Poetry and the Cult of the Martyrs

The Liber Peristephanon of Prudentius
Michael Roberts
A beautifully detailed literary study of Prudentius's eulogies of the Christian martyrs


Prudentius' Peristephanon is a collection of martyr texts from a vital period for the growth of martyr cult in the West. Building on recent work on the cult of the saints and on the sacralization of the space and time, Roberts demonstrates how the Peristephanon relates to developments in late fourth century spirituality.

The author examines how Prudentius creates an idiom to express devotion to the martyrs, particularly in the structuring of narrative and the use of poetic language. Roberts concludes by demonstrating how Prudentius employs the model of martyr cult to articulate the status of Christian literature, the role of the bishop in the Christian community, and the symbolic status of Rome in the Christian West.

Jacket art: Gold-glass vase, after A.D. 350. By permission of the Trustees of the British Museum.

Michael Roberts is Robert Rich Professor of Latin, Wesleyan University.

Praise / Awards

  • "This is an interesting, extensively documented examination of a work, little studied, that deals with an important period in late Roman history, and with the development of the literature produced by Western Christianity. It should be of interest to anyone concerned with late Roman history, church history, and the classics."
    Church History
  • "This elegant and fascinating study, which concludes with bibliographies of scholarly works and ancient texts, and indices of subjects and passages, is noteworthy for close, compelling reading of multivalent poetic language; for success in intimately associating poetry not only with the architecture and paintings of cult memorials, but also with the liturgy and public celebrations of cult practice; for demonstration of how these texts telescope the historical and the theological, personal experience with eschatology, and for vivid illumination of fourth-century ideas and practices."
    Classical Review

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 232pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 1994
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-10449-9

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  • $89.95 U.S.