Saint NameEmeterius and Celidonius, soldier martyrs of Calahorra (Spain), ob.? : S00410
Saint Name in SourceEmeterius, Chelidonius
Type of EvidenceLiterary - Poems
Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom
Evidence not before395
Evidence not after405
Activity not before395
Activity not after405
Place of Evidence - RegionIberian Peninsula
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcCalahorra
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Calahorra
Major author/Major anonymous workPrudentius
Cult activities - PlacesBurial site of a saint - unspecified
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsComposing and translating saint-related texts
Cult Activities - MiraclesMiracle at martyrdom and death
Miracle after death
Power over objects
Healing diseases and disabilities
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesSoldiers
SourceAurelius Prudentius Clemens (348–after 405) was a Christian aristocrat from Calahorra in the Spanish province of Tarraconensis. He was a high official in the imperial bureaucracy in Rome, but withdrew from public life, returned to Calahorra, and dedicated himself to the service and celebration of God. Most of what we know about his biography comes from the preface to the ensemble of his works, which can be reliably dated to 404 (Cunningham 1966, 1-2), and other autobiographical remarks scattered throughout his works (for a detailed discussion, see Palmer 1989, 6-31). He composed several poetical works, amongst them the Peristephanon (literally, On the Crowns [of the Martyrs]), a collection of fourteen poems of different length describing martyrdoms of saints. We do not know exactly at which point in his literary career Prudentius wrote the preface (possibly at the very end, just before publication); for attempts at a precise dating of the Peristephanon, see Fux 2013, 9, n. 1.
The poems in the Peristephanon, written in elegant classical metres, deal mainly with martyrs from Spain, but some of them are dedicated to saints of Rome, Africa and the East. The poems were widely read in the late antique and medieval West, and had a considerable influence on the diffusion of cult of the saints included. In later periods they were sometimes used as hymns in liturgical celebrations and had an impact on the development of the Spanish hymnody. Some indications in the poems suggest that they were written to commemorate the saints on their feast days, but Prudentius probably did not compose them for the liturgy of his time. Rather, they probably provided 'devotional reading matter for a cultured audience outside a church context' (Palmer 1989, 3; see also Chapter 3 in her book).
DiscussionThe poem on Emeterius and Celidonius (Chelidonius) opens Prudentius' collection, the author consecrating his first poem to the martyrs of his home city. He refers several times to the veneration of both saints at the place of their martyrdom and at their tombs which were located in Calahorra and at which miracles happened; he also explicitly describes both martyrs as patrons of the city (see E00762, E00764).
The historical context of the story of Emeterius and Chelidonius is unclear; Prudentius himself feels obliged to give an explanation of the lack of any details on their martyrdom (see E00763). The only episode which seems to be well known to the author is the miracle at their death: the ring and the handkerchief of the martyrs are taken up to heaven. This unusual detail attracted the attention of Christians in Late Antiquity: Gregory of Tours, who knew at least some of Prudentius' poems on the martyrs, quotes this particular passage in his Glory of the Martyrs (see E00643).
The poem is written in trochaic tetrameter catalectic. For a detailed philological commentary on the poem see Fux 2013: 23-62.
BibliographyEditions of the Peristephanon:
Cunningham, M.P., Prudentii Carmina (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 126; Turnhout: Brepols, 1966), 251-389.
Bergman, J., Prudentius, Carmina (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 61; Vienna, 1926), 291-431.
Translations of the Peristephanon:
Eagan, C., Prudentius, Poems (Fathers of the Church 43; Washington D.C.: Catholic University Press, 1962), 95-280. English translation.
Thomson, H.J., Prudentius, vol. 2 (Loeb Classical Library; London Cambridge, Mass: W. Heinemann; Harvard University Press, 1953), 98-345. Edition and English translation.
Fux, P.-Y., Prudence et les martyrs: hymnes et tragédie. Peristephanon 1. 3-4. 6-8. 10. Commentaire, (Fribourg: Academic Press, 2013).
Malamud, M.A., A Poetics of Transformation: Prudentius and Classical Mythology (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989).
Palmer, A.-M., Prudentius on the Martyrs (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989).
Roberts, M., Poetry and the Cult of the Martyrs: The "Liber Peristephanon" of Prudentius (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993).