Macrobius, fully Macrobius Ambrosius Theodosius, also known as Theodosius (fl. c. 400 AD), was a Roman provincial who lived during the early fifth century, during Late Antiquity, the period of time corresponding to the late Roman Empire to the early Middle Ages, and when Latin was as widespread as Greek among the elite. He is primarily known for his writings, which include the widely copied and read Commentarii in Somnium Scipionis ("Commentary on the Dream of Scipio"), which was one of the most important sources for Neoplatonism in the Latin West during the Middle Ages, the Saturnalia , a compendium of ancient Roman religious and antiquarian lore, and De differentiis et societatibus graeci latinique verbi ("On the Differences and Similarities of the Greek and Latin Verb"), which is now lost.
The correct order of his names is "Macrobius Ambrosius Theodosius", which is how it appears in the earliest manuscripts of the Saturnalia, and how he is addressed in the excerpts from his lost De differentiis. Only in later manuscripts were his names reversed as "Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius", which James Willis then adopted for his edition of the Commentary. Alan Cameron notes that Cassiodorus and Boethius both refer to him as "Macrobius Theodosius", while he was known during his lifetime as "Theodosius": the dedication to the De differentiis is addressed Theodosius Symmacho suo ("Theodosius to his Symmachus"), and by the dedicatory epistle to Avianus's Fables, where he is addressed as Theodosi optime.
Little is known for certain about Macrobius, but there are many theories and speculations about him. He states at the beginning of his Saturnalia that he was "born under a foreign sky" (sub alio ortos caelo), and both of his major works are dedicated to his son, Eustachius.His major works have led experts to assume that he was a pagan.
Which "foreign sky" Macrobius was born under has been the subject of much speculation. Terrot Glover considers Macrobius either an ethnic Greek, or born in one of the Greek-speaking parts of the Roman Empire, such as Egypt, due to his intimate knowledge of Greek literature. J. E. Sandys went further and argued that Macrobius was born in one of the Greek provinces. However other experts, beginning with Ludwig van Jan, point out that despite his familiarity with Greek literature Macrobius was far more familiar with Latin than Greek—as evidenced by his enthusiasm for Vergil and Cicero—and favor North Africa, which was part of the Latin-speaking portion of the Roman Empire.
Scholars have attempted to identify him with a Macrobius who is mentioned in the Codex Theodosianus as a praetorian prefect of Spain (399–400), and a proconsul of Africa (410).The Codex Theodosianus also records a praepositus (or lord chamberlain) named Macrobius in 422. A number of older authorities go so far as to identify Macrobius the author with the first, and date his floruit to 399–410. There are objections to either identification: as Alan Cameron notes, the complete name of the first candidate is attested in an inscription to be "Flavius Macrobius Maximianus", while the second is excluded because "A praepositus must at this period have been a eunuch."
However, since Macrobius is frequently referred to as vir clarissimus et inlustris, a title which was achieved by holding public office, we can reasonably expect his name to appear in the Codex Theodosianus. Further, Cameron points out that during his lifetime Macrobius was referred to as "Theodosius", and looking for that name Cameron found a Theodosius who was praetorian prefect of Italy in 430. "It is significant that the only surviving law addressed to this Theodosius sanctions a privilege for Africa Proconsularis on the basis of information received concerning Byzacena," Cameron notes.
Macrobius's most influential book and one of the most widely cited books of the Middle Ages was a commentary on the book Dream of Scipio narrated by Cicero at the end of his Republic. The nature of the dream, in which the elder Scipio appears to his (adopted) grandson and describes the life of the good after death and the constitution of the universe from a Stoic and Neo-Platonic point of view, gave occasion for Macrobius to discourse upon the nature of the cosmos, transmitting much classical philosophy to the later Middle Ages.In astronomy, this work is noted for giving the diameter of the Sun as twice the diameter of the Earth. Of a third work On the Differences and Similarities of the Greek and Latin Verb, we only possess an abstract by a certain Johannes, doubtfully identified with Johannes Scotus Eriugena (9th century).
See editions by Ludwig von Jan (1848–1852, with a bibliography of previous editions, and commentary), Franz Eyssenhardt (1893, Teubner text), James Willis (1994, new Teubner), and R. A. Kaster (OCT and Loeb, 2011); on the sources of the Saturnalia see H. Linke (1880) and Georg Wissowa (1880). The grammatical treatise will be found in Jan's edition and Heinrich Keil's Grammatici latini; see also Georg Friedrich Schömann, Commentatio macrobiana (1871).
Macrobius's Saturnalia (Latin : Saturnaliorum Libri Septem, "Seven Books of the Saturnalia") consists of an account of the discussions held at the house of Vettius Agorius Praetextatus during the holiday of the Saturnalia. It contains a great variety of curious historical, mythological, critical, antiquarian and grammatical discussions. "The work takes the form of a series of dialogues among learned men at a fictional banquet."
A prominent lunar crater is named after Macrobius.
Macrobius Cove in Antarctica is named after Macrobius.
Cicero's Dream of Scipio described the Earth as a globe of insignificant size in comparison to the remainder of the cosmos.Many early medieval manuscripts of Macrobius include maps of the Earth, including the antipodes, zonal maps showing the Ptolemaic climates derived from the concept of a spherical Earth and a diagram showing the Earth (labeled as globus terrae, the sphere of the Earth) at the center of the hierarchically ordered planetary spheres. (See also: flat Earth).
Images from a 12th-century manuscript of Macrobius's Commentarii in Somnium Scipionis (Parchment, 50 ff.; 23.9 × 14 cm; Southern France). Date: ca. 1150. Source: Copenhagen, Det Kongelige Bibliotek, ms. NKS 218 4°.
Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival in honour of the god Saturn, held on 17 December of the Julian calendar and later expanded with festivities through to 23 December. The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn, in the Roman Forum, and a public banquet, followed by private gift-giving, continual partying, and a carnival atmosphere that overturned Roman social norms: gambling was permitted, and masters provided table service for their slaves as it was seen as a time of liberty for both slaves and freedmen alike. A common custom was the election of a "King of the Saturnalia", who would give orders to people, which were to be followed and preside over the merrymaking. The gifts exchanged were usually gag gifts or small figurines made of wax or pottery known as sigillaria. The poet Catullus called it "the best of days".
Maurus Servius Honoratus was a late fourth-century and early fifth-century grammarian, with the contemporary reputation of being the most learned man of his generation in Italy; he was the author of a set of commentaries on the works of Virgil. These works, In tria Virgilii Opera Expositio, constituted the first incunable to be printed at Florence, by Bernardo Cennini, 1471.
Avianus a Latin writer of fables, identified as a pagan.
The Dream of Scipio, written by Cicero, is the sixth book of De re publica, and describes a fictional dream vision of the Roman general Scipio Aemilianus, set two years before he oversaw the destruction of Carthage in 146 BC.
The Codex Theodosianus was a compilation of the laws of the Roman Empire under the Christian emperors since 312. A commission was established by Emperor Theodosius II and his co-emperor Valentinian III on 26 March 429 and the compilation was published by a constitution of 15 February 438. It went into force in the eastern and western parts of the empire on 1 January 439. The original text of the codex is also found in the Breviary of Alaric, promulgated on 2 February 506.
Vettius Agorius Praetextatus was a wealthy pagan aristocrat in the 4th-century Roman Empire, and a high priest in the cults of numerous gods. He served as the praetorian prefect at the court of Emperor Valentinian II in 384 until his death that same year.
Ostomachion, also known as loculus Archimedius and also as syntomachion, is a mathematical treatise attributed to Archimedes. This work has survived fragmentarily in an Arabic version and a copy, the Archimedes Palimpsest, of the original ancient Greek text made in Byzantine times. The word Ostomachion has as its roots in the Greek Ὀστομάχιον, which means "bone-fight", from ὀστέον (osteon), "bone" and μάχη (mache), "fight, battle, combat". Note that the manuscripts refer to the word as "Stomachion", an apparent corruption of the original Greek. Ausonius gives us the correct name "Ostomachion". The Ostomachion which he describes was a puzzle similar to tangrams and was played perhaps by several persons with pieces made of bone. It is not known which is older, Archimedes' geometrical investigation of the figure, or the game. Victorinus, Bassus Ennodius and Lucretius have talked about the game too.
Saturn was a god in ancient Roman religion, and a character in Roman mythology. He was described as a god of generation, dissolution, plenty, wealth, agriculture, periodic renewal and liberation. Saturn's mythological reign was depicted as a Golden Age of plenty and peace. After the Roman conquest of Greece, he was conflated with the Greek Titan Cronus, becoming known as a god of time. Saturn's consort was his sister Ops, with whom he fathered Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto, Juno, Ceres and Vesta.
Virius Nicomachus Flavianus (334–394) was a grammarian, a historian and a politician of the Roman Empire.
The Symmachi were an aristocratic family of the late Roman Empire.
Roma is a historical novel by American author Steven Saylor, first published by St. Martin's Press in 2007. The story follows two ancient Roman families, the Potitii and Pinarii, as members of successive generations bear witness to, as well as participate in, some of Rome's greatest historical events. The epic style is similar to James Michener's historical novels - i.e., following the history of a certain location over centuries, each chapter depicting the descendants of the protagonists of the previous chapter. The story takes Roman myths and intertwines them with historical facts and fictional characters. Usually, the protagonist in each chapter is either a fictional character or a historical figure of whom not much is known, but who comes in contact with major characters of Roman history and plays a part in crucial historical events.
Caecina Decius Aginatius Albinus was an aristocrat of the Roman Empire. He was praefectus urbi in 414, succeeding his friend Rutilius Namatianus, and possibly again in 426. Some authorities spell his name Caecina Decius Acinatius Albinus.
Saturnalia is a work written after c. 431 AD by the Roman provincial Macrobius Theodosius. The Saturnalia consists of an account of the discussions held at the house of Vettius Agorius Praetextatus during the holiday of the Saturnalia. It contains a great variety of curious historical, mythological, critical, antiquarian and grammatical discussions. "The work takes the form of a series of dialogues among learned men at a fictional banquet." There is little attempt to give any dramatic character to the dialogue; in each book some one of the personages takes the leading part, and the remarks of the others serve only as occasions for calling forth fresh displays of erudition.
Cornelius Labeo was an ancient Roman theologian and antiquarian who wrote on such topics as the Roman calendar and the teachings of Etruscan religion (Etrusca disciplina). His works survive only in fragments and testimonia. He has been dated "plausibly but not provably" to the 3rd century AD. Labeo has been called "the most important Roman theologian" after Varro, whose work seems to have influenced him strongly. He is usually considered a Neoplatonist.
Commentary on Cicero's Dream of Scipio is a philosophical treatise of Macrobius based on the famous dream narrated in On the republic of Cicero.
The gens Grania was a plebeian family at Rome. Although none of them ever obtained the consulship, the family was of "senatorial rank", and was well-known from the latter half of the second century BC. In Imperial times, a number of them became distinguished in military and provincial service.
The gens Lavinia was a minor family at ancient Rome.
The gens Maevia, occasionally written Mevia, was a minor plebeian family at ancient Rome. Members of this gens are known from the later Republic, although the family may possibly have been much older, and well into Imperial times. None of the Maevii ever obtained the higher offices of the Roman state. Their nomen is frequently confounded with the similar Maenius.
The gens Orbilia was an obscure plebeian family of ancient Rome. None of its members are known to have held any magistracies. Its most famous representative may have been the grammarian Lucius Orbilius Pupillus, who operated a school at Rome, and was the master of Horace.
The gens Orchia or Orcia was a minor plebeian family at Rome. Few members of this gens held Roman magistracies, of whom the most notable was probably Gaius Orchius, tribune of the plebs in 181 BC, and the author of a sumptuary law, the repeal of which was strongly opposed by Cato the Elder. Other Orchii are known from inscriptions.
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