Gaius Vettius Aquilinus Juvencus - Encyclopedia


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GAIUS VETTIUS AQUILINUS JUVENCUS, Christian poet, flourished during the reign of Constantine the Great. Nothing is known of him except that he was a Spanish presbyter of distinguished family. About 330 he published his Libri evangeliorum IV., each book containing about Boo hexameters. The division into books is possibly a reminiscence of the number of the Gospels. The work itself, written with the idea of ousting the absurdities of Pagan mythology and replacing them by the truths of Christianity, may be called the first Christian epic. In the Praefatio the author expresses the hope that the sacredness of his subject may procure him safety at the final conflagration of the world and admission into heaven. The whole is, in the main, a poetical version of the Gospel of Matthew, the other evangelists only being used for supplementary details. It is founded upon a pre-vulgate Latin translation, although there is evidence that Juvencus also consulted the Greek. In spite of metrical irregularities, the language and style are simple and show good taste, being free from the artificiality of other Christian poets and prose writers, and the author has made excellent use of Virgil (his chief model) and other classical writers. Juvencus set the fashion of verse translations of the Bible, and the large number of MSS. of his poem mentioned in lists and still extant are sufficient evidence of its great popularity. According to Jerome, he was also the author of some poems on the sacraments, but no trace of these has survived. The Latin Heptateuch, a hexameter version of the first seven books of the Old Testament, has been attributed to Juvencus amongst others; but it is now generally supposed to be the work of a certain Cyprianus, a Gaul who lived in the 6th century, possibly a bishop of Toulon, author of the Life of Caesarius, bishop of Arelate (Arles) .

See M. Manitius, Geschichte der christlich-lateinischen Poesie (1891); A. Ebert, Allgemeine Geschichte der Literatur des Mittelalters, vol. i. (1889); editions of Juvencus by C. Marold (1886); J. Hamer in Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum, vol. xxiv. (Vienna, 1891); J. T. Hatfield, A Study of Juvencus (1890), dealing with syntax, metre and language; editions of the Heptateuch by J. E. B. Mayor (1889; reviewed by W. Sanday in Classical Review, October 1889, and by J. T. Hatfield in American Journal of Philology, vol. xi., 1890), and R. Peiper, vol. xxiii. of the Vienna series above.

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