ISSN: 2306-5737E-ISSN: 2658-4069
Acta Linguistica Petropolitana
Transactions of the Institute for Linguistic Studies
ISSN: 2306-5737E-ISSN: 2658-4069
Acta Linguistica Petropolitana
Transactions of the Institute for Linguistic Studies 

How many co-martyrs did Perpetua and Felicitas have?

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Braginskaya N. V. Skolko somuchenikov bylo u Perpetui i Felitsitaty?. Acta Linguistica Petropolitana. 2022. 18(1): 48–77.

One of the characters of "Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis" bears the name Revocatus. He is a Saint martyr worshipped in all Christian Churches. In the early Byzantine Acts of the fifth century, where he is declared to be the brother of Felicitas, he takes part in the events and is subjected to an interrogation. In the original "Passio" dating back to 203 AD, Revocatus does not manifest himself in any way, and his martyrdom — the most important part of any passio — is not clearly described. It is worth noting that the name Revocatus is unattested prior to the "Passio" either as praenomen, nomen or cognomen. Based on the revision of the manuscript tradition of the difficult passage 19, 3, the article suggests that the martyr Revocatus never actually existed.

Revocatus means 'he who has been recalled'. This word is found several times in this same "Passio" as a participle to designate the martyrs who, after a break in the performance, were called again to the arena for the next act of spectacle. The performances followed a certain scenario, and repeated calls were also practiced at the gladiatorial games.

Besides, epigraphic data show that a charioteer who won in a repeated race (such a victory is valued below the first place, but above the second) was also called revocatus; finally, revocatus designated the title or rank of a veteran who, after completing his service, was called once more to honorable service under the emperor for his merits.

One of the martyrs named Saturninus 'for the sake of acquiring the crown of greater glory' wanted to become a victim of not one, but several animals, which were released one after the other. He was not hurt by the boar, the bear tortured him, but he stayed alive. He was summoned once more to the arena (revocatus), and it was only in this third act of the execution that he experienced a leopard attack. He received the moniker Revocatus not only because of the circumstances of his death, but also in accordance with the fact that this was how his 'vow of martyrdom' was fulfilled.

Revocatus as a nickname (cognomen) seems to have been associated with pagan glory: winner in sports and hero on a battle-field. Paradoxically, these military and sporting metaphors were used by Christians to describe the feat of a defenseless martyr, who was crowned by the Lord, receiving a wreath as if he had been a winner in a competition or a warrior who had defeated an enemy.

Why then was Revocatus considered a separate person from Saturninus for eighteen centuries? Although the textual problems in 19, 3 had puzzled many, the main reason for preserving him as an independent figure was Revocatus' appearance at the beginning of the narrative, where he is introduced as one of the arrested catechumens and as a slave who belonged to the same master as Felicitas.

We do not know when and by whom the writings of various authors ("Perpetua's Diary", "Saturus' Vision", the theological "Prologue" and "Epilogue", the "Story" of an eyewitness who expanded Perpetua's narrative to include the events before the execution and in the arena) were collected into a complex and bound together by brief transitions. Since neither the Prologue, nor Perpetua's Diary, nor Saturus' Vision list dramatis personae (contemporaries already knew everything about these events), the compiler thought it best to introduce them before the text of the Diary. In this reference, probably complied for readers who lived much later and not in Carthage, Revocatus was introduced as a separate person, and his mention at the very beginning of the narrative set the perception of what followed and eliminated any doubt about the existence of not Saturninus Revocatus, but Saturninus and Revocatus.

Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis, Revocatus, martyrology
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Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis, Revocatus, martyrology
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