« Masona, bp. of Merida Maternus, Julius Firmicus Maurus, St., founder of Glanfeuil monastery »

Maternus, Julius Firmicus

Maternus (3), Julius Firmicus, an acute critic of pagan rites and doctrines and a vigorous apologist for the Christian faith, known from his treatise de Errore Profanarum Religionum, composed between 343 and 350, very valuable for its details of the secret rites of paganism. It describes every leading form of idolatry then current and gives us information not found elsewhere. It discusses the idolatry of the Persians, Egyptians, Assyrians, the Greek mysteries, the ceremonies and formulae used in the Mithraic worship. Some of the details on this last are very curious, some liturgical fragments being inserted. In opposition to the heathen orgies he presents the pure mysteries of Christianity in his preface, now almost completely lost, and from c. xxiv. to the end. He concludes with earnestly exhorting the emperors to suppress paganism by force; thus giving one of the earliest specimens of Christian intolerance. The work illustrates the small amount of philological and etymological science possessed by the ancients. Maternus, arguing against the Egyptians that Sarapis was originally the patriarch Joseph, derives the name Sarapis from Σαρᾶς ἀπό, because Joseph was the descendant of Sarah. The work is valuable for Biblical criticism, as in it are found quotations from the versions used in N. Africa in St. Cyprian's time. There are probably embodied in it some fragments of the ancient Greek writer Evemerus, whose work upon paganism, now lost, was largely used by all the Christian apologists. In Migne's Patr. Lat. t, xii. is reprinted an ed. of Maternus, pub. by Munter at Copenhagen in 1826, with an introductory dissertation discussing the whole subject. A contemporary pagan Julius Firmicus Maternus, usually styled junior, wrote a work (between 330 and 360) on judicial astrology, mentioned by Sidon. Apoll. in Ep. ad Pont. Leont. Upon this see the above dissertation. There is some reason to suppose that he was converted to Christianity and was identical with the subject of our art. See C. H. Moore, Jul. Firm. Mat. der Heide und der Christ. (Munich, 1897).

[G.T.S.]

« Masona, bp. of Merida Maternus, Julius Firmicus Maurus, St., founder of Glanfeuil monastery »





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