Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 401
Clerics and friends of Bishop Antoninus oppress the people of Fussala and decline to appear before the episcopal tribunal. Augustine, bishop of Hippo, Letter 20*, North Africa, AD 422-423.
Letter 20*
6.  Per hos duos clericos, presbyterum et diaconum, et per ecclesiae defensorem et per quendam alium siue exmilitem siue desertorem cui familiarius imperabat et per eos quos eiusdem castelli homines ad nocturnas custodias uigiles fecerat eisque, ubi manu aliqua paulo numerosiore opus fuerat, utebatur, quae mala castellum illud et circumquaque uicina pertulerint, potest utcumque cognoscere quem gesta legere non piguerit quae apud episcopos in ecclesia Hipponiensi,ubi et ipse consedi, multorum per libellos deploratione confecta sunt.
Inueniet illic querimonias miserabiles pauperum marium atque feminarum et, quod est grauius, uiduarum quas nec ipsum nomen quod praecipue defendendum nobis sancta scriptura commendat nec saltem senilis aetas potuit a rapinis et depraedationibus et nefandis iniuriis quae per illos fiebant aliquatenus communire. Pecuniam,suppellectilem, uestem, pecora, fructus, ligna denique et lapides ut quisque in eorum manus incurrerat amittebat; quorundam occupabantur domus, quorundam etiam deiciebantur, ut inde auferrentur quae fabricarum nouarum constructio postulabat; emebantur aliqua nec pretium reddebatur; quorundam inuadebantur agri et ablatis per aliquot annos fructibus reddebantur; quidam uero eorum usque ad episcopale iudicium retenti atque possessi sunt.
7. [...] Illorum autem clericorum, presbyteri scilicet et diaconi, quemadmodum praesentia episcopali iudicio subtracta sit et adhuc usque subtrahatur, longum est dicere. Tenentur tamen uerba eius, ubi eos a se admonitos ut uenirent, quia cum illo erant, eoque peruenire uoluisse ipse confessus est.
(ed. Divjak 1981:  97-98)
Letter 20*
6. Anyone whom it would not disgust to read the records can easily learn what evils that town and the surrounding region suffered because of these two clerics, the presbyter and the deacon, and because of the defender of the church and a certain other man, a former soldier or deserter, to whom he [Antoninus] gave orders as friends, and because of those men from the same town whom he made into guards for night watches and whom he used when there was need of a slightly larger number. These records were compiled before the bishops in the Church of Hippo, where I myself presided, after many people with lists of grievances had complained. Anyone will find in them the pitiful complaints of men and women and—what is worse—of widows, whom neither their name, which holy scripture especially recommends to our defense, nor even their elderly age could protect to some extent from the robberies, plunderings, and unspeakable injustices that those people committed. Whoever fell into their hands lost money, furniture, clothing, cattle, harvests, timber, and even building stones. The homes of some were occupied; those of others were torn down in order that what the construction of new buildings demanded might be carried off from there. At times they made purchases but did not pay the price. The fields of some were invaded and were returned after the harvests had been seized over the course of several years, but some of them were retained and occupied up to the time of the episcopal judgment.
7. [...] It would, however, take a long time to say how the appearance of those clerics, that is, of the presbyter and the deacon, was kept from and is still kept from the episcopal tribunal. Yet we do have the words of the bishop [Antoninus] in which he himself admitted that they were warned by him to come because they were with him and that they had wanted to come.
(trans. R. Teske, slightly altered)


The passage is taken from the letter of Augustine to Fabiola, a noble Roman who offered hospitality and help to Antoninus. Antoninus, a young lector of the Church of Hippo was ordained as the bishop of Fussala when the original candidate withdrew (see [399]). Antoninus was later accused of several crimes. Augustine and his colleagues tried to make him step down, but he appealed to Rome. Fussala used to be a Donatist see, so the date of the event is between AD 411 (the conference of Carthage) and AD 419 (the recourse of Antoninus to Rome).
The status of the presbyter in question is unclear: he was a notarius in the monastery of Augustine. He came from some place other than Hippo. The presbyterial ordination was the first clerical grade he received. We do not know the names of the clerics mentioned in the passage, but both of them were ordained by Antoninus (see ep. 20*.5, [400], from which the information in this paragraph has been taken).

Place of event:

  • Latin North Africa
  • Hippo Regius
  • Fussala

About the source:

Author: Augustine of Hippo
Title: Letters, Epistulae
Origin: Hippo Regius (Latin North Africa)
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
The letters of Augustine of Hippo cover a wide range of topics: Holy Scripture, dogma and liturgy, philosophy, religious practice and everyday life. They range from full-scale theological treatises to small notes asking someone for a favour. The preserved corpus includes 308 letters, 252 written by Augustine, 49 that others sent to him and seven exchanged between third parties. 29 letters have been discovered only in the 20th century and edited in 1981 by Johannes Divjak; they are distinguished by the asterisk (*) after their number.
The preserved letters of Augustine extend over the period from his stay at Cassiciacum in 386 to his death in Hippo in 430.
J. Divjak ed., Sancti Aureli Augustini Epistolae ex duobus codicibus nuper in lucem prolatae, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, v. 88, Wien, 1981.
J. Divjak ed., Saint Augustin. Lettres 1*-29*, Bibliothèque Augustinienne 46B. Paris 1987.
Saint Augustine, Letters 211–270, 1*–29*, trans. R. Teske. New York 2005.


Functions within the Church - Urban presbyter
Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
Public law - Ecclesiastical
    Relation with - Bishop/Monastic superior
    Conflict - Violence
    Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: S. Adamiak, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER401,