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E02988: Gildas, in his treatise On the Destruction of Britain, refers to *Basil (bishop of Caesarea, ob. 379, S00780), and quotes him. 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 75

Unum adhuc praeter magnam verbis volans sanctorum silvam exempli gratia ponam, Basilium scilicet Caesariensem episcopum, qui, cum ab iniquo principe minae huiuscemodi intentarentur, quod, nisi in crastinum Arriano caeno, ut ceteri, macularetur esset omnino moriturus, dixisse fertur: 'Ego sane ero cras, qui hodie sum: tu te utinam non mutares'. Et iterum : 'Utinam haberem aliquid digni muneris quod offerrem huic qui maturius Basilium de nodo follis huius absolveret'.

'My words must fly past a great abundance of saints: but I shall put forward one by way of example, Basil, bishop of Caesarea. He was threatened with certain death by an unjust emperor if he did not, like the rest, stain himself by the next day with the filth of the Arians. But he is said to have replied: "Tomorrow I shall be what I am today: let us hope you do not change". And again: "If only I had a proper present to offer the man who would free Basil more quickly from the bond of this body".'

Text and translation: Winterbottom 1978; translation adapted.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Basil, bishop of Caesarea, ob. 379 : S00780

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 Basil of Caesarea is based on the account of Basil and the other Cappadocian fathers in Rufinus' continuation of Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History. Having translated Eusebius' text from Greek into Latin, Rufinus added two additional books of his own composition, extending Eusebius' history, which ended with the victory of Constantine over Licinius in 324, down to the death of the emperor Theodosius I in 395. Rufinus produced his continuation of Eusebius in the years 402-403 (Amidon 1997, x-xii). In Rufinus' account (Ecclesiastical History 11.9) the event related by Gildas occurs under the emperor Valens (364-378), and the person to whom Basil addresses his outspoken remarks is not the emperor but the Praetorian Prefect. For discussion of the actual events lying behind the story, see Amidon 1997, p. 72, n. 19 (at pp. 94-95), with full references. Gildas' knowledge of Basil, based on a literary source, does not indicate that there was any cult of Basil 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 2/2 (Die Griechische Christlichen Schriftsteller 9/2; Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs, 1903-08). Translation of Gildas' source: Amidon, P.R., The Church History of Rufinus of Aquileia: Books 10 and 11 (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997). 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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