The Ancient Library

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force and freedom of expression in strong contrast with the inflated feebleness and uneasy stiffness which marked the last period of decay.

Assuming that the astronomical Avienus is the same with the geographical Avienus, we can at once determine approximately the age to which he belongs ; for Jerome, in his commentary on the Epistle of St. Paul to Titus, mentions that the quotation by the Apostle, in the xvii. chapter of the Acts, Toy yap tta\ ykvos eff/nei^ is to be found in the Phaenomena of Aratus, " quern Cicero in Latinum sermonem transtulit, et Germanicus Cae­sar, et nuper Avienus." Now Jerome died in 420; therefore, allowing all fair latitude to the somewhat indefinite wiper, we may with tolerable certainty place Avienus in the latter half of the fourth cen­tury, under Valens, the Valentinians, Gratian, and Theodosius, or even somewhat earlier, under Constantine and Julian. Our next step leads us upon ground much less firm, but we may venture yet a little further. An inscription, discovered originally, we are told, in the chu'rch of St. Nicholas, of the Furbishers, at Rome, and afterwards de­posited in the Villa Caesarina, has been published by Fabretti and others, and will be found in Bur-mann's Anthologia. (i. 79, or Ep .n. 278, ed.Meyer.) It bears as a title R. festus V. C. db se ad beam nortiam, and begins in the first person, Festus Musoni soboles prolesque Avieni., after which follows an announcement on the part of this individual, that he was born at Viilsinii, that he dwelt at Rome, tnat he had twice been elevated to the office of proconsul, that he was the happy husband of a lady named Placida, the proud father of a numerous offspring, and the author of many poems (carmina midta serens] ; then follows a sort of epitaph in four lines, inscribed by Placidus, ap­parently the son of the above personage, to the sacred memory of his sire. Wernsdorf and others have at once pronounced without hesitation, that the Festus who here calls himself descendant of Musonius and son of Avienus, for such is undoubt­edly the true meaning of the words, must be the same with our Rufus Festus Avienus. The proof adduced, when carefully sifted, amounts to this :— 1. It is probable that the ancestor here referred to may be C. Musonius Rufus, the celebrated Stoic and intimate friend of Apollonius of Tyana. He was exiled by Nero, patronized by Vespasian, and is frequently mentioned by the writers who treat of this period. This idea receives confirmation from the circumstance that Tacitus and Philostratus both represent Musonius as a Tuscan, and Suiclas expressly asserts that he was a native of Vulsinii. We thus fully establish an identity of name be­tween the writer of the inscription and our Avienus, and can explain satisfactorily how the ap­pellation Rufus came into the family. 2. From two laws in the Codex of Justinian (see Gotho-fred, Prosopogr. Cod. Tlieod.}, it appears that a certain Festus was proconsul of Africa in the years 366 and 367, which agrees with the age we have assigned to our Avienus from St. Jerome, and an inscription is extant (Boeckh, Inscr. Grace. i. p. 436) commemorating the gratitude of the Athenians towards 'Podtyios ^-fjo-ros., proconsul of Greece. Now the editor of Dionysius and Aratus must have been a Greek scholar, and we gather from some lines in the Descriptio that he had re­peatedly visited Delphi in person ; thus he may be this very 'Potyios ^ijcrros^ and the two proconsular



appointments are in this way determined. 3. The words " carmina multa serens" point out a simi­larity of taste and occupation. 4. Lastly, in the epitaph by Placidus we detect an expression, " Jupiter aethram (Pandit, Feste tibi)," which seems to allude directly to the second line of the Phaenomena, " excelsum reserat Jupiter aethram," although this may be merely an accidental resem­blance. It will be seen that the evidence requires a good deal of hypothetical patching to enable it to hang together at all, and by no means justifies the undoubting confidence of Wernsdorf; but, at the same time, we can scarcely refuse to acknowledge that the coincidences are remarkable.

We need scarcely notice the opinion of some early critics, that Avienus was a Spaniard, since it avowedly rests upon the consideration, that the fragment of the Ora Maritima which has been preserved is devoted chiefly to the coast of Spain, and contains quotations from the works of Himilco and the Carthaginian annalists with regard to that country and the shores of the Atlantic. To refute such arguments would be almost as idle as to invent them. Nor need we treat with greater respect the assertion that he was a Christian. Not a line can be quoted which would appear to any reasonable man favourable to such a notion ; but, on the contrary, wherever he speaks of the Pagan gods we find that he expresses in very unequivocal language a marked reverence for their worship. There is little to be said either for or against the idea, that he is the young Avienus introduced by Macrobius in the Saturnalia as talking with Sym-machus. So far as dates are concerned there is no anachronism involved, but the name was very common, and we have no clue to guide us to any conclusion.

Servius, in his commentary oii Virgil (x. 388), speaks of an Avienus who had turned the whole of Virgil and Livy into Iambics (qui totum Viryilium et Livium iambis scripsit\ and refers to him again (x. 272) as the person " qui iambis scripsit Vir-gilii fabulas." We cannot doubt that Livy the historian must be indicated here, for he was by so much the most celebrated of all authors bearing that appellation, that a grammarian like Servius would scarcely have failed to add a distinguishing epithet had any other Livy been meant. There is no difficulty in believing the operation to have been performed upon Virgil, for we know that such conversions were common exercises during the decline of literature, and Suidas tells us in particular of a certain Marianus, in the reign of the emperor Anastasius, who turned the dactylics of Theocritus, Apollonius, Callimachus, and others, into iambic measures.

Lastly, all scholars now admit that there are no grounds for supposing, that the prose treatise " Breviarium de Victoriis ac Provinciis Populi Ro-mani ad Valentinianum Augustum," ascribed to a Sextus Rufus or Rufus Festus, and the topographi­cal compendium " Sexti Rufi de Regionibus Urbis Romae," belong to Avienus, as was at one time maintained ; while the poem " De Urbibus His-paniae Mediterraneis," quoted as his work by several Spaniards, is now known to be a forgery, executed in all probability by a certain Hieronymus Rornanus, a Jesuit of Toledo, who was notorious for such frauds.

The Editio Princeps of Avienus was printed at Venice in Roman characters, by Antonius de

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