the poet, whose full name was CORNELIUS MAXIMIANUS GALLUS ETRUSCUS
In the year 1501, Pomponius Gauricus, a Neapolitan youth of nineteen, published at Venice six amatory elegies, little remarkable for purity of thought or of expression, under the title Cornelii Galli Fragmenta
, with a preface, in which he endeavoured to prove from internal evidence that they must be regarded as belonging to the ill-fated Cornelius Gallus, the friend of Virgil and Ovid. [GALLUS, CORNELIUS.] They profess to be written by an old man, and the leading theme is the infirmities and miseries of age.
These, as contrasted with the vigour and joys of youth, form the exclusive subject of the first piece; the second, third, and fourth contain an account of three mistresses who had in succession ruled his heart, Aquilina, Candida, and Lycoris; the two former had been the objects of a transient flame; the last, long his faithful companion, had at length forsaken him in declining years; in the fifth he gives the history of a senile passion for a Grecian damsel; and the sixth, which extends to a dozen lines only, is filled with complaints and lamentations called forth by the near approach of death.
The points upon which Gauricus chiefly insisted for the proof of his proposition were:--1.
That we know from Virgil and other sources that Lycoris was the name under which Gallus celebrated the charms and the cruelty of his loved Cytheris. 2.
That the author of these poems describes himself as an Etruscan. 3.
That the expressions at the beginning of the fifth elegy evidently allude to his office as prefect of Egypt.
These reasonings were at first freely admitted; the elegies were frequently reprinted with the name of Gallus, and subjoined without suspicion to many of the earlier editions of Catullus, Tibullus, and Propertius, as the works of their contemporary. Upon a more critical examination, however, it was soon perceived that the impure Latinity and faulty versification accorded ill with the Augustan era; that a fictitious name, such as Lycoris, might be regarded as common property; that the fact, which is unquestionable, of the author declaring himself an Etruscan, in itself proves that he could not be Cornelius Gallus who was a native of Forum Julii (Frejus
) in Southern Gaul; that the repinings at old age were altogether out of place in one who perished while yet in the strength of manhood; and finally, that the terms in which an allusion is made to his political appointment--
Missus ad Eoas legati munere partes
Tranquillum cunctis nectere pacis opus,
Dum studeo gemini componere foedera regni,
Inveni cordis bella nefanda mei,
are such as could never have been employed to designate the duties of the imperial prefect in the most important and jealously guarded of all the Roman provinces.
But when, in addition to these considerations, it was discovered that the MSS., which are very numerous, and the early printed impressions, of which two at least, if not three, had appeared in the fifteenth century, exhibited a couplet which was altogether omitted by Gauricus, and that this couplet (4.25),
Atque aliquis, cui caeca foret bene nota voluptas,
Cantat, cantantem Maximianus amat,
actually furnished the name of the real author, a name, be it remarked, prefixed to many MSS., and to these very early editions, it became evident that fraud had been at work, and that Gauricus had been guilty of deliberate imposture. Some time, however, elapsed before the most acute scholars could divest themselves of the impression that Gallus was in some way concerned with these productions. Gyraldus contended that one or two out of the six might be genuine; Julius Caesar Scaliger went farther, and believed that only one was spurious, that on Aquilina; while Barthius imagined that all anomalies might be explained by supposing that the sketches of Gallus had been overlaid and interpolated by a later and unskilful land.
By degrees these and similar positions were found untenable, and the whole fabric was acknowledged to be the workmanship of a semi-barbarous epoch.
This being granted, the next task was to discover who Maximianus was, and when he flourished.
This investigation cannot be pushed far. From his own words we conclude, as noticed above, that he was by birth an Etruscan: it would appear that he spent his youth at Rome, devoting himself to poetry and rhetoric, that he acquired widespread reputation as a speaker--
Orator toto clarus in orbe fui,
and that, when far advanced in life, he was despatched to the East on an important mission, involving the peaceful relations of two kingdoms. Beyond this we can scarcely advance. Goldastus, Fontanini, and Wernsdorf have, indeed, proved to their own satisfaction that he is the very Maximianus to whom king Theodoric addressed a letter preserved by Cassiodorus (Variar.
1.21), and they have undertaken to determine the period and the object of the embassy. Their reasoning, however, is so shadowy that it completely eludes the grasp, and is in fact an elaborate attempt to create a substantial reality out of nothing.
The most stringent argument which they can find is based upon the couplet (3.47),
Hic mihi, magnarum scrutator maxime rerum,
Solus, Boeti, fers miseratus opem,
where it is assumed that the person addressed must be Boethius the philosopher.
Three out of the four names placed at the head of this article are probably fictitious. The MSS., we are assured, exhibit simply Maximianus,
or L. Maximianus.
The Editio Princeps, in fol., which, although without date, and without name of place or printer, is known by bibliographers to have been printed at Utrecht about 1473, bears for its title Maximiani Philosophi atque Oratoris clarissimi Ethica suavis et perjoconda
and a second edition, also very old, but without date, printed at Paris in 4to. by S. Jehannot and Petrus le Drou
, commences Perjucundus, juvenum quoque mirum in modum demuleens animos, Libellus, quem nugarum Maximiani immitis Alexander intitulat,
The verses having for a long time after the publication of Gauricus been extensively circulated as the remains of Cornelius Gallus,
were eventually allowed to retain his designation along with that of the lawful owner, and Etruscus
is merely an epithet attached by some editor.
The present division into six pieces is purely arbitrary, and originated, it would appear, with Gauricus.
In many codices the whole are written as one continuous poem, with the following or some similar inscription, Facetum et perjucundum Poema de A moribus Maximiani, Poetae doctissimi, Oratoris suavissimi,
Labbe in his Bibliotheca nova Manuscriptorum
mentions other poems of Maximianus, which he distinguishes, Super Senectute
; Regulam Metricam
; Carmen de Virtute et Invidia, de Ira, Patientia, et Avaritia
; but of these nothing is known, unless the first be another name for what we now possess.
There is no reason to believe that the epigrams in the anthology found among the exercises of the twelve scholastic poets, one of whom is called Maximianus, have any connection with the individual whom we are now discussing.
The elegies will be found under their best form in the Poetae Latini Minores of Wernsdorf, vol. vi. pars i. p. 269, who gives a detailed catalogue of the different editions
For further information consult Goldastus, Epist. dedic. ad Ovidii Opuscula Erotica,
Francf. 1610; Bernardus Moneta, in Menagianis, ed. tert.,
Paris, 1715, vol. i. p. 336; Souchaye, Mémoires de l'Académie des Inscriptions,
vol. xvi.; Fontanini, Historia Litter. Aquileiae,
4to. Rom. 1742, lib. 1. c.3 ; Withofius, Alaximnianus primaevae inteqr. restit.,