the author of a collection of forty-two Aesopic fables in Latin elegiac verse, dedicated to a certain Theodosius, who is addressed as a man of great learning and highly cultivated mind.
Confusion with the geographical poet named Avianus
The designation of this writer appears under a number of different shapes in different MSS., such as Avianus, Anianus, Abidnus, Abienus,
from which last form he was by many of the earlier historians of Roman literature, such as Vossius and Funceius, identified with the geographical poet, Rufus Festus Avienus. [AVIENUS.] But, independent of the circumstance that no fact except this resemblance of name can be adduced in support of such an opinion, the argument derived from the style of these compositions must, to every reader of taste and discrimination. appear conclusive. Nothing can be imagined more unlike the vigorous, bold, spirited, and highly embellished rotundity which characterizes the Descriptio Orbis
and the Aratea
than the feeble, hesitating, dull meagreness of the fabulist. Making all allowances for numerous corruptions in the text, we can scarcely regard these pieces in any other light than as the early effusions of some unpractised youth, who patched very unskilfully expressions borrowed from the purer classics, especially Virgil, upon the rude dialect of an unlettered age.
Cannegieter, in his erudite but most tedious dissertation, has toiled unsuccessfully to prove that Avianus flourished under the Antonines. Wernsdorf, again, places him towards the end of the fourth century, adopting the views of those who believe that the Theodosius of the dedication may be Aurelius Macrobius Ambrosius Theodosius, the grammarian, and adding the conjecture, that the Flavianus of the Saturnalia may have been corrupted by transcribers into Fl. Avianus.
These are mere guesses, and may be taken for what they are worth. Judging from the language, and we have nothing else whatever to guide us, we should feel inclined to place him a hundred years later.
Avianus was first printed independently by Jac. de Breda, at Deventer in Holland, in the year 1494, 4to., Gothic characters, under the title Apologus Aviani civis Romani adolescentulis ad mores et Latinum sermonem capessendos utilissimus; but the editio princeps is appended to the fables of Aesop which appeared about 1480. The earlier editions contain only twenty-seven fables ; the whole forty-two were first published by Rigaltius, along with Aesop and other opuscula (16mo. Lugd. 1570).
The most complete edition is that of Cannegieter, 8vo. Amstel. 1731
, which was followed by those of Nodell, 8vo. Amstel. 1787
, and of C. H. Tzschucke, 12mo. Lips. 1790
The fables of Avian translated into Englyshe are to be found at the end of The Subtyl Historyes and Fables of Esope, translated out of Frenshe into Englysshe, by William Caxton at Westmynstre.
In the yere of our lorde M CCCC lxxxiii., &c. Enprynted by the same the xxvj daye of Marche the yere of our lord M CCCC lxxxiij, And the fyrst yere of the regne of kyng Rychard the thyrde, folio. This book was reprinted by Pynson. We have a translation into Italian by Giov. Gris. Trombelli, 8vo. Venez. 1735
; and into German by H. Fr. Kerler, in his Röm. Fabeldichter, Stuttgard, 1838
Vossius, de Poetis Latt. p. 56
; Funceius, de Vegeta L. L. Senecutule, cap. 3. § lvi.
; Barth. Adversar. 19.24, 27.3, 39.7 and 13, 46.4, 7, 16; Wernsdorf, Poett. Latt. Minn. vol. v. pars. ii. p. 663
, who effectually destroys the leading argument of Cannegieter that Avianus must be intermediate between Phaedrus and Titianus, upon which idea the hypothesis that he lived under the Antonines rests.)