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Cassiodorus was a prominent participant in the political, intellectual, and religious life of 6th-century ce Italy, and a learned scholar of the classical and Christian traditions. As a member of the administration of the Gothic government under Theoderic and his successors, he advanced through what may be considered the late-Roman cursus honorum. He was also witness to the dramatic political and religious debates of the day, including volatile interactions between the royal court at Ravenna, the Senate at Rome, and the emperor in Constantinople. Justinian’s Gothic War in Italy effectively ended his political career, after which he first became an exile in Constantinople, and then the founder of a school for Christian learning (Vivarium) on his ancestral estates in southern Italy. The literary works that he produced span the spectrum of his personal experiences and attest to the intellectual and cultural range of people living during the 6th century: panegyrics, a chronicle, ethnography, letters, treatises on reading, grammars, Christian exegesis, and ecclesiastical history.

Article

Stephen Harrison

The extant Latin tradition of cento (the replication and combination of verse lines from a previous text to make a new work) largely uses the hexameter poems of Virgil, familiar to all educated Romans. The earliest extant cento proper is the 461-line tragedy Medea, usually ascribed to Hosidius Geta (200 ce), in which all the characters speak in Virgilian hexameters, and the choral lyrics consist entirely of final half-hexameters. There are eleven other pagan Virgilian centos from late antiquity, none longer than 200 lines; many are short epic narratives on mythological subjects (e.g., Mavortius’ Judgement of Paris [Iudicium Paridis]), but some are amusing parodies on trivial topics (e.g., the anonymous De alea and De panificio on dice playing and baking). The best known are the two epithalamian examples, the wittily obscene Nuptial cento (Cento nuptialis) of Ausonius, written c. 374, and the slightly less risqué Marriage-song of Fridus (Epithalamium Fridi) of Luxorius (early 6th century); Ausonius describes his technique in an important prefatory letter, classifying his cento as frivolum et nullius pretii opusculum—‘a slight work, frivolous and worthless’.

Article

J. H. D. Scourfield

Christian Latin poet, probably from 3rd-cent. Africa, but assigned by some to the 4th or 5th cent. and to other locations; perhaps of Syrian origin. In the Instructiones, 80 short poems mostly in *acrostic form, he attacks paganism and Judaism and admonishes Christians; the Carmen apologeticum or De duobus populis is an exposition of Christian doctrine with didactic intent. His language and versification have been much vilified; in particular, he shows scant regard for classical prosody. The character of his verse, however, is better attributed to a desire to innovate and write poetry with appeal for ordinary uneducated Christians than to incompetence.

Article

Helen Kaufmann

Blossius Aemilius Dracontius was one of the most remarkable Latin poets in Vandal North Africa. He lived in Carthage around 500 ce, and combined poetry with a career in law. His major Christian work De laudibus dei (‘Praises of God’) combines biblical narrative with exegesis, doctrine, and autobiography. He also wrote a ‘Plea’ (Satisfactio) to the Vandal king Gunthamund, who had imprisoned him, as well as four short mythological epics (on Hylas, Helen, Medea, and Orestes respectively), two epithalamia, two prefaces, three rhetorical pieces, two epigrams, and two now lost panegyrics. Dracontius’ work stands out for its originality in combining sources, for its creative use of literary forms and rhetoric, and for its character descriptions.Blossius Aemilius Dracontius lived in Carthage around 500ce. Only one event in his life, his imprisonment under Gunthamund, can be dated approximately: the Vandal king ruled from 484 to 496.1 Dracontius’ tripartite name, as well as inscriptional evidence for a (different) Dracontius and further Blossii in North Africa, suggests a North African Roman origin; the title .

Article

Martin J. Brooke

A Spanish priest of noble family, born at Eliberri in *Baetica, the first exponent of *biblical epic, and arguably the earliest poet to use an established classical genre to treat explicitly Christian subject-matter. His Evangeliorum libri IV was written somewhat before 330 ce, and narrates the contents of the Gospels, particularly St Matthew's, in 3,311 hexameter verses. *Jerome praised the boldness of the undertaking and its fidelity to its source.

Article

Born into a Christian family at Stridon in *Dalmatia, he was educated at Rome at the school of Aelius *Donatus, and later studied rhetoric. During a stay at Trier (*Augusta Treverorum), where he had probably intended to enter imperial service, his *Christianity took on greater meaning, and around 372, fired with ascetic zeal, he set out for the east. After two years or more at *Antioch, he finally withdrew to the region of *Chalcis in *Syria to undertake the more contemplative life of a monk (though the traditional picture of desert solitude and extreme hardship is exaggerated). Here he began to learn Hebrew, with immense consequences for biblical scholarship. But after no more than a year or so he returned to Antioch, where he was ordained priest. Back in Rome in 382, he quickly won the confidence of Pope *Damasus, at whose request he commenced work on what was to become the core of the *Vulgate version of the Bible.

Article

Composed in Vandalic *Carthage (see Vandals), probably in the last quarter of the 5th cent. ce, a prosimetrical Latin encyclopaedia of the seven Liberal Arts (grammar, dialectic, rhetoric—the medieval ‘trivium’—and the ‘quadrivium’, geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, music; see education, Greek, §§ 3 and 4). He subsequently composed a short metrical treatise. Both works were addressed to his son. The encyclopaedia, usually known as the De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii, but called the Philologia by its author, comprises a two-book introductory myth describing the ascent to heaven, apotheosis, and marriage of Philology to *Mercury, as well as a seven-book introduction to the Liberal Arts, in which each subject is presented by an elaborately described female personification. The encyclopaedic books are pedestrian compilations, mostly from Latin sources, such as *Aquila Romanus, *Geminus, *Pliny(1) the Elder, *Quintilian, and *Iulius Solinus; whether Varro's lost Disciplinarum libri were also used is still debated.

Article

J. H. D. Scourfield

Phoenix (De Ave Phoenice), poem in 170 elegiac lines on the fabulous bird whose life, eternally renewed through death, was a potent symbol for both pagans and Christians. The ascription to *Lactantius has been questioned, but there are strong hints of Christian authorship.

Article

Pompeius (late 5th–early 6th cent. ce), African grammarian, commented on *Donatus (1)'s ars (GL 5. 95–312), perhaps also on *Virgil and *Terence (very uncertain).

Article

Two short anonymous prayers of uncertain date to Mother Earth and to all herbs; the second may show Christian influence. Attempts to read these texts as iambic senarii have resulted in much misguided conjecture.

Article

Sigrid Schottenius Cullhed

Faltonia Betitia Proba (fl. late 4th century) was a Roman poet, writer of a Christian cento (Lat. for patchwork), which circulated in the Eastern and Western Empire toward the end of the 4th century. The work consists of 694 verses culled from Virgil’s Eclogues, Georgics, and Aeneid, narrating episodes from Genesis, Exodus, and the four Gospels. The narrative sections are interspersed with proems, interludes, and epilogues pervaded by a confessional and devotional theme. The declared intention of the poet is to relate the “mysteries of Virgil” (arcana . . . vatis, v.12) and to show that Virgil “sang about the pious feats of Christ” (Vergilium cecinisse . . . pia munera Christi v. 23). This makes Proba one of the first Roman poets to have actively appropriated Virgil as a Christian prophet.There are over a hundred manuscripts containing Proba’s cento, the oldest of which date back to the 8th century, and a large number of early modern editions. Thanks to Giovanni Boccaccio’s De mulieribus claris (1374), Proba became important in the querelle des femmes as an example of an educated woman.

Article

Aurelius Prudentius Clemens was a Christian Latin poet who wrote in a variety of genres and metres. Born in northern Spain, in 348ce, he had a career in public administration before retiring to write poetry. His major works include the Liber Cathemerinon (poems keyed to the liturgy and religious calendar), Psychomachia (an allegorical epic on the battle between Virtues and Vices for the human soul), and the Liber Peristephanon (lyric poems in praise of the early martyrs of the church). Prudentius was particularly influenced by the works of Virgil and Horace, and aimed in his poetry to combine the form and language of classical Latin poetry with the message of Christianity. The most important Christian Latin poet of late antiquity, Prudentius was extremely influential throughout the Middle Ages.Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (348–after 405ce) was the most important and influential Christian Latin poet of late antiquity. Called by Richard Bentley the ‘.

Article

Vulgate  

J. H. D. Scourfield

Latin version of the Bible. The first Latin translations of Scripture (Vetus Latina, Old Latin) began to appear in the 2nd cent. ce. By the late 4th cent., the situation was chaotic: some books existed in more than one version, while some versions were subject to considerable local variation. An attempt to impose order was made in the early 380s by Pope Damasus, who commissioned Jerome to revise the Latin text of the Gospels, and perhaps of the whole of the Bible, in the light of the Greek. The gospel revision was completed in 384, and during his early years in the Holy Land (386–c.390) Jerome went on to produce Latin versions of the Psalter (the ‘Gallican Psalter’) and of other books of the OT (Old Testament) on the basis of the LXX (see septuagint). But around 390 Jerome became convinced of the need for a translation of the OT based on the Hebrew text used in Jewish communities, from which the LXX sometimes differed significantly. This immense undertaking, which occupied him for some fifteen years, resulted in a completely new translation of the Hebrew books of the OT, carried out on the basis of the original and with the aid of the Greek versions of Aquila and Symmachus. At the request of friends, and with the assistance of an interpreter, he also translated from the Aramaic the books of Tobit and Judith, which he did not recognize as part of the canon.