Auso'niuswho 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. 1.9, &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. 4.17, &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. 8.12, &c., 10.16, 3.1, 1.11; Parental. 3.12, &c.; Wernsdorf, Poct. Lat. Minores, vol. iii. p. 217.) 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.