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E03599: Marcellinus Comes, in his Chronicle, written in Latin in Constantinople, 518/534, records that *African confessors whose tongues were cut out by the Vandals (S01481) in 484 were miraculously still able to speak, and claims that he had personally witnessed this.

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posted on 2017-08-23, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Marcellinus Comes, Chronicle

VII. Theodorici et Venantii
Totam namque per Africam crudelis Hunerici Vandalorum regis in nostros catholicos persecutio inportata est. nam exulatis diffugatisque plus quam trecentis triginta quattuor orthodoxorum episcopis ecclesiisque eorum clausis plebs fidelium variis subacta suppliciis beatum consummavit agonem. nempe tunc idem rex Hunericus unius catholici adulescentis vitam a nativitate sua sine ullo sermone ducentis linguam praecepit excidi, idemque mutus, quod sine humano auditu Christo credens fidem didicerat, mox praecisa sibi lingua locutus est gloriamque deo in primo vocis suae exordio dedit. denique ex hoc fidelium contubernio aliquantos ego religiosissimos viros praecisis linguis manibus truncatis apud Byzantium integra voce conspexi loquentes. haec Arrianorum crudelitas in religiosos Christi cultores supra scriptis consulibus mense Februario coepit infligi.

'7th indiction, consulship of Theodoric and Venantius
Now the persecution of the cruel Huneric, king of the Vandals, was visited upon our catholic people throughout the whole of Africa. For when more than three hundred and thirty four orthodox bishops were banished and dispersed and their churches closed, the faithful people, hard-pressed by a variety of torments, completed their blessed struggle. At the same time, the same king Huneric had indeed ordered that the tongue of a Catholic youth who had lived without the gift of speech from his birth be cut out, and that same dumb man, because he had learnt the faith believing in Christ without any human hearing, suddenly began to speak after his tongue was cut out and, with his first words, gave glory to God. Afterwards, from this band of the faithful I myself saw very religious men, with their tongues cut out and their hands chopped off, speaking at Byzantium in their normal voice. This Arian cruelty began to be inflicted on the devoted worshippers of Christ in the month of February in the consulship listed above.'

Text: Mommsen 1894. Translation: Croke 1995.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

African confessors whose tongues were cut out by the Vandals : S01481

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

Constantinople and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Constantinople Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Healing diseases and disabilities Miracles experienced by the saint

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Foreigners (including Barbarians) Heretics Other lay individuals/ people


Marcellinus (PLRE II, 'Marcellinus 9') was an imperial official at Constantinople under the emperors Anastasius, Justin, and Justinian. The epithet Comes ('Count') is his official rank. He came originally from the province of Dardania in the western Balkans, and wrote in Latin. Marcellinus' Chronicle was a continuation of the chronicle of Jerome, covering events from the 370s to 518. It was subsequently updated to 534 by Marcellinus himself, and to 548 by an anonymous continuator. Marcellinus dates events by indictions (the fifteen-year tax cycle used in the later Roman empire) and by the consuls of each year.


The story of the African confessors whose tongues were cut out during Huneric's persecution in 484, but who were afterwards miraculously still able to speak, is attested in multiple sources from the late 5th and 6th centuries. There are considerable variations between the accounts, but apart from the miracle itself they have the common element that one or more of the confessors travelled to Constantinople, where the miracle was observed by numerous witnesses. The earliest account, Victor of Vita 3.30 (E###), written shortly after the event, states that many people were able to speak after their tongues were cut out, one of whom, a subdeacon named Reparatus, travelled to Constantinople, where, according to Victor, he was living at the time of writing as an honoured guest of the emperor Zeno. Marcellinus, writing thirty or more years later, gives the miracle in two forms: first he relates that Huneric ordered the tongue to be cut from 'a catholic youth' (catholicus adulescens) who had been dumb from birth, thus making it a double miracle when he immediately began to speak by praising God. Then Marcellinus claims that he himself had seen multiple 'very religious men' (religiosissimos viros) at Constantinople, speaking with a normal voice (integra voce) even though their tongues had been cut out. The claim to having personally witnessed the miracle is one which also appears elsewhere, most strikingly in a work by the late 5th century Greek philosophical writer Aeneas of Gaza, who actually claims to have examined the mouths of the people in question (Aeneas of Gaza, Theophrastus; E07838). Procopius, in his History of the Wars 3.8.4 (E###), and Justinian, in a law issued after the reconquest of Africa (E07833), refer to witnessing the confessors but only in relatively vague terms, not necessarily amounting to a claim to have seen them directly, unlike Marcellinus' emphatic and seemingly unambiguous 'I saw' (ego ... conspexi). The story also appears in Victor of Tunnuna, Chronicle, s.a. 479 (E07834); Evagrius Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History 4.14 (E###; explicitly dependent on Procopius); Gregory the Great, Dialogues 3.32 (E07832).


Edition: Mommsen, T., Marcellini v.c. comitis Chronicon, in: Chronica minora saec. IV V VI VII (II) (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Auctores antiquissimi 11; Berlin, 1894), 60-108 English translation and commentary: Croke, B., The Chronicle of Marcellinus: Text and Commentary (Byzantina Australiensia 7; Sydney, 1995). Further reading: Croke, B., Count Marcellinus and His Chronicle (Oxford, 2001).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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