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A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

Victor Vitensis


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Victor (44) Vitensis a N. African bishop and writer. The known facts of his life are very few. He was called Vitensis either after his see or after his birthplace. He seems to have been numbered amongst the clergy of Carthage c. 455. His Hist. Persecutionis Provinciae Africanae is very interesting as he appears to have been with safety an eyewitness of the Vandal persecution for more than 30 years. He was actively employed by Eugenius metropolitan of Carthage in 483. Early in that year Hunneric banished 4,966 bishops and clergy of every rank. Victor was used by Eugenius to look after the more aged and infirm of the bishops. The History gives us a view of the religion of the Vandals. It also relates many particulars about Carthage its churches their names and dedications as those of Perpetua and Felicitas of Celerina and the Scillitans (i. 3). It shews the persistence of paganism at Carthage and mentions the temples of Memory and of Coelestis as existing till the Vandals levelled them after their capture of Carthage. This temple of Coelestis existed in the time of Augustine who describes in his de Civ. Dei lib. ii. cc. 4 26 (cf. Tertull. Apol. c. 24) the impure rites there performed. Its site was elaborately discussed by M. A. Castan in a Mém. in the Comptes rendus de L’Acad. des Inscript. t. xiii. (1885) pp. 118–132 where all the references to its cult were collected out of classical and patristic sources. Victor's History contains glimpses of N. African ritual. In lib. ii. 17 we have an account of the healing of the blind man Felix by Eugenius bp. of Carthage. The ritual of the feast of Epiphany is described while there are frequent references to the singing of hymns or psalms at funerals. In Hist. lib. v. 6 we read that the inhabitants of Tipasa refused to hold communion with the Arian bishop. Hunneric sent a military count who collected them all into the forum and cut out their tongues by the roots notwithstanding which they all retained the power of speech. This remarkable fact has been discussed by Gibbon c. xxxvii. by Middleton in his Free Inquiry pp. 313–316 and by many others. The History of Victor is usually divided into five books. Bk. i. narrates the persecution of Genseric from the conquest of Africa by the Vandals in 429 till Genseric's death in 477. Bks. ii. iv. and v. deal with the persecution of Hunneric a.d. 477–484; while bk. iii. contains the confession of faith drawn up by Eugenius of Carthage and presented to Hunneric at the conference of 484 (cf. Gennadius de Vir. Ill. No. 97). In the Confession (lib. iii. 11) the celebrated text 1Jn_5:7 concerning the three heavenly witnesses first appears. (See on this point Porson's letter to Travis and Gibbon's notes on c. xxxvii.). The life and works of Victor have been the subject of much modern German criticism which has not however added a great deal to our knowledge. Ebert's Literatur des Mittelalters im Abendlande (Leipz. 1874) t. i. 433–436 fixes the composition of the History at c. 486. In A. Schaefer's Historische Untersuchungen (Bonn 1882) Aug. Auler (pp. 253–275) maintains with much learning and acuteness that Victor was born in Vita that his see is unknown that he was consecrated bishop after the persecution and wrote his History before 487 and that this History is a piece of tendency-writing and untrustworthy. He cannot recognize in the action of Genseric against the Catholic party anything but a legitimate measure of state repression. The best of the older editions of the History is that of Ruinart reprinted with its elaborate dissertations in Migne's Patr. Lat. lviii. Michael Petschenig in the Vienna Corpus Scriptt. Ecclesiast. Lat. t. vii. (Vindob. 1881) abandons the old division of the text dating from Chifflet in 17th cent. and divides it into three books. In all the editions will be found the Notitia Prov. et Civit. Africae a valuable document for the geography and ecclesiastical arrangements of N. Africa. Ceill. (x. 448–465) gives a full analysis of Victor's History. It was translated into French in 1563 and 1664 into English in 1605.

[G.T.S.]


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Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Victor Vitensis'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hwd/v/victor-vitensis.html. 1911.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 28th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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