1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Fulgentius, Fabius Planciades

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FULGENTIUS, FABIUS PLANCIADES, Latin grammarian, a native of Africa, flourished in the first half of the 6th (or the last part of the 5th) century A.D. He is to be distinguished from Fulgentius, bishop of Ruspe (468–533), to whom he was probably related, and also from the bishop’s pupil and biographer, Fulgentius Ferrandus. Four extant works are attributed to him. (1) Mythologiarum libri iii., dedicated to a certain Catus, a presbyter of Carthage, containing 75 myths briefly told, and then explained in the mystical and allegorical manner of the Stoics and Neoplatonists. For this purpose the author generally invokes the aid of etymologies which, borrowed from the philosophers, are highly absurd. As a Christian, Fulgentius sometimes (but less frequently than might have been expected) quotes the Bible by the side of the philosophers, to give a Christian colouring to the moral lesson. (2) Expositio Vergilianae continentiae (continentia=contents), a sort of appendix to (1), dedicated to Catus. The poet himself appears to the author and explains the twelve books of the Aeneid as a picture of human life. The three words arma (=virtus), vir (=sapientia), primus (=princeps) in the first line represent respectively substantia corporalis, sensualis, ornans. Book i. symbolizes the birth and early childhood of man (the shipwreck of Aeneas denotes the peril of birth), book vi. the plunge into the depths of wisdom. (3) Expositio sermonum antiquorum, explanations of 63 rare and obsolete words, supported by quotations (sometimes from authors and works that never existed). It is much inferior to the similar work of Nonius, with which it is often edited. (4) Liber absque litteris de aetatibus mundi et hominis. In the MS. heading of this work, the name of the author is given as Fabius Claudius Gordianus Fulgentius (Claudius is the name of the father, and Gordianus that of the grandfather of the bishop, to whom some attribute the work). The title Absque litteris indicates that one letter of the alphabet is wholly omitted in each successive book (A in bk. i., B in bk. ii.). Only 14 books are preserved. The matter is chiefly taken from sacred history. In addition to these, Fulgentius speaks of early poetical attempts after the manner of Anacreon, and of a work called Physiologus, dealing with medical questions, and including a discussion of the mystical signification of the numbers 7 and 9. Fulgentius is a representative of the so-called late African style, taking for his models Apuleius, Tertullian and Martianus Capella. His language is bombastic, affected and incorrect, while the lengthy and elaborate periods make it difficult to understand his meaning.

See the edition of the four works by R. Helm (1898, Teubner series); also M. Zink, Der Mytholog Fulgentius (1867); E. Jungmann, “De Fulgentii aetate et scriptis,” in Acta Societatis Philologae Lipsiensis, i. (1871); A. Ebert, Allgemeine Geschichte der Litt. des Mittelalters, i.; article “Fulgentius” by C. F. Böhr in Ersch and Gruber’s Allgemeine Encyklopädie; Teuffel-Schwabe, History of Roman Literature (Eng. trans.).