Ambrosius Theodosius, Latin writer, born toward the end of the 4th century, probably in Africa. It is unlikely that he was a Christian, since his works are entirely pagan. All his theology derives from cult of the sun. His treatise comparing Greek and Latin verbs, dedicated to symmachus, is known by excerpts in the works of a certain John, perhaps Scotus Erigena. His commentary in two books on Cicero's Dream of Scipio is an encyclopedia written for his son Eustachius. In it he shows little respect for Aristotle and defends Platonism, which was for him a religion gleaned probably from Porphyry. The work, which was long popular as a source for data on many topics, accepts the Stoic division of moral, physical, and rational philosophy. Macrobius's most important work, the Saturnalia (seven books), was written to impart antiquarian lore to his son. It imitates the literary device of Plato's Banquet and is eclectic in its philosophical outlook. There are lacunae in the work. Along with Calcidius and Martianus Capella, the Saturnalia and the Commentary on the Dream of Scipio were used as source books in the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. They were known to Bernard of Tours and to Bede. Macrobius borrows frequently from other encyclopedists, especially from Aulus Gellius and Plutarch, often without acknowledgment. The subject matter and presentation illustrate pagan culture at the beginning of the 5th century. The style is simple, the exposition of Neoplatonic themes oversimplified. The exaggerated praise of Vergil as an orator and a philosopher was responsible for many of the interpretations of Vergil throughout the Middle Ages and early Renaissance.
Bibliography: Macrobius. Opera, ed. j. willis, 2 v. (Leipzig 1963); Commentary on the Dream of Scipio, tr. w. stahl (New York 1952); Saturnalia, tr. h. bornecque and f. richard, 2 v. (Paris 1937–38). h. keil, ed. Grammatici Latini, 7 v. (Leipzig 1857–80) v.5. p. courcelle, Les Lettres grecques en Occident, de Macrobe à Cassiodore (new ed. Paris 1948). w. stahl, Isis 50 (1959) 95–124, f. eyssenhardt, ed., Macrobius (Leipzig 1893).
[j. r. o'donnell]