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Biographies (4)



Exsuperius, descended from a family of Bordeaux, was professor of rhetoric first at Toulouse, and subsequently at Narbonne, where he became the preceptor of Flavius Julius Delmatius. and of his brother Hannibalianus, who, after their elevation, procured for their instructor the dignity of Praeses Hispaniae. Having acquired great wealth, lie retired to pass the remainder of his life in tranquillity at Cahors (Cadurca). He is known to us only from a complimentary address by Ausonius, who calls upon him to return and shed a lustre upon the city of his ancestors. (Auson. Prof. xvii.)



Ausonius, who in the oldest MSS. is entitled Decimus Magnus Ausonius, although the first two names are found neither in his own poems, nor in the epistle addressed to him by Symmachus, nor in the works of any ancient author, was born at Bourdeaux in the early part of the fourth century. His father, Julius Ausonius, who followed the profession of medicine, appears to have been a person of high consideration, since he was at one period invested with the honorary title of praefect of Illyricum; but there is no ground for the assertion of Scaliger, frequently repeated even in the most recent works, that he acted as physician in ordinary to the emperor Valentinian. If we can trust the picture of the parent drawn by the hand of the son, he must have been a very wonder of genius, wisdom, and virtue (Idyll. ii. passim ; Parental. i. 9, &c.). The maternal grandfather of our poet, Caecilius Argicius Arborius, being skilled in judicial astrology, erected a scheme of the nativity of young Ausonius, and the horoscope was found to promise high fame and advancement (Parental. iv. 17, &c.). The prediction was, in all probability, in some degree the cause of its own accomplishment. The whole of his kindred took a deep interest in the boy whose career was to prove so brilliant. His infant years were sedulously watched by his grandmother, Aemilia Corinthia Maura, wife to Caecilius Arborius, and by his maternal aunts, Aemilia Hilaria and Aemilia Dryadia, the former of whom was a holy woman, devoted to God and chastity (Parental. vi. and xxv.). He received the first rudiments of the Greek and Latin languages from the most distinguished masters of his native town, and his education was completed under the superintendence of Aemilius Magnus Arborius, his mother's brother, who taught rhetoric publicly at Toulouse, and who is named as the author of an elegy still extant, Ad Nympham nimis cultam (Profess. viii. 12, &c., x. 16, iii. 1, i. 11; Parental. iii. 12, &c.). Upon his return to Bourdeaux he practised for a while at the bar ; but at the age of thirty began to give instructions as a grammarian, and not long after was promoted to be professor of rhetoric. The duties of this office were discharged by him for many years, and with such high reputation that he was summoned to court in order that he might act as the tutor of Gratian, son of the emperor Valentinian (Praef. ad Syayr. 15, &c.) Judging from the honours which were now rapidly showered down upon him, he must have acquitted himself in his important charge to the entire satisfaction of all concerned. He received the title of count (comes) and the post of quaestor from Valentinian, after whose death he was appointed by his pupil praefectus of Latium, of Libya, and of Gaul, and at length, in the year 379, was elevated to the consulship, thus verifying to the letter, as Bayle has observed, the apophthegm of Juvenal:
     "Si fortuna volet fies de rhetore consul"
The letter of Gratian, conferring the dignity, and the grateful reply of Ausonius, are both extant. After the death of Gratian he retired from public life, and ended his days in a country retreat at no great distance from his native city (Epist. xxiv.), without losing, however, his court favour, for we have direct evidence that he was patronised by Theodosius. (Praefatiuncula, i.)
  The precise dates of the birth and of the death of Ausonius are alike unknown. That he was born about the beginning of the fourth century, as stated above, is evident from the fact, that he speaks of himself as far advanced in years when invested with the consulship (Grat. Act.), and he was certainly alive in 388, since he refers to the victory of Theodosius over Maximus, and the death of the "Rutupian robber" (Clar. Urb. vii.).
  Judging from the fond terms in which Ausonius speaks of his relations, the kindly feeling which appears to have been maintained between himself and several of his pupils, and the warm gratitude expressed by him towards his benefactors, we should be led to conclude that he was gentle, warm-hearted, and affectionate; but it is so very easy to be amiable upon paper, that we have perhaps no right to form any decided opinion upon his character. His religious faith has been the subject of keen controversy, but there seems to be little difficulty in determining the question. From his cradle he was surrounded by Christian relatives, he was selected by a Christian emperor to guide the studies of his Christian son, and he openly professes Christianity in several of his poems. It is objected: 1. That his friend and quondam disciple, Pontius Paullinus, the famous bishop of Nola, frequently upbraids him on account of his aversion to the pure faith. 2. That several of his pieces are grossly impure. 3. That his works contain frequent allusions to Pagan mythology, without any distinct declaration of disbelief. 4. That he was the intimate friend of Symmachus, who was notorious for his hostility to Christianity. 5. That the compositions in which he professes Christianity are spurious. To which arguments we may briefly reply, that the first falls to the ground, because the assertion, on which it rests, is entirely false; that if we admit the validity of the second and third, we might demonstrate half the poets who have lived since the revival of letters to be infidels; that the fourth proves nothing, and that the fifth, the rest being set aside, amounts to a petitio principal, since it is supported by no independent evidence external or internal. His poetical powers have been variously estimated. While some refuse to allow him any merit whatever, others contend that had he lived in the age of Augustus, he would have successfully disputed the palm with the brightest luminaries of that epoch. Without stopping to consider what he might have become under a totally different combination of circumstances, a sort of discussion which can never lead to any satisfactory result, we may pronounce with some confidence, that of all the higher attributes of a poet Ausonius possesses not one. Considerable neatness of expression may be discerned in several of his epigrams, many of which are evidently translations from the Greek; we have a very favourable specimen of his descriptive powers in the Mosella, perhaps the mest pleasing of all his pieces; and some of his epistles, especially that to Paullinus (xxiv.) are by no means deficient in grace and dignity. But even in his happiest efforts we discover a total want of taste both in matter and manner, a disposition to introduce on all occasions, without judgment, the thoughts and language of preceding writers, while no praise except that of misapplied ingenuity can be conceded to the great bulk of his minor effusions, which are for the most part sad trash. His style is frequently harsh, and in latinity and versification he is far inferior to Claudian.

His extant works are:
1. Epigrammatum Liber, a collection of 150 epigrams.
2. Ephemeris, containing an account of the business and proceedings of a day.
3. Parentalia, a series of short poems addressed to friends and relations on their decease. From these Vinet has extracted a very complete catalogue of the kindred of Ausonius, and constructed a genealogical tree.
4. Professores, notices of the Professors of Bourdeaux, or of those who being natives of Bourdeaux gave instructions elsewhere.
5. Epitaphia Heroum, epitaphs on the heroes who fell in the Trojan war and a few others.
6. A metrical catalogue of the first twelve Caesars, the period during which each reigned, and the manner of his death. 7. Tetrasticha, on the Caesars from Julius to Elagabalus.
8. Clarae Urbes, the praises of fourteen illustrious cities.
9. Ludus Septem Sapientum, the doctrines of the seven sages expounded by each in his own person.
10. Idyllia, a collection of twenty poems on different subjects, to several of which dedications in prose are prefixed. The most remarkable are, Epicedion in patrem Julium Antonium; Ausonii Villula; Cupido cruci affixus; Mosella ; and the too celebrated Cento Nuptialis.
11. Eclogarium, short poems connected with the Calendar and with some matters of domestic computation.
12. Epistolae, twenty-five letters, some in verse, some in prose, some partly in verse and partly in prose, addressed to various friends.
13. Gratiarum Actio pro Consulatu, in prose, addressed to the emperor Gratian.
14. Periochae, short arguments to each book of the Iliad and Odyssey.
15. Tres Praefatiunculae, one of them addressed to the emperor Theodosius.
  The Editio Princeps of Ausonius appeared at Venice in folio, without a printer's name, in a volume bearing the date 1472, and containing Probae Centones, the eclogues of Calpurnius, in addition to which some copies have the Epistle on the death of Drusus and some opuscula of Publius Gregorius Tifernus. It is extremely scarce. The first edition, in which Ausonius is found separately, is that edited by J. A. Ferrarius, fol. Mediolan. 1490, printed by Ulderic Scinzenzeller. The first edition, in which the whole of the extant works are collected in a complete form, is that of Tadaeus Ugoletus, printed by his brother Angelus, at Parma, 1499. The first edition, which exhibits a tolerable text, is that of Phil. Junta, Florent. 1517; and the best edition is the Variorum of Tollius, Amstel. 1671.

This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Nov 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Hesperius, son of the poet Ausonius

Hesperius, son of the poet Ausonius by his wife Attusia Lucana Sabina. We have no data for fixing the year of his birth. He lost his mother while he was young; but his education was carefully superintended by his father, who wrote "Fasti," for the use of his son, and inscribed to him his metrical catalogue of the Caesars. Hesperius received, probably from the emperor Gratian, who was his father's pupil, the proconsulship of Africa, which he held A. D. 376, and perhaps later. He was one of the persons appointed to inquire into the malpractices of Count Romanus and his accomplices, and executed the task with equity, in conjunction with Flavianus, vicarius of the province. He afterwards held the praetorian praefecture in conjunction (as we judge from some expressions of Ausonius) with his father. Valesius thinks they were joint praefecti praetorio Galliarum; Gothofred, that they were joint P. P. of the whole western empire (comprehending the praefectures of Gaul, Italy, and Illyrium), but that Ausonius usually resided in Gaul, and Hesperius in Italy. There are extant several letters of Symmachus addressed to Hesperius; and from one of these (lib. i. ep. 80) he appears to have been at Mediolanum (Milan), the usual seat of the P. P. of Italy, but it is not clear that the letter was addressed to him while he was praefect. Tillemont, who discusses the question in a careful, but unsatisfactory note, thinks that Ausonius first held the praefecture of Italy alone, and afterwards that of Gaul, in conjunction with Hesperius. In A. D. 384, a Count Hesperius (apparently the son of Ausonius), was sent by the emperor Valentinian H. on a mission to Rome, which he was enabled to see, and bear witness to the innocence of his friend Symmachus, who, through some unjust accusations, had incurred discredit at court. Nothing is known of him after this.
  Hesperius had at least three sons. One of them, Paulinus, distinguished as "the Penitent," author of a poem called Eucharisticon or Carmen Eucharisticum de Vita sua (sometimes ascribed, but incorrectly, to the better known Paulinus of Nola), was born in Macedonia about A. D. 375 or 376, before his father's proconsulship of Africa, which renders it not unlikely that Hesperius then held some office under the Eastern emperor Valens. Another son, Pastor, died young, and is commemorated in the Parentalia of Ausonius.
(Amm. Marc. xxviii. 6; Symmach. Epist. i. 69-82; Cod. Theod. 6. tit. 30.4; 7. tit. 18.2; 8 tit. 5.34; tit. 18.6; 10. tit. 20.10; 13. tit. 1.11; tit. 5.15; 15. tit. 7.3; 16. tit. 5.4, 5; Gothofred, Prosop. Cod. Theodos ; Tillemont, Hist. des Emp. vol. v.)

This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Jan 2006 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Dynamius, a legal pleader of Bordeaux known to us through a short poetical memoir in elegiac verse, composed after his decease by his friend Ausonius. From this little piece we learn that Dynamius was compelled to quit his native city in consequence of being charged, not unjustly it would seem, with adultery, that he took refuge under the assumed name of Flavinius at Lerida, where he practised as a rhetorician, and that he there wedded a wealthy Spanish bride. Late in life he paid a short visit to the place of his birth, but soon returned to his adopted country, where he died. (Auson. Prof. xxiii.)

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