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Martianus Capella


Martianus Minneus Felix Capella was a Latin prose writer of Late Antiquity (fl. c. 410–420), one of the earliest developers of the system of the seven liberal arts that structured early medieval education. His single encyclopedic work, De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii ("On the Marriage of Philology and Mercury", also called De septem disciplinis "On the seven disciplines") is an elaborate didactic allegory written in a mixture of prose and elaborately allusive verse.

Martianus often presents philosophical views based on Neoplatonism, the Platonic school of philosophy pioneered by Plotinus and his followers. Like his near-contemporary Macrobius, who also produced a major work on classical Roman religion, Martianus never directly identifies his own religious affiliation. Much of his work occurs in the form of dialogue, and the views of the interlocutors may not represent the author's own.

According to Cassiodorus, Martianus was a native of Madaura—which had been the native city of Apuleius—in the Roman province of Africa (now Souk Ahras, Algeria). He appears to have practiced as a jurist at Roman Carthage.

Martianus was active during the 5th century, writing after the sack of Rome by Alaric I in 410, which he mentions, but apparently before the conquest of North Africa by the Vandals in 429.

As early as the middle of the 6th century, Securus Memor Felix, a professor of rhetoric, received the text in Rome, for his personal subscription at the end of Book I (or Book II in many manuscripts) records that he was working "from most corrupt exemplars". Gerardus Vossius erroneously took this to mean that Martianus was himself active in the 6th century, giving rise to a long-standing misconception about Martianus's dating.



  • Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.  An early version of this article was based on it.
  • "Martianus Capella" in Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
  • P. Wessner in Pauly-Wissowa, Real-Encyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaften 1930.
  • M. Cappuyns, in Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastique, Paris, 1949.
  • Martianus Capella and the Seven Liberal Arts. New York: Columbia University Press 1971.
    • Vol. 1: The quadrivium of Martianus Capella. Latin traditions in the mathematical sciences, 50 B.C.–A.D. 1250, by William Harris Stahl, 1971.
    • Vol. 2: The marriage of Philology and Mercury, translated by William Harris Stahl and R. Johnson, with E. L. Burge, 1977.
  • M. Ferré, Martianus Capella. Les noces de Philologie et de Mercure. Livre IV: la dialectique, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 2007.
  • B. Ferré, Martianus Capella. Les noces de Philologie et de Mercure. Livre VI: la géométrie, Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2007.
  • J.-Y. Guillaumin, Martianus Capella. Les noces de Philologie et de Mercure. Livre VII: l'arithmétique, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 2003.
  • De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii (book 9 only).
  • Konrad Vössing, "Augustinus und Martianus Capella - ein Diskurs im Spätantiken Karthago?", in Therese Fuhrer (hg), Die christlich-philosophischen Diskurse der Spätantike: Texte, Personen, Institutionen: Akten der Tagung vom 22.-25. Februar 2006 am Zentrum für Antike und Moderne der Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg (Stuttgart, Franz Steiner Verlag, 2008) (Philosophie der Antike, 28),
  • O’Sullivan, Sinéad, "Martianus Capella and the Carolingians: Some Observations Based on the Glosses on Books I–II from the Oldest Gloss Tradition on De nuptiis," in Elizabeth Mullins and Diarmuid Scully (eds), Listen, O Isles, unto me: Studies in Medieval Word and Image in honour of Jennifer O’Reilly (Cork, 2011), 28-38.
  • Vol. 1: The quadrivium of Martianus Capella. Latin traditions in the mathematical sciences, 50 B.C.–A.D. 1250, by William Harris Stahl, 1971.
  • Vol. 2: The marriage of Philology and Mercury, translated by William Harris Stahl and R. Johnson, with E. L. Burge, 1977.
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