a Christian poet, of whose personal history we know nothing, except that he was a Spanish presbyter, flourished during the first half of the fifth century, and died about A. D. 450.
His chief production, entitled Hexaemeron,
in heroic measure, extending to 575 lines, contains a description of the six days of the creation, in addition to which we possess a fragment in 198 elegiac verses addressed to the younger Theodosius, in which the author implores forgiveness of God for certain errors in his greater work, and excuses himself to the emperor for having neglected to celebrate his victories. Although the Hexaemeron is by no means destitute of spirit, and plainly indicates that the writer had studied carefully the models of classical antiquity, we can by no means adopt the criticism of Isidorus: " Dracontius composnit heroicis versibus Hexaemeron creations mundi et luculenter, quod composuit, scripsit," if we are to understand that any degree of clearness or perspicuity is implied by the word luculenter,
for nothing is more characteristic of this piece than obscurity of thought and perplexity of expression. Indeed these defects are sometimes pushed to such extravagant excess, that we feel disposed to agree with Barthius (Advers.
23.19), that Dracontius did not always understand himself.
It is to be observed that the Hexaemeron exists under two forms. It was published in its original shape along with the Genesis of Claudius Marius Victor, at Paris, 8vo. 1560
; in the "Corpus Christianorum Poetarum," edited by G. Fabricius, Basil. 4to. 1564
; with the notes of Weitzius, Franc 8vo. 1610
; in the "Magna Bibliotheca Patrum," Colon. fol. 1618, vol. vi. par. 1
; and in the " Bibliotheca Patrum," Paris, fol. 1624, vol. viii.
In the course of the seventh century, however, Eugenius, bishop of Toledo, by the orders of king Chindasuindus, undertook to revise, correct, and improve the Six Days; and, not content with repairing and beautifying the old structure, supplied what he considered a defect in the plan by adding an account of the Seventh Day.
In this manner the performance was extended to 634 lines. The enlarged edition was first published by Sirmond along with the Opuscula of Eugenius, Paris, 8vo. 1619.
In the second volume of Sirmond's works (Ven. 1728), p. 890, we read the letter of Eugenius to Chindasuindus, from which we learn that the prelate engaged in the task by the commands of that prince; and in p. 903 we find the Elegy addressed to Theodosius. The Eugenian version was reprinted by Rivinus, Lips. 8vo. 1651
, and in the " Bibliotheca Maxima Patrum," Lugdun. vol. ix. p. 724. More recent editions have appeared by F. Arevalus, Rom. 4to. 1791
, and by J. B. Carpzovius, Helmst. 8vo. 1794
Isidorus, de Scrip. Eccl.
100.24; Honorius, de Scrip. Eccles.
lib. 3. c.28; Ildefonsus, de Scrip. Eccles.
100.14, all of whom will be found in the Bibliotheca Ecclesiastica
Confusion with the others named Dracontius
The Dracontius mentioned above must not be confounded with the Dracontius to whom Athanasius addressed an epistle; nor with the Dracontius on whom Palladius bestowed the epithets of ἔνδοξος
; nor with the Dracontius, bishop of Pergamus, named by Socrates and Sozomenus.