Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 1910
Bishop Ambrose of Milan (Italy) in a letter to Irenaeus, possibly a cleric in Milan, comments on the verse from the Book of Jeremiah. Ambrose of Milan, Letter 40 (Maur. 32), written in Milan, AD 374/397.
XL (Maur. 32)
Ambrosius Irenaeo.
1. "Clamavit perdix, congregavit quae non peperit" [Jer 17:11]. Licet enim mihi de superioris fine epistulae sequentis mutuari absolvere, quid de natura avis istius habeat historia consideremus. Nam et hoc considerare non mediocris prudentiae est, siquidem et Salomon naturas cognovit animalium "et locutus est de pecoribus et volatilibus et de reptilibus et de piscibus" [1 Kings 4:33].
In what follows, Ambrose continues his exegetical commentary.  
8. [...] Vale, fili, et nos dilige, ut facis, quoniam nos te diligimus.
(ed. Zelzer 1990: 36-40; summary M. Szada)
XL (Maur. 32)
Ambrose to Irenaeus, greetings.
1. "The partridge has spoken, she has fostered a brood which is not hers." [Jer 17:11] I should like to borrow the beginning of this
letter from the close of my last. It has been frequently discussed, so, in order that we may be able to solve it, let us consider what natural history tells us regarding the nature of this bird. It is the part of no small wisdom to ponder this, for Solomon understood the nature of animals and "discoursed on flocks, birds, reptiles, and fish." [1 Kings 4:33]
In what follows, Ambrose continues his exegetical commentary.  
8. [...] Farewell, son, and love us as you do, since we love you.
(trans. Beyenka 1954: 420-428; in the translation Letter 74)


The present letter is not dated and it can only be said that it was written at some point during the episcopacy of Ambrose. Ambrose's addresee, Iraeneus, is treated with paternal affection. He received several letters from Ambrose but is known only from this correspondence. He is never explicitely called a presbyter (or a cleric) and there is a scholarly discussion whether he actually was one - see especially Palanque 1933. That Irenaeus was a lay man is claimed by Paredi 1968: 498 and Zelzer 1978: 15. He is considered a cleric by Mazières 1979 and later by Zelzer 1990: XXI, n. 6. See PCBE, Italie 1, Irenaeus 1.
As the letter begins from the mention of a previous letter, some scholars thought that it should be attributed to Sabinus, bishop of Piacenza, addressee of Letter 39. Only two manuscripts - Codex Parisinus 1754 of the 12th c. and Codex Vaticanus 280 of the 15th c. ascribe Letter 40 to Sabinus. Moreover, Ambrose calls his addressee here "filius" whereas he usually addresses other bishops as "fratres". See Zelzer 1990: XXVIII.

Place of event:

  • Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia
  • Milan

About the source:

Author: Ambrose of Milan
Title: Letters, Epistulae
Origin: Milan (Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
Ambrose was a bishop of Milan from 374 until his death in 397. We have a collection of his letters organized in three parts. The first one consists of 77 letters organized in ten books most probably by Ambrose himself. He published his letters at some point after the death of Theodosius in 395. From this collection, Book 4 is missing, as are some letters of Books 2 and 4. The second part is the group of letters that survived outside the collection (extra collectionem), and the third is a group of letters concerning the council of Aquileia in 381 (together with the acts of this council). For a detailed discussion on the letters and further reading see Liebeschuetz 2010: 27–48 and Nauroy 2016: 146–160.
M. Zelzer ed., Epistulae et acta, epistularum libri VII-VIIII, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Lationorum 82/2, Wien 1990
Saint Ambrose, Letters, trans. M. M. Beyenka, Washington D.C. 1954
J.H.W.G. Liebeschuetz, Ambrose of Milan: political letters and speeches, Liverpool 2010.
J.-P. Mazières, "Les lettres d’Ambroise de Milan à Irenaeus.”, Pallas. Revue d’études antiques 26 (1979), 103–114.
G. Nauroy, "The Letter Collection of Ambrose of Milan", [in:] Late Antique Letter Collections: A Critical Introduction and Reference Guide, ed. C. Sogno, B.K. Storin, E.J. Watts, Oakland, CA 2016, 146–160.
G. Nauroy, "Édition et organisation du recueil des lettres d’Ambroise de Milan: une architecture cachée ou altérée?", in: La correspondance d'Ambroise de Milan, textes réunis et préparés par A. Canellis, Saint-Étienne 2012, 19-61.
J.-R. Palanque, "Deux correspondants de saint Ambroise: Orontien et Irénée”, Revue des Études Latines 11 (1933), 153–163.
A. Paredi, S. Ambrogio e la sua età, Milano 1960.


Writing activity - Correspondence
Reverenced by
Relation with - Bishop/Monastic superior
Education - Theological interest
Devotion - Reading the Bible and devotional literature
Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: M. Szada, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER1910,