17 Viz. a bishop Sebastian, who had been commissioned, as was usual in such cases, to visit the church of Ariminum during the incapacity of its proper bishop. The Epistle which follows this (Ep. XXl., which, as not throwing further light on the proceedings, has not been translated) is addressed to him, directing him to see to the due election, &c., of a successor to Castorius.
22 This patrician lady was sister of the Emperor Mauricius (see I. 5), and appears from what is said in this letter to have been governess of the imperial children, and in close attendance on the Empress Constantina. The letter is in many respects interesting and characteristic. In it may be noted Gregory's way of retaining influence over devout ladies in high circles, and through them hoping to influence others; his favourite method of allegorizing the Old Testament Scriptures; his tendency to regard remarkable incidents as miracutlous; and his allusion to the very large number of females at that time leading a monastic life in Rome. Cf. XI. 45, addressed to the same lady.
28 On the designation religiosus cf. l. 61. note 7. The Narses here addressed as "Religiosus" was probably the same as the "Narses Comes" of I. 6, and VI. 14. and the "Narses Patricius" of IV. 32 (see note to I. 6). For it is evident from the letters that he was of high rank at Constantinople, and greetings are sent through him to the same persons as in the other letters. He had now, we may suppose, devoted himself to the service of the Church in some capacity.
31 The Emperor Maurice is said to have had a sister called Gordia, who may have been the lady here referred to. Her daughter Theoctista may be concluded from the epithet "sanctissima" to have been piously disposed; and it may have been a fear lest her piety should suffer through the temptations of fashionable life that had led Narses, who was himself religious, to suggest to Gregory that he should write letters of admonition to the husbands of these ladies, as well as to themselves. Gregory's reluctauce to do so may have arisen from a fear of giving offence to such distinguished people from the purport of what he could only write in Latin being misunderstood. Elsewhere apparent are his caution and delicacy in dealing with great people.
32 This epistle appears to have been in reply to one from a presbyter. Anastasius (al. Athanasius), of Jerusalem announcing his promotion to the abbacy of a monastery there. There had been, it seems, a standing feud between the abbots of this monastery and the bishops of Jerusalem, the continuance of which Gregory gracefully deprecates in the course of his letter.