Arnobius of Sicca (died c. 330 A.D.) was an Early Christian apologist, during the reign of Diocletian (284 - 305). [To distinguish him from a later Arnobius, of the fifth century, he is sometimes called Arnobius the Elder.] According to Jerome's "Chronicle," Arnobius, before his conversion, was a distinguished rhetorician at Sicca Veneria (Le Kef, Tunisia), a major Christian center in Proconsular Africa, and owed his conversion to a premonitory dream. Arnobius writes dismissively of dreams in his surviving book, so perhaps Jerome was projecting his own respect for the content of dreams. According to Jerome, to overcome the doubts of the local bishop as to the earnestness of his Christian belief he wrote ("ca" 303, from evidence in IV:36) an apologetic work in seven books that St. Jerome calls ("De Viris Illustribus", lxxix) "Adversus Gentes" but which is entitled "Adversus Nationes" in the only (9th-century) manuscript that has survived. Jerome's reference, his remark that Lactantius was a pupil of Arnobius [Jerome, "Epistle" 70.5. Arnobius' and Laqctantius' readings of the classical pagan authors are compared in G. L. Ellspermann, "The Attitude of the Early christian Wtiters to Pagan Literature and Learning" (Washington) 1949:56-50, 72-77.] and the surviving treatise are all that we know about Arnobius.

"Adversus Nationes"

The book we have shows little sign of having been revised by a Christian bishop and is all the better for giving an unvarnished view of the opinions of an enthusiastic recent convert. Arnobius, "a practitioner of the coarse and turgid style that is called African", [Revilo P. Oliver, reviewing George E. McCracken (tr.), "Arnobius of Sicca: The Case Against the Pagans" (Westminster, Maryland: newman Press) 1949, in "The Classical Journal" 46.4 (January 1951:201).] is a vigorous apologist for the Christian faith, more earnest in his defence of Christianity than perfectly orthodox in his tenets. His book has been occasioned by complaints that the Christians had brought the wrath of the gods on Ancient Rome. Thus, he holds the heathen gods to be real beings, but subordinate to the supreme Christian God; in a streak of gnosticism, he affirms that the human soul (Book II, 14 - 62) is not the work of God, but of an intermediate being, and is not immortal by nature, but capable of putting on immortality as a grace. Never specifically identifying his pagan adversaries, some of whom may be straw men, set up to be demolished, [, "Arnobius Adversus Genera: 'Arnobius on the Genders'" "The Classical Journal" 42.8 (May 1947:474-476) p. 474.] Arnobius defends and expounds the rightness of monotheism and Christianity ("deus princeps, deus summus") and the divinity of Christ, by adducing its rapid diffusion, its influence in civilizing barbarians and its consonance with the best philosophy. Christianizing Plato, he refutes pagan idolatry as filled with contradictions and openly immoral, and to demonstrate this point, his Books III through V abound with curious information gathered from reliable sources (e.g. Cornelius Antistius Labeo) concerning the forms of idolatrous worship, temples, idols, and the Graeco-Roman cult practice of his time, to the historian and mythographer's cautious delight, but all held up by Arnobius for Christian ridicule.

"Adversus nationes" survived in a single ninth-century manuscript in Paris (and a bad copy of it in Brussels). [Codex Parisinus, lat. 1661. Concetto Marchesi, "Arnobii adversus nationes libri vii" (Corpus Scriptorun Latinorum Paravianum) Turin, 1953.]


External links

*cite book
author = Arnobii
year = 2002
title = Adversus Nationes Libri VII
editor = Blasii Amata, ed.
edition = Latin Ed.
publisher = The Latin Library
url =

*cite book
author = Arnobius
year = 2003
title = Seven Books Against the Heathens
others = Trans. Christian Classics Ethereal Library
edition = English ed.
publisher = IntraText Digital Library
url =

* [ Opera Omnia by Migne Patrologia Latina with analytical indexes]


*cite book
title = Encyclopedia Britannica
year = 1911
chapter = Arnobius.

*cite book
author = Borgeaud, Philippe
Other = Trans. Lysa Hochroth
title = Mother of the Gods: from Cybele to the Virgin Mary
publisher = Johns Hopkins University Press
year = 2005
id = ISBN 0-8018-7985-X
(draws extensively on Arnobius).
*cite book
author = Shahan, Thomas J.
year = 1908
title = Catholic Encyclopedia
chapter = Arnobius.
edition = Online Edition
publisher = K. Knight
url =

*cite book
author= Simmons, Michael Bland
title = Arnobius of Sicca: Religious Conflict and Competition in the Age of Diocletian.
publisher = Oxford University Press
year = 1996
id = ISBN 0-19-814913-1
The only modern study.

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