Joseph Martin Peterson.

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The Dorothea Legend: Its Earliest Records,

Middle English Versions, and Influence on

Massinger's ,,Virgin Martyr".


to the

of the


for the



Joseph Martin Peterson.


Buch- und Kunstdruckerei RoBIer & Herbert.

Table of Contents.

Chapter the First.

Introduction: Origins of the Saints' Lives in general I 5

Chapter the Second.

Origins of the Dorothea Legend 6 1 2

Chapter the Third.
The Latin Versions of the Legend:

1. Introductory 12

2. The Older Version 12 17

3. The Younger Version 17 19

4. Comparison of Both 19 20

5. Combinations of Both Versions 20 2 1

6. Comparison with Other Legends 21 24

Chapter the Fourth.
The Dorothea Legend in Middle English:

1. Introductory: The Legend on the Continent 25 27

2. Survey of the Middle English Versions 2728

3. Relationship of the Middle English Prose Versions to the

Latin Sources and to One Another 28 44

a) The Source a Latin Text of the G-Type, not G Itself 2835

b) The Prose Versions not Original Translations, but

C P ies 3538

c) Their Relationship to One Another 38 44

4. Relationship of the Two Metrical Versions 45 51

a) Both are Translations . . ' 45

b) Source of Both belongs to the G-Type, but not the

Same Text in Either Case 45 46

c) Comparison of the Poems 46 51

5. Summary of Similarities and Dissimilarities 51

6. Conclusions



JY Table of Contents.

Chapter the Fifth.
Massinger's a Virgin Martyr".

1. Introductory

2. Act the First.

Scene I . . 53 6 5

3. Act the Second.

Scene 1 6 5~ 8

Scene II. .,,..., ^ .,.,'..% . , . , . - - - 68 69

Scene III .'".-. .'. '. '.. . "9 77

4. Act the Third.

Scene I 77 84

Scene II. ..'..'. . '. . . . ." 84 88

Scene III. ........' 8S

5. Act the Fourth.

Scene I 89 93

Scene II. 93~ 97

Scene III 97102

6. Act the Fifth.

Scene I 102105

Scene II 105 108

7. Conclusion 108 109

Bibliography . ... no in

Life ' . " .... 112

Chapter the First.

Introduction: Origins of the Saints' Lives in


As Giinter says in the introductory chapter of his
"Legenden-Studien", the legends of the saints are, cum
c/rano salis, older than the saints themselves. Their pro-
totypes originated in the era preceding- Christian martyr-
dom. Many features of these stories are, for instance,
variations of the miracles of the canonical and apocryphal
books of the Bible. The literatures of the Orient, especially
their supernatural and miraculous elements, have likewise
contributed their quota to the lives of the saints. As the
cult itself, the worship of saints, has been traced back in
practically all its features to pre-Christian institutions and
influences 1 ), so are the marvellous stories found recorded
in the martyrologies, without doubt in far the greater
number of cases, traceable to sources anterior to the
Christian era.

It is not the purpose of this thesis to discuss the
.authenticity of the saints' lives, but it is, nevertheless, a
question which every serious investigation of this kind gives
rise to. It seems to lie in the very nature of such a study,
to endeavor to come to some conclusion in regard to the
origin of the person, whose life has been celebrated in the
literatures of many nations and through many centuries of
time. A conclusion of that kind, when based on a logical
foundation, gives the whole investigation a more definite

*) Ernst Lucius, Die Anfange des Heiligenkults in der christlicheu

Petersou. j

2 Chapter I.

and finished appearance and renders it more satisfactory
both to investigator, and to reader.

That siich a" procedure, to. -search for an authentic
basis of the life of some particular saint, may frequently lead
to negative rather than to positive results, is almost self-
evident, when the manner and time of production of the
saints' lives are taken into account.

The historical sources of the lives of the saints were
the calendars 1 ). These were records which every church
kept of its bishops and martyrs, written, as far as the great
mass of the early martyrs is concerned, in the briefest
form possible: the bare name of the martyr and, at the
most, the date and place of suffering 2 ). When and where
these calendars originated is difficult to determine, as
additions were made from time to time 8 ). The earliest
calendars extant are from the fourth century 4 ), and it is
doubtful whether any of these contain the genuine lists of
the pre-Diocletian age, as it may be assumed that all these
records, together with other matter of a like nature
belo iging to the church, were destroyed under the devastating
fury of the tenth persecution 5 ).

These circumstances make the authentic facts known
of the martyr's, who suffered during the great persecutions,
very uncertain. And these conditions were not improved
in the post-Constantine age, when the question of authen-
ticity seems to have been lost sight of in the efforts then
put forth by every church to multiply at all hazards the
number of martyrs 6 ). Numerous names were then added
to the list of martyrs, the origin of which would be

1 ) Smith and Cheetham, Christian Antiquities. Art. Calendar.

2 ) Achelis, Die Martyrologien, pp. 3 4.

3 ) Smith and Cheetham, Christ. Antiq., ibid.
) Ibid.

5 ) Ibid.

*) Achelis, Die Martyrol., p. 74.

Introduction: Origins of the Saints' Lives in general. ?

impossible to account for 1 ). Former members of the church
and other persons were given a place among- the sufferers 2 ).
Many names owe their origin to a misunderstanding- due
to a clerical error, to an interpolation, or otherwise 8 ), where
names of cities and places, of heathen heroes, were trans-
formed into names of Christian martyrs 4 ).

In view of these facts, how was it possible for such a
prolific literature to spring up in all languages of Christen-
dom, containing, such detailed accounts of the lives of the
saints? Achelis answers this question in his excellent treatise
on the history of the martyrologies, when he says: "Betrieb-
same Kleriker hatten Romane ersonnen, in denen die be-
kannten Namen in antiker Staffage fungieren als Virtuosen
der Tugenden, auf die die Kirche des Mittelalters am
meisten Wert legte 5 )."

It would, however, be a mistake to presume that these
romantic tales were expanded to their present extent with-
in a short period of time. Lucius, in his scholarly work
on the origin of saint worship in the Christian church,
compares the development of the legends of the saints to
the development of the heroic legends. The heroic legend
flourishes best in times of peace after great conflicts, when
primitive peoples settle down to the forming of a nation.
The national idea is nourished by the contemplation of
the deeds of the past, and these easily become the object
of popular thought and comment. Certain specific heroes
become the centre around which all gravitate. Their
exploits form the theme for the comments of the masses.
Kindred elements are constantly being added, and through
the combination and intermingling of all the different ele-

*) Lucius, Anfange des Heiligenkults, p. 104.

2 ) Id., -p. 139.

s ) Achelis, Die Martyrol., p. 244.

4 ) Giinter, Legenden-Studien, p. 70.

5 ) Die Martyrol., p. 4.

A Chapter I.

ments a chaotic whole is produced, which is finally reduced
to order and a fixed form by the professional singer 1 ).

In very much the same way did the legends of the
saints develop. The age of the great persecutions was the
period of conflict. Under Constantine that period came to
an end. The church had apparently subdued heathendom,
and this victory was especially attributed to those who had
laid down their lives for their faith. In the age of peace
which followed that of conflict, the names of the brave
men and women who had especially distinguished them-
selves became known wherever the church had succeeded
in planting its standard. Their fortitude, defense of the
faith, and triumphant death, were told and retold by
thousands. Popular elements of a kindred nature, colored
more or less by the fancy of the narrator, were constantly being
added, until a skilled writer, selecting the more prominent
and important features, reduced the whole mass to a fixed form.

The custom, once introduced, spread with marvellous
energy and rapidity. Every church desired the honor of
having had its heroes. The number of recorded sufferers
was however limited. A dearth of names arose, and it
was in order to supply this want that methods like those
referred to above were employed. A storehouse having
thus been found, offering an unlimited supply, the number
of martyrs increased by hundreds and thousands. These
new names were also provided with a legend by being
fitted into a general frame-work which by this time had
become fixed in the history of martyrdom 2 ).

In this manner the authentic facts, handed down to
posterity by the church of the persecutions, were distorted
and to such an extent rendered unrecognizable that truth
and fiction can never be fully separated, where the origi-
nal sources are wanting to guide the investigator.

Lucius, Anfange des Heiligenkults, pp. 84 85.

Id., p. 8 1. Cf. also Giinter, Legenden-Studien, p. 90.

Introduction: Origins of the Saints' Lives in general. c

This fact is in our time well established by numerous
investigations. But it is even plausible that the legends
were not taken to be gospel truth in the age in which
they were produced, but rather a form of literature written
for entertainment 1 ). If nuns and aspiring clerics were
assigned the task of writing, or of recasting, certain saints'
lives as a test in prose or metrical composition, it would
seem to indicate that the question of form was of greater
importance than the presentation of historical facts 2 ).

It now remains to refer briefly to the time when the
legends were written. This is a question which can be
answered only in a general way. It would in most cases
be futile to attempt to date an individual life. New saints
have been created throughout the entire Middle Ages
and are still being created. But is it not possible to fix a
date before which the legends cannot have been written?
One of the most prominent features of practically all leg-
ends is the element of the miraculous. Now, Giinter 3 )
claims that this element in the legends does not g - o back
beyond the fifth century. Lucius 4 ) is more conservative in
his opinion of this matter, saying that the miraculous ele-
ment is sporadic in the early legends, but so much the
more frequent in the post-Constantine age. If we strike
a medium between these two views, we may safely say
that the material of miracles was in full swing by the
middle of the fourth century. Hence, from that time on
is the era of the saints' legends.

With this brief general sketch of the origin and devel-
opment of the saints' legends, we will close the present
chapter and pass on to discuss the legend of St. Dorothea.

a ) Giinter, Legenden-Studien, p. 77.

2 ) Ibid.

3 ) Legenden-Studien, p. 64.

4 ) Anfange des Heiligenkults, p. 78.

Chapter II.

Chapter the Second.

Origins of the Dorothea Legend.

The earliest record extant of Dorothea is
that found in the so-called Martyrologium Hieronymianum (MH),
published by De Rossi and Duchesne in the Acta Sanctorum
(AS), Nov. II. This martyrology is a compilation made
by an occidental cleric about the third decade of the sixth
century, containing" a collection of the names of the oriental
saints, found in the then available calendars, combined with
the more or less complete lists of the Occident 1 ). The
known sources of the MH are the following- three calendars:
Depositio Martyrum of Rome from the year 354 2 ); Martyrium
Syriacum, finished at Edessa in 41 1 8 ); and Kalendanum
Carihaginiense, completed the early part of the sixth century 4 ).
Besides these sources numerous others must have been
made use of, for the MH contains a large number of
names not found in any of the three old calendars.

This first record of Dorothea contains only three facts
stated as briefly as possible, viz., the day of suffering, the
place of suffering, and her name and that of her fellow
martyr Theophilus. In the Codex Bemensis, one of the
manuscript-copies of the MH published in the second
November volume of AS, as stated above, the record
appears in this form: "VIII ID. Feb. In Achaia. Scae
Dorotheae Ethiofili Scolastici." The place of suffering
is according to this manuscript "Achaia". Codex Wissen-
burgensis assigns the place of suffering to "Cesaria Cappa-
dociae". The other manuscript-copies of the MH do not

J ) Lucius, Anfange, p. 181.

*) Achelis, Die Martyrol., p. 6.

3 ) Id., p. 30.

4 ) Id., p. 23.

Origins of the Dorothea Legend. y

g-ive any definite place of suffering, stating- simply "alibi".
There is, therefore, no uniformity in regard, to this point.
A disagreement is also observable in reference to the day
of suffering: the sixth and the twelfth of February being
given as the day on which Dorothea and Theophilus were
executed. The first reference to the Dorothea legend does
not, therefore, appear to possess any particularly high
historical value, the record being late and indefinite; but
it furnishes, nevertheless, a clue to the existence of acts of
some kind, dealing with this life, at the time when this
reference was incorporated into the MH.

When and where did these acts originate?
This is a problem which is as difficult so solve with ab-
solute certainty as it would be interesting to know its
solution. An approximate solution is all that can be
attempted in this case as well as in most cases of this
kind, where no historic basis is extant, offering a nucleus
to lead out from. The brief record of the MH is, however,
as already remarked, of considerable importance in arriving
at a conclusion in regard to the approximate time when
the legend was written, for this record supplies, in the
first place, the date ante quern. The date when this first
martyrology of universal character was produced has been
ascertained and found to be, as stated above, about the
third decade of the sixth century. Additions continued to
be made, however, for about another century, when the
original MS. of the MH was produced, the basis of the
manuscript-copies of the martyrologj'- which are still
extant 1 ). Now, as the record of Dorothea and Theophilus
is' found in practically all these manuscript-copies of the
MH, it is reasonable to assume that the same record was
also found in the original MS., produced about 630. The
acts of Dorothea must, therefore, have been
known by this time.

Achelis, Die Martyrol., p. 204.

8 Chapter II.

Even in determining- the time post quern, the
record in the MH is of some importance. From the record
quoted above from the Codex Bernensis it will be seen that
the grammatical form of the names is the genitive. The
.same case is employed in the other manuscripts. This is
a test which Achelis applies to determine, whether a name
goes back to the older Martyrium Syriacum, or originates in
the MH: the former records all names in the nominative,,
the latter, in the genitive case 1 ). As the date of the
Martyrium Syriacum is known (4ii) 2 ), we can already form
some idea of the earliest date of the Dorothea legend.
This evidence alone is, however, not sufficient to base a
conclusion on, for, although the legend was unknown to
the oriental martyrology, the record in the MH may,,
nevertheless, be based on other sources that are as old
as the Martyrium Syriacum or even older. Further evidences
are, therefore, necessary before a conclusion can be
arrived at. The complete versions of the legend must be
examined, to see whether they offer any direct or indirect
evidence as to the date after which this life may have

Turning to the AS 3 ), which contain not only one version,
in full, but also several others in abbreviated form, and
considerable information in regard to parallels and diver-
gences, and so forth, of various versions of the legend,.
we find that an attempt has been made by different mar-
tyrologists to place the martyrdom of Dorothea and her
companions under Diocletian. Five different dates are
proposed, ranging- from 287 to 304. Upon closer examination
it appears, however, that these dates possess no historic
value, for they are all of late origin and must be considered
an attempt on the part of* these devoted martyrologists
to place the legend on a historic basis. Instead of furnishing

J ) Die Martyrol., p. 190.

) Cf. p. 6.

s ) Feb. Tom. I., 771776.

Origins of the Dorothea Legend. n,

evidence for an early origin of the legend, these attempts
are rather an indirect testimony of the fact that its origin
belongs to a later date.

Further evidence of the same kind is the fact to which
the Bollandists point in the preliminary remarks of the
life, viz., that the names of Dorothea and her fellow-sufferers
are not found in the Greek menologies 1 ). Tillemont says
in regard to the same circumstance, that it is strange that
Dorothea and her companions, having suffered in Cappadocia,
do not appear to be known to the Greeks, nor have ever
been known to them, although they are celebrated by
the Latin martyrologies 2 ). Herzogs ,,Realenz3^klopadie fiir
protestantische Theologie und Kirche", IV., 808, concludes
from this fact that the life of Dorothea is merely a legendary
invention. This circumstance is also of some value in
determining the age of the legend, as legends containing
miraculous elements are scarcely known before the middle
of the fourth century or even later.

But so far we have no clue to a definite date before
which the legend did probably not originate. Tillemont
directs attention to evidence contained in a certain phrase
of the legend itself, viz., ,,Filius unitatem divinitatis obtinens
cum Patre suo et Spiritu sancto" B ), stating that this expression
is not common before the second ecumenical council (38 1) 4 ).
The chief value of this evidence is, that it offers a
definite date before which the leg-end is not likely to have

Briefly recapitulating the evidences pointing to a date
after which the legend must have originated, we have the
following facts:

*) AS, Feb. Tom. I., 772. ,,quorum nomina minim est nusqaum ia
Graecorum menelogio et meneis extare."

2 ) Tillemont, Memoires pour servir a 1'Histoire ecclesiastique des six
premiers siecles. V., 783.

3 ) AS, Feb. Tom. I., 774.

4 ) Hist. Ecclesiastique, V., 782.

JO Chapter II.

1. The grammatical form of the names, a proof
against its being" known to the Martyrium Syriacum.

2. Attempt to place leg-end on historic basis, indirect
evidence of its being- of later origin.

3. Leg-end unknown to Greeks, further evidence of its
being- of later origin.

4. Tillemont's evidence placing legend after 381.
The sum total of these evidences is that the legend

did not probably originate before the last quarter of the
fourth century, in fact, evidences i and 4 point to a later
date than that. It seems, therefore, quite safe to assume,
for the sake of definiteness, that the legend did not
-exist before 381. We have thus established with reason-
able certainty the time within which the legend must
have originated, between 381 and 630. This conclusion is
furthermore strengthened by the fact that this was the
golden age of the saints' legends, the period when
scores and hundreds of names were added to the list of

It now remains to speak briefly of where the legend
originated. In considering the time when it originated,
we have also brought out incidentally some evidence for
the place where it originated. The grammatical test ap-
plied by Achelis to the names in the MH points to the fact
that the legend was not recorded in the Martyrium Syriacum.
It is furthermore apparent that the legend was absolutely
unknown to eastern Christendom, as the Greeks have left
no record of it. The legend must, therefore, have origi-
nated in the West and not in the East. The custom of
introducing foreign martyrs into the different churches of
western Christendom was especially very common after
the end of the fourth century 1 ), and it is most probable
that Dorothea belongs to this class. Just what the im-
mediate impulse was that gave rise to this legend and

') Lucius, Anfange des Heiligenkults, p. 174.

Origins of the Dorothea Legend. j

why the scene of action was laid in Caesarea in Cappa-
docia, are questions which cannot be answered. The ex-
treme activity then prevailing 1 in everything" pertaining" to
the martyrs, the rapid increase in names of sufferers, the
digging for their sacred bones, the enormous trade in rel-
ics, and so forth, might suggest many probable solutions
to these and similar questions, but not prove conclusively
the truth. It would, therefore, be purposeless to attempt
to solve these matters. All that can be known with
any degree of certainty is the approximate time when
the leg-end originated and in a general way the place

What was the probable source of the brief
record found in the MH? In the conclusions already
drawn the answer to this question has practically been
given. We have established the time within which the
legend must have originated and the place where, and
found the former to be between 381 and 630, the latter,
somewhere in the West. Within a period of about two
hundred and fifty years the legend of Dorothea and her
fellow-sufferers would have ample time to originate and
develop into a fixed form. Such acts must have existed
and been known at the time when the record was made
in the MH and these acts must have been the immediate
source of said record. This solution is also in harmony
with Achelis's opinion, if I understand him rightly, when
,he says, in referring to the record found in the MH of
Dorothea and Theophilus, that said record takes into account
the acts of Dorothea and her companions which the
Bollandists made known *). Whether the acts then extant
were as complete as the version published by Surius and
the Bollandists cannot be ascertained. Judging from the
accounts given by the different martyrologies succeeding

*) Die Martyrol., p. 124.

j 2 Chapter III.

the MH, one would conclude that the leg-end had assumed:
definite form by the time the reference to it was incorporated
in the MH, the details may, however, have grown after
that time.

Chapter the Third.

The Latin Versions of the Legend.

i. Introductory.

In the previous chapter the earliest known record of
the Dorothea legend has been pointed out and evidences?
have been brought forth, showing when and where the
legend originated. In this chapter we shall examine the
records of the legend found in the Latin martyrologies
succeeding the MH up to the time when the complete
versions of the life appear. The main object of this exam-
ination will be to ascertain whether the different extracts
and full versions of the life all belong to one or more
general types, in order to facilitate the investigations of
the two following chapters. The records are, as far as.
possible, arranged in chronological order.

2. The Older Version.

Towards the end of the seventh century Aldhelm
wrote his work entitled De Laudibus Virginitatis, a part of
which is devoted to the martyrs. This is the earliest source
of any somewhat extended account of Dorothea and her
companions. His statements contain the following facts 1 ).
Caesarea in Cappadocia is the birthplace of Dorothea.
Sapricius, the persecutor, filled with rage, because he can-
not persuade her to accept a husband, nor to offer sacri-
fice to the gods, has her tortured on the rack, beaten with
the palms of the hands, and burnt with flaming torches.

J ) AS, Feb. Tom. I., 772. Giles' edition of Aldhelm, chap. 47, p. 61.

The Latin Versions of the Legend. I -i

He turns her over to two women, shipwrecked in faith,
that they may induce her to surrender her faith. She,
however, reconverts them and they suffer a martyr's death.
When she is led forth to the place of execution, Theo-
philus, with coarse, ironic laughter, asks her to send him
from her heavenly bridegroom a gift of fruits. Before she
is beheaded, Theophilus actually receives three apples and
a like number of purple roses. He is converted and
crowned with martyrdom.

This account agrees with the AS, excepting the order
of incidents. In the AS-version, the beating and the tor-

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Online LibraryJoseph Martin PetersonThe Dorothea legend : its earliest records, Middle English versions, and influence on Massinger's Virgin martyr → online text (page 1 of 9)