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E02264: The Latin Liber ad Gregoriam, generally attributed to Arnobius the Younger, and probably written in 5th or 6th c., refers to written accounts of the martyrdoms of married women martyrs of Rome and its vicinity, *Anastasia (martyr of Sirmium and Rome, S00602), *Felicitas (martyr of Rome, buried on the via Salaria, S00525), and *Symphorosa (martyr of Tivoli, S01165), presenting them as examples for the recipient of the work, the matrona Gregoria.

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posted on 20.01.2017, 00:00 by Bryan, mpignot
Liber ad Gregoriam 5

Contentionis amor quid ad haec proferat certum est deesse non posse. Dicere enim solet inpatientia inperita. Istam patientiam libenter exopto persecutori incredulo exhibere; scio etenim me per haec sanctorum effici posse participem. O nouum pugilem gloriosi certaminis! o artificem luctarum athletam insignem! adserit se in conspectu totius populi, in conspectu regum et iudicum, pugnorum et calcium ictus inmobiliter posse sufferre, qui intra secretum ceromae uno cecidit digito uerberatus.In acie se adserit contra hostem fortiter pugnaturum, qui intra castra positus acies contremuit meditantes; et qui hinnientem equum ferre non potuit, quomodo leonis fremitum non timebit? Quomodo uarietatem tolerabit barbarorum, qui ciuem uociferantem expauit?

Sed concedam te illarum posse coniugum inueniri participem, quarum passiones et gesta euidentia testantur scripta. Cur ergo parua non sufferas, quae te magna posse sufferre confidis? Quas contra tyrannorum acies inuicte pugnasse, quas que uniuersa certa es risisse supplicia, quas florido sui cruore sanguinis coronatas sedes credis caelorum intrasse. Et ut ex multis paucarum et ex innumerabilibus saltim trium aut quattuor faciam mentionem, tuum, mihi, o sancta Anastasia, satis deo carum licet breuiter est commemorandum exemplum. Inlustris in saeculo, apud deum curasti esse inlustrior, cum pretiosiora obtinuisti in moribus, quam contempsisti in rebus; immo et morum censum obtinuisse te credimus et facultates atque praedia non perdidisse, sed cum domino commutasse, receptura centuplum, et aeternam uitam pariter susceptura. Quanta putas tolerantia maritalem iniuriam temperabas, quae ita crudelitatem tyranni tranquillo animo pertulisti, ut post uerbera carnificum, post que uniuersa supplicia gratanter etiam te assari permitteres? O decus christianarum omnium matronarum, quomodo putas pro amore pudicitiae contempsit fortiter quod libebat, quae tam libenter pro amore Christi perferre uoluit quod dolebat? Quantae putas plebeia sorte progenitae coniuges hoc intuitu corporeas minas et saeuientis tyranni os non pallentes metu, sed alacres in domino deriserunt, cum te inlustrem et delicatam pro defensione honestatis et fidei constanter uniuersa despexisse tormentorum genera conspexerunt? Merito te illo die caelos fecit Christus intrare, quo ipse descendit ad terras, et natalem passionis tuae cum suae adsumptionis natiuitate esse permisit; quia quod ille omnibus praestitit nascendo, tu multis patiendo praestasti. Et sicut ille contempta maiestate formam serui suscepit, ut nobis omnibus subueniret, ita ipsa contempta nobilitatis gloria ignominiam suscepisti personae, ut imitabilis esses et ut christianis omnibus patientiae dares exemplum, tam pro passione tua quam pro aedificatione omnium matronarum perpetuam gloriam perceptura.
 
Quid uos commemorem, inclitae matres, quae licet diuerso tempore diuersis que suppliciis cum septenis filiis diuersa tyrannorum imperia subiugastis?Te Palaestina provincia Machabeam tenet; te quoque Symforusam cum septenis germanis tuo aluo editis Tiburtina ciuitas ueneratur et suscipit; te urbs Roma ueram Felicitatem debita laude debitis que honoribus cumulat, o uera felicitas et magistra omnium fidelium matronarum. Quae putas exempli uestri glorioso respectu unam animam suam pro amore Christi perdere timuisse credendae sunt, quando uos cum tot dulcedinibus filiorum cernerent pro defensione iustitiae ad mortem usque in diuersa supplicia sine aliqua trepidatione pugnasse? Nulla uos uestra, nulla infantum cruciamenta turbarunt; laetissimos cum torquerentur filiis uestris ostendistis uultus, ne dum uos flentes aspicerent animum flecterent ad dolorem. Erat enim in arbitrio nolle torqueri, ubi sola uoluntas a tortore flagitabatur iniusto.Vos ergo quaecumque haec audistis et creditis, o beatissimae christianorum coniuges maritorum, coniuges christianae, quam insigne decus haec uobis ex gemmis suarum circumferunt passionum, cum pares uestras, uxores scilicet, sidereas cum filiis cernatis sedes ingressas, omnibus sine dubio locum feminis in coniugio positis paraturas. Harum uos pedisequae illuc intrare poteritis, ubi illas creditis introisse.


‘Whatever love of contention might contribute in this matter, it is clear that it cannot be absent. For the voice of the inexperienced impatience is often heard to say, “I long to show forth my steadfastness before an unbelieving persecutor. As a matter of fact, I know that if I do this, I’ll be able to join the company of the saints”. Oh, new boxer in the glorious battle! Oh, outstanding athlete and master of wrestling-matches! The one who asserts that he is able to bear the force of punches and kicks without flinching in the sight of a whole crowd, of kings and judges, turns out to be the one who fell over in the privacy of the massage parlour, shaken by one touch of the finger. The one who claims he will fight bravely in battle against the enemy actually is the one who quaked at the training for battle, before ever leaving the camp. And how will the one who was unnerved by a whinnying horse be fearless before the lion’s roar? How will he endure the unpredictability of the barbarians, who was horrified by a single citizen’s raising of his voice?

But let me admit that you might be able to find a place among those wives whose martyrdoms and deeds (passiones et gesta) are witnessed by reliable documents. In sum, why would you not be willing to bear small trials, you who are sure you can bear great ones? There are many whom you believe to have fought victoriously against the battle-lines of tyrants and to have laughed at all manner of tortures, whom you believe to have entered the abode of the heavens crowned by the flowery gore of their own blood. And so that out of the many I may mention a few and out of the innumerable at least three or four, I must recount, though briefly, your example, o holy Anastasia, which is very dear to God. Distinguished in this world, you took care to be even more distinguished before God, since you obtained even more precious treasures in your character than you scorned among your possessions. Indeed, we believe you attained distinguishing wealth in your good character, and you did not lose wealth and property but rather made an exchange with God, as one who will receive the hundred-fold, and equally as one who will take on eternal life. With how great forbearance – in your view – did you manage the affront suffered in marriage, who so endured with tranquil soul the cruelty of a tyrant, that after the blows of the executioners and after all manner of tortures you rejoiced in allowing yourself even to be roasted? Oh ornament of all Christian married women, in what way do you think for love of chastity she boldly scorned what was allowed to her, who so willingly desired for the sake of Christ to bear that which caused suffering? Think in this respect how many wives sprung from a lowly condition scoffed at physical threats and in the face of a raging tyrant, not pale with fear but eager in the Lord, when they saw that you, who are noble and dainty, had constantly scorned all kinds of torments for the defence of honour and faith? Justly Christ took you up into the heavens on the same day on which he himself descended to Earth, and He permitted the feast of your martyrdom to occur on the same day as the nativity of His Incarnation, because you, by suffering martyrdom, offered to many what He offered to all by being born. And just as, having despised majesty, He took on the form of a slave, so that He might assist us all, so you yourself, having despised the glory of nobility took on an ignominy of person, so that you might be imitable by others, and so that you might provide a model of endurance for all Christians, as one who will receive everlasting glory as much because you set an example for other married women as because of your martyrdom.

Why should I remember you, glorious mothers, who with seven sons each subdued the diverse powers of tyrants, although in different times and by different trials? The province Palestine remembers you, Maccabee; the Tiburtine city venerates and accepts you too, Symphorosa, with seven brothers put forth from your womb. The city of Rome heaps you, true Felicitas, with due praise and due honours, o true Felicity and teacher of all faithful married women. Which women do you think should be believed to have feared to lose their one life for love of Christ in the glorious contemplation of your example, when they perceived that you fought for the defence of justice all the way to death, through manifold trials and without any hesitation along with so many beloved children? None or your torments, none of those of your children disturbed you. You showed your countenances joyous to your children – although they were being tortured – lest, when they saw you weeping, they should bow their souls to affliction. For it was in [its] power to be unwilling to be twisted by torture when the will alone was importuned by an unjust torturer. Therefore you, whoever have heard and believe these things, o most blessed wives of Christian husbands, Christian wives, how noble an adornment do these women distribute to you from the jewels of their martyrdoms, since you see that your own peers – wives, that is to say – have entered the starry heights along with their children. They will certainly prepare a place for all married women. As their followers, you will be able to enter there, where you believe them to have entered.

Text: Daur 1992, 191-244. Translation: Cooper 2007, lightly modified.

History

Evidence ID

E02264

Saint Name

Felicitas, martyr in Rome and her seven sons, ob. ???? : S00525 Symphorosa and her seven sons : S01165 Anastasia, martyr of Sirmium and Rome : S00602

Saint Name in Source

Felicitas Symphorosa Anastasia

Type of Evidence

Literary - Other

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

400

Evidence not after

620

Activity not before

400

Activity not after

620

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women

Source

The Liber ad Gregoriam is a work addressed to a certain matrona Gregoria to provide her with advice on how to lead an impeccable Christian life as a married woman. It covers all aspects about married life and provides a sort of manual to endure the trials suffered by Gregoria because of her violent husband. It is a precious source to study the late Roman household and late antique views and debates about the position of married women in Christian communities. Preserved manuscripts of the Liber show that it circulated under the name of a certain 'John of Constantinople' or among works of John Chrysostom. Isidore of Seville already seems to have known the work and attributed it to John Chrysostom (De viris illustribus 19). However, this attribution has long been rejected. In the early 20th century, Germain Morin proposed to attribute it to Arnobius the Younger, on grounds of similarity of language and style with other works attributed to him. This attribution has since remained largely unchallenged (see recently Lanéry (2010), 55, 55, 237-238). However, Cooper (1993) has shown the weakness of Morin's attribution and suggested that the work might have been composed in the 6th century. Since the authorship is not securely established, Cooper shows that the work could have been composed at any point between Prudentius' Psychomachia around 400 (which seems to have been known by the author) and Isidore of Seville's reference to the work in his De viris illustribus in the early 7th century. On the basis of both external evidence (the attribution to 'John of Constantinople') and references within the text, Cooper thinks that the work would best suit an early 6th century environment, with some connection to the city of Rome. Cozic (2005) has also highlighted the influence of Pelagius’ works on the Liber.

Discussion

This passage from the Liber ad Gregoriam refers to Anastasia, at length, and more briefly to Symphorosa and Felicitas, as examples for married women to endure suffering and trials in their married life; these martyrs are presented as intercessors showing the way for married women to enter heaven. Of the saints mentioned, Anastasia and Felicitas were venerated in Rome, while Symphorosa was venerated in Tivoli, near Rome, at the ninth mile on the via Tiburtina. This suggests that the author was particularly familiar with Roman saints. The passage is noteworthy for its reference to the written accounts (scripta) of the martyrdoms and deeds (passiones, gesta) of these martyrs. These could, but do not necessarily, correspond to the preserved Latin martyrdoms of Anastasia (E02482), Felicitas (E02494) and Symphorosa (E02095). The Liber offers a good example of how martyrs' accounts were employed in exhortative works and considered as edifying literature. It also provides a clear reference, though uncertainly dated, to the developing cult of the above-mentioned saints.

Bibliography

Edition: Daur, K.D., Arnobius Iunior, Opera minora (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 25A; Turnhout: Brepols, 1992), 191-244. Further reading: Morin, G., “Un traité inédit d’Arnobe le Jeune: Le Libellus ad Gregoriam,” Revue Bénédictine 27 (1910), 352-362. Cooper, K., "Concord and Martyrdom: Gender, Community, and the Uses of Christian Perfection in Late Antiquity" (PhD dissertation, Princeton University, 1993), Appendix B: “The Liber ad Gregoriam: Date and Authorship.” Cozic, M., Le Liber ad Gregoriam d’Arnobe le Jeune: Édition, Traduction, Étude historique, doctrinale, litéraire (Villeneuve d’Ascq, 1997). Cozic, M., “Présence de Pélage dans le Liber ad Gregoriam d’Arnobe le Jeune”, Revue d’Études Augustiniennes et Patristiques 51 (2005), 77-107. Cooper, K., The Fall of the Roman Household (Cambridge, 2007), 239-283. Lanéry, C., "Hagiographie d'Italie (300-550). I. Les Passions latines composées en Italie”, in Philippart, G., (ed.), Hagiographies. Histoire internationale de la littérature hagiographique latine et vernaculaire en Occident des origines à 1550, volume V (Turnhout, 2010), 15-369, at 42, 55, 237-238.

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