LACTANTIUS FIRMIANUS, also called Lucius Ctccilius or Lucius Crelius Lactantius Firmianus, was a Christian writer who from the beauty of his style has been called the " Christian Cicero." His history is very obscure. His very name is doubtful ; his birthplace, whether in Italy or in Africa, is uncertain ; it is impossible to say with any accuracy when his writings were published ; and the date of his death is unknown. His parents were heathens ; he was a pupil of Arnobins in Sicca in Africa ; lie went to Nicomedia in Bithynia while Diocletian was emperor to teach rhetoric, but found little work to do in that Greek-speaking city ; he became a convert to Christianity, probably late in life ; and about ten or twelve years before his death (312-318) he went to Gaul on the invitation of Constantine the Great, and became tutor to his eldest son Crispus. These facts, with his writings, are all that is known about Lactantius. His chief work Dirinarum Institutionum Libri Septent is a long introduction to Christianity, written in exquisite Latin, but displaying such ignorance as to have incurred the charge of favouring the Arian and Manicluean heresies. The date of publication has been variously given from 302 to 323 A.D. One sentence seems to say that a persecution, which can scarcely be any other than the Diocletian, was raging while the book was being written (v. 17, 5); whilst in the first, second, fourth, and fifths books Constantine is addressed as emperor. Those who assert the earlier date of publication point out that the references to Constantine are omitted in several MSS. Others adopt the conjecture of Baluze that an early edition was published in Nicomedia and a later twenty years afterwards (f. Ebert, Urber den Vcrfasser des Buches De .1.1ort. Persecut., p. 129 sq.). The seven books creation and providence, and try to explain how men have wandered from truth into polytheistic error. The third book, De Falsa Sapientia, describes and criticizes the various systems of prevalent philosophy, showing how baseless and contradictory they are. The fourth book, De Vera Sapientia et Reliyione, insists upon the inseparable exercise of Christian love towards God and man. The and the resurrection. Jerome tells us that Lactantius M. Pfaff ; it is doubtful, however, whether this MS. is the and has served as a model for numberless subsequent writings of a like nature. De Mort. Persecut. is not included in the earlier editions of Lactantius; it was discovered and printed by Baluze in 1679. Many critics Phenice, ,S'ymposimm, De Pasclea ad Felicem EpiscopuM, and De Passione Domini. It is extremely probable that all these are the productions of a much later age.
MSS. of Lactantius are very numerous ; a very complete catalogue of these and of the earlier printed editions will be found in Le Brun and Lenglet Dafresnoy's edition, 2 vols. Paris, 1748. The best editions besides Dafresnoy's are those of Wald', Leipsic, 1715 ; of Minemarm, Leipsic, 1739 ; and in Migne's Patrologia Latina, vols. vi. and vii. A new edition is promised in the Vienna Corpus Script. Eccles. Latin.