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Valerius Bito (1 Clem 65.1)

Role: Messenger

Gender: Male

Date: 95-96 CE

Place: Rome; Corinth

Language: Greek

Literary Genre: Letter

Title of Work: 1 Clement

Reference: 1 Clem 65.1

Original Text:

Τοὺς δὲ ἀπεσταλμένους ἀφ᾿ ἡμῶν Κλαύδιον Ἔφηβον καὶ Οὐαλέριον Βίτωνα σὺν καὶ Φορτουνάτῳ ἐν εἰρήνῃ μετὰ χαρᾶς ἐν τάχει ἀναπέμψατε πρὸς ἡμᾶς, ὅπως θᾶττον τὴν εὐκταίαν καὶ ἐπιποθήτην ἡμῖν εἰρήνην καὶ ὁμόνοιαν ἀπαγγέλλωσιν, εἰς τὸ τάχιον καὶ ἡμᾶς χαρῆναι περὶ τῆς εὐσταθείας ὑμῶν. (1 Clem. 65.1)

English Translation:

But send back to us quickly our envoy Claudius Ephebus and Valerius Bito, along with Fortunatus, in peace and with joy, that they may inform us without delay about the peace and harmony that we have prayed and desired for you. Then we will rejoice more quickly in your stability. (1 Clem. 65.1)

Text and Translation adapted from Bart D. Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers (Loeb Classical Library 24; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003), 150–1.


Valerius Bito was one of a group of three messengers dispatched from Rome to Corinth to deliver, read, and interpret the text now known as 1 Clement. 

The author of the letter identifies all three as “trustworthy and prudent men.” The role of these messengers—the others are identified as Claudius Ephebus and an enslaved man named Fortunatus—was to ensure that the letter was understood and to report back on how it was received. The situation appears to have been precarious: a fissure had emerged between the groups of Christ followers in Rome and Corinth and, in the eyes of the Roman Christians, Corinth was imperiled. 

It is possible that Valerius Bito was an imperial freedman. Since Joseph Barber Lightfoot in the nineteenth century, one line of academic argument has maintained that Claudius Ephebus and Valerius Bito were members of the imperial household (familia caesaris). For both Lightfoot and Lampe, the use of Greek cognomen for Ephebus and Bito suggested that they were formerly enslaved. They further argue that the use of imperial names Claudius and Valerius suggest ties to the imperial household. Paul alludes to Jesus followers in the household of the emperor in Philippians 4:22. Lampe connects Valerius Bito to an imperial freedwoman named Valeria Maria who is known only from inscriptional evidence (CIL 6.27948). Given the rarity of the use of the name Maria in inscriptions from this period Lampe argues that she was an enslaved Jewish woman of the Valerii who was related to Valerius Bito. 

This creative explanation should, as Michael Flexsenhar has shown, be treated with some caution. Some Roman citizens used Greek cognomen and some individuals who had no ties to the emperor’s household used imperial nomenclature. There is, according to Flesenhar, insufficient evidence to conclude that Claudius Ephebus and Valerius Bito were imperial freedmen. 

As enslaved or formerly enslaved people were used as letter carriers and messengers, particularly in situations where the situation was delicate, it seems safe to conclude that Valerius Bito was formerly enslaved.

Keywords: Apostolic Fathers; Christian; Corinth; Literate Worker; Messenger; Rome

Related Entries:Fortunatus (1 Clem 65.1); Claudius Ephebus (1 Clem 65.1)


Flexsenhar III, Michael. Christians in Caesar’s Household. The Emperor’s Slaves in the Makings of Christianity. Inventing Christianity Vol. 1. University Park: Penn State Press, 2019.

Head, Peter M. “‘Witnesses between You and Us’: The Role of the Letter-Carriers in 1 Clement.” Pages 477-93 in Studies on the Text of the New Testament and Early Christianity: Essays in Honour of Michael W. Holmes on the Occasion of his 65th Birthday. Edited by Daniel M. Gurtner, Juan Hernández, and Paul Foster. Leiden: Brill, 2015.

Lampe, Peter. From Paul to Valentinus: Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries, trans. Michael Steinhauser. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003. (esp. 184–86)

Lightfoot, Joseph Barber. The Apostolic Fathers. Volume 2. London and New York: Macmillan, 1885. 

Mitchell, Margaret M. “New Testament Envoys in the Context of Greco-Roman Diplomatic and Epistolary Conventions: The Example of Timothy and Titus.” JBL 111.4 (1992): 641–662.

How to Cite:

Moss, Candida R. “Valerius Bito (1 Clem. 65.1).” Ancient Enslaved Christians. Accessed DAY MONTH YEAR. <URL>.


1  Lightfoot, Apostolic Fathers 1:27–29.

2 Flexsenhar cites the following as examples of Tiberii Claudii: AE 1925, 14; 1931, 89; 1969/70, 32; 1972, 48; 1976, 90; 1981, 145; 1998, 1613; 1999, 390 (Christians in Caesar’s Household, 168n8).

3 Flexsenhar, Christians in Caesar’s Household, 134-37. 


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