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Martin of Tours’ Monasticism and Aristocracies in Fourth-Century Gaul
lundi 20 juin 2016
par Matheus Coutinho Figuinha
popularité : 10%

Clarus, identified by Sulpicius as a « young noble » (adulescens nobilissimus), was ordained a priest while still young. Sulpicius admired him a lot and built a great friendship with him, to the point of burying him under the altar of the basilica he had constructed in Primuliaco [33]. Clarus, at an unspecified moment, constructed a hermitage (tabernaculum, monasterium) close to Marmoutier, and some monks joined him [34]. Clarus died a little before St. Martin, probably the same year [35]. Scholars attribute to Clarus a more distinct social origin [36]. Fontaine specifically suggests that nobilissimus has in this case a social and moral meaning. I agree with the moral meaning of the term, which appears evident in the phrase : « in a short time he became distinguished for the most exalted faith, and for all sorts of excellence » [37]. However, as I have mentioned, the curia could also appropriate the term noble in the fourth century. Moreover, Sulpicius says that Clarus had abandoned ’everything’ (omnia) to follow St. Martin, but there is a great difference between abandoning ’everything’ and abandoning ’great wealth’ (summae opes), as if St Martin was referring to the case of Paulinus. It is therefore much more probably that Clarus was from a curial family from Tours.

Eusebius is the recipient of one of Sulpicius’ letters which compose the appendix of the Vita [38]. In Letter 397, Eusebius appears as a priest, but in the Dialogues [39], from 404, he appears as a bishop. The fact is that he was a member of Martinian circle in Primuliaco and Sulpicius’ decision to address an apologetic letter to him about the uirtus of St. Martin led Fontaine to suppose that he was a disciple of St. Martin, and more specifically « un de ces ascètes distingués de Marmoutier, issus d’illustres familles et que ’nous avons vus ensuite évêques’, comme le dit Sulpice à propos du recrutement du monastère » [40]. I agree that Eusebius could have been a disciple of Martinho, but Sulpicius does not give any indication that he was an aristocrat, to the contrary of the case of Clarus. Considering the fact that a large part of the bishops of fourth century came from local aristocracies [41], we can suppose that Eusebius was also of a curial origin. Nevertheless, the fact that Eusebius had been ordained a bishop does not automatically that he was curial. He could have reached the episcopate thanks to a period of education in Marmoutier. Brice, also ordained a bishop, was of a humble origin.

Gallus was also very close to Sulpicius. Playing with his name, Gallus was opposed to the Aquitanians [42], and was consequently from the civil diocese of Galias. He was the nephew, on the part of his mother, of Evancius, possibly a bureaucrat or a palace employee, and therefore belonging to a rich family or one in social ascension [43]. Gallus declared that he had abandoned school to follow St. Martin [44], but it is not known if he was a student or teacher. Due to the high quality of his speeches, [45] were in favor of the second option. In fact, Gallus is called scholasticus [46], a term which can be used in a pejorative manner, but which qualifies teachers of rhetoric or those trained in rhetoric schools [47]. The Dialogues, however, did not transcribe Gallus’ exact words. Sulpicius certainly corrected and adapted the discourse of all those who took part in sessions in defense of St. Martin who are part of the work.

Heros is identified by Prosper of Aquitaine as a « saintly man and disciple of the blessed Martin » [48]. He was ordained bishop of Arles in 408, at the moment when Constantine III established himself in the city. Being the protégé of a usurper, he lost his position after the city was taken by the magister militum Constante, in 411. In a letter [49], Zosimus, bishop of Rome, states that the ordinations of Heros in Arles, and of Lazarus in Aix had been irregular and had been opposed by the plebeians and the clergy. In the same letter, Zosimus describes them as « unknown, foreigners. » Zosimus’ accusations were obviously partial, since they reflect the version of the enemies of Heros and Lazarus. But the communities of Arles and Aix would not have been opposed to their ordinations and Zosimus not have referred to them as « unknown, foreigners » if they had come from a senatorial family. It is possible that since they were ordained bishops, they came from curial families. However, both only reached the episcopacy through the intermediation of Constantine III. Most probably, therefore, they were of a modest origin.

Lazarus was ordained bishop of Aix in similar circumstances to Heros [50]. He is considered a disciple of Martin because of his proximity to Heros and for having raised « in many councils, » particularly in the council of Turin in 398, the accusations against Brice [51]. Similar to Heros, he is described as unknown and a foreigner by Zosimus, in such a way that he was probably of modest origin.

Presbyter Refrigerius, who reached Primuliaco at the end of the first journey in the Dialogues, had followed Martin « since his early youth. » He was presented by Gallus as a witness of various stories told on the second journey [52]. However, nothing is said about his social origin. Since he had been a priest it may be considered that he came from a curial family. However, as in the case of Eusebius, there are strong doubts.

Sabbatius is named a disciple of Clarus [53], but Sulpicius does not give any other information about him. According to Luce Pietri and Marc Heijmans [54], he is the same Sabbatius who reached Primuliaco at the beginning of the second journey in the Dialogues.

Saturninus, present in the second journey in the Dialogues, was mentioned in a story told by Gallus as a witness of Martin’s uirtus [55]. He was probably a disciple of the bishop, since he accompanied Gallus and other Martinian monks on a pastoral visit [56].

Victor, possibly originally from Bordeaux [57], was also a disciple of Martin and Clarus. After 399, he was responsible for carrying letters, books, and presents from Sulpicius to Paulinus and vice-versa [58]. Victor had been a soldier before following Martin [59] and was thus not an aristocrat.


[33] When he converted to monasticism, in 394, Sulpicius abandoned his career and properties. He kept possession of a single uilla, Primuliaco, located to the west of Toulouse, STANCLIFFE, 1983, pp. 30-31. In this uilla, he founded a monastery and began to live in the company of his mother-in-law, his former slaves, who had also converted, friends, and monks from Tours.

[34] Sulpicius Severus, Vita Martini 23.1-2 ; Paulinus, Epp. 23.3 and 32.6

[35] Sulpicius Severus, Ep. 2.5

[36] Babut, 1912, p. 241 ; Stroheker, 1948, p. 161 ; Fontaine, 1967-1969, pp. 989-992 ; Heinzelmann, 1982, p. 584 ; Ghizzoni, 1983, p. 73 ; Stancliffe, 1983, p. 31 ; Pietri ; Heijmans, 2013, p. 479

[37] Sulpicius Severus, Vita Martini 23.1

[38] Ep. 1

[39] 1.9.5

[40] Fontaine, 1967-1969, p. 1122 ; cf. Pietri ; Heijmans, 2013, p. 699

[41] cf. Brown, 2012, pp. 31-52

[42] Sulpicius Severus, Dialogi 1.27.2

[43] It is not known exactly to which social level Evancius belonged. Gallus refers to him as « Euanthius auunculus meus, uir, licet saeculi negotiis occupatus, admodum Christianus » (SULPÍCIO SEVERO, Dialogi 2.2.3) and states that Martin cured one of his domestic slaves (puerum e familia) in Trier. The secular occupations, the possession of domestic slaves, and the house in Trier suggest an official in the imperial or palace bureaucracy. Gallus could have attended schools with the purpose of ascending socially along the path laid down by his uncle in other words, the bureaucracy or the palatine service. Cf. Sivan, 1993, pp. 85-91, for examples of this type. Fontaine, 2006, p. 223 assumes that Evancius and the noble Euentius, whose epitaph was discovered in Rome and published in L’année épigrafique, 1953, no 200, were the same person. (However, 1982, p. 605) had already correctly differentiated the two people.

[44] Sulpicius Severus, Dialogi 2.1.1

[45] Fontaine, 2006, pp. 42-44 and (Alciati, 2009, pp. 51-53

[46] Sulpicius Severus, Dialogi 1.9.3 and 1.27.5

[47] Alciati, 2009, p. 20

[48] Epitoma de Chronicon anno 412, 1247

[49] Ep. 2.4

[50] Zósimo, Ep. 3.3

[51] Zosimus, Epp. 3.3 and 4.2

[52] Sulpicius Severus, Dialogi 2.14.5, 3.1.3, 3.5.1, 3.7.5, 3.9.1-3

[53] Sulpicius Severus, Vita Martini 23.7

[54] 2013, p. 1670

[55] Sulpicius Severus, Dialogi 3.3.6

[56] Fontaine, 2006, p. 300

[57] Paulinus Ep. 25*.1

[58] Paulinus, Epp. 23.2-10 ; 25.1 ; 25*.1 ; 26.1 ; 28.1-4 ; 29.6 ; 31.1 ; 32.5, 9-10 and 17 ; 33.1 ; 43.1- 3

[59] Paulino, Ep. 25*.1

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