Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 2402
Eugippius, a presbyter and abbot of the monastery in Castellum Lucullanum near Naples (Italy) writes in a letter to the deacon Paschasius of Rome that many priests and other religious men were visiting Severinus of Noricum wondering of his origin. He also mentions the presbyter Primenius whom Severinus gave protection after the murder of the patrician Orestes. Written in Castellum Lucullanum in 511.
8. Nam cum multi sacerdotes et spiritales uiri nec non et laici nobiles atque religiosi, uel indigenae uel de longinquis ad eum regionibus confluentes, saepius haesitarent, inter se quaerentes, cuius nationis esset uir, quem tantis cernerent fulgere uirtutibus, nec ullus ab eo penitus auderet inquirere, tandem Primenius quidam, presbyter Italiae nobilis et totius auctoritatis uir, qui ad eum confugerat tempore, quo patricius Orestes inique peremptus est, interfectores eius metuens, eo quod interfecti uelut pater fuisse diceretur, post multos itaque familiaritatis adeptae dies erupit quasi pro omnibus et ita sciscitatus est dicens: "domine sancte, de qua prouincia deus his regionibus tale lumen donare dignatus est?"
Severinus dodges the question. He says, among other things:
9. [...] Quam [i.e. supernam patriam] si me indignum ueraciter desiderare cognoscis, quid te necesse est terrenam cognoscere, quam requiris? Verum tamen scito quia deus, qui te sacerdotem fieri praestitit, ipse me quoque periclitantibus his hominibus interesse praecepit." 10. Tali memoratus presbyter responsione conticuit, nec quisquam ante uel postea beatum uirum super hac parte percontari praesumpsit. [...]
(ed. Regerat 1991: 152, 154)
8. Many priests and spiritual men, but also noble and religious laymen, natives as well as others who came to him from far away, guessed and asked each other to what nation the man belonged who worked such great miracles before their eyes, but nobody dared to ask him openly; at last, a certain Primenius, a noble presbyter of Italy, and a man who commanded every possible authority - he had sought the saint's protection at the time when the patrician, Orestes, had been unjustly killed, for fear of Orestes' murderers, because he had been to him as a father - after many days of intimate friendship burst out, as in the name of them all, with the question, saying: "Holy master, what is the province which God has deigned to send such a great light as His gift to these districts?"
Severinus dodges the question. He says, among other things:
9. [...] "If you realize that I, though I am unworthy, strive for this [heavenly fatherland], why must you know my country on earth, for which you ask? This, however, you should know: that God, who has made you a priest, has also ordered me to come to these people in their hour of need." 10. By this reply, the presbyter was silenced, and nobody else, either before or after this, ever dared to ask the holy man a similar question. [...]
(trans. L. Bieler 1965: 49-50)


Orestes, mentioned as a spiritual son of the presbyter Primenius, was the magister militum and patricius of the West in 475-476. In 475, he marched against the emperor Julius Nepos, who escaped from Ravenna to Dalmatia. Orestes then proclaimed his own son Romulus emperor. In 476, he was captured and killed by Odoacer, the leader of barbarians and later king, who gained control over Italy. He deposed Romulus and later sought recognition of the emperor Zeno. Interestingly, Romulus was not killed by Odoacer but allowed to live as a private citizen, according to one source (A List of Roman emperors until Justin I, MGH AA 13, 423), in the Castellum Lucullanum. Some scholars proposed that the noblewoman Barbaria who donated the Castellum to Eugippius and other monks might have been the widow of Orestes and Romulus's mother. See e.g. Gorman 1984: 71.

Place of event:

  • Italy south of Rome and Sicily
  • Rome
  • Castellum Lucullanum
  • Naples
  • Rome

About the source:

Author: Eugippius
Title: Epistula ad Paschasium
Origin: Castellum Lucullanum (Italy south of Rome and Sicily)Naples (Italy south of Rome and Sicily),
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
Eugippius came originally from Noricum where he was a monk in the monastery founded by Severinus (died 482). He left Noricum for Italy in 488 with other monks and with Severinus's body in the evacuation ordered by Odoacer. They settled in Castellum Lucullanum near Naples, Roman villa offered them by the noblewoman Barbaria. In 511, Eugippius composed the "Life of Severinus". He also created an anthology of the excerpts from the works of Augustine dedicated to the virgin Proba from the powerful Roman family, the gens Anicia, see [2047]. He also maintained relations with the clergy of Rome (as attested by his familiarity with Paschasius) and the African clerics exiled by the Vandals.
The letter can be safely dated to this date because Eugippius mentions that the year of the consulship of Inportunus (509) was two years ago. From Paschasius`s response [2403], in which Eugippius is styled a presbyter, we know that Eugippius was already ordained when the correspondence took place.
Eugippius was still alive in 532 when he corresponded with Ferrandus of Carthage [...].
Ph. Régerat (ed.), Eugippe, Vie de saint Séverin, Paris 1991 (Sources Chrétiennes 337)
English translation:
Eugippius, Life of St. Severin, trans. L. Bieler, The Fathers of the Church, Washington D.C. 1965
M.-M. Gorman, "Marginalia in the Oldest Manuscripts of St. Augustine’s De Genesi ad Litteram”, Scriptorium 38 (1984), 71–77.
J.R. Martindale, Prosopography of Later Roman Empire, vol. 2, s.v. Odovacer, 791-93.
J.R. Martindale, Prosopography of Later Roman Empire, vol. 2, s.v. Orestes 2, 811-12.


Social origin or status - Social elite
Writing activity - Correspondence
Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
Described by a title - Sacerdos/ἱερεύς
Relation with - Secular authority
Relation with - Noble
Relation with - Monk/Nun
Writing activity
Reasons for ordination - Patronage
Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: M. Szada, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER2402,