University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E02016: Gregory of Tours, in his Histories (1.38), records the death in 356 of *Antony ('the Great', monk of Egypt, S00398), and the voyage of *Melania the Elder (aristocrat of Rome, monastic founder in Jerusalem, ob. 410, S01185) from Rome to Jerusalem, where she is given the honorific name 'Thecla', after *Thekla (follower of the Apostle Paul, S00092). Written in Latin in Tours (north-west Gaul), 575/594.

online resource
posted on 2016-11-18, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 1.38

Nono decimo Constantini iunioris anno Antonius monachus transiit centesimo quinto aetatis anno.

'In the nineteenth year of Constantine II, the monk Anthony died, in his one-hundred-and-fifth year.'

Gregory of Tours, Histories (Historiae) 1.40

Melania vero matrona nobilis et incula urbis Romanae Hierusolimis ob devotionem abiit, Urbano filio Romae relecto. Quae ita se in cuncta bonitate ac sanctitate omnibus praebuit, ut Thecla vocaretur ab incolis.

'Melania, a noble married woman and an inhabitant of the city of Rome, travelled to Jerusalem in her piety, leaving her son Urbanus in Rome. She seemed so good and saintly to everyone that she was called Thecla by the inhabitants.'

Text: Krusch and Levison 1951, 27. Translation: Thorpe 1974, 91-92.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Antony, 'the Great', monk of Egypt, ob. 356 : S00098 Thekla, follower of Apostle Paul : S00092 Melania the Elder, Roman aristocrat and monastic founder in Jerusalem, ob. AD 410 : S01185

Saint Name in Source

Antonius Thecla Melania

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

Explicit naming a child, or oneself, after a saint

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Aristocrats


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 dating of Antony's death by the regnal year of Constantine II is a straightforward error for Constantius II, Constantine II (whose rule began at the same time as that of Constantius) being long dead in 356. In this text, Melania the Elder is called 'Thecla' because of her goodness and saintliness. This is not explicit evidence of the cult of Melania; rather, she is named after a saint who served as an ascetic role model for pious women in the fourth and fifth century. *Macrina the Younger (S00899) also used the name 'Thecla' (E01660), though in her case secretly. Calling a woman with this name meant she was pious, devoted to God and lived an ascetic life.


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). 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