The Ancient Library

Scanned text contains errors.

On this page: Ausonius


" Si fortuna volet fies de rhetore consul." The letter of Gratian, conferring the dignity, and the grateful reply of Ausonius, are both extant. After the death of Gratian he retired from public life, and ended his days in a country retreat at no great distance from his native city (Epist. xxiv.), without losing, however, his court favour, for we have direct evidence that he was patronised by Theodosius. (Praefatiuncula, i.)

The precise dates of the birth and of the death of Ausonius are alike unknown. That he was born about the beginning of the fourth century, as stated above, is evident from the fact, that he speaks of himself as far advanced in years when invested with the consulship (Grot. Act.}, and he was certainly alive in 388, since he refers to the victory of Theodosius over Maximus, and the death of the " Rutupian robber/1 (Clar. Urb. vii.)

Judging from the fond terms in which Ausonius speaks of his relations, the kindly feeling which appears to have been maintained between himself and several of his pupils, and the warm gratitude expressed by him towards his benefactors, we should be led to conclude that he was gentle, warm-hearted, and affectionate; but it is so very easy to be amiable upon paper, that we have per­haps no right to form any decided opinion upon his character. His religious faith has been the subject of keen controversy, but there seems to be little difficulty in determining the question. From his cradle he was surrounded by Christian relatives, he was selected by a Christian emperor to guide the studies of his Christian son, and he openly professes Christianity in several of his poems. It is objected— 1. That his friend and quondam dis­ciple, Pontius Paullinus, the famous bishop of Nola, frequently upbraids him on account of his aversion to the pure faith. 2. That several of his pieces are grossly impure. 3. That his works con­tain frequent allusions to Pagan mythology, with­out any distinct declaration of disbelief. 4. That he was the intimate friend of Symmachus, who was notorious for his hostility to Christianity. 5. That the compositions in which he professes Christianity are spurious. To which arguments we may briefly reply, that the first falls to the ground, because the assertion, on which it rests, is entirely false ; that if we admit the validity of the second and third, we might demonstrate half the poets who have lived since the revival of letters to be infidels ; that the fourth proves nothing, and that the fifth, the rest being set aside, amounts to a petitio principii, since it is supported by no inde­pendent evidence external or internal. His poetical powers have been variously estimated. While some refuse to allow him anv merit whatever,

»/ '

others contend that had he lived in the age of Augustus, he would have successfully disputed the palm with the brightest luminaries of that epoch. Without stopping to consider what he might have become under a totally different combination of circumstances, a sort of discussion which can never lead to any satisfactory result, we may pronounce with some confidence, that of all the higher attri­butes of a poet Ausonius possesses not one. Con­siderable neatness of expression may be discerned in several of his epigrams, many of which are evi­dently translations from the Greek ; we have a very favourable specimen of his descriptive powers in the Mosella, perhaps the most pleasing of all his pieces ; and some of his epistles, especially that



to Paullinus (xxiv.) are by no means deficient in grace and dignity. But even in his happiest efforts we discover a total want of taste both in matter and manner, a disposition to introduce on all occasions, without judgment, the thoughts and language of preceding writers, while no praise except that of misapplied ingenuity can be con­ceded to the great bulk of his minor effusions, which are for the most part sad trash. His style is frequently harsh, and in latinity and versifica­tion he is far inferior to Claudian.

His extant works are—

1. Epigrammatum Liber, a collection of 150 epigrams. 2. Ephemeris, containing an account of the business and proceedings of a day. 3. Paren-talia, a series of short poems addressed to friends and relations on their decease. From these Vinet has extracted a very complete catalogue of the kindred of Ausonius, and constructed a genealogi­cal tree. 4. Prqfessores, notices of the Professors of Bourdeaux, or of those who being natives of Bourdeaux gave instructions elsewhere. 5. JEpi-taphia Heroum, epitaphs on the heroes who fell in the Trojan war and a few others. 6. A metri­cal catalogue of the first twelve Caesars, the period during which each reigned, and the manner of his death. 7. Tetrasticlia, on the Caesars from Julius to Elagabalus. 8. Clarae Urbes, the praises of fourteen illustrious cities. 9. Ludus Septem Sa-pientum, the doctrines of the seven sages expounded by each in his own person. 10. Idyllia, a collec­tion of twenty poems on different subjects, to several of which dedications in prose are prefixed. The most remarkable are, Epicedion in patrem Julium Antonium ; Ausonii Villula ; Cupido cruci affixus; Mosella; and the too celebrated Cento Nuptialis. 11. Eclogarium, short poems connected with the Calendar and with some matters of do­mestic computation. 12. Epistolae, twenty-five letters, some in verse, some in prose, some partly in verse and partly in prose, addressed to various friends. 13. Gratiarum Actio pro Gonsidatu, in prose, addressed to the emperor Gratian. 14. Periochae, short arguments to each book of the Iliad and Odyssey. 15. Tres Praefatiunculae, one of them addressed to the emperor Theodosius.

The Editio Princeps of Ausonius appeared at Venice in folio, without a printer's name, in a vo­lume bearing the date 1472, and containing Pro-bae Centones, the eclogues of Calpurnius, in addition to which some copies have the Epistle on the death of Drusus and some opuscula of Publius Gregorius Tifernus. It is extremely scarce. The first edi­tion, in which Ausonius is found separately, is that edited by J. A. Ferrarius, fol. Mediolan. 1490, printed by Ulderic Scinzenzeller. The first edi­tion, in which the whole of the extant works are collected in a complete form, is that of Tadaeus Ugoletus, printed by his brother Angelus, at Parma, 4to. 1499. The first edition, which ex­hibits a tolerable text, is that of Phil. Junta, 8vo. Florent. 1517; and the best edition is the Vari­orum of Tollius, 8vo. Amstel. 1671. [W. R.]

AUSONIUS, JULIUS, an eminent physician, who, however, is chiefly known by his being the father of the poet of the same name, from whose works almost all the events of his life are to be learned. He was a native of Cossio Vasatum (the modern Bazas}, but removed to Burdigala (Bour­deaux}. He married Aemilia Aeonia, with whom he lived thirty-six years, and by whom he had foul

About | First



page #  
Search this site
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of