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.
Friday 18 November 14:30 – 16:00
University of Basel, Department of Altertumswissenschaften
Presentation ‘Muse – Musse – Musseraum: neueste Forschungen zu Ausonius, Sidonius und Piccolomini’ by Markus Kersten, Christian Guerra and Ann-Kathrin Stähle
Get flyer here
Everybody welcome. Information anne-sophie.meyer AT unibas.ch
Celis Tittse (BA student in Medieval History at Radboud University Nijmegen) contributes a paper entitled ‘A Changing Roman World and Its Networks’ in which he makes an attempt at comparing the networks of Sidonius and Avitus in evidence in their correspondences, applying Social Network Analysis and statistical methods. To this end, Ralph Mathisen kindly made available the Sidonius database that is also at the basis of his chapters ‘Sidonius’ People’ and ‘A Prosopography of Sidonius’ in the Companion (pp. 29-165).
Download Celis’ paper from the Contributions page. On the same page, there is a link to the fully scalable graphs and figures.
Tomasz Babnis writes on Roman embassies to Persia, comparing passages in Claudian and Sidonius: ‘Idem aliter, czyli o dwóch opisach dyplomatycznej podróży do Persji w poezji późnego antyku (Claud. Cons. Stil. I 51–68; Sid. Carm. II 75–88)’ [… two descriptions of a diplomatic trip to Persia in the poetry of Late Antiquity], Collectanea Philologica 24 (2021) 111-25.
Read in Academia
Gavin Kelly has resumed his ‘Ausonius’ blog with posts on ‘A variation on prose rhythm: verse in prose’, and on ‘Surges of interest’ in which he finds that Sidonius studies are indeed booming.
Thanks to Jeffrey Murray, Head of Classics at the University of Cape Town, a hitherto unkown South-African paper on Latin letter-writing and Sidonius from c. 1930 by the then President of the Classical Association of South Africa, William Ritchie, has come to our notice.
Download it from this website, page Bibliography 1900-1999, year 1931.
A brand-new historical novel on Sidonius is forthcoming. Annabelle Grierson (in arte J A Grierson) has recently got her Creative Writing Master degree at Auckland University of Technology with a two-part novel breathing life into fifth-century history, with Sidonius among its protagonists. She was inspired by his letters, and the novels actually quote them, including the famous letter to Bishop Graecus (Ep. 7.7), which is cited almost in full. The first volume, entitled The Wars with Attila, centred around a fictionalised Avitus, is expected to be published next Spring. The second volume, centred around Sidonius, will be called The Last Roman.
For information, go here.