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This page is about a Roman author whose cognomen was Avienus. For the Roman gens, see Aviena (gens).

Avienus was a Latin writer of the 4th century AD. An inscription from Bulla Regia, a former Roman city located in modern-day Tunisia, reports his full name as "Postumius Rufius Festus who is also Avienius". He was a native of Volsinii in Etruria,[1] from the distinguished family of the Rufii Festi.[2] He was twice appointed consul, if an inscription published by the 17th-century antiquaries Jacob Spon and Raffaello Fabretti really refers to this Avienus.

Famously asked what he did in the country, he answered Prandeo, poto, cano, ludo, lavo, caeno, quiesco:

I dine, drink, sing, play, bathe, sup, rest.[3]

Avienus made somewhat inexact translations into Latin of Aratus' didactic poem Phaenomena. He also took a popular Greek poem in hexameters, Periegesis, briefly delimiting the habitable world from the perspective of Alexandria, written by Dionysius Periegetes in a terse and elegant style that was easy to memorize for students, and translated it into an archaising Latin as his Descriptio orbis terrae ("Description of the World's Lands"). Only Book I survives, with an unsteady grasp of actual geography and some far-fetched etymologies: see Ophiussa.

He wrote Ora Maritima, a poem claimed to contain borrowings from the 6th-century BC Massiliote Periplus.[4][5]

Rufus Festus[edit]

This Avienus may be identical with the Rufus Festus who wrote, ca. 369, an epitome of Roman history in the genre called breviarium.[6]

The scholar Theodor Mommsen identified that author with Rufius Festus, proconsul of Achaea in 366, and both with Rufus Festus Avienus. Others take him to be Festus of Tridentum, magister memoriae (secretary) to Valens and notoriously severe proconsul of the province of Asia, where he was sent to punish those implicated in the conspiracy of Theodorus. The work itself (Breviarium rerum gestarum populi Romani) is divided into two parts, one geographical, the other historical.

See also[edit]


  • A. Berthelot: Ora maritima. Paris 1934. (text of reference)
  • J. P. Murphy: Ora maritima or Description of the seacoast. (Chicago) 1977.
  • J. Soubiran: Aviénus: Les Phénomènes d'Aratos. CUF, Paris 1981. (text of reference)
  • D. Stichtenoth: Ora maritima, lateinisch und deutsch. Darmstadt 1968. (the Latin text is that of the editio princeps of 1488 and is better not cited)
  • P. van de Woestijne: Descriptio orbis terrae. Brugge 1961. (text of reference)
Commentaries, monographs and articles
  • F. Bellandi, E. Berti und M. Ciappi: "Iustissima Virgo": Il mito della Vergine in Germanico e in Avieno (saggio di commento a Germanico Arati Phaen. 96 - 139 e Avieno Arati Phaen. 273 - 352), Pisa 2001
  • A. Cameron (1995). "Avienus or Avienius?" (PDF). Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik. 108: 252–262. Retrieved 2006-12-13.
  • Concordantia in Rufium Festum Avienum. Curavit Manfred WACHT. G. Olms Verlag 1995
  • M. Fiedler: Kommentar zu V. 367-746 von Aviens Neugestaltung der Phainomena Arats. Stuttgart Saur 2004
  • C. Ihlemann: De Avieni in vertendis Arateis arte et ratione. Diss. Göttingen 1909
  • H. Kühne: De arte grammatica Rufi Festi Avieni. Essen 1905
  • K. Smolak: Postumius Rufius Festus Avienus. In: Handbuch der lateinischen Literatur der Antike, hrsg. von R. Herzog und P. L. Schmidt, Fünfter Band. Restauration und Erneuerung. Die lateinische Literatur von 284 bis 374 n. Chr., München 1989, S. 320-327
  • D. Weber: Aviens Phaenomena, eine Arat-Bearbeitung aus der lateinischen Spätanike. Untersuchungen zu ausgewählten Partien. Dissertationen der Universität Wien 173, Wien 1986
  • L. Willms Übersetzung, philologischer Kommentar und vergleichende Interpretation des Tierkreises in Aviens Phaenomena (Verse 1014 – 1325) AKAN-Einzelschriften – Antike Naturwissenschaften und ihre Rezeption, vol. 8. Trier WVT 2014
  • P. van de Woestijne: De vroegste uitgaven van Avienus' Descriptio orbis terrae (1488-1515). 1959
  • H. Zehnacker: D'Aratos à Aviénus: Astronomie et idéologie. Illinois Classical Studies 44 (1989), S. 317-329


  1. ^ Dolan, Marion (22 August 2017). Astronomical Knowledge Transmission Through Illustrated Aratea Manuscripts. Springer. p. 34. ISBN 9783319567846.
  2. ^ Matthews, John (September 1967). "Continuity in a Roman Family; The Rufii Festi of Volsinii". Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte. Franz Steiner Verlag: 484–509. JSTOR 4435006.
  3. ^ As recorded in a poem once erroneously attributed to him; English translation by Richard Lovelace.
  4. ^ Donnchadh Ó Corráin Chapter 1 "Prehistoric and Early Christian Ireland", in The Oxford Illustrated History of Ireland, R.L. Foster, ed. (Oxford University Press) 2000 ISBN 0-19-289323-8
  5. ^ "Avienus, Rufus Festus" The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology, Timothy Darvil, ed.. (Oxford University Press) 2002
  6. ^ Cameron, Alan (1995). "Avienus or Avienius?" (PDF). Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik. Dr. Rudolf Habelt GmbH, Universität zu Köln: 252–262. JSTOR 20189613. Retrieved 18 September 2018.

Further reading[edit]

  • Alan Cameron, "Macrobius, Avienus, and Avianus" The Classical Quarterly New Series, 17.2 (November 1967), pp 385–399.

External links[edit]