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E04577: Latin epigram, written most probably by Augustine of Hippo, between 397 and 430, commemorates *Nabor (deacon and martyr of Africa, S01931), victim of the Donatists in the late 4th of early 5th century, and criticises the cult of the Donatist martyrs.

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posted on 2018-01-12, 00:00 authored by robert
Augustine of Hippo, Verses on St Nabor

Versus s(an)c(t)i Augustini episcopi

Donatistarum crudeli caede peremptum
Infossum hic corpus pia est cum laude Nabori.
Ante aliquod tempus cum donatista fuisset,
Conuersus pacem, pro qua moreretur, amauit.
Optima purpureo uestitur sanguine causa.
Non errore perit, non se ipse furore peremit,
Uerum martyrium uera est pietate probatum
Suspice litterulas primas: ibi nomen honoris.

'Verses of the holy bishop Augustine

Donatists with cruel slaughter murdered this man.
Interred here, with pious praise, is the body of Nabor.
A little time before he had been with the Donatists.
Converted, he loved the peace for which he died.
On his body, clothed with purple blood, for the best of causes
Not for error did he die, not in madness did he kill himself.
Under the banner of true piety, he proved his true martyrdom.
Select the first letters of these lines – there you find his rank.'

Text: Patrologiae Latinae Supplementum 2, 456-357. Translation: Shaw 2011, 264.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Nabor, deacon and martyr in Africa, ob. c. 400 : S01931

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Poems Inscriptions - Funerary inscriptions


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Latin North Africa

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

Carthage Carthago Karthago قرطاج‎ Qarṭāj Mçidfa Carthage

Major author/Major anonymous work

Augustine of Hippo

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - unspecified

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects



This epigram was certainly inscribed on a tomb, but we know it only from the manuscript tradition. The manuscript does not name the place of the burial, but attributes the verses to Augustine. If this attribution is correct, Nabor died probably before 411, when the Donatist party was weakened after its defeat at the Conference in Carthage.


The epigram is an acrostic – the first letters of successive lines make up the word DIACONUS (Deacon), which gives us an additional piece of information about the otherwise unknown Nabor. The poem openly criticises the cult of the Donatist martyrs, many of whom, according to Augustine, committed suicide, none dying for the right cause. It is difficult to say whether Nabor had any real cult. His name does not figure in the early sixth-century Calendar of Carthage.


Edition: Hamman, A., Patrologiae Latinae Supplementum, vol. 2 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1960), 356-357. Duval, Y., Loca sanctorum Africae: Le culte des martyrs en Afrique du IVe au VIIe siècle (Rome: École Francaise de Rome, 1982), vol. 1, no. 89, 182–83. Translation and further reading: Shaw, B.D., Sacred Violence: African Christians and Sectarian Hatred in the Age of Augustine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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