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E06327: Jerome describes how Paula travelled to Sebaste (Palestine) in 385 to visit the graves of *John the Baptist (S00020), *Elisha (Old Testament prophet, S00239), and *Obadiah (Old Testament prophet, S01420). Letter 108, written in Latin in Bethlehem (Palestine), 404.

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posted on 2018-09-10, 00:00 authored by Philip
Jerome of Stridon, Letter 108.13 ('Epitaphium Sanctae Paulae')

Atque inde revertens vidit duodecim patriarcharum sepulchra et Sebasten, id est Samariam, quae in honorem Augusti ab Herode Graeco sermone Augusta est nominata. Ibi siti sunt Heliseus et Abdias prophetae et quo maior inter natos mulierum non fuit baptista Iohannes. Ubi multis intremuit mirabilius. Namque cernebat daemones variis rugire cruciatibus et ante sepulchra sanctorum ululare homines luporum vocibus, latrare canum, fremere leonum, sibilare serpentum, mugire taurorum, alios rotare caput et post tergum terram vertice tangere, suspensisque pede feminis vestes non defluere in faciem.

'After departing thence she saw the tombs of the twelve patriarchs and Samaria, which Herod, in honor of Augustus, renamed Sebaste, meaning 'Augusta' in Greek. Buried there are the prophets Elisha, Obdiah, and John the Baptist, than whom nobody born among women has been greater. Here she trembled at many shocking things. For she witnessed demons hollering from many kinds of torment and, in front of saints' tombs, men howling like wolves, barking like dogs, roaring like lions, hissing like serpents, and bellowing like bulls. Some twisted their heads and leaned backwards until they touched the ground with the crown of their head, and women were suspended upside down, yet their clothes did not fall down over their face.'

Text: Hilberg 1996 (1912). Translation: Cain 2013.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

John the Baptist : S00020 Elisha, Old Testament prophet : S00239 Obadiah, Old Testament prophet : S01420

Saint Name in Source

Iohannes Baptista Heliseus Abdias

Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Bethlehem Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Major author/Major anonymous work

Jerome of Stridon

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - unspecified

Cult Activities - Miracles

Other miracles with demons and demonic creatures

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Demons


In the second half of 404 Jerome composed an Epitaph for his late friend and patron, Paula, which was transmitted to us as letter 108. The work depicts Paula as an example for ascetic women and bears features of a hagiographic Life. Paula died on 26 January 404 in Bethlehem. She was the descendant of a Roman aristocratic family, who traced their lineage back to the Gracchi and Scipiones. She was dedicated to the western ascetic movement and had spent more than twenty years by the side of Jerome of Stridon, whom she had followed with her daughter Eustochium to the Holy Land in 385, where they founded a monastery and a convent in Bethlehem. Paula was not only Jerome's most faithful companion, but also his biggest sponsor. Jerome's Letter 108.8-13 describes Paula's pilgrimage through the Holy Land, which lasted from late winter 385 to late spring 386.


One part of the epitaph, from which this extract is taken, describes Paula's journey to holy places, especially to those in Palestine, but also elsewhere.


Edition: Hilberg, I., Hieronymus, Epistulae 71-120 (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 55; Vienna, 1996). Translation and commentary: Cain, A., Jerome's Epitaph on Paula: A Commentary on the Epitaphium Sanctae Paulae (Oxford, 2013).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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