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LACTA'NTIUS, in several MSS. designated Lucius Coelius, or Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius, an eminent Christian author, who flourished in the early part of the 4th century. He was of Italian descent, but studied at Sicca, in Africa, under the rhetorician Arnobius, and in 301 A.D. settled as a teacher of rhetoric in Nicomedia. He was invited to Gaul by Constantine the Great (312-318 A.D.), to act as tutor to his son Crispus, and is supposed to have died at Treves about 325 or 330. Lactantius's principal work is his Divinarum Institutionum, libri vii., a production both of a polemical and apologetic character. A supposed tendency to Manicheism in his views, and his Chiliasm, have marred his reputation for pure orthodoxy. He attacks paganism, and defends Christianity. Among his other writings are treatises De Ira Dei and De Mortibus Persecutorum. Some elegies have also been ascribed to him, but erroneously. His style is wonderful, if we consider the late age at which he wrote, and has deservedly earned for him the title of the Christian Cicero. He was, besides, a man of very considerable learning, but as he appears not to have become a Christian till he was advanced in years, his religious opinions are often very crude and singular. Lactantius was a great favourite during the middle ages. The editio princeps of this writer is one of the oldest extant specimens of typography. It waa printed at Subiaco in 1465.
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