Part Three: The Pelagian Crisis (411–430)
Note 54: Letter 151 (1)
Letter 151 (1)
Augustine does not mention the name of the person of whom he speaks in Letter 151—thus it is necessary to judge his identity by circumstantial evidence. All the circumstances lead to the tribune Marcellinus. This letter concerns the death of two brothers executed at Carthage. The letter supposes the innocence of both as certain. Augustine praises one brother as a man of monastic virtue in his marriage and the civil service. He loved learning and was humble in his knowledge. In his considerable suffering the Church endured more than in his brother’s. He had come to Africa because of the Church. Nothing suits Marcellinus better.
Augustine says the man had died unnecessarily out of gratuitous cruelty. There could well have been secret causes of his death, hinted at but unsuitable to be placed openly in letters. The man behind his death had wished to please certain impious men. To do something agreeable to them was painless to him. We learn from Jerome and Orosius that Count Marinus caused Marcellinus’ death.2 He accused Marcellinus of the revolt of Heraclianus and in effect Marinus pleased the Donatists who perhaps had bribed him. The condemning judge of whom Augustine speaks claimed to obey the court’s express order although the court had assured him of the two brothers’ innocence. The court had not wished to execute them lest the execution harm its reputation. The court disapproved of Marcellinus’ death.