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E04510: Prudentius, in his Latin Crowns of the Martyrs (Peristephanon), written c. 400 in Calahorra (northern Spain), in a poem on the martyrdom of *Agnes (virgin and martyr of Rome, S00097), tells of a man who impudently looked at Agnes, exposed at the corner of the street. He is struck by a thunderbolt but later restored to his senses through the prayers of Agnes.

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posted on 2017-12-20, 00:00 authored by mszada
Liber Peristephanon XIV.40-60

40 Stantem refugit maesta frequentia
auersa uultus ne petulantius
quisquam uerendum conspiceret locum.
Intendit unus forte procaciter
os in puellam nec trepidat sacram
45 spectare formam lumine lubrico.
En ales ignis fulminis in modum
uibratur ardens atque oculos ferit.
Caecus corusco lumine corruit
atque in plateae puluere palpitat.
50 Tollunt sodales seminecem solo
uerbisque deflent exequialibus.
Ibat triumfans uirgo deum patrem
Christumque sacro carmine concinens,
quod sub profani labe periculi
55 castum lupanar nec uiolabile
experta uictrix uirginitas foret.
Sunt qui rogatam rettulerint preces
fudisse Christo, redderet ut reo
lucem iacenti; tunc iuueni halitum
uitae innouatum uisibus integris.

'While she stood there the crowd avoided her in sorrow, turning their faces away lest any look too rudely on her modesty. One, as it chanced, did aim an impudent gaze at the girl, not fearing to look on her sacred figure with a lustful eye; (46) when behold, a fire came flying like a thunderbolt and with its quivering blaze struck his eyes, and he fell blinded by the gleaming flash and lay convulsed in the dust of the square. (50) His companions lifted him from the ground between life and death and bewailed him with words of lamentation for the departed. But the maiden passed in triumph, singing of God the Father and Christ in holy song because, when an unholy peril fell on her, her virginity won the day, finding the brothel chaste and pure. (57) Some have told that being asked she poured forth prayers to Christ that He would restore sight to the prostrate sinner, and that then the breath of life was renewed in the young man and his vision made perfect.'

Text: Cunnigham 1966, 387. Translation: Thomson 1953, 341.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Agnes, virgin and martyr of Rome : S00097

Type of Evidence

Literary - Poems Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Iberian Peninsula

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Calahorra Osset Osset Osen (castrum) Osser castrum

Major author/Major anonymous work


Cult Activities - Miracles

Punishing miracle Healing diseases and disabilities


Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (348–after 405) was a Christian aristocrat from Calahorra in the Spanish province of Tarraconensis. He was a high official in the imperial bureaucracy in Rome, but withdrew from public life, returned to Calahorra, and dedicated himself to the service and celebration of God. Most of what we know about his biography comes from the preface to the ensemble of his works, which can be reliably dated to 404 (Cunningham 1966, 1-2), and other autobiographical remarks scattered throughout his works (for a detailed discussion, see Palmer 1989, 6-31). He composed several poetical works, amongst them the Peristephanon (literally, On the Crowns [of the Martyrs]), a collection of fourteen poems of different length describing martyrdoms of saints. We do not know exactly at which point in his literary career Prudentius wrote the preface (possibly at the very end, just before publication); for attempts at a precise dating of the Peristephanon, see Fux 2013, 9, n. 1. The poems in the Peristephanon, written in elegant classical metres, deal mainly with martyrs from Spain, but some of them are dedicated to saints of Rome, Africa and the East. The poems were widely read in the late antique and medieval West, and had a considerable influence on the diffusion of cult of the saints included. In later periods they were sometimes used as hymns in liturgical celebrations and had an impact on the development of the Spanish hymnody. Some indications in the poems suggest that they were written to commemorate the saints on their feast days, but Prudentius probably did not compose them for the liturgy of his time. Rather, they probably provided 'devotional reading matter for a cultured audience outside a church context' (Palmer 1989, 3; see also Chapter 3 in her book).


Editions of the Peristephanon: Cunningham, M.P., Prudentii Carmina (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 126; Turnhout: Brepols, 1966), 251-389. Bergman, J., Prudentius, Carmina (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 61; Vienna, 1926), 291-431. Translations of the Peristephanon: Eagan, C., Prudentius, Poems (Fathers of the Church 43; Washington D.C.: Catholic University Press, 1962), 95-280. English translation. Thomson, H.J., Prudentius, vol. 2 (Loeb Classical Library; London Cambridge, Mass: W. Heinemann; Harvard University Press, 1953), 98-345. Edition and English translation. Further reading: Delehaye, H., "Cyprien d'Antioche et Cyprien de Carthage," Analecta Bollandiana 39 (1921), 314-322. Fux, P.-Y., Prudence et les martyrs: hymnes et tragédie. Peristephanon 1. 3-4. 6-8. 10. Commentaire, (Fribourg: Academic Press, 2013). Malamud, M.A., A Poetics of Transformation: Prudentius and Classical Mythology (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989). Palmer, A.-M., Prudentius on the Martyrs (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989). Roberts, M., Poetry and the Cult of the Martyrs: The "Liber Peristephanon" of Prudentius (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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