Decimus Magnus Ausonius Analysis

Life

Decimus Magnus Ausonius (DEHS-ih-muhs MAG-nuhs aw-SOH-nee-uhs) taught grammar and rhetoric for thirty years in his native Burdigala until appointed tutor of the future emperor Gratian, after whose accession in 375 c.e. he rose to the consulate. When Ausonius’s influence began to wane, he withdrew to Burdigala, where his last years were devoted to literary pursuits. He produced much donnish and declamatory verse; its pagan erudition is unaffected by a Laodicean Christianity, and the political and social issues of the troubled times never impinge on its timeless artificiality. His poetry, which combines technical proficiency with a remarkable engrossment on the part of the poet in himself and his own surroundings, is also marked by a special partiality for the compilation of lists embracing such disparate topics as Latin monosyllables, Burdigala professors, warriors from the Trojan War, his own relatives, and the fish in the Moselle.

Influence

The formal elegance of Ausonian verse ensured its influence on medieval and Renaissance poets, though the former were to some extent deterred by the author’s unsuccessful attempt to dissuade his former pupil Saint Paulinus of Nola from embracing the ascetic life.

Additional Resources

Green, R. P. H., ed. The Works of Ausonius. New York: Clarendon Press, 1991.

Sivan, H. Ausonius of Bordeaux: Genesis of a Gallic Aristocracy. New York: Routledge, 1993.