Letters and literary works
 

Sidonius Apollinaris

Poems

Date of writing: 456-68

Period covered: 440s-460s

Original text: MGH AA 8:173-264. Sidonius, Poems and Letters, ed. and tr. W.B. Anderson (Cambridge, MA/London, 1936).

Translation: As above (Loeb edition). Murray (excerpt).

On the web: MGH. Latin text of some of the poems is here.

For background on Sidonius (c. 430- c. 489) see Wikipedia or this 'fan' site. Sidonius was a very well-connected Gallo-Roman aristocrat. His father-in-law, Avitus, briefly became emperor. Sidonius enjoyed high office at Rome then became bishop of Clermont c. 470. In 474, he was exiled to Bordeaux by the Visigothic king, Euric, but was reinstated after about a year.

Twenty four of his poems have survived. The more valuable ones for political history are the panegyrics he delivered to the emperors Avitus (Rome, 1 Jan 456), Majorian (Lyons, 458) and Anthemius (Rome, 1 Jan 468). Others, such as a poem about his country house, are valuable for social history. As far as the Merovingians are concerned, the panegyrics to Avitus and Majorian contain important details.

Panegyric to Avitus. Sidonius describes Avitus's career, speaking of his links with the Goths and his role in organising the force that defeated Attila's invasion of Gaul. He speaks of a sudden irruption of barbarians early in the reign of Petronius Maximus (455). The Goths thought of capturing the empire; Saxon pirates raided the coasts of the English Channel; Franks overwhelmed the provinces of Germania I and Belgica II; Alemans crossed the Rhine to occupy the Roman bank. Maximus appointed Avitus Master of Both Services (magister utriusque militiae), whereupon the Alemans apologised, the Franks (Chatti) retreated to the Elbe, and the Saxons reduced their raiding. When the Vandals sacked Rome and Maximus was killed, Avitus persuaded the Visigoths not to take aggressive, opportunistic action, reminding the Visigothic king, Theoderic, of the close relationship he (Avitus) had had with Theoderic's father. The Visigoths said they would willingly serve the empire if Avitus were emperor, and when the Gallo-Romans heard this they raised Avitus as emperor in a ceremony near Arles, after which he went to Rome.

Panegyric to Majorian. Sidonius speaks of Majorian's early career as a soldier under Aëtius, when Majorian was active in northern Gaul--Sidonius reels off a list of rivers in central and northern Gaul. Majorian defended the town of Tours and a little later, with Aëtius also present, defeated 'Cloio the Frank' at the 'village of Helena' in the Artois. The occasion on which Majorian defended Tours may have been during the rising of the bacaudae in 448, and this must be roughly the date of the encounter with Cloio. Cloio is identified with Chlodio, the possible relative of Clovis's grandfather Merovech mentioned by Gregory of Tours. Various suggestions exist for the identity of Helena, the most popular being modern Hélesmes. A barbarian wedding was in progress here when the skirmish with Cloio took place. Sidonius describes the barbarians' appearance--hair pulled off their necks and drawn towards the front, pale grey-blue eyes, moustaches rather than beards, close-fitting clothes, exposing the knees and with a broad belt round the middle. The barbarians are said to fight by hurling axes--presumably a reference to the Franks' throwing axe, the francisca.

Frankish franciscas (throwing axes) in the Museum of Tournai

 

Sidonius Apollinaris

Letters

Date of writing: c. 455-485

Period covered: 450s-480s

Original text: MGH AA 8. Sidonius, Poems and Letters, ed. and tr. W.B. Anderson (Cambridge, MA/London, 1936).

Translation: O.M. Dalton, The Letters of Sidonius, 2 vols (Oxford, 1915). As above (Loeb edition). Murray (excerpt).

On the web: MGH. Latin text. Dalton's English text (scroll down for Sidonius Apollinaris).

Sidonius has left us about 150 letters in nine books. The letters were collected and edited for publication by Sidonius himself, so they are one step back from the raw source. They are characterised by an affected sort of wittiness and plays on words. Nevertheless, they are a fascinating and important source of social and often political history. Sidonius led an active and varied public life, in imperial politics and as a bishop, and knew a wide range of people. These included prominent barbarians, such as Arbogast the count of Trier and Riothamus, leader of a body of British troops settled in Armorica to counter the Visigoths. Sidonius visited and left flattering descriptions of the Visigothic courts of kings Theoderic and Euric.

 

Epistolae Austrasicae (Austrasian Letters)

Date of writing: c. 460-610

Period covered: c. 460-610

Original text: MGH Epistolae 3: Epistolae Merowingici et Karolini Aevi I, ed. B. Krusch. CCSL 117.

Translation: Murray (Nos. 1, 2, 3, 8). B. Dumézil, La reine Brunehaut (Paris, 2008), pp. 481-5 (French; nos. 26, 27, 29, 30, 44).

On the web: MGH. Partial Latin text. Partial Latin text with translations. Translation of Brunhild's letters (26, 27, 29, 30, 44).

To quote from Wikipedia: The "Austrasian Letters" is a collection of diplomatic and other correspondence from the late fifth to the early seventh centuries, compiled at the court of the Frankish kings of Austrasia in the seventh century. It appears that the collection was originally compiled as a primer to assist in the teaching of literature and in particular the complex Latin rhetoric of early medieval diplomatic correspondence.

 A good half of the letters relate to diplomatic correspondence between the court of Childebert II and the Byzantine empire, in the 580s. About ten of these are versions of a form letter sent to various dignitaries in the Byzantine court, urging them to persuade the emperor to make good relations with the Franks. The earliest letter in the collection is one from Bishop Auspicius of Toul to Count Arbogast of Trier, dated around 460. Four others are from Remigius of Rheims, from the late fifth/early sixth century, two of them being addressed to Clovis I and among the most important letters in the collection.

The following table summarises the letters (-- indicates location of translation, where available):

1 pre 486?

From: Bishop Remigius of Rheims
To: Clovis I
Consoling him on the death of his sister, Albochledis

-- Murray

2 486?

From: Bishop Remigius of Rheims
To: Clovis I
Encouraging him to rule Belgica secunda well

-- Murray

3 512

From: Bishop Remigius of Rheims
To: Bishops Heraclius (Paris or Sens), Leo and Theodosius (Auxerre)
Rejecting criticism for having ordained one Claudius at the instigation of Clovis

-- Murray

4 c. 500?-533

From: Bishop Remigius of Rheims
To: Bishop Falco of Liège

Upbraiding Falco for having performed ordinations and exactions in Mouzon, which belongs to Rheims

5 551/2 From: Abbot Florianus of Romenus
To: Bishop Nicetius of Trier
Asking him to pray for various men of blessed memory
6 c. 550 From: Abbot Florianus of Romenus
To: Bishop Nicetius of Trier
Asking him to get King Theudebald to honour certain promises to the people of Comicina (island in lake Como, Italy)
7 Before 565 From: Bishop Nicetius of Trier
To: Emperor Justinian 
Urging the emperor to give up Eutychian/Nestorian heresy and stop persecuting the orthodox
8 Before 568? From: Bishop Nicetius of Trier
To: Queen Chlodosuinth
Urging her to convert her husband, Alboin, king of the Lombards, from Arianism to Catholicism; he holds up the example of Chlothild converting Clovis
9 575

From: Bishop Germanus
To: Queen Brunhild
Urging her to stop King Sigibert waging war on various parts of Gaul

-- Medieval Women's Latin Letters

10

546-8

 

From: Bishop Aurelianus
To: King Theudebert
Flattering and encouraging the king
11 c. Jun 550 From: Bishop Mapinius of Rheims
To: Bishop Nicetius
Apologising for not attending a council called by Theudebald that discussed complaints of Nicetius
12 c. 580? From: Duke Dynamius
To: Anonymous friend
Saying he enjoys his letters and urging him to keep writing
13 Before 575? From: Gogo
To: Duke Chamingus
Thanking Chamingus for various gifts and speaking of his elevation to various honours by the king as promised in his youth
14 c. 568

From: Venantius Fortunatus

To: Bishop Magnericus of Trier
(In verse) Celebrating the virtues of Magnericus, who succeeded his late master Nicetius

15 c. 540-50

From: Bishop Mapinius of Rheims

To: Bishop Vilicus of Metz
Proclaiming obedience, hoping he reaches sixty, and asking how many pigs are in his region

16 565-581 From: Gogo
To: Bishop Trasericus of Toul
Praising his wisdom and declaring his advice to be preferable to that of a foreigner and barbarian-speaker
17 542-568 From: Duke Dynamius
To: Bishop Vilicus of Metz
Apologising for the late letter, saying he has done as ordered and asking that he might be recalled to service by favour of the king, as well as thanking for presents
18 547

From: King Theudebald
To: Emperor Justinian
Thanking for gifts sent through legates John and Missurius, criticising for slandering his predecessor, offering sought friendship

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive

19 Sep/Oct 534-47

From: King Theudebert
To: Emperor Justinian
Apologising for the delay in responding to the emperor's request to send 3000 soldiers to support Bergantinus, it being due to the emperor's messenger having been delayed, but promising to put it in order

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive

20 534-47

From: King Theudebert
To: Emperor Justinian
Expressing loyalty to the emperor, speaking of having subjugated Thuringians, Jutes, North Sueves and Visigoths, and brought territory from Pannonia to the ocean under control; finally, hoping for the extension of Catholicism

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive

21 c. 550 From: Bishop Rufus of Turin
To: Bishop Nicetius of Trier
Sending Italian builders, regretting he cannot enjoy his presence; asking for greetings to be passed on to two deacons
22 568? From: Gogo
To: Bishop Peter
Asking the bishop to take care of a certain farm he has acquired in his diocese
23 c. 460 From: Bishop Auspicius of Toul
To: Count Arbogast of Trier
Praising Arbogast for having been appointed count of Trier, while urging him to avoid vice or avarice and honour his bishop
24 561 From: Unknown
To: Bishop Nicetius of Trier
Praising him returning to his see after a long time, and asking to be remembered in his prayers
25 584

From: King Childebert II
To: Emperor Maurice
Noting that the accompanying ambassadors will tell him something in person

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive

26 584

From: Queen Brunhild
To: Emperor Maurice
Saying she is agreeable to the peace urged by the emperor

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive, Medieval Women's Latin Letters

27 584

From: Queen Brunhild
To: Athanagild
Telling him that legates sent to the emperor will ascertain what is to be done about his situation

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive, Medieval Women's Latin Letters

28 584

From: King Childebert II
To: Athanagild
Telling him that legates sent to the emperor will ascertain what is to be done about his situation

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive

29 584

From: Queen Brunhild
To: Empress Anastasia
Urging her to persuade her son-in-law to make peace

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive, Medieval Women's Latin Letters

30 584

From: Queen Brunhild
To: Empress Constantina?
Urging her to persuade her husband to make peace

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive, Medieval Women's Latin Letters

31 584

From: King Childebert II
To: Bishop John of Constantinople
Urging him to bring about peace to the benefit of both Franks and Romans

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive

32 584

From: King Childebert II
To: Apocrisiarius Honoratus
Urging him to bring about peace to the benefit of both Franks and Romans

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive

33 584

From: King Childebert II
To: Bishop Domitian
Urging him to bring about peace to the benefit of both Franks and Romans

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive

34 584

From: King Childebert II
To: Master Theodor
Urging him to bring about peace to the benefit of both Franks and Romans

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive

35 584

From: King Childebert II
To: Quaestor John
Urging him to bring about peace to the benefit of both Franks and Romans

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive

36 584

From: King Childebert II
To: Curator Magentes
Urging him to bring about peace to the benefit of both Franks and Romans

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive

37 584

From: King Childebert II
To: Paul, emperor's father
Urging him to bring about peace to the benefit of both Franks and Romans

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive

38 584

From: King Childebert II
To: Italian patrician
Urging him to bring about peace to the benefit of both Franks and Romans

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive

39 584

From: King Childebert II
To: Patrician Venantius
Urging him to bring about peace to the benefit of both Franks and Romans

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive

40 585 or 590

From: Exarch
To: King Childebert II
Having heard that Childebert sent troops, notified the emperor and empress; but the Frankish leaders made peace with the Lombards and took much booty; seeking more worthy generals and compensation for the Frankish spoils

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive

41 585 or 590

From: Exarch
To: King Childebert II
Noting that various cities have been restored to Roman rule and captives taken; asking for a Frankish army to be sent to the aid of the Romans

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive

42 585 or 590

From: Emperor Maurice

To: King Childebert II
Urging him to further their alliance with deeds rather than words and boasting

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive

43 585

From: King Childebert II
To: Theodosius, son of the emperor Maurice
Urging him to take his nephew Athanagild under his protection

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive

44 585

From: Queen Brunhild
To: Empress Anastasia
Glad that her son Childebert II has come of age, urging the empress, who would not like her own son Theodosius carried off, to return her grandson Athanagild

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive, Medieval Women's Latin Letters

45 585

From: King Childebert II
To: Patriarch of Constantinople
Asking him to get the emperor to release Athanagild and restore him to his relatives

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive

46 585

From: King Childebert II
To: Bishop Laurentius of Milan
Hoping to further the cause of Christianity, asking him to get the exarch to help the Franks against the Lombards and promising an army will be sent for this purpose the next year

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive

47 584 or 585

From: King Childebert II
To: Emperor Maurice
Asking for the return of a relative, the son of Scaptimundus

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive

48 Before 581?

From: Gogo for King Childebert II
To: Grasulf, Duke of Istria
Agreeing to a pact against the Lombards, and discussing monetary arrangements and liaison with the emperor

-- Montclair Electronic Text Archive

 

Avitus of Vienne

Date of writing: 490s-510s

Period covered: 490s-510s

Original text: Alcimi Ecdici Aviti opera quae supersunt, ed. R. Peiper, MGH AA 6.2.

Translation: D. Shanzer and I. Wood eds., Avitus of Vienne: Letters and Selected Prose (Liverpool, 2002). Murray (Ep. 46).

On the web: MGH.

For background on Avitus (c. 470- 518) see Wikipedia. Avitus succeeded his father as bishop of Vienne in the early 490s and died probably 5 Feb 518 (Shanzer and Wood, p. 10). He left a collection of poems, sermons and letters that shed light on his time.