Lactantius: Divine Institutes

Lactantius: Divine Institutes

Lactantius: Divine Institutes

Lactantius: Divine Institutes

Excerpt

L. Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius is thought to have lived c. 250–c. 325. Of the little biographical information that we have, he himself releases some, Jerome (writing at the end of the fourth century) most of the rest. Lactantius was an African by birth. His city of origin is unknown. His instructor in rhetoric, Arnobius, came from Sicca Veneria, a regional centre in the Medjerda valley 100 or so miles south-west of Carthage. Arnobius was, like Lactantius, a convert to Christianity, and himself wrote seven books of Christian apologetic under the title Adversus Nationes (Against the Nations). Lactantius appears not to have known of the work when he composed Divine Institutes. There was an obvious place to refer to it and its author in Divine Institutes, namely, in Book 5 where three African apologists, Tertullian, Minucius Felix and Cyprian, are critically assessed. Perhaps the two works were written more or less at the same time, and in places far apart.

Lactantius made a reputation for himself teaching rhetoric in North Africa as his teacher had done. We do not know where, though it is hard not to believe, in view of his future career, that he was based in Carthage, provincial capital and centre of learning. Lactantius was always a teacher. As he says in an autobiographical aside: 'I have made efforts myself to achieve what little skill I could in speaking because of my career in teaching, but I have never been eloquent, because I never went into public life' (quippe qui forum ne attigerim quidem ). He is saying that he never became a career-

1 L's name is contested, as between Caelius and Caecilius. I follow Schanz-Hosius (1922),
414. A good brief introduction to Lactantius in English is lacking. See Wlosok (1993; French,
translated from the German); Barnes (1981), 11–145, 291–92 nn. 96–99, is to be preferred on
chronological matters. See Bryce (1999) for a full bibliographical catalogue of secondary
literature on Lactantius. A shortlist of the more substantial works might include Pichon (1901),
Wlosok (1960), Loi (1970), Fontaine and Perrin (1978), Perrin (1981), Monat (1982), Digeser
(2000). Oliver Nicholson has made a singular contribution in a number of articles.

2 D.I. 5.1.21–28; 5.4.3–8.
3 D.I. belongs to 303–10. Simmons (1995), preface, dates Adv. nat. to 302–05, probably
correctly.

4 3.13.12.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.