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E05147: Ambrose of Milan, writing in Latin in Milan (northern Italy) in c. 378, in his On the Death of Satyrus refers to vows made by his late brother to *Laurence (deacon and martyr of Rome, S00037) during an illness.

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posted on 02.03.2018, 00:00 by frances
Ambrose of Milan, On the Death of Satyrus

This text is a funeral oration delivered by Ambrose for his brother, Satyrus. In this passage, Ambrose describes the circumstances of his brother’s death, which was caused by an illness contracted when travelling. Satyrus prayed to Laurence, and these prayers allowed him to reach Milan, but he died soon after arriving.

... tuis enim votis apud sanctum martyrem Laurentium inpetratum esse nunc cognoscimus commeatum.

‘... we recognise now that your journey was achieved through your vows to the holy martyr Laurence.’

Text: Faller 1955. Translation and summary: Frances Trzeciak.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Laurence/Laurentius, deacon and martyr of Rome : S00037

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Milan Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Ambrose of Milan

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Power over life and death

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Other lay individuals/ people


On the Death of Satyrus (De Excessu fratris Satyri) is a funeral oration in two parts, composed by Ambrose to be delivered a week apart at his brother’s funeral and burial in 378. Satyrus was buried alongside the tomb of *Victor ('Maurus'/the Moor, soldier and martyr of Milan, S00312), although this is not described in On the Death of Satyrus. The inscription, which describes the spiritual benefits of a burial close to a martyr, is discussed at E05346.


Satyrus had given up his claims to wealth and had devoted himself to chastity. He took special responsibility for his and Ambrose’s family properties, which had been surrendered to the Church. In 378 he was returning from a trip to North Africa. For several years, the family had been in conflict with an individual called Prosper, whom they believed had seized part of their land in North Africa. Eventually, Satyrus travelled to visit Prosper in person and achieved a settlement. On his return journey, he fell ill and died shortly after his return to Milan. The prayers to Laurence, described in this passage, were probably made at Laurence's shrine in Rome.


Edition: Faller, O., Explanatio symboli. De sacramentis. De mysteriis. De paenitentia. De excessu fratris. De obitu Valentiniani. De obitu Theodosii (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 73; Vienna, 1955). Further Reading: Dunkle, B., Enchantment and Creed in the Hymns of Ambrose of Milan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016). McLynn, N., Ambrose of Milan: Church and Court in a Christian Capital (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994).

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