« Provost Prudentius, Aurelius Clemens Prudentius of Troyes »

Prudentius, Aurelius Clemens

PRUDENTIUS, AURELIUS CLEMENS: Christian poet; b. in the province of Tarragona, Spain, 348; d. after 403. He came of a distinguished Christian family and received an excellent education, studied law, became an office-holder and rose rapidly, was twice governor of a province, and finally received high office at the court of Theodosius. When past middle life, he came to view his course of life as little worthy and withdrew from public life to devote himself to poetry in the service of religion and the Church. His earliest poems are the twelve hymns contained in the Cathēmerinon (for use in the morning, at meals, and at night, from which the collection took its name). The model of Prudentius in poetry was Ambrose, though there is a distinct independent development. He employs the events of the times, and is not restricted to the forms of verse used by Ambrose. While his verse is popular, the lyrical element often recedes in consequence of the introduction of the didactic and epic admixture. A second collection, the Peristephanon, shows still greater originality and variety of verse form. This celebrates Spanish and Roman martyrs, and may have been influenced by the inscriptions of Damasus (see Damasus I.) which celebrated the martyrs. The epic and dramatic elements here are quite pronounced. There are extant also two didactic-polemic poems: Apotheosis, in 1,408 hexameters, exalts the deity of Christ against Patripassians, Sabellians, Jews, and Eremites; Hamartigenia, in 966 hexameters, deals with the origin of evil in a polemic against Marcion's gnostic dualism. Both of these lean on Tertullian. He also left a purely polemic work in two books (657 and 1,132 hexameters) called Contra Symmachum, in which he combats the heathen state religion. It is under the influence of Ambrose's epistle against Symmachus. All three of these last-named contained passages of beauty, but the Hamartigenia is the noblest. A fourth work, of slight esthetic interest, but important from a literary-historical point of view (915 hexameters), is the Psychomachia, the first example in the West of allegorical poetry, setting forth the conflict of Christian virtues with heathen vices. It comes out of the times of the author and portrays the life of those times, and had a great influence during the Middle Ages. Finally, there is extant a collection of forty-nine quatrains in hexameter with the title Dittochtæon, which sets forth a Biblical picture in each quatrain. It has been supposed that these explain decorations in the basilica attended by the author, twenty-four Old-Testament pictures on one side, twenty-four from the New Testament on the other, and one in the apse.

(G. Krüger.)

Bibliography: Owing to the fact that the poems of Prudentius were great favorites in Germany and were even used as a text-book, a large number of excellent MSS. are extant (cf. the work of Stettiner below) and a prodigious number of German glosses: The number of editions is large. The noteworthy editions are: M. Heinsius, Amsterdam, 1667; F. Arevalo, 2 vols., Rome, 1788–89, reproduced with prolegomena, MPL, lix.–lx.; T. Obbar, Tübingen, 1845; and A. Dressel, Leipsic, 1860. In English may be noted the Cathemerinon, London, 1845; also a transl. of the Hymns, by G. Morison, 3 parts, Cambridge, 1889; by R. Martin Pope, London, 1905; Translations from Prudentius: a Selection, by F. St. J. Thackeray (in verse), London, 1890; Songs (Selected and Translated), by E. Giliat-Smith, London, 1898. Consult: A. Ebert, Geschichte der Litteratur des Mittelalters, i. 251–293, Leipsic, 1880 (indispensable); L. Paul, Étude sur Prudence, Strasburg, 1862; P. Gams, Kirchengeschichte Spaniens, ii. 1, pp. 337–358, Regensburg, 1864; C. Brockhaus, Aurelius Prudentius Clemens in seiner Bedeutung für die Kirche and seine Zeit, Leipsic, 1872; P. Allard, in Revue des questions historiques, xxv (1884), 345–385, xxxvi (1884), 5–61, xxxvii (1885), 353–405; A. Rosler, Der katholische Dichter Aurelius Prudentius Clemens, Freiburg, 1886 (detailed; has eye to church and doctrinal history); P. A. J. Puech, Prudence; étude sur la poesié latine chrétienne au 4. siècle, Paris, 1888 (elaborate); M. Manitius, Geschichte der christlich-lateinischen Poesie, pp. 61–99, Stuttgart, 1891; C. Weymann, in Commentationes Woelffinianæ, pp. 281–287, Leipsic, 1891; G. Boissier, in RDM, xci (1889), 357–390; idem, La Fin du paganisme, pp. 106–151, Paris, 1894; A. Baumgartner, Geschichte der Weltlitteratur, iv. 152 sqq., Freiburg, 1900; T. R. Glover, Life and Letters in the Fourth Century. 249–277, Cambridge, 1901; O. Bardenhewer, Geschichte der altkirchlichen Literatur, 396, 503, 635, 640, Freiburg, 1903; F. Maigret, Le Poète chétien Prudence, Paris, 1903; E. O. Winstedt, in Classical Review, xvii (1903), 203–207; M. Schanz, Geschichte der römischen Litteratur. 211–235, Munich, 1904 (has full list of references); R. Stettiner, Die illustrierten Prudentius-Handschriften, Berlin, 1905 (sumptuous); DCB, iv. 500–505. Richardson, Encyclopaedia, p. 889, furnishes references to some excellent periodical literature.

« Provost Prudentius, Aurelius Clemens Prudentius of Troyes »
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