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E06524: Jerome describes how Paula at the beginning of her pilgrimage visits the cells of *Flavia Domitilla (Roman noblewoman, S02419) on Ponza; Letter 108, written in Latin in Bethlehem (Palestine), 404.

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posted on 2018-09-17, 00:00 authored by Philip
Jerome of Stridon, Letter 108.7 ('Epitaphium Sanctae Paulae')

Delata ad insulam Pontias, quam clarissimae memoriae quondam feminarum sub Domitiano principe pro confessione nominis Christiani Flauiae Domitillae nobilitauit exilium, uidensque cellulas, in quibus illa longum martyrium duxerat, sumptis alis Hierosolymam, sancta loca uidere cupiebat.

'She was ferried to the island of Ponza, which Flavia Domitilla, one of the women of senatorial rank who lived during Domitian's reign, ennobled by being exiled there for professing the Christian faith. After visiting the cells in which this woman had lived out her prolonged martyrdom, Paula sprouted wings and longed to set eyes on Jerusalem and the Holy Places.'

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


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Flavia Domitilla, Roman noblewoman : S02419

Saint Name in Source

Flavia Domitilla

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

Cult building - monastic

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives



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 hagiography. 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.


At the beginning of her pilgrimage in 385 Paula visited the cells of Flavia Domitilla on Ponza. Discrepancies in the sources have led to some discussion about the identity of Flavia Domitilla. She was either the wife, or the niece, of Flavius Clemens and related to the emperor Domitian. The reason for her exile may have been a refusal to participate in the cult of the emperor.


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). Further reading: Cappelletti, S., The Jewish Community of Rome from the Second Century BC to the Third Century CE (Leiden, 2006), p. 132. Keresztes, P., "The Jews, the Christians, and Emperor Domitian," Vigiliae Christianae 27 (1973), 1-28. Lampe, P., Die stadtrömischen Christen in den ersten beiden Jahrhunderten (Tübingen, 1989), pp. 166-72.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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