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Arator

Christian poet of the sixth century

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Arator, a Christian poet of the sixth century, probably of Ligurian origin. He studied at Milan under the patronage of the Bishop Laurentius and of Ennodius; then went to Ravenna by the advice of Parthenius, nephew of Ennodius. He took up the career of a lawyer. Treated with distinction by Theodoric on account of his oration in behalf of the Dalmatians, and protected by Cassiodorus, he entered the service of the Gothic court, but resigned at the time of the struggle with Byzantium (about 536). Pope Vigilius made him Subdeacon of the Roman Church. It was then that he wrote in hexameters two books “De Actibus Apostolorum”. He follows the story of the Acts; the first book, dedicated to St. Peter, concludes with Chapter XII i the second, dedicated to St. Paul, with the martyrdom of the two Apostles. Many important events are omitted, others only alluded to. Arator himself declared that his aim was to give the mystical and moral meaning of the book. Accordingly, he often gives strange interpretations of numbers and names. He endeavors to praise St. Peter at the expense of St. Paul and the other Apostles. His style and versification are fairly correct, and he cleverly evades the entanglements of symbolism. Some of his well-turned verses prove that, with another subject, Arator could have become a vigorous writer. The poem was very successful. Vigilius had the author read it in public at the church of St. Peter ad Vincula. The reading lasted four days, as the poet had to repeat many passages by request of his audience. His works remained popular during the Middle Ages, when they became classics. We have also two addresses in distichs written by Arator to the Abbot Florianus and to Vigilius, as well as a letter to Parthenius. The two latter contain biographical details. The date of the poet’s death is unknown.

PAUL LEJAY


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