Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 466
Augustine, the Catholic bishop of Hippo, reproaches Donatist bishops of Hippo for accepting and rebaptizing Catholic clerics who have been excommunicated by their presbyters. Augustine, Letter 108 (to Macrobius, the Donatist bishop of Hippo), North Africa, AD 409/410.
Letter 108
19. [...] sicut iste de agro subdiaconus Rusticianus, cuius causa haec ad te scribere magno sum dolore ac timore compulsus, propter reprobos et peruersos mores excommunicatus a presbytero suo, multorum etiam in illa regione debitor factus et contra ecclesiasticum uigorem et contra creditores suos aliud praesidium non quaesiuit, nisi ut abs te iterum plagaretur et ab ipsis quasi mundissimus amaretur. Iam talem diaconum nostrum et ipsum a suo presbytero excommunicatum decessor tuus rebaptizauit et uestrum diaconum fecit, qui non post multos dies eorundem perditorum, sicut desiderauit, commixtus audacia et in nocturna adgressione in medio latrocinio atque incendio suo subuenientis multitudinis concursu peremptus est.
(ed. Goldbacher 1898: 632-633)
Letter 108
19. [...] For example, this subdeacon from the country, Rusticianus, on whose account I was compelled to write these things to you with great sorrow and fear, was excommunicated by his presbyter because of his wicked and perverse behaviour. He also became indebted to many in that region, and he did not seek any other protection against the power of the Church and against his creditors but that he should receive a new wound to his soul from you and be loved by your people as someone utterly pure. Your predecessor already rebaptized such a deacon of ours, one who was also excommunicated by his presbyter, and he made him your deacon. Not many days later, having joined in the audacity of those same wicked men, as he desired, he was killed in a night attack in the midst of his robbery and arson, at the onrush of a crowd that came to help. [...]
(trans. R. Teske, slightly altered)


Augustine writes this letter to his Donatist counterpart, Macrobius, in AD 409 or 410, but he refers also to the events that happened under Macrobius' predecessor, Proculeian. Augustine already tried to intervene with Macrobius asking him not to rebaptize Rusticianus in Letter 106. What is of interest to us is the high position of the presbyters of Hippo, who are the direct superiors of the lower clergy: Rusticianus is said to be excommunicated by "his presbyter" - we do not know what exactly this pronoun means, but the fact of excommunication being done by the presbyters (testified twice here, so probably a matter of routine!) is very telling. Together with records such as [418] it begs the question of what in fact the role of Augustine was in the administration of the church of Hippo.

Place of event:

  • Latin North Africa
  • Hippo Regius

About the source:

Author: Augustine of Hippo
Title: Letters, Epistulae
Origin: Hippo Regius (Latin North Africa)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
The letters of Augustine of Hippo cover a wide range of topics: Holy Scripture, dogma and liturgy, philosophy, religious practice and everyday life. They range from full-scale theological treatises to small notes asking someone for a favour. The preserved corpus includes 308 letters, 252 written by Augustine, 49 that others sent to him and seven exchanged between third parties. 29 letters have been discovered only in the 20th century and edited in 1981 by Johannes Divjak; they are distinguished by the asterisk (*) after their number.
The preserved letters of Augustine extend over the period from his stay at Cassiciacum in 386 to his death in Hippo in 430.
A. Goldbacher ed., S. Augustini Hipponiensis Episcopi Epistulae, Pars 2, Ep. 31-123, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 34/2,  Prague-Vienna-Leipzig 1898.
Saint Augustine, Letters 100-155, trans. R. Teske, New York 2003.


Change of denomination
    Relation with - Deacon
      Relation with - Lower cleric
        Administration of justice - Ecclesiastical
          Administration of justice - Excommunication/Anathema
            Equal prerogatives of presbyters and bishops
              Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: S. Adamiak, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER466,