12 Facts About Macrobius


Macrobius is primarily known for his writings, which include the widely copied and read Commentarii in Somnium Scipionis about Somnium Scipionis, 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, which is lost.

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Macrobius is the basis for the protagonist Manlius in Iain Pears' book The Dream of Scipio.

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Macrobius states at the beginning of his Saturnalia that he was "born under a foreign sky", and both of his major works are dedicated to his son, Eustachius.

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Macrobius's major works have led experts to assume that he was a pagan.

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Which "foreign sky" Macrobius was born under has been the subject of much speculation.

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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.

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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.

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Scholars have attempted to identify him with a Macrobius who is mentioned in the Codex Theodosianus as a praetorian prefect of Spain, and a proconsul of Africa.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 at the center of the hierarchically ordered planetary spheres.

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