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literary and ecclesiastical.

Confusion of various authors named Victorinus

The subjects of the three following articles have proved a source of considerable embarrassment to the historian of literature. Both the first and second appear to have been rhetoricians before they became theologians, both wrote commentaries on the Scriptures and both are believed to have been Christian poets, a series of coincidences which, combined with identity of name, rendered confusion almost inevitable, while the second and third, if we admit the existence of the third, having both compiled essays upon the same departments of grammar, became in like manner mixed up with each other. The difficulties connected with the subject have been in some degree removed by Rivinus in a book entitled Sanctae Reliquiae duum Victorinorum, Pictaviensis unius Episcopi Martyris, Afri alterius Caii Marii, &100.8vo. Goth. 1652, and by Launoy in his dissertation De Victorino Episcopo et Martyre, Par. 1664, in the appendix to which we find a discussion on five distinguished persons who bore the name of Victorinus; but several points are still involved in much obscurity.

Both Putschius and Lindemann prefix the name of Maximus Victorinus to the whole three.


1. VICTORINUS, bishop of Pettaw on the Drave in Styria, hence distinguished by the epithet Petavionensis, or Pictaviensis, flourished towards the close of the third century (A. D. 270-290), and suffered martyrdom during the persecution of Diocletian, probably in A. D. 303.


St. Jerome tells us that he understood Greek better than Latin; and that, in consequence, his works, though pregnant with great thoughts, were couched in poor language ; a criticism which has been thought inconsistent with the fact recorded by Cassiodorus that he was originally a rhetorician ( Victorinus, de oratore episcopus, Inst. Div. 5). The difficulty, however, will be removed if we suppose that Greek was his native language, but that he felt himself constrained to write in Latin, with which he was less conversant, because it was the tongue spoken in the province where he exercised his episcopal functions. It is to be remarked that this Victorinus was long supposed to have been bishop of Poitiers, an error first dissipated by the dissertation of Launoy, who demonstrated that Petabium in upper Pannonia, and not Pictavium, was the see from which he derived his designation.


St. Jerome informs us that he wrote commentaries In Genesin; In Exodum; In Leviticum ; In Iesaiam; In Ezechielem; In Abacue; In Ecclesiasten ; In Cantica Canticorum; In Apocalypsin Joannis adversus omnes haereses (some editors place a stop after Joannis and suppose Adversus omnes haereses to be the name of a separate tract) ; and many other pieces. Of all these it is doubtful whether any one remains. In the third volume of the Bibliotheca Patrum Maxima (fol. Lugdun. 1677) we find a Commentarius in Apocalypsin bearing his name; but the best judges have for the most part either rejected it altogether or regarded it as much altered and interpolated by different hands, both on account of the discrepancies in style which may be here and there detected, and also from the circumstance that the millenarian doctrine is here directly impugned, while we know that it was advocated by Victorinus. The prologue is given up by all. The fragment published by Cave (H. L. vol. i. p. 147), from a MS. in the archiepiscopal library at Lambeth, entitled De Fabrica Mundi, has, with better reason, been supposed to be an extract from the annotations on Genesis or on the Apocalypse, and here the opinions of the Chiliasts are avowedly supported.

Poems ascribed to Victorinus

Various foundling poems have been fathered upon this Victorinus without any evidence direct or circumstantial.


Such are De Jesu Christo in 137 hexameters and Hymnus de Pascha Domini s. De Ligno Vitae in 70 hexameters, both contained in the collection of Fabricius

The De Cruce Domini found among the works of Cyprian (see Bed. de locis sanct. 100.2.).

The five books Adversus Marcionem generally appended to editions of Tertullian.

Further Information

Our chief ancient authority for everything connected with Victorinus of Pettaw is St. Jerome, who speaks of him in a great number of passages, e. g. De Viris Ill. 74, comp. 187, Praef. in Iesai., In Ezechl. 100.36, Praef. in Matt., Ad Damas. vol. ii. p. 569, Ad Paulin. vol. iv. p. 567, ed. Bened. &c. ; see also Cassiodor. Inst. Div. 5, 7, 9; Lardner, Credibility of Gospel History, c. lvi.; Schoenemann, Bibl. Patrum Lat. vol. i. cap. 3.8; Baehr, Geschichte der Röm. Litterat. Suppl. Band. lte Abtheil. § 14, 2te Abtheil. § 33.


2. C. MARIUS VICTORINUS (or according to some MSS. Fabius), surnamed Afer from the country of his birth, taught rhetoric at Rome in the middle of the fourth century, with so much reputation that his statue was erected in the forum of Trajan. Convinced by diligent study of the Scriptures, he, in old age, openly embraced the true faith; and when the edict of Julian, prohibiting Christians from giving instruction in polite literature, was promulgated, Victorinus chose to shut up his school rather than deny his religion. The history of his conversion is detailed at length, upon the authority of Simplicianus, bishop of Milan, in the Confessions of St. Augustine, who glories not a little in so distinguished a proselyte.


The following works ascribed to this author are still extant.

I. s.


First printed at Milan by Zarotus fol. 1474, again by Aldus, 8vo. Venet. 1522, along with the Annotations of Asconius upon the Orations of Cicero; and again by R. Stephens, 4to. Par. 1537. It will be found in the Antiqui Rhetores Latini of Pithou, 4to. Par. 1599, pp. 79-239; and in the same collection as re-edited by Caperonnier, 4to. Argentor. 1756, pp. 102-255. It is likewise included in the fifth volume of Orelli's edition of Cicero.


A complete and voluminous treatise upon metres in four books.


First printed by Ulric. Morhard in the collection of Latin grammarians, published under the inspection of Jo. Camerarius, 4to. Tubing. 1537. It will be found in the Grammaticae Latinae Auctores Antiqui of Putschius, 4to. Hanov. 1605, pp. 2450-2622. The translations from Plato mentioned by St. Augustine (Confess. 8.2) have perished.


III. was finished, it would appear, about A. D. 365.


IV was an abridgement of III.



These three pieces were first printed at Basle, fol. 1528, in the Antidotum contra omnes Haereses, and will be found also in the Bibliotheca Patrum Max. fol. Lugdun. 1677, vol. iv. p. 253 and p. 294; and in the Bibliotheca Patrum of Galland, vol. viii. fol. Venet. 1772.



First printed at Basle, fol. 1528 in the Conceptiones in Genesim et Exodum of Ziegler along with a fragment of the tract by Candidus [CANDIDUS] De Generatione Divina, to which it is a reply. Both will be found in the Orthodoxographa of Heroldus, fol. Bas. 1555, p. 461, in the Haeresiologia of Heroldus, fol. Bas. 1556, p. 186, in the Analecta Vetera of Mabillon, fol. Par. 1685, vol. iv. p. 155; and in the Bibliotheca Patrum of Galland, vol. viii. as above.




The two last mentioned pieces were first published by Sirmond and inserted in his Opera Dogmatica Vetera, 8vo. Par. 1630. They will be found also in his collected works, fol. Par. 1696, vol. i.; and in the Bibliotheca Patrum of Galland, vol. viii. The titles were fabricated by the editor, none having been found in his Codex.

IX. in two books. X. in one book. XI. in two books. XII. composed for the purpose of defending religion against those philosophers who attacked the Mosaic account of the Creation.

The four last mentioned pieces have only recently been brought to light.

Commentaries upon the epistles of Paul


St. Jerome twice refers to the commentaries of Victorinus upon the epistles of Paul; and although we learn from Sirmond (Opera, vol. i. p. 345), that the MS. from which he derived the Opuscula which we have marked VII., VIII. contained also commentaries upon the epistles of Paul by the same author, yet, for some reason not known, he did not publish the latter which were altogether lost sight of, until no less than three MSS. of them were discovered in the library of the Vatican by Angelo Mai, by whom they were included in the third volume of the Scriptorum Veterum Nova Collectio ex Vaticanis codicibus edita, 4to. Rom. 1828.

Commentaries on the Epistles

Whether Victorinus wrote commentaries upon all the epistles of Paul is left in doubt by the words of St. Jerome, and cannot now be determined. The De Physicis is found in all the three Vatican MSS. subjoined to the commentary on the Ephesians; and although not actually inscribed with the name of Victorinus seems to be alluded to by himself (Ad Ephes. lib. ii. p. 126); and bears strong external evidence of his manner.

In addition to all these a descriptive epic in seven books, entitled De Fratribus VII. Maccabaeis interfectis ab Antiocho Epiphane, has been ascribed sometimes to Victorinus of Pettaw, sometimes to Victorinus Afer, and sometimes to Hilarius of Arles. If it belongs to any one of these three personages, the last is probably the rightful owner.


The fame enjoyed by Victorinus as a public instructor does not gain any accession from his theological works. In style, weak, cramped, and involved, in phraseology often barbarous, sustained by no depth of learning and relieved by no brilliancy of illustration, they merit the severe criticism of St. Jerome, who pronounces their author to be both obscure and ignorant. The exposition of the essay De Inventione is more difficult to comprehend than the text which it professes to explain, the hymns are destitute of all poetical spirit, and set the laws of prosody and metre so completely at defiance that they could scarcely have proceeded from the compiler of the grammatical treatise which displays much research and contains many valuable observations.

Further Information

Hieronym. de Viris Ill. 101; Prooem. in Epit. ad Galat., Chronic. ad A.D. 360, Adv. Rufin. vol. iv. p. 367, ed. Bened.; Augustin. Confess. 8.2, 4, 5; Trithem. 71; Honor. 1.102 ; Lardner, Credibility of Gospel History, c. xciv.; Galland, Biblioth. Patrum, vol. viii., Proleg. c. iv. p. vii.; Schoenemann, Bibl. Patrum Lat. vol. 1.4.13.)





We possess three short tracts -- all apparently the work of the same author and usually ascribed in MSS. to a Maximus Victorinus; but whether we ought to consider him the same with the rhetorician who flourished under Constantius or as an independent personage it is impossible to decide.


These tracts were first printed in the collection of ancient grammarians published by Adamus Petri, 8vo. Bas. 1527, where the two former are assigned to Marius Victorinus Afer and the third to Maximus Victorinus ; they will be found also in the Grammaticae Latinae Auctores Antiqui of Putschius, 4to. Hannov. 1605, pp. 1938-1974; and under a greatly improved form in the Corpus Grammaticorum Latinorum Veterum of Lindemann, vol. 1.4to. Lips. 1831, pp. 267-304.


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