Sidonius shows elite men’s gender-disdain for men in 5th-century Gaul

Elite men, big men — men who have prevailed in grappling for status in gynocentric society — serve their personal interests in promoting sexism against men. Men as a gender are almost all non-elite men. Big men typically work to belittle lower-status men and to present themselves as not like those other men. Writings of the eminent fifth-century Gaulish poet and Roman official Sidonius Apollinaris, like those of the eminent twentieth-century French historian Georges Duby, illustrate that elite men’s discourse embraces disdain for men as a gender. Elite men strategically fashion themselves as not like men in the gender of men.

Three days after the widely admired woman Philomathia died, Sidonius wrote to his friend Desideratus. Philomathia died in her early thirties. She left behind a husband and five children, as well as a father, for whom she was the only child. Sidonius, who wrote the epitaph for Philomathia, sought Disideratus’s literary evaluation of that epitaph and urged Desideratus to come to console the grieving families. Sidonius declared to Desideratus:

If the little children had kept their mother and lost their father, who has long been disabled, they would be regarded less as being like orphans.

{ qui parvuli si matre sospite perdidissent iam diu debilem patrem, minus pupilli existimarentur. }[1]

Sidonius said nothing specific about the disability of Philomathia’s husband. Many disabilities don’t imply disability as a parent, particularly in the presence of supportive relatives and friends. Moreover, Philomathia’s mother had died many years earlier. As a single parent, Philomathia’s father apparently raised her to be an admired woman. The claim that fathers matter less to children than mothers endures to this day most egregiously in anti-men sexism in child custody decisions. Fatherhood is a generic aspect of men’s gender. Like Sidonius, elite men are biased toward declaring men disabled as fathers.

Sidonius aggrandized the wife of Chilperic, king of the Germanic Burgundians. Writing to a bishop, Sidonius depicted the king’s wife as being more culturally sophisticated than the king:

It is well-known that the king unceasingly praises your meals, and the queen, your fasts.

{ constet indesinenter regem praesentem prandia tua, reginam laudare ieiunia }[2]

Sidonius feared the talk of evil men surrounding King Chilperic and explained, “these are men whom even those fear who are themselves feared {hi sunt, quos timent etiam qui timentur}.” According to Sidonius, the key person in this dangerous situation is Chilperic’s wife:

Certainly what principally heals us in our afflictions is that his Tanaquil moderates our Lucumo. With the advantage of witty conversation, she clears away the poisonous filth that whisperers have put in her husband’s ears. You should know that so far by her effort the venom of the new Cibyrates around the mind of our mutual patron has not at all injured the tranquility of our mutual brothers. With God favoring, it will not in any way be injuring, if only as long as the current power governs Lyonese Germany, and the current Agrippina moderates our and her Germanicus. Farewell.

{ sane, quod principaliter medetur afflictis, temperat Lucumonem nostrum Tanaquil sua et aures mariti virosa susurronum faece completas opportunitate salsi sermonis eruderat. cuius studio scire vos par est nihil interim quieti fratrum communium apud animum communis patroni iuniorum Cibyratarum venena nocuisse neque quicquam deo propitiante nocitura, si modo, quamdiu praesens potestas Lugdunensem Germaniam regit, nostrum suumque Germanicum praesens Agrippina moderetur. vale. }[3]

King Chilperic is figured as Lucumo, meaning Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, the fifth king of Rome. His wife Tanaquil steered him onto the throne. She did the same for Servius Tullius, whom she raised as her own son. Tanaquil was a strong woman and a revered Roman historical figure. The Cibyrates, in contrast, were two men who betrayed Sicily and helped it to be plundered. The current power governing “Lyonese Germany” and “her Germanicus” are again the Germanic king Chilperic. The one who restrains him from excess is his wife, figured alternately as the revered Roman women Agrippina the Elder. She was the wife of preeminent Roman general Germanicus Julius Caesar. In short, Sidonius was invoking, in a learned and tangential way, the perennial claim that all of a husband’s success he owes to his wife.

Elite men demean other men by devaluing their intrinsic virtue. For example, Sidonius in a letter to a bishop friend recounted some life history of his letter-carrier Amantius. According to Sidonius, that life history is “a tale equal to those of Miletus or Athens {fabula Miletiae vel Atticae par}.” He meant it was a bawdy tale of outrageous deception. Amantius’s story actually was rather different:

By chance it occurred that next to the lodging that Amantius rented lived a certain woman no less attractive in substantial income than in character. She had a daughter who had already passed through her infancy but had not yet approached marriageable age. He, fawning on her (since she was the age of a dear little girl, such was still proper), now gives her certain trinkets, now a girl’s game or discarded junk. For these insufficient reasons, the little girl’s heart was strongly bound to this grown-up. Years passed making her suitable for marriage. Why delay further? The young man was alone, barely solvent, a wanderer, and a minor in his family. He left the land of his father, with his father not merely unwilling but also ignorant of his departure. He then sought, procured, and married a young woman not his inferior in birth and his superior in material means.

{ forte accidit, ut deversorio, cui ipse successerat, quaedam femina non minus censu quam moribus idonea vicinaretur, cuius filia infantiae iam temporibus emensis necdum tamen nubilibus annis appropinquabat, huic hic blandus (siquidem ea aetas infantulae, ut adhuc decenter) nunc quaedam frivola, nunc ludo apta virgineo scruta donabat; quibus isti parum grandibus causis plurimum virgunculae animus copulabatur. anni obiter thalamo pares: quid morer multis? adulescens, solus tenuis peregrinus, filius familias et e patria patre non solum non volente verum et ignorante discedens, puellam non inferiorem natalibus, facultatibus superiorem … uxorem petit, empetrat, ducit. }[4]

That marriage endured and produced numerous children. Amantius thus realized his seminal blessing as a man and made his marriage ultimately satisfactory to his mother-in-law. Amantius’s name literally means “lover.” His name is humorous and his story sensational only for elite men looking down upon the activities of ambitious, low-status men.

Sidonius gratuitously demeaned Amantius and other men like him. Sidonius ironically observed of Amantius:

In the eyes of others he pursued chastity and sobriety, which is so laudable in young men as it is rare.

{ pudicitiam prae ceteris sobrietatemque sectari, quod tam laudandum in iuventute quam rarum }

The young man Amantius spent years in serious, self-disciplined behavior that put him in position to marry a young woman from a wealthy family. Nothing in Sidonius’s story indicates that Amantius had sex with any woman other than his wife. In the eyes of Sidonius, Amantius only appeared to be chaste and sober, but wasn’t, because he successfully worked to marry a young woman from a wealthy family. To improve men’s welfare, men should be encouraged to marry wealthy, young, attractive, warmly receptive women. Low-status men should not be disdained for so marrying.

Amantius reportedly exaggerated his wealth in order to allow him to marry the widow’s young daughter. Sidonius hyperbolically declared:

The mother-in-law didn’t investigate his means, nor did his bride look down on his person. … The marriage agreements were written. Every estate that exists here in the neighborhood of our tiny town was inserted in the matrimonial documents and read aloud with farcical generosity. When this legal deceit and solemn fraud had been completed, the beloved pauper carried off his wealthy wife.

{ socru non inspiciente substantiam, sponsa non despiciente personam … conscribuntur tabulae nuptiales; et si qua est istic municipioli nostri suburbanitas, matrimonialibus illic inserta documentis mimica largitate recitatur. peracta circumscriptione legitima et fraude sollemni levat divitem coniugem pauper adamatus }

Sidonius and Amantius lived in Clermont-Ferrand, one of the oldest cities in present-day France. Not a “tiny town {municipiolum},” Clermont-Ferrand was also one of the largest cities in Roman Gaul. Amantius surely couldn’t have gotten away with claiming to own every estate in and around Clermont-Ferrand. He probably exaggerated his wealth to the extent necessary to marry his beloved, just as many today exaggerate their qualifications to get desired jobs. Elite men too often deceptively depict low-status men as deceivers.[5]

woman prostitute soliciting an ugly, fat man

Anticipating an elite trend of recent decades, Sidonius even gratuitously depicted a low-status man as a rapist. Around 470 GC, Sidonius complained to a neighboring landowner named Pudens:

The son of your nursing woman has abducted / raped the daughter of mine.

{ Nutricis meae filiam filius tuae rapuit }[6]

Latin language and Roman law didn’t clearly distinguished between a woman and man consensually eloping, a man forcibly abducting a woman, and a man raping a woman. Such conceptual confusion has endured in laws such as the U.S. Mann Act and the criminalization of men seducing women. In this case, the man was a servant effectively bound to the land, and the woman was a free woman. They apparently eloped consensually and established a socially recognized domestic partnership. Pudens asked that this man’s offense be forgiven. Sidonius responded:

I consent under this condition: that you release the rapist from his hereditary status of bound landless laborer and become his patron instead of his lord.

{ sub condicione concedo: si stupratorem pro domino iam patronus originali solvas inquilinatu }

Sidonius was offended that a free woman of his household effectively married a lower-status man. That’s no reason, however, to call that man a rapist.[7] Sidonius apparently internalized social contempt for men’s sexuality:

The woman moreover — she is already free. She then will be seen as not handed over for wantonness, but received as a wife, only if our guilty one, on whose behalf you plead, should immediately be made your client instead of a taxpayer and so begin to have the standing of a plebeian rather than that of a tenant farmer.

{ mulier autem illa iam libera est; quae tum demum videbitur non ludibrio addicta sed assumpta coniugio, si reus noster, pro quo precaris, mox cliens factus e tributario plebeiam potius incipiat habere personam quam colonariam. }

The matter to Sidonius was all about personal status. He assumed low-status men in unauthorized relationships with women to be sexually blameworthy irrespective of the actual characteristics of their intimate relationship. That’s everyday sexism against men.

What would be vigorously condemned as misogyny passes with little comment when the subject is a man. In a letter to his son, Sidonius hatefully depicted another man named Gnatho:

His body is fouler and more misshapen than a cadaver on a funeral pile after torches have been applied and it’s half-burned with sitting on the heap of firebrands and has rolled down the pyre, so that now it is nauseating the undertaker’s assistant such that he dreads to replace it.

{ illa sordidior est atque deformior cadavere rogali quod facibus admotis semicombustum moxque sidente strue torrium devolutum reddere pyrae iam fastidiosus pollinctor exhorret. }[8]

That’s an imagined mini-narrative used as a disparaging personal description. As is common, invective against a man explicitly attacks his genitals:

I say nothing about the fetidly goatish, souring caves of his armpits that imprison his sides with their ramparts and with which he sends to their grave the noses of those around him by spreading plague like a double Ampsanctus. I say nothing about his defeated breasts that hang down by their weight of fat, that fall like maternal teats — even for men’s breasts to protrude at all would be disgusting enough. I say nothing of his belly curving in pendulous folds, with its ugly wrinkles offering an uglier cover for his genitals, which by their disability are doubly shameful.

{ taceo quod alarum specubus hircosis atque acescentibus latera captiva vallatus nares circumsedentum ventilata duplicis Ampsancti peste funestat. taceo fractas pondere arvinae iacere mammas quasque foedum esset in pectore virili vel prominere, has ut ubera materna cecidisse, taceo ventris inflexi pendulos casses parti genitalium, quia debili, bis pudendae turpibus rugis turpius praebere velamen. }[9]

Sidonius framed this outrageous letter to his son with praise for his son’s judgment in personal associations:

I feel the utmost satisfaction, joy, and admiration that your fondness for chastity causes you to flee from tenting with lewd men, especially those who have no thought and no reverence as they pursue foul deeds and chatter about them, those who pollute the modest ears of the public with immodest words, and who loftily see themselves as very witty. … Therefore you will fulfill my prayer if you don’t associate with such companions even by infrequent companionship. Most of all, have nothing to do with those for whom shame sends forth no restraint on theatrical, prostituted talk. The tongue of braggarts, since they are apart from the luster of honor, is being defiled by the scum of unbridled, talkative wantonness, like their most foul conscience. After all, one could more easily find a person who talks earnestly and lives obscenely, than to exhibit a person who is at the same time wicked in speaking and upright in manner of living. Farewell.

{ Unice probo gaudeo admiror, quod castitatis adfectu contubernia fugis impudicorum, praesertim quibus nihil pensi, nihil sancti est in appetendis garriendisque turpitudinibus quique, quod verbis inverecundis aurium publicarum reverentiam incestant, granditer sibi videntur facetiari. … igitur ex voto meo feceris si talium sodalitati ne congressu quidem primore sociere, maxume illorum quorum sermonibus prostitutis ac theatralibus nullas habenas, nulla praemittit repagula pudor, nam quibus citra honestatis nitorem iactitabundis loquacis faece petulantiae lingua polluitur infrenis, his conscientia quoque sordidatissima est. denique facilius obtingit ut quispiam seria loquens vivat obscene, quam valeat ostendi qui pariter exsistat improbus dictis et probus moribus, vale. }

By his numerous, viciously unbridled words about Gnatho, Sidonius surely didn’t mean to encourage his son not to associate with his father. Hatefully foul words about men seem not to be in the same category as other hatefully foul words. While that social fact is obvious to perceptive adults today, Sidonius apparently sought to teach it to his son in fifth-century Gaul.

Despite its significance, Sidonius’s invective against Gnatho has received little critical analysis. Sidonius offered close to a “uniformly positive” portrayal of women. In his poems and letters, women are “the idealized, traditional Roman wife.”[10] Gnatho, who is totally unlike an idealized Roman man, has been characterized as a “fictitious stock character.”[11] Gnatho’s name probably comes from a classical Latin comedy. Yet Sidonius is an allusive writer, and the literary name Gnatho doesn’t necessarily imply a fictitious character:

The literary providence of this name and the unlikelihood of any individual exhibiting all of the negative features Sidonius lists has inhibited reading Gnatho as anything other than a fictional construct, but Sidonius could well have substituted in Gnatho for the original name in the letter, or relied on his son Apollinaris, and readers, to know who Gnatho really was.[12]

The repulsive man Gnatho apparently became a stock figure through the influence of Sidonius’s letter. In surviving classical literature, no such lengthy abuse of a man or woman exists. Sidonius’s abuse of Gnatho is far more extensive and vicious than Horace’s generally condemned disparagement of an old widow in Epode 8. Gnatho himself wasn’t even suffering natural indignities of old age. The influence of Gnatho can be seen in Geta in Vitalis of Blois’s Amphitrion, Spurius in William of Blois’s Alda, Davus and Beroe in Matthew of Vendôme’s The Art of Verse-Making {Ars Versificatoria}, and perhaps also Moriuht in Warner’s Moriuht.[13] Sidonius authorized elite men to disseminate openly and at length viciously disparaging portraits of lower-status men.

Status competition among elite men fundamentally concerns winning women’s acclaim. The persons that appear in Sidonius’s letters and poems are overwhelmingly Roman Christians of the Nicene creed, socially privileged, and natives of Gaul. Such written associations help to maintain Sidonius’s elite status. In addition, 87% of persons in Sidonius’s letters and poems are male. A pioneering prosopographic analysis of Sidonius’s written works observed:

The disparity between named and unnamed is particularly egregious with respect to gender. … Whereas 292 of the 386 men (76% of the individual men and 66% of all individuals) are named, only a pathetic 16 of the 59 women (27% of the individual women, 5.5% of the named men, and 3.6% of all individuals) are given names. Sidonius inhabited a homosocial world where women were rarely mentioned, and even more rarely named. At least insofar as his poetry and letters went, women were barely on Sidonius’ radar.[14]

Men don’t need to name women to promote their own elite status. Men don’t need to name women while demeaning lower-status men. As narratives of epic violence against men make clear, honor and shame among men are very much in the eyes of women.

woman stitching standard for men

Elite men gender-disparaging men has effects. Men have long endured brutalization of their sexuality and use of their bodies as disposable instruments in fighting wars. Despite the development of low-cost DNA paternity testing, men today continue to lack parental certainty about biological children — parental certainty that women naturally have. Men have no reproductive rights whatsoever, while reproductive rights for women are a matter of intense public concern. Elite men not only ignore gender injustices against men, they attack any men who would dare mention those injustices. Elite men socially position themselves as good men. Elite men garner acclaim as champions for women and slayers of other, generically “bad” men.

The writings of Sidonius Apollinaris in fifth-century Gaul provides a poignant case study in the behavior of an elite man toward men as a gender. His pattern of behavior remains readily apparent today.

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[1] Sidonius Apollinaris, Letter {Epistola} 2.8, “Sidonius to his friend Desideratus, greetings {Sidonius Desiderato suo salutem},” from section 1, Latin text and English translation (modified) from Anderson (1965). All subsequent quotes from Sidonius’s Epistolae are similarly sourced from Anderson (1936 / 1965). Scion of an illustrious family, son-in-law of a Roman Emperor, and himself a Praefect of Rome, Sidonius lived among the elite of fifth-century Gaul.

Sidonius composed his epitaph for Philomathia and his letter to Desideratus only a few days apart. The most thorough review of the dating of Sidonius’s works dates the two as “later 460s, maybe 469 (after Carm. 32).” Kelly (2020) p. 178, Table 3.3.

The gravity and temporal extent of the disability that Philomathia’s husband suffered isn’t clear. Her husband was Eriphius. Sidonius wrote to him to tell him the circumstances in which he composed an epigram on a face-towel for Philomathia’s father, Philomathius. Sidonius noted with respect to Eriphius, “an infirmity being an impediment to you, at that time you weren’t present {tibi infirmitas impedimento, ne tunc adesses}.” But Sidonius also began his letter with words characterizing Eriphius’s abilities:

My dear Eriphius, you are the same as ever, and never does hunting, civic life, or your land so distract you that you don’t occasionally embrace the pleasure of literature.

{ Es, Eriphi meus, ipse qui semper numquamque te tantum venatio civitas ager avocat, ut non obiter litterarum voluptate teneare }

Sidonius, Epistola 5.17, “Sidonius to his friend Eriphius, greetings {Sidonius Eriphio suo salutem},” from section 1. The previous short quote is from Epistola 5.17.4. Given these abilities, Eriphius actually may not have been significantly disabled as a father. At the time of Epistola 5.17, Philomathia’s father was young enough to participate in a physically vigorous sport, although he tired earlier than other participants. Epistola 5.17.6-7.

The date of Epistola 5.17 relative to Epistola 2.8 isn’t convincingly known. The most thorough review dates the epigram on Philomathius’s face-towel as “460s, maybe 469.” Kelly (2020) p. 178, Table 3.3. Sidonius wrote that epigram after celebrating the holy day of Saint Justus at the church of Saint Justus in Lyon. Saint Justus became Bishop of Lyon about 350 GC and died about 390 GC. A large church in Lyon was named to honor him early in the fifth century. Sidonius described participants in the liturgy as afterwards going “to the tomb of Syagrius {ad conditorium Syagrii}.” Epistola 5.17.4. Syagrius has been identified as Flavius Afranius Syagrius. He died some time after 382 GC. Mathisen (2020) p. 122. However, Book 5 of Sidonius’s Epistolae is thought to have been published about 477. Kelly (2020) pp. 185-6, 193-4. Kelly dated Epistola 5.17 to before Epistola 2.8. Id. p. 175, n. 50.

Sidonius effusively praised Philomathia. In her epitaph he declared her to be:

Pride of your family, glory of your husband,
prudent, chaste, worthy, serious, and sweet,
an example even to your seniors.
What persons are accustomed to regard as opposites,
you have united with the advantage of your character.
Thus they have been companions of your good life:
grave light-heartedness and witty propriety.

{ o splendor generis, decus mariti,
prudens casta decens severa dulcis
atque ipsis senioribus sequenda,
discordantia quae solent putari
morum commoditate copulasti:
nam vitae comites bonae fuerunt
libertas gravis et pudor facetus. }

Epistola 2.8.3 (Carmen 26), excerpt.

[2] Sidonius, Epistola 6.12, “Sidonius to the Lord Bishop Patiens, greetings {Sidonius Domino Papae Patienti salutem},” from section 3. Patiens was bishop of Lyons from 449 to 490.

[3] Sidonius, Epistola 5.7, “Sidonius to his friend Thaumastus, greetings {Sidonius Thaumasto suo salutem},” from section 7. Thaumastus, the brother of Simplicius and Apollinaris of Vaison, was Sidonius’s cousin and was closely associated with him. Mathisen (2020) p. 123.

Wives can and sometimes do dominate their husbands. Writing about 495 GC to his friend Volusianus, Bishop of Tours, Ruricius of Limoges referred to a threatening foreign enemy, perhaps Franks, and to Volusianus’s abusive wife:

If I had not taken heed of my personal status and office, I would have sent your letter-carrier back to you as my men were treated not by what would be called your wife, but by an excessively insolent and unbridled lady-lord. Even if you tolerate her manners for so long, either voluntarily or by necessity, to the diminution of your reputation, you should know that others neither wish nor are content to endure them. Since you write that you are stupefied with fear of the enemy, I write that you who are accustomed to sustaining a domestic enemy should not fear a foreign one.

{ nisi existimationem personae meae aut officii cogitassem, portitorem litterarum tuarum talem ad te remiseram, quales homines meos non matrona vestra, sed domina procax nimium et effrenata perduxit, cuius mores, si tu tanto tempore cum famae tuae diminutione aut voluntarie aut necessitate supportas, alios noveris nec velle ferre nec esse contentos. nam quod scribis te metu hostium hebetem factum, timere hostem non debet extraneum, qui consuevit sustinere domesticum. }

Ruricius of Limoges, Epistola 3.27, “Bishop Ruricis to his brother bishop Volusianius {Ruricius episcopus fratri Volusiano episcopo},” Latin text from Mathisen (2003) vol. 2, pp. 120-1, English translation (modified) from id. vol. 1, p. 103. For an edition and English translation of all of Ruricius’s letter collection, Mathisen (1999).

[4] Sidonius, Epistola 7.2, “Sidonius to the Lord Bishop Graecus {Sidonius Domino Papae Graeco salutem},” from section 6-7. Graecus was Bishop of Marseille in the 470s. The previous short quote above, “a tale equal to those of Miletus or Athens,” is from section 9. The subsequent two quotes above are from sections 5 (In the eyes of others…) and 7-8 (The mother-in-law didn’t investigate…). My translation of these quotes from Epistola 7.2 benefited from the commentary of van Waarden (2009). While Epistola 7.2 is the main source on Amantius, he is also mentioned in Epistolae 6.8, 7.7, 7.10, and 9.4.

[5] Mathisen observed of Amantius:

Sidonius treated him indulgently, making him a lector, called him a callidus viator (‘cunning traveller’) and a praestigiator (‘con artist’), and nicknamed him ‘Hippolytus.’

Mathisen (2020) p. 79. Sidonius treated Amantius kindly in deeds but not in words.

In figuring Amantius as Hippolytus, “our Hippolytus {noster Hippolytus},” Sidonius probably was claiming ironically that Amantius by having children with his wife “seduced” his mother-in-law. An alternate interpretation:

Amantius is loosely associated with Hippolytus as a paragon of youthful, injured innocence, again with an unmistakable undertone of irony on the part of Sidonius.

van Waarden (2009) p. 156. That interpretation seems to me less contextually justified and less meaningful.

Mathisen didn’t accurately translate Amantius’s alleged deception. The passage:

conscribuntur tabulae nuptiales; et si qua est istic municipioli nostri suburbanitas, matrimonialibus illic inserta documentis mimica largitate recitatur

Mathisen translated as:

The marriage contract was executed, and some little suburban plot or other at Clermont was put into settlement and read out with much theatrical parade.

Mathisen (2003) vol. 1, p. 51, with foonote 32 at “Clermont”:

This presumable was property that Amantius did not yet own.

Id. Cf van Waarden (2009) p. 150-1. Anderson’s earlier translation is more accurate:

The marriage settlements are written out, and any and every estate in the vicinity of our little town here was entered in the matrimonial documents and read out with theatrical grandeur.

Anderson (1965) p. 299. Id., Mathisen (2003), van Waarden (2009), and Mathisen (2020) didn’t recognize Sidonius’s exaggerations in his story of Amantius in Epistola 7.2.

[6] Sidonius, Epistola 5.19, “Sidonius to his friend Pudens, greetings {Sidonius Pudenti suo salutem},” from section 1. The subsequent two quotes above are similarly from Epistola 5.19.1-2.

[7] On the relevant Roman law, Grey (2008) pp. 288-9, MacDonald (2000) pp. 97-8, and note [2] in my post on the capture of the Sabine women in Rome’s founding. While the term raptus encompasses a wide range of circumstances, Sidonius’s language emphasizes the violence and harm of rape. What’s now commonly called the “rape of the Sabine women” involved the Sabine women becoming gender-privileged wives of Roman men.

[8] Sidonius, Epistola 3.13, “Sidonius to his son Apollinaris, greetings {Sidonius Apollinari suo salutem},” from section 5. The subsequent two quotes above are from sections 8 (I say nothing about the fetidly goatish…) and 1 & 11 (I feel the utmost satisfaction…).

While Gnatho had lower status than Sidonius, Gnatho wasn’t a low-status man. Mathisen ranked Gnatho as a “most notable man {vir clarissimus},” a senatorial title of the third rank. Mathisen (2020) p. 99.

Michael Gilleland, who frankly characterizes himself as a curmudgeon and an antediluvian, quoted some of Sidonius’s harsh disparagement of Gnatho and declared, “The entire letter is amusing.”

[9] Ampsanctus is a lake close to the Via Appia in southern Italy. It was associated with a temple of Mephitis, a goddess of foul-smelling gases, and the gateway to Hell. Virgil, Aeneid 7.563-70.

[10] MacDonald (2000) pp. 102, 107. Cf. Epistola 9.6, where Sidonius disparages a “shameless slave-woman {ancilla propudiosissima}.” MacDonald concluded her gynocentric analysis tendentiously:

Overall, the role of women in the writing of Sidonius is rhetorical rather than descriptive. Women do not have a large role in the published letters and poems. Sidonius does not include letters to women in his published works, except one letter to his wife. Women in his own family are absent from Sidonius’ letters and poems although he does glorify the family connections of his wife. Sidonius’ practice confirms the belief that women belonged in the private, not the public, sphere of Gallo-Roman aristocratic life.

Id. p. 102. Academics today tend to define the “public sphere” in a way that excludes women, e.g. the “public sphere” means the sphere of persons mentioned in Sidonius’s letters. Women are key players in constructing and judging men’s social status. Men’s social status is a central concern in Sidonius’s letters.

[11] Mathisen (2020) p. 99. The name Gnatho probably comes from the dinner-seeking sycophant Gnatho in Terence’s The Eunuch {Eunuchus}. Terence’s Eunuchus was first performed in Rome in 161 BC.

[12] Hanaghan (2019) p. 92. Hanaghan notes the tonal similarity of Sidonius’s invective against Gnatho to his invective against Seronatus in Epistola 2.1. Seronatus was an actual Gallo-Roman official who allegedly betrayed provinces to the Visigoths.

[13] Chronopoulos (2020) p. 645, Ziolkowski (1984) p. 2. Sidonius’s portrait of Theodoric II, King of the Visigoths, was influential as a description of a beautiful man. While Sidonius explicitly disparaged Gnatho’s genitals, he more obliquely praised Theodoric’s virility:

Strength reigns in his well-girt loins. His thigh is hard like a horn.

{ in succinctis regnat vigor ilibus. corneum femur }

Epistola 1.2, “Sidonius to his dear friend Agricola, greetings {Sidonius Agricolae suo salutem}.” Sidonius’s portraits of Gnatho and Theodoric “were ceaselessly imitated in both Latin and vernacular medieval literatures.” Hernández Lobato (2020) p. 669.

[14] Mathisen (2020) pp. 44-5. The previous statistics on prosopography for Sidonius are from id. p. 40.

[images] (1) Woman prostitute soliciting a fat, ugly man. Excerpt from drawing with wash by Francisco de Goya in 1796-97. Preserved as item 1995.15 in the Cleveland Museum of Art (Cleveland, US). Credit: John L. Severance Fund. (2) Woman stitching a standard for men. Painted by Edmund Leighton in 1911. Via Wikimedia Commons.


Anderson, W.B, ed. and trans. 1936 / 1965. Sidonius. Poems and Letters. With an English translation, introduction, and notes. 2 vols. Loeb Classical Library 296 and 420. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Vol. 1, Vol. 2.

Chronopoulos, Tina. 2020. “Glossing Sidonius in the Middle Ages.” Chapter 21 (pp. 643-664) in Kelly & van Waarden (2020).

Grey, Cam. 2008. “Two Young Lovers: An Abduction Marriage and Its Consequences in Fifth-Century Gaul.” The Classical Quarterly. 58 (1): 286–302.

Hanaghan, Michael P. 2019. Reading Sidonius’ Epistles. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Review by Joop van Waarden.

Hernández Lobato, Jesús. 2020. “Sidonius in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.” Chapter 22 (pp. 665-685) in Kelly & van Waarden (2020).

Kelly, Gavin. 2020. “Dating the Works of Sidonius.” Chapter 3 (pp. 166-194) in Kelly & van Waarden (2020).

Kelly, Gavin, and Joop van Waarden. 2020. The Edinburgh Companion to Sidonius Apollinaris. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Reviews by Tabea L. Meurer and by Lena Walhgren-Smith.

MacDonald, Eve. 2000. Representations of Women in Sidonius Apollinaris and Gregory of Tours: Coniuges et Reginae. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Ottawa. Deposited at National Library of Canada / Bibliothèque nationale du Canada.

Mathisen, Ralph W, ed. and trans. 1999. Ruricius of Limoges and Friends: A Collection of Letters from Visigothic Gaul . Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press.

Mathisen, Ralph W. 2003. People, Personal Expression, and Social Relations in Late Antiquity. 2 volumes. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Volume 1. Reviews by M.A. Claussen and by Guy Halsall.

Mathisen, Ralph. 2020. “Sidonius’ People.” Chapter 2 (pp. 29-165) in Kelly & van Waarden (2020). Alternate source.

Van Waarden, Joop. 2009. Writing to survive: A commentary on Sidonius Apollinaris, Letters Book 7, Volume 1: The episcopal letters 1-11. Ph.D. Thesis, Amsterdam Institute for Humanities Research, Universiteit van Amsterdam. Review by Robin Whelan. Corrections and continuation.

Ziolkowski, Jan M. 1984. “Avatars of Ugliness in Medieval Literature.” The Modern Language Review. 79 (1): 1-20.

silence in medieval romance about women inheriting property

In the horrific Trojan War, thousands of men were slaughtered for the sake of one woman, Helen of Troy. That massive gender inequality in social value has long been treated with silence. Women’s romantic relationships and women’s rights have been of much more social concern than men’s deaths.[1] The medieval Romance of Silence {Roman de Silence} narrates such gender injustice in a story centered on English women losing the right to inherit property and then regaining it.

King Evans of England and King Begon of Norway were engaged in a terrible war. This war had arisen from a trivial dispute that the Roman de Silence doesn’t specify. A thoughtful person might speculate that King Begon or one of his ministers had said something offensive about English women. King Evans was unmarried. Perhaps someone disparaged English women in taunting King Evans for being unmarried.

Whatever the trivial dispute, it led to terrible violence and destruction. The romance narrator Master Heldris of Cornwall said that this war “had lasted a very long time {dura moult longes}.” He explained:

It began over something trivial.
Then many houses were set on fire,
so many cities were put to the torch,
and so many feet and thighs sliced,
and so many people wretchedly scattered.
At that time the country was devastated such
that I cannot recount to you half of it.

{ Et sorst par petite oquoison.
Puis en arst on mainte maison,
Tante vile en fu mise en flamme,
Et colpé tant pié, tante hance,
Et tante gens caitive esparse
Dont la contreë en est arse
Que nel vos puis demi conter. }[2]

This genderless description obscures the reality that this war, like almost all wars, was institutionally ordered toward violence against men. Moreover, a historically frequent pattern in sacking cities has been to kill the men and take the women and children as captives.[3] Many more men than women almost surely were killed in the war.

One marriage resolved the war. King Begon offered the hand of his beautiful daughter Eufeme to King Evans in exchange for peace and an alliance. King Evans readily agreed:

When he heard this, he was overjoyed.
He replied with refined manners to the messengers:
“Now I have fought very well
and well employed my labor
if I can have her as wife.
There is in the world no more dear one to have.
I so want and so desire
by custom to go from the church to lie down with her.
I have suffered long for love of her.”

{ Quant il l’entent, si est haitiés.
Respont as més com afaitiés:
“Or ai ge moult bien guerriié
Et bien mon traval emploié
Se jo a feme puis avoir;
Il n’a el mont si chier avoir,
Que jo tant aim et tant desir
Par us d’eglise od li gesir.
Piece a l’amors de li me poinst.” }

All of King Evans’s counselors agreed to this peace proposal. None complained that men’s lives had been valued so cheaply relative to the life of this one princess.[4]

Despite the material destruction and deprivation from the war, King Evans spent lavishly on the wedding. Surely many of his men had been wounded in the war and were in need of material assistance. Their wounds must have hurt more when they saw what their wounds had bought:

There was a wedding grand and bountiful,
with all kinds of elegant and dainty dishes.
I don’t know how much it cost —
more than anyone could imagine.
The wedding lasted for twelve months,
because such was then their custom.
Then they had lives of complete joy.

{ Noces i ot grans et plenieres
Od més et daintiés de manieres,
Ne sai que conte la despense,
Car plus i ot que nus ne pense.
Les noces durent .xii. mois,
Car tels estoit adonc lor lois.
Entiere avoit adonques joie }

The men maimed and killed in the war didn’t have lives of complete joy. An extravagantly expensive wedding isn’t a humane ending to a terrible war.

Within the silence of this romance, marriage both ended violence against men and prompted it. After Eufeme and King Evans’s marriage ended the war, two counts married the twin daughters of another count. Both newly married husbands claimed to have married the older twin. The older twin had the right to inherit property from her parents. One husband suggested sharing the inheritance equally. The other husband adamantly refused. He insisted that his wife was the older twin. The two husbands ultimately engaged in a personal duel to determine whose wife had the right to inherit. Both men died in their fight.

This dispute over the two women’s inheritance threatened to cause further violence against men. Grief over the two counts’ deaths made for a dangerous situation among their supporters:

Some wanted to start disputes and kill
out of grief for the counts’ deaths.
Then King Evans became very angry.
“Oh! Oh!” he cried, “Great heavens!
What grief on account of two orphaned girls!
I am certainly very upset
that I have lost my lords.
Henceforth by the faith I owe Saint Peter,
no woman shall ever inherit again
in the kingdom of England
as long as I reign over the land.
Such will be the penalty
for this our suffering.”

{ Alquant se voelent esgrocier
Por duel des contes et ocire.
Or a li rois Ebayns grant ire.
“Ahi! ahi!” fait il. “Chaieles!
Quel duel por .ii. orphenes pucieles!
Que mes barons en ai perdus
J’en sui certes moult esperdus:
Mais, par le foi que doi Saint Pere,
Ja feme n’iert mais iretere
Ens el roiame s’Engletiere,
Por tant com j’aie a tenir tiere.
Et c’en iert ore la venjance
De ceste nostre mesestance.” }

A similar loss could arise from twin sons contesting inheritance. King Evans’s repeal of women’s right to inherit is obviously unreasonable as narrow policy on inheritance. It, however, functions to associate women’s rights with men’s deaths. The ultimate effect is to demonstrate that women’s rights are of more social concern than men’s deaths.

Women’s right to inherit in England was restored after massive violence against men. A woman named Silence, raised as a man so that she would be able to inherit, became a mighty warrior.[5] Then King Evans became embroiled in a ferocious battle to suppress a rebellion:

The hand-to-hand combat was so hot
that even the bravest men were afraid.
The blade of a Poitevin sword
was a bad neighbor to some thousand men
who would never retell in their land
about who was inferior in the war.
But I can well tell you in truth
that I have never heard of a greater martyrdom.
Greater? Bah, by God! How greater?
A thousand men with castles and fiefdoms
were killed, whether they were right or wrong,
about which many other men there also died.

{ La commencierent tel estor
Dont li plus hardis ot paör.
Li brant de l’acier poitevin
Sont a tels .m. si mal voisin,
Ja ne rediront en lor tierre
A cui estait pis de la guerre.
Mais bien vos puis par verté dire
C’aine mais n’oï gregnor martyre.
Gregnor! Ba, Dex! comment gregnor?
.m. per de castials et d’onor
I sont ochis, fust drois u tors,
Dont i a moult des altres mors. }

Silence led thirty French men, all highly skilled knights, in battle on behalf of the king. They killed many rebelling men. When the king was knocked from his horse, Silence helped to rescue him. Then through brutal personal combat, Silence captured the man leading the rebellion. The rebel men subsequently were slaughtered as they fled.

After being feted as a war hero, Silence was revealed to be a woman. In gratitude for her service, King Evans restored women’s right to inherit. He also married Silence. The romance doesn’t indicate that King Evans rewarded any men who served him in the war. King Evans was silent about all the men killed in the war.

Massive violence against men continues without gendered concern. In the U.S., anti-men sexism in military draft registration still exists along with intense, highly selective concern about other issues of gender equality. Neither violence against men nor systemic anti-men sexism have ever been concerns of popular romance within gynocentric society.

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[1] Persons have eagerly believed and disseminated the absurd claim that women have long been been treated as men’s property. For some analysis, see my post on primatology and vegetarianism, particularly note [4]. In reality, marriage has required the woman’s consent, and women have owned property throughout history. The story of Roman de Silence depends on social concern about women inheriting property.

[2] Heldris of Cornwall {Heldris de Cornouaille}, The Romance of Silence {Le Roman de Silence} vv. 149-55, Old French text and English translation (modified) from Roche-Mahdi (1992). Subsequent quotes from Roman de Silence are similarly sourced. I’ve modified Roche-Mahdi’s translation to follow more closely the Old French source.

The previous short quote “had lasted a very long time” is from Roman de Silence v. 148. The subsequent quotes above are from Roman de Silence vv. 177-85 (When he heard this…), 249-55 (There was a wedding…), 306-18 (Some wanted to start disputes …), 5463-74 (The hand-to-hand combat was so hot…).

[3] See, e.g. Deuteronomy 20:13-4; Numbers 31:7, 17-8; 1 Kings 11:15.

[4] Women are complicit in compelling men as a gender to fight in wars. In the medieval romance William of Palermo {Guillaume de Palerne}, the ruling Queen Felise told her men of their obligation to fight for her:

You are my men and my lords.
Thus you should always help me.
I am a woman. I do not know how to wage war,
to belt on a sword, to wear a hauberk,
nor how to endure war.
But you who are, beautiful lords,
men raised on such labor,
do it such as you should.

{ Mi home estes et mi baron;
Si me devés toudis aidier.
Feme sui, ne sai guerroier,
Çaindre espee, hauberc vestir,
Estor ne guerre maintenir.
Mais vos qui estes, biau signor,
Gens norrie de tel labor,
Le faites si com vos devés. }

Guillaume de Palerne, vv. 5038-45, Old French text from Michelant (1876), English translation (modified slightly) from Sconduto (2004).

[5] Roman de Silence hints at how boys are taught to tolerate the pain they feel and socialized to engage in violence against men on behalf of gynocentric society:

He led Silence more often outside
in intense heat in order to make him more masculine.

When Silence practiced wrestling,
jousting, or had a skirmish,
he alone made all his peers tremble.

{ Sel mainne plus sovent el halle
Par cho quel violt faire plus malle.

Quant il joent a le palaistre,
A bohorder, n’a l’escremir,
Il seus fait tols ses pers fremir. }

Roman de Silence, vv. 2473-4, 2494-6.

[image] Pours attacks Alexander while women look on from above. Elephants and castles support Alexander’s force. Illumination on folio 58r of the Alexander Romance in Bodleian Library MS. Bodl. 264, pt. I. A scribe wrote this leaf in Picardian French, the dialect of Flanders, in 1338. The Tournai illuminator Jehan de Grise and his atelier illustrated it in 1344.


Michelant, Henri Victor, ed. 1876. Guillaume de Palerne: Publié d’après le Manuscrit de la Bibliothèque de L’arsenal à Paris. Paris: Firmin-Didot.

Roche-Mahdi, Sarah, ed. and trans. 1992. Silence: A Thirteenth-Century French Romance. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press.

Sconduto, Leslie A. 2004. Guillaume de Palerne: An English Translation of the 12th Century French Verse Romance. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland.

desert monk John the Dwarf learned to be good as man, not angel

Not living with mobile phones embedded in their faces, medieval men were sensitive to sensuous impressions around them. Many medieval men, not surprisingly, ardently loved women.[1] Yet the reality of true, enduring love for women can be difficult for men. So too is a husband’s burden of work. Not surprisingly, some men and women yearn to escape from this world. If they would read the life of the fourth-century desert monk John the Dwarf, they would know that hoping to live without experiencing mundane worldly existence is foolish.

Alas! Alas! Life of the world,
how do you so delight me?
Since you cannot remain with me,
why do you compel me to love you?

Alas! So quickly fleeting life,
more deadly than any wild beast,
since I couldn’t hold you back,
for what have you seduced my heart?

Alas! Life to be called death,
to be hated, not loved,
since no good would ever be in you,
for what do I await your gift?

Life of the world, diseased matter,
more fragile than a rose,
since you would be all weeping,
for what are you so charming to me?

Life of the world, matter of labor,
anxious, full of fear,
since you would be always so wearing,
for what am I grieving for you?

{ Heu! heu! mundi vita,
quare me delectas ita?
Cum non possis mecum stare,
quid me cogis te amare?

Heu! Vita fugitiva,
omni fera plus nosciva,
cum tenere te non queam,
cur seducis mentem meam?

Heu! Vita, mors vocanda,
odienda non amanda,
cum in te sint nulla bona,
cur expecto tua dona?

Vita mundi, res morbosa,
magis fragilis quam rosa,
cum sis tota lacrymosa,
cur es mihi graciosa?

Vita mundi, res laboris,
anxia, plena timoris,
cum sis semper in langore,
cur pro te sum in dolore? }[2]

John the Dwarf {Ἰωάννης Κολοβός} was born about 339 near Thebes, an ancient Egyptian city. His parents were Christians and poor. John told his older brother that he wished to live free from life’s demands:

“I wish,” he said, “to live as carefree as an angel,
not to need clothing nor food from work of human hands.”

{ “Volo” dicebat “vivere secure sicut angelus,
nec veste nec cibo frui, qui laboretur manibus.” }[3]

John sought to live like an angel in the wilderness. Like the Lombard wife warning her husband against attacking a snail, John’s older brother counseled him:

The older said: “I warn you not to begin hastily,
brother, what it might be wiser for you not to have started.”
But the younger declared: “He who doesn’t fight, neither falls nor triumphs.”
And naked he moves into the interior wilderness.

{ Maior dicebat: “Moneo, ne sis incepti properus,
frater, quod tibi postmodum sit non cepisse sacius.”
At minor: “Qui non dimicat, non cadit neque superat”
ait et nudus heremum interiorem penetrat. }

The older brother offered the timeless wisdom of a bureaucrat. The younger brother thought like the irrational warrior-hero Achilles.

The younger brother survived in the wilderness for seven days by feeding on grass. Then late on the eighth day, starving, he returned to the house of his older brother. He knocked on the door and called out that he was John and that he needed food:

From within the other responds: “John has become an angel.
He marvels at the poles of Heaven. He cares no more for mortals.”

{ Respondit ille deintus: “Iohannes factus angelus
miratur celi cardines, ultra non curat homines.” }

The older brother didn’t treat his younger brother like the biblical father did his prodigal son. John spent that night sleeping outside the door of his older brother’s house.

The next day John’s older brother let him come inside. The older brother rebuked him:

If you are a man, you must have work to labor once again so you would be fed and live.

{ Si homo es, opus habes iterum operari ut pascaris et vivas }[4]

John repented his attempt to live like an angel:

Doing penance, he said, “Forgive me, brother, for I have sinned.”

{ ille poenitentiam agens, dixit: “Ignosce mihi, frater, quia peccavi.” }[5]

The poetic version of John the Dwarf’s attempt to live as an angel concludes poignantly:

Since he could not be an angel, he learned to be good as a man.

{ cum angelus non potuit, vir bonus esse didicit. }[6]

Men need not attempt to become angels or women. Men can be good as men.

There peace will be eternal
and joy established,
the flower and grace of youth,
and perfect health.

No one is able to ponder
how much one will be exulting
dwelling then in Heaven
and reigning with angels.

Call me to this reign,
just judge, you who deign.
That I await, that I request,
towards that I anxiously sigh.

{ Ibi pax erit perennis
et laetitia solemnis,
flos et decus juventutis,
et perfectio salutis.

Nemo potest cogitare
quantum erit exultare.
tunc in coelis habitare
et cum angelis regnare.

Ad hoc regnum me vocare.
juste judex, tu dignare,
quem expecto, quem requiro,
ad quem anxius suspiro. }[7]

Saint John the Dwarf

John the Dwarf lived an austere life in the fourth-century Egyptian desert. He was humble enough to realize that he couldn’t live as an angel. He lived as a good man who came to be regarded as a saint.

In the journey of our life, if you find yourself in a dark wilderness, you must continue to eat and drink and defecate and urinate so as to go through to the light. Human life is necessarily life in this world.

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[1] Writing in 56 BGC, Cicero astutely observed:

So if by chance you find any man who despises the sight of beautiful things, whom neither scent nor touch nor taste seduces, whose ears are deaf to all sweet sounds — such a man perhaps I and some few will account Heaven’s favorite, but most will regard him as the object of its wrath.

{ Quam ob rem si quem forte inveneritis, qui aspernetur oculis pulchritudinem rerum, non odore ullo, non tactu, non sapore capiatur, excludat auribus omnem suavitatem, huic homini ego fortasse et pauci deos propitios, plerique autem iratos putabunt. }

Cicero, For Caelius {Pro Caelio} 17 (42), Latin text and English translation (modified slightly) from Gardner (1958). Here’s an alternate, freely available English translation of the whole speech. Cicero had in mind young men’s love for alluring women like the Roman courtesan Clodia.

[2] “Alas! Alas! Life of the world {Heu! heu! mundi vita},” vv. 1-20 (of 400), Latin text from Du Méril (1847) p. 108, my English translation, benefiting from that of Waddell & Corrigan (1976) p. 295. Du Méril’s text comes from a manuscript written in the twelfth century: Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, lat. 2389, folios 37r-38r. Two other medieval manuscript instances are known. An excerpt appears in Salimbene de Adam’s chronicle for the 1160s. This poem apparently has a variant that begins “Alas! Alas! Evil is the life of the world {Heu! Heu! mala mundi vita}.”

This poem has been attributed to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (based only on temporal and thematic relevance), to the thirteenth-century Franciscan friar Jacopone da Todi / Peter Gonella of Tortona (impossible; poem was known in the twelfth century), and to the great twelfth-century poet Hugh Primas. Salimbene attributed it to Primas. That’s the most plausible authorial attribution.

Du Méril titled this poem “About the miseries of the human life {Des misères de la vie humaine}.” He described it as “the most complete and the most lofty expression of the monastic spirit {la plus complète et la plus haute expresion de l’esprit monastique}.” Du Méril (1847) p. 108, note 1. This poem is a biblical cento.

A thematically similar poem “Short are man’s days {Breves dies hominis}” has a refrain “life of the world {mundi vita}.” “Breves dies hominis” was copied into folio 19r of Tours, Bibliothèque municipale MS 927 between 1225 and 1250. Chaguinian (2017) pp. 94-5, 173.

[3] Cambridge Songs {Carmina cantabrigiensia} 42, title (varies by manuscript) “About Father John {De Iohanne abbate},” incipit “In the deeds of the ancient fathers I read a certain amusing story {In gestis patrum veterum quoddam legi ridiculum},” stanza 3 (of 13), Latin text and English translation (modified slightly) from Ziolkowski (1994) pp. 118-9. The Latin abbas was used in its original meaning of “father,” not “abbot.” Id. p. 296.

The author and date of this particular poem about John the Dwarf isn’t known for certain. The oldest manuscript containing it dates from the eleventh century. The poem has been attributed to Bishop Fulbert of Chartres, who lived from c. 960 to 1028, but that attribution is contested. The poem seems to have been composed in France in ecclesiastical circumstances. Ziolkowski (1994) p. 295.

The underlying story comes from the ancient Greek life of John the Dwarf. At age 18, John went into the northern Egyptian desert Scetis (Wadi El Natrun) and studied Christianity under Father Pambo for twelve years. He was ordained as a Christian priest and became the founding abbot of a monastery. John is a spiritual figure renowned for his asceticism and obedience. Ward stated that the story of John wanting to live as an angel “clearly belongs to his youth at home before he became a monk.” Ward (1984) p. 73.

The influential life of John the Dwarf was translated from ancient Greek into many languages. Among the first translations were into Syriac, Coptic, Arabic, and Latin. For an English translation of the ancient Greek life of John the Dwarf, Ward (1984) pp. 73-82. The story of John trying to live as an angel is chapter 2 in the Greek life. For the Arabic life with an English translation, Davis (2008). The story there is section 10, chapter 34 (id. p. 152). The story was incorporated into the Latin Lives of the Fathers {Vitas patrum / Vitae patrum} as part of Book 10 (On discretion {De discretione}), saying 27, available in Patrologia Latina 73.916D-17A and Ziolkowski (1994) pp. 294-5. On Latin translations of ancient Greek texts, Vaiopoulos (2016).

The subsequent two quotes above are similarly from Carmina cantabrigiensia 42. They are stanzas 4-5 (The older said…) and 9 (From within the other responds…).

[4] From Jacobus de Voragine, Golden Legend {Legenda Aurea}, chapter 171, “About the holy Father John {De sancto Iohanne abbate},” Latin text from Maggioni (2007) p. 101. Vitae patrum has slightly different text: “If you are a man, you must have work to labor once again so that you would live {Si homo es, opus habes iterum operari, ut vivas}.”

[5] Vitae patrum 10.27, Latin text and English translation (modified slightly) from Ziolkowski (1994) p. 295.

[6] Carmina cantabrigiensia 42, 13.2, Latin text and English translation (modified slightly) from Ziolkowski (1994) pp. 120-1.

[7] “Heu! heu! mundi vita,” last three stanzas, Latin text from Du Méril (1847) p. 121, my English translation, benefiting from those of Brownlie (1896) and Charles (1858) p. 191. Charles titled the poem “One’s days, days of life {Dies illa, Dies vitae}.”

[image] Saint John the Dwarf (John Kolovos) depicted in an eleventh-century mosaic in the Daphni Monastery near Athens, Greece. This mosaic is in the monastery nave on the vault over the south-west bay. Source image via Wikimedia Commons.


Brownlie, John, trans. 1896. Hymns of the Early Church: Being Translations From the Poetry of the Latin Church, Arranged in the Order of the Christian Year. J. Nisbet: London.

Charles, Elizabeth Rundle. 1858. The Voice of Christian Life in Song; or, hymns and hymn-writers of many lands and ages. London: J. Nisbet.

Chaguinian, Christophe, ed. 2017. The Jeu d’Adam: MS Tours 927 and the Provenance of the Play. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications.

Davis, Stephen J. 2008. “The Arabic Life of St. John the Little.” Coptica. 7: 1-185

Du Méril, Edélestand, ed. 1847. Poésies Populaires Latines Du Moyen Age: Latina Quae Medium Per Aevum in Triviis Nec Non Monasteriis Vulgabantur Carmina. Paris, Leipsick: Firmin Didot Frères; A. Franck. Alternate instance.

Gardner, R. 1958, trans. Cicero. Pro Caelio. De Provinciis Consularibus. Pro Balbo. Loeb Classical Library 447. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Maggioni, Giovanni Paolo. 2007. Jacobus de Voragine. Legenda Aurea {Golden Legend}. 2nd revised edition. Tavarnuzze-Firenze: SISMEL Edizioni del Galluzzo.

Vaiopoulos, Vaios. 2016. “Latin translations of Greek texts in Middle-Ages. Some characteristic cases.” Paper presented at Profilingua 2016. University of West Bohemia, Pilsen, Czech Republic.

Waddell Helen, trans. and Felicitas Corrigan, ed. 1976. More Latin Lyrics from Virgil to Milton. London: Gollancz.

Ward, Benedicta. 1984. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: the alphabetical collection. Rev. ed. Kalamazoo, Mich: Cistercian Publications.

Ziolkowski, Jan M. 1994. The Cambridge Songs (Carmina Cantabrigiensia). New York: Garland. Introduction.

captive among Burgundians, Sidonius too sad to sing marriage

Living in the Gaulish city of Lyon in the early 460s, the Roman public official and poet Sidonius Apollinaris quartered Germanic Burgundians in his house. The Burgundians could serve as allies in Roman imperial intrigues and against invading Vandals and Visigoths. Sidonius apparently imagined that he had entered with the Burgundians a contubernium, a Roman quasi-marital relationship between a free citizen and a slave.[1] He was the slave and the woman to the Burgundian man. In that condition of exile from his Roman culture and Roman manhood, Sidonius lacked the strength to write a wedding song for his eminent Roman friend Catullinus. Sidonius imagined himself as being like the Jews, God’s chosen bride in Jewish understanding, living in exile in Babylon as represented in Psalm 137.

Why, as if I had the strength, do you order me
to compose a playful song honoring Venus?
I am among long-haired tentfuls
and enduring German words while
praising repeatedly with cringing face
what the gluttonous Burgundian sings,
he pouring upon his hair rancid butter!
Do you wish that I tell you what destroys poetry?
From this barbarian plucking is driven
my Thalia who has spurned the six-foot meter
since she saw these seven-foot patrons.
Happy are your eyes and ears,
happy too, one is pleased to call the nose
to which no garlic bulbs and foul onions
are belched out in the new morning from ten breakfasts,
and one not being as a little old grandfather or
a wet-nursing man, whom from the rise of dawn
men all so big as to be like giants attack,
such as not even Alcinous’s kitchen could endure.

{ Quid me, etsi valeam, parare carmen
Fescenninicolae iubes Diones
inter crinigeras situm catervas
et Germanica verba sustinentem,
laudantem tetrico subinde vultu
quod Burgundio cantat esculentus,
infundens acido comam butyro?
vis dicam tibi, quid poema frangat?
ex hoc barbaricis abacta plectris
spernit senipedem stilum Thalia,
ex quo septipedes videt patronos.
felices oculos tuos et aures
felicemque libet vocare nasum,
cui non allia sordidumque cepe
ructant mane novo decem apparatus,
quem non ut vetulum patris parentem
nutricisque virum die nec orto
tot tantique petunt simul Gigantes,
quot vix Alcinoi culina ferret. }[2]

Sidonius Apollinaris writing

Sidonius laments his inability to sing a wedding song with poignant gender contrasts. The ancient Mediterranean world admired long hair in women, but not in men.[3] The long-haired Burgundian men, however, are tall, a manly attribute attractive to women. Sidonius figures himself being as weak as a “little old grandfather {vetulus patris parens}” and as feminine as a “wet-nursing man {nutricis vir}.” The crude Burgundian men devour food as do those engaged in physically demanding, male-gendered work such as plowing, heavy construction, and fighting. Moreover, the Burgundian men have no sense for the luxurious cosmetics that women typically prize much more than do men. Human societies, and primate social groups more generally, usually are centered on women. “Uncivilized” behavior, in contrast, tends to be associated with men. Sidonius’s classical Roman muse Thalia, a woman, flees from the Burgundian men. They are perhaps obtusely singing hexameter songs of epic violence against men.[4]

Sidonius apparently knew the experience of being gender-subordinate within the home. Gregory of Tours reported:

Without his wife knowing, Sidonius would remove almost all the silver vessels from their home and disburse them to the poor. When his wife became aware, she was scandalized by it. But then he would give the value to the needy in money and restore the wares to their home.

{ plerumque nesciente coniuge vasa argentea auferebat a domo et pauperibus erogabat. Quod illa cum cognosceret, scandalizabatur in eum, sed tamen, dato egenis pretio, species domi restituebat. }[5]

A Roman husband nominally had higher status than his wife. But she ruled their home just as the Burgundians ruled Sidonius’s home.

Sidonius’s reference to Alcinous’s kitchen is best understood to refer to Alcinous hosting Jason, Medea, and the Argonauts, and then the pursuing Colchians. The Colchians, whom the Greeks regarded as barbarians, demanded that the Argonauts give the Colchian woman Medea to them. The host Alcinous declared that Medea would go with the Colchians if she hadn’t consummated a marriage with Jason. Swayed by Medea’s pleading, Alcinous’s shrewd wife arranged for Medea and Jason to consummate immediately their marriage. Thus a consummated marriage served as an excuse for Alcinous to dismiss the barbarian Cochians’ demand. Since the marriage of his friend Catullinus was still pending, Sidonius had no such excuse for turning away the barbarian Burgundians.[6]

Having imagined himself as old and female in relation to the Burgundians, Sidonius tellingly provided them with law. A shrewd, flexible mind and cultural authority have wide-ranging value. Writing about the year 474 to his friend Syagrius, Sidonius declared:

How inexpressibly amazed I am that you have seized knowledge of the German tongue with such ease. And yet I remember that your boyhood included good schooling in liberal Roman studies. I know for certain that you often declaimed with spirit and eloquence before your professor of oratory. This being so, I would like you to tell me how you have managed to absorb so swiftly into your inner being the exact sounds of an alien race. After reading Virgil under the schoolmaster’s cane and toiling through the rich fluency of the varicose man Cicero from Arpinum, now you have burst forth before my eyes like a young falcon from an old nest.

{ quantum stupeam sermonis te Germanici notitiam tanta facilitate rapuisse. atqui pueritiam tuam competenter scholis liberalibus memini imbutam et saepenumero acriter eloquenterque declamasse coram oratore satis habeo compertum. atque haec cum ita sint, velim dicas, unde subito hauserunt pectora tua euphoniam gentis alienae, ut modo mihi post ferulas lectionis Maronianae postque desudatam varicosi Arpinatis opuentiam loquacitatemque quasi de harilao vetere novus falco prorumpas? }[7]

Defensively deploying wit like Cato the Elder confronting demands for more men teachers in elementary schools, Sidonius explained:

You have no idea what amusement it gives me, and others too, when I hear that in your presence the barbarian is afraid to perpetrate a barbarism in his own language. The bent elders of the Germans are astounded at you when you translate letters, and they adopt you as umpire and arbitrator in their mutual dealings. You are a new Solon of the Burgundians in discussing the laws, a new Amphion in tuning the lyre, but a three-stringed lyre. You are loved, your company is sought, you are much visited, you delight, you are picked out, you are invited, you decide issues and are heeded. Although these people are stiff and uncouth in body and mind alike, they welcome from you and learn from you their native speech combined with Roman wisdom.

{ aestimari minime potest, quanto mihi ceterisque sit risui, quotiens audio, quod te praesente formidet linguae suae facere barbarus barbarismum. adstupet tibi epistulas interpretanti curva Germanorum senectus et negotiis mutuis arbitrum te disceptatoremque desumit. novus Burgundionum Solon in legibus disserendis, novus Amphion in citharis, sed trichordibus, temperandis, amaris frequentaris, expeteris oblectas, eligeris adhiberis, decernis audiris. et quamquam aeque corporibus ac sensu rigidi sint indolatilesque, amplectuntur in te pariter et discunt sermonem patrium, cor Latinum. }

Sidonius wryly counseled Syagrius:

Only one thing remains, most clever of men: continue with undiminished zeal, even in your hours of ease, to devote some attention to reading. Like the most refined man that you are, observe a just balance between the two languages. Retain grasp of your Latin tongue, lest you be laughed at, and practice the other, in order to have a laugh at them.

{ restat hoc unum, vir facetissime, ut nihilo segnius, vel cum vacabit, aliquid lectioni operis impendas custodiasque hoc, prout es elegantissimus, temperamentum, ut ista tibi lingua teneatur, ne ridearis, illa exerceatur, ut rideas. }

Sidonius apparently followed such advice himself. The epitaph for him praised him for giving law to barbarians:

A leader of troops and a judge in the forum,
calm amid the swelling waves of the world,
constantly moderating the motions of cases,
he gave laws to the barbarian fury.
He brought back peace with considerable
counsel to kingdoms at war.

{ Rector militie forique iudex,
Mundi inter tumidas quietus undas,
Causarum moderans subinde motus
Leges barbarico dedit furori;
Discordantibus inter arma regnis
Pacem consilio reduxit amplo. }[8]

Like the Jewish Joseph rising to become vizier to the Egyptian pharaoh, Sidonius with his mind overcame the crude masculine strength of the Burgundians to become a judge for them.

Jews in captivity in Babylon

In the middle of the twentieth century, the brilliant medievalist Helen Waddell poetically recognized the relationship of Sidonius’s lament to Psalm 137. She began her English adaptation of Sidonius’s poem with:

How should I, even if I could
write you Epithalamium [9]

Those two tetrameter verses are metrically close to a transposed beginning of the King James Version of Psalm 137:

There we sat down, yea we wept,
by the rivers of Babylon [10]

Sidonius all but weeps in his description of the Burgundians occupying his house. His lament for the muse Thalia in Waddell’s adaptation is similarly telling:

How can she write a six-foot line
with seven feet of patron?

That seems to correspond to the Psalm 137 verses:

How shall we sing the Lord’s song
in a strange land?

Waddell’s translation adds an extra foot to the line associated with seven feet. That change, like Sidonius’s original poem, invokes wry laughter. As a Roman facing non-Romans invading Gaul, Sidonius would have pondered the pain of Jews driven from their beloved Jerusalem and lamenting in Babylonian captivity. The humor of Sidonius’s poem shouldn’t be allowed to obscure the question of exile that it presents.

Jewish family in Babylonian exile

Sidonius attempting to compose a wedding song with Burgundians in his house coincides with him beginning to engage more extensively with Christianity. Soon after 461, Sidonius:

occupied himself with Christian concerns in Gaul, attending services at Lyons and sophisticated theological seminars at Vienne, reporting on the activities of bishops, and putting his poetic talents at their service. [11]

Pprobably in the 460s, Sidonius wrote his poem “Thanksgiving to Bishop Faustus of Riez {Eucharisticon ad Faustum Regensem episcopum}.” That poem deeply engages with Hebrew scripture.[12] In a letter securely dated to 468, Sidonius credited Christ as much as his literary style for his recent promotion to the top imperial administrative office, Praefect of Rome {Praefectus Urbi}:

I have atttained to the Praefect office under Christ’s help by the exercise of my literary style.

{ ad praefecturam sub ope Christi stili occasione pervenerim }[13]

Sidonius in 470 was elected Bishop of Clermont-Ferrand. When he died about 489, his epitaph declared:

You who will call on God with tears,
pour out your prayers over his fortunate tomb.
Known to all and read throughout the world,
there by you Sidonius is invoked.

{ Quisque hic cum lacrimis deum rogabis,
Dextrum funde preces super sepulchrum:
Nulli incognitus et legendus orbi
Illic Sidonius tibi invocetur }[14]

This epitaph suggest that Sidonius was invoked as a saint. Gregory of Tours called him “saintly {sanctus}.”[15] Sidonius in fact acquired a feast day as a saint in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar.

Sidonius’s refusal to sing a wedding song with Burgundians in his house retreats into silence for fear of being called satire. The satirical problem in its deepest sense concerns exclusiveness in the relations of persons and peoples. A scholar recently characterized Sidonius’s poem as a “xenophobic portrait of the Burgundians.” In less anachronistic terms, Christians understand all to be children of God — whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female — through faith in Christ.[16] Christians thus shouldn’t feel themselves to be exiled because of differences in language, food, and other aspects of human culture. Christians, however, honor in marriage special, exclusive love for one’s own spouse. Sidonius loved Latin culture exclusively.[17] His refusal to celebrate exclusive love with Burgundians in his house poignantly questions Christian universalism.

Is cultural exile less painful for a Christian than for a Jew? Amid the collapsing Roman Empire, Sidonius Apollinaris hosting Burgundians in his house considered that question. His poem refusing to celebrate marriage is dangerously close to satire on dominant pieties.[18]

Jews by a river in Babylon

* * * * *

Read more:


[1] Sidonius regarded contubernia with disdain. Writing to Bishop Ambrosius, Sidonius disparaged the contubernium that “our dearly beloved man {dilectissimus noster}” had entered with a “slave-woman {ancilla},” “to whom his way of life has totally surrendered itself by obscene habit {se totum consuetudine obscena victus addixerat}.” As Sidonius approvingly explained, this young man, apparently a priest, had broken off his contubernium and married a young woman of lofty character and birth. Sidonius Apollinaris, Letter {Epistola} 9.6, “Sidonius to the Lord Bishop Ambrosius, Greetings {Sidonius Domino Papae Ambrosio salutem},” Latin text from Anderson (1965), my English translation, benefiting from that of id.

[2] Sidonius Apollinaris, Song {Carmen} 12, “Epigram to the Most Notable Man Catullinus, that because of the hostility of barbarians he is unable to write a wedding song {Epigramma ad u.c. Catullinum quod propter hostilitatem barbarorum epithalamium scribere non ualeret},” vv. 1-19 (of 22), Latin text from Anderson (1936), my English translation, benefiting from that of id. The poem’s title is from Kelly (2021), with my English translation. Here’s a version of Sidonius’s poems with metrical scansion. Sidonius’s works survive in substantial form in seventy-seven manuscripts. On the manuscript record for Sidonius, Dolveck (2020).

The title “Most Notable Man {vir clarissimus / u.c.} is a senatorial title ranking below “Illustrious Man {vir illustris}” and “Admirable Man {vir spectabilis}, respectively.

Sidonius literally refers to songs of “Fescennine celebration {Fescenninicola}.” Those are playfully crude songs associated with wedding celebrations. He also literally refers to Dione, another name for the classical love goddess Venus.

Sidonius apparently composed this poem in the early 460s. That dating is based on its reference to satire in its last verse. Sidonius was accused of writing satire in a public dispute in 461. See Sidonius, Letter {Epistola} 1.11, “Sidonius to his friend Montius, Greetings {Sidonius Montio suo Salutem}.” For the connection to Carmen 12, Stevens (1933) p. 66. The leading current analysis of dating Sidonius’s compositions states that Carmen 12 “probably” dates to 461 “or soon after.” Kelly (2020) p. 171.

Burgundians are well attested in Lyon in 457. In that year the western Roman Emperor Majorian expelled them from that city. Wood (2021) p. 119. The Visigoth military leader Ricimer arranged to have Majorian killed in 461. By 463, the Burgundian leader Gundioc was serving Rome as “Master of Soldiers {Magister Militum}” in Gaul. Id. p. 120. That suggests a return of Burgundian presence in Lyon sometime between 461 and 463. Wood described Sidonius as “carefully obscuring the extent to which he and his family worked with the Burgundian magistri militum.” Id. p. 136.

[3] Disparaging Seronatus, Sidonius declares:

He has judged it particularly beautiful to make the condemned ugly before punishing them: he makes men grow their hair long and cuts short women’s hair.

{ praecipue pulchrum arbitratus ante turpare quam punire damnandos; crinem viris nutrit, mulieribus incidit }

Sidonius, Epistola 5.13, “Sidonius to his friend Pannychius, Greetings {Sidonius Pannychio suo salutem},” Latin text and English translation (modified) from Anderson (1965).

[4] Sidonius wrote two wedding songs {epithalamia}, Carmina 11 and 15, both in hexameters. The muse Thalia, whose name means literally “flourishing,” is associated with hendecasyllable poetry of comedy and idyll. Sidonius wrote Carmen 12 in hendecasyllables.

[5] Gregory of Tours, History of the Franks {Historia Francorum} 2.22, Latin text from Krusch (1884), my English translation, benefiting from that of Thorpe (1974).

Sidonius’s wife Papianilla probably overshadowed him in family wealth and political power. They married about 452. She was a member of an aristocratic land-owning family based in Clermont. Her father was Eparchius Avitus, who ruled as the Western Roman Emperor from 455 to 456. Sidonius himself was born in Lyons to an aristocratic Roman family, but after his marriage to Papianilla he made Clermont his home. His wife’s family seems to have been more important to him than his natal family. Harries (1994) p. 174. Sidonius as a young man, about age 25, delivered to the Senate in Rome a panegyric to his father-in-law, Emperor Avitus. Papianilla and Sidonius’s marriage furthered their social and political goals. No surviving evidence indicates that they had an intimate emotional relationship. Mascoli (2016).

[6] On Alcinous, the Argonauts, and the Colchians, Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 4.990–1225 and Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1.9.25–26.

The reference to ten breakfasts suggests that Sidonius was hosting a contubernium (“tentful”) of Burgundian soldiers. The contubernium was a Roman, not Burgundian, military unit. The allusion to a contubernium is best understood to invoke an alternate meaning of contubernium: a marriage between a free Roman citizen and a slave.

Mratschek associated the reference to Alcinous’s kitchen to Alcinous hosting Odysseus. Mratschek (2020) pp. 23-4. But a central tension in that episode is Odysseus declining to marry the young, lovely Nausicaa. The hasty marriage of Medea and Jason after the armed, barbarian Colchians arrived Alcinous’s court seems to me a more telling allusion.

[7] Sidonius, Epistola 5.5, “Sidonius to his friend Syagrius, greetings {Sidonius Syagrio suo salutem},” Latin text and English translation (modified slightly) from Anderson (1965). For an alternate English translation, Dalton (1915). The subsequent two quotes above are similarly sourced from Epistola 5.5.

[8] Epitaph of Sidonius, Latin text from Montzamir (2017) Figure 4, English translation (modified slightly) from Wood (2021) p. 124, n. 125. On the new manuscript evidence concerning Sidonius’s epitaph, Furbetta (2015). On Sidonius giving law to the Burgundians, Wood (2021) pp. 123-5, Wood (2017) pp. 13-5.

[9] Waddell (1948) p. 21, reprinted in Waddell & Corrigan (1976) p. 87. Waddell presented this poem in the context of the sack of Troy:

Apollinaris Sidonius, Roman patrician and Bishop in Auvergne, was head and front of the Résistance when the Burgundians came, was captured by them, held a year in prison, released, and adored by them to the day of his death. But in the interval, a friend writes asking him to compose an Epithalamium for a marriage feast. Here is his reply. … It is a cartoon, in little, of the power in barbarian Europe of a conquered Rome.

Waddell (1948) pp. 20-1. Nebuchadnezzar’s sack of Jerusalem and the Jews’ Babylonian captivity fits well into Waddell’s context, but she didn’t mention it.

Few have been as effective as Helen Waddell in making medieval Latin poetry attractive to modern readers. While her English version of Sidonius’s song isn’t a faithful translation, it’s an interesting and insightful translation.

[10] The full text of Psalm 137 in the King James Version is readily available online. In the ninth century, the Germanic poet Gottschalk of Orbais more directly referred to Psalm 137 in his poem that begins:

How are you commanding me, little boy,
for what are you telling me, little son,
to sing a sweet song,
while I am far away in exile,
within this sea?
O why are you commanding me to sing?

{ Ut quid iubes, pusiole,
quare mandas, filiole,
carmen dulce me cantare,
cum sim longe exul valde
intra mare?
o cur iubes canere? }

Latin text from The Gottschalk Homepage, my English translation, benefiting from that of Godman (1985), p. 229. Perhaps Sidonius’s Carmen 12 partly inspired Gottschalk’s “Ut quid iubes, pusiole.” Sidonius’s works were known in early medieval France, but seemed to have “left little imprint on literature.” Hernández Lobato (2020) p. 666.

[11] Harries (2018).

[12] Sidonius’s “Thanksgiving {Eucharisticon}” / Carmen 16 (title from Kelly (2021) apparently was published as part of a book of minor poems in the mid-460s. Kelly (2020) p. 194. The dating of “Eucharisticon” could be from the mid-450s to the mid-460s. Kelly lists “early 460s?” Id. pp. 172, 174. Following older scholarship, Daly dates it “c. 465.” Daly (2000) p. 21.

Sidonius’s “Eucharisticon” is well-understood as a chapter added to Mamertus Claudianus’s About the Nature of the Soul {De statu animae}. Daly (2000) p. 23. Mamertus Claudianus, who was Sidonius’s contemporary, was a highly regarded Christian thinker in Gaul. See Sidonius, Epistola 4.11, analyzed in John (2022). Sidonius apparently had advanced to a similarly high level of Christian thought:

Internal evidence strongly suggests that his {Sidonius’s} sixteenth poem was an impressively original expansion of and commentary on insights that, in simpler, unrelated form, the friendly converse and the catechetical instruction of another close friend, Faustus of Riez, had originally shared with him. If so it must have assured Faustus that the baptism that he had adjudged Sidonius ready to receive was, by his mid-thirties, broadening and deepening its force in his life as he grew in his understanding of the Christian religion and moved toward becoming a conversus and a bishop.

Daly (2000) p. 71.

Sidonius’s grandfather Apollinaris, who served as Praetorian Praefect of Gaul under Roman Emperor Constantine III in 408, was the first in Sidonius’s male lineage to convert to Christianity. In his epitaph for Apollinaris, Sidonius called his illustrious grandfather’s conversion to Christianity his grandfather’s “greatest honor {maxima dignitas}.” Sidonius, Epistola 3.12, “Sidonius to his dear Secundus, Greetings {Sidonius secundo suo salutem}.” Sidonius’s grandfather was buried in Lyon in the Basilica of Saint-Just that Bishop Patiens of Lyon had constructed. On that major church, Epistola 2.10.

Sidonius’s Christian commitment has been devalued in the modern period. Stevens claimed that Sidonius lacked theological knowledge. Stevens (1933) pp. 132, 136. Modern historians have tended to view Sidonius as a “predominately secular figure.” Daly (2000) p. 20. “Studies of Sidonius and religion, however, have been rather lacking, especially more recently.” Mathisen (2018), which doesn’t cite Daly (2000) and omits piety-oriented verses of Sidonius’s epitaph. In modern narrative fiction drawing upon Sidonius’s life, “almost invariably, very little space is devoted in these novels to Sidonius’ role as a committed Christian, a bishop, clergyman, and future saint.” Giannotti (2020), p. 729.

[13] Sidonius, Epistola 1.9, “Sidonius to his friend Heronius, greetings {Sidonius Heronio suo salutem},” Latin text and English translation (modified) from Anderson (1936).

[14] Epitaph of Sidonius, Latin text from Montzamir (2017) Figure 4, English translation (modified slightly) from Wood (2021) p. 124, n. 125.

[15] Gregory of Tours, History of the Franks {Historia Francorum} 2.22, Latin text from Krusch (1884). For an English translation of Historia Francorum, Thorpe (1974). Sidonius’s feast day in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar is August 21.

[16] Mratschek (2020) p. 21 (“xenophobic portrait of the Burgundians”). Cf. Galations 3:25-29. Sidonius had a particularly Roman sense of universality. He described Rome as “the one political entity in the whole world where only barbarians and slaves are foreigners {unica totius orbis civitate soli barbari et servi peregrinantur}.” Epistola 1.6, “Sidonius to his friend Eutropius, greetings {Sidonius Eutropio suo salutem},” Latin text from Anderson (1936), my English translation.

Sidonius explicitly referred to satire. His recusatio from composing an epithalamium for Catallinus ends:

But already my Muse is silent and pulls on reins
after only a few jesting hendecasyllables,
lest anyone should call even these lines satire.

{ Sed iam Musa tacet tenetque habenas
paucis hendecasyllabis iocata,
ne quisquam satiram vel hos vocaret. }

Sidonius, Carmen 12, vv. 20-2, Latin text and English translation (modified slightly) from Anderson (1936). Composing personally offensive satire was illicit. Before Emperor Majorian in Arles in 461, Paeonius falsely accused Sidonius of writing such satire. See Sidonius, Epistola 1.11, “Sidonius to his friend Montius, greetings {Sidonius Montio suo Salutem}.”

Mratschek interpreted Sidonius’s recusatio as alluding to “Ovid’s aphasia in exile in barbarous Tomis.” Mratschek (2020) p. 20. But Sidonius’s poem as a whole has little substantial contact with Ovid’s elegy. Mratschek perceived contemporary relevance of this recusatio in targeting Gundioc, the king of the Burgundians:

On the metapoetic level, what Catullinus received from Sidonius was not an innocuous wedding poem but a politically incorrect satire targeting Gundioc, king of Burgundy, who had reoccupied Lyon after the fall of Majorian and had been appointed to replace Aegidius as magister militum Galliarum. Gundioc, married to a sister of Ricimer, made Lyon his new capital and seized the provinces of Gallia Lugdunensis I, now Burgundy, and, in 463, Gallia Viennensis, the Rhône corridor. Sidonius’s twist in the last line is covertly a subversive criticism of the regime, its focus the final extinction of the genre under Majorian’s barbarian successors.

Id. p. 25 (footnotes omitted). Sidonius apparently had good relations with Gundioc and other Burgundian leaders. Wood (2021) pp. 122-6. Sidonius’s concern about writing satire seems to me better situated in relation to his allusion to Psalm 137.

[17] Early in the fifth century, the Gaul Rutilius Namatianus regarded Rome as a mother to Romans. Sidonius similarly seems to have regarded Rome as his mother. Harries argued:

A champion of Latin letters and Roman aristocratic values, Sidonius was also for most of his career an advocate of co-operation with the Goths of Aquitaine. Both a career politician and an ardent Christian, Sidonius in his writings reveals the confusion of loyalties afflicting an aristocracy under threat and the compromises necessary for survival. … For Sidonius, the conflict was not between Christianity and pagan classicism but between Roman culture, which he identified with the classical tradition, and barbarism.

Harries (1994), from book blurb and p. 3. Mratschek concluded:

On closer examination Sidonius’ references to the past are in no way as transparent as they seem to be: ‘they project everything to do with Sidonius himself and his personal experiences in a way that suggests they are viewed behind a mask or in a mirror’.

Mratschek (2013) p. 268, quoting Küppers (2005), p. 260. Sidonius was like a Jew, but one whose holy city was Rome and whose holy land included Roman Gaul. The central conflict in Carmen 12 seems to me to be between Sidonius’s exclusive love for Roman culture and his Christian faith.

Schlapbach highlighted that Sidonius is “decidedly self-conscious in more than one way.” She perceived formal tension in Sidonius’s recusatio from the Fescennine verses of epithalamium: “this poem claims to be neither a conventional wedding song nor a satire, but in some oblique way it is both.” Schlapbach (2020) pp. 45, 57. The poem is a wedding song in the sense that it depicts an unpleasant and undesired marriage between Sidonius and the Burgundians. The poem’s satire reflects upon Sidonius’s developing Christianity.

[18] van Waarden observed:

Elements of satire and invective as well as a broad array of all kinds of humour play an important role in Sidonius’ work. … Often, a critical (political) message seems to lurk below the innocent surface

van Waarden (2022) p. 1022. The political matter of fifth-century Roman imperial collapse was also a Christian matter.

[images] (1) Sidonius Apollinaris writing. Illumination at the beginning of a twelfth-century manuscript of Sidonius’s works. From folio 1r of Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, MS. Plutei 45.26. (2) Jews in captivity in Babylon. Illumination for Psalm 137 on folio 78v of the mid-ninth-century Chludov Psalter. Preserved as Moscow, Hist. Mus. MS. D.129. Via Wikimedia Commons. (3) Jewish family in Babylonian exile. Painting on a dome in the library of the Palais-Bourbon in Paris. Painted by Eugène Delacroix between about 1837 to 1848. Via Wikimedia Commons. (4) Jews in exile by a river in Babylon. Painted by Gebhard Fugel c. 1920. Via Wikimedia Commons.


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Dalton, O.M. 1915. The Letters of Sidonius. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Vol. 1, Vol. 2. Both volumes in web-native form.

Daly, William M. 2000. “An Adverse Consensus Questioned: Does Sidonius’s Euchariston (Carmen XVI) Show That He Was Scripturally Naïve?” Traditio. 55: 19–71.

Dolveck, Franz. 2020. “The Manuscript Tradition of Sidonius.” Chapter 16 (pp. 479-507) in Kelly & van Waarden (2020). Addendum.

Furbetta, Luciana. 2015. “L’epitaffio di Sidonio Apollinare in un nuovo testimone manoscritto.” Euphrosyne: Revista de Filologia Classica. 43: 243-254.

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Giannotti. Filomena. 2020. “Sidonius Reception: Late Nineteenth to Twenty-First Centuries.” Chapter 24 (pp. 705-729) in Kelly & van Waarden (2020).

Harries, Jill. 1994. Sidonius Apollinaris and the Fall of Rome, AD 407-485. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Harries, Jill. 2018. “Sidonius Apollinaris (c. 430 – c. 489).” Entry in The Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Hernández Lobato, Jesús. 2020. “Sidonius in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.” Chapter 22 (pp. 665-685) in Kelly & van Waarden (2020).

John, Alison. 2022. “(Mis)Identifying Teachers in Late Antique Gaul: Sidonius’ Ep. 4.11, Mamertus Claudianus and Classical vs. Christian Education.” Mnemosyne. 75: 996-1020.

Kelly, Gavin. 2020. “Dating the Works of Sidonius.” Chapter 3 (pp. 166-194) in Kelly & van Waarden (2020).

Kelly, Gavin. 2021. “An Edition of the Paratexts of Sidonius’ Poems.” Posted online March 27, 2021 at

Kelly, Gavin, and Joop van Waarden. 2020. The Edinburgh Companion to Sidonius Apollinaris. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Reviews by Tabea L. Meurer and by Lena Walhgren-Smith.

Krusch, Bruno, ed. 1884. Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingiciarum 1.1, Gregorii Episcopi Turonensis Historiarum Libri X. Hannover: Hahn.

Küppers, Jochem. 2005. “Autobiographisches in den Briefen des Apollinaris Sidonius.” Pp. 251-277 in Michael Reichel, ed. Antike Autobiographien. Werke – Epochen – Gattungen, Europäische Geschichtsdarstellungen 5. Cologne: Böhlau.

Mascoli, Patrizia. 2016. “Sidonio Marito e Vescovo: Matrimonio e Interesse Nella Gallia del V Secolo.” Classica et Christiana. 11: 193-199.

Mathisen, Ralph W. 2018. “Sidonius Apollinaris.” Entry in David G. Hunter, Paul J.J. van Geest, Bert Jan Lietaert Peerbolte, eds. Brill Encyclopedia of Early Christianity. Online.

Montzamir, Patrice. 2017. “Du nouveau sur l’épitaphe attribuée à Sidoine Apollinaire.” XXXIXe Réunion Association pour l’Antiquité Tardive, Jun 2017, Clermont-Ferrand, France. halshs-02275957.

Mratschek, Sigrid. 2013. “Creating Identity from the Past: The Construction of History in the Letters of Sidonius.” Chapter 13 (pp. 249-271) in Joop van Waarden and Gavin Kelly, eds. New Approaches to Sidonius Apollinaris. Leuven: Peeters. Another online instance.

Mratschek, Sigrid. 2020. “The Silence of the Muses in Sidonius Apollinaris (Carm. 12–13, Ep. 8.11): Aphasia and the Timelessness of Poetic Inspiration.” Journal of Late Antiquity. 13 (1):10–43.

Schlapbach, Karin. 2020. “Veriora Nomina Camenarum: Erudition Uncertainty and Cognitive Displacement As Poetic Strategies in Sidonius Apollinaris.” Journal of Late Antiquity. 13 (1): 44–61.

Stevens, Courtenay Edward. 1933. Sidonius Apollinaris and His Age. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Thorpe, Lewis, trans. 1974. Gregory of Tours: The History of the Franks. Harmondsworth Middlesex England: Penguin Books.

van Waarden, Joop. 2022. “Leafing through Pliny with Sidonius: Sidon. Ep. 1.1, Plin. Ep. 1.1, 1.2, and 1.5, and Satire.” Mnemosyne. 75: 1021-1043.

Waddell, Helen. 1948. Poetry in the Dark Ages: The Eighth W.P. Ker Memorial Lecture Delivered in the University of Glasgow 28th October 1947. Glasgow: Jackson.

Waddell Helen, trans. and Felicitas Corrigan, ed. 1976. More Latin Lyrics from Virgil to Milton. London: Gollancz.

Wood, Ian. 2017. “Burgundian Law-Making, 451-534.” Italian Review of Legal History. 3 (15): 1-27.

Wood, Ian. 2021. ‘The Making of “the Burgundian kingdom.”Reti Medievali Rivista. 22 (2): 111-140.

Fortunatus imagined helping Radegund in the kitchen

In the sixth century, Radegund of Thuringia, a princess and queen, left her life of royal privilege to serve humbly her religious sisters in the Abbey of the Holy Cross at Poitiers. Her friend Venantius Fortunatus recognized her humble, arduous work in the kitchen. While kitchen help isn’t the most important gift men can offer women, Fortunatus at least imagined helping Radegund in the kitchen.

medieval kitchen work

After Radegund died, Fortunatus memorialized her life, including her kitchen service. In order that her loved ones could enjoy bountiful meals, Radegund worked assiduously:

How can anyone explain her excited fervor as she ran into the kitchen to do her week of chores? None of the nuns except she would carry as much wood as was needed in a bundle from the back gate. She drew water from the well and poured it into basins. She scrubbed vegetables, washed legumes, and revived the hearth by blowing so that she could cook the food. She busied herself while pots were boiling. She took the vessels from the hearth, washing and laying out the dishes. Then, when the meal was finished, she rinsed the small vessels. She scrubbed the kitchen till it shone, and did the same for whatever was filthy. She carried out what was scrubbed away.

{ Illud quoque quis explicet, quanto fervore excitata ad coquinam concursitabat suam faciens septimanam? Denique nulla monacharum nisi ipsa de posticio, quantum ligni opus erat, sola ferebat in sarcina. Aquam de puteo trahebat et dispensabat per vascula. Holus purgans, legumen lavans, flatu focum vivificans, et ut decoqueret escas, satagebat exaestuans. Vasa de foco ipsa levans, discos lavans et inferens. Hinc, consummatis conviviis, ipsa vascula diluens, purgans nitide coquina, quidquid erat lutulentum, ferebat ima purgamina. }[1]

That’s not the sort of work privileged women typically did in the sixth century. Privileged women today might just order take-out from a restaurant. Nonetheless, while laboring in obscurity, many men and women today do kitchen work on behalf of others.

Since Radegund lived in an institution that restricted men’s access, Fortunatus couldn’t simply go to Radegund to help her in the kitchen. But he acknowledged her work and prayed for her:

Sweet, bountiful, and worthy woman, for whom is such labor’s care
so that would come to you a great harvest from a few seeds,
you now willingly weary your limbs as time flees.
With Christ you will be given perpetual rest.
Your right hand, truly sweating as you prepare meals for the sisters,
now burns from waves of flames and numbs in cold.
With constant prayers I roll among your arms
and the burden you bear oppresses my spirit.
Now you hasten back to make the fire and cook the meal.
Since inactive, I have no value in helping mother.

{ Dulcis opima decens, cui tanta est cura laboris,
ut tibi sit modico semine magna seges,
quae modo membra libens fugitivo tempore lassas,
cum Christo dabitur perpetuanda quies.
Dextra ubi nempe paras sudando sororibus escas,
undis et flammis hinc riget, inde calet.
Assiduis votis inter tua bracchia volvor
atque meos animos sarcina vestra terit.
Nunc faciendo focos epulasque coquendo recurris,
nec valeo matrem quippe iuvare piger. }[2]

As a religious woman and the founding mother of a convent, Radegund surely understood that stillness in prayer has value. But it doesn’t have value in preparing ordinary food. Fortunatus imagined himself actually helping Radegund in the kitchen:

If I cannot pay tribute to you at your side, I pay in my absence
so that it would prove my devotion, my beloved mother.
If I were not absent, I would do whatever you ordered.
Perhaps an unskillful man would please with small submissions.
With devoted heart but rustic tongue I would offer
by shepherd’s pipe music in mother’s ear.
Attending your commands every day I would wear out my limbs —
they would serve with my neck bowed to its lady-lord.
My fingers would refuse nothing, and the hand
that wrote this would lift forth waters from a deep well,
pull out vines and set up cuttings in gardens,
willingly plant and cultivate sweet vegetables.
A splendor it would be to burn my limbs with you in the kitchen
and to wash blackened pots in a basin of pure water.

{ Si nequeo praesens, absens tibi solvo tributum,
ut probet affectum, mater amata, meum.
Si non essem absens, facerem quodcumque iuberes:
obsequiis parvis forte placeret iners.
Pectore devoto set rustica lingua dedisset
pastoris calamo matris in aure sonum.
Imperiis famulans tererem mea membra diurnis,
servirent dominae subdita colla suae.
Nulla recusarent digiti, puteoque profundo
quae manus hoc scripsit prompta levaret aquas,
protraheret vites et surcula figeret hortis,
plantaret, coleret dulce libenter holus.
Splendor erat tecum mea membra ardere coquina
et nigra de puro vasa lavare lacu. }[3]

What more could Fortunatus do? He also urged Radegund to “drink a little soothing wine, for you are over-weary {ut lassata nimis vina benigna bibas}.”[4] That’s authoritative Christian advice to those whose burdens are heavy.

Women are celebrated for competing with their beloved men in their men’s chosen fields. For example, Heloise of the Paraclete ardently loved Peter Abelard. He was renowned as an extraordinarily learned scholar and an outstanding poet. While she preferred not to burden him with marriage, they felt compelled to marry. Heloise herself came to be regarded as a great scholar. A medieval epitaph for her declares:

Heloise, beauty and glory of the womanly sex,
is enclosed before her time beneath this mass of stones.
She matched her Peter in perception, inclination, and skill.
She knew all literature unlike anyone else.
Speech and goodness made her figure and fame. With splendor and worth,
she was a rare one who to him continued perpetually sufficient.

{ Feminei sexus decor et decus hec Heloyssa
Mole sub hac lapidum clauditur ante dies.
Illa suo Petro par sensu, moribus, arte,
Scripturas omnes noverat absque pare.
Os, virtus, formam, famam, fulgore, valore,
Que sunt rara satis perpetuavit ei. }[5]

Heloise didn’t eternally promise Abelard that epitaph writers wouldn’t praise her above him in scholarly knowledge. Even as a highly learned woman, she probably perceived no reason to make that impossible promise.

Meninist literary criticism highlights important insights from great medieval women writers. Learn from what happened to Heloise. Men, don’t insist on helping your wives or girlfriends in the kitchen. Respect women. Your beloved women might prefer to prepare gifts for you independently and non-competitively.

work in restaurant kitchen

* * * * *

Read more:


[1] Venantius Fortunatus, The Life of Holy Radegund {De vita sanctae Radegundis} para. 24, Latin text from Leo (1881), English translation (modified) from McNamara & Halborg (1992). Here’s the Latin edition of Migne (1849).

[2] Fortunatus, Carmina Appendix 28, vv. 1-10, Latin text from Roberts (2017), my English translation, benefiting from those of id. and Pucci (2010). Subsequent quotes above from Fortunatus’s poems are similarly sourced. Leo (1881) provides a freely available Latin edition of Fortunatus’s poems. Leo’s Latin edition differs little from Roberts’s Latin edition.

[3] Fortunatus, Carmina Appendix 22, vv. 1-14.

[4] Fortunatus, Carmina 11.4, v. 4. Cf. 1 Timothy 5:23.

[5] Epitaph for Heloise, vv. 1-6, Latin text from Dronke (1976) p. 49, , my English translation, benefiting from that of Dronke (1965) vol. 2, p. 469 (which inadvertently omitted the fifth verse). Cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9. This epitaph survives only in a fifteenth-century manuscript: Bern 211, fol. 160v. Id. This epitaph is 453 in Barrow, Burnett & Luscombe (1986) and 6418 in Walther (1963-1969).

Dronke commented “perpetuare — in the sense of ‘to promise lastingly’” and translated Que sunt rara satis perpetuavit ei as “she made to him an eternal promise of the rarest kind.” Dronke (1965) vol. 2, pp. 469-70. Dronke had outstanding knowledge of medieval Latin. Nonetheless, his translation of this verse seems to me inaccurate and tendentious. Similarly tendentious is Dronke’s claim, “what is unusual here is the sense of two lovers perfectly matched.” Donke (1976) p. 22.

Clanchy, in contrast, declared that verse 4 of this epitaph “looks like a riposte to Peter the Venerable’s epitaph which had declared Abelard to be ‘without an equal, without a better, the world’s acknowledged prince of studies {aut par, aut melior, studiorum cognitus orbi princeps}.'” Clanchy (2003) p. v (footnoted Latin included in quote). Peter the Venerable was a knowledgeable contemporary of Heloise and Abelard. Apparently dismissing Peter the Venerable’s claim, Clanchy declared:

The epitaph for Heloise asserts that she had been Abelard’s equal in sensibilities and his superior in learning. Because he is now so much better documented than she is (his main academic works survive, whereas she is known only through letters and charters), modern scholars have tended to see her as his intellectual and artistic dependent. Even her best biographer, Enid McLeod, takes this patriarchal line….

Id. Praise Clanchy for bravely denouncing patriarchy!

Men and women delight in aggrandizing women, and men ardently desire to be champions for women. For example, about the year 1100, Hildebert of Lavardin, then the forty-five-year-old bishop of Le Mans, praised poems that he had received from the nun Muriel of Wilton. Hildebert declared to her:

Former times boasted of ten sibyls,
and great was the glory of your sex.
The present age rejoices in just one genius,
and does not totally lack a young woman prophet.
Between humans and gods now exist certain communications,
which I think, if I’m not deceived, are uttered through a young woman’s voice.
The gods have placed in your mind their awesome inner workings
and have appointed your sacred voice as their prophet.
Whatever flows from your voice transcends the vigils of the ancients
and is inferior solely to the gods.
Whatever you exhale is immortal, and
the world adores your work as if it were divine.
By your genius you dethrone prophets and celebrated poets,
and both sexes are stunned by your eloquence.
The songs you have sent me I have considered and pondered ten times.
I marvel and deem them to have come from far away.
Such sacred works cannot be human,
nor do I believe you speak, but celestial beings speak through you.
The weight of your words, their deep meaning, their beautiful order,
have the face of making divinely.

{ Tempora prisca decem se iactavere sibillis,
et vestri sexus gloria multa fuit.
unius ingenio presentia secula gaudent,
et non ex toto virgine vate carent.
nunc quoque sunt homini quedam commercia divum,
quos puto, nec fallor, virginis ore loqui.
mente tua posuere dei penetrale verendum,
osque sacrum vatem constituere suum.
ore tuo quecumque fluunt vigilata priorum
transcendunt, solis inferiora deis.
quicquid enim spiras est immortale, tuumque
tanquam divinum mundus adorat opus.
deprimis ingenio vates celebresque poetas,
et stupet eloquio sexus uterque tuo.
carmina missa mihi decies spectata revolvens
miror, et ex aditis illa venire reor.
non est humanum tam sacros posse labores,
nec te, sed per te numina credo loqui.
pondera verborum, sensus gravis, ordo venustus
vultum divine condicionis habent. }

Hildebert of Le Mans, Carmen 26, Latin text of Scott (1969) pp. 17-8 via Epistolae: Medieval Women’s Latin Letters, my English translation, benefiting from that at Epistolae and Jaeger (2022) pp. 440-1 (Excursus 2). Here’s an Italian translation. If Hildebert actually admired Muriel of Wilton’s poetry so highly, he might have preserved it. None of her poetry has survived.

Despite being a bishop, Hildebert in praising Muriel of Wilton engaged in classical gyno-idolatry. His rhetoric implies that he experienced the sublime in reading Muriel’s poetry. Jaeger declared:

Hildebert, along with writers and audiences who shared his culture, understood that the aesthetic effect of Muriel’s poetry was more prophetic than mimetic; more like that of the Virgin Mary magnifying the lord than that of a sober observer exaggerating the virtues of an ordinary person. Both the mother of Jesus and Hildebert were raising the subject of their praise into the sublime.

Jaeger (2022) Excursus 2. This claim elides differences between “the aesthetic effect of Muriel’s poetry” and Muriel’s status as a person. Hildebert was praising Muriel as a god just as the mother of Jesus magnified the lord as god. In practice, men’s gyno-idolatry is commonplace. It has even been exhibited in the British Museum.

Not gyno-idolators, nuns of the Paraclete perceived their abbess Heloise to be a saint. Their epitaph for her emphasizes her closeness to them:

The prudent Heloise, our abbess, lies in this tomb.
Founder of the Paraclete, she rests with the Paraclete.
High above the poles, she shares the joys of the saints.
She lifts us from the depths by her merits and her prayers.

{ Hoc tumulo abbatissa iacet prudens Heloysa.
Paraclitum statuit, cum Paraclito requiescit.
Gaudia sanctorum sua sunt super alta polorum.
nos meritis precibusque suis exaltet ab imis. }

Latin text from Dronke (1976) p. 50, English translation (modified slightly) from McLaughlin & Wheeler (2009) (Letter 20). This epitaph is 454 in Barrow, Burnett & Luscombe (1986) and 8365 in Walther (1963-1969). It apparently comes from a manuscript from the Paraclete. It survives in two fifteenth-century sources and in a thirteenth-century manuscript: Troyes, Médiathèque du Grand Troyes (olim Bibliothèque Municipale), Fonds ancien 802 I, f. 102v. Fortunatus similarly regarded Radegund as a saint and wanted to be close to her in an ordinary way, i.e. working in the kitchen.

[images] (1) Medieval kitchen work. Woodcut by Johannes Fischauer in the Augsburg (1505) edition of Kuchenmaistrey {Kitchen Knowledge}. Peter Wagner first published this book in 1485. It’s the first printed cookbook in German. Via Wikimedia Commons. (2) Commercial work in a restaurant kitchen. Source image generously shared on flickr by Dr. Matthias Ripp under a Creative Commons By 2.0 license.


Barrow Julia, Charles Burnett, and David Luscombe. 1986. “A Checklist of the Manuscripts Containing the Writings of Peter Abelard and Heloise and Other Works Closely Associated with Abelard and His School.” Revue d’Histoire des Textes. 14-15: 183-302.

Clanchy, Michael. 2003. “Forward.” Pp. v-viii in Stewart, Marc, and David Wulstan. 2003. The Poetic and Musical Legacy of Heloise and Abelard: An Anthology of Essays by Various Authors. Ottawa, Canada; Westhumble, Surrey: Institute of Mediaeval Music and Plainsong and Mediaeval Music Society.

Dronke, Peter. 1965. Medieval Latin and the Rise of European Love-Lyric. 2 vols. Vol. 1Vol. 2. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Dronke, Peter. 1976. Abelard and Heloise in Medieval Testimonies: the twenty-sixth W.P. Ker Memorial Lecture delivered in the University of Glasgow 29th October, 1976. Glasgow: University of Glasgow Press. Reprinted as Chapter 9 (pp. 247-294) in Dronke, Peter. 1992. Intellectuals and Poets in Medieval Europe. Roma: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura.

Jaeger, C. Stephen. 2022. The Sense of the Sublime in the Middle Ages. Online.

Leo, Friedrich, ed. 1881. Venanti Fortunati Opera Poetica (Pars Prior), Venanti Fortunati Opera Pedestria (Pars Posterior). Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Auctores Antiquissimi IV. Berlin: Weidmann. Another copy.

McLaughlin, Mary, and Bonnie Wheeler, trans. 2009. The Letters of Heloise and Abelard. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

McNamara, Jo Ann, and John E. Halborg, ed. and trans., with E. Gordon Whatley. 1992. Sainted Women of the Dark Ages. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Pucci, Michael, trans. 2010. Poems to Friends: Venantius Fortunatus. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Co.

Roberts, Michael, ed and trans. 2017. Venantius Fortunatus. Poems. Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library 46. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Reviews by Hope Williard and by Lionel Yaceczko.

Scott, A. Brian. 1969. Hildeberti Cenomannensis Episcopi, Carmina Minora. Leipzig: Teubner.

Walther, Hans. 1963-1969. Proverbia sententiaeque latinitatis Medii Aevi: lateinische Sprichwörter und Sentenzen des Mittelalters in alphabetischer Anordnung. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.