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Dulcitius was a Roman governor of Macedonia during the reign of the emperor Diocletian, at the turn of the fourth century AD. He is chiefly remembered for his role in a hagiographic tale of the persecution of Christian women in Thessalonika, in 304 AD, and is the subject of an eponymous 10th century drama written in Germany by the secular canoness, Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim, the first known woman playwright.
The name is also associated with a mid fourth century AD Roman soldier who was appointed Dux Britanniarum (or troop commander in Roman Britain for the region around Hadrian's Wall) and praised for his military abilities by the soldier-historian Ammianus.
In literature and life
Hrosvitha's Latin play, Dulcitius, a closet drama from the second volume of her works, written in Lower Saxony in Gandersheim Abbey in the late 10th century, treats the figure of Dulcitius, governor of Thessalonica, as a subject for a comedy in the style of Terence. Although the play is dark - its plot depicts the imprisonment and martyrdom of the three sisters, Agape, Chionia, and Irene, at Dulcitius's hand - nevertheless its business is presumably deemed less grave because of the reward awaiting the Christian sufferers.
Although it is not actually stated by Ammianus in his original text, it is often conjectured that he was elevated to the position of Dux Britanniarum. If this is the case, the later fourth-century Dulcitius is thought to have been brought to Britain in 369 AD by Count Theodosius in the aftermath of the Great Conspiracy, in which Roman rule on the island faced simultaneous challenge from internal rebellion and external invasion. His possible appointment as dux britanniarum could have replaced Fullofaudes who is likely to have been killed or lost somewhere in the north of Britain. The Roman rebel Valentinus and his associates were handed over to Dulcitius for execution.
- JSTOR online: Studies in Philology, Vol 57, No. 4, Oct 1960, Douglas Cole, "Hrosvitha's most Comic Play: Dulcitius", op cit.
- Ammian The History, Book XXVII University of Chicago online text in translation. See end of section 8, "p.57".