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E00392: The Liber Pontificalis, written in Latin in Rome in the 530s, and re-edited before 546, in its account of *Gaius (bishop and martyr of Rome, S00661), tells how he suffered persecution, and was buried in the cemetery of Callixtus on the Appia outside Rome, on 22 April [AD 296]. In the first edition he is described as a 'confessor', in the second as a 'martyr'.

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posted on 21.04.2015, 00:00 by robert
Liber Pontificalis 29

First edition (as reconstructed by Duchesne)

Gaius, natione Dalmata, ex genere Diocliciani imperatoris, ex patre Gaio, sedit ann. XI, m. IIII, d. XII. Fuit autem temporibus Cari et Carini, ex die XVI kal. ian. a consulatu Caro II et Carino usque in die X kal. mai. Diocliciano VI et Constantio II ... Hic dividit regiones diaconibus. Hic fugiens persecutione Diocletiani in criptis habitans confessor quievit ... Sepultus est in cimitirio Calisti, via Appia, X kal. mai.

'Gaius, born in Dalmatia of the family of the emperor Diocletian, son of Gaius, held the see 11 years 4 months 12 days. He was bishop in the time of Carus and Carinus, from 17 December in the 2nd consulship of Carus and that of Carinus [AD 283] to 22 April in the 6th [consulship] of Diocletian and 2nd of Constantius [AD 296]... He divided the regions among the deacons. Fleeing from the persecution of Diocletian he lived in the crypts... He was buried in the cemetery of Callistus on the Via Appia on 22 April.'


Second edition

Gaius, natione Dalmata, ex genere Diocletiani imperatoris, ex patre Gaio, sedit ann. XI, m. IIII, d. XII. Fuit autem temporibus Carini, a die XVI kal. ian., a consulatu Caro II et Carino usque in die X kal. mai., Diocletiano IIII et Constantio II ... Hic regiones dividit diaconibus. Hic fugiens persecutionem Diocletiani in criptis habitando, martyrio coronatur post annos VIII ... Qui vero sepultus est in cymiterio Calisti, via Appia, X kal. mai.

'Gaius, born in Dalmatia of the family of the emperor Diocletian, son of Gaius, held the see 11 years 4 months 12 days. He was bishop in the time of Carinus, from 17 December in the 2nd consulship of Carus and that of Carinus [283] to 22 April in the 4th [6th] of Diocletian and 2nd of Constantius [296]... 3. He divided the regions among the deacons. Fleeing from the persecution of Diocletian he lived in the crypts and was crowned with martyrdom 8 years later... 4. He was buried in the cemetery of Callistus on the Via Appia on 22 April.'


Text: Duchesne 1886, 71/73 and 161. Translation: Davis 2010, 11-12, lightly modified.

History

Evidence ID

E00392

Saint Name

Gaius, martyr and bishop of Rome, ob. c. 295 : S00661

Saint Name in Source

Gaius

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

530

Evidence not after

546

Place of Evidence - Region

Rome and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Rome

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

Rome Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

Major author/Major anonymous work

Liber Pontificalis

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - unspecified

Source

The Liber Pontificalis consists of a series of short lives of popes. The preface attributes it to pope Damasus (366-384), but this attribution is obviously false. According to Louis Duchesne, the first modern editor of the Liber Pontificalis, the original series of lives was written in Rome by an anonymous author, probably a member of the lesser clergy, in the 530s, and contained the lives from *Peter the Apostle to Felix IV (ob. 530). Shortly after, before 546, the text was re-edited by another anonymous author and only this edition survives. The first edition, however, can be reconstituted on the basis of its two epitomes (and the second edition). The second edition started to be continued systematically from the time of pope Honorius (625–638). It should be noted that Theodor Mommsen dated both editions of the Liber Pontificalis to the 7th century, but his opinion is widely rejected and the commonly accepted dating is that of Duchesne. For the pre-Constantinian period (before 312), the credibility of the Liber Pontificalis is very low. The chronology is confused, and details concerning the personal lives, decisions, and ordinations of the bishops of Rome at best reflect what people in the 6th century trusted to be true, at worst are a pure invention of the author. The situation changes with the later lives. Already the information of 4th century papal foundations and offerings are generally trustworthy. The early 6th century evidence, based on the author's first hand knowledge is even better, though still imperfect.

Discussion

Between the first and second editions of the Liber Pontificalis, Gaius is elevated from 'confessor', one who suffered for his faith (but did not die for it), to 'martyr'. There no other evidence exists to suggest that he did suffer martyrdom, and indeed there is quite good evidence that he didn't: his fragmentary epitaph, discovered in the cemetery of Callixtus, does not mention martyrdom (E04739); and in the Chronography of 354, his burial is listed amongst those of the bishops of Rome (E01051), and not amongst those of the martyrs (E01052). Gaius plays an important spiritual role, though not a heroic one, in the Martyrdom of Susanna (E02515), set at the time of Diocletian's persecution, and this may have influenced our author to raise him to martyrdom (though large numbers of early bishops of Rome are considered martyrs in the Liber Pontificalis, on less evidence than this). The Martyrdom may even have directly influenced the Liber's depiction of Gaius - since the two texts share the unusual detail that he was a relative of Diocletian. The relationship between the texts, however, is not close, since there is nothing in the Martyrdom about Gaius hiding away from persecution, nor indeed anything to suggest he would die a martyr.

Bibliography

Edition: Duchesne, L., Le Liber pontificalis. 2 vols (Paris: E. Thorin, 1886-1892). (With substantial introduction and commentary.) Translation: Davis, R., The Book of Pontiffs (Liber Pontificalis) (Translated Texts for Historians 6; 3rd ed.; Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2010).

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Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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