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E01726: The Latin Acts of *Saturus, Saturninus, Revocatus, Felicitas and Perpetua (martyrs of Carthage, S00009), of the 4th c. or later and surviving in two recensions, provide a substantially modified version of the narrative recounted by the Martyrdom of Perpetua, Felicitas, and their Companions (E01666). The text ascribes the story to the persecution of Valerian and Gallienus, indicating 7 March as the date of martyrdom.

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posted on 13.07.2016, 00:00 by erizos
Acts of Saturus, Saturninus, Revocatus, Felicitas, and Perpetua (BHL 6634-6636)

Summary:

Recension I (BHL 6634-6635)

1. Under Valerian and Gallienus, the young brothers Saturus and Saturninus, the siblings Revocatus and Felicitas, and the noble woman Perpetua are arrested in Thuburbo (civitas Turbitanorum). At the tribunal, the proconsul Minutius orders them to sacrifice according to the decree of the emperors, but Saturus replies that they are Christians.

2. Perpetua’s father attempts to dissuade her, but she remains steadfast.

3. Perpetua recounts to her fellow martyrs a dream vision of a ladder leading to heaven, and they interpret it as a prefiguration of their imminent martyrdom.

4. Minutius interrogates them again at the tribunal, but Saturus refuses to sacrifice, and defends his faith. So too do Saturninus and Revocatus.

5. The Proconsul asks Felicitas about her husband and relatives, urging her to sacrifice, which she refuses to do. She has a husband, whom she despises, and Revocatus is her brother. Perpetua also refuses to sacrifice, and Minutius asks about her relatives.

6. Perpetua’s parents and husband, with her baby son, appear, and her father implores her to pity her family and change her mind, but she is not dissuaded. Her earthly family cannot be more important than God.

7. The proconsul orders that the male martyrs be flogged and the female ones beaten. They are incarcerated until they are thrown to the beasts on the Birthday of the Caesar. In gaol Perpetua recounts her vision of her fight with an Egyptian, which the martyrs interpret as meaning that they will fight and defeat the devil.

8. Thanks to their prayers, Felicitas gives birth in the eighth month of her pregnancy, which allows her to suffer martyrdom together with the rest.

9. On the birthday of the Caesar, a great spectacle is given at the amphitheatre. Saturus and Perpetua are devoured by a lion. Saturninus is killed by the sword, after having been wounded by a bear. Revocatus and Felicitas are killed by a leopard. All this has taken place at Thuburbo, on the nones (7th) of March, under Valerian and Gallienus (253-260). The acts of these martyrs should be read for edification in church.


Recension II (BHL 6636)

1. Under Valerian and Gallienus, the Christians Saturus, Saturninus, Revocatus, Felicitas and her sister, the noble woman Perpetua, are arrested in Thuburbo (civitas Tuburbita). At the tribunal, the proconsul Minutius orders them to sacrifice according to the decree of the emperors, but Saturus replies that they are Christians. The proconsul has them imprisoned.

2. Perpetua’s father and others come to the prison and attempt to dissuade her, but she remains steadfast.

3. In prison, Perpetua has a dream vision of a ladder leading to heaven, which her companions interpret as a prefiguration of their imminent martyrdom.

4. Minutius interrogates them again at the tribunal, but Saturus refuses to sacrifice and defends his faith. So too do Saturninus, Revocatus, Felicitas, and Perpetua. The proconsul separates men from women, and interrogates Saturus, Saturninus, and Revocatus. They refuse to sacrifice.

5. The men are taken away, and the proconsul orders Felicitas and Perpetua to sacrifice, but they are steadfast.

6. Perpetua’s parents, brothers, and husband, with her baby son, appear at the tribunal, and they implore her to pity her family and change her mind, but she is not dissuaded. The proconsul, moved by the plea of her relatives, urges her to pity them. Her father pleads with her, but she dismisses her family.

7. The proconsul orders that the male martyrs be flagellated and the female ones beaten. They are incarcerated until they are thrown to the beasts on the Birthday of the Caesar. In gaol, Perpetua recounts a vision of her fight with an Egyptian, which the martyrs interpret as meaning that they will fight and defeat the devil.

8. Thanks to their prayers, Felicitas gives birth in the eighth month of her pregnancy.

9. On the birthday of the Caesar, a great spectacle is given at the amphitheatre. Saturus and Perpetua are devoured by lions, Saturninus by bears, and Revocatus and Felicitas by leopards. All this has taken place at Thuburbo, on the nones (7th) of March, under Valerian and Gallienus (253-260). The Church has to remember these martyrdoms, and the example of perseverance provided by both the sexes, even if it is not a time of persecution.

Text: Rebillard 2017.
Summary: Efthymios Rizos.
Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

Categories

Keywords

History

Evidence ID

E01726

Saint Name

Perpetua, Felicitas and their companions, martyrs in Carthage, ob. 203 : S00009

Saint Name in Source

Saturus, Saturninus, Revocatus, Felicitas, Perpetua

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

300

Evidence not after

800

Activity not before

300

Activity not after

800

Place of Evidence - Region

Latin North Africa

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

Carthage Carthago Karthago قرطاج‎ Qarṭāj Mçidfa Carthage

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Acceptance/rejection of saints from other religious groupings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women

Source

The first, and slightly longer, recension (text I) of the text was by far the most popular version of the hagiography of Perpetua and Felicitas in the Middle Ages, since it is preserved in at least 76 manuscripts, while the shorter recension (text II) survives in only 13. On the manuscript tradition, see: Amat 1996, 272-276.

Discussion

The Acts of *Saturus, *Saturninus, *Revocatus, *Felicitas and *Perpetua is a hagiographic work which embodies the integration of the cult of these martyrs into the life and liturgy of the Catholic Church in Late Antiquity. The text depends heavily on the early 3rd-century Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas (E01666), introducing a number of significant modifications, revealing aspects of the development of their cult. Our text replaces the composite structure of the Martyrdom (a collation of three documents) with a continuous narrative, removing large parts of the original account (the preface, Perpetua’s vision of her brother Dinocrates, and the heaven vision of Saturus), abridging others (the visions of Perpetua, the account of the saints’ struggle in the arena), and adding long sections of interrogations at the proconsul’s tribunal. The result is a text which recounts roughly the same story, but in a much shorter form, and accentuating different themes: while the Martyrdom is most interested in visions and prophecy, the Acts focus on the classic hagiographical theme of the dialogue between the martyrs and the persecutor. The omissions, in particular, seem to be targetted at themes of the original text, that may have been Montanist in origin. One of the striking aspects of the Martyrdom of Perpetua is the leading role it ascribes to women. The author of the Acts inflates the role of male figures (Saturus, Saturninus, and Revocatus) and of Felicitas, while reducing drastically that of the original protagonist, Perpetua. This becomes clear even from the order of the names in the title of the text. The question of the role of the sexes is directly addressed in the second recension, where the proconsul interrogates men and women separately, and it is stressed that the examples of martyrs of both sexes were of equal importance in the church. The Martyrdom’s emphasis on visions probably voices the Montanist belief that the continuous working of the Holy Spirit is expressed through prophecy, and that martyrs had the authority to remit sins and to provide guidance in ecclesiastical affairs. The author of the Acts limits the impression made by the visionary accounts in the Martyrdom, by summarising two of the dream visions of Perpetua into a few lines, while he omits completely her visions about the redemption of the soul of her deceased brother, Dinocrates. Similarly, the vision of Saturus and its references to the conflict between a priest and a deacon are omitted. It is debated whether the author of the Acts used other sources besides the Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas, especially for the composition of the interrogation sections. Some scholars believe that the author of the Acts had access to documentary sources, trial acts, or to a different version of the Martyrdom with a more developed account of the trial. A few parts of the text, especially paragraph 5 of Text I (the interrogation of Felicitas about her husband and relatives), could indeed support the idea of such a model text. Overall, however, the dialogues between Minutius and the martyrs appear to be reproducing interrogation scenes widely known from other passiones. Our text was produced in an age when the hagiography of martyrdom accounts was in full development (4th century or later), and its author had plenty of comparative material, if they wished to imitate the style of acta proconsularia and their dialogues. It seems that the Acts deduce all the data concerning the date and place of the story from the Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas: the feast date of the nones of March was probably inferred from the statement that the executions took place on the birthday of Caesar Geta (198-209), but the author of the Acts places the events during the persecution of Valerian and Gallienus (257/8). This historical inaccuracy most probably suggests that the author assumed that the martyrs died in the same persecution as *Cyprian of Carthage (S00411). This may have been an error resulting from the manuscript tradition: the best and most complete version of the Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas is indeed found alongside the works of Cyprian in the 11th-century Codex Casinensis 204 MM. It is remarkable that the Acts also places the whole story at a city it calls civitas Turbitanorum/ civitasTuburbita. The failure to reproduce the name of Thuburbo Minus correctly raises the question whether our text was written in Africa at all: one would expect an author familiar with the geography of Africa Proconsularis to have clarified whether he was talking of Thuburbo Maius or Minus. Besides, the Martyrdom does not clarify if the martyrs were executed at Thuburbo, where they were arrested. It is possible that their martyrdom in fact took place at the provincial capital of Carthage.

Bibliography

Text and translations: Amat, J. Passion de Perpétue et de Felicité, suivi des Actes. Introduction, texte critique, traduction, commentaire et index. Sources Chrétiennes 417. Paris: CERF, 1996. (with French translation) Farrell, J., and Williams, G. "The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity." In Perpetua's Passions, edited by Jan N. Bremmer and Marco Formisiano, 1-34. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. (Text edition and English translation) Rebillard, E. Greek and Latin Narratives About the Ancient Martyrs. Oxford Early Christian Texts. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017, 332-349. (Text edition and English translation) Further reading : Various papers in : Bremmer, Jan. N., and Marco Formisiano, eds. Perpetua's Passions: Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Passio Perpetuae Et Felicitatis. Oxford: Oxford Univeristy Press, 2012. Butler, Rex D. The New Prophecy and New Visions: Evidence of Montanism in the Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas. Patristic Monograph Series 18. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2006.

Licence

Exports

Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

Categories

Keywords

Licence

Exports