Manilius, Marcus

, was a Latin poet, who lay buried in the German libraries, and never was heard of in the modern world, till Poggius published him from some old manuscripts found there about two centuries ago. He is mentioned by no ancient writer, and the moderns are so little able to fix the time when he lived, that while some place him as high as the age of Augustus, others bring him down to the reign of Theodosius the Great. Indeed, the only account to be had of him must be drawn from hi poem; and from this, his translator Creech thinks that he was born a Roman, and lived in Rome, when Rome was in her glory, as he says appears from several passages in the poem. In the beginning of it he invokes the emperor; who from the description must be Augustus Csesar. Creech likewise infers that he was of illustrious extraction, and a branch of that noble family the Manilii, who so often filled the consul’s chair, and supplied the greatest offices in the commonwealth. Some, indeed, have thought that he was | a Tyrian slave, and that being made free, he took, ao cording to custom, the name of his patron. But this seems very improbable; and he almost, says Creech, expressly declares the contrary in the fortieth verse of his fourth book, where he shews a concern for the interest of the Roman commonwealth, as far back as the age of Hannibal:

"Speratum Hannibalem nostris cecidisse catenis

Hannibal then destined to our chains"

which he could not have done with propriety, had his relation to that state commenced so lately, or had his ancestors had no interest in the losses and victories of Rome in that age. But this verse, as well as the 776th line of the. same book, Bentley proves to be spurious, and overthrows the whole of Creech’s conjectures. It may, however, still be allowed that he was conversant at court, and acquainted with the modish flattery of the palace, and that he made his compliments in the same phrase that was used by the most finished courtier of his time, which renders it not improbable that he was of a good family.

The “Astronomicon” of Manilius contains a system of the ancient astronomy and astrology, together with the philosophy of the Stoics. It consists of five books, and he also wrote a sixth, which has not been recovered. That he was young when he composed this work, his translator thinks demonstrable from almost every page of it; and had he lived to revise the whole composition, as he seems to have done the first book, we should perhaps have had a more correct performance. He had a genius equal to his undertaking; his fancy was bold and daring; his skill in mathematics great enough for his design; and his knowledge of the history and mythology of the ancients general. As he is now, some critics have placed him among the judicious and elegant writers; and all allow him to be useful, instructive, and entertaining. He hints at some opinions, in which later ages have been ready to glory as their own discoveries. Thus he defends the fluidity of the heavens against the hypothesis of Aristotle; he asserts that the fixed stars are not all in the same concave superficies of the heavens, and equally distant from the centre of the world: he maintains, that they are all of the same nature and substance with the sun, and that each of them hath a particular vortex of its own; and lastly, he says that the milky way is only the undistinguished lustre | of a great many small stars, which the moderns now see to be such, through their telescopes. So that perhaps upon the whole, and notwithstanding all his defects, one may venture to say that he is one of the most discerning philosophers antiquity can shew. The first edition of Manilius, with a date, is that of Bologna, by ttugerius and Berthoqus, 1474. The best editions since, are that of Joseph Scaliger, printed at Leyden, 1600, 4to; that of Bentley,. at London, 1738, 4to; that of Edmund Burton, esq. “cum notis variorum,London, 1783. 8vo; and that of Sioeber, published at Strasburg, in 1767, 8vo. 1


Creech’s Preface to his Translation, but especially Bentley’s preface. —Saxii Onomast.Hutton’s Dictionary.