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E06751: In his Letter 7.17 to Volusianus, written in Latin, Sidonius Apollinaris composes a sepulchral inscription for *Abraham (abbot at Clermont, ob. 477, S00005): born by the Euphrates, Abraham travels to Clermont, where, after leading a holy life, and is buried by the count of the city, Abraham's tomb does not survive.Victorius. Written in Clermont (central Gaul), 477.

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posted on 2018-10-08, 00:00 authored by kwojtalik
Sidonius Apollinaris, Letters 7.17.1-2

Sidonius replies to the request of Volusianus that he should compose a sepulchral inscription for Abraham:

Iubes me, domine frater, lege amicitiae, quam nefas laedi, iam diu desides digitos incudibus officinae veteris imponere et sancto Abrahae diem functo neniam sepulchralem luctuosis carminibus inscribere.

'You bid me, my lord and brother, by the law of friendship, which it would be infamous to violate, to apply my fingers so long inactive to the anvils of my old workshop and to write a sepulchral lament for that holy man, the deceased Abraham, to be included among the mournful inscriptions.'

Sidonius goes on to describe how the expenses of Abraham's burial and tomb were being paid by a powerful secular magnate, Count Victorius, who had been present at Abraham's deathbed. He then provides the requested verses:

Abraham sanctis merito sociande patronis,
quos tibi collegas dicere non trepidem:
nam sic praecedunt, ut mox tamen ipse sequare;
dat partem regni portio martyrii:
natus ad Euphraten, pro Christo ergastula passus [5]
et quinquennali vincula laxa fame,
elapsus regi truculento Susidis orae
occiduum properas solus ad usque solum.
Sed confessorem virtutum signa sequuntur
spiritibusque malis fers, fugitive, fugam. [10]
Quaque venis, Lemurum se clamat cedere turba:
daemonas ire iubes exul in exilium.
Expeteris cunctis, nec te capit ambitus ullus;
est tibi delatus plus onerosus honor.
Romuleos refugis Byzantinosque fragores [15]
atque sagittifero moenia fracta Tito.
Murus Alexandri te non tenet Antiochique;
spernis Elisseae Byrsica tecta domus.
Rura paludicolae temnis populosa Ravennae
et quae lanigero de sue nomen habent. [20]
Angulus iste placet paupertinusque recessus
et casa, cui culmo culmina pressa forent.
Aedificas hic ipse deo venerabile templum,
ipse dei templum corpore facte prius.
Finiti cursus istic vitaeque viaeque: [25]
sudori superest dupla corona tuo.
Iam te circumstant paradisi milia sacri;
Abraham iam te conperegrinus habet;
iam patriam ingrederis, sed de qua decidit Adam;
iam potes ad fontem fluminis ire tui. [30]

'Abraham, worthy to be joined to the company of patron saints, whom I should not be afraid to call thy colleagues (for they take precedence only in the sense that thou followest close behind), thy portion of martyrdom givest thee a part in the Kingdom of Heaven. Born by the Euphrates, thou didst suffer the dungeon for Christ’s sake and the chains that grew loose about thee through five years of hunger. Escaping from the savage King of Susa’s realm, thou didst fare alone all the way to the western land. But signs of his virtues accompanied this wandering confessor, and thou, a fugitive thyself, didst put to flight the evil spirits. Wherever thou didst pass, the horde of friends shouted their surrender, and thou, an exile, didst bid the demons go into exile. Thou art sought out by all, yet no self-seeking takes hold on thee; a more onerous kind of honour has been bestowed on thee. Thou didst shun the din of Rome and Byzantium and the walls broken by Titus with his bowmen. Neither Alexander’s nor Antiochus’ city held thee, and thou didst scorn the dwellings of Byrsa, Dido’s home. Thou didst despise the thronged territory of Ravenna amid the marshes and the region that takes its name from a fleecy boar. Thy choice was this nook, to be thy poor retreat, with a hut whose roof is thatched with straw. Here thou didst thyself build to God a hallowed temple, thou who hadst first made thy body a temple for God. In this place ended the course both of thy wayfaring and of thy life; there remains for thee a double crown to reward thy toil. Now the teeming thousands in holy Paradise stand around thee; now Abraham, a pilgrim like thyself, has thee with him; now thou dost enter thy native land (but the one from which Adam fell); now thou art able to advance to the fountain-head of thine own river.’

Text and translation: Anderson 1965, 388-393.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Abraham, abbot of Clermont, ob. 476/7 : S00005

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters Literary - Poems


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Gaul and Frankish kingdoms

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Clermont Tours Tours Toronica urbs Prisciniacensim vicus Pressigny Turonorum civitas Ceratensis vicus Céré

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Exorcism

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Aristocrats Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects



Sidonius Apollinaris was born at Lyons about 430, into a senatorial family. He witnessed the decay of the Roman Empire in the West and met or corresponded with many important people of his times. He passed through the regular courses in grammar, literature, rhetoric, philosophy and law in his native city, and his works – Poems and Letters – reflect his academic training. He wrote poetry from his early years. Until his election as bishop of Clermont in 469 or 470, Sidonius had a career in secular politics. He resided in Clermont till his death, perhaps in 489. Sidonius' Letters consist of nine books, containing 149 letters addressed to about a hundred correspondents, including officials and bishops. He started preparing his Letters for publication probably about 469, though this date is hypothetical. Books 1-7 were published in about 477, Book 8 in about 480, and Book 9 in about 482. The collection starts with an introductory letter, in which Sidonius dedicated the work to his friend Constantius (PCBE 4, 'Constantius 3'), a priest of Lyon who was also a writer, notably of the Life of *Germanus of Auxerre (E05841). Originally, Book 7 was the intended end, as its last letter, also dedicated to Constantius, states. However more of Sidonius’ friends wished to be represented in the collection. Book 8 was compiled at the instance of Petronius, a jurisconsult of Arles and lover of letters (PCBE 4, 'Petronius 3'), and Book 9 was requested by Firminus, a learned man of Arles (PCBE 4, 'Firminus 1). Sidonius revised his letters before publication and added several specially composed on this occasion. His chief model was Pliny, who also wrote nine books of letters. They are not arranged in chronological order, though in broad terms those in the earlier books are earlier than those in the later ones, with the letters in Books 1 and 2 dating from before Sidonius’ election as bishop in 469/470. The Letters are a major source of information about many aspects of the civil and ecclesiastical life of Sidonius’ time. For more on Sidonius' biography, his works, and their dating see PCBE 4, 'Sidonius 1', as well as works below, such as Harries 1994, and Mathisen 2013.


Letter 7.17 was written shortly after the death of Abraham (PCBE 4, 'Abraham 1', pp. 46-47), and addressed to Volusianus, a friend of Sidonius (for whom see PCBE 4, 'Volusianus 1', p. 2001-2003). Abraham's death can be dated to 477 because it took place after Sidonius' return from exile in late 476 or early 477, but before Sidonius published the first seven books of his letter collection, also generally dated to 477. The involvement of Victorius, the count who administered Clermont on behalf of the Visigothic king, is a significant example of the patronage of a holy man's burial by a powerful secular figure; on Victorius see PCBE 4, 'Victorius 5', p. 1955. Abraham's tomb does not survive. Deriving much of his information from this letter by Sidonius, Gregory of Tours wrote a brief Life of Abraham towards the end of the sixth century, and included it in his Life of the Fathers, see E00005.


Editions and translations: Anderson, W.B., Sidonius, Poems. Letters. 2 vols (Loeb Classical Library 296, 420; Cambridge MA/London, 1936, 1965). Loyen, A., Sidoine Apollinaire, Poèmes (Paris, 1960); Lettres. 2 vols. (Paris, 1970). Further reading: Dalton. O.M., The Letters of Sidonius. 2 vols. (Oxford, 1915). Harries, J., Sidonius Apollinaris and the Fall of Rome (Oxford, 1994). Mathisen, R.W., "Dating the Letters of Sidonius," in: J. van Waarden and G. Kelly (eds.), New Approaches to Sidonius Apollinaris (Leuven, 2013), 221-248. Pietri, L., and Heijmans, M. (eds.), Prosopographie chrétienne du Bas-Empire, 4: Prosopographie de la Gaule chrétienne (314-614). 2 vols. (Paris, 2013). (= PCBE)

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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