The poems of Sidonius contain several examples drawn from classical mythological sources and exhibit references to mythological subjects and figures. As panegyrics for Roman emperors, Sidonius's poems are situated in a highly political context. If Sidonius makes use of antique myths and gods in order to praise Roman emperors, his use of such literary models surely is an intentional and meaningful device. This paper aims to discuss the function of Apollo who, as god of the Muses, is the poet's source of inspiration and an important figure for the poetics of Sidonius's Carmina.
By examining the figure of Apollo, this paper intends to make a contribution to the question of what "Muse" (muse) and "Muße" (leisure) implicate for the poet's self-portrayal and his work. Apollo shapes (in connection with the Muses as source of inspiration) the poetic leisure of the poet.
The title of this essay, "Apollo Apollinaris," initially chosen for homonymic reasons, seems to have a more profound meaning: Anna Maria Mesturini maintains that the divine inventory of Apollo and Dionysus found in Carmen 22 is designed by the poet in such a way that Apollo embodies the homo privatus, Sidonius, and Dionysus acts as the poet's alter ego, or homo politicus.1 That Apollo stands allegorically for Sidonius stems both from the fact that the poet is once nicknamed Phoebus,2 and that his cognomen Apollinaris derives etymologically from Apollo.3
Even though Delhey refutes this thesis,4 the allegory of a poet connected to Apollo, the god of poetry, is not wrong per se, especially as we find comparisons, juxtapositions, and combinations between Apollo and the poet elsewhere in the Carmina, both implicitly and explicitly. By examining these comparisons, I will show that in Sidonius's Carmina Musagetes Apollo not [End Page 62] only serves as a figure of inspiration but also as a sort of substitute, both for the poet singing praises and for the princeps being praised. Through Apollo, the poet thematizes his generally handling of the panegyric.
Apollo and the Poet
In the praefatio of the Panegyric to Anthemius, Apollo appears and praises Jupiter:
Mercury and Apollo sounded the clanging strings, the one more skilled to strike the zither, the other the lyre. The choir of the Muses gave forth their plaudits in varied strains with songs, reeds, thumb, voice, and foot. But after the dwellers of heaven, it's said, that the god even got the inferior chants of demigods.5
Mercury and Apollo praise Jupiter with the stringed instruments. Mercury is called Arcas because of his Arcadian origin. Apollo's sobriquet Arcitenens points to the god's skill with the bow. The anaphoric initials arc- bring the two gods in linguistic proximity, reflecting also the content as both Mercury and Apollo are doctior in dealing with their instruments. The comparative adjective doctior could either be translated as "rather skilled" or "more skilled." Mercury and Apollo excel each other in their respective instruments, but they are also more skilled than the demigods who appear after them in the following verses. Being less skilled, they sing mediocria cantica (lines 11 and 12). But first, the chorus of the Muses appears (at lines 9 through 10). Line 10 possibly alludes to Ovid's Metamorphoses, where Apollo is declared the winner in this contest with Pan:6 "Then with trained thumb he plucked the strings and, charmed by those sweet strains, Tmolus ordered Pan to lower his reeds before the lyre."7 While Sidonius adopts Ovid's pollice, he changes cannas to cannis and replaces the more affirmative verb sollicitat, which can also mean "arouse" or "irritate," with the more neutral verb plausit. In Sidonius, the voluminous performance of the Muses is expressed by vario modulamine, but Ovid's Apollo convinces with dulcedine, the sweetness of music.8 This [End Page 63] intertextual allusion to Ovid shows how Sidonius groups Apollo and the Muses together, transferring the vocabulary Ovid applies to the Muses over to Apollo. It makes clear how Apollo stands behind the Muses. However, the reference also emphasizes Apollo's erudition while also explaining the use of the comparative doctior: Ovid has Apollo playing with educated thumb (pollice docto). Sidonius levels up: Apollo is in fact doctior than Pan, for example.9
Later in Carm. 1, Sidonius compares the song Apollo and the other gods sing in honor of Jupiter to the poet's own encomium to Anthemius:
In like manner, O Caesar, greatest hope of our time, after great lords I offer you humble incense, boldly singing in presence of the learned Victor, who is wont to speak either with the voice of Phoebus or with yours, and who, though he is quaestor in your everlasting court, shall everlastingly be my master. So, my prince, let offering of diverse utterance pay worship to you.10
Just as the gods praise the seizure of power by the father of the gods with their song, so does Sidonius praise the new emperor with his. That Sidonius compares himself with Apollo, and that he sings for the emperor as Apollo sang for Jupiter becomes clear in the lines following: Sidonius sings audacter (25), boldly in the presence of Victor (docto coram victore, 25). Victor is a poet (he sings with the voice of Phoebus, Phoebi ore, 26), but he is also a quaestor of Anthemius (vobis quaestor, 27) and Sidonius's teacher (nobis ille magister, 28).
It is striking that Sidonius's praise isn't dedicated to the princeps, as we might expect, but to Victor, the princeps's court official and the poet's teacher.11 It is in the context of Victor (docto, 25) that Phoebus is mentioned: Victor speaks as a poet with the voice of Apollo. Also as a poet, Victor serves as teacher, magister for Sidonius. Encased by the chiasmus (Phoebi-aut vestro-vobis quaestor-nobis ille magister, at lines 26–28), Victor takes on the voice of Apollo only when a poet, the teacher of Sidonius. Apollo teaches Sidonius via Victor and his poetry. Just as Apollo praises Jupiter, so does Sidonius praise the emperor. Apollo will teach the poet forever (aeternum, 28), while Victor will serve as quaestor during the emperor's eternal reign (aeterna in aula, 27). The repetition of aeternus asserts the superiority of the god over the office of Victor. [End Page 64]
A colorful mixture of voices (variae linguae, at line 29) then, teacher and scholar, god and poet, who praise the new emperor. As a singer, Apollo merges not only with Sidonius but also with Victor. But what can this mean, given that Sidonius sings here in front of his teacher Victor?
As already mentioned, it is striking that Sidonius dedicated the encomium not to the actual recipient, the princeps Anthemius, but to his teacher. Yet if Apollo appears in Victor, then Sidonius sings in front of Apollo, which is actually bold (audacter, 25). This makes sense, if we consider that Carm. 1 represents the praefatio to the actual encomium and also acts as an invocation to the god as a figure of inspiration.
Another passage, in Ep. 8, is evidence that Sidonius sees himself as connected with Apollo: in allusion to Horace's Carm. 2.20, he compares his verses with the songs of swans, also known as the birds of Apollo; in the same letter the poet then proclaimes to be a novus Apollo.12
As outlined above, "Phoebus," or "Apollo," was also a nickname for Sidonius.13 In Carm. 22 the mention of "Phoebus" alludes to Sidonius himself:
Here, then, you can find … that same Phoebus who is very close friend of my buddy Anthedius, head of the Apolline college, a man who surpasses in the art of lecturing not only all musicians but all geometers, arithmeticians, and astrologers.14
The praise of his colleague Anthedius shows that he considers the god Apollo comparable not just to himself15 but generally to a poet: Anthedius as well belongs to Sidonius's college (cuius collegio), which includes those characterized by artistic and scientific achievements. Cuius (that is, Phoebi) collegio vir praefectus metaphorically highlights the abilities of Anthedius.16 Yet the syntax of the relative clause poses problems, as cuius can refer either to Phoebum or Anthedii mei, and similarly in the case of vir praefectus. This ambiguity makes clear that Phoebus and Anthedius merge in their abilities, that the god is quasi inherent in the poet. Therefore, through this inherent divine power, the poet surpasses every other artist and scientist. [End Page 65]
Apollo and the Princeps
Apollo, as the god of poetry, is not only compared with poets but also with the rulers Sidonius praises in his panegyric. We find such a comparison in Carm. 2 to Anthemius: after verses 134–48 describe his childhood, an Apollo comparison is used to praise Anthemius's abilities: "Even Paean Apollo did not aim his shafts better than our prince, as the god stood over Python and, distressed, with quiver almost emptied, pierced those numerous coils with innumerable weapons."17 When it comes to the bow and arrow, as when he fought Python, Apollo is not better than the princeps. We can read non melius either as Anthemius and Apollo being equally good with the bow, or with the meaning that Apollo is not better—that is, he is worse than the princeps here praised when it comes to overcoming enemies.18 Either way, Apollo, though initially ranked higher than the mortal princeps on account of his divinity, suffers a downgrade in this instance.
The antithesis innumeris numerosa emphasizes the subsequent volumina, a possible reference to poetry, which Apollo likewise imbues. Just as the dragon yields to his arrows, so does poetry to his sovereignty. As previously discussed, the god supports and inspires the poet in his poetry. Sidonius portrays Apollo as a divine unification of poetry and music with struggle and war. The sobriquet Arcitenens of Carm. 1 already showed this combination in Apollo. Carm. 22 then goes further, detailing Apollo's appearance: "On his left he holds a sonorous lyre of immense sweetness, with Python engraved upon it; on his right are arrows and strings that echo with a different tone."19 Apollo's insignia—the lyre carved with the image of Python in one hand, the bow in the other—mark him as the god of music (lyra, 75) and death (sagittas, 75). The musical instrument points to his murderous power via its engraved image, the resonantes nervos (76), applicable to both the lyre and the bow20 while also intoning his musical side as death and music combine. Sidonius obviously brings the two images of the artistic and the bow-shooting Apollo together.
In Carm. 2, Anthemius's fighting prowess is again compared to the god. After spending 300 verses praising the talents and origin of the emperor Anthemius, the invocation beginning with line 307 calls upon Apollo and the [End Page 66] Muses for assistance in the coming verses, wherein he will tell how the western empire of Rome came to this new ruler Anthemius:
Now grant your presence, Paean Apollo, whose hook-beaked gryphons the well-schooled curb constrain with its bond of laurel … Hither direct your lyre! It is not now the time to sing of Python's destruction or to hymn the twice seven wounds of the Niobids—victims whose dooms are preserved to your honor in song, so that their deaths live in deathless poetry. You Muses, likewise, reveal in brief words by what divine power Anthemius came to us with a covenant made by the two realms; an empire's peace has sent him to conduct our wars.21
Before turning to the Muses (at line 314), Sidonius invokes their leader: Paean, or Apollo, should assist the poet (nunc ades, at 307) and tune his lyre to this theme (huc converte chelyn, 310), away from the slain Python or the dead children of Niobe (nec bis septena sonare vulnera Tantalidum, lines 311-12); singing of their deaths renders him and his singing immortal. Mentioning these acts also emphasizes Apollo's role as an avenger, bringing death and disaster. The paradox that seems to exist in the god Apollo—in his songs the death of his opponents lives, he is known both for bringing salvation and rescue but also death and ruin22—likewise appears in the situation of the new appointment of an emperor: pax rerum misit qui bella gubernet (316). In a time of peace, the new emperor is re-appointed to wage wars that will return the kingdom to peace through the defeat of his opponents. Here, too, we witness a parallelism between god and ruler.
Since Roma asks Aurora, the goddess of dawn, to send Anthemius, it seems appropriate that Phoebus Apollo, the god of light, proclaims: quo numine nobis venerit Anthemius.23 The outward description of the god riding bent griffins, obuncos grypas (at line 307) fits in this context. The Griffin, which often appears in iconography as Apollo's steed, comes from the Orient and fits in this respect to the god of sun light.24 Here Apollo is tasked with proclaiming the emperor's origin; ultimately it is the god through his inspirational power who leads the poet to the emperor to be praised, while also [End Page 67] bringing the emperor to the poet, establishing the connection between the praising and the praised.
In lines 112–26 of Carm. 2, which describe how the birth of the emperor changes nature itself, we might see that Sidonius considers the new Augustus not only as sent by Phoebus but also fathered by him:
When Lucina is bringing such a birth to fulfilment the order of the elements gives way and a changed world gives assurance of coming sovereignty. Thus does nature declare that blessed gods have arrived … Alexander the Great and Augustus are deemed to have been conceived of a serpent god, and they claimed between them Phoebus and Jupiter as their progenitors … the other rejoiced that from his mother's marks he was deemed the offspring of Phoebus, and he vaunted the imprints of the healing serpent of Epidaur.25
The change of nature that takes place when Lucina gives birth to Anthemius (in lines 105–11) is compared with births of other important Roman personages. The deos in line 115 makes it clear that the important persons are gods, in that they are descended from gods; if Anthemius's birth has affected nature in the same way as the birth of a god does, then Anthemius is implicitly considered as a god or a descendant of a god. That this god is Apollo is later made clear: Augustus is considered the son of Phoebus, who impregnated Augustus's mother in the form of a snake. The imprint of the snake that remained on Atia's stomach (Augustus's mother) seems an assurance of this fact. The reference in line 126 to Asclepius, the son of Apollo and the god of healing, could be marking the new emperor as a savior. Could the new augustus Anthemius stand in the ranks of Augustus? In this context, Augustus is named after Iulus, Astyages, Quirinus, and Alexander the Great. He is named last, as if now, indeed, it is his turn.
The following verses could support this thesis insofar as they fit to both Augustus and Anthemius:
But as for this prince of ours, illustrious Lords, right early might it be known that he was destined for the scepter, when it came to pass that in his father's house a severed vine-branch brought forth shoots no longer its own. That was the spring-time of his sovereignty; in the guise of a leafage happy omens burgeoned along that withered branch.26 [End Page 68]
This could easily be Augustus, whom Caesar adopted and thus had non sua germina (131); but with Anthemius, the western empire of Rome, as excisus palmes, does not produce its own emperor (non sua germina) but rather sends for one from the eastern empire; these would then be the favorable signs of spring, which point to a new beginning of benign rule. As the interpreter of signs, Apollo is the one who knows how to read and proclaim them, and for this reason the poet looks to him for inspiration. An explicit comparison with a god, something which is not out of place in panegyric, also appears in the encomium of Avitus, at the very beginning with the exordium of Carm. 7, where the equity between the praiseworthy emperor and Apollo is distinctly mentioned: "O Sun-god, now at last in the circle of your wanderings you can see one that your are able to brook as your equal; so give your rays to heaven, for he is sufficient to lighten the earth."27 Phoebus, the sun god, is said to bear comparisons to the emperor in his radiance, in his splendor. As Apollo illuminates the sky, so the emperor illuminates the earth. In a way, this exaltation places the future ruler over the god, in that the emperor diminishes the god's luminosity over the earth, thus partially depriving him of his function as the bringer of light.
We also witness such exaltation over the god in Carm. 23, which praises the father of Consentius: "When he devoted himself to the art of Amphion with quill, thumb, voice and flute, the Thracian bard, the Arcadian god and Phoebus lagged behind him in every kind of song, and the very Muses might be deemed less musical."28 When Consentius's father took up the art of Amphion, the other practitioners—among them Apollo—could not keep up. Later in the poem, Sidonius maintains that even if Apollo himself had instructed him, he would not be able to extol Consentius: "Nor if I had been taught to give utterance by him who was commanded to feed the flock of his servant by the river Amphrysus, a god turned herdsman."29 By referring to Apollo as Amphrysi ad fluvium deus bubulcus, Sidonius borrows wording from Virgil's Georgica.30 There, Apollo is described as pastor ab Amphryso, which Sidonius replaces with deus bubulcus. The choice of this less worthy expression shows how the god's authority is diminished.31 This devaluation becomes clear when we consider that these verses refer to an outrageous act [End Page 69] of Apollo in which he dared to rebel against his father Zeus and was subsequently punished to work in the sheep barns of King Admetus.
We also see the downgrading of the god in Carm. 22.2, where the god comes to live in the villa: "Here, then, you can find Phoebus also, who, as is well known, is for you a god no longer but rather, through a poet's privilege, an inmate of your house" (habes et Phoebum, quem tibi iure poetico inquilinum factum constat ex numine). Apollo is converted from a god (ex numine) to a cohabitant (inquilinum) of the villa. Expressed in this way—inquilinum factum ex numine—Apollo, as a citizen of Burgus, is no longer an Olympian god.32 His divine rank degraded, he leaves Helicon and enters the Burgus.
Phoebus can likewise not keep pace in Carm. 16, the Poem of Thanksgiving for Bishop Faustus.33 There, the poet rejects Apollo and the Muses as the source of inspiration and replaces them by the Holy Spirit, which now favors poetry and wishes to herald the bishop. Obviously when it comes to cleric, the Holy Spirit must take precedence over pagan sources of inspiration.
In order to contribute to the understanding of muse and leisure for Sidonius's work, I aimed to discuss the function of Apollo, who as god of poetry, the muses, poetic production, and inspiration, is an important figure in the poetics of Sidonius's Carmina.
I first wanted to emphasize how the god Apollo is closely aligned with both the poet and the princeps. The god is compared to the emperor and even united with the poet in a kind of poetic authority. This propinquity, both to the princeps and the poet, is also reflected linguistically: Sidonius portrays Apollo as a god in which poetry and music meld with fighting and war. The music connects the god to the poet, the fighting power to the princeps. The following passages also make this clear:
• In Carm. 1, he is named the singing bow-bearer (Arcitenens, at line 7).
• In Carm. 2, the antithesis innumeris numerosa and the subsequent volumina (at line 155) are possible indications of poetry.
• In the same poem, the invocation to Apollo, the god should turn to the poet (huc converte chelyn, at line 310) and simultaneously away from killing the Tantalids (nec bis septena sonare vulnera Tantalidum, at lines 311 and 312).
• In Carm. 22, Apollo wears both a lyre and a bow (at lines 74–76). [End Page 70]
Apollo's appearance thus embodies two characters: the poet (lyre) and the princeps (bow), and so Apollo acts as a link between the subject (panegyrist) and object (honorand). Apollo must proclaim the emperor's origin. Finally, it is Apollo—leading the poet to the praiseworthy emperor through his inspirational power, while conversely bringing the emperor to the poet—that establishes the connection between the praising and the praised one. This role as a link is ensured by the fact that the god's authority and greatness is degraded, bringing him level with the poet, who can then speak of the majesty of the princeps and so praise him. In terms of language and content, this becomes clear in the following passages: regarding the motif of downgrading, he is non melius than the princeps (Carm. 2); others are better than him (Carm. 23); he does not sufficiently instruct Sidonius in praising (Carm. 23); other sources of inspiration supersede him (Carm. 5 and Carm. 16); and he becomes an earthly cohabitant (Carm. 22). Apollo becomes a comparative quantity for the poet.
On the other hand, elements of surpassing and competition with terms such as doctior (Carm. 1), superstans (Carm. 2), and supervenit (Carm. 22), which are applied to the god, unite him with the emperor. A dichotomy of exaltation and degradation emerges, underscoring the relationship between the praising and the praised, between the poet and the emperor. The poet is subject to the emperor, whom he praises, but is bold enough to praise him. In this way, the god of poetry reveals himself; through Apollo, the poet thematizes his general handling of the panegyric.
5. Sid. Ap. Carm. 1.7–12: Arca et Arcitenens fidibus strepuere sonoris, / doctior hic citharae pulsibus, ille lyrae; / Castalidumque chorus vario modulamine plausit, / carminibus, cannis, pollice, voce, pede. / sed post caelicolas etiam mediocria fertur / cantica semideum sustinuisse deus. Text and translation of Sidonius's Carmina will be quoted from Anderson's Loeb edition 1936–1965 (with some adaptions).
9. Sid. Ap. Carm. 1.8.
10. Sid. Ap. Carm. 1.23–29: Sic nos, o Caesar, nostri spes maxima saecli, / post magnos proceres parvula tura damus, / audacter docto coram Victore canentes, / aut Phoebi aut vestro qui solet ore loqui; / qui licet aeterna sit vobis quaestor in aula, / aeternum nobis ille magister erit. / Ergo colat variae te, princeps, hostia linguae …
14. Sid. Ap. Carm. 22.2: Habes igitur … illum scilicet Phoebum Anthedii mei perfamiliarem, cuius collegio vir praefectus non modo musicos quosque verum etiam geometras, arithmeticos et astrologos disserendi arte supervenit …
15. For the connection of the poet and the god in Carm. 22 see also in this volume Dell'Anno's interpretation of Apollo as author of the villa description.
17. Sid. Ap. Carm. 2.152–55: Non principe nostro spicula direxit melius Pythona superstans / Paean, cum vacua turbatus paene pharetra / figeret innumeris numerosa volumina telis.
19. Sid. Ap. Carm. 22.74–76: Laeva parte tenet vasta dulcedine raucam / caelato Pythone lyram, pars dextra sagittas / continet atque alio resonantes murmure nervos.
21. Sid. Ap. Carm. 2.307–16: Nunc ades, o Paean, lauro cui grypas obuncos / docta lupata ligant … / huc converte chelyn: non est modo dicere tempus / Pythona exstinctum nec bis septena sonare / vulnera Tantalidum, quorum tibi funera servat / cantus et aeterno vivunt in carmine mortes. / Vos quoque, Castalides, paucis, quo numine nobis / venerit Anthemius gemini cum foedere regni, / pandite: pax rerum misit qui bella gubernet.
23. Sid. Ap. Carm. 2.314–15.
25. Sid. Ap. Carm. 2.112–26: Tale puerperium quotiens Lucina resolvit, / mos elementorum cedit regnique futuri / fit rerum novitate fides. venisse beatos / sic loquitur natura deos: … / magnus Alexander nec non Augustus habentur / concepti serpente deo Phoebumque Iovemque / divisere sibi: … / maculis genetricis / alter Phoebigenam sese gaudebat haberi, / Paeonii iactans Epidauria signa draconis.
26. Sid. Ap. Carm. 2.129–33: Ast hunc egregii proceres, ad sceptra vocari / iam tum nosse datum est, laribus cum forte paternis / protulit excisus iam non sua germina palmes. / Imperii ver illud erat; sub imagine frondis / dextra per arentem florebant omina virgam.
27. Sid. Ap. Carm. 7.1–3a: Phoebe, peragrato tandem visurus in orbe / quem possis perferre parem, da lumina caelo: / sufficit hic terris.
28. Sid. Ap. Carm. 23.120–24: Hic cum Amphioniae studebat arti / plectro, pollice, voce tibiaque, / Thrax vates, deus Arcas atque Phoebus / omni carmine post erant et ipsas / Musas non ita musicas putares.
29. Sid. Ap. Carm. 23.198–200: Nec si me docuisset ille fari, / iussus pascere qui gregem est clientis / Amphrysi ad fluvium deus bubulcus.
33. Sid. Ap. Carm. 16.1–6.