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Friday, March 07, 2008

REVIEW: Aniello Salzano, Agli inizi della poesia cristiana latina; autori anonimi dei secc. IV-V

Aniello Salzano, Agli inizi della poesia cristiana latina; autori anonimi dei secc. IV-V. Salerno: Edisud Salerno, 2007. Pp. 154. ISBN 978-88-95154-18-3. €20.00.

Reviewed by Vincent Hunink, Radboud University Nijmegen (v.hunink@let.ru.nl)
Word count: 2585 words

The early fourth century A.D. gave rise to a new phenomenon in Latin literature: Christian poetry. Although Christian Latin prose had already been flourishing for well over two centuries, the composition of literary poems had remained a cultural activity practiced only by non-Christians. However, this changed once Christianity had been officially allowed by the so called Edict of Milan issued by Constantine in 313. The new social and legal status of Christianity brought along many changes. Gradually, Christian authors felt free to write poems in Latin to celebrate their religion, to praise God, and even to expound Christian doctrine.


Turning to the poems themselves, the reader may find some pleasant surprises, starting with the first piece entitled Psalmus responsorius. This is a fragment of 102 lines of an anonymous poem from the first half of the fourth century, found on a papyrus (Pap.Barcononensis 149b-153) discovered in Egypt in 1965. It is an abecedarian poem, preceded by a refrain of four lines (pater qui omnia regis / peto Christi nos scias heredes. / Christus, verbo natus, per quem populus est liberatus). Only 12 strophes have been preserved, the text suddenly breaking off at the end of the 'M' strophe. The length of the strophes varies (seven to eleven lines) and there is no clearly metrical form; Salzano speaks of 'prosa ritmica sostenuta da accenti, assonanze e rimi' (p.33). The poem seems to have been used for liturgical purposes. It celebrates Mary as the Mother of Christ, telling about her birth, her marriage to Joseph, the Annunciation by Gabriel, the birth of Christ and the veneration of Christ by the Magi, and ending with the first miracle performed by Christ during the wedding at Canaa.

Etc. at BMCR