Title page for ETD etd-04162009-202352

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Reed, Matthew Ryan
URN etd-04162009-202352
Title Sulpicius Severus and Martin of Tours: Defending a Mentor, Securing a Saint
Degree Master of Arts (M.A.)
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Maribel Dietz Committee Chair
Elisabeth L. Oliver Committee Member
Steve Ross Committee Member
  • Saints Lives
  • Hermits
  • Sulpicius Severus
  • Hagiography
  • Sainthood
  • Gaul
  • Martin of Tours
Date of Defense 2009-03-13
Availability unrestricted
Martin of Tours has become one of the most famous saints of Western Christendom, yet his life was shrouded in controversy. Martinís initial fame in Aquitaine came from the circulation of Sulpicius Severusí writings in the early fifth century. A pupil of the holy man and lawyer from Aquitaine, Severus used his pen to protect Martinís sanctity from attacks by critics such as Ithacius and other members of the clergy. This thesis will use the three works of Severus, the Vita Martini, Chronicorum, and Dialogus to argue that Severus used a rhetorical strategy throughout his Martinian writings to secure Martinís sanctity and legitimacy as a bishop. Through the successful defense that these documents presented, Martinís sanctity has survived the test of time, despite the fact that his life and Severusí writings about him have been a source of scholastic debate. This thesis consists of five chapters followed by a conclusion. Chapter One will place Martin and Severus in their historical context and introduce the historiography of the Martinian works. Chapter Two will explore criticisms of both Martinís life as a soldier and of his lack of the educational and social background prevalent in his fellow bishops. Chapter Three will then explore the early struggles that came from reconciling the responsibilities of the ascetic lifestyle with the communal responsibilities as a bishop. Chapter Four will investigate the criticism over Martinís involvement with Priscillian of Avila, a rebuke which Severus fully engages in a strong defensive posture to protect Martinís reputation from accusations of heresy. Next, Chapter Five will treat charges of hypocrisy contemporary critics brought against Martin. This thesis will not simply highlight these four criticisms that Severus attempted to resolve, but will also explore why these critiques are present in the hagiography and the rhetorical defense used by Severus to secure Martinís sanctity.
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