Valentinian I, christianissimus imperator? Notes on a passage of the Passio Pollionis (BHL 6869)

in Vigiliae Christianae
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The present article aims to draw attention to a neglected source attesting the epithet christianissimus imperator as a late antique imperial title. The source in question, the Passio Pollionis (BHL 6869), is one of the earliest testimonies, alongside Ambrose’s and Jerome’s works. It is also peculiar in that, as a hagiographic work, it addresses the emperor Valentinian I with this title. A brief comparison with the use of christianissimus in Ambrose, as well as the analysis of its literary—propagandistic function in the Passio Pollionis is meant to shed light on the documentary potential of the Passio.

Valentinian I, christianissimus imperator? Notes on a passage of the Passio Pollionis (BHL 6869)

in Vigiliae Christianae




D. Hunt“Valentinian and the Bishops: Ammianus 30.9.5 in Context,” in Ammianus after Julian: The Reign of Valentinian and Valens in Books 26-31 of the Res Gestae ed. J. den Boeft J.W. Drijvers D. den Hengst and H.C. Teitler Mnemosyne: Bibliotheca Classica Batava. Monographs on Greek and Roman Language and Literature 289 (Leiden/Boston 2007) 75-77.


A. Amore“Pollio,” LTK 8 (21963) 592; H.R. Seeliger “Pollio(n)” LTK 8 (31999) 397; I. Daniele “Pollione” BiblSS 10 (1982): 1002-1003; D. Ruiz-Bueno Actas de los mártires Biblioteca de los auctores cristianos 75 (Madrid 1951 reprint 1962) 1045; G. Caldarelli Atti dei martiri (Milan 1985) 675 676 n. 2; M. Jarak “Martyres Pannoniae—the Chronological Position of the Pannonian Martyrs in the Course of Diocletian’s Persecution” in Westillyricum und Nordostitalien in der spätrömischen Zeit ed. R. Bratož (Ljubljana 1996) 277-278. P. Kovács Fontes Pannoniae Antiquae in aetate Tetrarcharum I (A.D. 285-305) Fontes Pannoniae Antiquae VI (Budapest 2011) 78 does not enter into a detailed discussion but observes that since the Passio Pollionis demonstrably draws its sources from the very early Passio Irenaei and (the now lost) Passio Montani and since it mentions Valentinian it should be dated most probably to the years 360-370.


Jarak“Martyres” 277.


T.D. Barnes“Ambrose and Gratian,” AnTard 7 (1999): 172.


Barnes“Ambrose” 173-174. For further details on the relationship between Ambrose and Gratian see G. Gottlieb Ambrosius von Mailand und Kaiser Gratian Hypomnemata: Untersuchungen zur antike und zu ihrem Nachleben 40 (Göttingen 1973); D.H. Williams Ambrose of Milan and the End of the Nicene-Arian Conflicts Oxford Early Christian Studies (Oxford 1995) 154-169.


Barnes“Ambrose” 168-170; R. Gryson Scholies Ariennes sur le concile d’Aquilée (Paris 1980) 107-121.

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