Fulgentius the Mythographer

 Bradford Gregory Hays, Ph. D.
Cornell University, 1996

This dissertation provides a comprehensive and up-to-date treatment of the late Latin author commonly known as Fulgentius the Mythographer. In the process, it attempts to resolve certain familiar problems, notably his date and identity: Fulgentius can be dated with certainty only to the later Vandal period, though he may have been active in the reign of Thrasamund (496-523 AD), and is not identical with Bishop Fulgentius of Ruspe. He did not invent imaginary authors (though many of his quotations are borrowed second-hand), and did not write the brief treatise on Statius's Thebaid sometimes ascribed to him.

More generally, the thesis re-assesses Fulgentius's place in literary history and his aims in writing. Most treatments view the Mythographer as an eccentric Christian whose fanciful allegoresis presages medieval hermeneutic developments. Such a view is seriously flawed. Fulgentius's allegoresis and inveterate etymologizing are based on ancient models, and mark no new theoretical departure. On a concrete level, the dissertation shows that the Mitologiae adapts a good deal of earlier material, in particular a lost mythographical treatise also used by the First Vatican Mythographer.

Fulgentius's aims are not religious, but literary. He belongs within a specific cultural milieu, that of Vandal Africa, and has much in common with writers like Martianus, Dracontius, and the poets of the Latin Anthology. One of his central accomplishments is the creation of an idiosyncratic Latin style drawn from Apuleian art prose, classical declamation, and Christian authors like Tertullian. In the Mitologiae and Expositio Virgilianae Continentiae his goal is comparable to those of Macrobius and Martianus: to convey familiar material in a novel and entertaining way. The Expositio Sermonum Antiquorum, superficially a glossary, would have been useless to scholars; its real aim is to advertise its author's intellectual credentials. The mythographer's least-studied work, the lipogrammatic De Aetatibus Mundi et Hominis, is shown to be a literary tour de force rather than a work with any coherent religious message.

Miscellaneous problems of text and interpretation are also dealt with.

UMI Number: 9624910

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