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E04279: Augustine of Hippo delivers a Latin sermon, probably on the feast of martyrs, emphasising that it is the cause, not the suffering that makes a martyr, and encouraging his audience to celebrate the feast in sobriety. Sermon 328, preached possibly in Hippo, at an unknown date, probably before 411.

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posted on 2017-11-05, 00:00 authored by robert
Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 328

[In natali martyrum

'On the birthday of some martyrs']

In this sermon Augustine refers to the martyrs in general, not to a specific group of them. He emphasises that it is the cause, not the suffering which makes a martyr, and so neither pagans nor heretics can be qualified as martyrs (§ 4). He also claims that while he martyrs already sojourn with Christ, they will receive even more splendid reward after the resurrection of the bodies:

6. ... Corpora ipsa sua habebunt magna ornamenta in quibus passi sunt magna tormenta.

'Their bodies will be magnificently adorned, because in them they suffered monstrous torments.'

In what follows Augustine encourages his audience to follow the example of martyrs. Even if the proper martyrdom is not possible anymore, its equivalent can be achieved for instance by enduring the sufferings caused by a malady. The closing remarks refer to the right way of celebrating the feasts of martyrs:

8. ... Hoc est ergo martyres amare, hoc est dies martyrum deuota pietate celebrare, non uino ingurgitari sed illorum fidem et patientiam imitari.

'So this is what means to love the martyrs, this is what celebrating of the feast day of the martyrs with devotion and piety really means – not drowning yourself in wine, but imitating their faith and endurance.'

Text: Lambot 1939, 18 and 20. Translation: Hill 1994, 179 and 180.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Martyrs, unnamed or name lost : S00060

Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Latin North Africa

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Hippo Regius

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

Hippo Regius Carthage Carthago Karthago قرطاج‎ Qarṭāj Mçidfa Carthage

Major author/Major anonymous work

Augustine of Hippo

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Feasting (eating, drinking, dancing, singing, bathing)

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Acceptance/rejection of saints from other religious groupings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


The sermon cannot be dated with any certainty; the obvious and strong reference to the false Donatist martyrs makes it probable that it was preached some time before 411, when the Donatist Church was officially delegalised.


Text: Migne, J.P., Patrologia Latina 38 (Paris, 1865). Translation: Hill, E., The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, vol. III 9. Sermons 306-340A for the Saints ‬(New York: New City Press, 1994). Dating: Kunzelmann, A., "Die Chronologie der sermones des hl. Augustinus," Miscellanea Agostiniana, vol. 2 (Rome: Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, 1931), 417-452.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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