Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 102 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PUBLILIUS OPTATIANUS PORFIRIUS, Latin poet, possibly a native of Africa, flourished during the 4th century A.D. He has been identified with Pub]ilius Optatianus, who was prae fectus urbi (329 and 333), and is by some authorities included amongst the Christian poets. For some reason he had been banished, but having addressed a panegyric to the Emperor Constantine the Great, he was allowed to return. Twenty-eight poems are extant under his name, of which twenty were included in the panegyric. They have no value except as curiosities and specimens of perverted ingenuity. Some of them are squares (the number of letters in each line being equal), certain letters being rubricated so as to form a pattern or figure, and at the same time special verses or maxims; others represent various objects (a syrinx, an organ, an altar); others have special peculiarities in each line (number of words or letters) ; while the 28th poem (the versus anacyclici) may be read back-wards without any effect upon sense or metre. A complimentary letter from the emperor and letter of thanks from the author are also extant. The best edition of the poem is by L. Muller (1877). See also O. Seeck, " Das Leben des Dichters Porphyrius " in Rheinisches Museum (1908), lxiii. 267.

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