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Bonifa'cius

a Roman general, tribunus, and comes in the province of Africa under Valentinian III. In the early part of his career he was distinguished for his prompt administration of justice, and also for his activity against the barbarians, as at Massilia in A. D. 413 against the Gothic king Ataulphus (Olymp. apud Phot. p. 59, Bekk.), and in 422 against the Vandals in Spain. (Prosper.) His high character procured for him the friendship of Augustin, whom he consulted with regard to enforcing the imperial laws against the Donatists, and to scruples which he entertained against continuing military pursuits, and (on the death of his wife) even against remaining in the world at all These scruples Augustin wisely allayed, only recommending to him resolutions, which he adopted, of confining himself to defensive warfare against the barbarians, and of leading a single life. (Augustin. Ep. 185, 189.) (A. D. 417, 418.)

The abandonment of this last resolution, in his second marriage with a rich Arian lady of the name of Pelagia, seems to have exercised a pernicious influence over his general character. Although he so far maintained his own religious convictions as to insist on the previous conversion of his wife, yet he so far gave them up as to allow his child to receive Arian baptism; and as the first breach of even slight scruples may prepare a conscience naturally tender for the commission of actual crimes, he is afterwards reported to have lived with concubines. (Augustin. Ep. 220.) (A. D. 424.) Whilst in the unsettled state consequent on this change of life, he was, in 427, entrapped by his rival Aetius [AETIUS] into the belief that the empress Placidia was bent on his destruction; and under this impression he yielded to the temptation of inviting Genseric, king of the Vandals, to settle in Africa (Procop. Bell. Vand. 1.4.) Bitterly reproached for his crime by Augustin (Ep. 220), and discovering the fraud when it was too late, he took arms against Genseric, but was driven by him into Hippo (A. D. 430), and thence, after a year's siege, during which he witnessed the death of his friend, Augustin, he escaped with a great part of the inhabitants to Italy, where he was restored to the favour of Placidia, and even enjoyed the almost unexampled honour of having coins struck in honour of his imaginary victories, with his own head on the reverse. Aetius, however, challenged him to single combat, shortly after which, either by a wound from the longer spear of his adversary (Marcellinus in anno) or from illness (Prosper), he expired, expressing his forgiveness to Aetius, and advising his widow to marry him. (A. D. 432.)

His career is singularly and exactly the reverse of that of his rival, Aetius. Uniting true Roman courage and love of justice with true Christian piety, he yet by one fatal step brought on his church and country the most severe calamities which it had been in the power of any of the barbarian invaders to inflict on either of them.

The authorities for his life are Procopius, Bell. vand. 1.3, 4; Olymp. apud Phot. pp. 59, 62 ; Augustin. Ep. 185 (or 50), 189 (or 95), 220 (or 70); and, of modern writers, Gibbon, 100.33; at greater length, Tillemont, Mem. Eccl. xiii. pp. 712-886, in which last (note 77) is a discussion on a correspondence of sixteen smaller letters, falsely ascribed to him and Augustin.

[A.P.S]

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