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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity


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


The Praedestinatus, probably by Arnobius the Younger, claims that the shrine at Rome of *Processus and Martinianus (martyrs of Rome, S00556) was controlled by the heretics known as Tertullianists when Rome was ruled by the usurper Maximus. (Maximus controlled Rome in 387-8, but his name may be an error for Eugenius, who controlled Rome in 392-4.) Written in Latin, probably at Rome, c. 440.

Evidence ID

E07945

Type of Evidence

Literary - Theological works

Praedestinatus 1.86

Tertullianistas olim a Sotere papa Romano damnatos legimus. Cur autem octogesimam et sextam eos haeresem dicamus arripuisse, haec causa est, quod quaedam Octauiana ueniens ex Africa, cuius uir, Hesperius nomine, uidebatur duci Arbogasti ualde coniunctus, qui etiam apud Maximum tyrannum multum potuit, haec Octauiana adduxit secum quendam tergiuersatorem uersutumque daemonem, cui uix centum occurrerent uerbosanti atque in hominem confidenti. Hic cum se presbyterum diceret Tertullianistam, meruit per sacrum scriptum ut sibi collegium extra muros urbis fabricaret. Quod dum impetrasset a tyranno Maximo, sanctorum nostrorum exclusit locum, id est duorum fratrum Processi et Martiniani, dicens eos Phryges fuisse, et ideo hanc legem tenuisse, quam Tertullianus, atque hoc ordine per occasionem martyrum dei populum seducebat. Deo autem Theodosio religioso Augusto dante uictoriam, punitoque satellite Maximi de cuius se Tertullianista potestate iactabat, statim fugit cum matrona qua uenerat, nec uiuentis nec mortui rumore renouato. Martyrum suorum deus excubias catholicae festiuitati restituit.

'We read that the Tertullianists were once condemned by Soter, the Pope of Rome. But this is the reason why we would say that the eighty-sixth heresy took hold of them: there was a certain Octaviana, who came from Africa, whose husband, Hesperius by name, appeared as a strong supporter of the commander Arbogast, who was very powerful with the tyrant Maximus. This Octaviana brought with her a certain trickster and cunning demon, whom hardly a hundred men could oppose when arguing and being arrogant to a person. When he said that he was a Tertullianist presbyter, he gained, through an imperial rescript, permission to found a congregation outside the walls of the city. When he obtained this from the tyrant Maximus, he closed the shrine of our saints [
by implication, closed it to all except Tertullianists], that is, of the two brothers Processus and Martinianus, saying that they had been Phrygians [Montanists], and therefore had the same doctrine as Tertullian: and by this order, through the pretext of the martyrs of God, he seduced the people. But when God gave victory to the most religious Augustus Theodosius, then together with the henchman of Maximus, about whose power the Tertullianist had boasted, he immediately fled with the matron by means of whom he had come, and there was no further rumour of him living or dead. God restored the vigils of his martyrs to catholic celebration.'

Text: Gori 2000, 49-50.
Translation: David Lambert.

Cult Places

Cult building - unspecified
Burial site of a saint - unspecified

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Heretics
Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy

Source

The Praedestinatus ('The Predestined') is a tract produced in the mid 5th century by an opponent of the doctrine of predestination put forward by Augustine during the Pelagian controversy. It consists of three sections: the first is a list of heresies, with descriptions of their doctrines and accounts of those who opposed them; the second is a short treatise supposedly written to promote the doctrine of predestination; the third is a hostile commentary on the treatise. Although these purport to be independent compositions, it is generally agreed that the whole text was produced by a single author, with the aim of parodying and discrediting Augustine's ideas on predestination. Since the 17th century, the anonymous author has generally been identified as the somewhat mysterious figure known as Arnobius the Younger (on whom see E07380, E07381, E02264, E02512).

The passage discussed here comes from the first book of the
Praedestinatus, the catalogue of heresies. This reproduces the list of heresies in Augustine's heresiological treatise De haeresibus, adding two new heresies, Nestorianism and Predestination. However, while the list of heresies comes from Augustine, in most entries the author of the Praedestinatus freely adds to and rewrites the content. In particular, while most of Augustine's entries consist only of a brief statement of the main doctrine of a given heresy, the Praedestinatus adds a mass of additional material about the detailed beliefs and practices of heretical groups, the activities of their chief proponents, and the clerics and theologians who opposed them. The great majority of this material is unattested by any other source, and given the overall literary character of the Praedestinatus, there is every likelihood that most of it was invented by the author. The Praedestinatus therefore has to treated with extreme caution as a historical source.


Discussion

This passage appears in the catalogue of heresies, in the entry for the group called Tertullianists, an offshoot of Montanism which was believed to have been founded by Tertullian. The central figure in the story is the unnamed Tertullianist presbyter, who came to Rome from Africa as the client of a woman named Octaviana. Octaviana's husband Hesperius was an associate of the military commander Arbogast, who was powerful under the usurper Maximus. Utilising the influence gained by his association with these figures, the presbyter obtained a rescript (sacrum scriptum) allowing the Tertullianists to establish a congregation outside the walls of Rome. He then exploited this to take control of the shrine (locus) of the martyrs Processus and Martinianus, from which he excluded Catholics, claiming that the martyrs had been 'Phrygians' (i.e. Montanists, whose sect originated in Phrygia) and held the same doctrine (lex) as Tertullian: by implication the shrine therefore rightly belonged to the Tertullianists. However, when the pious emperor Theodosius defeated the usurper, the Tertullianist was chased away and the shrine restored to catholic control.

As it stands, this story has an obvious problem, which is that Arbogast (
PLRE I, 'Arbogastes') was not a supporter of Maximus (who was in power north of the Alps from 383 to 388 and controlled Rome more briefly, in 387-8), but of the later usurper Eugenius (392-4). The alleged concession to a heretical group also seems to fit Eugenius more than Maximus, whose main self-presentation was as an unbending upholder of Christian orthodoxy. This would imply that the event took place in 392-4 rather than 387-8.

Making allowances for this, it still remains unclear how far the story can be relied upon: no other source mentions the incident, nor is there any other attestation of the existence of the Tertullianist presbyter or of Octaviana and Hesperius (even though the latter are presented as prominent and powerful figures). Given the author's willingness to invent material, this places an obvious question-mark over the incident. The strongest reason for considering that it may have some kernel of truth is that elements of the story are not typical of the author's normal practice: the story of a heretical group taking control of a specific, named saints' shrine is unique in the
Praedestinatus, and may represent the memory of a genuine incident in the late 4th century. It is of course entirely possible that even if the story is based on a real event, it has been garbled or embellished by the author. The individuals in the story are more likely to be inventions than the core event itself.

This passage in the
Praedestinatus is the earliest surviving reference to Processus and Martinianus, who are not mentioned in the Depositio martirum (E01052) or the surviving works of Damasus (Lapidge 2018, 382). Whether it can be considered as evidence for the existence of their shrine and cult in the 4th century depends on one's assessment of the historicity of the narrative as a whole. It does indisputably show, however, that the shrine (on the via Aurelia, as is known from the pilgrim itineraries) existed when the Praedestinatus was written, in the 430s or 440s (after the death of Augustine but before the Christological controversies of the late 440s). This is several decades before the next evidence for the cult, the apocryphal Martyrdom of Peter by Pseudo-Linus (E07991), dating from the early 6th century, and the Martyrdom of Processus and Martinianus (E02505), from slightly later in the 6th century (Lapidge 2018, 382). According to the tradition represented by these works, Processus and Martinianus were soldiers who were martyred under Nero after St Peter converted them to Christianity while they were guarding him. The statement in the Praedestinatus that Processus and Martinianus were brothers does not match their portrayal in these sources, though it is not incompatible with the story as a whole.


Bibliography

Text:
Gori, F., Praedestinatus qui dicitur (Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina 25B; Turnhout, 2000).

Further reading:
Gori, F., Il Praedestinatus di Arnobio il Giovane. L'eresiologia contro l'agostinismo (Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum 65; Rome, 1999).

Lambert, D., "‘Augustine and the
Praedestinatus: Heresy, Ideology and Reception," Millennium 5 (2008), 147-62.

Lapidge, M.,
The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translation and Commentary (Oxford, 2018),


Record Created By

David Lambert

Date of Entry

12/08/2020

Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00556Processus and Martinianus, martyrs of Rome, buried on the via AureliaProcessus, MartinianusCertain


Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
David Lambert, Cult of Saints, E07945 - http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=E07945