Sidonius Apollinaris

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St. Gaius Sollius (Modestus) Apollinaris Sidonius, Bishop of Clermont-Ferrand (c. 430489) was a Gallo-Roman poet and letter-writer, who organised the last defence of Roman Auvergne against the invading Visigoths.


Opera, 1598

The English translations used here come from W. B. Anderson's edition of the Poems and Letters (London: Heinemann, 1936-65), to which the page-references also refer.


  • Nam qui maxume doctus sibi videtur, dictionem sanam et insanam ferme appetitu pari revolvit, non amplius concupiscens erecta quae laudet quam despecta quae rideat. atque in hunc modum scientia pompa proprietas linguae Latinae iudiciis otiosorum maximo spretui est, quorum scurrilitati neglegentia comes hoc volens tantum legere, quod carpat, sic non utitur litteris, quod abutitur.
    • For the man who considers himself the best critic generally studies sound and unsound composition with equal interest, being no more greedy for lofty utterances to praise than for contemptible ones to ridicule. In this way technique, grandeur, and propriety in the use of the Latin language are particularly underrated by the armchair critics, who, with an insensibility which goes hand in hand with scurrility, and wishing to read only what they may criticize, cannot, by their very abuse of literature, be making a proper use of it.
    • Lib. 3, Ep. 14, sect. 2; vol. 2, p. 59.
  • Hi sunt, quos timent etiam qui timentur.
    • These are the men whom even they fear who are themselves feared.
    • Lib. 5, Ep. 7, sect. 1; vol. 2, p. 187.
  • O neccessitas abiecta nascendi, vivendi misera dura moriendi.
    • How dismal the necessity of birth! how miserable the necessity of living! how hard the necessity of death!
    • Lib. 8, Ep. 11, sect. 4; vol. 2, p. 463.


  • Mors obruit illos,
    non timor; invicti perstant animoque supersunt
    jam prope post animam.
    • Death may overwhelm them, but not fear; unconquerable they stand their ground, and their courage well-nigh outlives their lives.
    • Carmen 5, line 251; vol. 1 p. 83.
  • 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?
    • Why – even supposing I had the skill – do you bid me compose a song dedicated to Venus the lover of Fescennine mirth, placed as I am among long-haired hordes, having to endure German speech, praising oft with wry face the song of the gluttonous Burgundian who spreads rancid butter on his hair?
    • Carmen 12, line 1; vol. 1, p. 213.
  • Ex hoc barbaricis abacta plectris
    spernit senipedem stilum Thalia,
    ex quo septipedes videt patronos.
    • Driven away by barbarian thrumming the Muse has spurned the six-footed exercise ever since she beheld these patrons seven feet high.
    • Carmen 12, line 9; vol. 1, p. 213.

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