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Macrobius, Ambrosius Theodosius

A grammarian probably of Greek extraction, since he says in the preface to his Saturnalia that Latin was to him a foreign tongue. He lived in the fourth century A.D., and was probably a pagan. His extant works are:


Saturnaliorum Conviviorum Libri VII., consisting of a series of discussions on history, mythology, criticism, and various points of antiquarian research, supposed to have been delivered during the holidays of the Saturnalia at the house of Vettius Praetextatus, who was invested with the highest offices of State under Valentinian and Valens. The form of the work is avowedly copied from the dialogues of Plato, especially the Banquet: in substance it bears a strong resemblance to the Noctes Atticae of Gellius; and the material of it is drawn from a great variety of sources, such as Suetonius, Seneca, Plutarch, and Athenaeus. The first book treats of the festivals of Saturnus and Ianus, of the Roman calendar, etc. The second book commences with a collection of bon mots, ascribed to the most celebrated wits of antiquity; to these are appended a series of essays on matters connected with the pleasures of the table. The following four books are devoted to criticisms on Vergil. (See Vergilius.) The seventh book is of a more miscellaneous character than the preceding. The Saturnalia contains the first pagan mention of the Slaughter of the Innocents at Bethlehem (ii. 4).



rius ex Cicerone in Somnium Scipionis, a work in his book much studied during the Middle Ages. The Dream of Scipio, contained in the sixth book of Cicero's De Republica, is taken as a text, which suggests a succession of discourses on the physical constitution of the universe, according to the views of the New Platonists, together with notices of some of their peculiar tenets on mind as well as matter.


De Differentiis et Societatibus Graeci Latinique Verbi, a treatise purely grammatical, of which only an abridgment is extant, compiled by a certain Ioannes.

The best editions of the works of Macrobius are by Gronovius (Leyden, 1670); Jan (Quedlinburg, 1848-52); Eyssenhardt (Leipzig, 1868; rev. 1893). There is no English version of Macrobius, but a French translation by De Rosoy appeared at Paris in 1826.

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