In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Ausonius

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works
  • Collections of Papers
  • Bibliographies
  • Critical Editions
  • Translations
  • Transmission and Text
  • Style, Meter, and Poetics
  • Intertextuality
  • Influence

Classics Ausonius
Roger Green
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 February 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 February 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0101


Although the exact dates of his birth and death are not certain, Ausonius lived for almost the whole of the 4th century. He was heavily involved in teaching and imperial administration, as well as being a prolific poet. His poems are remarkably varied—in tone and topic, and in meter and genre. Many of them reflect, in various ways, the time he spent at court in Trier; many show a strong devotion to Bordeaux, where he was born and evidently lived until middle age, and where he spent his retirement. His rather fewer prose writings also vary greatly: his speech on attaining the consulship is necessarily grave, but a more intimate and lively style is seen in some of the numerous prose prefaces to his poems and in some of his letters. He sometimes uses Greek words and phrases, usually in a light-hearted way. In general, his work is valuable for the insight it gives into various aspects of Late Antiquity, for the ways in which Ausonius’s relations with various people of the time emerge, and for its copious and sensitive use of classical authors.

Reference Works

The following works include sections on Ausonius or offer useful or essential background. The fullest resource is the excellent study of Ausonius’s works in Herzog 1989. Heinen 1985 takes full and appreciative account of Ausonius and his evidence throughout the author’s fine study of the city of Trier. Browning in Kenney and Clausen 1982 gives a brief account of Ausonius’s poetry, which if not enthusiastic, improves upon derivative and dismissive treatments found in some earlier manuals and textbooks. In Cameron and Garnsey 1998 there is less than one page on Ausonius’s writings in the chapter on education and literary culture; the index of the work can be used to show how facets of Ausonius’s career contribute to our knowledge of the 4th century. There is a brief account of Ausonius, and one of Bordeaux—his homeland, in Bowersock, et al. 1999, both by H. Sivan. Goldberg 2016 contains a short, informative article on Ausonius. Jones 1973 is a very detailed guide to social and administrative systems of the period, providing the background material on the world in which Ausonius operated. Demandt 2007 refers to Ausonius frequently, in various sections, especially those on society, education, and religion.

  • Bowersock, G. W., Peter Brown, and Oleg Grabar, eds. 1999. Late Antiquity: A guide to the classical world. Cambridge, MA, and London: Belknap.

    Eleven essays on important aspects of the period are followed by an encyclopedia, which includes an article on Ausonius by H. Sivan.

  • Cameron, Averil, and Peter Garnsey, eds. 1998. The Cambridge ancient history. Vol. 13, The late empire, A.D. 337–425. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    For the wider background of Late Antiquity. Chapter 22 (p. 665–707) covers education and literary culture.

  • Demandt, Alexander. 2007. Die Spätantike: Römische Geschichte von Diocletian bis Justinian 284–563 n. Chr. Munich: Beck.

    Masterful and comprehensive history of Late Antiquity, in which Ausonius is more prominent in the sections devoted to “Die Inneren Verhältnisse.”

  • Heinen, Heinz. 1985. 2000 Jahre Trier. Vol. 1, Trier und das Trevererland in Römischer Zeit. Trier, Germany: Spee-Verlag.

    Magisterial account of the city and its inhabitants.

  • Herzog, Reinhart, ed. 1989. Handbuch der Lateinischen Literatur der Antike. Vol. 5, Restauration und Erneuerung 284–374 n. Chr. Munich: C. H. Beck.

    This includes a first-class study of Ausonius by Peter Lebrecht Schmidt and Wolf-Lüder Liebermann, covering the text and his various writings. There is a very extensive bibliography.

  • Goldberg, Sander, ed. 2016. The Oxford Classical Dictionary. Digital ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    The latest edition of this authoritative reference work on the classical world. Originally published in 2012, Hornblower, Simon, Antony Spawforth, and Esther Eidinow, eds., theOxford Classical Dictionary, 4th ed. (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press).

  • Jones, A. H. M. 1973. The later Roman Empire 284–602: A social economic and administrative survey. 2 vols. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

    A still-indispensable guide to the workings of the later Roman Empire.

  • Kenney, E. J., and W. V. Clausen, eds. 1982. The Cambridge history of classical literature. Vol. 2, Latin literature. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    The best single-volume scholarly survey of Latin literature. Part VI covers the Later Principate, including some useful pages by Robert Browning on Ausonius, “a poet of some stature” (pp. 698–704).

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