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Nonnus of Panopolis


Epic poet and Christian exegete; b. Panopolis, Thebaid, Egypt, c. 400; d. after 450. Nothing is known of the education or career of Nonnus. He is the author of an epic poem in 48 books called the Dionysiaca that was written at Alexandria and describes the journey of the pagan god Dionysus to India. He is also the probable author of an hexameter verse titled Paraphrase of St. John's Gospel because there is an obvious relationship between the two works in the language, style, and identical phraseology. Although the theme and language of the Dionysiaca are definitely pagan, the poem does embody Christian notions, whereas the Paraphrase reflects the epic form and uses pagan similes, particularly in the names of the gods. The older theory that the author wrote the Dionysiaca while a pagan and the Paraphrase after conversion has been rejected. He seems to have been steeped in the Egyptian Hellenistic tradition. In the Paraphrase he introduced pagan Eons as well as Monophysite theological ideas. He called Mary the theotokos and quoted Origen, Gregory Nazianzus, John Chrysostom, and Cyril of Alexandria.

Bibliography: Patrologia Graeca. ed. j. p. migne (Paris 185766) 43:7491228. a. scheindler, ed., Nonni Panopolitani Paraphrasis (Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana ; 1881). w. h. d. rouse, ed. and tr., Nonnos Dionysiaca, 3 v. (Loeb Classical Library ; 1940). r. keydell, Pauly Realenzyklopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft. ed. g. wissowa et al. 17.1 (1936) 904921. É. amann, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 190350) 11.1:793795. k. kuiper, Mnemosyne NS 46 (1918) 225270. l. r. lind, L'Antiquité classique 7 (1938) 5765. p. bernardini marzolla, Studi italiana di filologia classica 26 (1952) 191209. b. altaner, Patrology, tr h. graef (New York 1960) 327328. w. bauer, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Tübingen 195765) 4:1510. f. l. cross, Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (London 1957) 964.

[f. x. murphy]

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