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GLORY, DECAY AND HOPE: GODDESS ROMA IN SIDONIUS APOLLINARIS’ PANEGYRICS Joseph Grzywaczewski – Daniel K. Knox Between A.D. 456 and 468, Sidonius Apollinaris, the Gallo-Roman aristocrat and future bishop of Clermont, delivered three panegyrics in honor of three newly appointed emperors.1 Each poem is marked by a strict adherence to traditional literary forms and conventional styling.2 Sidonius, though a Christian, packed each poem with pagan motifs and themes that at times seem garish and antiquated.3 Having received an extensive and traditional literary education, Sidonius was expected to embellish his work with references to pagan mythology and literature.4 These motifs were not used unwittingly, Sidonius carefully used them to craft political narratives within each panegyric . The key figure in each panegyric is the goddess Roma. She is used in each poem as a foil for each of the emperors being lauded. Roma is a unifying theme throughout the three panegyrics and her importance goes beyond the original context of each poems initial composition. Sidonius edited and circulated his poems in the 460s prior to becoming Bishop of Clermont in c. late 469–470. In his collection of poetry Sidonius placed the panegyrics in reverse chronological order beginning with the most recently 1  The authors would like to thank Marianne Sághy, Lisa Bailey and Michael Hanaghan for their critiques and suggestions on this article, and for providing access to manuscript versions of soon to be released work. 2 Sidonius Apollinaris, Poems and Letters, vols. 1–2, trans. William Blair Anderson (London: Harvard University Press, 1936) (hereafter Anderson, Poems and Letters). All Latin and English quotations are from this translation. Sidonius has recently been the focus of renewed scholarly interest, see in particular: Johannes A. Van Waarden and GavinKelly, eds., New Approaches to Sidonius Apollinaris (Leuven: Peeters, 2013) (hereafter Van Waarden and Kelly, New Approaches). 3  For a poetical critique of Sidonius’s work see Gerbrandy Piet, “The failure of Sidonius’ Poetry,” in Van Waarden and Kelly, New Approaches, 53–76; Sigrid Mratschek, “Identitätsstiftung aus der Vergangenheit: Zum Diskurs über die trajanische Bildungskultur im Kreis des Sidonius Apollinaris,” in Die christlich-philosophischen Diskurse der Spätantike: Texte, Personen, Institutionen, ed. Therese Fuhrer(Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2008), 363–380. 4 Lynette Watson, “Representing the Past, Redefining the Future: Sidonius Apollinaris’ Panegyrics of Avitus and Anthemius,”in The Propaganda of Power: The Role of Panegyric in Late Antiquity, ed. Mary Whitby (Boston: Brill), 180–81 (hereafter Watson, “Representing the Past”). i6 p&c 00 book.indb 203 2017.09.20. 16:22 JOSEPH GRZYWACZEWSKI – DANIEL K. KNOX 204 composed panegyric in honor of Anthemius. In doing so, Sidonius presents a narrative of imperial decay. The goddess Roma is the key figure in this narrative, her decline throughout the three panegyrics reflects the political turmoil of the mid-fifth century. In the following discussion, we will review Sidonius’s use of Roma in each panegyric.5 This initial review will be carried out in the order of each panegyric’s composition. After, we will consider Sidonius’s reuse of the panegyrics in his circulated poems and his construction of a coherent narrative of decay across the three poems. Sidonius can be an enigmatic writer. He has been described as an author focused on “keeping up appearances” whilst ignoring the increasingly troubled world around him.6As we will see this was not the case—Sidonius’s panegyrics addressed current political themes and concerns. Though a Christian, Sidonius’s poetry often appears to be bloated by pagan themes and decoration invoking an age that had long passed: Now grant thy presence, Paean Apollo, whose hook-beaked gryphons the well-schooled curb doth constrain with its bond of laurel, whensoever thou wieldest thy leafy reins and guidest their winged shoulders with double-hued ivy! Hither direct thy 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 thine honour in song, so that their deaths live in deathless poesy.7 Partly this was due to the late antique education that he had received, which encouraged deference to authoritative authors’ archaic styles.8 Throughout his corpus Sidonius illustrated the extent of his literary education with numerous references to classical culture and literature, with his verse being heavily influenced by Statius.9 Yet Sidonius could just as easily reject classical themes in favor of Christian motifs. Compare this passage from Carmen XVI to the one above: 5...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9789633862568
Related ISBN
9789633862551
MARC Record
OCLC
1019979655
Pages
382
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-21
Language
English
Open Access
No
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