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E07122: In his Letter 8.15, written in Latin, Sidonius Apollinaris replies to a request from Prosper, bishop of Orléans, to write the Life of his predecessor *Anianus/Annianus (bishop of Orléans, ob. 454, S01206). The letter includes a reference to *Germanus (bishop of Auxerre, ob. 448, S00455) and Lupus (bishop of Troyes, ob. 479, S00418). Written in Clermont (central Gaul), c. 477/480.

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posted on 2018-11-21, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Sidonius Apollinaris, Letters 8.15.1-2

Dum laudibus summis sanctum Annianum, maximum consummatissimumque pontificem, Lupo parem Germanoque non imparem, vis celebrari fideliumque desideras pectoribus infigi viri talis ac tanti mores merita virtutes, cui etiam illud non absque iustitia gloriae datur, quod te successore decessit, exegeras mihi, ut promitterem tibi Attilae bellum stilo me posteris intimaturum, quo videlicet Aurelianensis urbis obsidio oppugnatio, inruptio nec direptio et illa vulgata exauditi caelitus sacerdotis vaticinatio continebatur. Coeperam scribere; sed operis arrepti fasce perspecto taeduit inchoasse; propter hoc nullis auribus credidi quod primum me censore damnaveram. Dabitur, ut spero, precatui tuo et meritis antistitis summi, quatenus praeconio suo sub quacumque et quidem celeri occasione famulemur.

'You were anxious that the holy Annianus, that great and consummate prelate, the equal of Lupus and no whit inferior to Germanus, should be glorified with the highest praises, and that there should be implanted in the hearts of the faithful for ever the character, merits, and virtues of that great and good man (a man to whom is most rightly given the crowning glory of having handed on his office to such a successor as you). Accordingly, you have urged me to promise to ply my pen in narrating for posterity the story of the war with Attila, which included, of course, the investment and the attack on Orleans, when the city was invaded but never plundered (inruptio nec direptio), and the far-famed prophesy of the priest who won the ear of heaven. I began the story; but when I realised the immensity of the work I had undertaken I regretted having ever started it. Hence I have never submitted to the ears of any critic a work which I had myself already judged and condemned. But I hope to satisfy both your request and the merits of the great bishop by devoting myself to a panegyric on him at the first, and indeed a very early, opportunity.'

Text and translation: Anderson 1965, 490-493.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Anianus, bishop of Orléans (northern Gaul), ob. AD 454 : S01206 Lupus, bishop of Troyes, ob. 479 : S00418 Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, ob. c. 448 : S00455

Saint Name in Source

Annianus Lupus Germanus

Type of Evidence

Literary - Letters


  • 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 - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Miraculous interventions in war Miraculous protection - of communities, towns, armies Revelation of hidden knowledge (past, present and future)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


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.


Anianus/Annianus of Orléans was renowned for his role in protecting the city during the invasion of Gaul by the Huns in 451. Sidonius' letter is the earliest surviving reference to this tradition, and shows that it was already established within about thirty years of the event. The letter contains no internal evidence as to its date, but the fact that it appears in Book 8 of Sidonius' letters would most obviously suggest that it was written between the release of the original seven-book collection in c. 477 and the addition of Book 8 in c. 480; however, it is possible that Book 8 includes letters which Sidonius had written earlier. Sidonius did not fulfil his promise to Prosper to compose a work on Annianus. The extant Life (E06258) is certainly not by him. Although Sidonius' references to the content of the story about Annianus are very brief and allusive, they are sufficient to show that he was familiar with elements that appear in the Life, and in the other relatively early witness to the tradition, the account of Annianus in Gregory of Tours' Histories (E07740). The reference to Annianus' 'prophecy' (vaticinatio) presumably relates to his foresight of the attack, which caused him to travel in Arles to seek military assistance from Aetius, the Roman commander, which is common to both Gregory and the Life. Sidonius' statement that the city was breached but not sacked (inruptio nec direptio), matches the account in the Life, but not that by Gregory, who has the Huns being driven off without entering the city. Sidonius' reference to Annianus as 'the equal of Lupus [of Troyes] and no whit inferior to Germanus [of Auxerre]' is an indication of the importance of those two figures as models of episcopal leadership in 5th century Gaul.


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. Renaud, G., "Saint Aignan et sa legende, les 'Vies' et les 'Miracles'," Bulletin de la Société archéologique et historique de l'Orléanais 49 (1979), 83-109.

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