Flavius Cresconius Corippus was a late Berber-Roman epic poet of the 6th century, who flourished under East Roman Emperors Justinian I and Justin II. His major works are the epic poem Iohannis and the panegyric In laudem Iustini minoris. Corippus was probably the last important Latin author of Late Antiquity.
He was a native of Africa, and in one of the manuscripts is called grammaticus (teacher). He has sometimes been identified, but on insufficient grounds, with Cresconius Africanus, a Catholic bishop (7th century), author of a Concordia Canonum, or collection of the laws of the church.
Nothing is known of Corippus beyond what is contained in his own poems. He appears to have held the office of tribune or notary (scriniarius) under Anastasius, imperial treasurer and chamberlain of Justinian I, at the end of whose reign he left Africa for Constantinople, apparently in consequence of having lost his property during the Vandalic War and the subsequent Moorish revolts.
He was the author of two poems, of considerable importance for the history of the times. One of these, Iohannis ("Tale of John") or De bellis Libycis ("On the Libyan war"), the earlier of the two, was not discovered till the beginning of the 19th century. It was dedicated to the nobles of Carthage and relates the overthrow of the Moors by John Troglita, magister militum of Africa in a series of battles that lasted until 548. Iohannis is in eight books (the last is unfinished) and contains about 5000 hexameters. The narrative commences with the despatch of John to the theatre of war by Justinian, and ends with the decisive victory near Carthage (548).
Although Johannes Cuspinianus in his De Caesaribus et Imperatoribus professed to have seen a manuscript of it in the library at Buda (destroyed by Suleiman I in 1527), it was not till 1814 that it was discovered at Milan by Cardinal Mazzucchelli, librarian of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, from the codex Trivultianus (in the Biblioteca Trivulziana, the library of the marchesi Trivulzi), the only manuscript of the Johannis extant.
The Johannis "is not only a valuable historic source but a work of marked poetic merit." It provides a description of the land and people of Late Roman Africa, which conscientiously records the impressions of an intelligent native observer; many of his statements as to manners and customs are confirmed both by independent ancient authorities (such as Procopius) and by our knowledge of the modern Berbers.
The other poem, In laudem Iustini minoris ("In praise of the younger Justin"), in four books, contains the death of Justinian, the coronation of his successor Justin II (November 13, 565); and the early events of his reign. It is preceded by a preface, and a short and fulsome panegyric on Anastasius, the poet's patron. The work was published at Antwerp in 1581 by Michael Ruyz Azagra, secretary to Emperor Rudolf II, from a ninth- or tenth-century manuscript.
Virgil, Lucan, and Claudian were the poet's chief models. In laudem Iustini minoris, which was written when he was advanced in years, although marred by a "Byzantine" servility and gross flattery of a by no means worthy object, throws much light upon Late Roman court ceremony, as in the account of the accession of Justin and the reception of the embassy of the Avars.
On the whole the language and metre of Corippus, considering the age in which he lived and the fact that he was not a native Italian, is remarkably pure. That he was a Christian is rendered probable by negative indications, such as the absence of all the usual mythological accessories of an epic poem, positive allusions to texts of Scripture, and a highly orthodox passage (In laudem Iustini minoris iv. 294 ff).