History of Literature








A BRIEF HISTORY OF

WESTERN LITERATURE

 

  CONTENTS:

The Beginnings of Literature. Myths and Legends

Classical Myth

Myth and Mystery

Bible

Hebrew literature

Ancient Greek literature

Ancient Greek literature. Greek theatre

Ancient Greek literature. Philosophical prose

Latin (Roman) literature

Latin (Roman) Literature. The Silver Age

Latin (Roman) Literature. Renaissance

Modern Italian Literature

The Middle Ages Literature

The Middle Ages. Elizabethan England

The Restoration

The Rise of the Novel

Cervantes and Spanish literature

The Enlightenment

Romanticism

Classicism and Naturalism

The 19th century - Prose

The 20th century - Modernism

The 20th century - The Political Novel



Latin: The Silver Age



Latin: The Silver Age
 
Lucan

Seneca

Juvenal "Satires"
Illustrations  by Aubrey Beardsley

Gaius
Lucilius

Gaius Petronius Arbiter "Satyricon"

Martial
Silius Italicus
Suetonius

Apuleius
"The Golden Asse"  PART I, PART II, PART III, PART IV
illustrations by Jean de Bosschere and Martin Van Maele (Rene Gocking)

Ennius


Saint Augustine
"Confessions"

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius
Giles of Rome
Panaetius


Luca Giordano
The death of Seneca



LATIN: THE SILVER AGE

 

Although Augustus was an authoritarian ruler, he was careful to preserve republican traditions and exercised his power with moderation. After his death, old fears of imperial rule proved justified. The accession of Caligula in A.D. 37 introduced flagrant abuses, cruelty and immorality, resulting in the Emperor's murder. The decline in the quality of classical literature during the so-called Silver Age seems to reflect the political decline. Freedom of expression tended to be more limited, and there was more rhetoric, less wit and passion.

 


THE SILVER AGE


Nevertheless, the post-Augustan period was not without its own literary giants. The Spanish-born Lucan (A.D. 39-65) was the author of the Pharsalia, generally regarded as the finest epic after the
Aeneid, before he fell foul of the Emperor Nero and committed suicide at Nero's command. Seneca (4 B.C.-A.D 65), the outstanding dramatic tragedian of the age, narrowly avoided death under Caligula, later becoming Nero's tutor. His tragedies are adaptations from the Greek and were highly influential in the Renaissance, when Greek speakers were few in comparison with Latin. Writers of prose included Pliny the Younger (c.62—c.113), the nephew of the Pliny the Elder, whose massive work, Historia Naturalis, was published in A.D. 77. The younger Pliny is chiefly remembered for his Letters, some written to the Emperor when he was a provincial governor. They contain a memorable description of the eruption of Vesuvius (A.D. 79) in which his uncle died while pursuing his research too assiduously. There were also outstanding achievements in the fields of satire and history.
 


Peter Paul Rubens
The Death of
Seneca




Lucius Annaeus Seneca

(c. 3 BC – 65 AD) was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero. He was later forced to commit suicide for complicity in the Pisonian conspiracy to assassinate this last of the Julio-Claudian emperors; however, he may have been innocent. His father was Seneca the Elder and his older brother was Gallio.

 


Lucan


Lucan, Latin in full Marcus Annaeus Lucanus (b. ad 39, Corduba [now Córdoba], Spain—d. 65, Rome [Italy]), Roman poet and republican patriot whose historical epic, the Bellum civile, better known as the Pharsalia because of its vivid account of that battle, is remarkable as the single major Latin epic poem that eschewed the intervention of the gods.

Lucan was the nephew of the philosopher-statesman Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Seneca the Younger). Trained by the Stoic philosopher Cornutus and later educated in Athens, Lucan attracted the favourable attention of the emperor Nero owing to his early promise as a rhetorician and orator. Shortly, however, Nero became jealous of his ability as a poet and halted further public readings of his poetry. Already disenchanted by Nero’s tyranny and embittered by the ban on his recitations, Lucan became one of the leaders in the conspiracy of Piso (Gaius Calpurnius) to assassinate Nero. When the conspiracy was discovered, he was compelled to commit suicide by opening a vein. According to Tacitus, he died repeating a passage from one of his poems describing the death of a wounded soldier.

The Bellum civile, his only extant poem, is an account of the war between Julius Caesar and Pompey, carried down to the arrival of Caesar in Egypt after the murder of Pompey, when it stops abruptly in the middle of the 10th book. Lucan was not a great poet, but he was a great rhetorician and had remarkable political and historical insight, though he wrote the poem while still a young man. The work is naturally imitative of Virgil, though not as dramatic. Although the style and vocabulary are usually commonplace and the metre monotonous, the rhetoric is often lifted into real poetry by its energy and flashes of fire and appears at its best in the magnificent funeral speech of Cato on Pompey. Scattered through the poem are noble sayings and telling comments, expressed with vigour and directness. As the poem proceeds, the poet’s republicanism becomes more marked, no doubt because as Nero’s tyranny grew, along with Lucan’s hatred of him, he looked back with longing to the old Roman Republic. It has been said that Cato is the real hero of the epic, and certainly the best of Lucan’s own Stoicism appears in the noble courage of his Cato in continuing the hopeless struggle after Pompey had failed.

Lucan’s poetry was popular during the Middle Ages. Christopher Marlowe translated the first book of the Bellum civile (1600), and Samuel Johnson praised Nicholas Rowe’s translation (1718) as “one of the greatest productions of English poetry.” The English poets Robert Southey and Percy Bysshe Shelley in their earlier years preferred him to Virgil. His work strongly influenced Pierre Corneille and other French classical dramatists of the 17th century.
 



The Roman Empire was the basis of European civilization; for over a thousand years after it had fallen, Europeans were fondly trying to restore it, or something like it. The name of the Holy (i.e. Christian) Roman Empire reflected the eagerness of the Ottoman German kings, like Charlemagne before them, to reclaim the greatness of the past, although, by most measurements of "civilization", the Roman achievement was not surpassed until the modern era. Latin remained the standard language of educated people in Europe and provided an international cultural bond more powerful than a common market or a single currency. Thus Latin literature can be said to have lasted 1,500 years after
Juvenal's death (A.D. 130), although it was no longer "Roman". later writers being described as "Christian", if appropriate, or by some other term.



SATIRE


Juvenal ("Satires")


Although there were satirical elements in some Greek comedy, satire is the one literary genre whose creation is credited to the Romans, in particular to Gaius Lucilius, who lived in the 2nd century B.C. He wrote a series of 'sermons' in verse, commenting adversely on public figures and social customs. His work is mostly lost, but he seems to have inspired Horace's mockery of public folly and vulgarity in his own lively Satires.

The greatest satirists, Martial and
Juvenal , lived in the 1st—2nd centuries A.D. The Spanish-born Martial was a professional poet who grew disillusioned with city life and retired to the country. His "Satires" were published towards the end of the 1st century and consisted of short poems devoted to a single notion, sometimes obscene, sometimes flattering, often mocking.

Juvenal, who was much admired by the English satirists of the late 17th—18th century, was his younger contemporary and friend, but a far more savage writer. His bitter irony, ferocious invective, and hatred of the rich were directed, so the poet claimed, at an earlier generation, but it is obvious that this was mere form. He paints a grim picture of life for the non-rich in the Rome of the cultured Emperor Hadrian.
 

 


Juvenal


Juvenal ("Satires")

"DIFFICILE EST SATURAM NON SCRIBERE

WHAT? Am I to be a listener only all my days? Am I never to get my word in—I that have been so often bored by the Theseid of the ranting Cordus? Shall this one have spouted to me his comedies, and that one his love ditties, and I be unavenged? Shall I have no revenge on one who has taken up the whole day with an interminable Telephus or with an Orestes which, after filling the margin at the top of the roll and the back as well, hasn't even yet come to an end? No one knows his own house so well as I know the groves of Mars, and the cave of Vulcan near the cliffs of Aeolus. What the winds are brewing; whose souls Aeacus has on the rack; from what country another worthy is carrying off that stolen golden fleece; how big are the ash trees which Monychus hurls as missiles: these are the themes with which Fronto's plane trees and marble halls are for ever ringing until the pillars quiver and quake under the continual recitations; such is the kind of stuff you may look for from every poet, greatest or least. Well, I too have slipped my hand from under the cane; I too have counselled Sulla to retire from public life and take a deep sleep; it is a foolish clemency when you jostle against poets at every corner, to spare paper that will be wasted anyhow. But if you can give me time, and will listen quietly to reason, I will tell you why I prefer to run in the same course over which the great nursling of Aurunca drove his horses."
 

Juvenal  Satire

 


AUBREY BEARDSLEY. Illustrations from "The Sixth Satire of Juvenal ", 1896

 

 


Gaius Lucilius




Gaius Lucilius, (b. c. 180 bc, Suessa Aurunca, Campania [now Sessa Aurunca, Italy]—d. c. 103, or 102 bc, Neapolis [now Naples]), effectively the inventor of poetical satire who gave to the existing, formless Latin satura (meaning “a mixed dish”) the distinctive character of critical comment that the word satire still implies.

Lucilius was a Roman citizen of good family and education, a friend of learned Greeks, and well acquainted with Greek manners, which afforded him some targets for his wit; he was on familiar terms with the general Scipio Aemilianus, under whom he served in Spain at the capture of Numantia (134–133 bc), and with other great figures of his time. He spent the greater part of his life in Rome, beginning to write from the wealth of his experiences only after middle life.

His works were collected in a posthumous edition of 30 books. Only about 1,300 lines survive, mostly written in the hexameters that were to influence the development of the later Roman satirists Horace, Persius, and Juvenal.

An egoist of ebullient nature, pungent wit, and strong opinions, Lucilius used the satiric form for self-expression, fearlessly criticizing public as well as private conduct and displaying the originality of his genius by using themes of daily life: politics, social life, luxury, marriage, business, and travel.

 

 

 

 

Gaius Petronius Arbiter


Gaius Petronius Arbiter "Satyricon"


Roman author
original name Titus Petronius Niger
died ad 66

Main
reputed author of the Satyricon, a literary portrait of Roman society of the 1st century ad.

Life.
The most complete and the most authentic account of Petronius’ life appears in Tacitus’ Annals, an account that may be supplemented, with caution, from other sources. It is probable that Petronius’ correct name was Titus Petronius Niger. From his high position in Roman society, it may be assumed that he was wealthy; he belonged to a noble family and was therefore, by Roman standards, a man from whom solid achievements might have been expected. Tacitus’ account, however, shows that he belonged to a class of pleasure-seekers attacked by the Stoic philosopher Seneca, men who “turned night into day”; where others won reputation by effort, Petronius did so by idleness. On the rare occasions, however, when he was appointed to official positions, he showed himself energetic and fully equal to public responsibilities. He served as governor of the Asian province of Bithynia and later in his career, probably in ad 62 or 63, held the high office of consul, or first magistrate of Rome.

After his term as consul, Petronius was received by Nero into his most intimate circle as his “director of elegance” (arbiter elegantiae), whose word on all matters of taste was law. It is from this title that the epithet “Arbiter” was attached to his name. Petronius’ association with Nero fell within the emperor’s later years, when he had embarked on a career of reckless extravagance that shocked public opinion almost more than the actual crimes of which he was guilty. What Petronius thought of his imperial patron may be indicated by his treatment of the rich vulgarian Trimalchio in the Satyricon. Trimalchio is a composite figure, but there are detailed correspondences between him and Nero that cannot, given the contemporary nature of the work, be accidental and that strongly suggest that Petronius was sneering at the emperor.

Tacitus records that Nero’s friendship ultimately brought on Petronius the enmity of the commander of the emperor’s guard, Tigellinus, who in ad 66 denounced him as having been implicated in a conspiracy of the previous year to assassinate Nero and place a rival on the imperial throne. Petronius, though innocent, was arrested at Cumae in southern Italy; he did not wait for the inevitable sentence but made his own preparations for death. Slitting his veins and then bandaging them again in order to delay his death, he passed the remaining hours of his life conversing with his friends on trivial topics, listening to light music and poetry, rewarding or punishing his slaves, feasting, and finally sleeping “so that his death, though forced upon him, should seem natural.”


The Satyricon.
The Satyricon, or Satyricon liber (“Book of Satyrlike Adventures”), is a comic, picaresque novel that is related to several ancient literary genres. In style it ranges between the highly realistic and the self-consciously literary, and its form is episodic. It relates the wanderings and escapades of a disreputable trio of adventurers, the narrator Encolpius (“Embracer”), his friend Ascyltos (“Scot-free”), and the boy Giton (“Neighbour”). The surviving portions of the Satyricon (parts of Books XV and XVI) probably represent about one-tenth of the complete work, which was evidently very long. The loose narrative framework encloses a number of independent tales, a classic instance being the famous “Widow of Ephesus” (Satyricon, ch. 111–112). Other features, however, recall the “Menippean” satire; these features include the mixture of prose and verse in which the work is composed; and the digressions in which the author airs his own views on various topics having no connection with the plot.

The longest and the best episode in the surviving portions of the Satyricon is the Cena Trimalchionis, or “Banquet of Trimalchio” (ch. 26–78). This is a description of a dinner party given by Trimalchio, an immensely rich and vulgar freedman (former slave), to a group of friends and hangers-on. This episode’s length appears disproportionate even to the presumed original size of the Satyricon, and it has little or no apparent connection with the plot. The scene is a Greco-Roman town in Campania, and the guests, mostly freedmen like their host, are drawn from what corresponded to the petit bourgeois class. Trimalchio is the quintessence of the parvenu, a figure familiar enough in ancient satirical literature, but especially so in the 1st century ad, when freedmen as a class were at their most influential.

Two features distinguish Petronius’ “Banquet” from other ancient examples: its extraordinary realism and the figure of Trimalchio. It is obvious that the table talk of the guests in the “Banquet” is based on the author’s personal observation of provincial societies. The speakers are beautifully and exactly characterized and their dialogue, quite apart from the invaluable evidence for colloquial Latin afforded by the vulgarisms and solecisms in which it abounds, is a humorous masterpiece. Trimalchio himself, with his vast wealth, his tasteless ostentation, his affectation of culture, his superstition, and his maudlin lapses into his natural vulgarity, is more than a typical satirist’s figure. As depicted by Petronius he is one of the great comic figures of literature and is fit company for Shakespeare’s Falstaff. The development of character for its own sake was hardly known in ancient literature: the emphasis was always on the typical, and the classical rules laid down that character was secondary to more important considerations such as plot. Petronius, in his treatment of Trimalchio, transcended this almost universal limitation in a way that irresistibly recalls Dickens, and much else in the “Banquet” is Dickensian—its exuberance, its boisterous humour (rare in ancient literature, where wit predominates), and its loving profusion of detail.

The rest of the Satyricon is hardly to be compared to the “Banquet.” Insofar as any moral attitude at all is perceptible in the work as a whole, it is a trivial and debased brand of hedonism. The aim of the Satyricon was evidently above all to entertain by portraying certain aspects of contemporary society, and when considered as such, the book is of immense value: superficial details of the speech, behaviour, appearance, and surroundings of the characters are exactly observed and vividly communicated. The wealth of specific allusions to persons and events of Nero’s time shows that the work was aimed at a contemporary audience, and certain features suggest that the audience in fact consisted of Nero and his courtiers. The realistic descriptions of low life recall the emperor’s relish for slumming expeditions; and the combination of literary sophistication with polished obscenity is consistent with the wish to titillate the jaded palates of a debauched court.

If Petronius’ book has a message, it is aesthetic rather than moral. The emphasis throughout the account of Trimalchio’s dinner party is on the contrast between taste and tastelessness. Stylistically, too, the Satyricon is what Tacitus’ account of the author would lead one to expect. The language of the narrative and the educated speakers is pure, easy, and elegant, and the wit of the best comic passages is brilliant; but the general impression, even when allowance is made for the fragmentary state of the text, is that of a book written quickly and somewhat carelessly by a writer who would not take the necessary trouble to discipline his astonishing powers of invention. In his book, as in his life, Petronius achieved fame by indolence.

Edward John Kenney
 

 

 


Martial



 

Martial, Latin in full Marcus Valerius Martialis (b. Mar. 1, ad 38–41, Bilbilis, Hispania [Spain]—d. c. 103), Roman poet who brought the Latin epigram to perfection and provided in it a picture of Roman society during the early empire that is remarkable both for its completeness and for its accurate portrayal of human foibles.

Life and career
Martial was born in a Roman colony in Spain along the Salo River. Proudly claiming descent from Celts and Iberians, he was, nevertheless, a freeborn Roman citizen, the son of parents who, though not wealthy, possessed sufficient means to ensure that he received the traditional literary education from a grammarian and rhetorician. In his early 20s, possibly not before ad 64, since he makes no reference to the burning of Rome that occurred in that year, Martial made his way to the capital of the empire and attached himself as client (a traditional relationship between powerful patron and humbler man with his way to make) to the powerful and talented family of the Senecas, who were Spaniards like himself. To their circle belonged Lucan, the epic poet, and Calpurnius Piso, chief conspirator in the unsuccessful plot against the emperor Nero in ad 65. After the latter incident and its consequences, Martial had to look around for other patrons. Presumably the Senecas had introduced him to other influential families, whose patronage would enable him to make a living as a poet. Yet precisely how Martial lived between ad 65 and 80, the year in which he published Liber Spectaculorum (On the Spectacles), a small volume of poems to celebrate the consecration of the Colosseum, is not known. It is possible that he turned his hand to law, although it is unlikely that he practiced in the courts either successfully or for long.

When he first came to Rome, Martial lived in rather humble circumstances in a garret on the Quirinal Hill (one of the seven hills on which Rome stands). He gradually earned recognition, however, and was able to acquire, in addition to a town house on the Quirinal, a small country estate near Nomentum (about 12 miles [19 km] northeast of Rome), which may have been given to him by Polla, the widow of Lucan. In time Martial gained the notice of the court and received from emperors Titus and Domitian the ius trium liberorum, which entailed certain privileges and was customarily granted to fathers of three children in Rome. These privileges included exemption from various charges, such as that of guardianship, and a prior claim to magistracies. They were therefore financially profitable and accelerated a political career. Martial was almost certainly unmarried, yet he received this marital distinction. Moreover, as an additional mark of imperial favour, he was awarded a military tribuneship, which he was permitted to resign after six months’ service but which entitled him to the privileges of an eques (knight) throughout his life, even though he lacked the required property qualification of an eques.

From each of the patrons whom Martial, as client, attended at the morning levee (a reception held when arising from bed), he would regularly receive the “dole” of “100 wretched farthings.” Wealthy Romans, who either hoped to gain favourable mention or feared to receive unfavourable, albeit oblique, mention in his epigrams, would supplement the minimum dole by dinner invitations or by gifts. The poverty so often pleaded by the poet is undoubtedly exaggerated; apparently his genius for spending kept pace with his capacity for earning.

Martial’s first book, On the Spectacles (ad 80), contained 33 undistinguished epigrams celebrating the shows held in the Colosseum, an amphitheatre in the city begun by Vespasian and completed by Titus in 79; these poems are scarcely improved by their gross adulation of the latter emperor. In the year 84 or 85 appeared two undistinguished books (confusingly numbered XIII and XIV in the collection) with Greek titles Xenia and Apophoreta; these consist almost entirely of couplets describing presents given to guests at the December festival of the Saturnalia. In the next 15 or 16 years, however, appeared the 12 books of epigrams on which his renown deservedly rests. In ad 86 Books I and II of the Epigrams were published, and between 86 and 98, when Martial returned to Spain, new books of the Epigrams were issued at more or less yearly intervals. After 34 years in Rome, Martial returned to Spain, where his last book (numbered XII) was published, probably in ad 102. He died not much over a year later in his early 60s.

The chief friends Martial made in Rome—Seneca, Piso, and Lucan—have already been mentioned. As his fame grew, he became acquainted with the literary circles of his day and met such figures as the literary critic Quintilian, the letter writer Pliny the Younger, the satirist Juvenal, and the epic poet Silius Italicus. Whether he knew the historian Tacitus and the poet Valerius Flaccus is not certain.


Poetry
Martial is virtually the creator of the modern epigram, and his myriad admirers throughout the centuries, including many of the world’s great poets, have paid him the homage of quotation, translation, and imitation. He wrote 1,561 epigrams in all. Of these, 1,235 are in elegiac couplets, each of which consists of a six-foot line followed by a five-foot line. The remainder are in hendecasyllables (consisting of lines 11 syllables long) and other metres. Though some of the epigrams are devoted to scenic descriptions, most are about people—emperors, public officials, writers, philosophers, lawyers, teachers, doctors, fops, gladiators, slaves, undertakers, gourmets, spongers, senile lovers, and revolting debauchees. Martial made frequent use of the mordant epigram bearing a “sting” in its tail—i.e., a single unexpected word at the poem’s end that completes a pun, antithesis, or an ingenious ambiguity. Poems of this sort would later greatly influence the use of the epigram in the literature of England, France, Spain, and Italy. Martial’s handling of this type of epigram is illustrated by I:28, where the apparent contradiction of an insult masks an insult far more subtle: “If you think Acerra reeks of yesterday’s wine, you are mistaken. He invariably drinks till morning.” Puns, parodies, Greek quotations, and clever ambiguities often enliven Martial’s epigrams.

Martial has been charged with two gross faults: adulation and obscenity. He certainly indulged in a great deal of nauseating flattery of the emperor Domitian, involving, besides farfetched conceits dragging his epigrams well below their usual level, use of the official title “my Lord and my God.” Furthermore, Martial cringed before men of wealth and influence, unashamedly whining for gifts and favours. Yet, however much one despises servility, it is hard to see how a man of letters could have survived long in Rome without considerable compromise. As for the charge of obscenity, Martial introduced few themes not touched on by Catullus and Horace (two poets of the last century bc) before him. Those epigrams that are obscene constitute perhaps one-tenth of Martial’s total output. His references to homosexuality, “oral stimulation,” and masturbation are couched in a rich setting of wit, charm, linguistic subtlety, superb literary craftsmanship, evocative description, and deep human sympathy. Martial’s poetry is generally redeemed by his affection toward his friends and his freedom from both envy of others and hypocrisy over his own morals. In his emphasis on the simple joys of life—eating, drinking, and conversing with friends—and in his famous recipes for contentment and the happy life, one is reminded continually of the dominant themes of Horace’s Satires, Epistles, and Second Epode.

Numerous editions and English translations have been published; most are single volumes of selections. D.R. Shackleton Bailey edited the complete Latin text (M. Valerii Martialis Epigrammata [1990]) and also produced a 3-volume translation, Epigrams (1993).

Herbert Henry Huxley
 

 

 

Rome, the Savage City




 


Silver Age

ad 18–133


After the first flush of enthusiasm for Augustan ideals of national regeneration, literature paid the price of political patronage. It became subtly sterilized; and Ovid was but the first of many writers actually suppressed or inhibited by fear. Only Tacitus and Juvenal, writing under comparatively tolerant emperors, turned emotions pent up under Domitian’s reign of terror into the driving force of great literature. Late Augustans such as Livy already sensed that Rome had passed its summit. Yet the title of Silver Age is not undeserved by a period that produced, in addition to Tacitus and Juvenal, the two Seneca, Lucan, Persius, the two Plinys, Quintilian, Petronius, Statius, Martial, and, of lesser stature, Manilius, Valerius Flaccus, Silius Italicus, and Suetonius.


 


Silius Italicus


in full Tiberius Catius Asconius Silius Italicus

born c. ad 26, Patavium [now Padua, Italy]
died 102

Latin epic poet whose 17-book, 12,000-line Punica on the Second Punic War (218–201 bc) is the longest poem in Latin literature.

Silius was a distinguished advocate in his earlier years. He later took to public service and was a consul in 68, the year of Nero’s death. His association with the emperor Nero was a stain on his reputation that he later expunged through his successful governorship of Asia. He then retired from public life.

As a man of wealth, Silius was able to indulge his tastes as a patron of literature and the arts. He so venerated Virgil and Cicero that he bought and restored Virgil’s tomb at Neapolis (now Naples) and Cicero’s estate at Tusculum. His clients included Martial, who wrote several epigrams dedicated to him. The modern idea that Silius was a Stoic is based on a story about a man named Italicus told by the Stoic philosopher Epictetus. There is no evidence in Punica for the author’s Stoicism, but some find evidence for it in the manner in which he ended his life. Suffering from an incurable disease, Silius starved himself to death, according to Pliny the Younger.

Silius draws heavily on the historian Livy (Books 21–30) for his material. He recounts all six battles of the Second Punic War, imitating Virgil’s Aeneid in form and mythology. His Hannibal is drawn with some dramatic skill, stealing the place of hero from Scipio, and he describes at length in the centre of the poem Hannibal’s victory over two consular armies at Cannae. The epic has been harshly judged by critics and has been scarcely edited since the 18th century. Though the last three books show signs—as well they might—of fatigue, there are at least a half dozen magnificent pieces of verse, mostly in dramatic scenes of war. Recent years have seen more favourable treatment, and a critical edition of the Latin text was made by Joseph Delz (1987).



 


Suetonius

in full Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus

born ad 69, probably Rome [Italy]
died after 122

Roman biographer and antiquarian whose writings include De viris illustribus (“Concerning Illustrious Men”), a collection of short biographies of celebrated Roman literary figures, and De vita Caesarum (Lives of the Caesars). The latter book, seasoned with bits of gossip and scandal relating to the lives of the first 11 emperors, secured him lasting fame.

Suetonius’ family was of the knightly class, or equites. A friend and protégé of the government official and letter writer Pliny the Younger, he seems to have studied and then abandoned the law as a career. After Pliny’s death Suetonius found another patron, Septicius Clarus, to whom he later dedicated De vita Caesarum. Upon the accession of Emperor Hadrian (117), he entered the imperial service, holding, probably simultaneously, the posts of controller of the Roman libraries, keeper of the archives, and adviser to the emperor on cultural matters. Probably around 121 he was promoted to secretary of the imperial correspondence, but in 122 or somewhat later he was dismissed for the neglect of court formality, after which he presumably devoted himself to literary pursuits.

Most of Suetonius’ writings were antiquarian, dealing with such subjects as Greek pastimes, the history of Roman spectacles and shows, oaths and imprecations and their origins, terminology of clothing, well-known courtesans, physical defects, and the growth of the civil service. An encyclopaedia called Prata (“Meadows”), a work like the Natural History of Pliny the Elder, was attributed to him and often quoted in late antiquity.

Suetonius’ De viris illustribus is divided into short books on Roman poets, orators, historians, grammarians and rhetoricians, and perhaps philosophers. Very nearly all that is known about the lives of Rome’s eminent authors stems ultimately from this work, which survives only in the whole of one section and in the preface and five lives from another section. The lives of Horace, Lucan, Terence, and Virgil, for example, are known from writers who derived their facts from Suetonius.

De vita Caesarum, which treats Julius Caesar and the emperors up to Domitian, is largely responsible for that vivid picture of Roman society and its leaders, morally and politically decadent, that dominated historical thought until modified in modern times by the discovery of nonliterary evidence. The biographies are organized not chronologically but by topics: the emperor’s family background, career before accession, public actions, private life, appearance, personality, and death. Though free with scandalous gossip, they are largely silent on the growth, administration, and defense of the empire. Suetonius is free from the bias of the senatorial class that distorts much Roman historical writing. His sketches of the habits and appearance of the emperors are invaluable, but, like Plutarch, he used “characteristic anecdote” without exhaustive inquiry into its authenticity.

De vita Caesarum is still exciting reading. Suetonius wrote with firmness and brevity. He loved the mot juste, and his use of vocabulary enhanced his pictorial vividness. Above all he was unrhetorical, unpretentious, and capable of molding complex events into lucid expression.









Later writers


Apuleius
"The Golden Asse PART I, PART II, PART III, PART IV
illustrations by Jean de Bosschere and Martin Van Maele (Rene Gocking)

The decentralization of the empire under Hadrian and the Antonines weakened the Roman pride and passion for liberty. Romans began again to write in Greek as well as Latin. The “new sophistic” movement in Greece affected the “novel poets” such as Florus. An effete culture devoted itself to philology, archaism, and preciosity. After Juvenal, 250 years elapsed before Ausonius of Bordeaux (4th century ad) and the last of the true classics, Claudian (flourished about 400), appeared. The anonymous Pervigilium Veneris (“Vigil of Venus”), of uncertain date, presages the Middle Ages in its vitality and touch of stressed metre. Ausonius, though in the pagan literary tradition, was a Christian and contemporary with a truly original Christian poet, the Spaniard Prudentius. Henceforward, Christian literature overlaps pagan and generally surpasses it.

In prose these centuries have somewhat more to boast, though the greatest work by a Roman was written in Greek, the Meditations of the emperor Marcus Aurelius. Elocutio novella, a blend of archaisms and colloquial speech, is seen to best advantage in Apuleius "The Golden Asse" (born about 125). Other writers of note were Aulus Gellius and Macrobius. The 4th century ad was the age of the grammarians and commentators, but in prose some of the most interesting work is again Christian.

 


Lucius Apuleius. "The Golden Asse",  illustrations by Jean de Bosschere   

 


Lucius Apuleius. "The Golden Asse",  illustrations by Martin Van Maele


 







The genres


Comedy

Roman comedy was based on the New Comedy fashionable in Greece, whose classic representative was Menander. But whereas this was imitation of life to the Greeks, to the Romans it was escape to fantasy and literary convention. Livius’ successor, Naevius, who developed this “drama in Greek cloak” (fabula palliata), may have been the first to introduce recitative and song, thereby increasing its unreality. But he slipped in details of Roman life and outspoken criticisms of powerful men. His imprisonment warned comedy off topical references, but the Roman audience became alert in applying ancient lines to modern situations and in demonstrating their feelings by appropriate clamour.

Unlike his predecessors, Plautus specialized, writing only comedy involving high spirits, oaths, linguistic play, slapstick humour, music, and skillful adaptation of rhythm to subject matter. Some of his plays can be thought of almost as comic opera. Part of the humour consisted in the sudden intrusion of Roman things into this conventional Greek world. “The Plautine in Plautus” consists in pervasive qualities rather than supposed innovations of plot or technique.

As Greek influence on Roman culture increased, Roman drama became more dependent on Greek models. Terence’s comedy was very different from Plautus’. Singing almost disappeared from his plays, and recitative was less prominent. From Menander he learned to exhibit refinements of psychology and to construct ingenious plots; but he lacked comic force. His pride was refined language—the avoidance of vulgarity, obscurity, or slang. His characters were less differentiated in speech than those of Plautus, but they talk with an elegant charm. The society Terence portrayed was more sensitive than that of Plautine comedy; lovers tended to be loyal and sons obedient. His historical significance has been enhanced by the loss of nearly all of Menander’s work.

Though often revived, plays modeled on Greek drama were rarely written after Terence. The Ciceronian was the great age of acting, and in 55 bc Pompey gave Rome a permanent theatre. Plays having an Italian setting came into vogue, their framework being Greek New Comedy but their subject Roman society. A native form of farce was also revived. Under Julius Caesar, this yielded in popularity to verse mime of Greek origin that was realistic, often obscene, and full of quotable apothegms. Finally, when mime gave rise to the dumb show of the pantomimus with choral accompaniment and when exotic spectacles had become the rage, Roman comedy faded out.



Ancient theater masks

 



Roman Tragedy. Fresco




Tragedy

Livius
introduced both Greek tragedy (fabula crepidata, “buskined”) and comedy to Latin. He was followed by Naevius and Ennius, who loved
Euripides. Pacuvius, probably a greater tragedian, liked Sophocles and heightened tragic diction even more than Ennius. His successor, Accius, was more rhetorical and impetuous. The fragments of these poets betoken grandeur in “the high Roman fashion,” but they also have a certain ruggedness. They did not always deal in Greek mythology: occasionally they exploited Roman legend or even recent history. The Roman chorus, unlike the Greek, performed on stage and was inextricably involved in the action.

Classical tragedy was seldom composed after Accius, though its plays were constantly revived. Writing plays, once a function of slaves and freedmen, became a pastime of aristocratic dilettantes. Such writers had commonly no thought of production: post-Augustan drama was for reading. The extant tragedies of the younger Seneca probably were not written for public performance. They are melodramas of horror and violence, marked by sensational pseudo-realism and rhetorical cleverness. Characterization is crude, and philosophical moralizing obtrusive. Yet Seneca was a model for 16th- and early 17th-century tragedy, especially in France, and influenced English revenge tragedy.

 






Epic and epyllion

Livius’ pioneering Odyssey was, to judge from the fragments, primitive, as was the Bellum Punicum of Naevius, important for Virgil because it began with the legendary origins of Carthage in Phoenicia and Rome in Troy. But EnniusAnnales soon followed. This compound of legendary origins and history was in Latin, in a transplanted metre, and by a poet who had imagination and a realization of the emergent greatness of Rome. In form his work must have been ill-balanced; he almost ignored the First Punic War in consideration of Naevius and became more detailed as he added books about his own times. But his great merit shines out from the fragments—nobility of ethos matched with nobility of language. On receptive spirits, such as Cicero, Lucretius, and Virgil, his influence was profound.

Little is known of the “strong epic” for which Virgil’s friend Varius is renowned, but Virgil’s Aeneid was certainly something new. Recent history would have been too particularized a theme. Instead, Virgil developed Naevius’ version of Aeneas’ pilgrimage from Troy to found Rome. The poem is in part an Odyssey of travel (with an interlude of love) followed by an Iliad of conquest, and in part a symbolic epic of contemporary Roman relevance. Aeneas has Homeric traits but also qualities that look forward to the character of the Roman hero of the future. His fault was to have lingered at Carthage. The command to leave the Carthaginian queen Dido shakes him ruthlessly out of the last great temptation to seek individual happiness. But it is only the vision of Rome’s future greatness, seen when he visits Elysium, that kindles obedient acceptance into imaginative enthusiasm. It was just such a sacrifice of the individual that the Augustan ideal demanded. The second half of the poem represents the fusing in the crucible of war of the civilized graces of Troy with the manly virtues of Italy. The tempering of Roman culture by Italian hardiness was another part of the Augustan ideal. So was a revival of interest in ancient customs and religious observances, which Virgil could appropriately indulge. The verse throughout is superbly varied, musical, and rhetorical in the best sense.

With his Hecale, Callimachus had inaugurated the short, carefully composed hexameter narrative (called epyllion by modern scholars) to replace grand epic. The Hecale had started a convention of insetting an independent story. Catullus inset the story of Ariadne on Naxos into that of the marriage of Peleus and Thetis, and the poem has a mannered, lyrical beauty. But the story of Aristaeus at the end of Virgil’s Georgics, with that of Orpheus and Eurydice inset, shows what heights epyllion could attain.

Ovid’s Metamorphoses is a nexus of some 50 epyllia with shorter episodes. He created a convincing imaginative world with a magical logic of its own. His continuous poem, meandering from the creation of the world to the apotheosis of Julius Caesar, is a great Baroque conception, executed in swift, clear hexameters. Its frequent irony and humour are striking. Thereafter epics proliferated. Statius’ Thebaid and inchoate Achilleid and Valerius’ Argonautica are justly less read now than they were. Lucan’s unfinished Pharsalia has a more interesting subject, namely the struggle between Caesar and Pompey, whom he favours. He left out the gods. His brilliant rhetoric comes close to making the poem a success, but it is too strained and monochromatic.
 


Ennius

born 239 bc, Rudiae, southern Italy
died 169 bc

epic poet, dramatist, and satirist, the most influential of the early Latin poets, rightly called the founder of Roman literature. His epic Annales, a narrative poem telling the story of Rome from the wanderings of Aeneas to the poet’s own day, was the national epic until it was eclipsed by Virgil’s Aeneid.

Because of the place of his birth, Ennius was at home in three languages and had, as he put it, “three hearts”: Oscan, his native tongue; Greek, in which he was educated; and Latin, the language of the army with which he served in the Second Punic War. The elder Cato took him to Rome (204), where he earned a meagre living as a teacher and by adapting Greek plays, but he was on familiar terms with many of the leading men in Rome, among them the elder Scipio. His patron was Marcus Fulvius Nobilior, whom he accompanied on his campaign in Aetolia and whose son Quintus obtained Roman citizenship for Ennius (184 bc). Nothing else of significance is known about his life.

Only 600 lines survive of Ennius’s greatest work, his epic on Roman history, Annales. The poet introduced himself as a reincarnated Homer, addressed the Greek Muses, and composed in dactylic hexameter the metre of Homer. Ennius varied his accounts of military campaigns with autobiography, literary and grammatic erudition, and philosophical speculation.

Ennius excelled in tragedy. Titles survive of 20 tragedies adapted from the Greek, mostly Euripides (e.g., Iphigenia at Aulis, Medea, Telephus, and Thyestes). About 420 lines remain, indicating remarkable freedom from the originals, great skill in adapting the native Latin metres to the Greek framework, heightening the rhetorical element and the pathetic appeal (a feature of Euripides that he greatly admired) through skillful use of alliteration and assonance. His plays on Roman themes were Sabinae (“Sabine Women”) and, if they really were plays, Ambracia (on the capture of that city in Aetolia by Fulvius) and Scipio.

In the Saturae (Satires) Ennius developed the only literary genre that Rome could call its own. Four books in a variety of metres on diverse subjects, they were mostly concerned with practical wisdom, often driving home a lesson with the help of a fable. More philosophical was a work on the theological and physical theories of Epicharmus, the Sicilian poet and philosopher. Euhemerus, based on the ideas of Euhemerus of Messene, argued that the Olympian gods were originally great men honoured after death in human memory. Some epigrams, on himself and Scipio Africanus, are the first Latin elegiac couplets.

Ennius, who is credited also with the introduction of the double spelling of long consonants and the invention of Latin shorthand, was a man of wide interests and was conversant with the intellectual and literary movements of the Hellenistic world. He created and did not fall far short of perfecting a mode of poetic expression that reached its greatest beauty in Virgil and was to remain preeminent in Latin literature.

Cicero and others admired the work of Ennius throughout the republican period. Critical remarks appeared in Horace, becoming more severe in Seneca and Martial. The Neronian epic poet Lucan studied Ennius, and he was still read in the 2nd century ad; by the 5th century ad, copies of Ennius were rare.

 


Didactic poetry

Ennius
essayed didactic poetry in his Epicharmus, a work on the nature of the physical universe. Lucretius’ De rerum natura is an account of Epicurus’ atomic theory of matter, its aim being to free men from superstition and the fear of death. Its combination of moral urgency, intellectual force, and precise observation of the physical world makes it one of the summits of classical literature.

This poem profoundly affected Virgil, but his poetic reaction was delayed for some 17 years; and the Georgics, though deeply influenced by Lucretius, were not truly didactic. Country-bred though he was, Virgil wrote for literary readers like himself, selecting whatever would contribute picturesque detail to his impressionistic picture of rural life. The Georgics portrayed the recently united land of Italy and taught that the idle Golden Age of the fourth Eclogue was a mirage: relentless work, introduced by a paternal Jupiter to sharpen men’s wits, creates “the glory of the divine countryside.” The compensation is the infinite variety of civilized life. Insofar as it had a political intention, it encouraged revival of an agriculture devastated in wars, of the old Italian virtues, and of the idea of Rome’s extending its works over Italy and civilizing the world.

Ovid’s Ars amatoria was comedy or satire in the burlesque guise of didactic, an amusing commentary on the psychology of love. The Fasti was didactic in popularizing the new calendar; but its object was clearly to entertain.



Satire

Satura meant a medley. The word was applied to variety performances introduced, according to Livy, by the Etruscans. Literary satire begins with Ennius, but it was Lucilius who established the genre. After experimenting, he settled on hexameters, thus making them its recognized vehicle. A tendency to break into dialogue may be a vestige of a dramatic element in nonliterary satura. Lucilius used this medium for self-expression, fearlessly criticizing public as well as private conduct. He owed much to the Cynic-Stoic “diatribes” (racy sermons in prose or verse) of Greeks such as Bion; but in extant Hellenistic literature he is most clearly presaged by the fragments of Callimachus’ iambs. “Menippean” satire, which descended from the Greek prototype of Menippus of Gadara and mingled prose and verse, was introduced to Rome by Varro.

Horace saw that satire was still awaiting improvement: Lucilius had been an uncouth versifier. Satires I, 1–3 are essays in the Lucilian manner. But Horace’s nature was to laugh, not to flay, and his incidental butts were either insignificant or dead. He came to appreciate that the real point about Lucilius was not his denunciations but his self-revelation. This encouraged him to talk about himself. In Satires II he developed in parts the satire of moral diatribe presaging Juvenal. His successor Persius blended Lucilius, Horace, diatribe, and mime into pungent sermons in verse. The great declaimer was Juvenal, who fixed the idea of satire for posterity. Gone was the personal approach of Lucilius and Horace. His anger may at times have been cultivated for effect, but his epigrammatic power and brilliant eye for detail make him a great poet.

The younger Seneca’s Apocolocyntosis was a medley of prose and verse, but its pitiless skit on the deification of the emperor Claudius was Lucilian satire. The Satyricon of Petronius is also Menippean inasmuch as it contains varied digressions and occasional verse; essentially, however, it comes under fiction.

With Lucilian satire may be classed the fables of Augustus’ freedman Phaedrus, the Roman Aesop, whose beast fables include contemporary allusions.


Iambic, lyric, and epigram

The short poems of Catullus were called by himself nugae (“trifles”). They vary remarkably in mood and intention, and he uses iambic metre normally associated with invective not only for his abuse of Caesar and Pompey but also for his tender homecoming to Sirmio. Catullus alone used the hendecasyllable, the metre of skits and lampoons, as a medium for love poetry.

Horace was a pioneer. In his Epodes he used iambic verse to express devotion to Maecenas and for brutal invective in the manner of the Greek poet Archilochus. But his primary aim was to create literature, whereas his models had been venting their feelings. In the Odes he adapted other Greek metres and claimed immortality for introducing early Greek lyric to Latin. The Odes rarely show the passion now associated with lyric but are marked by elegance, dignity, and studied perfectionism.

Martial went back to Catullus for his metres and his often obscene wit. He fixed the notion of epigram for posterity by making it characteristically pointed.



Elegy

The elegiac couplet of hexameter and pentameter (verse line of five feet) was taken over by Catullus, who broke with tradition by filling elegy with personal emotion. One of his most intense poems in this metre, about Lesbia, extends to 26 lines; another is a long poem of involved design in which the fabled love of Laodameia for Protesilaus is incidentally used as a paradigm. These two poems make him the inventor of the “subjective” love elegy dealing with the poet’s own passion. Gallus, whose work is lost, established the genre; Tibullus and Propertius smoothed out the metre.

Propertius’ first book is still Catullan in that it seems genuinely inspired by his passion for Cynthia: the involvement of Tibullus is less certain. Later, Propertius grew more interested in manipulating literary conventions. Tibullus’ elegy is constructed of sections of placid couplets with subtle transitions. These two poets established the convention of the “soft poet,” valiant only in the campaigns of love, immortalized through them and the Muses. Propertius was at first impervious to Augustan ideals, glorying in his abject slavery to love and his naughtiness (nequitia), though later he became acclimatized to Maecenas’ circle.

Tibullus, a lover of peace, country life, and old religious customs, had grace and quiet humour. Propertius, too, could be charming, but he was far more. He often wrote impetuously, straining language and associative sequence with passion or irony or sombre imagination.

Ovid’s aim was not to unburden his soul but to entertain. In the Amores he is outrageous and amusing in the role adopted from Propertius, his Corinna being probably a fiction. Elegy became his characteristic medium. He carried the couplet of his predecessors to its logical extreme, characterized by parallelism, regular flow and ebb, and a neat wit.




Cicero Denounces Catiline
Cesare Maccari



Other language and literary art forms


Rhetoric and oratory

Speaking in the forum and law courts was the essence of a public career at Rome and hence of educational practice. After the 2nd century bc, Greek art affected Latin oratory. The dominant style in Cicero’s time was the “Asiatic”—emotional, rhythmical, and ornate. Cicero, Asiatic at first, early learned to tone down his style. Criticized later by the revivers of plain style, he insisted that style should vary with subject. But in public speaking he held that crowds were swayed less by argument than emotion. He was the acknowledged master speaker from 70 bc until his death (43 bc). He expounded the history of Roman oratory in the Brutus and his own methods in the De oratore.

The establishment of monarchy robbed eloquence of its public importance, but rhetoric remained the crown of education. Insofar as this taught boys to marshal material clearly and to express themselves cogently, it performed the function of the modern essay; but insofar as the temptations of applause made it strained and affected, it did harm.

In the De oratore, Cicero had pleaded that an orator’s training should be in all liberal arts. Education without rhetoric was inconceivable; but what Cicero was proposing was to graft onto it a complete system of higher education. Quintilian, in his Institutio oratoria, went back to Cicero for inspiration as well as style. Much of that work is conventional, but the first and last books in particular show admirable common sense and humanity; and his work greatly influenced Renaissance education.



History

Quintus Fabius Pictor wrote his pioneering history of Rome during the Second Punic War, using public and private records and writing in Greek. His immediate successors followed suit. Latin historical writing began with Cato’s Origines. After him there were as many historiasters, or worthless historians, as the poetasters disdained by Cicero. The first great exception is Caesar’s Commentaries, a political apologia in the guise of unvarnished narrative. The style is dignified, terse, clear, and unrhetorical.

Sallust took Thucydides as his model. He interpreted, using speeches, and ascribed motives. In his extant monographs Bellum Catilinae and Bellum Jugurthinum, he displays a sardonic moralism, using history to emphasize the decadence of the dominant caste. The revolution in style he inaugurated gives him importance.

Livy began his 40 years’ task as Augustus came to power. His work consummated the annalistic tradition. If in historical method he fell short of modern standards, he had the literary virtues of a historian. He could vividly describe past events and interpret the participants’ views in eloquent speeches. He inherited from Cicero his literary conception of history, his copiousness, and his principle of accommodating style to subject. Indeed, he was perhaps the greatest of Latin stylists. His earlier books, where his imagination has freer play, are the most readable. In the later books, the more historical the times become, the more disturbing are his uncritical methods and his patriotic bias. Livy’s work now is judged mainly as literature.

Tacitus, on the other hand, stands higher now than in antiquity. Though his anti-imperial bias in attributing motives is plain, his facts can rarely be impugned; and his evocation of the terrors of tyranny is unforgettable. He is read for his penetrating characterizations, his drama, his ironical epigrams, and his unpredictability. His is an extreme development of the Sallustian style, coloured with archaic and poetic words, with a careful avoidance of the commonplace.

Suetonian biography apart, historiography thereafter degenerated into handbooks and epitomes until Ammianus Marcellinus appeared. He was refreshingly detached, rather ornate in style, but capable of vivid narrative and description. He continued Tacitus’ account from Domitian’s death to ad 378, more than half his work dealing with his own times.



Biography and letters

The idea of comparing Romans with foreigners was taken up by Cornelius Nepos, a friend of Cicero and Catullus. Of his De viris illustribus all that survive are 24 hack pieces about worthies long dead and one of real merit about his friend Atticus. The very fact that Atticus and Tiro decided to publish nearly 1,000 of Cicero’s letters is evidence of public interest in people. Admiration of these fascinating letters gave rise to letter writing as a literary genre. The younger Pliny’s letters, anticipating publication, convey a possibly rose-tinted picture of civilized life. They are nothing to his spontaneous correspondence with Trajan, where one learns of routine problems, for instance with Christians confronting a provincial governor in Bithynia. The letter as a verse form, beginning with striking examples by Catullus, was established by Horace, whose Epistles carry still further the humane refinement of his gentler satires.

Suetonius’ lives of the Caesars and of poets contain much valuable information, especially since he had access to the imperial archives. His method was to cite in categories whatever he found, favourable or hostile, and to leave this raw material to the judgment of the reader. The Historia Augusta, covering the emperors from 117 to 284, is a collection of lives in the Suetonian tradition. Tacitus’ Agricola was an admiring, but not necessarily overcoloured, biographical study.

Some of the most valuable autobiography was incidental, such as Cicero’s account of his oratorical career in the Brutus. Horace’s largely autobiographical Epistles I was sealed with a miniature self-portrait. Ovid, in exile and afraid of fading from Rome’s memory, gave an invaluable account of his life in Tristia IV.




Philosophical and learned writings

The practical Roman mind produced no original philosopher. Apart from Lucretius the only name that demands consideration is Cicero’s. He was trained at Athens in the eclectic New Academy, and eclectic he apparently remained, seeking a philosophy to fit his own constitution rather than a logical system valid for all. He used the dialogue form, avowedly in order to make people think for themselves instead of following authority. Essentially, he was a philosophical journalist, composing works that became one of the means by which Greek thought was absorbed into early Christian thinking. The De officiis is a treatise on ethics. The dialogues do not follow the Platonic, or dialectic, pattern but the Aristotelian, in which speakers expounded already formed opinions at greater length.

Nor were the Romans any more original in science. Instead, they produced encyclopaedists such as Varro and Celsus. Pliny’s Natural History is a fascinating ragbag, especially valuable for art history, though it shows to what extent Hellenistic achievement in science had become confused or lost.
 



Literary criticism

Cicero’s Brutus and the 10th book of Quintilian’s Institutio oratoria provide examples of general criticism. Cicero stressed the importance of a well-stocked mind and native wit against mere handbook technique. By Horace’s day, however, it had become more timely to insist on the equal importance of art. Some of Horace’s best criticism is in the Satires (I, 4 and 10; II, 1), in the epistle to Florus (II, 2), and in the epistle to Augustus (II, 1), a vindication of the Augustans against archaists. But it was his epistle to Piso and his sons (later called Ars poetica) that was so influential throughout Europe in the 18th century. It supported, among acceptable if trite theses, the dubious one that poetry is necessarily best when it mingles the useful (particularly moral) with the pleasing. Much of the work concerned itself with drama. The Romans were better at discussing literary trends than fundamental principles—there is much good sense about this in Quintilian, and Tacitus’ Dialogus is an acute discussion of the decline of oratory.


Fiction
Republican and early imperial Rome knew no Latin fiction beyond such things as Sisenna’s translation of Aristides’ Milesian Tales. But two considerable works have survived from imperial times. Of Petronius’ Satyricon, a rambling picaresque novel, one long extract and some fragments remain. The disreputable characters have varied adventures and talk lively colloquial Latin. The description of the vulgar parvenu Trimalchio’s banquet is justly famous. Apuleius’ Metamorphoses (The Golden Ass) has a hero who has accidentally been changed into an ass. After strange adventures he is restored to human shape by the goddess Isis. Many passages, notably the story of Cupid and Psyche, have a beauty that culminates in the apparition of Isis and the initiation of the hero into her mysteries.

Lancelot Patrick Wilkinson
Richard H.A. Jenkyns







Medieval Latin literature


From about 500 to 1500 Latin was the principal language of the church, as well as of administration, theology, philosophy, science, history, biography, and belles lettres, and medieval Latin literature is therefore remarkably rich. Two themes dominate the linguistic and literary development of medieval Latin: its close and creative adaptation of the classical heritage from which it emerged and its changing relationship with the medieval vernacular languages. Within these two broad themes a number of subsidiary yet significant strains can be distinguished: the emergence of national characteristics in the Latin literature produced in different parts of Europe; the refinement of the polarity between popular and learned Latin by the clergy’s use of a colloquialism intelligible to its audience as a lingua franca; and the effect of certain periods of special vigour and artistic self-awareness, such as the Carolingian revival of the 8th and 9th centuries and the new impulse given to learned and vernacular literature in the 12th.


 

The 3rd to the 5th century: the rise of Christian Latin literature


The early history of medieval Latin literature is in part the story of the reception of the classical past by the Christians, to whom it represented secular culture. Old forms and genres were continuously renewed over the millennium following the entrance of Christians to the circle of literary production, dated for convenience to the conversion of Constantine to Christianity (about ad 313). For example, the Latin epic persisted in recognizable form throughout the period, and its authors remained in continuous contact with the great classical exponents Lucan, Statius, and, above all, Virgil. From the 4th century, the degree of scholarly interpretation applied to these epic poets, especially Virgil, was intensified. Virgilian technique was imitated by many poets, among them the 4th-century Spaniard Juvencus, who versified a portion of the Bible, and the author of the epic poem Waltharius (probably 9th century), written in hexameters.

Even before the conversion of Constantine, Christians were developing new forms of literature, which persisted throughout the ensuing centuries. The production of hagiographical texts (lives of the saints) was widespread in the Middle Ages. The first Acts of the Martyrs in Latin were written during the 3rd century, and the flowering of the form after the end of the period of persecution of Christians shows the powerful appeal that it exercised at all levels of society. The Passio Sanctarum Perpetuae et Felicitatis (The Passion of SS. Perpetua and Felicity), written in a style that owes little to classical precedent, is a distinctive early example of the genre.

The 3rd and 4th centuries were above all an age of translation. Among the Greek patristic writings diffused to a wider audience in the West in Latin versions, the lives of the Desert Fathers occupied an important place. The Latin translation by Evagrius, bishop of Antioch, of Athanasius’ Life of Saint Antony enjoyed the widest transmission, and its influence is as marked by contrast in the early Latin Lives of the Saints as it is by imitation. Sulpicius Severus’ biography of St. Martin, an original Latin work, greatly influenced hagiography over many centuries. (A further, equally influential example of the genre was the Dialogues of Pope Gregory the Great, written in about 593.)

The most important work of translation appeared at the end of the 4th century: the Vulgate, completed by the monastic leader Jerome, replaced sporadic earlier attempts to render the Bible into Latin. The idiom and style of the Bible’s original languages were apparent through the veil of Jerome’s Latin, however, and provided a counterweight to the classical styles that continued to be taught and practiced through the schools in the West. Exegesis of the text occupied many of the greatest minds of the Middle Ages for the largest part of their careers, and the literary work of many major authors, from Augustine and Gregory to Bede, reflects their individual understanding of Scripture.

The early Christian liturgy also gave birth to new forms of literature. From the ancient practice of psalmody in the churches derives the hymn. Ambrose, bishop of Milan in the second half of the 4th century, wrote the earliest prosaic hymns, which incorporated nonliturgical texts into the mass to be sung by the congregation. These were rapidly imitated, notably by the Spanish poet Prudentius at the end of the century, and remained in continuous use in churches and monasteries for more than a millennium.

A major problem of Christian thinkers in these centuries was the integration of the history of the pagan empire with the history of salvation. Synthesis and epitome of biblical and classical history appeared in the Historiarum adversus paganos libri VII (7 Books of Histories Against the Pagans) of Orosius and the briefer Chronica (c. 402–404) of Sulpicius Severus. On a larger scale, Augustine’s De civitate Dei (The City of God) offered a comprehensive view of past history, the present, and the world to come in the light of scriptural revelation. His spiritual autobiography, the Confessiones (Confessions), was an exploration of the philosophical and emotional development of an individual soul. The distinctive originality of this work owed little to classical autobiography and was unmatched by later imitations.

The Gallic schools of the 5th century gave rise to a literary culture unique in this period. Versification of the Bible developed a new degree of exegetical and stylistic refinement, while the letters of Paulinus of Nola and Sidonius Apollinaris, bishop of Auvergne, display a picture of cultivated aristocratic and ecclesiastical society. Both men were also admired as poets, Sidonius in particular as an encomiast. On the secular side, at the beginning of the century in Rome the Egyptian poet Claudian produced the most elaborate examples of imperial verse panegyric to a succession of dignitaries. His Raptus Proserpinae (c. 400; The Rape of Proserpine) is one of the last examples of an extended narrative in verse that dwells wholly in the world of pagan mythology.



 

The 6th to the 8th century


Gaul’s literary history is interrupted by the Frankish invasions, though there are signs that abbots and bishops began to perceive the benefit of using literature to promote the cults of local saints. Two figures of note are Gregory of Tours and Venantius Fortunatus, bishop of Poitiers. In addition to a vast corpus of hagiography, Gregory produced the monumental Historia Francorum (605–664; History of the Franks), the most extensive history of a barbarian people that had yet been written. He set the arrival of the Franks in Gaul, and their recent past, in the perspective of universal history.

An element of local patriotism is also discernible in his writings. Gregory was one of the many patrons who inspired the poet Fortunatus, whose astute and pliable talent achieved distinction in both secular panegyric and hymnody. His hagiography, in verse and in prose, also is prominent. His style exercised a powerful appeal upon the poets of the Carolingian renaissance.

Three figures of encyclopaedic learning dominate the literature of the 6th and 7th centuries. In the course of his long retirement from a career in public service under the Ostrogothic kings in Italy, Cassiodorus combined zealous preservation of the literature of the classical past with an enormously influential educational plan. His late 6th-century compendium of sacred and secular learning, Institutiones divinarum et humanarum lectionum (An Introduction to Divine and Human Readings), was among the shaping influences upon monastic culture. The Roman Boethius, a Neoplatonist philosopher, wrote on arithmetic and music, but his most popular and influential work was De consolatione philosophiae (1882–91; The Consolation of Philosophy), written in about 524, when Boethius was imprisoned under sentence of execution. The Spaniard Isidore produced a series of encyclopaedic compilations that were used as repositories of diverse learning by later centuries. It was midway through the 6th century that the last major Latin work was produced in the Eastern Empire: the epic Iohannis of the African poet Corippus.

The conversion of the Saxons began to bear literary fruit during the 7th and early 8th centuries. In an elaborate and allusive style, Aldhelm, bishop of Sherborne, wrote, first in prose and later in verse, a treatise on sainthood called De Virginitate. In the kingdom of Northumbria, particularly open to influence of Irish monastic learning, St. Bede the Venerable devoted his life to scholarship. The culmination of his work is the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (The Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of England), completed in 731. Synthesized from a variety of sources, literary and nonliterary, the work charts the involvement of God with the English people and the relation of the English church to the Christian world centred on Rome.


 

The Carolingian renaissance


The revival of letters, accompanied by wide-scale copying of classical texts, to which the reign of Charlemagne (768–814) gave fresh impetus, produced some of the most brilliant literary achievements of the Latin Middle Ages. An international elite of scholars, among whom the most distinguished were the Anglo-Saxon Alcuin, the Visigoth Theodulf of Orléans, and the Italians Paulinus of Aquileia and Paul the Deacon, produced a body of lyric, epic, and didactic poetry (both sacred and secular, both religious and political) unmatched in the earlier period. The revival of epic, and the secularization of the sacred hero, occurred in the extant third book of a lost and larger Virgilian epic, anonymously transmitted but known by the title Karolus Magnus et Leo Papa (“Charlemagne and Pope Leo”). Its example was followed in the next generation by Ermoldus Nigellus, writing about the deeds of Louis the Pious, and the tradition of earlier Carolingian authors is extended by two major political poets, Walafrid Strabo and Sedulius Scottus (also the author of an uproarious mock epyllion). In prose the major achievements lie in the fields of biography, with Einhard’s Vita Karoli Magni (c. 830; Life of Charlemagne); of religious controversy, with Theodulf’s Libri Carolini (defenses written at Charlemagne’s request); and of theology, with John Scotus Erigena’s metaphysical masterpiece, the Periphyseon.





The 9th to the 11th century


From the later 9th century on, the liturgy gave rise to two new literary forms: the sequence and the liturgical drama. Notker Balbulus, monk of St. Gall, was not the first to compose sequences, but his Liber hymnorum (“Book of Hymns”), begun about 860, is an integrated collection of texts that spans the whole of the church year in an ordered cycle. Performed between the biblical readings in the mass, each sequence is a free meditation upon scriptural themes, often drawing upon and synthesizing disparate texts. Among later exponents of the genre, Adam of St. Victor was the most distinguished, though the mystical sequences of Hildegard of Bingen exercise a potent appeal. During the same period the enormous expansion of the cult of the Virgin left a notable mark upon hymnody, the early 11th century seeing the composition of Marian hymns, including such ubiquitous texts as “Salve Regina” (“Hail, Queen”) and “Alma Redemptoris Mater” (“Sweet Mother of the Redeemer”).

Notker’s sequences are alive with dramatic possibility, and at St. Gall the practice of troping, or embellishing, liturgical texts also took dramatic form. The Quem quaeritis trope from St. Martial, an abbey at Limoges, was one of the earliest such pieces to demand dramatic performance. From this beginning developed the long tradition of liturgical drama, which, like the sequence, is centred upon the major feasts of the church year.

Two narrative works stand out in this period. The Waltharius epic is set in the years of the invasions of Attila the Hun. The sophistication of its narrative technique contrasts with its Germanic subject matter. The Ruodlieb, a romance written perhaps in about 1050 in a language heavily influenced by vernacular usage, reveals a comparable narrative subtlety. Even in its fragmentary state, the variety and vigour of its episodes are apparent.

The ease with which religious forms such as the sequence are adapted for secular use is nowhere seen better than in the 11th-century compilation known as the Cambridge Songs. The blend of humorous contes, hymnody, and lyric testifies to a diverse taste in the unknown anthologist. Other lyric collections from the next century, such as the Ripoll and Arundel lyrics, may draw upon work of earlier provenance. To the chance survival of individual compilations such as these derives the bulk of knowledge of the secular lyric, which is one of the chief distinctions of the 12th and 13th centuries.





The 12th to the 14th century


The Carmina Burana (“Songs from Bavaria”), the largest and greatest collection of secular lyrics, comes from the Benediktbeuern, a Benedictine monastery in Bavaria. It was put together in the 13th century, though most of the songs are much older, and contains work by many of the finest poets of the age. The contents are divided by subject into moral and satirical verse, love poetry, drinking songs, and liturgical dramas. Walter of Châtillon and Philip the Chancellor are conspicuous among the authors of the satires, the force of their works deriving from learned and allusive use of Scripture. Peter of Blois is found in the section of satirical verse and the section of love poetry. His verse forms achieve a new degree of delicacy and sophistication, and his erotic poetry owes much to a close study of classical poets, particularly Ovid. Yet many of the forms in evidence, the pastourelle (a love debate between a knight and a shepherdess) for example, have no classical antecedent. In the complexity of its argument and profusion of imagery, a poem such as “Dum Diane vitrea” (“While Shining Diane”) far exceeds the imagination of any classical author. Among the drinking songs in the third section are works of the anonymous German “Archpoet” and of Hugh Primas of Orléans, a slightly earlier figure. Under the cover of a pointedly low-life persona, these poets, both prominent men in court society, practiced a robust form of satire in which much of the humour is deflected upon themselves. Grander forms of poetry are not neglected: Walter of Châtillon’s foray into epic, the Alexandreis (written c. 1180), is one of the most distinguished products of the medieval fascination with the legends of Alexander the Great, and it exercised an immense influence on subsequent vernacular literature.

The 12th century was an age of philosophical development, above all in the cathedral schools (as at Chartres) and new universities (as at Paris). Scholars such as Alain of Lille (Alanus de Insulis) and John of Salisbury returned to philosophical problems that had been posed in the days of Boethius. With Roger Bacon, Duns Scotus, and Robert Grosseteste, the first chancellor of Oxford University, a significant English contribution is discernible. Peter Abelard trained at Paris, where he taught John of Salisbury. Of Abelard’s philosophical works, Sic et non (completed c. 1136; “Yes and No”) is the most notable, probing critically the vast bulk of received authority. In three of his most original literary works, the relationship with Héloïse is a prominent feature. The Hymnarius Paraclitensis is a collection of hymns for Héloïse’s convent, where the reading of Scripture is complex and shows the imprint of novel theological thought. The six planctus (“laments”) are meditations on guilt and suffering, set in the mouths of biblical personages, while the correspondence between Abelard and Héloïse reflects themes found in both verse collections. AbelardAbelard’s autobiographical work, the Historia calamitatum (written c. 1136; The Story of Abelard’s Adversities), recounts the story of his tragic love affair and its theological consequences.

Liturgical and cultic innovation left its mark upon Latin literature during the 13th and 14th centuries. John of Garland’s compilation of hymns to the Virgin is a late testimony to the force of Marian inspiration. From the early 13th century derive two of the latest sequences to feature in the liturgy in all countries, the “Dies irae” (“The Day of Wrath”) and the “Stabat Mater” (“The Mother Stands”). The cults of the Holy Cross and of the Passion are the impetus to the poetry of two Franciscans, the Italian St. Bonaventura and John Pecham in England. Pecham’s Philomena praevia is an extended lyrical meditation that blends the story of the Redemption with the liturgical course of a single day.

The theology of the 13th century is dominated in bulk and stature by the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. The culmination of a career centred upon Paris and Rome is the Summa theologiae (written between 1265 and 1272), a systematic exposition of the essentials of faith, grounded in Aristotelian principles. The translation of Aristotle into Latin continued throughout the century. Aquinas’ liturgical works also remained prevalent.

Peter Godman


 



APPENDIX

 


Saint Augustine
 


Augustine as depicted by Sandro Botticelli (c. 1480)

Saint Augustine "Confessions"



Christian bishop and theologian
also called Saint Augustine of Hippo, original Latin name Aurelius Augustinus
born Nov. 13, 354, Tagaste, Numidia [now Souk Ahras, Algeria]
died Aug. 28, 430, Hippo Regius [now Annaba, Algeria]

Main
feast day August 28, bishop of Hippo from 396 to 430, one of the Latin Fathers of the Church, one of the Doctors of the Church, and perhaps the most significant Christian thinker after St. Paul. Augustine’s adaptation of classical thought to Christian teaching created a theological system of great power and lasting influence. His numerous written works, the most important of which are Confessions and City of God, shaped the practice of biblical exegesis and helped lay the foundation for much of medieval and modern Christian thought.

Augustine is remarkable for what he did and extraordinary for what he wrote. If none of his written works had survived, he would still have been a figure to be reckoned with, but his stature would have been more nearly that of some of his contemporaries. However, more than five million words of his writings survive, virtually all displaying the strength and sharpness of his mind (and some limitations of range and learning) and some possessing the rare power to attract and hold the attention of readers in both his day and ours. His distinctive theological style shaped Latin Christianity in a way surpassed only by scripture itself. His work continues to hold contemporary relevance, in part because of his membership in a religious group that was dominant in the West in his time and remains so today.

Intellectually, Augustine represents the most influential adaptation of the ancient Platonic tradition with Christian ideas that ever occurred in the Latin Christian world. Augustine received the Platonic past in a far more limited and diluted way than did many of his Greek-speaking contemporaries, but his writings were so widely read and imitated throughout Latin Christendom that his particular synthesis of Christian, Roman, and Platonic traditions defined the terms for much later tradition and debate. Both modern Roman Catholic and Protestant Christianity owe much to Augustine, though in some ways each community has at times been embarrassed to own up to that allegiance in the face of irreconcilable elements in his thought. For example, Augustine has been cited as both a champion of human freedom and an articulate defender of divine predestination, and his views on sexuality were humane in intent but have often been received as oppressive in effect.

Life overview
Augustine was born in Tagaste, a modest Roman community in a river valley 40 miles (64 km) from the African coast. It lay just a few miles short of the point where the veneer of Roman civilization thinned out in the highlands of Numidia in the way the American West opens before a traveler leaving the Mississippi River valley. Augustine’s parents were of the respectable class of Roman society, free to live on the work of others, but their means were sometimes straitened. They managed, sometimes on borrowed money, to acquire a first-class education for Augustine, and, although he had at least one brother and one sister, he seems to have been the only child sent off to be educated. He studied first in Tagaste, then in the nearby university town of Madauros, and finally at Carthage, the great city of Roman Africa. After a brief stint teaching in Tagaste, he returned to Carthage to teach rhetoric, the premier science for the Roman gentleman, and he was evidently very good at it.

While still at Carthage, he wrote a short philosophical book aimed at displaying his own merits and advancing his career; unfortunately, it is lost. At the age of 28, restless and ambitious, Augustine left Africa in 383 to make his career in Rome. He taught there briefly before landing a plum appointment as imperial professor of rhetoric at Milan. The customary residence of the emperor at the time, Milan was the de facto capital of the Western Roman Empire and the place where careers were best made. Augustine tells us that he, and the many family members with him, expected no less than a provincial governorship as the eventual—and lucrative—reward for his merits.

Augustine’s career, however, ran aground in Milan. After only two years there, he resigned his teaching post and, after some soul-searching and apparent idleness, made his way back to his native town of Tagaste. There he passed the time as a cultured squire, looking after his family property, raising the son, Adeodatus, left him by his long-term lover (her name is unknown) taken from the lower classes, and continuing his literary pastimes. The death of that son while still an adolescent left Augustine with no obligation to hand on the family property, and so he disposed of it and found himself, at age 36, literally pressed into service against his will as a junior clergyman in the coastal city of Hippo, north of Tagaste.

The transformation was not entirely surprising. Augustine had always been a dabbler in one form or another of the Christian religion, and the collapse of his career at Milan was associated with an intensification of religiosity. All his writings from that time onward were driven by his allegiance to a particular form of Christianity both orthodox and intellectual. His coreligionists in North Africa accepted his distinctive stance and style with some difficulty, and Augustine chose to associate himself with the “official” branch of Christianity, approved by emperors and reviled by the most enthusiastic and numerous branches of the African church. Augustine’s literary and intellectual abilities, however, gave him the power to articulate his vision of Christianity in a way that set him apart from his African contemporaries. His unique gift was the ability to write at a high theoretical level for the most discerning readers and still be able to deliver sermons with fire and fierceness in an idiom that a less cultured audience could admire.

Made a “presbyter” (roughly, a priest, but with less authority than modern clergy of that title) at Hippo in 391, Augustine became bishop there in 395 or 396 and spent the rest of his life in that office. Hippo was a trading city, without the wealth and culture of Carthage or Rome, and Augustine was never entirely at home there. He would travel to Carthage for several months of the year to pursue ecclesiastical business in a milieu more welcoming to his talents than that of his adopted home city.

Augustine’s educational background and cultural milieu trained him for the art of rhetoric: declaring the power of the self through speech that differentiated the speaker from his fellows and swayed the crowd to follow his views. That Augustine’s training and natural talent coincided is best seen in an episode when he was in his early 60s and found himself quelling by force of personality and words an incipient riot while visiting the town of Caesarea Mauretanensis. The style of the rhetorician carried over in his ecclesiastical persona throughout his career. He was never without controversies to fight, usually with others of his own religion. In his years of rustication and early in his time at Hippo, he wrote book after book attacking Manichaeism, a Christian sect he had joined in his late teens and left 10 years later when it became impolitic to remain with them. For the next 20 years, from the 390s to the 410s, he was preoccupied with the struggle to make his own brand of Christianity prevail over all others in Africa. The native African Christian tradition had fallen afoul of the Christian emperors who succeeded Constantine (reigned 305–337) and was reviled as schismatic; it was branded with the name of Donatism after Donatus, one of its early leaders. Augustine and his chief colleague in the official church, Bishop Aurelius of Carthage, fought a canny and relentless campaign against it with their books, with their recruitment of support among church leaders, and with careful appeal to Roman officialdom. In 411 the reigning emperor sent an official representative to Carthage to settle the quarrel. A public debate held in three sessions during June 1–8 and attended by hundreds of bishops on each side ended with a ruling in favour of the official church. The ensuing legal restrictions on Donatism decided the struggle in favour of Augustine’s party.

Even then, approaching his 60th year, Augustine found—or manufactured—a last great challenge for himself. Taking umbrage at the implications of the teachings of a traveling society preacher named Pelagius, Augustine gradually worked himself up to a polemical fever over ideas that Pelagius may or may not have espoused. Other churchmen of the time were perplexed and reacted with some caution to Augustine, but he persisted, even reviving the battle against austere monks and dignified bishops through the 420s. At the time of his death, he was at work on a vast and shapeless attack on the last and most urbane of his opponents, the Italian bishop Julian of Eclanum.

Through these years, Augustine had carefully built for himself a reputation as a writer throughout Africa and beyond. His careful cultivation of selected correspondents had made his name known in Gaul, Spain, Italy, and the Middle East, and his books were widely circulated throughout the Mediterranean world. In his last years he compiled a careful catalog of his books, annotating them with bristling defensiveness to deter charges of inconsistency. He had opponents, many of them heated in their attacks on him, but he usually retained their respect by the power and effectiveness of his writing.

His fame notwithstanding, Augustine died a failure. When he was a young man, it was inconceivable that the Pax Romana could fall, but in his last year he found himself and his fellow citizens of Hippo prisoners to a siege laid by a motley army of invaders who had swept into Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar. Called the Vandals by contemporaries, the attacking forces comprised a mixed group of “barbarians” and adventurers searching for a home. Hippo fell shortly after Augustine’s death, and Carthage not long after. The Vandals, holders to a more fiercely particularist version of the Christian creed than any of those Augustine had lived with in Africa, would rule in Africa for a century, until Roman forces sent from Constantinople invaded again and overthrew their regime. But Augustine’s legacy in his homeland was effectively terminated with his lifetime. A revival of orthodox Christianity in the 6th century under the patronage of Constantinople was brought to an end in the 7th with the Islamic invasions that permanently removed North Africa from the sphere of Christian influence until the thin Christianization, now rapidly disappearing, of French colonialism in the 19th century.

Augustine survived in his books. His habit of cataloging them served his surviving collaborators well. Somehow, essentially the whole of Augustine’s literary oeuvre survived and escaped Africa intact. The story was told that his mortal remains went to Sardinia and thence to Pavia (Italy), where a shrine concentrates reverence on what is said to be those remains. Whatever the truth of the story, some organized withdrawal to Sardinia on the part of Augustine’s followers, bearing his body and his books, is not impossible and remains the best surmise.


Life retold
As outlined above, the story of Augustine’s life will seem in numerous ways unfamiliar to readers who already know some of it. The story of his early life is exceedingly well known—better known than that of virtually any other Greek or Roman worthy. Augustine’s Confessions recounts that early life with immense persuasiveness, and few biographers can resist abridging that story to serve their own purposes. Yet it is a story told with a sophisticated purpose, highly selective in its choice of incident and theological in its structure. The goal of the book was ultimately self-justification and self-creation. Modestly successful in Augustine’s lifetime, the book has been triumphant ever since, defining his life on his terms in ways both obvious and subtle.

For Augustine the defining moment of his life was the time of his religious conversion to an intense and highly individual form of Christianity. He dated this experience to his time in Milan, and in relation to this he explained his ensuing career. But contemporaries found it odd to single out that particular moment—when he was conveniently away from Africa and from any scrutiny of his motives and actions—in a life that was not always as he seemed to narrate it. None of the handful of Augustine’s contemporaries known to have read the Confessions was persuaded by its narrative of youthful dissipation turned to austere maturity. Augustine was always dutiful and restrained. Neither he nor any of his modern biographers has yet succeeded in getting at the essence of his personality. The hostages he left to psychobiography in the Confessions have not made it any easier for modern readers to find him; in an odd way, the Freudian readings of Augustine common in the 20th century shared with him an emphasis on the selected emotional high points he chose to narrate and so were captives of his own storytelling.

The observable facts about Augustine’s religious history are that he was born to a mother, Monnica, who was a baptized Christian and a father, Patricius, who would take baptism on his deathbed when Augustine was in his teens. Neither was particularly devout, but Monnica became more demonstratively religious in her widowhood and is venerated as St. Monica. Augustine was enrolled as a pre-baptismal candidate in the Christian church as a young child, and at various points in his life he considered baptism but deferred out of prudence. (In that age, before the prevalence of infant baptism, it was common for baptism to be delayed until the hour of death and then used to wash away a lifetime of sins.) His classical education was supplemented by a curious but dismissive reading of the Christian scriptures, but he then fell in with the Manichaeans, enjoying their company and their polemics, in which he took eager part, for most of a decade. He sheltered himself with them and used them for political influence even after he claimed to have dissociated himself from their beliefs; he abandoned them when he found himself in Milan. It was there, where Ambrose was making a name for himself as a champion of orthodoxy, that Augustine found orthodoxy—or at least found orthodoxy satisfactory as something a gentleman could practice.

But when Augustine accepted baptism at the hands of Ambrose in 387, thereby joining the religion of his mother to the cultural practices of his father, he managed to make it a Christianity of his own. To some extent influenced by Ambrose (but few others influenced by Ambrose went in the same direction), Augustine made his Christianity into a rival to and replacement for the austerity of ancient philosophers. Reading Platonic texts and correctly understanding some of their doctrine, Augustine decided for himself that Christianity was possible only if he went further than any churchman said he was required to go—he chose to remain celibate even though he was a layman and under no requirement to do so. His life with a succession of lovers ended, Augustine accepted sexual abstinence as the price of religion. After a long winter in retirement from the temptations of the city, he presented himself to Ambrose for baptism, then slipped away from Milan to pursue a singularly private life for the next four years. That this life ended in his entering the Christian clergy was something he did not foresee, and he should probably be believed when he says that he did not want it. It was in office as Christian bishop of Hippo that he chose to tell the story of his life as a drama of fall and rise, sin and conversion, desolation and grace. He told that story at a time when his own credentials were suspect—his Donatist opponents thought it queer, or at least suspiciously self-serving, that he left Africa a raving Manichaean and returned meekly claiming to have been baptized in the official church. It is likely that his telling of the story was meant to reassure his followers and disarm his opponents.

If the Confessions had not survived, we would not surmise its story. We should learn to hear it without letting its self-interested narrative blind us to a fresh reading of Augustine’s life.


Chief works
Two of Augustine’s works stand out above the others for their lasting influence, but they have had very different fates. City of God was widely read in Augustine’s time and throughout the Middle Ages and still demands attention today, but it is impossible to read without a determined effort to place it in its historical context. The Confessions was not much read in the first centuries of the Middle Ages, but from the 12th century onward it has been continuously read as a vivid portrayal of an individual’s struggle for self-definition in the presence of a powerful God.


Chief works » Confessions
Although autobiographical narrative makes up much of the first 9 of the 13 books of Augustine’s Confessiones (397; Confessions), autobiography is incidental to the main purpose of the work. For Augustine confessions is a catchall term for acts of religiously authorized speech: praise of God, blame of self, confession of faith. The book is a richly textured meditation by a middle-aged man (Augustine was in his early 40s when he wrote it) on the course and meaning of his own life. The dichotomy between past odyssey and present position of authority as bishop is emphasized in numerous ways in the book, not least in that what begins as a narrative of childhood ends with an extended and very churchy discussion of the book of Genesis—the progression is from the beginnings of a man’s life to the beginnings of human society.

Between those two points the narrative of sin and redemption holds most readers’ attention. Those who seek to find in it the memoirs of a great sinner are invariably disappointed, indeed often puzzled at the minutiae of failure that preoccupy the author. Of greater significance is the account of redemption. Augustine is especially influenced by the powerful intellectual preaching of the suave and diplomatic Bishop Ambrose, who reconciles for him the attractions of the intellectual and social culture of antiquity, in which Augustine was brought up and of which he was a master, and the spiritual teachings of Christianity. The link between the two was Ambrose’s exposition, and Augustine’s reception, of a selection of the doctrines of Plato, as mediated in late antiquity by the school of Neoplatonism. Augustine heard Ambrose and read, in Latin translation, some of the exceedingly difficult works of Plotinus and Porphyry; he acquired from them an intellectual vision of the fall and rise of the soul of man, a vision he found confirmed in the reading of the Bible proposed by Ambrose.

Religion for Augustine, however, was never merely a matter of the intellect. The seventh book of the Confessions recounts a perfectly satisfactory intellectual conversion, but the extraordinary eighth book takes him one necessary step further. Augustine could not bring himself to seek the ritual purity of baptism without cleansing himself of the desires of the flesh to an extreme degree. For him, baptism required renunciation of sexuality in all its express manifestations. The narrative of the Confessions shows Augustine forming the will to renounce sexuality through a reading of the letters of Paul. The decisive scene occurs in a garden in Milan, where a child’s voice seems to bid Augustine to “take up and read,” whereupon he finds in Paul’s writings the inspiration to adopt a life of chastity.

The rest of the Confessions is mainly a meditation on how the continued study of scripture and pursuit of divine wisdom are still inadequate for attaining perfection and how, as bishop, Augustine makes peace with his imperfections. It is drenched in language from the Bible and is a work of great force and artistry.


Chief works » City of God
Fifteen years after Augustine wrote the Confessions, at a time when he was bringing to a close (and invoking government power to do so) his long struggle with the Donatists but before he had worked himself up to action against the Pelagians, the Roman world was shaken by news of a military action in Italy. A ragtag army under the leadership of Alaric, a general of Germanic ancestry and thus credited with leading a “barbarian” band, had been seeking privileges from the empire for many years, making from time to time extortionate raids against populous and prosperous areas. Finally, in 410, his forces attacked and seized the city of Rome itself, holding it for several days before decamping to the south of Italy. The military significance of the event was nil—such was the disorder of Roman government that other war bands would hold provinces hostage more and more frequently, and this particular band would wander for another decade before settling mainly in Spain and the south of France. But the symbolic effect of seeing the city of Rome taken by outsiders for the first time since the Gauls had done so in 390 bc shook the secular confidence of many thoughtful people across the Mediterranean. Coming as it did less than 20 years after the decisive edict against “paganism” by the emperor Theodosius I in 391, it was followed by speculation that perhaps the Roman Empire had mistaken its way with the gods. Perhaps the new Christian god was not as powerful as he seemed. Perhaps the old gods had done a better job of protecting their followers.

It is hard to tell how seriously or widely such arguments were made; paganism by this time was in disarray, and Christianity’s hold on the reins of government was unshakable. But Augustine saw in the murmured doubts a splendid polemical occasion he had long sought, and so he leapt to the defense of God’s ways. That his readers and the doubters whose murmurs he had heard were themselves pagans is unlikely. At the very least, it is clear that his intended audience comprised many people who were at least outwardly affiliated with the Christian church. During the next 15 years, working meticulously through a lofty architecture of argument, he outlined a new way to understand human society, setting up the City of God over and against the City of Man. Rome was dethroned—and the sack of the city shown to be of no spiritual importance—in favour of the heavenly Jerusalem, the true home and source of citizenship for all Christians. The City of Man was doomed to disarray, and wise men would, as it were, keep their passports in order as citizens of the City above, living in this world as pilgrims longing to return home.

De civitate Dei contra paganos (413–426/427; City of God) is divided into 22 books. The first 10 refute the claims to divine power of various pagan communities. The last 12 retell the biblical story of mankind from Genesis to the Last Judgment, offering what Augustine presents as the true history of the City of God against which, and only against which, the history of the City of Man, including the history of Rome, can be properly understood. The work is too long and at times, particularly in the last books, too discursive to make entirely satisfactory reading today, but it remains impressive as a whole and fascinating in its parts. The stinging attack on paganism in the first books is memorable and effective, the encounter with Platonism in books 8–10 is of great philosophical significance, and the last books (especially book 19, with a vision of true peace) offer a view of human destiny that would be widely persuasive for at least a thousand years. In a way, Augustine’s City of God is (even consciously) the Christian rejoinder to Plato’s Republic and Cicero’s imitation of Plato, his own Republic. City of God would be read in various ways throughout the Middle Ages, at some points virtually as a founding document for a political order of kings and popes that Augustine could hardly have imagined. At its heart is a powerful contrarian vision of human life, one which accepts the place of disaster, death, and disappointment while holding out hope of a better life to come, a hope that in turn eases and gives direction to life in this world.


Chief works » Reconsiderations
In many ways no less unusual a book than his Confessions, the Retractationes (426–427; Reconsiderations), written in the last years of his life, offers a retrospective rereading of Augustine’s career. In form, the book is a catalog of his writings with comments on the circumstances of their composition and with the retractions or rectifications he would make in hindsight. (One effect of the book was to make it much easier for medieval readers to find and identify authentic works of Augustine, and this was surely a factor in the remarkable survival of so much of what he wrote.) Another effect of the book is to imprint even more deeply on readers Augustine’s own views of his life. There is very little in the work that is false or inaccurate, but the shaping and presentation make it a work of propaganda. The Augustine who emerges has been faithful, consistent, and unwavering in his doctrine and life. Many who knew him would have seen instead either progress or outright tergiversation, depending on their point of view.


Other works
None of Augustine’s other works has the currency or readership of his two masterpieces. Of greatest interest are the following:


Other works » Christian Doctrine
De doctrina christiana (books 1–3 396/397, book 4 426; Christian Doctrine) was begun in the first years of Augustine’s episcopacy but finished 30 years later. This imitation of Cicero’s Orator for Christian purposes sets out a theory of the interpretation of scripture and offers practical guidance to the would-be preacher. It was widely influential in the Middle Ages as an educational treatise claiming the primacy of religious teaching based on the Bible. Its emphasis on allegorical interpretation of scripture, carried out within very loose parameters, was especially significant, and it remains of interest to philosophers for its subtle and influential discussion of Augustine’s theory of “signs” and how language represents reality.


Other works » The Trinity
The most widespread and longest-lasting theological controversies of the 4th century focused on the Christian doctrine of the Trinity—that is, the threeness of God represented in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Augustine’s Africa had been left out of much of the fray, and most of what was written on the subject was in Greek, a language Augustine barely knew and had little access to. But he was keenly aware of the prestige and importance of the topic, and so in 15 books he wrote his own exposition of it, De trinitate (399/400–416/421; The Trinity). Augustine is carefully orthodox, after the spirit of his and succeeding times, but adds his own emphasis in the way he teaches the resemblance between God and man: the threeness of God he finds reflected in a galaxy of similar triples in the human soul, and he sees there both food for meditation and deep reason for optimism about the ultimate human condition.


Other works » Literal Commentary on Genesis
The creation narrative of the book of Genesis was for Augustine scripture par excellence. He wrote at least five sustained treatises on those chapters (if we include the last three books of the Confessions and books 11–14 of City of God). His De genesi ad litteram (401–414/415; Literal Commentary on Genesis) was the result of many years of work from the late 390s to the early 410s. Its notion of “literal” commentary will surprise many moderns, for there is little historical exposition of the narrative and much on the implicit relationship between Adam and Eve and fallen mankind. It should be noted that a subtext of all of Augustine’s writing on Genesis was his determination to validate the goodness of God and of creation itself against Manichaean dualism.


Other works » Sermons
Almost one-third of Augustine’s surviving works consists of sermons—more than 1.5 million words, most of them taken down by shorthand scribes as he spoke extemporaneously. They cover a wide range. Many are simple expositions of scripture read aloud at a particular service according to church rules, but Augustine followed certain programs as well. There are sermons on all 150 Psalms, deliberately gathered by him in a separate collection, Enarrationes in Psalmos (392–418; Enarrations on the Psalms). These are perhaps his best work as a homilist, for he finds in the uplifting spiritual poetry of the Hebrews messages that he can apply consistently to his view of austere, hopeful, realistic Christianity; his ordinary congregation in Hippo would have drawn sustenance from them. At a higher intellectual level are his Tractatus in evangelium Iohannis CXXIV (413–418?; Tractates on the Gospel of John), amounting to a full commentary on the most philosophical of the Gospel texts. Other sermons range over much of scripture, but it is worth noting that Augustine had little to say about the prophets of the Old Testament, and what he did have to say about Paul appeared in his written works rather than in his public sermons.


Other works » Early writings
Moderns enamoured of Augustine from the narrative in the Confessions have given much emphasis to his short, attractive early works, several of which mirror the style and manner of Ciceronian dialogues with a new, Platonized Christian content: Contra academicos (386; Against the Academics), De ordine (386; On Providence), De beata vita (386; On the Blessed Life), and Soliloquia (386/387; Soliloquies). These works both do and do not resemble Augustine’s later ecclesiastical writings and are greatly debated for their historical and biographical significance, but the debates should not obscure the fact that they are charming and intelligent pieces. If they were all we had of Augustine, he would remain a well-respected, albeit minor, figure in late Latin literature.


Other works » Controversial writings
More than 100 titled works survive from Augustine’s pen, the majority of them devoted to the pursuit of issues in one or another of the ecclesiastical controversies that preoccupied his episcopal years.

Of his works against the Manichaeans, the Confessions probably remains the most attractive and interesting; the sect itself is too little known today for detailed refutation of its more idiosyncratic Gnostic doctrines to have much weight.

Augustine’s anti-Donatist polemic, on the other hand, has had a modern resonance for its role in creating the relationship between church and state (in Augustine’s case, church and state using each other deliberately to achieve their ends) and in arguing the case for a universal church against local particularism. To the young and still Anglican John Henry Newman, what Augustine had written about the provincial self-satisfaction of the Donatists seemed an equally effective argument against the Church of England. For the theology, Augustine in De baptismo contra Donatistas (401; On Baptism) expounds his anti-Donatist views most effectively, but the stenographic Gesta Collationis Carthaginensis (411; “Acts of the Council of Carthage”) offers a vivid view of the politics and bad feeling of the schism.

The issues raised by Augustine’s attacks on Pelagianism have had a long history in Christianity, notoriously resurfacing in the Reformation’s debates over free will and predestination. De spiritu et littera (412; On the Spirit and the Letter) comes from an early moment in the controversy, is relatively irenic, and beautifully sets forth his point of view. De gratia Christi et de peccato originali (418; On the Grace of Christ and on Original Sin) is a more methodical exposition. The hardest positions Augustine takes in favour of predestination in his last years appear in De praedestinatione sanctorum (429; The Predestination of the Blessed) and De dono perseverantiae (429; The Gift of Perseverance).


Augustine’s spirit and achievement
Augustine’s impact on the Middle Ages cannot be underestimated. Thousands of manuscripts survive, and many serious medieval libraries—possessing no more than a few hundred books in all—had more works of Augustine than of any other writer. His achievement is paradoxical inasmuch as—like a modern artist who makes more money posthumously than in life—most of it was gained after his death and in lands and societies far removed from his own. Augustine was read avidly in a world where Christian orthodoxy prevailed in a way he could barely have dreamed of, hence a world unlike that to which his books were meant to apply.

Some of his success is owed to the undeniable power of his writing, some to his good luck in having maintained a reputation for orthodoxy unblemished even by debates about some of his most extreme views, but, above all, Augustine found his voice in a few themes which he espoused eloquently throughout his career. When he asks himself in his early Soliloquies what he desires to know, he replies, “Two things only, God and the soul.” Accordingly, he speaks of his reverence for a God who is remote, distant, and mysterious as well as powerfully and unceasingly present in all times and places. “Totus ubique” was Augustine’s oft-repeated mantra for this doctrine, “The whole of him everywhere.”

At the same time, Augustine captures the poignancy and tentativeness of the human condition, centred on the isolated and individual experience of the person. For all he writes of the Christian community, his Christian stands alone before God and is imprisoned in a unique body and soul painfully aware of the different way he knows himself and knows—at a distance and with difficulty—other people. Augustine must have been an overpowering friend to many who knew him, a whirlwind and almost bullying force, but at the same time we see no friend of his as intimate as Atticus was to Cicero or Lou Andreas-Salomé was to Rainer Maria Rilke—two other eloquent loners.

But Augustine achieves a greater poignancy. His isolated self in the presence of God is denied even the satisfaction of solipsism: the self does not know itself until God deigns to reveal to human beings their identity, and even then no confidence, no rest is possible in this life. At one point in the Confessions the mature bishop ruefully admits that “I do not know to what temptation I will surrender next”—and sees in that uncertainty the peril of his soul unending until God should call him home. The soul experiences freedom of choice and ensuing slavery to sin but knows that divine predestination will prevail.

Thousands upon thousands of pages have been written on Augustine and his views. Given his influence, he is often canvassed for his opinion on controversies (from the Immaculate Conception of Mary to the ethics of contraception) that he barely imagined or could have spoken to. But the themes of imperial God and contingent self run deep and go far to explain his refusal to accept Manichaean doctrines of a powerful devil at war with God, Donatist particularism in the face of universal religion, or Pelagian claims of human autonomy and confidence. His views on sexuality and the place of women in society have been searchingly tested and found wanting in recent years, but they, too, have roots in the loneliness of a man terrified of his father—or his God.

In the end, Augustine and his own experience, so vividly displayed and at the same time veiled in his Confessions, disappear from view, to be replaced by the serene teacher depicted in medieval and Renaissance art. It is worth remembering that Augustine ended his life in the midst of a community that feared for its material well-being and chose to spend his last days in a room by himself, posting on a wall where he could see them the texts of the seven penitential Psalms, to wrestle one last time with his sins before meeting his maker.

James O’Donnell

 

 



Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius




Roman scholar, philosopher, and statesman

born ad 470–475?, Rome? [Italy]
died 524, Pavia?

Main
Roman scholar, Christian philosopher, and statesman, author of the celebrated De consolatione philosophiae (Consolation of Philosophy), a largely Neoplatonic work in which the pursuit of wisdom and the love of God are described as the true sources of human happiness.

The most succinct biography of Boethius, and the oldest, was written by Cassiodorus, his senatorial colleague, who cited him as an accomplished orator who delivered a fine eulogy of Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths who made himself king of Italy. Cassiodorus also mentioned that Boethius wrote on theology, composed a pastoral poem, and was most famous as a translator of works of Greek logic and mathematics.

Other ancient sources, including Boethius’ own De consolatione philosophiae, give more details. He belonged to the ancient Roman family of the Anicii, which had been Christian for about a century and of which Emperor Olybrius had been a member. Boethius’ father had been consul in 487 but died soon afterward, and Boethius was raised by Quintus Aurelius Memmius Symmachus, whose daughter Rusticiana he married. He became consul in 510 under the Ostrogothic king Theodoric. Although little of Boethius’ education is known, he was evidently well trained in Greek. His early works on arithmetic and music are extant, both based on Greek handbooks by Nicomachus of Gerasa, a 1st-century-ad Palestinian mathematician. There is little that survives of Boethius’ geometry, and there is nothing of his astronomy.

It was Boethius’ scholarly aim to translate into Latin the complete works of Aristotle with commentary and all the works of Plato “perhaps with commentary,” to be followed by a “restoration of their ideas into a single harmony.” Boethius’ dedicated Hellenism, modeled on Cicero’s, supported his long labour of translating Aristotle’s Organon (six treatises on logic) and the Greek glosses on the work.

Boethius had begun before 510 to translate Porphyry’s Eisagogē, a 3rd-century Greek introduction to Aristotle’s logic, and elaborated it in a double commentary. He then translated the Katēgoriai, wrote a commentary in 511 in the year of his consulship, and also translated and wrote two commentaries on the second of Aristotle’s six treatises, the Peri hermeneias (“On Interpretation”). A brief ancient commentary on Aristotle’s Analytika Protera (“Prior Analytics”) may be his too; he also wrote two short works on the syllogism.

About 520 Boethius put his close study of Aristotle to use in four short treatises in letter form on the ecclesiastical doctrines of the Trinity and the nature of Christ; these are basically an attempt to solve disputes that had resulted from the Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ. Using the terminology of the Aristotelian categories, Boethius described the unity of God in terms of substance and the three divine persons in terms of relation. He also tried to solve dilemmas arising from the traditional description of Christ as both human and divine, by deploying precise definitions of “substance,” “nature,” and “person.” Notwithstanding these works, doubt has at times been cast on Boethius’ theological writings because in his logical works and in the later Consolation, the Christian idiom is nowhere apparent. The 19th-century discovery of the biography written by Cassiodorus, however, confirmed Boethius as a Christian writer, even if his philosophic sources were non-Christian.

In about 520 Boethius became magister officiorum (head of all the government and court services) under Theodoric. His two sons were consuls together in 522. Eventually Boethius fell out of favour with Theodoric. The Consolation contains the main extant evidence of his fall but does not clearly describe the actual accusation against him. After the healing of a schism between Rome and the church of Constantinople in 520, Boethius and other senators may have been suspected of communicating with the Byzantine emperor Justin I, who was orthodox in faith whereas Theodoric was Arian. Boethius openly defended the senator Albinus, who was accused of treason “for having written to the Emperor Justin against the rule of Theodoric.” The charge of treason brought against Boethius was aggravated by a further accusation of the practice of magic, or of sacrilege, which the accused was at great pains to reject. Sentence was passed and was ratified by the Senate, probably under duress. In prison, while he was awaiting execution, Boethius wrote his masterwork, De consolatione philosophiae.

The Consolation is the most personal of Boethius’ writings, the crown of his philosophic endeavours. Its style, a welcome change from the Aristotelian idiom that provided the basis for the jargon of medieval Scholasticism, seemed to the 18th-century English historian Edward Gibbon “not unworthy of the leisure of Plato or Tully.” The argument of the Consolation is basically Platonic. Philosophy, personified as a woman, converts the prisoner Boethius to the Platonic notion of Good and so nurses him back to the recollection that, despite the apparent injustice of his enforced exile, there does exist a summum bonum (“highest good”), which “strongly and sweetly” controls and orders the universe. Fortune and misfortune must be subordinate to that central Providence, and the real existence of evil is excluded. Man has free will, but it is no obstacle to divine order and foreknowledge. Virtue, whatever the appearances, never goes unrewarded. The prisoner is finally consoled by the hope of reparation and reward beyond death. Through the five books of this argument, in which poetry alternates with prose, there is no specifically Christian tenet. It is the creed of a Platonist, though nowhere glaringly incongruous with Christian faith. The most widely read book in medieval times, after the Vulgate Bible, it transmitted the main doctrines of Platonism to the Middle Ages. The modern reader may not be so readily consoled by its ancient modes of argument, but he may be impressed by Boethius’ emphasis on the possibility of other grades of Being beyond the one humanly known and of other dimensions to the human experience of time.

After his detention, probably at Pavia, he was executed in 524. His remains were later placed in the church of San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro in Pavia, where, possibly through a confusion with his namesake, St. Severinus of Noricum, they received the veneration due to a martyr and a memorable salute from Dante.

When Cassiodorus founded a monastery at Vivarium, in Campania, he installed there his Roman library and included Boethius’ works on the liberal arts in the annotated reading list (Institutiones) that he composed for the education of his monks. Thus, some of the literary habits of the ancient aristocracy entered the monastic tradition. Boethian logic dominated the training of the medieval clergy and the work of the cloister and court schools. His translations and commentaries, particularly those of the Katēgoriai and Peri hermeneias, became basic texts in medieval Scholasticism. The great controversy over Nominalism (denial of the existence of universals) and Realism (belief in the existence of universals) was incited by a passage in his commentary on Porphyry. Translations of the Consolation appeared early in the great vernacular literatures, with King Alfred (9th century) and Chaucer (14th century) in English, Jean de Meun (a 13th-century poet) in French, and Notker Labeo (a monk of around the turn of the 11th century) in German. There was a Byzantine version in the 13th century by Planudes and a 16th-century English one by Elizabeth I.

Thus the resolute intellectual activity of Boethius in an age of change and catastrophe affected later, very different ages; and the subtle and precise terminology of Greek antiquity survived in Latin when Greek itself was little known.
 

 

 


Giles of Rome





Augustinian theologian

Latin Aegidius Romanus, also called Doctor Fundatissimus (Latin: “Best-Grounded Teacher”)
born c. 1243, –47, Rome [Italy]
died 1316, Avignon, Fr.

Main
Scholastic theologian, philosopher, logician, archbishop, and general and intellectual leader of the Order of the Hermit Friars of St. Augustine.

Giles joined the Augustinian Hermits in about 1257 and in 1260 went to Paris, where he was educated in the house of his order. While in Paris from 1269 to 1272, he probably studied under St. Thomas Aquinas, whose philosophical doctrines he defended against ecclesiastical condemnation (1277). He supported the Thomistic doctrine of substance in his Theoremata de esse et essentia (“Essays on Being and Essence”). A storm of opposition from other theologians forced Giles to take refuge in Bayeux, Fr. (1278–80).

In 1281 he returned to Italy and was made provincial of his order in 1283 and vicar-general in 1285. That year Pope Honorius IV effected Giles’ reinstatement at the University of Paris, where he taught theology until 1291. He served as general of the Augustinian Hermits from 1292 to 1295, when Pope Boniface VIII made him archbishop of Bourges, Fr. During the political conflict between Boniface and King Philip IV the Fair of France, Giles wrote, in 1301, a defense of the pope, De ecclesiastica potestate (“On the Church Power”); he proposed that the pope must have direct political power over the whole of mankind.

Developing in an original way Augustinian and Thomistic doctrines, Giles’s vast literary production includes Aristotelian and biblical commentaries and theological and political treatises. Numerous editions of his collected and individual works appeared in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. His commentaries on Aristotle’s entire Organon (i.e., the logical writings) are considered valuable by logicians.
 

 

 


Panaetius



Roman philosopher

born c. 180, –109 bc

Main
the founder of Roman Stoic philosophy, and a friend of Scipio Aemilianus and of Polybius.

A pupil in Athens of Diogenes of Seleucia and of Antipater of Tarsus, Panaetius also studied the philosophies of Plato and of Aristotle. Many years a resident in Rome, he was an influential member of the Scipionic circle and was invited to be Scipio’s sole companion on an ambassadorial visit to the Orient about 140 bc. Panaetius succeeded Antipater as head of the school and passed the last 20 years of his life in Athens. While adhering to fundamental Stoic teaching, Panaetius tempered the rigid austerity of the ancient Stoa and introduced a new humanist note. He appears to have written less voluminously than other leading Stoics, and none of the five treatises attributed to him is extant. His important ethical treatise On the Appropriate was Cicero’s model for the first two books of the De Officiis. His chief disciple was Poseidonius of Apamea.
 

 

   
 
         

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