Minucius Felix, Marcus
Minucius Felix, Marcus one of the most celebrated apologists of the early Latin Church, flourished in the 3d century. But little is known of his early history beyond the fact that he was a native of Africa, but removed to Rome, and there successfully exercised the profession of advocate until his conversion to Christianity. Lactantius (Inst. Di,. 1.1: c. q, 1. 5, 6) and Jerome are loud in his praise, and assure us that Minucius was much admired for his eloquence. He is ever to be remembered by the Christian Church as one of her ablest defenders in a work of his entitled Octavius, which is a dialogue between a Christian called Octavius and a heathen called Caecilius, concerning the merits of the two religions which were then striving for supremacy. In this dialogue, Octavius repels the absurd imputations of the heathens against the early Christians, whom they accused of all sorts of impurities and crimes in their religious meetings. Through fear of persecution, these meetings took place mostly at night and in concealed places, which circumstances exposed them to the obloquy of vulgar ignorance. At the same time Octavius retorts upon his co-disputant by exposing the notoriously licentious practices of the heathens. The style of this work is argumentative and sufficiently pure; the language is animated, and the mode of treating the subject attractive, being mixed up with mythological learning and much information concerning the customs and opinions of that interesting period. "It is," says Neander, "a felicitous and dramatic representation seized from life, replete with good-sense, and pervaded by a lively Christian feeling." As an apology of Christianity, the work of Minucius Felix is a companion to those of Clemens Alexandrinus, Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch, Justin, Tertullian, and other early advocates of the Christian faith in its times of' trial and depression, and forms a link between them and those of Arnobius, Lactantius, Eusebius, Ambrose, and the other fathers of the 4th century. Octavius was at one time attributed to Arnobius, and was inserted as the eighth book of his disputations Adversus Gentes; but Balduin published a Dissertation on
Minucius (Kiel, 1685), which unquestionably places the authorship where it belongs with Minucius. Octavius is now extant only in one MS. copy, which had remained unnoticed in the Vatican library until the pontificate of Leo X, who gave it to Francis I of France. It has gone through many editions, among which those by James Gronevius (Leyden, 1709), by Davis (Cambridge. 1712), and by Orelli (Turic. 1836), deserve notice. The latter is accompanied by numerous notes by Dr. Davis and others, and a dissertation, or commentary, by Baldwin. It has been translated into French by the abbe De Gourcy, into German by Kusswurm (Turic. 1836) and Lubkert (eips. 1836), and into English, also, in Reeve's Apologies of Justin Martyr, etc., volume 2. The latest and best edition of the original is by Carl Halm (Vienna, 1867).
Another work, entitled De Fatoo, against astrologers, is mentioned by Jerome as being ascribed to Minucius, although Jerome expresses doubts concerning its authorship. This work is not known to be extant now. See Schaff, Ch. Hist. volume 1; Hagelibach, Hist. of Doctrines 1:63 sq.; Du Pin, Biblioth. des aut. Eccles. 1:117 sq.; Schrockh, Kirchengesch. 3:420 sq.; Jahrb. deutsch. Theol. 1867, October; Meier, De Minucio Felice (Zurich 1824, 8vo). (J.H.W.)