monuments religieux de la Gaule d'après les œuvres de Grégoire de Tours (Paris, 1976).

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager