Fiorentini on Tyrants

Marzia Fiorentini (University of St Andrews – Sapienza Università di Roma) passed her viva with the PhD thesis ‘Tyrants in Late Antiquity: A Rhetorical and Historical Analysis of Claudian and Sidonius’, supervised by Roger Rees and Gianfranco Agosti.

The following thesis is a historical and rhetorical investigation of tyranny in the fifth century CE. The main focus of the work is Claudian (ca 370-404) and Sidonius (430-486), coupled for their literary and rhetorical kinship and for the similar role as panegyrists which they held in the Western court, between the rule of Honorius (395-423) and Anthemius (467-72). The historical introduction and the first chapter offer an analysis of different late-antique sources (both in Greek and in Latin), aiming for a definition of the differences between the labels of usurpator and tyrannus in the political vocabulary between the fourth and the fifth century. The central chapter moves, then, to the analysis of Claudian’s poems in hexameters, where the tyrannus does not correspond to any of the usurpers who rebelled during Honorius’ reign, but rather identifies with Stilicho’s political enemies: Arcadius’ minister Rufinus, the eunuch Eutropius, and the comes Africae Gildo. Such a new use of the label tyrannus determines a neat shift from its employment as a typical label for usurpers (as was still customary in the fourth century) to its vituperative use against a political enemy. Claudian’s scapegoats are characterised as tyranni and opposites of all Roman values who threaten the cosmic order granted by the concordia fratrum between Honorius and Arcadius, heading the Western and the Eastern court respectively after the death of their father Theodosius I. In Sidonius’ panegyrics to Avitus, Majorian, and Anthemius, analysed in the third chapter, Sidonius recovers Claudian’s mould of the tyrannus and adapts it to vituperate the new fearful enemy of the empire, i.e., the Vandal Gaiseric. Gaiseric is demonised in terms very similar to those used by Claudian against the African Gildo. While encouraging an enervated Romanitas to fight together (in the joint military effort of Anthemius and Leo I) against the new tyrannus, Sidonius attaches this political label to a barbarian aspiring to defeat and conquer the whole empire.

Proportions of Latin Letter Collections

In Sara Fascione’s volume Reading Ancient Latin Letter Collections, Joop van Waarden contributes a chapter entitled ‘The proportions of Latin letter collections: A probe’ (pp. 61-74). This is a sequel to Gibson & Morrison’s chapter ‘Patterns of Arrangement in Greco-Roman Letter Collections’ in the same volume:

‘As Roy Gibson introduced the Ancient Letter Collections project at the conference and expounded his idea of the Augustan poetry book having been seminal for the proportions of Latin letter collections, it occurred to me that a detailed wordcount might finetune our insight into the parameters that mattered for the editors (the authors or later caretakers) of these collections.’

This chapter comes with a complete digital set of calculations and graphs. Download this set here.

Fascione Reading Latin Letter Collections

Sara Fascione has published a volume of conference papers: Concatenantur sibi epistulae nostrae. Reading Ancient Latin Letter Collections (23-24 September 2021), Echo 38, Foggia: Il Castello Edizioni, 2022.

View the Introduction and ToC

Sidonius’ correspondence is among the collections analysed by Joop van Waarden in ‘The proportions of Latin letter collections: A probe’, pp. 61-74. Download the accompanying digital set of calculations and graphs.

Authors, Addressees, and Audiences

Authors, Addressees, and Audiences in Roman Letters

University of Edinburgh
Seminar Room 1, Chrystal Macmillan Building
Monday, 20th February 2023

This conference focuses on Roman letters from Cicero to Sidonius, and on the relationship of author, addressee, and audience. Each speaker will introduce either an individual letter or a small dossier of related letters for discussion.

This is an in-person event. Outside participants are very welcome to join us in Edinburgh, but please register with Giulia Marolla so we can distribute texts in advance and can plan catering.

Organising committee: Gavin Kelly, Giulia Marolla, Janja Soldo, and Joop van Waarden. Speakers include Roy Gibson, Gavin Kelly, Alison John, Laura Losito, Giulia Marolla, Andrew Morrison, Janja Soldo, Joop van Waarden, Willum Westenholz, and Matthijs Zoeter.

Download programme here