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Being Christian in Late AntiquityA Festschrift for Gillian Clark$
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Carol Harrison, Caroline Humfress, and Isabella Sandwell

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199656035

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199656035.001.0001

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Self-Portrait as a Landscape: Ausonius and His Herediolum

Self-Portrait as a Landscape: Ausonius and His Herediolum

(p.235) 13 Self-Portrait as a Landscape: Ausonius and His Herediolum
Being Christian in Late Antiquity

Oliver Nicholson

Oxford University Press

By the late fourth century, the Roman Empire was replete with ‘conventional Christians’, not necessarily shallow, not necessarily insincere, just not radical. In his old age, the poet Ausonius (consul, 379) undertook an exercise in self-knowledge. He articulated the result in 16 charming elegiac couplets called the Herediolum, a poem which employed the agricultural estate he had inherited from his father as a metaphor for his own character. His farming régime was intended to be well balanced and self-sufficient; by implication the poet considered himself also a coherent character. Ausonius’ other works suggest multiple personae for their author: the smiling public man, the troubled dreamer, the purveyor of donnish smut. The self-portrait furnished by the Herediolum is of one who is, au fond, single-minded. It may be that this quality is connected with Ausonius’ ‘conventional Christianity’.

Keywords:   Ausonius, Herediolum, conventional Christian, farming, self-knowledge, single-minded, smut

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