Demetrias (daughter of Anicius Hermogenianus Olybrius)

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Demetrias (fl. 413–440) was a Roman noblewoman, member of the powerful family of the Anicii and acquaintance of several churchmen.

Biography[edit]

Anicia[1] Demetrias, born around 398,[2] was the daughter of Anicius Hermogenianus Olybrius,[3] consul in 395, and of Anicia Iuliana,[3][4] and thus member of the noble gentes Anicia and Amnia; she is described as the noblest and richest person in the Roman world in the 410s.[3]

In 410, in occasion of the sack of Rome, Demetrias left Rome with her mother Iuliana and with her paternal grandmother Anicia Faltonia Proba and went to Carthage; here they were imprisoned by the comes Heraclianus, and freed only after a huge payment.[3]

Her mother and her grandmother, while they lived in Carthage, come in contact with Augustine of Hippo, who helped them to follow the path of a religious life. Demetrias, who was about fifteen years old in 413, was to be married, but she secretly followed an ascetical way of life, influenced by Augustine.[4] She did not tell about her choice to her relatives, as she feared to displease them, but as her marriage was near, she decided to tell her mother Iuliana and her grandmother Proba about her intention to renounce to marry and to take the veil. Her relatives were very happy with her, and, in 413, Demetrias took the veil in a ceremony celebrated by Bishop Aurelius of Carthage.

To help her in her spiritual life, Iuliana and Proba asked several churchmen to send Demetrias advices. Augustine answered suggesting the reading of his De sancta virginitate,[5] Jerome sent a long letter with several advices, while Pelagius, a theologian opposed by Augustine, addressed her a treaty under the form of a letter, the Epistola ad Demetriam.

Later in her life, Demetrias returned to her native city of Rome. In this period she received the Epistula ad Demetriadem de vera humilitate, written in 440 by Pope Leo I or, according to recent studies, in 435 by Prosper of Aquitaine, and attacking Pelagius' doctrine on the basis of Augustine.[6]

Demetrias built a church devoted to Saint Stephen along the Via Latina (41°51′41.81″N 12°32′15.17″E / 41.8616139°N 12.5375472°E / 41.8616139; 12.5375472 ), at three miles from Rome, on one of her properties.[7] She died during the pontificate of Pope Leo I.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ She is called "Demetrias" in the sources, the name "Anicia" has been reconstructed (Anne Kurdok, "Demetrias ancilla dei: Anicia Demetrias and the problem of the missing patron", in Kate Cooper, Julia Hillner, Religion, dynasty and patronage in early Christian Rome, 300-900, Cambridge University Press, 2007, ISBN 0-521-87641-9, pp. 190-224).
  2. ^ She was no more than fifteen in 413 (Augustine of Hippo, Epistles, 188).
  3. ^ a b c d Jerome, Epistles, 130.
  4. ^ a b Augustine of Hippo, Epistles, 150, 188.
  5. ^ Augustine, Epistles 19 and 23.
  6. ^ Kurdok, p. 216.
  7. ^ ILCV I, 1765.

Bibliography[edit]