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Proba's introduction to her Cento

  • R. P. H. Green (a1)

The cento of Proba has recently enjoyed a remarkable upsurge of scholarly interest. A welcome translation was provided in 1981, and an article of five years later, scrutinizing the evidence for its date and authorship, has aroused much controversy. In two recent contributions vindicating the traditional date new or more precise suggestions have been made about the poem's historical context. In between these, yet another article has argued, without confirming or refuting the revised dating and attribution, that in various ways the work reflects the interest of the aristocratic ladies of the Anician family. And now there is a second article by Danuta Shanzer, repeating many of her early points (not always with greater clarity) and adding some interesting new ones. All this sudden attention is not unmerited, for as Herzog observed long ago the work is not of the comic or trivializing kind that Ausonius envisaged in his comments on the genre and does not degrade Vergil but rather, at least in the often quoted words of its prefatory poem, ‘improves’ him.

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H. Sivan , ‘Anician Women, the Cento of Proba, and Aristocratic Conversion in the Fourth Century’, Vigiliae Christianae 47 (1993), 140–57.

D. Shanzer , ‘The Date and Identity of the Centonist Proba’, Recherches Augustiniennes 27 (1994), 7596. Her new comments affect Matthews’ dating rather than my own, and I confine myself to observing that the apparent reference in 11. 690–1 of the cento to controversy about the timing of Easter, discussed on pp. 91–6, need not refer to a particular year, but could just as easily relate to a time (such as the 350s or early 360s, to judge from the data assembled there), when uncertainty on this issue was particularly marked.

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The Classical Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0009-8388
  • EISSN: 1471-6844
  • URL: /core/journals/classical-quarterly
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