Hexameron

 


[AMBR.Hex.]: CPL 123; RBMA 1227
ed.: CSEL 32/1.3-261
 

MSS
  1. Arras, Bibliothèque Municipale 346 (867): HG 778.
  2. Cambridge, Trinity College Library O. 3. 35 (1207): HG 194.
  3. Cambridge, University Library Kk. 1. 23: HG 20.
  4. London, Lambeth Palace Library 414: HG 516 (extracts).
Lists
  1. Peterborough: ML 13.58.
  2. Sæwold: ML 8.14.
A-S Vers      [none]
Quots/Cits
  1. ?Hex.225.3-5: ALDH.Enig.XCVI.14-16.
  2. ?Hex.136.3-5: ALDH.Enig.VI.
  3. ?BEDA. Comm.Gen.: see below.
  4. BEDA.Comm.Cant.: see below.
  5. ?BEDA.Nat.rer.: see below.
  6. ?BEDA.Temp.: see below.
  7. BEDA.Temp.rat.: see below.
  8. BEDA.Orthogr.: see below.
  9. Hex.VI.iii-v: ÆHex (B1.5.13); ÆHom M11 (Ass 4) (B1.5.11) 275-94; ÆLS Maccabees (B1.3.16) 564-73: see below.
  10. Hex.197.1-198.12: Phoen (A3.4): see below.
  11. Hex.10.23-25: LibSc (C.15) 68.1-4
  12. ?Wan (A3.6): see below.
Refs
  1. ALDH.Carm.uirg.381.670-74.
  2. BEDA.Comm.Gen.Praef.7-8.
  3. BEDA.Temp.rat.V.69-70.

The Hexameron is a commentary on the six days of creation (Genesis 1.1-26) in the form of homilies collected in six books, drawing on BASIL THE GREAT's HEXAMERON. ALDHELM in his CARMEN DE VIRGINITATE (MGH AA 15) describes Ambrose's Hexameron (without giving the title) as "a lucid little work, unfolding with devout reckoning how from the first beginnings the wisdom of the supreme Father had made this present world through six periods of days, disposing the ages with an eternal command" (trans. Lapidge and Rosier 1985 pp 117-18).

The Lambeth Palace manuscript contains numerous short excerpts from Ambrose, mainly from the Hexameron and EXPOSITIO EVANGELII SECUNDUM LUCAM (see James and Jenkins 1930-32 4.570-76). The entry in the Sæwold booklist refers to the Arras manuscript, which is a defective copy (see Schenkl, CSEL 32/1.XXXX-XXXXI).

BEDE in the letter to Acca prefacing his COMMENTARIUS IN GENESIM refers to Ambrose as one of several major Fathers who composed hexameral commentaries. According to Laistner 1935 (p 237) "The Hexaemeron ... [was] certainly at Bede's elbow" when he composed his commentary on Genesis, and Charles W. Jones in the index auctorum of his edition lists some thirty parallels from Ambrose's work (see CCSL 118A.253). However, as Michael W. Gorman points out in a recent paper, none of these involves a verbatim quotation (even the similarity of idea is often only of a very general kind). There are two verbatim quotations in Bede's COMMENTARIUS IN CANTICA CANTICORUM, however, for which see CCSL 119B.461 (a third, characterized by the editor, D. Hurst, as a "reminiscence," links Isaiah 5.1-2 and Psalm 33.8, but the same link is made by Ambrose's source, the Hexameron of Basil, a work to which Bede also refers in his letter to Acca). Jones (CCSL 123C.715-16) also lists various parallels from the work in several of Bede's opera didascalica. It is at best a remote source for DE NATURA RERUM VII-VIII (CCSL 123A.197-98), and the one parallel listed for DE TEMPORIBUS is slight. But Bede does cite Ambrose by name in the DE ORTHOGRAPHIA (Alcuin's quotation of Hexameron 110.6-7 in his DE ORTHOGRAPHIA [PL 101.917] was drawn from Bede, CCSL 123A.49.1040-41) and also several times in DE TEMPORUM RATIONE (for which also see Jones 1943 (p 333). According to Gorman 1996, "Bede seems to have used ISIDORE's DE NATURA RERUM as a guide to the cosmological content in Ambrose's Exameron..." It may be noted here that glosses on Bede's De temporum ratione attributed doubtfully to BYRHTFERTH OF RAMSEY cite Ambrose's work several times (see Jones 1939 p 34; Gorman 1996 p 218). The citation of Hexameron 71.22-72.14 in Byrhtferth's computus in Oxford, St John's College 17, fol. 39, is taken indirectly from De natura rerum XI.ii, PL 83.980.21-982.9 (see Crawford 1929 p 11 note; Baker and Lapidge 1996 p 426); the biblical passages from Hexameron 45.6-11 in ÆLFRIC, DE TEMPORIBUS ANNI I.vi-ix (EETS OS 213.4.7-6) are drawn from De natura rerum XIII.1, PL 83.985.21-986.9 (see Henel 1942 pp 5-7). Ogilvy (BKE p 59) notes a quotation of Hexameron 230.8-11 in the In Proverbia Salomonis allegoricae interpretationis fragmenta attributed to Bede in Migne (PL 91.1066.20-24), but this work (CPL 1352) is considered spurious by Stegmüller (RBMA 1668) and Frede (KVS Ps-Bed prv).

On Ambrose as a source for Ælfric (HEXAMERON [ÆHex; ed. EETS 177], Homily for the Common of a Confessor [ÆHom M11; ed. Assmann 1889], and The Maccabees in LIVES OF SAINTS [ÆLS Maccabees (B1.3.25); ed. EETS OS 76, 82, 94, 114]) as well as for Aldhelm riddle 96 (ALDH. Enig.XCVI; ed. MGH AA 15.143) on the elephant, see Cross 1965; Glorie (CCSL 133.521) cites SOLINUS rather than Ambrose as source for Aldhelm's reference to the elephant's inability to bend its knees. Ogilvy (BKE p 59) and Glorie (CCSL 133 p 389) suggest that Aldhelm's riddle 6 ("Luna"; ed. MGH AA 15.101) is indebted to Ambrose, perhaps by way of Isidore of Seville, De natura rerum XL.i (PL 83.1011.21-24), although the observation that the moon affects the motion of the sea was commonplace.

Gaebler 1880 identified Ambrose's discussion of the nature of the phoenix's nest (Hexameron 197.1-198.12; trans. Allen and Calder 1976 pp 118-19) as a source for the Old English Phoenix, lines 443 and following. Trahern 1963 (pp 51-57) also discusses the work as a source for Phoenix, noting specifically the idea of the "nest of faith," the tree where God protects Christians, and the death of the Old Man and birth of the New Man; see also Blake 1964 (pp 20-21). Orchard 1995 (p 22 n 117, citing an unpublished dissertation by Paul Allen Gibb) notes that the compiler of the version of the Latin MARVELS OF THE EAST in the twelfth-century manuscript Oxford, Bodleian Library Bodley 614 revised the description of the phoenix in light of the same passage.

Clemoes 1969 (pp 73-77) argues that the passage in The Wanderer (Wan 29b-57) describing the solitary's vivid mental images of absent comrades reflects Hexameron 235.25-236.22), although he suggests that the conception may have been transmitted through an intermediary. Diekstra 1971 pointed out that a similar passage in Alcuin, DE ANIMAE RATIONE, which Clemoes suggested as a possible source for The Seafarer (Sea 58-64a), is drawn from LACTANTIUS, DE OPIFICIO DEI, and does not depend upon Ambrose. Diekstra shows, however, that the theme of the flight of the soul is attested in various patristic texts, including several by Ambrose. See also Godden 1985 (pp 293-94).

The Old English gloss to DEFENSOR's LIBER SCINTILLARUM (LibSc; C.15; EETS OS 93) includes one brief sentence from the work. All but one other citation (see the entry for DE IOSEPH PATRIARCHA) headed "Ambrosius dixit" in Defensor's florilegium are from JULIANUS POMERIANUS, DE VITA CONTEMPLATIVA.

Last updated by Bill Schipper on Monday, 29 June 2001