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CLAUDIUS MARIUS VICTORIUS

Claudius Marius or Marius Claudius Victorius or Victor was a rhetor of Marseille and the author of a rhetorical and didactic paraphrase in three books of the account in Genesis, from the creation until the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, titled Alethia The Truth, probably composed under the Byzantine emperor Theodosius II and the Western Roman emperor Valentinian III see Gennadius of Marseille, De viris illustribus 61, E.C. Richardson, TU XIV 1896. The poem is preceded by a precatio prayer, structured according to the hymnic style, in 126 hexameters.

The Precatio is divided into two sections. In the first vv. 1-100 Victorius sings the high praises of God, celebrates God’s works and makes a profession of the orthodox faith. In the second vv. 101-126, which concludes with a trinitarian doxology, the poet asks God for the necessary help to bring to a happy end the poetic undertaking, the purpose of which is the moral and religious formation of young children vv. 104-105: dum teneros formare animos et corda paramus ad uerum uirtutis iter puerilibus annis, to whom he vows to offer a reading book that will replace the cosmogonic stories of the pagan poets with the Genesis story.

The faltering meter and the seemingly improper language are justifiable, as long as faith does not run into dangers: Quod si lege metri quicquam peccauerit ordo peccarit sermo inproprius sensusque uacillans incauto passim liceat decurrere uersu ne fidei hinc ullum subeat mensura periclum vv. 119-122. The brief prologue of the second book also has a programmatic value. Here the poet claims for himself the right to link the truth to poetic perfecting: nunc hominum mores et iam mortalia uersu ingressum fas sit ueris miscere poetam vv. 4-5. Indeed, he exercises this right by amplifying the terse biblical text on original sin, the flood and Abraham with fictional narrative elements, scenes of dialogue and descriptions, and even a number of didactic excursus as well as philosophical and theological reflections, exploiting a broad knowledge of the classical poets Lucretius, Virgil, Ovid, the Christian writers Lactantius, Ambrose of Milan, Augustine of Hippo, Prudentius and especially the paraphrastic poets Juvencus, Cyprian of Carthage.

The folklorist Alexander Krappe argues that in the account of the discovery of fire at the beginning of the second book, it would appear that the poet introduces a Persian myth. Adam and Eve throw stones on the serpent, who has returned to tempt them, and one of the stones, as it rebounds, produces a spark that ignites a forest. In the first book, the poet paraphrases the creation account of Genesis, culminating in the creation of the man and woman, who live blissfully in Paradise, described in rich detail. Such bliss ceases with the sin of the first parents and their consequential expulsion from the earthly Paradise. With sin as the reason why the humanity loses the capacity to contemplate the world, a new age begins for humanity.

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