The Carmen contrapaganos (CCP) isbyno meansaunique document of its age. Three other anti-pagan poems in hexameter verse date from the same time and place, give or take a decade: the so-called Carmen ad quendam senatorem (CAS) mistakenly ascribed to Cyprian; the Carmen ad Antonium (CAA) preserved among the poems of Paulinus of Nola, though certainly not by him;1 and, most elaborate of all, the two books of Prudentius’s Contra Symmachum (CS).

The author of CAS states his reason for writing in verse:

quia carmina semper amasti
carmine respondens properavi scribere versus.

Since you are so fond of poetry, I am hastening to answer you with a poem.

He knows that the senator will appreciate a poem, and so he states his case in the form of a poem, in the hope that it will be more likely to convince. So too Paulinus of Nola writes to the young Licentius, a would-be poet, that “I will lead you to the Lord, the inventor of every kind of harmony, by the metres of poetry.”2

If as many as four such invectives have survived—each by a different route—the probability is that many more once existed. CAS and CCP are highly rhetorical and, if not learned poetry, at any rate anxious to show offtheir knowledge of the various cults they depreciate. It is also striking (and, as we shall see, characteristic) that it is the Christians who adapted this new vogue to a very practical and contemporary end. Though none of them betray any unmistakable verbal reminiscences, it seems natural to link this sudden vogue for hexameter invective with the fourth-century rediscovery of Juvenal (Ch. 11). The Lucillus mentioned by Rutilius (De reditu i. 598) is said to have written satires worthy of Turnus and Juvenal. It is no doubt significant that the only two surviving quotations of Turnus are found in the Scholia to Juvenal and Servius.3 Probinus cos. 395 also wrote satirical epigrams.

1. “Both the thought and metre are foreign to Paulinus,” R. Green 1971, 130–31; Morelli 1912, 481–98.

2. Ep. 8. 3, trans. Walsh.

3. Courtney 1993, 362–63.


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The Last Pagans of Rome


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