The Ancient Library

Scanned text contains errors.



Rome and martyr ; but it is to be observed that Ru-rmus does not express any opinion of his own as to their identity. Whether he meant Sixtus I., who was bishop early in the second century, and whose martyrdom is doubtful, or Sixtus II., who lived about the middle of the third century, and was certainly a martyr, is not clear. Origen, however, twice (Contra Celsum, lib. viii. c. 30, and In Matt. torn. xv. 3, vol. i. p. 76'3, vol. iii. p. 654, ed. De-larue) cites the Gnomae s. Sententiae of Sextus (Tvoo/jLcu 2e£Tou), as a work well known among Christians ; but he does not mention either the episcopal rank or the martyrdom of the writer, whom, therefore, we can hardly identify with Sixtus I. And as Origen makes no reference to his being a contemporary writer, and speaks of his book as already in extensive circulation, it is diffi­cult to suppose him to have been Sixtus II., whose elevation to the episcopate and martyrdom were a few years subsequent to Origen's own death. It is not clear whether Origen regarded Sextus as a Christian. Jerome cites the Sententiae of Xystus (as he writes the name, Adv. Jovinian. lib. i. c. 49, and In Ezekiel. c. xviii. vs. 5, 6, seq.), enume­rating him in one place among writers, all the rest of whom are heathens, and in the other place he expressly calls him a Pythagorean. In two other places he charges Rufinus with prefixing the name of a martyr and bishop to the productions of "a Christ-less and heathenish" (absque Christo et ethnici), and in another place, a " most heathenish " (gentilissimi) man (Hieron. In Jerem. c. xxii. vs. 24, 25, &c., and Ad Ctesipliont. c. 3, Epist. 43, ed. Benedict., 133, ed. Vallars.). Augustin, who had at first admitted the identity of the author of the Sententiae with one of the Sixti, bishops of Rome, afterwards retracted his opinion (comp. De Natura et Gratia, c. 77, and Retractat. lib. ii. c. 42). Pe-lagius (apud August. Retractat. I. c.) appears to have admitted the identity, and a Syriac version, perhaps made from the Latin of Rufinus, which appears to have been extant in the time of Ebed-Jesu, a.d. 1300 (Assemani, Bibl. Orient, vol. i. p. 429), still bears the name of " Mar Xystus Epis-copus Romae." Maximus the Confessor, in the seventh century (Schol. ad Dionys. Areop. Mysticam Theologiam, cap. 5, apud Opp. Dionys. vol. ii. p. 55, ed. Antwerp, 1634), applies to our Sextus the epithet €icK\rj(ria(TTLK6s (/>iA.o<ro(/>oy, " Ecclesiasticus Philo-sophus ;" and Damascenus, in the eighth century {Sacra Parallela, Opera, vol. ii. p. 362, ed. Lequien), calls him Zefroy 'P^ju., Zestus of Rome. Genna-dius (De Viris Illustrib. c. 17) merely calls the work " Xysti Sententiae" In the Decretum ascribed to Pope Gelasius the work is mentioned as re­puted to be by Saint Xystus, but is declared to be spurious, and to have been written by heretics. In the anonymous Appendix to the De Scriptorib. Ecclesiasticis of Ildefonsus of Toledo, it is as­cribed to Sixtus of Rome without hesitation. The testimony of the ancients as to the authorship is thus doubtful. An opinion mentioned by, and therefore older than, Rufinus (who was unjustly charged with fraud in the matter by his bitter enemy Jerome, and the charge has been repeated from age to age), ascribed it to Pope Sixtus, and the opinion was held by some persons, perhaps by most, in subsequent ages. Jerome appears to have first ascribed it to a heathen author; and Jerome's opinion, which would have had more weight but for his eagerness to fasten a charge of fraud upon Ru- ;


fimis, was taken, perhaps without examination, by Augustin. Modern critics have been divided ; some (e. g. Siberus) retain the opinion which iden­tifies the author with Pope Sixtus II.; others (e. g. Lequien, Not. ad Damascen. I. c.) regard the author as at any rate a Christian: but Gale, Mosheim, Brucker (Hist. Pkilos. period ii. pars i. lib. i. cap. ii. sect. ii. § 34), Fontanini (Hist. Litt. AquileiensiSj p. 302, &c.), to whom we have been much indebted, and Fabricius, identify the author with the elder Quintus Sextius (Quinti Sextii Patris), a Roman philosopher, mentioned with great encomiums by Se­neca (Epistol. 64, c. 2). Seneca delighted much in a work of this Sextius, the title of which he does not give, but which he praises, as written with great power. " Quantus in illo, Dii boni, vigor est, quantum animi! PIoc non in omnibus philo-sophis invenies. Quorumdam scripta clarum habent tan turn nomen, caetera exsanguia sunt. Instituunt, disputant, cavillantur, non faciunt animum quia non habent. Quum legeris Sextium dices, Vivit, viget, liber est, supra hominem est; dimittit me plenum in-gentis fiduciae. In quacunque positione mentis sim, quum hunc lego, fatebor tibi, libet omnes casus pro-vocare, libet exclamare, Quid cessas, Fortuna ? con-gredere ! paratum vides" (ibid.). It is observable that Seneca speaks of Sextius as a Stoic in reality but not in name. From other Epistles of Seneca (lix. 6, Ixiii. 11,13, xcviii. 13, cviii. 17, and from his De Ira, ii. 36, iii. 36) we learn that Sextius, though born of an illustrious family, had declined the dig­nity of senator when offered him by Julius Caesar ; that he abstained from animal food, though for different reasons than those ascribed to Pythagoras ; that he subjected himself to a scrupulous self-ex­amination at the close of each day ; and that his philosophy, though expressed in the Greek language, was of Roman severity : — " Sextium ecce... virum acrem, Graecis verbis, Romanis moribus, philoso-phantem." It appears that Sextius attempted, but in vain, to found a school of philosophy combining some features of the Pythagoreans with others of the Stoics ; and which was consequently classed sometimes with one, and sometimes with the other of those sects. Seneca (Natur. Quaest. vii. 32) says, " Sextiorum nova et Romani roboris secta, inter initia sua, quum magno impetu coepisset, exstincta est." " Xystus Pythagoricus philosophus" is re­corded in Jerome's version of the Chronicon of Eusebius as nourishing at the time of Christ's birth. He is also mentioned by Plutarch (De Pro-feet. Virtut. Sentent. Opp. vol. vi. p. 288, ed. Reiske), and by the elder Pliny (H. Nat. xviii. 68, alibi).

The contents of the Sententiae harmonize, on the whole, sufficiently well with this supposition of their authorship ; the portions which seem to approxi­mate most closely to the morality of the Christian religion, may perhaps have been interpolated or altered by Rufinus. The question of authorship, however, cannot be regarded as settled. There is difficulty in believing that a work once established in reputation as the work of a heathen writer, could have come to be so generally regarded as of Christian origin ; though perhaps the difficulty would be somewhat diminished by the suggestion, that the work in its present form is not an original work of Sextius, but a selection of apophthegms culled from his writings, and that possibly by a Christian. The MSS. of the work vary very much both in the number and order of the aphorisms.

The first edition of the Sente?itiae is that of Syni-

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