Tiro Prosper of Aquitaine
The first sure date in the life of Prosper is that of his letter to St.
Augustine written under the following circumstances. In 428 or 429 a certain
Hilary wrote to St. Augustine in reference to difficulties raised against his
doctrine in Marseilles and the neighbourhood. Hilary distrusted his own ability
to give St. Augustine a proper grasp of the situation, so he prevailed with a
friend whom he described as a man distinguished tum moribus, tum eloquio et
studio (for morals, eloquence and zeal) to write also. This friend was Prosper
who, though he had never met St. Augustine, had corresponded with him. The two
letters were despatched at the same time, and may be said to have opened the
semi-Pelagian controversy. St. Augustine replied to the appeal made to him with
the two treatises,
De Praedestinatione and
De Dono Perseverantiae. It was
about this time that, Prosper wrote what was really a short treatise on grace
and free will, under the form of a letter to a certain Rufinus, and his great
dogmatic poem of over a thousand hexameter lines,
De Ingratis, on the
semi-Pelagians, who were enemies of grace and are represented as reviving the
errors of Pelagianism. Two epigrams of twelve and fourteen lines respectively
obtrectator of St. Augustine seem also to have been composed in the
lifetime of the saint. Three opuscules belong to the time immediately after the
death of St. Augustine (430):
Responsiones ad capitula Gallorum. These capitula were a series of fifteen propositions attributed to St. Augustine by his opponents, e.g.
the Saviour was not crucified for the whole world. To each Prosper appended a brief responsio and concluded the treatise with fifteen corresponding sententiae, setting forth what he held to be the true doctrine.
Ad capitula objectionum Vincentianarum responsiones. The Vincentian objections were like the
capitula Gallorum, but more violent, and they attacked Prosper as well as St. Augustine. Prosper replied to them one by one. The Vincent who drew them up was probably Vincent of Lerins (Bardenhewer, Hauck, Valentin), but some writers have contested this point.
Pro Augustino responsiones ad excerpta Genuensium. This is an explanation of certain passages in St. Augustine's treatises,
De dono persev., which presented difficulties to some priests at Genoa who asked Prosper for an explanation of them. These three opuscula are placed by Bardenhewer after Prosper's visit to Rome.
In 431 Prosper and a friend went to Rome to invoke the aid of St. Celestine.
The pope responded with the Letter,
Apostolici Verba, addressed to the bishops
of Gaul, in which he blamed their remissness with regard to the enemies of grace,
and eulogized St. Augustine. On returning to Gaul, Prosper again took up the
controversy in his
De Gratia Dei et libero arbitrio; liber contra collatorem.
Collator was Cassian who in his
Conferences had put forward
semi-Pelagian doctrine. The date of this, the most important of Prosper's prose
writings, can be fixed at about 433, for the author speaks of twenty years and
more, having elapsed since the beginning of the Pelagian heresy, viz., according
Chronicle, A.D. 413. An ironical epitaph on the Nestorian and Pelagian
heresies was probably composed shortly after the Council of Ephesus. The
Expositio psalmonum is substantially an abridgment of the
Enarrationes of St.
Augustine. It probably comprised the whole psalter, but as it has come down to
us it only comments on the last fifty. The
Sententiie ex Augustine delibatae
are a collection of sayings extracted from the writings of St. Augustine. In
framing them Prosper as a rule dealt rather freely with the text of St.
Augustine, chiefly in the interests of rhythmic prose. Canons 9, 14, 15, 16, 18
of the second Council of Orange were taken from sentences 22, 222, 226, 160, 297.
The epigram are a number of the sentences turned into verse. Both these works
must have been composed about the time of the Council of Chalcedon, and probably,
therefore, in Rome, whither Prosper was summoned about A.D. 440 by Leo the Great.
According to Gennadius (De vir. ill., 84) he was said to have drawn up the
letters written by this pope against Eutyches.
Chronicle of Prosper, from the creation to A.D. 378, was an abridgment
of St. Jerome's, with, however, some additional matter, e.g. the consuls for
each year from the date of the Passion. There seem to have been three editions:
the first continued up to 433, the second to 445, the third to 455. This
chronicle is sometimes called the
Consular Chronicle, to distinguish it from
another ascribed to Prosper where the years are reckoned according to the regnal
years of the emperors and which is accordingly called the
This is certainly not the work of Prosper. It was compiled by a man whose
sympathies were not with St. Augustine, and who was formerly supposed to be Tiro
Prosper and not Prosper of Aquitaine, but this theory has broken down, for
Prosper of Aquitaine in some manuscripts of the
Consular Chronicle is called
Tiro Prosper. With regard to the writings of Prosper not yet mentioned, Valentin
pronounces the poem
De providentia to be genuine; the
Confessio S. Prosperi,
and De vocatione gentium to be probably genuine; the
Epistola ad Demetriadem,
Praeteritorum sedis Apostolicae auctoritates de Gratia Dei, etc. appended
to the Epistle of St. Celestine, and the
Poema mariti ad conjugem to be very
likely genuine. The
De vita contemplativa and
De promissionibus etc. are not
by Prosper, according to Valentin and Hauck. Hauck agrees with Valentin with
regard to the
Poema mariti and the
Confessio, but pronounces against the
De providentia, and on the other doubtful works expresses no
view. The story that Prosper was Bishop of Reggio in Italy was exploded by
Sirmondi and others in the seventeenth century. For the origin of this legend
see Dom Morin in
Révue bénédictine, XII, 241 sqq. Prosper was neither bishop
nor priest. The question whether he mitigated the severity of St. Augustine's
doctrine has been much debated. The difference of opinion probably arises more
from different views regarding St. Augustine's doctrine than from different
interpretations of Prosper's. The general trend of opinion among Catholic
writers seems to be in favour of the affirmative view, e.g. Kraus, Funk,
Bardenhewer, Valentin, and others.
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