Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ID
ER 2324
Presbyter Saturninus is among the martyrs of Abitina, apphended while celebrating the Sunday Eucharist and killed in Carthage (North Africa) in AD 304. Account of the "Passio of Saturninus, Dativus and their companions", written in Africa, probably in the early 5th c.
Incipiunt confessiones et actus martyrum Saturnini presbyteri, Datiui, Felicis, Ampelii et ceterorum infrascriptorum, qui propter collectas et scripturas dominicas sub Anullino tunc proconsule Africae die pridie Idus Februarii Carthagine dominum confessi diuersis locis temporibusque discretis beatissimum sanguinem profuderunt.
 
2. In the times of Diocletian and Maximian ‘the devil waged war against the Christians’ by ordering to burn the holy books, destroy the basilicas, and prevent the Christians from praying together. Some Christians betrayed the faith, but many resisted, and paid with blood for it.
Some Christians were arrested in Abitina, while they were celebrating the sacraments on Sunday. They were: Saturninus, his four children: Saturninus Jr. and Felix, the lectors, Maria, the consecrated virgin, and the child Hilarianus, and the others: Dativus (a senator), Felix, another Felix, Emeritus, Ampelius, Rogatianus, Quintus, Maximus, Telica, Rogatianus, Rogatus, Januarius, Cassianus, Victorianus, Vincentius, Cecelianus, Restituta, Prima, Eva, Rogatianus, Giualius, Rogatus, Pomponia, Secunda, Januaria, Saturnina, Martinus, Clautus, Felix, the elder Margarita, Honorata, Regiola, Victorinus, Pelusius, Faustus, Datianus, Matrona, Cecilia, Victoria, Hecretina, and Januaria.
 
Presbyter Saturninus is surrounded by his numerous children.
 
3. The arrested are conducted to the forum of Abitina.
 
4. They are enchained and conducted to Carthage where they are consigned (?) to the proconsul Anulinus.
 
5-6. The proconsul questions and tortures the martyrs.
 
6. Talia precanti proconsul: ‘Quis est auctor tecum, inquit, congregationis uestrae?’ Qui crudelius saeuiente carnifice clara uoce respondit: ‘Saturninus presbyter et omnes’. O martyrem primatum omnibus dantem! Non enim presbyterum fratribus praetulit, sed presbytero fratres confessionis consortio copulauit. Quaerenti igitur proconsuli Saturninum ostendit; non quod illum prodidit quem secum aduersus diabolum pariter dimicare cernebat, sed ut illi panderet integre se celebrasse collectam quando cum ipsis etiam presbyter fuerat. (…)
 
(ed. J.L. Maier)
 
 
Here begin the confessions and the judicial record of the martyrs, Saturninus the presbyter, Dativus, Felix, Ampelius, and the others written below. They confessed the Lord under Anulinus, then proconsul of Africa, on the day before the Ides of February [12 February], on charges regarding assembly and the scriptures of the Lord; and, in diverse places and at various times, they poured out their most blessed blood.
  
2. In the times of Diocletian and Maximian ‘the devil waged war against the Christians’ by ordering to burn the holy books, destroy the basilicas, and prevent the Christians from praying together. Some Christians betrayed the faith, but many resisted, and paid with blood for it.
Some Christians were arrested in Abitina, while they were celebrating the sacraments on Sunday. They were: Saturninus, his four children: Saturninus Jr. and Felix, the lectors, Maria, the consecrated virgin, and the child Hilarianus, and the others: Dativus (a senator), Felix, another Felix, Emeritus, Ampelius, Rogatianus, Quintus, Maximus, Telica, Rogatianus, Rogatus, Januarius, Cassianus, Victorianus, Vincentius, Cecelianus, Restituta, Prima, Eva, Rogatianus, Giualius, Rogatus, Pomponia, Secunda, Januaria, Saturnina, Martinus, Clautus, Felix, the elder Margarita, Honorata, Regiola, Victorinus, Pelusius, Faustus, Datianus, Matrona, Cecilia, Victoria, Hecretina, and Januaria.
 
Presbyter Saturninus is surrounded by his numerous children.
 
3. The arrested are conducted to the forum of Abitina.
 
4. They are enchained and conducted to Carthage where they are consigned (?) to the proconsul Anulinus.
 
5-6. The proconsul questions and tortures the martyrs.
 
6. In response to such a prayer the proconsul asked, “Who is the leader of your congregation?” To the executioner now attacking more fiercely he responded loudly, “Saturninus the presbyter and all of us.” O martyr, giving primacy to all! He does not give the presbyter priority over the sisters and brothers but he joins them to the presbyter in the fellowship of their confession. That is why he pointed to Saturninus when the proconsul asked. He did not do it to single out the person whom he saw fighting equally with him against the devil, but to explain fully that he celebrated in the assembly with them as their presbyter. (…)
 
(trans. M. Tilley; summary by S. Adamiak)

Discussion:

We can safely assume that the 'sacraments' and 'assembly', at which Saturninus preside, is a Sunday Eucharist.

Place of event:

Region
  • Latin North Africa
City
  • Abitina

About the source:

Title: Passio of Saturninus, Dativus and their companions, Passio of the Abitinians, Passio of the Martyrs of Abitina
Origin: Latin North Africa
Denomination: Donatist
The dating of the text is very difficult. Maureen Tilley considered it to be written, immediately after the events it is describing, between 304 and 311/312. The majority of scholars (including Franchi de‘ Cavalieri, Monceaux, and Frend) have considered the existing text to be written by a Donatist polemist in the fifth century, but using the original, earlier source which had faithfully described the events from the times of the Great Persecution.
All main six manuscripts of the text can be described as ‘Donatist.’ There existed an opinion that there had been a Catholic version of the text, but it resulted from the action of the 17th century editor, Ruinart, who purged the existing text from what he considered to be Donatist additions. Franchi de‘ Cavalieri’s edition from 1935 proved this opinion to be unfounded.
It was often argued that some version of the Acts of the Abitinian Martyrs was the ‘gesta’ produced during the Conference of Carthage between the Catholics and the Donatists in AD 411. The argument is supported by the passage from Augustine, Breviculus conlationis 3.17.32 (CSEL 53,81), where he mentions the date of 12 February as the date of the ‘gesta’ he refers to; the date is the same as the one given in the Acts of the Abitinians.
However, Dearn shows that there is no reference to the accusations against Mensurius and Caecilian, presented in the Acts, neither in Optatus, nor Augustine, nor the acts of the Conference of Carthage, and therefore he argues persuasively that the text was written after AD 411. This opinion has been shared by Zocca and Fialon. Dearn concludes: ‘The martyrs of the Passio Saturnini may have been venerated as part of a past held in common by all north African Christians prior to 411, but there is no evidence that they enjoyed any special prestige. Rather, it seems that their hagiography gained in popularity in the years after the council to reinforce the group identity of at least some Donatists. Regardless of whether they ever really suffered under Anullinus, the Abitinians as we know them are a Donatist invention’ (Dearne 2004: 18).
Edition:
Maier, Jean-Louis, Le dossier du donatisme. I. Des origines à la mort de Constance II (303-361) (Texte und Untersuchungen sur Geschichte der Altchristlichen Literatur; Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1987), p. 57-92.
 
Bibliography:
Beschaouch, A., "Sur la localisation d'Abitina, la cité des célèbres martyrs africains", CRAI (1976), p. 255-266.
 
Dearn, Alan, "The Abitinian Martyrs and the Outbreak of the Donatist Schism", Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 55 (2004), p. 1-18.
 
Franchi de' Cavalieri, Pio, "La "passio" dei martiri abitinensi", in: Note agiografiche, fasc. 8 (Città del Vaticano: Biblioteca Apostolica Vatiana 1935), p. 1-46.
 
Tilley, M.A., Donatist Martyr Stories: The Church in Conflict in Roman North Africa (Translated Texts for Historians 24; Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1996), p. 25-49.
 
Zocca, Elena, "Tra antropologia e filologia: il caso della Passio dei martiri di Abitene (BHL 7492), in: A. Santiemma (ed.), Scritti in onore de Gilberto Mazzoleni (Rome: Bulzoni 2010), p. 389-427.

Categories:

Family life - Offspring
Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
Ritual activity - Eucharist
Ritual activity - Presiding at prayer
Public law
Conflict - Violence
Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: S. Adamiak, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER2324, http://www.presbytersproject.ihuw.pl/index.php?id=6&SourceID=2324