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AURELIUS CLEMENS PRUDENTIUS (348-c. 410)

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Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 518 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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AURELIUS CLEMENS PRUDENTIUS (348-c. 410), the most remarkable of the earlier Christian poets in the West, was probably born at Tarraco, though Saragossa and Calagurris have also been claimed as his birthplace. The meagre autobiographical preface, which he affixed to the complete edition of his works when he was fifty-seven years old, makes it clear that he received a liberal education—being of noble family—practised as a lawyer and entered official life, and finally held some high office under Theodosius. At the age of fifty-seven he retired to a monastery, but died shortly afterwards. Bentley calls Prudentius " the Horace and Virgil of the Christians," but his diction is stilted and his metre often faulty. The list of his works given in the preface mentions the hymns, poems against the Priscillianists and against Symmachus and Perislephanon. The Diptychon or Dittochaeon is not mentioned. The twelve hymns of the Cathemerinon liber (" Daily Round ") consist of six for daily use, five for festivals, and one intended for every hour of the day. Prudentius shows Ambrose as his master here, but gives to Ambrose's mystic symbolism much clearer expression. The Apotheosis and Hamartigenia are polemic, the first against the disclaimers of the divinity of Christ, the latter against the gnostic dualism of Marcion and his followers. In them Tertullian is the source of inspiration. Of more historical interest are the two books Contra Symmachum, of 658 and 1131 hexameter verses respectively, the first attacking the pagan gods, the second directed against the petition of Symmachus to the emperor for the restoration of the altar and statue of Victory which Gratian had cast down. The Peristephanon consists of fourteen hymns to martyrs. These were mostly Spanish, but some were suggested to Prudentius by sacred images in churches or by the inscriptions of Damasus. This book, with the Cathemerinon liber and the Psychomachia, was among the most widely read books of the middle ages. Its influence on the iconography of medieval art was great. The Psychomachia is aesthetically inferior, but had the greatest influence of all of Prudentius's writings. In it he depicts the struggle of Christendom with paganism under the allegory of a struggle between the Christian virtues and the pagan vices. The Dittochaeon is a series of quatrains, probably intended to explain forty-nine pictures of a basilica. The work is more interesting for archaeology than for literature. Prudentius's works were, published by Giselin' at Antwerp in 1564, and by F. Arevalo at Rome in 1788, with complete commentary. This last is the edition reprinted in J. P. Migne's Palrologia Latina, vols. lix.–lx. (Paris, 1847). More recent editions are by Obbarius (Tubingen, 1845) and A. Dressel (Leipzig, 1886), while a critical edition has been undertaken by J. Bergmann. See also J. Bergmann, Lexicon prudentianum, fast. i. [a-adscendol (Upsala, 1894) ; M. Schanz, Gesch. d. rem. Lit. (Munich, 1904); A. Ebert, Allgem. Gesch. d. Lit. des Mittelalters, vol. i. 2nd ed. Leipzig, 1889) ; M. Manitius, Gesch. d. christl. lat. Poesie (Stuttgart, 1891; T. R. Glover, Life and Letters in the Fourth Century (Cambridge, 1901); C. Brockhaus, Aur. Prud. Clem. in seiner Bedeutung f. d. Kirche seiner Zeit (Leipzig, 1872) ; A. Pnech, Prudence; etude sur la poesie latine chret. au IV' siecle (Paris, 1888) ; F. St John Thackeray, Translations from Prudentius (London, 1890) ; F. Maigret, Le Poete chretien Prudentius (Paris, 1903) ; E. O. Winstedt, ' The Double Recension in the Poems of Prudentius," The Classical Review, vol. xvii. (1903). PRUD'HON, PIERRE (1758–1823), French painter, born at Cluny on the 4th of April 1758, was the third son of a mason. The monks of the abbey undertook his education, and by the aid of the bishop of Macon he was placed with Devosges, director of the art school at Dijon. In 1778 Prud'hon went to Paris armed with a letter to Wille, the celebrated engraver, and three years later he obtained the triennial prize of the states of Burgundy, which enabled him to go to Rome, where he became intimate with Canova. He returned to Paris in 1787, and led for some time a precarious existence. The illustrations which he executed for the Daphnis and Chloe published by Didot brought him into notice, and his reputation was extended by the success of his decorations in the Hotel de Landry (now Rothschild), his ceiling painting of "Truth and Wisdom " for Versailles (Louvre), and of " Diana and Jupiter " for the Gallery of Antiquities in the Louvre. In 18o8 he exhibited " Crime pursued by Vengeance and Justice " (Louvre, engraved by Royer which had been commissioned for the assize courts, and "Psyche carried off by Zephyrs " (engraved by Massard). These two remarkable compositions brought Prud'hon the Legion of Honour; and in 1816 he entered the Institute. Easy as to fortune, and consoled for the misery of his marriage by the devoted care of his excellent and charming pupil, Mlle Mayer, Prud'hon's situation seemed enviable; but Mlle Mayer's tragical suicide on the 26th of May 1821 brought ruin to his home, and two years later (Feb. 16, 1823) Prud'hon followed her to the grave. Mlle Mayer (1778–1821) was his ablest pupil. Her " Abandoned Mother " and "Happy Mother " are in the Louvre. Voiart,"Notice historique de la vie et oeuvres de P. Prud'hon, "in Arch. de fart francais; Qu. de Quincy, Discours prononce sur la tombe de Prud'hon, Fev. 1823 ; Eugene Delacroix, Rev. des deux mondes, 1846; Charles Blanc, Hist. des peintres francais.
End of Article: AURELIUS CLEMENS PRUDENTIUS (348-c. 410)
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