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The Devine Institutes, Books I-VII
Lactantius, Mary Francis McDonald
Biographical data on Lactantius are meager. In his catalogue of illustrious men St. Jerome informs us that Lactantius studied under Arnobius. Accepting an imperial invitation Lactantius taught rhetoric at Nicomedia but relinquished this professorship after the outbreak of the Diocletian persecution. In 317 Constantine summoned Lactantius to Trier to supervise the education of his son Crispus. The principal work of Lactantius is the Divine Institutes (Divinae institutions) which was written over a period of years (304-313). It is an apologetic work in seven books which bear the following titles: On False Religion, The Origin of Error, On False Philosophy, True Wisdom and Religion, Concerning Justice, On True Worship, and On the Blessed Life. From the viewpoint of literary criticism the diction of these books flows gently and pleasantly and is so reminiscent of the style of Cicero that Lactantius has frequently been styled the "Christian Cicero." This encomium can be traced back to the days of St. Jerome who wrote in a letter to Paulinus the Presbyter that Lactantius' works were like rivers of "Tullian eloquence" that demolished pagan beliefs.
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