Favonii Eulogii Disputatio de somnio Scipionis, édition et traduction de Roger E. Van Weddingen, Bruxelles 1957 (Collection de Latomus, 27).
Whereas Macrobius’ Commentarii in Somnium Scipionis enjoyed a good fortune and wide diffusion throughout middle ages because of the size and quality of its commentary, the other late-antique exegesis on the dream of Scipio related in Cicero’s De re publica 6 - Favonius Eulogius’ Disputatio de Somnio Scipionis - was not so lucky. Indeed, the work was preserved by a single manuscript (Bruxelles, Bibliothèque royale 10078-10095) and was only discovered at the start of the 1600s by Andreas Schott, who produced its editio princeps (Cicero a calumniis vindicatus, Antwerp 1613).
As for its content, the Disputatio can be divided into two parts: in the first, Favonius confronts questions related to numbers (§1-19); in the second, he is concerned with astronomy and music (§21-8). Like Macrobius, Favonius compares the Somnium Scipionis to the Myth of Er contained in Plato Republic 10 and criticizes Epicureans for their use of myth. The author speaks of Scipio Africanus’ prophecy - according to which his descendant, upon his death at the age of fifty-six, would ascend into the heavens - and confirms that he wishes to explain arithmeticis approbationibus the laws that determined the length of Scipio Aemilianus’ life (§1). Subsequent chapters are dedicated to the number, res aeterna, intellegibilis, incorrupta, cuncta quae sunt vi sua complectitur (§3). According to Favonius, the number is quantitas congregabilis, a duobus initium lumen et in denariam metam crescendi accessione perveniens (§4). The numerological excursus is structured as follows: the Monad (§5), the number two (§3), the Triad (§7), four (§8), five (§9), six (§10-11); seven (§12-14), eight (§15), the first and second cube, i.e. eight and twenty-seven (§16-17); fifty-six, qui numerus Africani clausit aetatem, defined as plenissimus […] quia et ordinem naturalem per analogiae consituit rationem et ex his partibus constat, in quibus est miranda perfectio, id est XXVIII duplicatis in summa (§18), and lastly nine (§19).
The second part concerns the harmonia mundi (§21). Favonius confirms that in order to understand the laws that govern the movement of celestial spheres, one must grasp notions related to music (§22); subsequently, the author concerns himself with the relations between numbers and musical notes (§23), the connection between numbers and musical chords (§24-5), and the numerical and musical relations that exist between the celestial orbs (§26-7). Favonius ends his work by offering Superius his reasons for having set forth such arguments non meditata sed tumultuaria lucubratione (§28).
The dating of the work is much discussed. According to Courcelle, Augustine would have used Favonius’ Disputatio as a source for the twenty-second book of the De civitate Dei (Courcelle 1958a: 213). Since the last two books of the De civ. were probably composed in the period 425-6 AD, Courcelle suggests that the Disputatio should be dated between AD 388 - when Augustine returned to Africa and encountered Eulogius - and AD 426. Other scholars have suggested different datings on the basis of presumed relationships between the Disputatio and Macrobius’ Commentarii. According to Van Weddigen (1957: 7) and Cameron (1966: 33), Macrobius knew Favonius’ work, since the critical contents at Comm 2.4.11 refer to the Disputatio (quid in sonis pro littera, quid pro sillaba, quid pro integro nomine accipiatur adserere ostentantis est, non docentis). These two scholars place the work between AD 390 and AD 410. Sicherl (1958b: 355-6), however, maintains that Favonius had read Macrobius and identifies in his work a citation drawn from the Somnium Scipionis: interuallis disiunctus [scil. sonus] imparibus (the manuscripts are unanimous in reporting coniunctus, rather than disiunctus). Sicherl dates the work to 400-410 AD. Yet according to more recent criticism, both Macrobius and Favonius drew on a lost Latin source; consequently, there would be no justification for basing a more precise dating on the chronological interval that has been proposed by twentieth-century scholars, viz. the years AD 380-420 (Dorfbauer 2011a: 504-5; Marcellino 2012: 25-6). [G. Cattaneo; tr. C. L. Caterine].