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Ancient LettersClassical and Late Antique Epistolography$
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Ruth Morello and A. D. Morrison

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199203956

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199203956.001.0001

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St Patrick and the Art of Allusion

St Patrick and the Art of Allusion

(p.325) 14 St Patrick and the Art of Allusion
Ancient Letters

Andrew Fear

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses how St Patrick used a letter, known as the Epistola, to campaign for the excommunication of Coroticus' men until they take penance and free their captives, although the letter makes it clear that Patrick holds out little hope that such repentance will be forthcoming. Coroticus is a warlord in Britain who, some time in the first 3rd of the 5th century AD, launched a slave raid on the coast of Ireland, at a time when St Patrick was holding a mass baptism of catechumens. The attack produced a bumper crop of captives for the raiders. A request was made by St Patrick to the attacker to agree terms for ransoming those abducted, but Coroticus refused. This provoked the saint to write Epistola, which falls into a distinct sub-genre of epistolary writing, the Open Letter, where it is made explicit that the intended audience is larger than simply the ostensible addressee in order that the addressee's sins, or more rarely praises, are broadcast as widely as possible.

Keywords:   St Patrick, ancient letters, excommunication, Coroticus, Epistola, British Church, allusions

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