Short URL for this page:

[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous chapter]
Book III
Chapter 3

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Italy and Her Invaders

Thomas Hodgkin

2nd edition
Oxford University Press
London, 1892

The text, and illustrations except as noted,
are in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next chapter]
Book III
Note F

Book 3 (continued)

Vol. II
Chapter IV

Avitus, the Client of the Visigoths


Sources: —

Our chief authority is of course Sidonius, the son-in‑law and flatterer of the Emperor.

The chroniclers Idatius, Victor Tunnunensis, and (especially) Anonymus Cuspiniani, notice this reign in their usual brief terms. Marcellinus is silent about it, reflecting probably the hostile feelings of the Eastern Court towards the new Emperor. A new chronicler, Marius, Bishop of Aventicum (Avenches in Switzerland), takes up the work of Prosper and continues it down to the year 581. He appears to have been born about 530, and to have died after a twenty years' episcopate in 594. (See Monod's Études critiques sur les sources de l'Histoire Mérovingienne, p153.) He is thus in no sense a contemporary, but he occasionally supplies some useful details, especially as to the movements of the Burgundians, who were masters of Switzerland at the period which we are now considering.

Joannes Antiochenus, an Eastern chronicler of the seventh century, throws some additional light on the fall of Avitus.

Gregory of Tours, born probably in 538, who began his History of the Franks about 576, and died about 595,​1 adds some little information, of a questionable kind.

 p375  State of Rome after the departure of the Vandals. 455 When Gaiseric and his Vandal horde withdrew from the scene of their depredations, silence and prostration seem to have fallen upon the city of Rome. There was no attempt to raise a new Emperor to the dignity which had been held by the murdered Valentinian and the murdered Maximus: possibly no one was found courageous enough to offer himself for so perilous a preëminence. So in the heart of the once arrogant Queen of the World reigned for two months the apathy of despair. At length on the fourteenth of August, some two months after the capture of the city, the news arrived that the Gaulish provinces had raised to the vacant throne a nobleman of Auvergne, named Avitus,​2 who had assumed the purple at Arles on the tenth of July. The Imperial City bowed her head and accepted her new lord without remonstrance.

Birth and childhood of Avitus. Avitus had already once played a conspicuous part in Imperial politics when it had devolved upon him to cement that alliance between Rome and the Visigoths by which the power of Attila was shattered on the  p376 Mauriac plains. We are in possession of some other details of his previous life, but they come to us from the pen of a great manufacturer of indiscriminate panegyric, and it is not easy to say what are the actual events to which they correspond. He was descended from a family, several members of which had held high commands in the army and the state, and which was, by the labours of antiquaries, connected with old patrician families of Rome.​3 He was born, in all probability, about the time of the death of Theodosius, and would therefore be close upon his sixtieth year when he arrayed himself with the Imperial purple.​4 It was told of him that in early boyhood he came one day upon a she‑wolf, rabid with hunger, and snatching up a fragment of rock which lay close by, hurled it at the savage creature and broke her skull. To the studies of Cicero and Caesar which engaged his childhood, succeeded in youth the delights of boar-hunting and falconry. Yet his reading had perhaps not been wholly fruitless, for he had scarcely arrived at man's estate, when, being chosen by his neighbours to head a deputation of Constantius, he pleaded so eloquently for  p377 some remission of taxation that the admiring Governor granted all his requests.

His military exploits. In middle life he served with some credit under the greatest captain of the age, Aetius, in the wars which he waged in Belgic Gaul, and in Noricum, on the Lower Rhine, and the Middle Danube. Once at least he exposed his person to some danger in a hand-to‑hand encounter. The Roman generals were at this time (about the year 439) with marvellous impolicy bringing the Hunnish hordes into Gaul to fight their battles against less barbarous barbarians. Litorius, that rash and feather-headed general, was marching a troop of these squalid auxiliaries through Auvergne, on his way from Brittany, which he had conquered, to the Gothic capital Toulouse, which he hoped to conquer. The so‑called auxiliaries of Rome carried fire and sword, insolence and robbery, through the province which was conspicuous above all others by its fidelity to Rome. One of these wild mercenaries happened to quarrel with a man engaged in the service of Aetius, and struck him a mortal blow. The man in dying breathed his master's name, and coupled with it a prayer for vengeance. Avitus, when informed of his servant's death, at once donned his armour and sought the Hunnish camp. We need not believe the strained language of the Panegyrist, who solemnly informs us that in his rage for his murdered servant he slew as many of the Huns as Achilles slew Trojans after the death of Patroclus: but we seem bound to accept his story of the future Emperor's single combat with the murderer, which ended, after the third passage of arms, in Avitus breaking the Hun's breastplate, and transfixing his breast with his spear, which being thrust  p378 vigorously home, stood out behind the back of the caitiff. 'The blood and the life together ebbed away through the double wound.'

His retirement to Auvergne. Shortly after this event, Avitus, who had already held three commands in the army, was raised to the high civil office of Praetorian Prefect in Gaul, an office which may perhaps have occupied six years of his life, from 439 to 445. From these duties he retired to his estate in the heart of Auvergne, to that very villa of Avitacum over­looking the lake, and over­looked by the mountains, of which we have already heard a description from the pen of its next possessor, Sidonius. For the family of Avitus consisted of two sons, Ecdicius and Agricola, and one daughter, Papianilla. This daughter is the lady whom Sidonius married about the year 452, and most of our information about the career, as well as the dwelling-place of the Arvernian Emperor, is derived from the verses or the letters of his fluent son-in‑law.

His influence at the Visigothic Court. The connection which most powerfully influenced the life of Avitus, and which alone gave him any chance, a small one at the best, of being remembered in history, was a friendship which, while still a boy, he formed with the Visigothic monarch at Toulouse, and which on the side of the barbarian was continued into a second generation. A brother of the young Arvernian, named Theodorus, had been sent as a hostage to the court of Theodoric I. Avitus went to Toulouse to visit Theodorus, and by some unexpected charm of manner, or beauty of character, so won upon the Gothic king that he offered him large sums of money if he would renounce his Gallo-Roman nationality, and take up his permanent residence at the court of  p379 Toulouse. This offer was rejected, scornfully rejected, says his panegyrist; but there is some reason to think that Avitus may have discharged for a time the duties of Governor to the young Visigothic princes.​5 His powerful intercession is said to have saved Narbonne (436) when sorely blockaded by the barbarian arms, and at the last stage of famine. And on a more eventful day (in 451), as has been already described, Avitus was the chosen intermediary between Rome and Toulouse, the man who by his personal influence with Theodoric I, did more than any other single individual to mould the great Roman-Gothic alliance against Attila, which saved Europe from becoming Tartar.

Utilised for the formation of a new Triple Alliance. That alliance had done its work, and apparently was dissolved, when the terror from the Hun was over. But the thought probably suggested itself both to the new Visigothic king, Theodoric II, and to his Gaulish friend, that it might be revived, and might serve a useful purpose for both of them in the troubled state of Roman politics after the murder of Valentinian III. Avitus had been drawn by the Emperor Maximus from his retirement, and invested with the office of Magister utriusque Militiae (Captain-General of horse and foot), which gave him complete control over all military matters in Gaul. The three-months' reign of Maximus had been well employed by the new general in checking the inroads of the tribes dwelling by the lower Rhine, and his credit with the soldiers and the provincials was  p380 at a high point, when tidings arrived in Gaul of the Vandal sack of Rome and the vacancy of the Empire. Possibly the young oratorical son-in‑law, Sidonius, was employed to furbish up the old friendship with the Visigoth, and he may have gained a point or two for the aspirant to the purple by diplomatically losing a few games on the backgammon-board of Theodoric.

Chief barbarian nations of Western Europe at this time. Four great Germanic nations were at this time supreme in Western Europe: the Vandals, the Visigoths, the Burgundians, and the Suevi. A fifth, that of the Franks, one day to be the mightiest of them all, was as yet scarcely peeping over the horizon. The Vandals, as we know, ruled Africa from Carthage, the Visigoths South-Western France from Toulouse, the Burgundians were settled in the valley of the Rhone, and their chief capital was Lyons; the Suevi held the greater part of Southern and Western Spain, and their capital was Astorga. The Vandals and Visigoths were sworn foes ever since the cruel outrage practised by Gaiseric on his Visigothic daughter-in‑law. The Burgundians and Visigoths lived in a state of simmering unfriendliness, not often passing into vindictive war. The Suevi, who were now by the departure of the Vandals the only barbarian power left in the Peninsula, carried on a desultory warfare with Roman Spain, but at this time were living at peace with their Visigothic neighbours from whom they were divided by the Pyrenees, and their king Rechiarius had married a sister of the reigning Theodoric.

The Visigoths aspire to conquests in Spain by the help of the Roman name. Such being the position of affairs, the transaction which suggested itself, at some time in the summer of 455, to the minds of the most powerful men at Arles and Toulouse must have been something of this nature,  p381 'Let us join forces and form a Triple Alliance. To you, Avitus, shall fall the Imperial Purple: we Visigoths will assert your claims against any competitor, and if need be, protect you against the hated Vandal. In return for this you shall lend us the sanction of the name and the rights of the Empire for an enterprise which we are meditating against the Suevi. Though we have been settled for the last half century chiefly on the Northern side of the Pyrenees, we have never entirely renounced the hope of including Spain in our dominion. That was the vision of the great Ataulfus, brother-in‑law of Alaric, that and the welding of Roman and Visigoth into one harmonious commonwealth; and if we can now make this compact with you, our nobler and firmer Attalus, his vision may yet become a reality. And lastly, if you, Burgundians, instead of harassing us by your aimless warfare, will join our great expedition, the territories in the valley of the Rhone, which you now hold by a friendly compact with the Empire, shall be enlarged — does not the new Augustus consent to this? — and it may be that you shall reach even to the Mediterranean Sea.'

The league veiled under a pretended war. Such was probably the honest prose of the transaction which raised the nobleman of Auvergne to the headship of the Empire; but in diplomacy and in poetry it of course assumes a very different aspect. The Visigothic king, no doubt in collusion with Avitus, threatened an invasion of Roman Gaul. The Master of the Soldiery assembled his troops, but consented to assume once more the office of ambassador to Toulouse, in order to avert the horrors of war from the provincials. He sent before him Messianus, a high functionary of Gaul. At the appearance of this messenger,  p382 many a sturdy Visigoth, intent on the rapture of coming war, foreboded that the magical influence of Avitus would again prevail, and that they would be balked of the hoped‑for struggle. Soon their fears were confirmed. The Master himself appeared on the scene erect and stately. Theodoric came forth to greet him, attended by his brother Frithareiks​6 (the king of peace). His welcome to the Roman was eager but confused; and the three, with joined hands, entered the gates of Toulouse. It was a fortunate coincidence (if it was a mere coincidence) that just as they entered the town the news arrived of the murder of the Emperor Maximus, and the capture of Rome by Gaiseric — news which considerably improved the prospects of the new partner­ship.

The Visigothic Council. On the next day a grand council of the Visigothic warriors was held. From necessity rather than choice, the veteran chiefs who assembled there did not reflect the magnificence of the sovereign. Their robes were threadbare and greasy, their scanty skin-cloaks scarcely reached down to the knee, and their boots, made of horse's hide, were hitched up around the calf by a shabbily-tied knot.​7 So were the men attired whose 'honoured poverty' was welcomed into the councils of the nation.

The Gothic king questioned the Roman officer as to the terms of the peace which he was come to propose  p383 between the two nations. Avitus replied, dilating on the old friendship which existed between him and the first Theodoric. 'He, I am sure, would not have denied my request. You were a child then, and cannot remember how he, in compliance with my advice, withdrew his blockading army from Narbonne, when that city was already pale with famine, and was forced to feed upon the most loathsome victuals.'

'E'en thou — as well as these hoary chieftains know —

In those young days beheld'st in me no foe.

Oft have I pressed thee, weeping, to my heart,

When thy nurse came, refusing to depart.

Now once again I come thy faith to prove,

And plead the rights of that ancestral love.

If faith, affection, filial reverence die,

Go! hard of heart, and peace to Rome deny.'

So far Avitus: a murmur of rough voices through the council testified their approbation of his pleadings for peace. The next lines in the play fell to Theodoric; and he spoke his part with great animation and correctness. He enlarged on his old friendship for Avitus, his reluctance to break off that friendship, his willingness to serve 'the venerable might of Rome and the race which, like his own, had sprung from Mars,' his desire even to wipe out the memory of the guilt of Alaric by the benefits which he would confer on the Eternal City. But there was one price which must be paid for his services. If Avitus would assume the diadem, the Empire should have in the Visigoth the most faithful of allies: if not, the war once proclaimed must rage on. If the General wished to save the world, he must govern it.8

 p384  Return of Avitus to Arles, The Master of the Soldiery heard these words, which were ratified by the solemn oath of the royal brothers, with an appearance of profound sadness. He returned to Arles, whither the tidings preceded him, that the desired peace with the Goths could only be obtained by the elevation of Avitus to the Imperial dignity. The chief officials of Gaul were hastily summoned to the Castle of Ugernum (now Beaucaire, on the Rhone, a few miles above Arles); the proposal to declare Avitus emperor was carried by acclamation, vanity perhaps concurring with policy in the scheme of giving a Gaulish ruler to Rome.​9 and elevation to the Imperial dignity. On the third day after the assembly at Ugernum Avitus appeared upon a high-heaped agger10 surrounded by the soldiery, who put upon his head a military collar, to represent the true Imperial diadem, which was probably in safe custody at Ravenna. The new Augustus wore still the same melancholy countenance with which he had first listened to the flattering proposal of Theodoric; and it is possible that by this time the sadness may have been not all feigned, some conviction of his own inability to cope with the weight of the falling Commonwealth having already entered his soul.

The story of Avitus' elevation to the throne has seemed worth telling, because it illustrates the manner in which the great barbarian monarchies influenced the  p385 fortunes of the dying Empire, the degrees in which Force and Art were still blended in order to secure obedience to its behests, and the nature of the tie which bound those later 'Shadow-Emperors' to their by no means shadowy Patrons. But of the reign of this Emperor, which lasted only sixteen months, we have but a few faint details from the Annalists, which leave us little more to say than that he reigned, and that he ceased to reign.

The autumn of 455 was probably employed in an expedition to the province of Pannonia, an expedition which, we are asked to believe, reunited to the Empire regions which had been lost to it for generations. It is possible that in the complete collapse of Attila's power, Rome may have successfully reclaimed some portions of her ancient dominion by the Danube; but it is difficult to conjecture the motives which could have sent the new Emperor forth on so distant an expedition, while the terrible and unsubdued Vandal was still crouching at his gates ready to repeat his spring.

Consulship of Avitus. On the first day of the year 456 Rome witnessed the usual splendid pageant which announced that the supreme Augustus condescended to assume the historic office of consul, and to mark the year with his name.11  p386  Panegyric of Sidonius. Among the solemnities of the day, the young Sidonius recited, in the hearing of the Senate and the people,​12 a panegyric 602 lines long, after the manner of Claudian, which he had composed in honour of his father-in‑law.​13 This panegyric is the source — the doubtful source, it must be admitted — from which have been drawn the facts previously related concerning the private life of the Arvernian Senator and the manner of his elevation to the throne. The attempt to emulate Claudian's panegyrics on Honorius and Stilicho is evident, but the failure to reach even Claudian's standard of excellence is equally evident. The old, worn‑out mythological machinery is as freely used, and with even less of dramatic fitness and truth. Jupiter convokes an assembly of the gods; all the Olympians of the first and second rank attend it. Thither also come all the great river-gods of the world,​14 the Rhine, the Po, the Danube, the Nile. And thither at last, with bent head and flagging steps, without a helmet, and scarce able to drag the weight of her heavy lance, comes unhappy  p387 Rome. She begins at first with some naturalness and spirit, longing for the happy days when she was still small, obscure, and safe, before greatness had brought its harassing penalty. She recurs with dread to the omen of the twelve vultures seen by the Etrurian augur on Mount Palatine at the foundation of the city. If those twelve vultures did truly mean, as some supposed, that she should have twelve centuries of greatness, her day is done, for the allotted time expired eight years ago (in A.D. 447).

Soon, however, the unhappy Queen of the World wanders off into mere Roman history. She repeats to great Jove a versified compendium of Livy, and condenses the lives of the first twelve Caesars into an equal number of lines, which might have been prepared as a Memoria Technica by a Roman schoolboy.

The father of gods and men takes up the tale, and shows that he is not to be outdone in knowledge of Livy and Tacitus. Then, having vindicated his scholar­ship, he tells her that he has prepared a man for her deliverance, born in Auvergne, a land fertile in heroes. This destined deliverer is Avitus, whose respectable life and fortunes Jupiter describes in 460 lines of unbroken monologue. We listen in weariness to the long, level narrative, and think what a change has come over the Court of Olympus since, in a few majestic words, the Thunderer granted the earnest prayer of silver-footed Thetis. Then Jupiter nodded, now his hearers.

Sidonius rewarded by the erection of a statue. To the taste of the Romans of the fifth century, however, the fluent hexameters of the young Gaulish poet probably appeared really meritorious. At any rate they were written by the son-in‑law of Augustus, and consequently every good courtier was bound to  p388 admire them. The Senate decreed that 'an everlasting statue' of brass should be raised in honour of Apollinaris Sidonius, which should stand between the Greek and Latin libraries in the Forum of Trajan.15

War between Visigoths and Suevi. While the new Emperor was thus inaugurating his reign at Rome, his powerful patron at Toulouse was using the new alliance for his own purposes. Embassies passed to and fro between the king of the Visigoths and the king of the Suevi. The former, whose messengers were accompanied by the Gaulish Count Fronto, as representative of Rome, called upon his Suevic brother-in‑law to cease from the attacks which he had been lately making on Roman Spain, the Empire and the Visigothic monarchy being now united in mutual league, and the invaders of the one being the enemies of the other. To this embassy Rechiarius returned a haughty answer: 'If thou complainest of what I am doing here, I will come to Tholosa where thou dwellest; there, if thou art strong enough, resist me.' This insolent defiance hastened the warlike preparations of Theodoric. Early in the year 456 (apparently) he invaded Spain with an enormous army, to which the two kings of the Burgundians, Gundiok and Chilperic, brought their promised contingent; and he was able to assert (probably thereby commanding some assistance from wavering provincials) that he came 'with the will and by the ordinance of Avitus the Emperor.'

 p389  This campaign destroyed the greatness of the Suevic kingdom.​16 Rechiarius was defeated in a great battle at the river Urbicus, twelve miles from Astorga (5th October). Theodoric pushed on to Braga, took that place on the twenty-eighth of October, and though that day was a Sunday, and the victory had been a bloodless one as far as his host was concerned, he used his success in a manner which horrified his contemporaries; carried off vast numbers of men, women, and children into captivity, stripped the clergy naked, filled the holy places 'with hordes of horses, cattle, and camels,' and in short repeated all the judgments which the wrath of God had suffered to fall on Jerusalem. The fugitive Rechiarius was taken prisoner next year 'at a place called Portucale' (Oporto), and after some months' captivity, was put to death by his vindictive brother-in‑law, who could not forget his insulting message about the visit to Toulouse.

Ricimer's victory over the Vandals. While Theodoric was thus engaged with the Suevi, news was brought to him of an important victory which his Imperial ally had gained over the Vandals. Sixty of their ships had set sail from the harbour of Carthage; they had reached Corsica and cast anchor there, seeming to threaten Italy and Gaul at once. The brave and capable Count Ricimer followed them thither, out‑manoeuvred and surrounded them with his fleet, and slew of them a great multitude.17

 p390  So far all seemed going well with the Romano-Gothic confederation, and the moment when Hesychius, the Imperial ambassador, presented himself at the camp of Theodoric in Gallicia with these tidings, with presents from the Emperor, and with the further intelligence that his master had come to Arles, probably to meet his Visigothic ally, — this moment was probably the apogee of the new combination. But there was a worm at the root of this apparent prosperity. Disaffection of Ricimer. Ricimer was after his late victory the idol of the army and the most powerful man in the Empire, and Ricimer had determined to shatter the new alliance. Nor was such a determination wonderful, since this strange and perplexing character who, for the next sixteen years, played the part of King-maker at Rome, was himself the son of a Suevic father, though of a Visigothic mother, and was not likely to hear well-pleased the tidings of the sack of Braga and the countless horrors which had befallen his countrymen at the hand of the ally of Avitus.

Deposition of Avitus. He resolved that the Arvernian Senator must lay aside the purple, and he probably had the popular voice with him when he pronounced Avitus unfitted for the emergencies of the Empire. The Gaulish nobleman was a man of unspotted private character, and had once possessed some courage and capacity for war, but he was fond of ease, perhaps of luxury, and the almost childlike simplicity and openness of his nature, to say nothing of his sixty years, unfitted him to cope with the lawless intriguers, Roman and Barbarian, by whom he was surrounded. Famine broke out in Rome, and for  p391 this the people blamed Avitus (who had now returned into Italy) and the crowd of hungry dependents whom he had brought with him from Gaul. Under popular pressure he was compelled to dismiss his Visigothic body-guard. Having no funds in his treasury wherewith to pay them, he stripped the public buildings in Rome of their copper (completing perhaps the half-finished Vandal spoliation of the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus), and turned the copper into gold for his friends. All this of course increased his unpopularity in Rome.​18 The revolt, now openly headed by Ricimer and his young comrade Majorian, spread to Ravenna. On the 17th of September, Remistus, the Patrician (an official who is otherwise unknown to us), was killed in the palace at Classis. The Emperor fled from Rome, hoping to reach his native and friendly Gaul. But he was taken prisoner at Placentia by Ricimer, who now held the all‑important office of Master of the Soldiery. On the 17th of October, the Patrician, Messianus, a Gaul, and probably the intimate friend of Avitus, the same who had acted as his avant-courier to the court of Theodoric the year before, was put to death. Avitus himself was spared. Even the stern Ricimer could not bring himself to take the life of the innocent old man. His consecration as Bishop, But he was stripped of the purple, and (strange fate for an Augustus) was consecrated Bishop at Placentia. Of the name of his See​19 and of his subsequent fate we have no certain information. and death. It seems probable that he died by a natural  p392 death, though possibly hastened by disappointment and alarm, within a twelvemonth after he had abdicated the Empire.​20 A tradition, recorded by the Gregory of Tours (who was himself a native of Auvergne), related that the forlorn Bishop-Emperor, fearful for his life, left Italy by stealth to repair to the tomb of Julian the martyr, an Arvernian saint, whose protection he hoped to purchase by rich presents, the wreck it may be of his Imperial splendour; that he died on the road, but that his body was taken and buried at the feet of the martyr in the village of Brioude in Auvergne. Few things in the fitfully-illuminated history of the times are stranger than the fulness of information which is given us as to the rise of this unfortunate Emperor, and the barrenness of the history of his fall. And yet he was the keystone of a great and important political combination, a combination which, had it endured, would certainly have changed the face of Europe, and might have anticipated the Empire of Charles the Great in favour of a nobler nation than the Franks, and without the interposition of three centuries of barbarism.

The Author's Notes:

1 The new edition of Gregory of Tours, in the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, accepts the date of 594, which Monod assigns for the death of Gregory (op. cit. p38). But the arguments for the date 595, alleged by Clinton, Fasti Romani, I.834, do not seem to me to be fully answered.


Family of Avitus

3 This is the explanation I would suggest of the difficult lines —

'Gentisque suae, te teste, Philagri,

Patricius resplendet apex.'

Sidonius, Carm. VII.156‑157.

Philagrius was a man of letters, renowned for the magnificence of his library (Carm. XXIV.93). Unless the question related to the ancient Patriciate of Rome and Avitus' shadowy descent therefrom, it is difficult to see why Philagrius should be avouched as an authority.

4 We get the approximate date of the birth of Avitus from the fact that he was a very young man ('ephebus') when he was sent on a deputation to Constantius, who was not yet married to Placidia, probably therefore about 415. This points to 394 or 395 for the year of his birth.

5 Sidonius makes Theodoric II say to Avitus —

'Mihi Romula dudum

Per te jura placent, parvumque ediscere jussit

Ad tua verba pater, docili quo prisca Maronis

Carmine molliret Scythicos mihi pagina mores.'

Carm. VII.495‑8.

6 Our 'Frederick.' But it may have been Euric, or another brother.


'Squalent vestes ac sordida macro

Lintea pinguescunt tergo, nec tangere possunt

Altatae suram pelles, ac poplite nudo

Peronem pauper nodus suspendit equinum.'

Sidonius, Carm. VII.454‑7.


'Tibi pareat orbis

Ni pereat.'

(Sidonius, Carm. VII.517‑18)

9 I have not thought it worth while to extract Sidonius' description of the Roman, as well as the Gothic, assembly, but a few words in the speech of a Gaulish noble are worth transcribing —

'Has nobis inter clades ac funera mundi

Mors vixisse fuit.'

10 An earthen mound. In the bas‑reliefs on the column of Trajan, the Emperor is generally represented as standing on such a mound when addressing his soldiers.

Thayer's Note: See also the article Suggestus in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

11 There is an explained puzzle here. Avitus' name does not appear in the Consular Fasti for the year 456, except in the Chronicles of Idatius the Spaniard. All other chroniclers assign the year to 'Joannes and Varanes.' Tillemont suggests that Marcian, Emperor of the East, refused his sanction to the elevation of Avitus; but this does not seem a probable solution of the difficulty, especially as Idatius says, 'Marcian and Avitus enjoyed the headship of the Roman Empire in concord.' Can there have been on the fall of Avitus some judicial process like the English attainder, erasing his name from the lists both of consuls and patricians? This might help to explain the difficulty as to the non‑patrician rank of the family of Avitus. See note to p376.


'Sistimus portu geminae potiti

Fronde coronae

Quam mihi indulsit populus Quirini

Blattifer vel quam tribuit Senatus

Quam peritorum dedit ordo consors


(Ep. IX.16)

Is it possible that the last two lines can refer to a still existing order of knights, still theoretically invested with the Judicia?

13 This is now seventh of the 'Carmina' of Sidonius, which are not arranged in order of date.

14 The last of these is happily enough described —

The Nile whom all know for his source unknown.'

'— et ignotum plus notus Nile per ortum.'


'Cum meis poni statuam perennem

Nerva Trajanus titulis videret

Inter auctores utriusque fixam


(Sidonius, Ep. IX.16)

'Nil vatum prodest adjectum laudibus illud

Ulpia quod rutilat Porticus aere meo.'

(Sidonius, Ep. VIII.7‑8)

16 It lingered on, however, in an enfeebled condition for more than a century longer, till it was in 584 finally overthrown by Leovigild, king of the Visigoths.

17 Idatius, s. a. 456, gives us this information: 'Hisdem diebus Rechimeris Comitis circumventione magna multitudo Wandalorum, quae se de Carthagine cum LX navibus ad Gallias, vel ad Italiam moverat, regi Theuderico nunciatur occisa per Avitum.' 'Per Avitum' depends, I think, on 'nunciatur,' not on 'occisa.'

18 These particulars are derived from Joannes Antiochenus, fragment 202.

19 It does not seem quite clear whether the chroniclers mean to describe him as ordained Bishop at or of Placentia.

20 According to Joannes Antiochenusº he was either starved to death or strangled.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 17 May 20