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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity


from its origins to circa AD 700, across the entire Christian world


The Martyrdom of *Anthimus and Companions (martyrs of the via Salaria near Rome, and of Auximum (Osimo) in central Italy, S01226) is written in Latin, in its present form probably at the abbey of Farfa, north-east of Rome on the via Salaria, probably in the 8th c. It narrates Pinianus’ healing performed by the priest Anthimus and the deacon Sisinnius; Pinianus’ and his wife Lucina’s conversions and baptisms; Pinianus’ decision to free Christians and grant them properties in Picenum; the martyrdom and burial of Sisinnius, Diocletianus and Florentius in Auximum (Osimo); further conversions achieved by Anthimus, and his martyrdom and burial in the place where he used to pray on the via Salaria; the martyrdom and burial of Anthimus’ companion Maximus at the thirtieth milestone on the via Salaria; Bassus and Fabius’ martyrdom and burial on the via Salaria.

Evidence ID

E02483

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom

Martyrdom of Anthimus and Companions (BHL 561)

Summary:

§ 1: Sergius Terentianus, senator (inlustris vir), a subordinate of the urban prefect, marries Pluitina [Acta Sanctorum: Protina], granddaughter of the emperor Gallienus; to them are born the children Claudius, Pompeianus and Lucina. Lucina is married to Faltonius Pinianus, who goes with his wife to take up the proconsulship of Asia, appointed by Diocletian and Maximian. Their advisor (consiliarius), Chaeremon, being of a perverted mind, kills Christians with many tortures; he, however, is himself possessed by the devil, and invoking the name of the holy ones (sancti) whom he has killed, he dies. Seeing these things, Pinianus is filled with fear and becomes quite unwell.

§ 2: Seeing all this, Lucina, a most prudent woman, understands that Pinianus is unwell because of the killing of Christians; she seeks the confessors of Christ who are in prison and orders them to be secretly brought to her. Among those incarcerated is the priest (
presbiter) Anthimus, with the deacon Sisinnius and other religious men (religiosi viri) called Maximus, Bassus, Fabius, Diocletianus and Florentius. She asks them for help to free her husband from his sickness, and promises riches and freedom in return. Anthimus recommends to her that her husband become a Christian: this will cause immediate recovery. Lucina rushes to her husband, and tells him not to concern himself with the various doctors (medici et arciatri et diasophiste), but to take heed of the recommendation of men who do not ask for anything in return, but state that if he converts to Christianity he will be instantly cured. Pinianus says that one has to be stupid not to believe that this is the true God, the one who heals and gives life back to those who are about to die. She introduces him to Anthimus and Sisinnius.

§ 3: Anthimus and Sisinnius enter Pinianus’ bedchamber and find him dying. They ask Pinianus to abandon any other treatment, since only Christ’s power will assist him. Pinianus asks to be cured in order to believe that He only is the almighty God. Anthimus asks Pinianus to be ready to believe what he will tell him, Pinianus replies that he would not have called them if he had not believed. Then Anthimus gives a long Christian instruction to Pinianus: he is instructed, in the form of a creed summarising the history of salvation, about the creation, the Trinity, original sin, the Incarnation, the Crucifixion and Resurrection, Christ’s apparitions to his disciples for forty days, when he gave the power to them to heal the sick and expel demons, and finally Christ’s Ascension into Heaven. Anthimus and Sisinnius lay their hands over Pinianus in Christ’s name to heal him.

§ 4: Pinianus raises his hands and professes his faith in Christ. Anthimus and Sisinnius prostrate themselves and begin to pray. Suddenly there an apparition of a most bright light lasting for half an hour, then Anthimus and Sisinnius, rising from their attitude of prayer, say to Pinianus: 'Rise up, for Christ, the Son of God, in whom you have believed, has visited you' (
exsurge quia visitavit te Christus filius dei cui credidisti). Immediately, Pinianus rises from his bed, gets to his feet and walks, fully healed. He proclaims that Christ is the true God, and they call the other Christians from prison, Maximus, Bassus, Fabianus [Acta Sanctorum: Fabius], Diocletianus and Florentius. They instruct Pinianus and Lucina in the truth and Christian mysteries for seven days, and the couple, together with their entire household and family (familia et hereditas), are baptised.

§ 5: For a year after his recovery, Pinianus releases Christians from mines (
metalla), workhouses (ergastula) and prisons (custodia), and, following the teaching of Anthimus and Sisinnius, he washes their feet, kisses their hands, and gives them money and the means of transportation to reach their homes. Afterwards, Pinianus and the Christians go to the city [Rome?]. Since there are so many of them, they are divided up amongst the dwellings (mansiones) on Pinianus’ vast property (predia) in the province of Picenum [roughly equivalent to present-day Marche]. He gives a property (predium) near the town of Auximantium (Osimo) [manuscript variants: Auximium, Auximaciam] to Sisinnius, Diocletianus, and Florentius, who are accompanied by many others and live there praising Christ without trouble for three years before receiving the palm of martyrdom.

§ 6: There was a meeting of people who used to sacrifice every three years and say that they received oracles (
responsa). They receive an oracle that Sisinnius, Diocletianus and Florentius need to offer sacrifice; otherwise they will not receive the customary oracles. When the Christians refuse to sacrifice, they are stoned to death by the people and left buried under a mass of stones. Later, Christians clear the place and bury there the holy martyrs of God (sancti dei martyres).

In quo loco orationes eorum exuberant beneficiis suis usque in presentem diem in civitate Auximum. Ad laudem domini nostri Iesu Christi, cui est honor et gloria in aeterna saecula saeculorum.

'In that place, in the town of
Auximum, through their prayers, favours abound up to this day. To the praise of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.'

§ 7: Meanwhile, the priest Anthimus hides not far from the city, on the
via Salaria, near property (predia) belonging to Pinianus [the addition: 'at the 22nd milestone' is not found in the oldest manuscripts, see Mara 1964a, 47 and 70]. As rustics are sacrificing to their god Silvanus, the one who offers sacrifice is possessed by the Devil, becomes enraged and hits all those around him with a sword. All flee, Anthimus hears that many have been killed. He prays and, committing himself to God for protection, he meets the man, invokes Jesus Christ and successfully stops him. Then he brings him home and, praying and fasting for three days, he restores him to reason. The man becomes a Christian, he believes, together with his wife and children, and brings many others to believe, so much so that he cuts down the sacred wood of Silvanus and overthrows the altars, thus giving back his due to the god who had abandoned him to the demon and led him to kill innocent people.

§ 8: As the proconsul Priscus is passing by, unbelieving people tell him that by Anthimus’ work all the idols have been overturned, and the sacred groves have been burned. Priscus orders that Anthimus be seized by the people and compelled to offer sacrifice. As he refuses, they tie a stone to Anthimus’ neck and throw him in the Tiber. However, an angel of the Lord appears, breaks his chains and brings him to the cell (
cella) where he used to pray. In the morning, the pagans see the Christians coming as usual to meet Anthimus and tell them to seek him at the bottom of the river. The Christians reply, however, that they have seen him in good health. The pagans protest that they had beaten Anthimus and thrown him into the river with a weight around his neck: how can what the Christians say be true? But then they enter and see Anthimus in good health, preaching to the people. Overcome by this, almost all of those who had thrown him in the Tiber fall on their knees, do penance (penitentia) and are baptised.

§ 9: Priscus comes back and hears that Anthimus has not been killed and all those who had been dispatched to
kill him have converted to the faith of the Lord. So Priscus orders that Anthimus be led before him, and for three days he undergoes tortures, yet on no account can he be forced to sacrifice to idols. So his execution by beheading is ordered. His body is recovered by those he had converted, and buried in his oratory (oratorium), where he used to pray.

In quo loco prestantur beneficia eius ad laudem domini nostri Iesu Christi, cui est honor et gloria in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

‘In that place, his favours are bestowed to the praise of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.’

§ 10a: People start venerating Maximus, Anthimus’ inseparable friend. The enemies of the Christian faith tell Priscus that Anthimus’ death is useless since an even greater crowd now gathers around Maximus. As orders are given to arrest him, people try to prevent it, but Maximus tells them not to. Then Priscus asks Maximus if it is he who has subverted the emperors’ orders and turned the inhabitants of the province (
provinciales) against the cults of the gods; Maximus replies in the affirmative. Priscus is outraged, and orders that Maximus be beaten with sticks and compelled to sacrifice. Maximus stands firm in his Christian beliefs and is beheaded.

A christianis autem ereptum corpus eius positum est in via Salaria, miliario ab urbe Roma tricesimo, in eodem loco ubi orare consueverat et dies natalis eius quarto decimo kalendas novembres. Regnante domino nostro Iesu Christo in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

‘His body is taken away by Christians and buried on the via Salaria at the thirtieth milestone from Rome in the same place where he used to pray, and his feast day is on the 14th day of the Calends of November [= 19 October]. Our Lord Jesus Christ reigning for ever and ever. Amen.’

§ 10b: Bassus remains at the same place where the martyr Maximus is buried, exhorting the believers to have joy in the saint’s passion, rather than sorrow. People meet in the market (
mercatus) at the place called Forum Novum, where they sacrifice to Liber Pater and Ceres. Bassus is seized and enjoined to sacrifice to these gods, who give bountiful vines and good harvests. Bassus responds that it is the God who is in Heaven who gives rains which nourish the earth and hence provide for all the necessities of life; by contrast, these idols are dead, speechless and soulless, and cannot grant anything. As he says this, he blows (sufflare) on the idols, they fall and are broken. The people set upon him and beat him, so severely that he gives up his spirit. Next they hand Fabius over to the proconsul. He is tortured and then beheaded as he refuses to sacrifice.

Ita autem factum est ut omnes hii, id est: Antimus, Maximus, Bassus et Fabius in his locis ponerentur ubi orare consueverant, iuxta salariam quae mittit ad Picenum. Sisinnius autem et Diocletianus et Florentius in eodem loco ubi lapidibus obruti sunt, iuxta civitatem nomine Auximum quae est in montano culmine constituta. De quorum martyrio habens gratulationem magnam Pinianus inlustrissimus et christianissimus, cum bona fide perrexit ad dominum nostrum Iesum Christum, qui est benedictus in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

‘Thus it happened that all of these
that is Anthimus, Maximus, Bassus and Fabius—are buried in those places where they used to pray, by the via Salaria, which leads to Picenum. Sisinnius, Diocletianus and Florentius, however, are buried in the same place where they were stoned, near the city named Auximum, which is on the top of a peak. Having great joy from their martyrdom, Pinianus, with good faith, proceeded to our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed for ever and ever. Amen’.

[
Acta Sanctorum have an alternative ending, starting from De quorum: De quorum martyrio habet civitas ipsa gratulationem magnam, et de meritis eorum apud Deum intercessionis auxilium; 'The same city having great joy from their martyrdom and the help of intercession with God from their merits.']

Text: Mara 1964, 54-83 (with reference to variants from
Acta Sanctorum, Mai., II, 614-616). Summary: M. Humphries, The Roman Martyrs Project, Manchester University; adapted and expanded (with translations) by M. Pignot. Paragraph divisions follow the Acta Sanctorum edition, with the exception of §§ 10a-b which resolves the problem of the typographical error by which the edition includes two § 10.

Festivals

Saint’s feast

Cult Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave
Place of martyrdom of a saint

Non Liturgical Activity

Composing and translating saint-related texts
Prayer/supplication/invocation
Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings
Distribution of alms
Fast

Miracles

Miracle during lifetime
Miracle at martyrdom and death
Miracles experienced by the saint
Miracles causing conversion
Healing diseases and disabilities
Apparition, vision, dream, revelation
Other miracles with demons and demonic creatures
Miraculous sound, smell, light

Relics

Bodily relic - entire body

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy
Unbaptized Christians
Women
Pagans
Monarchs and their family
Aristocrats
Officials
Physicians
Peasants
Angels

Source

Epic martyrdoms
The
Martyrdom of Anthimus and Companions is an anonymous literary account of martyrdom written long after the great persecutions of Christians that provide the background of the narrative. It is part of a widely spread literary genre, that scholars often designate as "epic" Martyrdoms (or Passiones), to be distinguished from earlier, short and more plausible accounts, apparently based on the genuine transcripts of the judicial proceedings against the martyrs.

These texts narrate the martyrdom of local saints, either to promote a new cult or to give further impulse to existing devotion. They follow widespread stereotypes mirroring the early authentic trials of martyrs, but with a much greater degree of detail and in a novelistic style. Thus they narrate how the protagonists are repeatedly questioned and tortured under the order of officials or monarchs, because they refuse to sacrifice to pagan gods but profess the Christian faith. They frequently refer to miracles performed by the martyrs and recreate dialogues between the protagonists. The narrative generally ends with the death of the martyrs (often by beheading) and their burial. These texts are literary creations bearing a degree of freedom in the narration of supposedly historical events, often displaying clear signs of anachronism. For these reasons, they have been generally dismissed as historical evidence and often remain little known. However, since most certainly date from within the period circa 400-800, often providing unique references to cult, they are an essential source to shed light on the rise of the cult of saints.

The Martyrdom of Anthimus and Companions
There are two versions of the
Martyrdom of Anthimus and Companions, BHL 561 and BHL 562, the first is thought to be the earliest (and our focus here), while the latter adds further details about the martyrdom of Pinianus, Lucina and other saints (BHL 563 is a summary of BHL 562). There are as well a number of variant versions for the final portion of BHL 561 (detailed in Mara, I martiri , 82-83). The Martyrdom is sometimes preceded by prologues, BHL 564 or BHL 565 and its variants; on the latter see Dolbeau 1981.

The prologue BHL 564 (
Incipit: 'Vir Dei doctissimus Eusebius, Caesariae Palestinae urbis antistitis, duodecim decadas ecclesiasticae historiae idonea assertione contexuit') is noteworthy, as it attributes the compilation of the martyrdom accounts to Eusebius, as is the case in other prologues attached to martyrdom accounts: see E02095 (Martyrdom of Symphorosa), E03229 (Acts of Silvester). Such a compilation is also mentioned and sought by Eulogius, according to a letter of Gregory the Great (E02794) and evoked in the prefatory letters of the Martyrologium Hieronymianum ($EXXXX). Another prologue, also describing Eusebius’ work and sometimes attached to the Acts of Silvester, is closely related to BHL 564 (see Levison 1924, 179-180).

According to the database
Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta (bhlms.fltr.ucl.ac.be), there are 19 manuscripts of BHL 561, the oldest being from the late 9th c.: Rome, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Farf. 29 (alias 341), f. 159-162v. Lanéry 2010, 314 n. 726 notes that BHL 562 is first found in the 9th c. manuscript Zurich, Zentralbibliothek, C.10i, f. 40r-44r with the prologue BHL 564. For a description of manuscripts see Mara, I martiri, 17-28.


Discussion

The Martyrdom shows that cult of these martyrs developed along the via Salaria and in Osimo, in particular corroborating evidence about Anthimus’ cult from other early sources (see S01226). Until recently, scholarly consensus dated the Martyrdom to the 5th or 6th centuries (see Dufourcq 1907, 46-58; Clavis Patrum Latinorum 2165; Gryson, R., Répertoire général des auteurs ecclésiastiques Latins de l’Antiquité et du Haut moyen âge, 2 vols. (Freiburg, 2007), I, 52). Mara, I martiri, 52-53, who provided an edition and study of the Martyrdom, hypothesised that the Martyrdom was a compilation, written in Lombard times, of earlier martyrdom accounts perhaps dating from the end of the 4th or beginning of the 5th century, or from the 6th century, particularly because of archaic features in the Christology of Anthimus’ Christian instruction.

However, summarising studies by Saxer and Susi, Lanéry rightly states that Anthimus’ sanctuary is generally documented at the twenty-second milestone on the
via Salaria, which seems not to correspond to the predia of Pinianus where the main events take place according to our Martyrdom. These predia seem rather to correspond to a fundum Pinianum attested in the Regestum Pharphensis and located not far from Farfa Abbey near the thirtieth milestone, the location mentioned in the Martyrdom. Thus, the concentration of cult at the thirtieth milestone and the earliest 9th or 10th c. manuscript originating in Farfa would rather suggest that the Martyrdom was composed at the abbey in the 8th century (probably on the basis of earlier sources; a number of potential parallels with other martyrdom accounts are listed in Dufourcq 1907, 54-58).


Bibliography

Editions:
BHL 561:
Acta Sanctorum, Mai., II, 614-616; Mara, M.G., I martiri della via Salaria (Rome, 1964), 54-83 (with Italian translation).

BHL 562:
Acta Sanctorum, Mai., II, 616-617.

Further reading:
Dolbeau, F., “Un plagiat anonyme de la Vita S. Columbani [Passio S. Antimi m. cum sociis suis],” Archivum Bobiense 3 (1981), 59-64.

Dufourcq, A.,
Étude sur les Gesta martyrum romains, vol. III (Paris, 1907), 46-58.

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, vol. V (Turnhout, 2010), 15-369, at 314-315.

Levison, W., “Konstantinische Schenkung und Silvester-Legende,” in:
Mélanges Francesco Ehrle. Scritti di storia e paleografia II (Rome, 1924), 159-247.

Mara, M.G.,
I martiri della Via Salaria (Rome, 1964).

Mara, M.G.,
Contributo allo studio della Passio Anthimi (Rome, 1964). Almost identical to the preceding study, with alternative layout and some minor differences.

Saxer, V., “I santi e i santuari antichi della Via salaria da Fidene ad Amiterno,”
Rivista di archeologia cristiana 66 (1990), 244-305, at 254-259.

Susi, E., "I culti farfensi nel secolo VIII," in: Boesch Gajano, S., and Petrucci, E. (eds.),
Santi e culti del Lazio. Istituzioni, società, devozioni (Rome, 2000), 61-81.


Record Created By

Matthieu Pignot

Date Last Modified

14/05/2020

Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S01226Anthimus, priest, and Companions, martyrs of the via Salaria, Rome and of OsimoAnthimusCertain


Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
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