The Works of Sulpitius Severus

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Some Observations on the Dialogues of Suplicius Severus

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Preview this item Preview this item. Subjects Vincent of Lerins, Saint, 5th cent. Sulpitius, Severus, ca. Cassian, John, ca. More like this Similar Items.


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Sulpicius Severus - Milić - - Major Reference Works - Wiley Online Library

His church at Tours became a major Christian center, his shrine an important goal for pilgrims. That Martin became a widely venerated saint all over Europe was due in no small part to the literary efforts of Sulpicius Severus ca. AD ca. Sulpicius was from Aquitania in Western Gaul. His polished Latin style shows his traditional classical education, as do the allusions to Livy and Sallust in the preface to the Life of St. While still a young man and already a prominent orator, Sulpicius converted to Christianity, gave away most of his considerable fortune inherited and acquired through marriage , and devoted himself to retiring life of piety--this according to the admiring letters of his friend and fellow Christian writer Paulinus of Nola see the collection of testimonia about Sulpicius Severus in contemporary and later medieval authors, collected in the Patrologia Latina, all in Latin with source citations.


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  4. Sulpicius had heard of the piety, ascetic lifestyle, and miracles of Martin, and set out to meet the man himself and write his life. As he describes in section 25, Sulpicius did in fact meet Martin briefly, near the end of his life. Most of the anecdotes and miracle stories told in the Life derive from monks in Martin's circle.

    The work is aimed in the first instance at the addressee, the ascetic Christian Desiderius; in the second, at Christian converts in Gaul and elsewhere in the Latin West. The Life of Martin was finished by , the year Martin died. Between and Sulpicius wrote two further works that have survived: the Chronicles Chronica is a short history of the world, beginning with Biblical creation, but focusing on more recent times, the fourth century church and its heresies.

    It only mentions Martin in passing, but includes strongly worded attacks on the political scheming of the contemporary clergy. Sulpicius claims that the powerful bishops interpreted any inclination towards ascetic practices such as fasting and isolation as evidence of adherence to the Priscillianist heresy. The other work, the Dialogues Dialogi , is a more leisurely discussion in two books, looking back in form to the philosophical dialogues of Cicero.

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    It includes many stories of the piety of and wonders performed by the Egyptian monks, more asides against the Gallic church, and aims to show that the ascetic community founded by Martin was superior even to the famous ones in the Egyptian desert. Martin is remarkable for its elegant Latinity and for its engagement with classical models.

    Arnaldo Momigliano and Antony Spawforth

    In his overall attitude to history-writing Sulpicius has much in common with Livy and Sallust, especially his exemplary intent, rhetorical approach, and pessimistic attitude to the present. But Sulpicius self-consciously set out to revolutionize this classical heritage, to reject its worldly orientation, and put its literary and persuasive tools to new, Christian purposes. Its carefully planned structure recalls the biographies of Roman emperors by Suetonius: the account begins in a chronological fashion, until the peak of the career, at which point matters are treated by topic, followed at the end with an overall assessment of his character.

    After a preface which, with conventional modesty, disclaims all literary skill and asks Desiderius not to publish the work, the introduction section 1 discusses the purpose of writing biography and history. At this point Sulpicius breaks from the chronological scheme and begins to speak of the miracles Martin worked as bishop: his activities in converting the pagans of the countryside to Christianity, and his efforts at destroying their shrines , the miraculous cures he performed , his refusal to kowtow to the emperor Magnus Maximus 20 , his frequent communications with angels, and confrontations with the devil, and humans inspired by the devil Sulpicius then describes his own meetings with Martin 25 , and praises the character of the man himself, emphasizing his humility, kindness, patience in the face of personal attacks, and ascetic discipline.

    One of the most interesting aspects of the Life is the way it reveals the struggles between individuals and classes of people in fourth century Roman Empire with very different visions of what Christianity should be and how Christians should act in the world.