The Inscription of Damasus

At the same time that Ambrose was composing his tract On Virgins and his hymn to Agnes, Damasus composed an inscription for Agnes (see Primary Document 4.3). His inscription begins with the words fama refert, which means "legend has it," so it may be that he was working from an oral tradition rather than a written martyr act. The references to Agnes' youth and her willingness to be martyred correspond with the works of Ambrose. Damasus writes (vv. 3-6) that she leapt from the lap of her nurse eager to burn in flames, despite her parents' attempt to protect her at home. Her delicacy and modesty (vv. 6-7) recall Ambrose's hymn, but Damasus adds the detail that she conquered her fear with what strength such a delicate creature possessed and covered her nakedness with her hair. In the inscription, Agnes remains undaunted when she is threatened with death by fire (rather than a sword).

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