About the mid-Fifties of 5th century AD, the Gallo-Roman aristocrat and gifted poet Sidonius Apollinaris composed an epithalamium to celebrate the marriage of his noble friends Ruricius and Hiberia. Sidonius did not know that in less than two decades he would become the bishop of Clermont-Ferrand, nor could Ruricius imagine that he would die the bishop of Limoges. Clinging to their profane models mostly represented by the epithalamia written by Statius and Claudian, the poem (carm. 11) and its preface (carm. 10) depict a world where the overwhelming presence of myth helps to keep reality aside and the skilled devices of a sophisticated poetry try to revive the formal perfection of Roman classics and their values.
This volume provides a general introduction, a critical text with Italian translation, a punctual commentary (in fact the first one) to the epithalamium and its preface, and a summary in English; it shows the original contribution of Sidonius to the literary tradition of late Latin Epithalamia; it illustrates the techniques of the poet; it deals with the many exegetic problems presented by both poems and it proposes new solutions for some of them.
Stefania Filosini took a degree in Classics (Lettere Classiche) at Università de L'Aquila and a PhD in 'Civiltà e tradizione greca e latina' at Università di Roma Tre. Her research focuses on late Latin poetry. She is the author of a commentary on Paulinus of Nola, Poems 10 and 11 (Roma, Herder, 2008, Studi e Testi Tardoantichi, 6).
After discussing the questions related to the possible date of composition, the relationship be-tween Sidonius and his dedicatees, the introduction outlines the mean features and the evolution of Latin epithalamium, dwelling on Statius’s poem celebrating the marriage of Stella and Vio-lentilla (silv. I, 2) and on Claudian’s epithalamia for Honorius (carm. 10) and for Palladius and Celerina (carm. min. 25). After this preliminary overview, the attention moves to the structure of carm. 11, whose structure is examined with special attention to the different ways in which Sidonius follows, imitates and/or modifies his ‘classical’ models.
The articulation of the poem shows the tendency of Sidonius to enhance the visual impact of images trough the construction of descriptive unities rather independent from each other, who seriously undermine the very existence of a continuum between the different sections of the epi-thalamium. The analysis of the narrative patterns has put into evidence the role of Statius and Claudian as primary models of the poems; to these is now to be added the Ovid of the Meta-morphoses. The discovery of the influence of Ovid Met. II, 1 ff. (the episode of Phaeton) on the narrative texture of carm. 11 is one of the major achievements of this analysis.
Text and translation
The way in which the two poems have been transmitted makes unnecessary a collation of the manuscripts; therefore − according to the tendency now prevailing in Sidonius’ editions − the critical text does not result from a new examination of the testimonies, but is mainly based on that of MGH AA VIII, but − to give the reader information as clear and complete as possible − offers an up-to-date apparatus criticus recording the subsequent textual proposals and interven-tions,. The Italian translation aims at furnishing a first interpretation, which anticipates the exe-getic solutions discussed and proposed in the commentary.
Given the complexity of a text whose structure derives from the interaction of more than one model (the epithalamium of Statius, the two of Claudian and Ovid’s narrative on Phaeton) and which combines the echoes of so many literary texts, a short introduction precedes the commen-tary on each section of carm. 11. This makes easier to show the composition techniques of Si-donius and to throw light on the way he interweaves and contaminates his different poetic sources and on the cultural meaning of his stylistic and literary choices. So doing, it becomes possible to explain the overpowering presence of mythology, for the myth tries to become the very subject of the poem at the expense of social and political realities, which are apparently felt as problematic. At the same time, in epithalamium as well as in its preface, mannerism and vir-tuosity betray the attempt of the author to keep in contact with Roman classical tradition, whose values he intends to transmit to posterity.
As far as literary models are concerned, the examination of singles tableaux has proved how the influence of Phaeton episode is not limited to the narrative pattern, but can be detected also in the ἐκφράσεις describing the house (carm. 11, 14-33) and the chariot (carm. 11, 34-46) of Ve-nus: this leads to suppose that the description of Venus’s sea-cortege is referred to a work of art created by Vulcan. If so, through Ovid’s intermediation Sidonius transforms a narrative subject of Claudian’s epithalamium into the subject of an ἔκφρασις. Another innovation is represented, in the last section of our epithalamium, by the unprecedented presence at the marriage of deities associated to fecundity.
The punctual commentary, mainly concerned with the style and the poetic language of the two poems, individuates further literary suggestions and reminiscences, that go to integrate the results of the more general remarks made in the introductions to the preface and to each section of carm. 11. Moreover, it deals with exegetic problems which sometimes are very hard, dis-cusses difficult passages, proposes possible solutions. Let us exemplify with three cases.
Among the more original contributions to a best editing and understanding of both poems, is worth recording the interpretation of the substantive genius in the praefatio (carm. 10, 20) as a synonymous of ars: this meaning, in a subtle play (favoured by adnominatio) with ingenium gives the poet the opportunity for a metaliterary insertion that contains a declaration of poetics.
An important improvement of both text and its interpretation has to be seen in the first 5 verses of the epithalamium, where the introduction of a very small correction (Maleae proposed by Ceccarelli instead of Maleam) makes it possible to keep the text transmitted by the manuscripts and to restore the intransitive value of recurro, which is often translated by the editors as if it was a transitive verb. Finally, at v. 112 of the epithalamium non solvitur of the manuscripts has been emended in dissolvitur, which has the meaning required by the passage and presents the advantage of being easy explained from a palaeographic point-of-view.
In order to offer the reader an easy and immediate approach to the book, a broad summary in English indicates which are the topics discussed and the questions faced and contains useful cross references to the Italian text for a more detailed explanation.
The volume is closed by:
Indice delle parole e cose notevoli
Indice di altri luoghi discussi.
“Frutto dell’attenta revisione di una tesi di dottorato (…), questa edizione commentate dell’epitalamio per le nozze di Ruricio e Iberia colma una grave lacuna nel panora- ma degli studi sidoniani, mostrandosi pienamente in sintonia con l’attuale tendenza a riservare specifiche cure ecdotiche ed esegetiche a singoli testi dello scrittore galloromano.” (Marco Onorato, sul Bollettino di studi latini 46.1, 2016, p. 389)
“Overall, those interested in Sidonius' poetry and Latin epithalamia will find things of value peppered throughout this book. Filosini ably observes and analyzes Sidonius' skill and relationship with his predecessors, and a reader can certainly appreciate the ways in which this commentary is serviceable.”(Amy Oh, in Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 08.06.2016)