The fifth century AD was a period of military turmoil and political upheaval in Western Europe. The career of the Gallo-Roman senator and bishop, Sidonius Apollinaris (c. 430-c. 485), holder of government office under three Roman emperors and later bishop of Clermont Ferrand, vividly illustrates the processes which undermined Roman rule. 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 both the confusion of loyalties afflicting an aristocracy under threat and the compromises necessary for survival. This book, the first in English on its subject for sixty years, argues that Sidonius adapted literary conventions and exploited accepted techniques of allusion to explain his dilemmas, justify his own role, and convey his personal understanding of, and response to, the fall of Rome.
`Jill Harries' treatment wears its biographical clothes very unobtrusively ... Harris has crafted a lively and vivid tableau of a social class grappling with 'change and continuity', and succeeds in achieving specifically for fifth-century Gaul what John Matthews did for the previous aristocratic generation in his Western Aristocracies and Imperial Court ... this is a book which proceeds through a close and intricate reading of Sidonius's writings. Harris
offers an acute portrayal of the dilemmas of Sidonius's lifetime ... Harries' skilful 'decoding' exposes a master of the art of political accommodation.'
David Hunt, University of Durham, Early Medieval Europe 1996 5 (1)
`Sidonius Apollinaris has long been valued as a witness to the death-struggle of Roman Gaul; in this splendid book Jill Harries implicates him in the proceedings. Sympathetic insight into Sidonius' predicament balances dispassionate analysis: the result is a fresh and challenging interpretation of the man, his career and his milieu. This is a convincing portrayal of a man who survived much, and an authoritative guide to the complexities of the post-imperial
Neil McLynn, Keio University, Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. LXXXVIII 1996
`an important reassessment of the remarkable career and surviving output of Sid. (to adopt her neat abbreviation) in the wider context of the concessions and compromises the Gallo-Roman aristocracy were forced to make in the face of competing barbarian powers ... In her account, the increasing complexity of Sid.'s career is matched by a warily judicious evaluation of his literary output. H.'s careful delineation of the range of aristocratic tactics results
in an important re-evaluation of Sid. and his career.'
Christopher Kelly, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, The Classical Review, Vol. XLVII, No. 1 '97
`Fits neatly within a long tradition of outstanding studies of Sidonius ... She provides a valuable introduction on the editorial and publishing processes of Sidonius' work ... a magisterial study of the last years of Roman Gaul in particular, and of the transition from the ancient to the medieval and hence to the modern world in general ... a book that will surely be of interest to students of the classical tradition.'
International Journal of the Classical Tradition
`It is full of valuable insights into the thoughts and position of a genuine Roman aristocrat in a major transition period, which makes it much easier to grasp for the historian.'
The Journal of Indo-European Studies