Friday, 1 May 2015

Thomas Tsartsidis: Prudentius’ sources for his hymn to Romanus (Peristephanon 10)

Romanus was a deacon and exorcist in Caesarea during Diocletian’s persecution, but he was martyred in Antioch in 303. His passion has come down to us through various sources. From Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History to the Sermons of John Chrysostom and the Greek and Latin prose passions, his story has undergone significant changes. Towards the end of the fourth century Romanus’ passion inspired the poet Prudentius, who wrote a poem including all the key elements found in the prose passions: Romanus’ arrest and dispute with the prefect Asclepiades, the episode with a child martyr who dies after confessing that Christ is the real God, the fire prepared as the martyr’s punishment that is extinguished by a sudden burst of rain, the doctor who removes the martyr’s tongue and the great miracle that enabled Romanus to speak after its removal. The aim of my paper is to track down or come as close as possible to the text(s) that Prudentius used to write the hymn to Romanus.

Scholarship on the sources for Romanus’ passion has unanimously come to the conclusion that Prudentius follows the Greek passio step by step, without excluding the possibility that Prudentius might have also taken into account the Latin passion(s). In my examination, based on verbal parallels between Prudentius’ version and the Latin passions on Romanus as well as the way that the latter texts refer to Romanus’ nobility, I argue that Prudentius either additionally or even primarily used a Latin passion as his source.

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