CARMEN adversus paganos. Datable between 376, the year of the death of Quintus Aurelius Symmachus’s father, and 409, the year of the Pompeianus’s murder, this anonymous composition, handed down on the last three pages of the codex Par. Lat. 8084, a 6th-c. manuscript of Prudentius, is an invective, in 122 hexameters, against senators who worship the gods of the ancient religion vv. 1-24 and, in particular, against a praefectus urbis, variously identified with Virius Nicomachus Flavianus Morel, De Rossi, Mommsen, Musso, Vettius Agorius Praetextatus Ellis, Moricca, Cracco Ruggini, Fontaine, Puglisi, Vera, Bartalucci, Gabinius Barbarus Pompeianus Manganaro and Symmachus’s father Mazzarino vv. 25-122.
In the style of Christian apologetic, the Christian poet derides the pagans for their obscene love stories: Jove’s marriage to his sister Juno; Venus’s love for Adonis; Apollo’s lying oracle; Jove’s transformation into a swan, a shower of gold and a bull; the expulsion of Saturn; Venus’s lament over the dead Adonis. The fanatical prefect, who for three months had subjected Rome to purification rites, paid for his misdeeds with a slow death. An initiate in many rites of Bacchus, Serapis, Cybele, Saturn, Bellona and a believer in nymphs, satyrs and Pan, the deceased was held responsible for the apostasy of Christian senators through the scandalous offer of honors and positions. Ankara Subway Map The poet concludes with an insulting invitation to the prefect’s wife to stop weeping over her husband suffering from dropsy, whom she hoped would be cured by the Latian Jupiter. The variegated picture of paganism with its rites and myths, marked by an absolute lack of charity on the part of the Christian author toward the deceased, makes the short poem, which on many points is obscure due to the density of the satirical expression, a historical document of great importance.