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Apologeticus or Apologeticum[1] is Tertullian's most famous work,[2] consisting of apologetic and polemic; it was written in Carthage in the summer or autumn of 197, during the reign of Septimius Severus.[3] In this work Tertullian defends Christianity, demanding legal toleration and that Christians be treated as all other sects of the Roman Empire. It is in this treatise that one finds the phrase: "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church" (Apologeticus, Chapter 50).[4]

Apologeticus is ostensibly addressed to the provincial governors of the Roman empire— "that the truth, being forbidden to defend itself publicly, may reach the ears of the rulers by the hidden path of letters"— and thus bears resemblance to the Greek apologues. Its readership is more likely to have been composed of Christians, whose faith was reinforced through Tertullian's defense against rationalizations and rumours.

The Apologeticus is calm in tone, "a model of judicial discussion", according to Tertullian's modern editor Otto Bardenhewer. Unlike previous apologists of Christianity, whose appeals for tolerance were made in the name of reason and humanity, Tertullian, influenced by his legal training, spoke as a jurist convinced of the injustice of the laws under which the Christians were persecuted. The Apologeticus was written before the edict of Septimius Severus (202), and consequently, the laws to which the writer took exception were those under which the Christians of the first and second centuries had been convicted.

There is a similarity of content, if not of purpose, between this work and Tertullian's Ad nationes - published earlier in the same year - and it has been claimed that the latter is a finished draft of Apologeticus. There arises also the question of similarity to Minucius Felix's dialogue Octavius. Some paragraphs are shared by both texts: it is not known which predated the other.

Tertullian's brief De testimonio animae ("Concerning the Evidences of the Soul") is an appendix to the Apologeticus, intended to illustrate the meaning of the phrase testimonium animae naturaliter christianae in chapter 17).


  1. ^ The early texts do not agree on the title (Bardenhewer).
  2. ^ Unlike the very scattered and imperfect manuscripts of Tertullian, "only the Apologeticum has come down in numerous codices, some of them quite ancient" (Bardenhewer).
  3. ^ "The actual date is doubtful or much disputed; there are no certain points of comparison" (Bardenhewer).
  4. ^ A similar theme, but concerning Mexican Revolutionaries, is depicted in Diego Rivera's mural La sangre de los martires revolucionarios fertilizando la tierra ("The Blood of the Revolutionary Martyrs Fertilizing the Earth").


  • Bardenhewer, Otto. 1908. Patrology: The Lives and Works of the Fathers of the Church. (Freiburg in Breisgau and St. Louis: B. Herder) English translation by Thomas J. Shahan.

External links


Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010
(Redirected to Tertullian's Apology article)

From Wikisource

by Tertullian
Originally in Latin as "Apologeticum" or "Apologeticus", written 197


  • Tertullian's Apology (Reeve translation) by Author:William Reeve, from The apologies of Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Minutius Felix, 1709[1]
  • Tertullian's Apology (Dodgson translation) by Author:Charles Dodgson, from Library of Fathers, 1842[2]
  • Tertullian's Apology (Chevallier translation) by Author:Temple Chevallier, from A Translation of the Epistles of Clement of Rome, Polycarp, and Ignatius; and of the apologies of Justin Martyr and Tertullian, 1851[3]
  • Tertullian's Apology (Thelwall translation) by Author:Sidney Thelwall, from Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. III, 1869
  • Tertullian's Apology (Bindley translation) by Author:Thomas Herbert Bindley, from The Apology of Tertullian for the Christians, 1890[4]
  • Tertullian's Apology (Souter translation) by Author:Alexander Souter, from Tertulliani Apologeticus, 1917[5]

External links

PD-icon.svg This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.


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