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E05206: Ambrose of Milan, writing in Latin in Milan (northern Italy) in c.387, in his Letter 7 suggests to a correspondent that martyrdom leads to true freedom, using the examples of *Thekla (follower of the Apostle Paul, S00092), *Agnes (virgin and martyr of Rome, S00097), *Pelagia (martyr of Antioch, S01093), *Laurence (deacon and martyr of Rome, S00037) and the *Maccabean martyrs (pre-Christian Jewish martyrs of Antioch, S00303).

online resource
posted on 2018-03-18, 00:00 authored by frances
Ambrose of Milan, Letter 7.36–38


Ambrose demonstrates that 'the wise man is free' (libens igitur sapiens) by referring to the deaths of various martyrs, including naming Thekla, Agnes, Pelagia, Laurence and the Maccabean martyrs. He then praises Pelagia’s martyrdom in more detail, focusing on her virginity and willingness to die in defence of it. In doing so, she became free.

Summary: Frances Trzeciak.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Thekla, follower of the Apostle Paul : S00092 Agnes, virgin and martyr of Rome : S00097 Pelagia, martyr in Antioch : S01093 Laurence/Laurentius, deacon and martyr of Rome : S00037 Maccabean Martyrs, pre-Christian Jewish martyrs of Antioch : S003

Saint Name in Source

Thecla Agnes Pelagia Laurentius Machabaei

Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Milan Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Ambrose of Milan

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Oral transmission of saint-related stories

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


Letter 7 of the letter collection of Ambrose of Milan. This letter was addressed to a friend and correspondent, Simplicianus, who was to succeed Ambrose as bishop of Milan. Throughout the letter Ambrose argues that holiness is perfect freedom. Ambrose’s letters have been transmitted in ten books, but scholars disagree over whether this was a decision made by Ambrose or by a later editor. This letter dates from c. 387. The letter is preserved in the Maurist collection as Letter 37. See Patrologia Latina, vol. 16, 855D-867B for a discussion of this alternative order, which is based on the date of composition rather than the order of letters in the manuscript tradition.


Edition: Faller, O., Sancti Ambrosii Opera: Epistulae et Acta (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 82.1; Vienna: Hoelder-Pichler-Tempsky, 1968). Further Reading: Canellis, A. (ed.), La correspondance d’Ambroise de Milan (Saint-Étienne: Publications de l’Université de Saint-Étienne, 2012). McLynn, N., Ambrose of Milan: Church and Court in a Christian Capital (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994). Nauroy, G., "The Letter Collection of Ambrose of Milan," in: C. Sogno, B. Storin and E. Watts (eds)., Late Antique Letter Collections (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2016), 146-156.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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