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Bible Dictionaries

A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

Salvianus, Priest of Marseilles

Salvianus (3), priest of Marseilles, a writer whose works illustrate most vividly the state of Gaul in 5th cent. The one external authority for his Life is Gennadius, de Scriptt. Eccles. c. 67, who gives a list of his writings. In 429 St. Hilary of Arles, in a sermon on St. Honoratus, describes him as "the most blessed man Salvianus the presbyter." His own expressions ( de Gub. Dei , vi. 72) indicate that he was born in Gaul, probably at Trèves, the manners and customs of which place he knew intimately and reproves sharply. He, or at least some of his relations, resided at Cologne, occupying a respectable position in that city. When a young man he married Palladia, daughter of Hypatius, and had one daughter Auspiciola, after whose birth Salvianus and his wife adopted the monastic life. This greatly incensed Hypatius, who retired to a distant region, refusing any communication with them for 7 years. Ep. iv. is a very earnest appeal by Salvianus, his wife, and daughter, for a renewal of the love and friendship of Hypatius, with what success we are not told. Salvianus was in extreme old age when Gennadius wrote, and was held in the highest honour, being expressly termed "Episcoporum Magister," and regarded as the very type of a monk and a scholar. His writings are important from a social, political, and ecclesiastical point of view. In the de Gub. Dei he gives a lively picture of the social changes in the empire due to the iniquitous fiscal system in vogue. Thus lib. v. cc. 4–9 shew clearly the cause of brigandage, the origin of the serf system, and the evils of vast estates. In iv. 14 he refers to the crowds of Syrian merchants in all the cities of Gaul, a fact which the discovery of Syrian, Assyrian, and other Oriental inscriptions in France has amply confirmed (cf. Le Blant's Ins. chrét. de la Gaule , diss. Nos. 225, 557, and 613). He helps us to understand the interruption of intercourse between Roman and British Christianity in 5th and 6th cents. The empire was gradually surrounded by a ring fence of hostile states, all barbarous, and several of them heretical, which served as a retreat from the power, and a barrier to the religion, of Rome. For a cent. and a half the new kingdoms of the Franks and Burgundians afforded ample employment for Rome's missionary zeal without troubling with the regions beyond. The treatise against avarice is a laudation of the ascetic life and of almsgiving; he even in bk. i. seriously discusses whether a man should leave any property at all to his sons. Ceillier (x. 359) devotes a lengthened notice to Salvianus, with a full analysis of his writings.

The latest ed. of his works is that in the Corp. Eccl. Scriptorum of the Vienna Academy, t. viii. (Vindob. 1883), ed. by Fr. Pauly.


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Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Salvianus, Priest of Marseilles'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. 1911.

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