Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 708
Hippolytus, presbyter in Rome and former Novatianist encourages the Novatianist faithful to shun the schism and come back to the orthodox Church; later he is persecuted by the emperor, and martyred, the 3rd century. Account of Prudentius, Crowns of Martyrdom, Poem 11, ca 400.
Poem 11, v. 17-44
Haec dum lustro oculis et sicubi forte latentes
rerum apices ueterum per monumenta sequor,
inuenio hippolytum, qui quondam scisma nouati
presbyter attigerat nostra sequenda negans,
usque ad martyrii prouectum insigne tulisse
lucida sanguinei praemia supplicii.
Nec mirere senem peruersi dogmatis olim
munere ditatum catholicae fidei.
Cum iam uaesano uictor raperetur ab hoste
exultante anima carnis ad exitium
(plebis amore suae multis comitantibus ibat),
consultus quaenam secta foret melior,
respondit: "fugite, o miseri, execranda nouati
scismata, catholicis reddite uos populis!
vna fides uigeat, prisco quae condita templo est,
quam paulus retinet quamque cathedra petri.
Quae docui, docuisse piget; uenerabile martyr
cerno quod a cultu rebar abesse dei".
His ubi detorsit laeuo de tramite plebem
monstrauit que sequi qua uia dextra uocat,
se que ducem recti spretis anfractibus idem
praebuit erroris qui prius auctor erat,
sistitur insano rectori christicolas tunc
ostia uexanti per tiberina uiros.
Illo namque die roma secesserat, ipsos
peste suburbanos ut quateret populos,
non contentus humum celsae intra moenia romae
tinguere iustorum caedibus adsiduis.
(ed. M.P. Cunningham 1966: 370-71)
Poem 11, v. 17-44
In surveying these memorials and hunting over them for any letters telling of the deeds of old, that might escape the eye, I found that Hippolytus, who had at one time as a presbyter attached himself to the schism of Novatus, saying that our way was not to be followed, had been advanced to the crown of martyrdom and won the shining reward for suffering bloodshed. Nor is it surprising that an old man who had once been a follower of a vicious doctrine was enriched with a gift which belongs to the orthodox faith. When he won his triumph and with exulting spirit was being carried off by a furious enemy to suffer the death of the flesh, because of his people's love he was accompanied by many on the way; and being asked which teaching was the better he answered: "O my poor friends, shun the accursed schism of Novatus and return to the orthodox people. Let the faith be strong in its unity, the faith that was established in the early Church and which Paul and the chair of Peter hold fast. What I taught, I regret having taught; now that I am bearing witness I see that
what I thought foreign to the worship of God is worthy of reverence." With these words he turned the people away from the path on the left and bade them follow where the way on the right calls, presenting himself as their guide on the straight road and rejecting all windings, the very man who was formerly the cause of their going astray. Then he was brought before a maddened ruler who at that time was afflicting Christian heroes by Tiber's mouth; for that day he had left Rome to beat down with persecution the peoples of the near-by districts, not being content to wet the ground within the walls of lofty Rome with constant slaying of the righteous. [...]
(trans. H.J. Thomson 1953: 305, 307, 309)


Hymn 11 is devoted to Hippolytus, martyr of Rome buried on the Via Tiburtina (the martyrium of Hippolytus has been excavated, see Bertonière 1985, Guarducci 1977). Prudentius develops the legend given by Damasus (epigram 35 [2225]) about a Novatianist presbyter Hippolytus (third century) who persuades his congregation to convert to the "proper" Church. The hagiographical dossier of saint Hippolytus is very complicated and it is impossible to say "whether he is one person or an amalgamation of two or more" (Malamud 1989:80-81). We cannot say whether he should be identified with Hippolytus of Rome, author of the Refutation of all Heresies or the presbyter Hippolytus exiled together with Bishop Pontianus of Rome (the same person?). If so, Damasus’s and Prudentius’s information about his adherence to the Novatianist schism must be wrong (on chronological grounds, since Hippolytus of Rome died in 235 and  the Novatian schism started in 251). For a detailed approach to the "Hippolytan question" see Brent 1995 (especially pp. 369-388), Cerrato 2002.

Place of event:

  • Rome
  • Italy south of Rome and Sicily

About the source:

Author: Prudentius
Title: Crowns of Martyrdom, Liber peristephanon, Περὶ στεφάνων, Peristephanon
Origin: Iberian Peninsula
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
Prudentius was born in AD 358 in north Spain, probably in Calagurris, in a noble Christian family. First he pursued a career as a lawyer and imperial officer, later (ca AD 398) he withdrew from public life and possibly led an ascetic life. He died between AD 404/5 (year of composition of the preface to his works) and 410 (as he did not mention Alaric`s sack of Rome). He wrote his poetic works most probably during his retirement. The Crowns of Martyrdom (Peristephanon) is the longest work of Prudentius – it is a collection of 14 hymns in honour of martyrs (except Hymn 8 about the baptistery in Calagurris), especially the Spanish ones (Emeterius and Chaledonius of Calagurris, Eulalia of Merida, deacon Vincentius, Fructuosus of Saragossa, eighteen martyrs of Saragossa), but also those of Rome, Africa and East.
M.P. Cunningham ed., Aurelii Prudentii Clementis Carmina, Corpus Christianorum. Series Latina 119, Turnhout 1966
Prudentius with an English translation by H.J. Thomson, vol. 2, London, Cambridge, Mass. 1953
G. Bertonière, The Cult Center of the Martyr Hippolytus on the Via Tiburtina, Oxford 1985.
A. Brent, Hippolytus and the Roman church in the third century: communities in tension before the emergence of a monarch-bishop, Leiden 1995.
J.A. Cerrato, Hippolytus between East and West: the commentaries and the provenance of the corpus, Oxford 2002.
M. Guarducci, "La statua di «Sant» Ippolito", [in :] Ricerche su Ippolito, Rome 1977, 17-30.
M.A. Malamud, A poetics of transformation: Prudentius and classical mythology, Ithaca 1989.
P. Nowakowski, E05385, Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity database, consulted on 22.11.2018 (the marble statue)
M. Szada, E04190, Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity database, consulted on 22.11.2018 (Prudentius, poem 11)


Religious grouping (other than Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian) - Novatianist
Change of denomination
Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
Fame of sanctity
Public law - Secular
Conflict - Violence
Pastoral activity - Teaching
Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: M. Szada, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER708,