The author of an elaborate poetical itinerary in elegiacs conventionally referred to as the De reditu suo (the original title is lost), was a member of an aristocratic Gallo-Roman family, possibly from Toulouse (Tolosa). He held the offices of magister officiorum (master of the offices) (c.ad 412) and praefectus urbi (city-prefect) (414). His poem has come down to us in an incomplete state. The beginning of the first book is lost, and 644 lines survive; of the second book two portions are extant, the first 68 lines and a further fragment of 39 half-lines first published in 1973. The poem recounts the voyage undertaken by the author in 417 (though the date has been disputed) from Rome to Gaul, where his estates had suffered from barbarian inroads; his party has reached Luna on the bay of La Spezia when the main part of the text breaks off. The account of the journey and the descriptions of the places visited or passed are interwoven with personal and historical reflections of the poet. The poem is most notable, however, for its intensely pro-Roman, classical outlook. In its existing form it opens with a long eulogy of Rome, most of it presented as an address to the city by the poet on the point of departure. This attitude, combined with other features of the work, such as the invective against the Jews, the monks of Capraria, and Stilicho (de facto ruler of the western empire 395–408), who had burned the Sibylline books, strongly suggests that Namatianus was an adherent of the old paganism; but he need not have been an extreme opponent of Christianity. At all events, his poetic stance is located solidly in the classical tradition, as is his style. He is an elegant poet, schooled in the best verse of the classical period, but possessing originality and flair, and capable of rising to impressive heights. The rhetorical tone of parts of his work is typical of his time.
J. H. D. Scourfield
Subjects: Classical Studies.