1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ausonius, Decimus Magnus

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15759041911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 2 — Ausonius, Decimus Magnus

AUSONIUS, DECIMUS MAGNUS (c. 310–395), Roman poet and rhetorician, was born at Burdigala [Bordeaux]. He received an excellent education, especially in grammar and rhetoric, but confesses that his progress in Greek was unsatisfactory. Having completed his studies, he practised for some time as an advocate, but his inclination lay in the direction of teaching. He set up (in 334) a school of rhetoric in his native place, which was largely attended, his most famous pupil being Paulinus, afterwards bishop of Nola. After thirty years of this work, he was summoned by Valentinian to the imperial court, to undertake the education of Gratian, the heir-apparent. The prince always entertained the greatest regard for his tutor, and after his accession bestowed upon him the highest titles and honours, culminating in the consulship (379). After the murder of Gratian (383), Ausonius retired to his estates near Burdigala. He appears to have been a (not very enthusiastic) convert to Christianity. He died about 395.

His most important extant works are: in prose, Gratiarum Actio, an address of thanks to Gratian for his elevation to the consulship; Periochae, summaries of the books of the Iliad and Odyssey; and one or two epistolae; in verse, Epigrammata, including several free translations from the Greek Anthology; Ephemeris, the occupations of a day; Parentalia and Commemoratio Professorum Burdigalensium, on deceased relatives and literary friends; Epitaphia, chiefly on the Trojan heroes; Caesares, memorial verses on the Roman emperors from Julius Caesar to Elagabalus; Ordo Nobilium Urbium, short poems on famous cities; Ludus Septem Sapientum, speeches delivered by the Seven Sages of Greece; Idyllia, of which the best-known are the Mosella, a descriptive poem on the Moselle, and the infamous Cento Nuptialis. We may also mention Cupido Cruciatus, Cupid on the cross; Technopaegion, a literary trifle consisting of a collection of verses ending in monosyllables; Eclogarum Liber, on astronomical and astrological subjects; Epistolae, including letters to Paulinus and Symmachus; lastly, Praefatiunculae, three poetical epistles, one to the emperor Theodosius. Ausonius was rather a man of letters than a poet; his wide reading supplied him with material for a great variety of subjects, but his works exhibit no traces of a true poetic spirit; even his versification, though ingenious, is frequently defective.

There are no MSS. containing the whole of Ausonius’s works. Editio princeps, 1472; editions by Scaliger 1575, Souchay 1730, Schenkl 1883, Peiper 1886; cf. Mosella, Böcking 1845, de la Ville de Mirmont (critical edition with translation) 1889, and De Ausonii Mosella, 1892, Hosius 1894. See Deydou, Un Poète bordelais (1868); Everat, De Ausonii Operibus (1885); Jullian, Ausone et Bordeaux (1893); C. Verrier and R. de Gourmont, Les Épigrammes d’Ausone (translation with bibliography, 1905); R. Pichon, Les Derniers Écrivains profanes (1907).