Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Carles Buenacasa-Perez: Augustine and the persecution of donatists: Why suicides instead of martyrs?

Catholic and Donatist sources demonstrate the importance that Donatism attached to the veneration of martyrs, whose acts were read during the feasts dedicated to them. This cult was one of the uestigia ecclesiae that linked Catholicism and Donatism. Therefore, it was important for Catholics to prove that not all those who were said to have died in the name of Christ should be considered martyrs.
Augustine's literary activity displayed a plethora of arguments seeking to show Donatists that these uestigia ecclesiae didn't really benefite them: martyres non facit poena, sed causa (Cresc., 3, 47, 51). At the same time, he strove to invalidate the justification of martyrdom that Donatists used to take from the Book of the Maccabees (Razias' episode).
According to Augustine, the tombs of Donatist martyrs came to be considered special pilgrimage sites due to the miracles and apparitions that were said to take place there. Such pilgrimages were an important source of income for the Donatist Church, generated by accommodations, religious souvenirs, food, and clothing of the pilgrims. These incomes were vital for the survival of the Donatist Church, since, unlike the Catholic Church, it could not count on imperial patronage. If the Donatists were deprived of private patronage they would end up in serious financial trouble.
This paper aims to analyze the Catholic/Donatist debates around the concept of martyrdom as well as the economical background underlying the efforts made by Catholics to present Donatist martyrs as mere suicides.

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