Aurelius Prudentius Clemens was a Roman Christian poet, born in the Roman province of Tarraconensis (now Northern Spain) in 348. He probably died in the Iberian Peninsula some time after 405, possibly around 413. The place of his birth is uncertain, but it may have been Caesaraugusta (Saragossa), Tarraco (Tarragona), or Calagurris (Calahorra).
Prudentius practiced law with some success, and was twice provincial governor, perhaps in his native country, before the emperor Theodosius I summoned him to court. Towards the end of his life (possibly around 392) Prudentius retired from public life to become an ascetic, fasting until evening and abstaining entirely from animal food; and writing poems, hymns, and controversial works in defence of Catholicism. Prudentius later collected the Christian poems written during this period and added a preface, which he himself dated 405.
The poetry of Prudentius is influenced by early Christian authors, such as Tertullian and St. Ambrose, as well as the Bible and the acts of the martyrs. His hymn Da, puer, plectrum (including "Corde natus ex parentis": "Of the Father's Love Begotten") and the hymn for Epiphany O sola magnarum urbium ("Earth Has Many a Noble City"), both from the Cathemerinon, are still in use today.
The allegorical Psychomachia, however, is his most influential work, incorporating as it did elements of both Hellenic epic and inner psychological conflict. It became the inspiration and wellspring of medieval allegorical literature, its influence (according to C. S. Lewis) exceeding its intrinsic artistic merit. In the battle between virtue and vice, full weight is given to the power of Luxuria, “Flowershod and swaying from the wine cup, Every step a fragrance”. With her attendants Beauty and Pleasure, and her weapons of rose-petals and violets, she succeeds in swaying the army of Virtue “in surrender to love”, before succumbing to ultimate defeat.
With his merger of Christianity with classical culture, Prudentius was one of the most popular medieval authors, being aligned as late as the 13th century alongside such figures as Horace and Statius in Henri d'Andeli's Battle of the Seven Arts between Grammar (poetry) and Logic.
The list of Prudentius's works given in the preface to his autobiography mentions the hymns, poems against the Priscillianists and against Symmachus and Perislephanon. The Diptychon is not mentioned. The twelve hymns of the Cathernerinon liber ("Daily Round") consist of six for daily use, five for festivals, and one intended for every hour of the day.
The specific works include:
- Liber Cathemerinon -- ("Book in Accordance with the Hours") comprises 12 lyric poems on various times of the day and on church festivals.
- Liber Peristephanon -- ("Crowns of Martyrdom") contains 14 lyric poems on Spanish and Roman martyrs. Some were suggested to Prudentius by sacred images in churches or by the inscriptions of Pope Damasus I.
- Apotheosis -- ("Deification") attacks disclaimers of the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus.
- Hamartigenia -- ("The Origin of Sin") attacks the Gnostic dualism of Marcion and his followers. In this and the Apotheosis, Tertullian is the source of inspiration.
- Psychomachia -- ("Battle of Souls") describes the struggle of faith, supported by the cardinal virtues, against idolatry and the corresponding vices.
- Libri contra Symmachum -- ("Books Against Symmachus") oppose the pagan senator Symmachus's requests that the altar of Victory, which had been removed by Gratian, be restored to the Senate house.
- Dittochæon -- ("The Double Testament") contains 49 quatrains intended as captions for the murals of a basilica in Rome.
- Bergman, J. (ed.). Aurelii Prudenti Clementis carmina. Vienna: Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky, 1926. (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, 61).
- Cunningham, M.P. (ed.). Aurelii Prudentii Clementis Carmina. Turnhout: Brepols, 1966 (Corpus Christianorum. Series Latina, 126).
- Thomson, H.J. (ed. and trans.). Prudentius. 2 vols. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1949-53 (Loeb Classical Library).
- Tränkle, H. (ed.). Prudentius, Contra Symmachum - Gegen Symmachus. Turnhout: Brepols, 2008. 284 p. (Fontes Christiani, 85).
- H. J. Rose, A Handbook of Classical Literature (1967) p. 508
- H. J. Rose, A Handbook of Classical Literature (1967) p. 508-9
- Gilbert Highet, Juvenal the Satirist (1960) p. 184
- C. S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love (2013) p. 83
- Helen Waddell, The Wandering Scholars (1968) p. 48
- Quoted in B. Machosky, Structures of Appearing (2012) p. 85
- J. M. Wallace-Hadrill, The Barbarian West (1964) p. 12
- J. Broussard, The Civilisation of Charlemagne (1968) p. 58
- Helen Waddell, The Wandering Scholars (1968) p. 141-2
One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Prudentius, Aurelius Clemens". Encyclopædia Britannica. 22 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 518.
- Chisholm 1911.
- Catherine Conybeare, "sanctum, lector, percense uolumen: Snakes, Readers, and the Whole Text in Prudentius’ Hamartigenia," in W. Klingshirn and L. Safran (eds), The Early Christian Book (Washington DC, 2007), 225-240.
- Roy J. Deferrari & James M. Campbell, A Concordance of Prudentius, Cambridge Mass. 1932 (repr. Hildesheim 1966).
- Pierre-Yves Fux, « Les sept Passions de Prudence (Peristephanon 22.214.171.124-14). Introduction générale et commentaire », Paradosis 46, Fribourg 2003.
- Pierre-Yves Fux, « Prudence et les martyrs : hymnes et tragédie (Peristephanon 1.3-4.6-8.10). Commentaire », Paradosis 55, Fribourg 2013.
- Lydia Krollpfeifer, Rom bei Prudentius. Dichtung und Weltanschauung in »Contra orationem Symmachi« (=Vertumnus. Berliner Beiträge zur Klassischen Philologie und zu ihren Nachbargebieten. Vol. 12). Goettingen: Edition Ruprecht 2017, ISBN 978-3-8469-0270-7.
- E. B. Lease, A Syntactic, Stylistic and Metrical Study of Prudentius (Baltimore 1895).
- Anne-Marie Palmer, Prudentius on the Martyrs. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989.
- Michael Roberts, Poetry and the Cult of the Martyrs. The Liber Peristephanon of Prudentius, Ann Arbor 1993.
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|Library resources about |
- Works by Prudentius at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Prudentius at Internet Archive
- Prudentius, with an English translation by H.J. Thomson (1949)
- Liber peristephanon - Latin text.
- The Catholic Encyclopedia
- The Christian Classics Ethereal Library
- Opera Omnia by Migne's Patrologia Latina with analytical indexes