Blossius Aemilius Dracontius (c. 455 – c. 505) of Carthage was a Christian poet who flourished in the latter part of the 5th century. He belonged to a family of landowners, and practiced as a lawyer in his native place. After the conquest of the country by the Vandals, Dracontius was at first allowed to retain possession of his estates, but was subsequently despoiled of his property and thrown into prison by the Vandal king, whose triumphs he had omitted to celebrate, while he had written a panegyric on a foreign and hostile ruler. He subsequently addressed an elegiac poem to the king, asking pardon, and pleading for release. The result is not known, but it is supposed that Dracontius obtained his liberty and migrated to northern Italy in search of peace and quietness. This is consistent with the discovery at Bobbio of a 15th-century MS., now in the Biblioteca Nazionale at Naples, containing a number of poems by Dracontius (the Carmina minora).
The most important of his works is the De laudibus Dei in three books. The account of the creation, which occupies the greater part of the first book, was at an early date edited separately under the title of Hexameron, and it was not till 1791 that the three books were edited by Faustino Arévalo. The apology (Satisfactio) consists of 158 elegiac couplets; it is generally supposed that the king addressed is Gunthamund (484–496). The Carmina minora, nearly all in hexameter verse, consist of school exercises and rhetorical declamations, amongst others the fable of Hylas, with a preface to his tutor, the grammarian Felicianus; De raptu Helenae (The Rape of Helen); Medea; and two epithalamia. It is also probable that Dracontius was the author of the Orestis Tragoedia, a poem of some 1,000 hexameters, which in language, metre, and general treatment of the subject exhibits a striking resemblance to the other works of Dracontius.
Opinions differ as to his poetical merits, but, when due allowance is made for rhetorical exaggeration and consequent want of lucidity, his works show considerable vigour of expression, and a remarkable knowledge of the Bible and of Roman classical literature.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Dracontius, Blossius Aemilius". Encyclopædia Britannica. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 464–465. Endnotes:
- De Deo and Satisfactio, ed. Arevalo, reprinted in Migne’s Patrologiae cursus, lx.
- Carmina minora, ed. F. de Duhn (1873).
- On Dracontius generally:
- A. Ebert, Allgemeine Geschichte der Lit. des Mittelalters im Abendlande, i. (1874)
- C. Rossberg, In D. Carmina minora (1878)
- H. Mailfait, De Dracontii poëtae lingua (1902)
- On the Orestis tragoedia:
- Editions by R. Peiper (1875) and C. Giarratino (Milan, 1906)
- Pamphlets by C. Rossberg (1880, on the authorship; 1888, materials for a commentary).
- Lejay, Paul (1909). Catholic Encyclopedia. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company. . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.).
- "Studi draconziani (1912–1996)", a cura di Luigi Castagna, Napoli, Loffredo 1997
- A. Arweiler, "Interpreting cultural change: Semiotics and exegesis in Dracontius’ De laudibus Dei," in Poetry and Exegesis in Premodern Latin Christianity: The Encounter between Classical and Christian Strategies of Interpretation. Eds. Willemien Otten and Karla Pollmann (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2007) (Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae, 87).
- Luceri, Angelo (ed.). Gli epitalami di Blossio Emilio Draconzio (Rom. 6 e 7) (Roma: Herder, 2007) (Biblioteca di cultura romanobarbarica; 10).
- Galli Milić, Lavinia (ed., comm.). Blossi Aemilii Dracontii, Romulea VI-VII (Firenze: Felice le Monnier, 2008) (Testi con commento filologico, 18).
- Francisco Arevalo, ed., Dracontii Poetae Christiani Saeculi V.: Carmina ex manuscriptis Vaticanis duplo auctiora iis, quae adhuc prodierunt'
- Dracontius, Hexaemeron'