Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 2002
People who are bound by service to someone should not be ordained; however, presbyters who have been already ordained may remain in their rank. Gelasius I, Letter 20, Rome, AD 492/496.
Letter 20
To Bishops Martyrius and Justus
Actores siquidem illustris viri filii nostri Amandiani graviter conqueruntur, homines suo iuri debitos alios adhuc clericos, alios iam diaconos ordinatos. [...]
Et ideo, frater carissime, eos quos supradicti viri actores in clericatus officio monstraverint attineri, discussos et obnoxios approbatos custodito legum tramite sine intermissione restitue: ita ut si quis iam ex iis presbyter reperitur, in eodem gradu peculii sola amissione permaneat, diaconus vero aut vicarium, aut si non habuerit, ipse reddatur. Residua officia sciant, neminem posse ab obnoxietate, si convincitur, vindicari: quatenus hoc ordine custodito nec dominorum iura nec privilegia ulla ratione turbentur.
(ed. Thiel 1868: 388-389)
Letter 20
To Bishops Martyrius and Justus
Indeed, the managers of our son Amandinus, the vir illustris, are making the complaint that some of the men obligated to him by law are still clerics, and others have been ordained deacons. [...]
And so, dearest brother, return without delay those men whom the aforementioned managers have proven were kept in clerical offices, when they have been examined and shown to be under obligation by the protected method of the laws. Thus if one of them is now found to be a presbyter, let him remain in the same rank with a loss of his private property (peculium) alone, but if he is a deacon, he should find someone to serve in his place, or, if he cannot find such a person, let him give himself up.
As for the remainder of the offices, let them know that nobody, if convicted, can be defended by the fact that they are under obligation. To the extent that this order is observed, neither the rights of the owners nor their privileges should be disturbed on any account.
(trans. Neil-Allen 2014: 193, slightly modified)


This letter was addressed to Bishops Martyrius and Justus. They have been identified as the bishops of, respectively, Terracina in southern Lazio, and Acerenza in Basilicata or Larino in Molise. (Neil-Allen 2014: 193; PCBE Italie 1: Iustus 3, PCBE Italie 2: Martyrius 4, PCBE Italie 1: Amandianus 2). The distance between the localities is about 350 km (Terracina and Acerenza) or 200 km (Terracina and Larino). We do not know where the people bound by service to Amandianus lived, but logically it must have been in Southern Italy.
The "peculium" mentioned in the text is a personal property allowed to a slave or a non-emancipated son. Therefore, if a presbyter bound formerly by the obligation of service to someone was to lose his "perculium" to his master, it is as if he was to pay for his liberty.
For a similar problem see [2003].

Place of event:

  • Rome
  • Italy south of Rome and Sicily
  • Rome
  • Acerenza
  • Terracina
  • Larinum

About the source:

Author: Gelasius I
Title: Epistulae, Letters
Origin: Rome (Rome)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
Gelasius I was the bishop of Rome between AD 492 and 496.
Thiel A. ed., Epistulae Romanorum pontificum genuinae et quae ad eos scriptae sunt a S. Hilario usque ad Pelagium II, 1, Braunsberg 1868, 287-510.
B. Neil, P. Allen edd.,  The Letters of Gelasius I (492-496): Pastor and Micro-Manager of the Church of Rome, Turnhout 2014.
B. Neil, P. Allen edd.,  The Letters of Gelasius I (492-496): Pastor and Micro-Manager of the Church of Rome, Turnhout 2014.


Social origin or status - Peasants
    Social origin or status - Slaves
      Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
        Impediments or requisits for the office - Social/Economic/Legal status
            Relation with - Noble
              Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: S. Adamiak, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER2002,