Prosper Aquitanus or Prosper Aquitanicussurnamed Aquitanus or Aquitanicus, from the country of his birth, flourished during the first half of the fifth century. Regarding his family and education no records have been preserved ; but in early life he settled in Provence, and there became intimately associated with a certain Hilarius, who, to avoid confusion, is usually distinguished as Hilarius Prosperianus. or Prosperianus. The two friends displayed great zeal in defending the doctrines of Augustin against the attacks of the Semipelagians who were making inroads upon the orthodoxy of Southern Gaul, and having opened a correspondence with the bishop of Hippo, they received in reply the two tracts still extant under the titles De Praedestinatione Sanctorum, and De Dono Perseverantiae. Finding that, notwithstanding these exertions, their antagonists were still active and successful, they next undertook a journey to Rome, where they submitted the whole controversy to Pope Coelestinus, and induced him by their representations to publish, in A. D. 431, his well-known Epistola ad Episcopos Gallorum, in which he denounces the heresy of Cassianus, and warns all the dignitaries of the church to prohibit their presbyters from entertaining and disseminating tenets so dangerous. Armed with this authority, Prosper returned home, and, from the numerous controversial tracts composed by him about this period, appears to have prosecuted his labours with unflagging enthusiasm. Soon after, however, he disappears from history, and we know nothing certain with regard either to his subsequent career or to the date of his death. In the chronicle of Ado (fl. A. D. 850) he is spoken of as the Notarius of Pope Leo, and in some MSS. is styled Episcopus Rhegiensis (i. e. Ries in Provence), but ecclesiastical historians agree in believing that Prosper of Aquitaine had no claim to these titles.
WorksThe works usually ascribed to this writer may be divided into three classes :--I. Theological. II. Historical. III. Poetical.
1.Written between A. D. 427-429, and considered of importance in affording materials for the history of Semipelagianism. 2. Epistola ad Rufinum de Gratia et Libero Arbitrio. Written while Augustin was still alive, and therefore not later than the middle of the year A. D. 430. 3. Pro Augustino Responsiones ad Capitula Objectionum Gallorum calummantium. Written about A. D. 431. 4. Pro Augustini Doctrina Responsiones ad Capitula Objectionum Vincentianarum. Written, probably, soon after the preceding. 5. Pro Augustino Responsiones ad Excerpta quae de Genuensi Civitate sunt missa. Belonging to the same epoch as the two preceding. 6. De Gratia Dei et Libero Arbitrio Liber. In reply to the doctrines of Cassianus respecting Freewill, as laid down in the thirteenth of his Collationes Patrum [CASSIANUS], whence the piece is frequently entitled De Gratia Dei adversus Collatorem. Written about A. D. 432. 7. Psalmorum a C. usque ad CL. Expositio, assigned by the Benedictine editors to A. D. 435), but placed by Schoenemann and others before A. D. 424. 8. Sententiarum ex Operitus S. Augustini delibaturum Liber unus. Compiled about A. D. 451.
EditionsThe whole of the above will be found in the Benedictine edition of the works of Augustin; the epistle is numbered ccxxv., and is placed immediately before another upon the same subject by Hilarius; the remaining tracts are all included in the Appendix to vol. x.
Works of doubtful authenticityThe authenticity of the following is very doubtful :--
1.Sometimes ascribed to Prosper Aquitanicus, sometimes to Prosper Tiro.
EditionsIt was first published from a Vatican MS. by Sirmond (8vo. Par. 1619), in a volume containing also the Opuscula of Eugenius, bishop of Toledo, together with some poems by Dracontius and others. See also the collected works of Sirmond, Paris, 1696, vol. ii. p. 913.
2.Ascribed in some MSS. to Ambrose. Great diversity of opinion exists with regard to the real author. Erasmus would assign it to Eucherius, bishop of Lyons, Vossius to Hilarius Prosperi, Quesnel to Leo the Great. The whole question is fully discussed by Antelmius, in an essay, of which the title is given at the end of this article, and by thle brothers Ballerini in their edition of the works of Leo, vol. ii. p. 662 [LEO]. Those who assign it to Prosper suppose it to have been written about A. D. 440, while the Ballerini bring it down as low as 496.
3.s. De Humilitate Christiana Tractatus, supposed to have been written about A. D. 440. It is placed among the letters of Ambrose (lxxxiv.) in tihe earlier editions of that father, claimed for Prosper by Sotellus and Antelmius, chiefly on account of a real or fancied resemlmblance in style, and given by Quesnel to Leo the Great. See the edition of the works of Leo by the Ballerini, vol. ii. p. 743.
4.Believed to have been compiled about A. D. 431. It was first made known by Dionysius Exiguus who subjoined it to the Epistle of Coelestinus addressed to the bishops of Gaul. See the observations of the Ballerini in the edition of Leo, vol. ii. p. 719.
Definitely spuriousThe following, although bearing the name of Prosper, are certainly spurious :--
1.Composed, in all probability, as Sirmond has pointed out, by Julianus Pomerius, a Gaulish presbyter, who flourished at the close of the fifth century. (Gennad. de Viris Ill. 98; Isidor. de Script. Eccles. 12.)
2.Referred to by Cassiodorus as the production of Prosper, but apparently the work of some African divine.
II. Historical.Two, perhaps we should say three, chronicles are extant bearing the name of Prosper. It will be convenient to describe them separately according to the titles by which they are usually discriminated.
1.Extending from A. D. 379, the date at which the chronicle of Jerome ends, down to A. D. 455, the events being arranged according to the years of the Roman consuls. We find short notices with regard to the Roman emperors, the Roman bishops, and political occurrences in general, but the troubles of the Church are especially dwelt upon, and above all the Pelagian heresy. In the earlier editions this chronicle ended with the year A. D. 444, but appeared in its complete form in the Historiae Francorum Scriptores Coaetanei of Andrew Du Chesne, fol. Par. 1636-1649. Rösler infers from internal evidence, that it was originally brought down by Prosper to A. D. 433, and that subsequently two additions were made to it, either by himself or by some other hand, the one reaching to A. D. 444, the other to A. D. 455. We ought to observe also that, as might be expected in a work of this nature, we find it in some MSS. continued still further, while in others it is presented in a compressed and mutilated form.
2.Called also Chronicon Pithoeanum, because first made known by Peter Pithou, in 1588. It is comprehended within precisely the same limits as the preceding (A. D. 379-455), but the computations proceed according to the years of the Roman emperors, and not according to the consuls. While it agrees with the Chronicon Consulare in its general plan, it differs from it in many particulars, especially in the very brief allusions to the Pelagian controversy, and in the slight, almost disrespectful notices of Augustine. It is, moreover, much less accurate in its chronology, and is altogether to be regarded as inferior in authority. The singular coincidence with regard to the period embraced by these two chronicles, a coincidence which, however, in some degree disappears if we adopt the hypothesis of Rösler, would lead us to believe that they proceeded from the same source; but, on the other hand, the difference of arrangement, and the want of harmony in details, would lead to an opposite conclusion. Hence, while the greater number of critics agree in regarding Prosper Aquitanicus as the framer of the first, not a few are inclined to make over the second to Prosper Tiro, who, it is imagined, flourished in the sixth century. It must be remembered, at the same time, that the existence of this second Prosper as a personage distinct from the antagonist of the Semipelagians, has never been clearly demonstrated, and consequently all statements regarding him must be received with caution and distrust.
3. ChroniclesLabbe, in his Nora Bibliotheca MSS. Librorum, fol. Paris, 1657, published the Chronicon Consulare, with another chronicle prefixed, commencing with Adam, and reaching down to the point where the Consulare begins. This was pronounced by Labbe to be the complete work as it issued from the hands of Prosper, the portion previously known having been, upon this supposition, detached from the rest, for the sake of being tacked as a supplement to the chronicle of Jerome. The form and style, however, of the earlier section are so completely different from the remainder, that the opinion of Labbe has found little favour with critics. For full information with regard to these chronicles, and the various opinions which have been broached as to their origin, we may refer to Roncalli, Vetust. Lat. Script. Chronicorum, 4to. Patav. 1787; Rösler, Chronica Medii Aevi, Tubing. 1798; Graevius, Thesaur. Antiq. Rom. vol. xi.
III. Poetical.Among the works of the Christian poets which form the fifth volume of the "Collectio Pisaurensis" (4to. Pisaur. 1766), the following are attributed to Prosper Aquitanicus, but we must premise that they have been collected from many different sources, that they unquestionably are not all from the same pen, and that it is very difficult to decide whether we are to regard Prosper Aquitanicus and Prosper Tiro, the latter name being prefixed to several of these pieces in the MSS., as the same or as distinct individuals.
1.A series of one hundred and six epigrams in elegiac verse, on various topics connected with speculative, dogmatical, and practical theology, and with morals. Thus the third is De Essentia Deitatis, the thirty-ninth De Justitia et Gratia, the twenty-second De diligendo Deum, the hundred and fifth De cohibenda Ira.
2.In dactylic hexameters, divided into four parts and forty-five chapters. An introduction is prefixed in tive elegiac couplets, of which the first two explain the nature and extent of the poem.
Unde voluntatis sanctae subsistat origo,
Unde animis pietas insit, et unde fides.
Adversum ingratos, falsa et virtute superbos,
Centenis decies versibus excolui.
3.In five elegiac couplets.
4. Another, on the same subject.in six elegiac couplets.
5.In eleven elegiac couplets, in which "Nestoriana Haeresis loquitur." Written after the condemnation of the Nestorians by the council of Ephesus in A. D. 431.
6.In fifty-three elegiac couplets, with an introduction in sixteen Iambic Dimeters Catalectic (Anacreontics).
Besides the above there is a Carmen de Providentia divina, in some editions of Prosper, which is rejected by Antelmius, and made over by some scholars to Hilarius.