Saint Jerome's Hebrew Questions on Genesis

By Saint Jerome; C. T. R. Hayward | Go to book overview
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At the beginning . . . public treasury Jerome's opening broadside against his detractors is at once cryptic and revealing. The identity of the person or persons whom he attacks under the 'code-name' Luscius is uncertain; what is not in doubt, however, is the serious nature of the charges levelled against him. His direct appeal to the comic dramatist Terence (c. 190-c. 159 BC), whose public defence of his work against the critic Luscius Lanuvinus is most evident in the prologue of the play Andria, is especially illuminating; and a short explanation of Terence's circumstances may help to clarify matters further, not least because Jerome's tutor for a time was Aelius Donatus, who commented on Terence's works, and to whom we owe almost all our knowledge of Lanuvinus and his attacks on the poet.1

Like the other great comic poets Caecilius (c. 219-c. 166 BC) and Plautus (c. 2 54)- 184 BC), Terence had taken Greek plays, especially those of the Athenian dramatist Menander (c. 342-292. BC), and had rendered them into Latin for Roman audiences. Other, less talented writers, such as Luscius Lanuvinus, followed the same practice, for no stigma attached to the 'translation' of these Greek plays into Latin verse. But in the prologue of the Andria (line 16), itself originally a work by Menander, Terence admits that he has incorporated into his 'translation' parts of the Perinthia, yet another of Menander's plays. In other plays, he might also mingle stock characters and situations belonging to one Greek original into an entirely different play which he was 'translating'. His critics, therefore, accused him of 'contaminating' original works with foreign matter; and he used the prologue of the Andria (lines 9-21) in particular to try to refute them.2

On Jerome and Donatus, see F. Cavallera, Saint Jérôme: Sa vie et son œuvre ( Paris, 11922), i. 7-9; J. N. D. Kelly, Jerome: His Life, Writings, and Controversies ( London, 1975), 10-14.
For modern definitions and discussions of contaminatio, and critical evaluation


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Saint Jerome's Hebrew Questions on Genesis


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