The Origin of Sin
An English Translation of the "Hamartigenia"
Publication Year: 2012
Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (348-ca. 406) is one of the great Christian Latin writers of late antiquity. Born in northeastern Spain during an era of momentous change for both the Empire and the Christian religion, he was well educated, well connected, and a successful member of the late Roman elite, a man fully engaged with the politics and culture of his times. Prudentius wrote poetry that was deeply influenced by classical writers and in the process he revived the ethical, historical, and political functions of poetry. This aspect of his work was especially valued in the Middle Ages by Christian writers who found themselves similarly drawn to the Classical tradition.
Prudentius's Hamartigenia, consisting of a 63-line preface followed by 966 lines of dactylic hexameter verse, considers the origin of sin in the universe and its consequences, culminating with a vision of judgment day: the damned are condemned to torture, worms, and flames, while the saved return to a heaven filled with delights, one of which is the pleasure of watching the torments of the damned. As Martha A. Malamud shows in the interpretive essay that accompanies her lapidary translation, the first new English translation in more than forty years, Hamartigenia is critical for understanding late antique ideas about sin, justice, gender, violence, and the afterlife. Its radical exploration of and experimentation with language have inspired generations of thinkers and poets since-most notably John Milton, whose Paradise Lost owes much of its conception of language and its strikingly visual imagery to Prudentius's poem.
Published by: Cornell University Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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AC KNOW LEDG MENTS
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THIS BOOK HAS BENEFITED GREATLY from the hard work of others— especially Christopher Francese and Marc Mastrangelo, who had no reason, other than collegiality at the highest level, and love of scholar-ship, for expending so much eff ort on a project not their own. Chris Francese sent me detailed, cogent comments on almost every page of the translation, and Marc Mastrangelo provided equally detailed and challenging comments on the Emily Albu read and commented on both the text and the translation in sev-...
NOTE ON TRANSLATIONSAND EDITIONS
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PRUDENTIUS is a pivotal poet: his poetry is steeped in the work of his clas-sical pre de ces sors, especially Vergil, Lucretius, Horace, Ovid, Statius, and Juvenal, but it also anticipates the Christian worldview and the sophisti-cated allegorical and linguistic experiments of his successors Dante, Chaucer, Spenser, and Milton. Like the Roman god Janus, Prudentius looks forward and back at the same time. His radically experimental verse earns him a place in the Eu ro pe an epic tradition, though he has been largely underappreciated because ...
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...1. Th e fi rst word of the poem is fratres, “brothers.” Th e brothers, as we learn in line 11, are Cain and Abel; Prudentius is referring to the story told in Genesis 4. Abel’s murder was commonly be-lieved by early Christian writers to be a prefi guration of the suff ering and death of Christ, but Pru-dentius sees Cain as prefi guring dualist heretics who, in his view, split the one true God into war-ring gods, one good, one evil. Enmity between brothers is also a signifi cant motif in Roman myth ...
THE ORIGIN OF SIN
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...22. Cain, whom we have seen in the preface making an improper division of his sacrifi ce, is identifi ed with Marcion and by extension with other heretical thinkers who fail to comprehend the unity of God. Th e divisiveness that characterizes heretical thought is compounded by the social ef-23. Th e fi rst appearance of one of the key thematic elements in the poem, vision. Man’s imper-fect vision leads him to incorrect perception of the true nature of the universe....
An Interpretive Essay
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...(Wal l ace St evens, “An Ordinary Eve ning in New Haven,” XXVIII)Macleish’s claim that a poem should not “mean” but “be” is profoundly para-doxical. How can a poem, an artifact of language, exist without performing lan-guage’s primary function, signifi cation? Of what would such a poem consist? From the point of view of an early Christian reader, Macleish’s poem would be ...
1. WRITING IN CHAINS
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THE LITERATURE of the fourth century refl ects the dynamism and up-heaval of the time. Th e third century appears to have been a cultural wasteland for Latin literature, remarkable for the paucity of literature, especially poetry, that has survived. In the fourth and fi ft h centuries, the fl ood-gates opened: old genres were revived and new ones created. Aft er the silence of the third century, the voices of men like Julian and Augustine, Ausonius and Clau-dian, Prudentius and Ambrose, Jerome and Ammianus emerge. Rhetoricians, ...
2. FIGURING IT OUT
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ON THE ORNAMENTS AND FIGURES of the Hamartigenia rested the burden of generating meaning in the mind of the active Roman reader. We will explore those ornaments and fi gures in what follows, in the hope that through the pro cess of fi guring out the fi gures in the text, the contem-porary reader will be better equipped both to follow the logic and to enjoy the linguistic virtuosity of the poem. As the Hamartigenia is neither a well- known nor a transparent text, a brief summary of its narrative scheme may be helpful to ...
3. SEEKING HIDDEN TRUTH
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BY OPENING THE Hamartigenia with a typological allegory and guiding us toward its correct interpretation through personifi cation allegory, Pru-dentius draws attention to the pro cess of fi gural reading. But as is the case with the Psychomachia, whose preface also opens with a biblical exemplum that is interpreted for us (the story of Abraham), it turns out that more complex modes of fi gural reading than the one provided in the preface will be required. As the Hamartigenia progresses, the pro cess of interpreting signs becomes less and less ...
4. FALLING INTO LANGUAGE
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MARCION’S SPEECH INTRODUCES the poisonous notion that the Cre-ator God is responsible for evil:Th is insidious notion evokes a strong counteroff ensive on Prudentius’s part. In one of the poem’s gestures of feigned orality, the narrator responds directly to Marcion:Prudentius uses the Greek term dialectica to associate Marcion with the dialectic reasoning typical of ancient philosophy. In the dialectical pro cess, truth is ap-...
5. UNDER ASSAULT
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IN THE HAMARTIGENIA, cosmic collapse leads immediately to a condemna-tion of women’s greed and vanity, epitomized by cosmetics, and of the inap-propriate clothing and disgraceful behavior of eff eminate men. Although it makes little sense chronologically or causally, there is nevertheless a logic to the way in which Prudentius moves directly from describing the corruption of the cosmos to describing the sin of excessive adornment. Kosmos is the Greek word for order or arrangement, and cosmetics, inappropriate adornment, are man’s ...
6. GENERATION OF VIPERS
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THE ALLEGORICAL FIGURES emerging from the poison Satan sows (serit, line 391) in our veins in the mini-Psychomachia of H. 517– 34 (Lat. 390– 405) gesture, as it were, to the dev il’s appropriation of fi gural speech. His seminal role in creating them also associates Satan with the phenom-enon of reproduction, a theme the poet takes up at length in lines 733– 833 (Lat. 562– 636). He begins his excursion on the generation of sin with the assertion that we give birth to sin from our own bodies. To illustrate this, he relates the ...
7. SIGNS OF WOE
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PERHAPS THE MOST PECULIAR feature of the Hamartigenia to readers brought up on the Genesis account of the Creation and Fall of mankind and infl uenced by a literary tradition that has been fascinated by the fi g-ure of Eve is the way in which she is minimized, almost eliminated, from the narrative of the origin of sin. In this, Prudentius’s account of original sin diff ers greatly from the biblical account. In Genesis, the woman’s temptation is high-Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the fi eld which the ...
8. IN AENIGMATE
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THE HAMARTIGENIA BEGINS aft er the beginning, starting with the sac-rifi ce of Cain and Abel (not the story of Adam and Eve with which the story of man begins in Genesis), and it ends both before and aft er the end— before and aft er the end of the world, in the vision of the Apocalypse as imagined by John the Evangelist, and before and aft er the end of Prudentius himself, as he imagines his own death and aft erlife in his closing prayer. Th e Ha-martigenia displays a preoccupation with eschatology that is typical of the late ...
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...3. See Cook 2006, 63. Dawson 2002 is essential reading for the development of Christian fi gural 5. Prudentius’s popularity continues to grow; there have been many signifi cant studies pub-lished since the late twentieth century. As an entrée into his work, see, for books, Bardzell 2009, Gnilka 2000, Gosserez 2001, Lühken 2002, Malamud 1989, Mastrangelo 2008, Nugent 1985, Palmer 1989, Paxson 1994, Petruccione 1985, Roberts 1989 and 1993. Unfortunately, Dykes 2011 appeared ...
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Adams, J.N. Th e Latin Sexual Vocabulary. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982.Ahl, Frederick M. Metaformations: Soundplay and Wordplay in Ovid and Other Classical Poets. Ando, Cliff ord. “Th e Palladium and the Pentateuch: Towards a Sacred Topography of the Roman Augustine. Th e City of God. Translated by Marcus Dods. Nicene and Post- Nicene Fathers, fi rst series, vol. 2. Edited by Philip Schaff . Buff alo: Christian Literature, 1887....
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Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: Cornell studies in classical philology ;