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The Plays of Roswitha: Gallicanus


THE conversion of Gallicanus, Commander-in-Chief. On the eve of his departure for a campaign against the Scythians, Gallicanus is betrothed to the Emperor Constantine's daughter, Constance, a consecrated virgin.

When threatened with defeat in battle, Gallicanus is converted by John and Paul, Grand Almoners to Constance. He is immediately baptized and takes a vow of celibacy. Later he is exiled by order of Julian the Apostate, and receives the crown of martyrdom. John and Paul are put to death by the same prince and buried secretly in their own house. Not long after, the son of their executioner becomes possessed by a devil. He is cured after confessing the crime committed by his father. He bears witness to the merits of the martyrs, and is baptized, together with his father.


  • CONSTANCE (Daughter of Constantine).
  • ARTEMIA, ATTICA } (Daughters of Gallicanus).
  • JOHN and PAUL } (Grand Almoners to Constance).
  • BRADAN (King of thc Scythiam).
  • HELENA (Mother of Constantine).


  • JULIAN (The Apostate).
  • JOHN.
  • PAUL.



CONSTANTINE. Gallicanus, this tries my patience. You have delayed the offensive against the Scythians too long. The only nation which boldly resists our power and refuses to make peace with Rome! You know well enough that you were chosen because of your energy in your country's service.

GALLICANUS. Most noble Constantine, I have served you hand and foot, ungrudgingly, devotedly, and have always striven to repay your trust in me with deeds. I have never shirked any task.

CONSTANTINE. Is there any need to remind me? As if your great services were not always in mind! I spoke, not to reproach you, but to urge you to act.

GALLICANUS. I will set out at once.

CONSTANTINE. I am rejoiced to hear it.

GALLICANUS. I am ready to obey your orders if it costs me my life.

CONSTANTINE. Your zeal pleases me. I appreciate your devotion.

GALLICANUS. As both are immense should they not be rewarded on the same scale?

CONSTANTINE. That is only fair.

GALLICANUS. It is easier for a man to undertake a difficult enterprise when he is sustained by the knowledge that his reward is sure.


GALLICANUS. I beg you then to promise me now my prize for this dangerous undertaking. In hard and strenuous fighting, when it seems as if I must be defeated, the thought of this reward will give me new strength.

CONSTANTINE. The reward deemed by the Senate the most glorious a man can desire has never been withheld from you, and never shall be. You enjoy the freedom of my court, and the highest honour among those who surround me.

GALLICANUS. I know, but I am not thinking of that.

CONSTANTINE. If you have other ambitions, you must tell me.


CONSTANTINE. What are they?

GALLICANUS. Dare I tell you?


GALLICANUS. You will be angry.

CONSTANTINE. Not at all!

GALLICANUS. You are sure?

CONSTANTINE. Quite sure.

GALLICANUS. We shall see. I say you will be indignant.

CONSTANTINE. Your fears are groundless. Come! Speak!

GALLICANUS. Since you command me, I will. I love Constance. I love your daughter.

CONSTANTINE. That is well. You do right to love the daughter of your sovereign. Your love honours her.

GALLICANUS. You say this to cut me short.


GALLICANUS. I wish to marry her. Will you give your consent?

CONSTANTINE. He asks no small thing, my lords. This is an honour of which none of you have ever dreamed.

GALLICANUS. Alas! I foresaw this. He scorns me. (To the Lords) Intercede for me, I implore you.

THE LORDS. Most illustrious Emperor, we beg you to be generous. Remember his services, and do not turn a deaf ear to his request.

CONSTANTINE. I have not done so, but it is my duty first to make sure that my daughter consents.

THE LORDS. That is only reasonable.

CONSTANTINE. I will go to her, and, if such is your wish, Gallicanus, I will lay the project before her.

GALLICANUS. It is my wish.


CONSTANCE. Our Lord the Emperor approaches. He looks strangely grave and sad. What can it mean?

CONSTANT1NE. Constance, my child, come nearer. I wish to speak to you.

CONSTANCE. I am here, my lord. Command me.

CONSTANTINE. I am in great distress of mind. My heart is heavy.

CONSTANCE. As you came in I saw that you were sad, and without knowing the reason I was troubled.

CONSTANTINE. It is on your account.

CONSTANCE. On my account?


CONSTANCE. You frighten me. What is it, my lord?

CONSTANTINE. The fear of grieving you ties my tongue.

CONSTANCE. You will grieve me more by keeping silence.

CONSTANTINE. Gallicanus, my General, whose victories have won him the first place among the princes of my realm -- Gallicanus, whose sword is necessary for the defence of the Empire -- Gallicanus --

CONSTANCE. What of him?

CONSTANTINE. He wants to make you his wife.



CONSTANCE. I would rather die.

CONSTANTINE. I knew that would be your answer.

CONSTANCE. It cannot surprise you, as it was with your consent and approval that I consecrated myself to God.

CONSTANTINE. I have not forgotten.

CONSTANCE. I will keep my vow inviolate. Nothing can ever force me to break it.

CONSTANTINE. I know you are right, and the greater my difficulty. For if, as is my duty as your father, I permit you to be faithful to your vow, as a sovereign I shall suffer for it. Yet were I to oppose your resolution -- which God forbid! -- I should deserve eternal punishment.

CONSTANCE. If I despaired of divine help I should be more wretched than you.

CONSTANTINE. That is true.

CONSTANCE. But a heart which trusts in God's goodness is armed against sorrow.

CONSTANTINE. You speak well, my Constance.

CONSTANCE. My lord, if you will deign to listen to my advice, I can show you how to escape this double danger.

CONSTANTINE. Oh, that you could !

CONSTANCE. You must pretend that you are willing to grant Gallicanus what he asks when the war has been won. Make him believe that I agree. Persuade him to leave with me during his absence at the war his two daughters, Attica and Artemia, as pledges of the bond of love which is to unite us. Tell him that in return I will send with him on his expetition my two Almoners, John and Paul.

CONSTANTINE. And if he should return victorious? What then?

CONSTANCE. We must pray the Father of us all that he will change his mind.

CONSTANTINE. My daughter, my daughter! Your sweet words have softened the harshness of your father's grief! Henceforth I will not give way to anxiety.

CONSTANCE. There is no need.

CONSTANTINE. I will return to Gallicanus and satisfy him with this promise.

CONSTANCE. Go in peace, my lord.


GALLICANUS. O princes, I die of impatience to learn what has come of this long conference between our august sovereign and his daughter.

THE LORDS. He promised to plead your cause.

GALLICANUS. Oh, that his arguments may prevail!

THE LORDS. Maybe they will.

GALLICANUS. Peace! Silence all of you! The Emperor comes. His face is not anxious as when he left us, but serene and glad.

THE LORDS. A good omen!

GALLICANUS. It is said that the face is the mirror of the soul. If this be true, the calm joy in his reflects a kindly mood.

THE -LORDS. We trust so.


CONSTANTINE. Gallicanus!

GALLICANUS. What did he say?

HE LORDS. Forward, forward. He is asking for you

GALLICANUS. Now the good gods help me!

CONSTANTINE. Gallicanus, set out for the war with an easy mind. On your return you shall receive the reward you covet.

GALLICANUS. This is not a jest?

CONSTANTINE. How can you ask?

GALLICANUS. I should be happy indeed if I could know one thing.

CONSTANTINE. What may that be?

GALLICANUS. Her answer.

CONSTANTINE. My daughter's answer?

GALICANUS. Yes. What did she say?

CONSTANTINE. It is unreasonable to expect a young maid to answer in so many words. Events will prove that she consents.

GALLICANUS. If I could be assured of that, I should trouble little about the manner of her answer.

CONSTANTINE. You want proof?

GALLICANUS. I hunger for it.

CONSTANTINE. Then listen. She has given orders that her Almoners, John and Paul, shall stay with you until the day of your nuptials.

GALLICANUS. And her reason?

CONSTANTINE. That by constant intercourse with them you may learn to know how she lives -- her habits and her tastes.

GALLICANUS. An excellent plan, and one that pleases me beyond measure.

CONSTANTINE. She would like you in return to allow your two young daughters to live with her for the same period. She thinks she can learn from them how to please you.

GALLICANUS. Oh, joy, joy! All things are falling out as I wished.

CONSTANTINE. Send for your daughters without delay.

GALLICANUS. Are my soldiers still there? Come, fellows, hasten! Run to my daughters and bring them to their sovereign's presence.


SOLDIERS. Most noble Constance, the illustrious daughters of Gallicanus are here. They are beautiful, wise and virtuous, and in every way worthy of your friendship.

CONSTANCE. They are welcome. (They are introduced with ceremony.) * O Christ, lover of virginity and fount of chastity! Thou Who through the intercession of Thy holy martyr Agnes hast preserved my body from stain and my mind from pagan errors! Thou Who hast shown me as an example Thy Mother's virgin bed where Thou didst manifest Thyself true God! Thou Who before time began wast born of God the Father, and in the fullness of time wast born again true man, of a mother's womb-I implore Thee, true Wisdom, co-eternal with the Father, the Creator, Upholder and Governor of the Universe, to grant my prayer! May Gallicanus, who seeks to gain the love which I can give only to Thee, be turned from his unlawful purpose. Take his daughters to Thyself, and pour the sweetness of Thy love into their hearts that they may despise all carnal bonds, and be admitted to the blessed company of virgins who are consecrated to Thee!

ARTEMIA. Hail, most noble Constance! Imperial highness, hail!

CONSTANCE. Greeting, my sisters, Artemia and Attica. Stand up, stand up! No, do not kneel. Salute me rather with a loving kiss.

ARTEMIA. We come joyfully to offer you our homage, lady. We are ready to serve you with our whole hearts, and we seek no reuard but your love.

CONSTANCE. We have one Lord Who is in heaven. He alone should be served like that. We owe Him a love and fidelity which must be shown not only with whole hearts but with whole bodies. That is if we would enter His kingdom with the virgin's palm.

ARTEMIA. We do not question this. You will find us eager to obey you in all things, but never so eager as when you exhort us to confess our faith and keep our vow of purity.

CONSTANCE. That is a good answer, and one worthy of a noble mind. I see that through divine grace you already have the faith.

ARTEMIA. How could we poor idolators have any good thought if light had not been given us from above?

CONSTANCE. The strength of your faith makes me hope that Gallicanus too will believe some day.

ARTEMIA. He has only to be taught. Then he must believe.

CONSTANCE. Send for John and Paul.


JOHN. You sent for us, Highness. We are here.

CONSTANCE. Go at once to Gallicanus and attach yourselves to his person. Instruct him little by little in the mysteries of our faith. Perhaps God means to make us the instruments of winning him to His service.

PAUL. God give us success! We shall do all we can.


GALLICANUS. You are welcome, John-and you, Paul. I have awaited your coming with impatience.

JOHN. As soon as we received our lady's commands we hastened at once to put ourselves at your service.

GALLICANUS. Your offer to serve me gives me a pleasure that nothing else could give.

PAUL. That is natural, for, as the saying goes "The friends of our friends are our friends."

GALLICANUS. A true saying.

JOHN. The love our lady bears you assures us of your goodwill.

GALLICANUS. You can rely on it. Come, tribunes and centurions, assemble the troops. Soldiers in my command, I present to you John and Paul, for whose arrival our departure has been delayed.

TRIBUNES. Lead us on. (The tribunes gathcr round Gallicanus) **

GALLICANUS. We must first go to the Capitol, and visit the temples to propitiate the gods with the customary sacrifices. That is the way to obtain success for our arms.

TRIBUNES. That is certain.

JOHN. Let us withdraw for a time.

PAUL. We cannot do otherwise.


JOHN. The General is leaving the temple. Let us mount our horses and ride to meet him.

PAUL. This moment.

GALLICANUS. I noticed you were not with us. Where have you been?

JOHN. We were seeing to our baggage. We have sent it on ahead that we may ride with you unencumbered.

GALLICANUS. Well planned!


GALLICANUS. By Jupiter, tribunes, I see the legions of an immense army advancing! The diversity of their arms is enough to make the stoutest heart tremble.

TRIBUNES. By Hercules, the enemy!

GALLICANUS. Let us resist with courage, and show them we are men!

TRIBUNES. It is useless to attempt resistance to such a host.

GALLICANUS. What, then, do you propose?

TRIBUNES. Surrender.

GALLICANUS. Apollo forbid!

TRIBUNES. By Pollur, we must surrender! See, we are surrounded on every side -- we are being mown down -- we perish!

GALLICANUS. Ye gods! What will happen if the tribunes refuse to obey me, and surrender?

JOHN. Promise you will become a Christian, and you will conquer.

GALLICANUS. I swear! And I will keep my vow.

ONE OF THE ENEMY. Woe to us, King Bradan! Fortune, who but now promised us victory, was mocking us. Our men are weakening, their strength is exhausted -- they have lost heart and are giving up the struggle.

BRADAN. I am uncertain what to do. A strange faint-heartedness has seized me also. There is but one course -- we must surrender.

HE ENEMY. There is nothing else to do.

BRADAN. Gallicanus, do not destroy us! Be merciful! Spare our lives and do with us what you will.

GALLICANUS. Have no fear. There is no need to tremble. Give me hostages, acknowledge yourselves tributaries of the Emperor, and you shall live happy under a Roman peace.

BRADAN. You have only to name the number and rank of the hostages, and the tribute to be exacted.

GALLICANUS. Soldiers, lay down arms. Slay no one, wound no one, but embrace as friends these men whom you had to fight as enemies of the Empire.

JOHN. How much more powerful is one fervent prayer than all the pride of man!

GALLICANUS. That is true indeed.

PAUL. What mighty succour God in His mercy sends to those who humbly trust in Him!

GALLICANUS. I have had good proof of it.

JOHN. But the promise made when the storm was raging must be kept now it is calm.

GALLICANUS. I agree. It is my wish to be baptized as soon as possible, and to devote the rest of my life to the service of God.

PAUL. You are right.


GALLICANUS. Look! That vast crowd of citizens has gathered to see our entry into Rome! See how they flock to acclaim us, bearing according to custom the symbols of victory!

JOHN. It is only natural.

GALLICANUS. Yet the glorious victory was not won by my valour nor by the help of their gods.

JOHN. No, assuredly; the glory belongs to the one true God.

GALLICANUS. That being so, we must pass the temples without going in.

JOHN. A wise decision.

GALLICANUS. And instead make a humble confession of faith in the Church of the Apostles.

PAUL. O happy man! And most happy thought! In this you show yourself a true Christian.


CONSTANTINE. I am greatly astonished, soldiers, that Gallicanus should be so long in presenting himself before his sovereign.

SOLDIERS. The moment he arrived in Rome he went to the Church of Saint Peter, and, prostrating himself on the ground, gave thanks to the Almighty for giving him the victory.

CONSTANTINE. Gallicanus?

SOLDIERS. It is true.

CONSTANTINE. Impossible!

SOLDIERS. Here he comes. You can ask him yourself.


CONSTANTINE. Welcome, Gallicanus! I have awaited your arrival with impatience. I long to hear from your own lips how the battle went and how it ended.

GALLICANUS. I will tell you the whole story.

CONSTANTINE. Wait a moment, for even the battle is of small importance compared with the one thing which I want most to hear.

GALLICANUS. What may that be?

CONSTANTINE. On your departure for the war you visited the temple of the gods; on your return you went to the Church of the Apostles. Why?

GALLICANUS. You ask that?

CONSTANTINE. Have I not told you, man, that I wish to know above all things!

GALLICANUS. I will explain.

CONSTANTINE. Proceed, I beg you.

GALLICANUS. Most Sacred Emperor, I confess I visited the temples on my departure, as you have said, and humbly sought the help of gods and demons.

CONSTANTINE. According to the old Roman custom.

GALLICANUS. To my thinking, a bad custom.

CONSTANTINE. I am of the same mind.

GALLICANUS. Then the tribunes arrived with their legions and we began our march.

CONSTANTINE. You set out from Rome with great pomp.

GALLICANUS. We pushed on, met the enemy, engaged them, and were defeated.

CONSTANTINE. Romans defeated!


CONSTANTINE. When was such a disaster ever known in our history!

GALLICANUS. Once again I offered those hideous sacrifices, but what god came to my help? The fury of the enemy redoubled, and great numbers of my men were slain.

CONSTANTINE. I am amazed.

GALLICANUS. It was then that the tribunes, disregarding my orders, began to surrender.

CONSTANTINE. To the enemy?

GALLICANUS. To the enemy.

CONSTANTINE. And what did you do?

GALLICANUS. What could I do but take to flight?

CONSTANTINE. Impossible!

GALLICANUS. It is true.

CONSTANTINE. What anguish for a man of your courage!

GALLICANUS. The sharpest.

CONSTANTINE. And how did you escape?

GALLICANUS. My faithful companions, John and Paul, advised me to make a vow to the Creator.

CONSTANTINE. Good advice.

GALLICANUS. I found it so. Hardly had I opened my lips to make the vow than I received help from heaven.


GALLICANUS. A young man of immense stature appeared before me carrying a cross on his shoulder. He bade me follow him sword in hand.

CONSTANTINE. This young man, whoever he was, was sent from heaven.

GALLICANUS. So it proved. At the same moment I saw at my side some soldiers whose faces were strange to me. They promised me their help.

CONSTANTINE. The host of Heaven!

GALLICANUS. I am sure of it. Following in the steps of my guide, I advanced fearlessly into the midst of the enemy until I came face to face with their King, by name Bradan. Suddenly overcome by the strangest terror he threw himself at my feet, surrendered with his whole army, and promised to pay tribute in perpetuity to the ruler of the Roman world.

CONSTANTINE. Now praise be to Him Who gave us this victory. Those who put their trust in Him will never be confounded.

GALLICANUS. My experience witnesses to it.

CONSTANTINE. And now I should like to know what became of the treacherous tribunes?

GALLICANUS. They hastened to implore my forgiveness.

CONSTANTINE. And you showed them mercy?

GALLICANUS. I show mercy to men who had abandoned me in the hour of peril and surrendered to theenemy against my orders! No, assuredly!

CONSTANTINE. What did you do?

GALLICANUS. I offered to pardon them on one condition.

CONSTANTINE. What condition?

GALLICANUS. I told them that those who consented to become Christians would be allowed to retain their rank, and might even receive fresh honours, but that those who refused would not be pardoned, and would be degraded.

CONSTANTINE. A fair proposition, and honourable to the leader who made it.

GALLICANUS. For my own part, purified in the waters of baptism, I have surrendered myself completely to the will of God. I am ready to renounce even your daughter, whom I love more than anything in the world. I wish to abstain from marriage that I may devote myself wholly to the service of the Virgin's Son.

CONSTANTINE. Come near, nearer yet, and let me fold you in my arms! Now, Gallicanus, the time has come for me to tell you what up to now I have been obliged to keep secret.

GALLICANUS. What is it?

CONSTANTINE. My daughter, and your own two also, have chosen the same holy path which you yourself wish to follow.

GALLICANUS. I rejoice to hear it.

CONSTANTINE. Their desire to keep their vow of virginity is so ardent that neither entreaties nor threats can alter their resolution.

GALLICANUS. God help them to persevere!

CONSTANTINE. Come, let us go to their apartments.

GALLICANUS. Lead on. I will follow.

CONSTANTINE. They are coming here. Look, they hasten to greet us, and my glorious mother, noble Helena, is with them. They all weep for joy.


GALLICANUS. Be at peace, most holy virgins. Persevere in the fear of God, and preserve untouched the treasure of your virginity. Then you will be worthy of the embraces of the eternal King.

CONSTANCE. We shall keep our vows with more joy now we know that you are on our side.

GALLICANUS. Have no fear that I shall put any obstacle in your way. Far from it! I consent gladly, and desire nothing better than to see you fulfil your vow, my Constance, you, for whom I was eager to risk life itself.

CONSTANCE. I see the hand of the Most High in this change in you.

GALLICANUS. If I had not changed, and for the better, I could never have consented to renounce you.

CONSTANCE. The Lover of virginal purity and the Author of all good resolutions made you renounce me because He had already claimed me for His own. May He Who has separated us in the body on earth unite us in the joys of eternity.

GALLICANUS. So be it! So be it!

vCONSTANTINE. And now, since we are united in the bond of Christ's love, you shall live with us in our palace, and be treated with as much honour as though you were our own son.

GALLICANUS. What temptation is to be feared more than the lust of the eyes?

CONSTANTINE. None, I know.

GALLICANUS. Then is it right that I should see her too often? As you know, I love her more than my own kin, more than my life, more than my soul!

CONSTANTINE. You must do what you think best.

GALLICANUS. Thanks to our Lord Christ and to my labours, your army was never so strong as now. Give me leave, then, to transfer my service to that Emperor through Whose power I have returned victorious, and to Whom I owe any success I have won in life.

CONSTANTINE. To Him be praise and glory. All creatures should serve Him.

GALLICANUS. Above all those whom He has generously helped in time of need.

CONSTANTINE. That is true.

GALLICANUS. I am giving to my daughters the portion of my property which is theirs by right. Another I am devoting to the support of pilgrims. With the remainder I propose to enrich my slaves --whom I have freed -- and to relieve the poor.

CONSTANTINE. You are disposing of your wealth wisely, and you will be rewarded.

GALLICANUS. As for me, I long to go to Ostia and become the disciple of the holy man, Hilarion. In his brotherhood I hope to spend the rest of my life praising God and helping the poor.

CONSTANTINE. May the Divine Being to Whom all things are possible bring your plans to a happy issue! May you always do the will of Him Who lives and reigns in the Unity of the Trinity, and at last attain eternal joy!



JULIAN. The cause of the unrat in our Empire is dear enough. These Christians enjoy too much liberty. Their claim that they obey laws made in the time of Constantine is false.

CONSULS. It would be a disgrace to tolerate it.

JULIAN. I do not intend to tolerate it.

CONSULS. Those words are worthy of you.

JULIAN. Soldiers, arm yourselves and strip the Christians of all they possess. Remind them of these words of their Christ:-- " He who does not renounce all that he possesses for my sake cannot be my disciple."

SOLDIERS. We will carry out your orders instantly.


CONSULS. The soldiers have returned.

JULIAN. Is all well?

SOLDIERS. Well indeed.

JULIAN. Why have you returned so soon?

SOLDIERS. We will tell you. We had planned to seize Gallicanus's castle and occupy it in your name. But no sooner did one of us set foot on the threshold than he was straightway stricken with leprosy or madness.

JULIAN. Return and force Gallicanus to quit the realm or sacrifice to the gods.


GALLICANUS. Do not waste your breath, fellows. Your advice is useless. I hold all that exists beneath the sun as nothing compared with eternal life. Banished for Christ's sake, I shall retire to Alexandria, where I hope to win the martyr's crown.


SOLDIERS. Gallicanus, exiled by your orders, fled to Alexandria. He was arrested in that city by the Governor, Ratianus, and has perished by the sword.

JULIAN. That is well.

SOLDIERS. But John and Paul still defy you.

JULIAN. What are they doing?

SOLDIERS. Travelling up and down the country giving away the fortune Constance left them.

JULIAN. Bring them before me.

SOLDIERS. They are here.


JULIAN. John and Paul, from the cradle you have been attached to the Emperor's household. You served my predecessor.

JOHN. That is so.

JULIAN. Then what could be more fitting than that you should serve me also in this palace where you were brought up?

PAUL. We will not serve you.

JULIAN. You refuse?

JOHN. We have said it.

JULIAN. Do you deny that I am Augustus?

PAUL. No, but we say you are Augustus with a difference.

JULIAN. How do I differ from my predecessor?

JOHN. In your religion and your virtue.

JULIAN. What do you mean?

PAUL. We mean that those most famous and glorious princes, Constantine, Constantius and Constance, whom we served, were very Christian rulers who were zealous in the service of God.

JULIAN. I know, but in this I do not choose to follow their example.

PAUL. You follow worse examples. They frequented the churches and, laying their diadems on the ground, adored Jesus Christ on their knees.

JULIAN. And you think that I should imitate them?

JOHN. You are not made of the same stuff.

PAUL. By doing homage to the Creator they elevated the Imperial dignity -- yes, they transfigured it with the splendour of their virtue and their holy lives. So they deserved the success which crowned their enterprises.

JULIAN. As I do.

JOHN. In a very different way, for the divine grace was with them.

JULIAN. Absurd! Once I too was fool enough to believe in these meaningless practices. I was a priest of your Church.

JOHN. Do you hear, Paul? How do you like this priest?

PAUL. Very well -- as the devil's chaplain.

JULIAN. But when I found that there was nothing to be gained from it, I turned to the worship of the true Roman gods, thanks to whom I have been raised to the highest pinnacle of power.

JOHN. You cut us short with this boast to avoid hearing the righteous praised.

JULIAN. What is it to me?

PAUL. Nothing; but we would add something which does concern you. When the world was no longer worthy of those princes, they were summoned to the choir of angels, and this unhappy realm fell under your power.

JULIAN. Why unhappy?

JOHN. Because of the character of its ruler.

PAUL. Have you not renounced the true religion and adopted the superstitions of idolatry? Because of this we have shunned you and your court.

JULIAN. You show yourselves greatly wanting in the respect due to me, yet I am ready to pardon your presumption and raise you to the highest office in my palace.

JOHN. You waste your breath, apostate! We shall yield neither to blandishments nor threats.

JULIAN. I will give you ten days' grace, in the hope that you will come to your senses and repent. If you do, you will regain our Imperial favour. If not, I shall do what I have to do. You shall not make a mock of me.

PAUL. What you have to do, do now, for you can never make us return either to your court, your service, or your gods.

JULIAN. You are dismissed. Leave me, but heed my warning.

JOHN. We willingly accept the respite you have granted us, but only that we may spend the time consecrating all our faculties to heaven, and commending ourselves to God in prayer and fasting.

PAUL. This is all we have to do now.


JULIAN. Go, Terentianus. Take with you a few trusted soldiers and compel John and Paul to sacrifice to Jupiter. If they persist in their refusal, let them be put to death, not publicly, but with the greatest possible secrecy, since they once held office in this palace.


TERENTIANUS. Paul and John, the Emperor Julian, my master, of his clemency sends you this gold statue of Jupiter, and commands you to burn incense before it. Refuse, and you will be put to death.

JOHN. Since Julian is your master, live at peace with him, and enjoy his favour. But we have no master except our Lord Jesus Christ, for Whose love we ardently desire to die that we may the more quickly taste the joys of eternity.

TERENTIANUS. Soldiers, why do you delay? Draw your swords and strike these traitors to the gods and to their Emperor. When they have breathed their last bury them secretly in this house and remove every trace of blood.

SOLDIERS. And if questions are asked, what are we to say?

TERENTIANUS. Say they have been banished.

JOHN. To Thee, O Christ, Who reigneth with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, we raise our voices in this dreadful hour! In death as in life we praise Thee.

PAUL. O Christ, receive our souls, which for Thy sake are being driven from this dwelling of clay!


TERENTIANUS. Christians, Christians, what ails my son?

CHRISTIANS. He grinds his teeth, foams at the mouth, and rolls his eyes like a madman. He is sure possessed by a devil.

TERENTIANUS. Woe to his father! Where was he stricken?

CHRISTIANS. Before the tomb of the martyrs John and Paul. He writhes on the ground, and cries out that they are the cause of his torments.

TERENTIANUS. Mine the fault! Mine the crime! It was at my command that the wretched boy laid his impious hands on those holy martyrs.

CHRISTIANS. Since you were the partner of his guilt, it is right that you should share his sufferings.

TERENTIANUS. I did but obey the wicked commands of my master, the Emperor Julian.

CHRISTIANS. He himself has been struck down by the divine wrath.

TERENTIANUS. I know, and am the more terrified. I see that no enemy of those servants of God can escape punishment.

CHRISTIANS. You are right there.

TERENTIANUS. What if in expiation of my crime I threw myself on my knees before the holy tombs?

CHRISTIANS. You would win pardon if you were first cleansed by baptism.


TERENTIANUS. Glorious witnesses of Christ, John and Paul, follow the example and commandment of your Master, and pray for your persecutors. Have compassion on the anguish of a father who fears to lose his child! Have pity on the sufferings of the son! Succour us both, and grant that, purified in the waters of baptism, we may persevere in the faith.

CHRISTIANS. Dry your tears, Terentianus. Here is balm for your anguish. Look! Your son has recovered his health and his reason through the intercession of the martyrs.

TERENTIANUS. Praise to the Eternal King Who covers His servants with such glory! Not only do their souls rejoice in heaven, but in thc depths of the sepulchre their lifeless bones work astounding miracles, testifying to their sanctity and to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ Who liveth and reigneth!


  • * Celtes prints this as part of the text; Magnin as a direction, on the ground that it is introducuntur, not introducautur in the MS.
  • **Another "stage direction" omitted by Celtes.


Hrotsvitha, ca. 935-ca. 975. The Plays of Roswitha. Translated by Christopher St. John, with an introduction by Cardinal Gasquet and a critical preface by the translator.(London, Chatto & Windus, 1923)

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