Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Caius Marius Victorinus

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(Called also VICTORINUS MARIUS, or MARIUS FABIUS VICTORINUS, and frequently referred to as VICTORINUS AFER.)

A fourth-century grammarian, rhetorician, philosopher, and theologian, b. in Africa about the year 300. In pursuance of his profession as teacher of rhetoric he migrated to Rome where he attained such fame and popularity that in 353 a statue was erected in his honour in the Forum of Trajan (Jerome, "Chron." ad an. 2370). Details regarding his life come almost entirely from Jerome or Augustine, the latter of whom calls him a man of the highest learning and thoroughly skilled in the liberal arts. In addition to his activities as a teacher he was a copious author and wrote or translated many works. Three works written before his conversion still exist: "Liber de Definitionibus"; a commentary on the "De inventione" of Cicero; and a treatise on grammar, "Ars grammatica". Works from the same period which have perished are: a treatise on logic, "De syllogismis hypotheticis"; commentaries on the "Topica" and the "Dialogues" of Cicero; a translation and commentary of Artistotle's "Categories"; a translation of the same author's "Interpretation"; translations of Porphyry's "Isagoge", and works of other Neo-Platonists. The conversion of Victorinus, which took place before 361, was brought about, according to Augustine, through study of the Bible. A seeming reluctance at first to enroll himself in the Christian community was compensated for afterwards by his insistence on making his profession of faith as publicly as possible. His accession to the Church, which was received with joy by the Christians of Rome, did not cause Victorinus to abandon his profession, and he continued to teach until the edict of Julian in 362, closing the teaching profession to Christians, caused him to retire.

Nothing more is known of his subsequent career except what can be gleaned from his writings. The range and fulness of these manifest his diligence and zeal in defence of his faith. Most of the writings of his Christian days have perished. Those which survive are an anti-Arian treatise, "Liber de generatione divini Verbi"; a work "Adversus Arium" in four books, a tract "De Hoimoousio Recipiendo"; three hymns "De Trinitate"; commentaries on St. Paul's Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, and to the Philippians. Other works of doubtful authenticity are "Liber ad Justinum manichaeum"; "De verbis scripturae: Factum est vespere et mane dies unus"; "Liber de physicis". Many references in his own writings show that Victorinus was the author of many other works of a theological, exegetical, or polemical character. He is also credited with the translation of some of Origen's works and the authorship of other Christian hymns. Though a man of varied books and great erudition Victorinus is little studied. This neglect is largely attributed to the fact that his style is obscure and burdensome in the extreme. Recent study of his works tends to enhance his position in the history of pedagogy, letters, and theology, and above all as a potent influence in disseminating Neo-Platonic doctrines in the West.

There is no critical edition of the works of Victorinus. P.L., VIII, is the most accessible. KOFFMANN, De Mario Victorino philosopho christiano (Breslau, 1880); MONCEAUX, Histoire litteraire de l'Afrique chretienne, 111 (Paris, 1905), 373-422.

PATRICK HEALY