Section 11

1. Sed ut reliquās virtūtēs eius, quās in epīscopātū ēgit, adgrediar; erat haud longē ab oppidō proximus monastērio locus, quem falsa hominum opīnio, velut cōnsepultīs ibi martyribus, sacrāverat: 2. nam et altāre ibi a superiōribus epīscopīs cōnstitūtum habēbātur. sed Martīnus nōn temerē adhibēns incertīs fidem, ab hīs, quī māiōrēs nātū erant, presbyterīs vel clēricīs flāgitābat nōmen sibi martyris, tempus passiōnis ostendī: grandī sē scrūpulō permovērī, quod nihil certī cōnstāns sibi māiōrum memōria trādidisset. 3. cum aliquamdiū ergō ā locō illō sē abstinuisset, nec dērogāns religiōnī, quia incertus erat, nec auctōritātem suam vulgō accommodāns, nē superstitiō convalēsceret, quōdam diē paucīs sēcum adhibitīs frātribus ad locum pergit. 4. dehinc super sepulcrum ipsum adstāns ōrāvit ad Dominum, ut quis esset vel cuius meritī esset sepultus ostenderet. tum conversus ad laevam videt prope adsistere umbram sordidam, trucem: imperat, nōmen meritumque loquerētur. nōmen ēdīcit, dē crīmine cōnfitētur: latrōnem sē fuisse, ob scelera percussum, vulgī errōre celebrātum: sibi nihil cum martyribus esse commūne, cum illōs glōria, sē poena retinēret. 5. mīrum in modum vōcem loquentis quī aderant audiēbant, persōnam tamen nōn vidēbant. tum Martīnus quid vīdisset exposuit iussitque ex eō locō altāre, quod ibi fuerat, submovērī, atque ita populum superstitiōnis illius absolvit errōre.

Martin puts a stop to worship at a rural altar, supposedly a martyr shrine, and has the altar demolished.

sed ut . . . adgrediar: 'But to come to' (introducing a new topic). The subjunctive is a kind of purpose clause used parenthetically, like the common ut ita dicam, 'so to speak'.

virtutes: 'miracles'

erat...locus: 'there was a place'.

consepelio, (no perf.), consepultus: 'bury with' (later Latin only)

superioribus episcopis: 'previous bishops'.

non temere: 'not lightly, not easily'.

nihil certi constans sibi: 'nothing certain and consistent', lit. 'nothing of certain (partitive genitive), consistent with itself'.

ut quis esset . . . ostenderet: 'that he reveal who was buried there or of what worth he was'. Celebrations at the tombs of the honored dead were a major part of popular religious worship in the fourth and fifth century. People ate, drank, danced, and stayed up late in ceremonies that had strong ties to earlier pagan observances, but were now taken as part of the cult of the Christian martyrs. Bishops disapproved strenuously, alternately accommodating and seeking to suppress informal martyr-cults, particularly in north Africa (See MacMullen, The Second Church, 51-67.) Martin's actions here in putting a stop to what he saw as an illegitimate martyr-cult are typical of bishops of the period.

cuius meriti: 'of what worth' (gen. of characteristic). meritum = 'good action, benefit, service'; the sense 'worth, value' is poetic and post-classical (Cp. Ambrose, De paenitentia 1.9: non quicumque de vulgo, nec plebeiae vilitatis aliquis, sed vitae egregiae singularisque meriti). The use just below, meritum loqueretur, combines both senses.

celebratum: 'honored with ceremonies, crowds, etc.'

retineret: 'was keeping' (in place or in memory).

qui aderant audiebant: 'those who were present heard'.

adgredior -gredī -gressus sum: begin, undertake

opīnio -ōnis f.: opinion, belief

cōnsepeliō -pelīre -pelīvī -pultum: bury with

martyr -yris m. or f.: witness; martyr

sācrō sacrāre: make sacred, devote, consecrate

altāre -āris n.: high altar

temerē: (adv.) recklessly, rashly

incertus -a -um: uncertain

clēricus -ī m.: clergyman, priest

flāgitō -āre: demand fiercely or violently, solicit

passio -ōnis f.: suffering, enduring

grandis -e: large, great

scrūpulus -ī m.: uneasiness, doubt, scruple

permoveō -movēre -mōvī -mōtum: move throughout; to influence, persuade

abstineō -tinēre -tinuī -tentum: abstain, restrain

dērogō -āre: take away; disparage, dishonor

accommodō -commodāre: make fit to, adapt to, fit to

superstitiō -ōnis f.: unreasonable religious belief, superstition

convalēscō -lēscere -luī: grow strong, gain strength

dehinc: (adv.) from here, hence

meritum -ī n.: merit, desert

sepeliō sepelīre sepelīvī sepultum: bury, inter

laevus -a -um: left, on the left side

sordidus -a -um: filthy, foul, unclean

trux -ucis: savage, fierce, ferocious, grim

latro -ōnis m.: a highwayman, bandit, brigand

scelus -eris n.: wicked deed, crime, sin

percutiō -cutere -cussī -cussum: strike through; slay, kill

submoveō -movēre -mōvī -mōtum: move from under; drive back

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Suggested Citation

Christopher Francese, Sulpicius Severus: Life of St. Martin. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2011. ISBN: 978-1-947822-03-0. http://dcc.dickinson.edu/sulpicius-severus/section-11