Mike Aquilina

Sid Virtuous

Monday August 21st 2006, 3:01 am

Following upon Saturday’s virtual tour of the Roman Forum … today’s the feast of a bishop whose statue once stood in that very place. That was long before he became a bishop, though, when he was merely the son-in-law of the emperor. Sidonius Apollinaris was a convert, and a poet, too. The following is boiled down from the old Catholic Encyclopedia.

Sidonius Apollinaris was a Christian author and bishop, born at Lyons about 430; died at Clermont, about August, 480. He was of noble descent, his father and grandfather being Christians and prefects of the pretorium of the Gauls. About 452 he married Papianilla, daughter of Avitus, who was proclaimed emperor at the end of 455, and who set up in the Forum of Trajan a statue of his son-in-law. Sidonius wrote a panegyric in honor of his father who had become consul on 1 Jan., 456. A year had elapsed before Avitus was overthrown by Ricimer and Majorian. Sidonius at first resisted, then yielded and wrote a second panegyric on the occasion of Majorian’s journey to Lyons (458). After the fall of Majorian, Sidonius supported Theodoric II, King of the Visigoths, and after Theodoric’s assassination hoped to see the empire arise anew during the consulate of Anthemius. He went to Rome, where he eulogized the second consulate of Anthemius (1 Jan., 468) in a panegyric, and became prefect of the city. About 470 he returned to Gaul, where contrary to his wishes he was elected Bishop of the Arveni (Clermont in Auvergne). He had been chosen as the only one capable of maintaining the Roman power against the attacks of Euric, Theodoric’s successor. With the general Ecdicius, he resisted the barbarian army up to the time when Clermont fell, abandoned by Rome (474). He was for some time a prisoner of Euric, and was later exposed to the attacks of two priests of his diocese. He finally returned to Clermont, where he died.

His works form two groups, poems and letters After his conversion to Christianity, Sidonius ceased to write profane poetry. Sidonius wished to unite the service of Christ and that of the Empire. He is the last representative of the ancient culture in Gaul. By his works as well as by his career, he strove to perpetuate it under the aegis of Rome; eventually he had to be content with saving its last vestiges under a barbarian prince.