Poem to a senator who has converted from Christianity to the servitude of idols

There are quite a lot of scattered late Latin poems around, often attached to the works of Cyprian or Tertullian in manuscripts or early editions.  Some are interesting. This article discusses them, and I have a bunch on my Tertullian site under “spurious”. 

One of these is a poem of 85 lines here, which talks about a certain senator who has apostasised and become a devotee of the Magna Mater, Cybele.

I’ve just discovered that an English translation exists, unpublished:

THE “CARMEN AD QUENDAM SENATOREM”: DATE, MILIEU, AND TRADITION by BEGLEY, RONALD BRUCE Ph.D., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1984, 303 pages; AAT 8415790

I hope someone will get hold of it from the UMI database so I can take a look at it.  It contains interesting details about Cybele, I believe.

6 Responses to “Poem to a senator who has converted from Christianity to the servitude of idols”


  1. Jim Darlack

    The full-text PDF is not available on the UMI database as far as I can tell. Here’s the abstract:

    This dissertation is an investigation of the date, milieu, addressee, authorship, transmission and influence of the Carmen ad quendam senatorem (Clauis patrum no. 1432).

    The first chapter examines the scholarship on the Carmen, particularly the view that it was written at Rome during the Eugenian rebellion of 393-4 and illustrates a climate of disaffection’ from Christianity in senatorial circles.

    The second chapter enumerates the difficulties of this dating. An examination of the key sources fails to substantiate Bloch’s notion of an intense pagan resurgence in the capital, attended by disaffection and apostasy.

    The third chapter addresses the problems in Cracco Ruggini’s recent attempt to assign the Carmen to the period between 383-390. She fails to establish that a wave of apostasies from Christianity took place in the period after Gratian’s death, that the Carmen presupposes the existence of a coalition of Arians, Jews and pagans, or that this period saw a resurgence of bloody sacrifice. On the other hand, her persuasive identification of Vettius Agorius Praetextatus as the subject of the Carmen aduersus paganos (Clauis patrum no. 1431) strengthens the case for assigning the Carmen to the 380s.

    The fourth chapter presents new evidence which supports Cracco Ruggini’s conclusions about the poem’s date and milieu. The poet displays familiarity with Juvenal’s Satires; it was precisely during the 380s that Christian writers in Gaul and Italy began to quote him extensively. The poet’s recourse to formal verse satire becomes more intelligible when the Carmen is placed side by side with Jerome’s prose satires of the 380s. The description of paganism in the poem bears a relation to the underlying realities of Roman paganism at that period. The Carmen displays affinities with Probus’ funeral epitaph at St. Peter’s and Damasus’ Elogium S. Tiburtii.

    The fifth chapter examines the transmission of the Carmen. The earliest surviving manuscripts of the poem were copied at Carolingian centers in southern Gaul early in the ninth centurty, particularly at Lyons and her satellites. A number of indications suggest that the poem passed from Italy to southern Gaul by way of the Iberian peninsula, perhaps in an anthology of early Christian poetry.

  2. Roger Pearse

    Thank you very much for this information. I’ve written to Chapel Hill library to enquire if a copy might be available. Otherwise it would be $43 + international shipping, which is a lot.

  3. Christopher Ecclestone

    find the author… they are sometimes more than thrilled to have their work receive wider distribution..

  4. Roger Pearse

    If only one could!

  5. Sean

    Roger,

    Your Begley appears to be a classics professor at Saint Michael’s. Email is rbegley@smcvt.edu.

  6. Roger Pearse

    Many thanks for this – I will drop him a line!



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