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E02987: Gildas, in his treatise On the Destruction of Britain, refers to the martyrdom of *Ignatios (bishop of Antioch, martyred at Rome, S00649), and quotes one of his letters. Written in Latin in Britain, c. 480/c. 550.

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posted on 2017-06-13, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Gildas, On the Destruction of Britain 74

Quis vestrum, ut sanctus martyr Ignatius Antiochiae urbis episcopus, post admirabiles in Christo actus ob testimonium eius leonum molis Romae confractus est? Cuius verba cum ad passionem duceretur audientes, si aliquando vultus vestri rubore confusi sunt, non solum in comparatione eius vos non putabitis sacerdotes, sed ne mediocres quidem Christianos esse. Ait enim in epistola, quam ad Romanam ecclesiam misit: 'A Syria usque Romam cum bestiis terra marique depugno, die ac nocte conexus et colligatus decem leopardis, militibus dico ad custodiam datis, qui ex beneficiis nostris saeviores fiunt. Sed ego eorum nequitiis magis erudior, nec tamen in hoc iustificatus sum. O salutares bestias, quae praeparantur mihi, quando venient? Quando emittentur? Quando eis frui licebit carnibus meis? Quas ego exopto acriores parari et invitabo ad devorationem mei, et deprecabor ne forte, ut in nonnullis fecerunt, timeant attingere corpus meum: quin immo, et si cunctabuntur, ego vim faciam, ego me ingeram. Date, quaeso, veniam, ego novi quid expediat mihi: nunc incipio esse Christi discipulus. Facessat invidia vel humani affectus, vel nequitiae spiritalis, ut in Iesum Christum adipisci merear. Ignes, cruces, bestiae, dispersiones ossium discerptionesque membrorum ac totius corporis poenae et omnia in me unum supplicia diaboli arte quaesita compleantur, dummodo Iesum Christum merear adipisci'.

'Which of you, like the holy martyr Ignatius, bishop of the city of Antioch, after remarkable deeds in the name of Christ, paid for his witness by being crunched in the molars of lions at Rome? When you hear his words as he was led to his martyrdom, supposing that you ever blush, you will think yourselves by comparison not even middling Christians, let alone priests. For in the letter that he sent to the Roman church he says: "From Syria to Rome, I have been fighting with beasts on land and sea: night and day I am bound to ten leopards, by which I mean the soldiers set to guard me, who are the more savage because of what I do for them. Rather, I am being educated by their wickedness. Yet I am not justified by this. When, when will there come forth the beasts that are being made ready for my salvation? When will they be let loose? When will they be allowed to enjoy my flesh? I pray that they may be the fiercer for their preparation. I shall encourage them to devour me, beg them not to be afraid, as they have been in some cases, of touching my body. In fact, if they hold back I shall attack, I shall rush at them. Forgive me, I beg of you: I know where my profit lies. It is now that I am beginning to be the disciple of Christ. An end to envy, whether of human feeling or spiritual wickedness, so I may attain to Jesus Christ. Let there be fulfilled fires, crucifixions, beasts, scattering of bones and tearing of limbs, punishments for my whole body, every kind of torment invented for me alone by the devil's art: so long as I deserve to attain to Jesus Christ."'

Text and translation: Winterbottom 1978.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, martyred in Rome ob. 98/117 : S00649

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Theological works


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Britain and Ireland

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

St Albans St Albans Verulamium

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


Gildas wrote the tract known as On the Destruction of Britain (De excidio Britanniae - there are several variants of the title) at an unknown location in Britain, some generations after the end of Roman rule and the subsequent invasion by the Anglo-Saxons. His work was intended to admonish contemporary Britons, and especially the church, that the conquests of the Anglo-Saxons were a punishment for their sins. On the Destruction of Britain contains no information that allows it to be dated precisely, and modern estimates of its date of composition vary considerably, from as early as the 480s to as late as the 550s, though the most common opinion places it in the period around 540. For a brief account of what is known about Gildas, see Kerlouégan 2004.


Gildas' reference to the martyrdom of Ignatius and his quotation from Ignatius' Letter to the Romans are taken from the Latin translation of Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History produced by Rufinus of Aquileia at the beginning of the 5th century (Ecclesiastical History 3.36.2-10). The quotation from Ignatius is Letter to the Romans 5. Gildas' knowledge of Ignatius, based on a literary source, does not indicate that there was any cult of Ignatius in 6th century Britain.


Edition and translation: Winterbottom, M., Gildas, The Ruin of Britain and Other Works (Chichester: Phillimore, 1978). Text of Gildas' source: Schwartz, E., and Mommsen, T., Eusebius Werke 2/1 (Die Griechische Christlichen Schriftsteller 9/1; Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs, 1903-08). Further reading: Kerlouégan, F., "Gildas [St Gildas] (fl. 6th-7th cent.)," in: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). Online edition (; accessed 22/08/2017.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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