Snippets from People, Personal Expression, and Social Relations in Late Antiquity

People, Personal Expression, and Social Relations in Late Antiquity, Vol. 1, by Ralph W. Mathisen. University of Michigan Press

  • P.49 Sidonius to the lord pope Graecus, greetings. You overwhelm me, most consummate of all bishops, by the praises showered on any unpolished lines that I happen to write. Short though my first letter was, I wish I could acquit myself of blame for having told you a whole string of things irreconcilable with fact. The truth is that a crafty traveller imposed upon my innocence. Ostensibly a trader, he persuaded me to give him a canonical letter as a reader, and this ought certainly to have contained some display of thanks. For it appeared, on subsequent inquiry, that by the generosity of the people of Marseille he set out better equipped than one so moderately favored in birth and fortune had reason to expect. It makes quite a good story, if l only wielded a pen able to do justice to its humors. But as you have asked me for a long and diverting letter, permit me to relate the manner in which this messenger of ours exploited the hospitality of your city. It shall be told in a light vein, but I shall be careful to say nothing to offend the severity of your ears. You will see that on this occasion I really do know the man whom I introduce to your notice for the second time. Usage permits a writer to find his subject-matter wherever he can; why, then, should I go far afield, when the man who is to bear my letter can himself provide the theme of it?
  • P.53 Bishop Ruricius to a sanctified and apostolic lord, and a patron for me before others to be esteemed personally by worship and affection in Christ the Lord, Bishop Aeonius. However often any individuals, depressed by the mass of their troubles, are compelled to seek out sanctified and apostolic men, whose good deeds of compassion, services of good deeds, and life of services commend them, and who are made known by the fame of all their virtues, these individuals, when they seek solace for their distress in correspondence, confer a favor upon us, and although their distress troubles us, nevertheless, through our conferring of service, their need becomes in some way our expression of kindness, by which, when we acquiesce to their petition we satisfy our own desire, and it thus turns out that the poverty of the petitioner benefits the bestower. Therefore, when he requested letters of attestation to Your Apostlehood I readily indulged our brother and fellow priest, Possessor by name, unfortunately, rather than by property, because that which he had, he lavished upon the redemption of his brother; he became a possessor of Paradise when he ceased to be a possessor of secular property. If Your Sanctity should deign to comprehend his need more fully, you may consider it sufficiently important to review the letter that our brother, Bishop Eumerius, sent through him to My Humility, and you may recognize there how fitting it is to counsel him in the customary manner and to sympathize with him for the sake of our mutual esteem.
  • P.58 Letters were first drafted on wax tablets, which were preserved as archives, before being written on folded parchment
  • P.59 Bishop Ruricius to Bishop Censurius, greetings. I rejoice that I have received the letter of Your Sanctity, even if on a business matter. For it makes no difference whether [our correspondence] occurs from necessity or from personal preference, as long as those who esteem one another communicate reciprocally among themselves and as long as a true conversation of their minds and senses links those whom spatial distances separate in body, because the virtue of the divine piety has granted even this greatest thing to our kind, so that we who are unable to scrutinize each other in the flesh can see with a spiritual gaze. For this reason, as the bearer of your letter returns, I have endeavored to reply to it as you enjoined, so that I respond equally both to your concern and to our mutual esteem. I offer greetings, therefore, to Your Apostlehood, and, regarding that matter, which you wished to investigate in writing through my people’s testimony, you should know that I have diligently conducted an examination of my men, as to where they were, that is, whether Sindilla lost his pigs with Foedamius’s knowledge. But, just as I already ascertained before, I learned that Sindilla and the laborers were primarily responsible, and that he himself lost the pigs through his own disobedience, even though he claimed that he was in another place. But the aforementioned Foedarnius was in no way culpable. For, of all these people, Sindilla ought to blame no other one for what he has suffered except for himself. How much I have labored in this matter, out of regard for you, so that your men might be freed from custody and recover your pigs, you will be able to learn more fully from their reports, because, in this matter, there was no need to discuss that in this letter. It is up to you to defend your man justly from the charge of this false accusation, which you know, from my letter, that he unjustly suffered.
  • P.68 A slave studies Vergil, law, arithmetic
  • P.70 Slaves were able to change their status
  • P.64 (footnote 79) Status:
    Inquilinus – worked for a lord
    origilanis – bound to the soil
    colonus – tenant farmer
    tributarius – had taxes paid by landlord
  • P.76 A teenager is a catechumen for several years before being baptized
  • P.78 Many bishops were interested in classical literature and responsible for its preservation
  • P.90 Even though I know that you are given to Bacchus, serenades, and diverse musical activities, and in fact even to girls’ choruses, nevertheless, because while adolescence mightily seethes it is good occasionally to retreat from such things and to spend more time with the Lord than with Liber, and to pay attention to parents rather than to melodies, I direct that tomorrow, which will be the fourth celebration, you hasten to fast with me at Brive, and in a timely manner, which I do not at all think that you are planning to do
  • P.102 Poem to wife
    Come now, I pray, steadfast Comrade of my activities
    And let us dedicate our brief life to God the Lord …
    You alone, faithful comrade, embark with me upon this campaign,
    In which God offers help to the infirm.
    Solicitously restrain me when I am elated, console me when I grieve:
    Let us each provide an example of a pious life.
    Be a guardian of your guardian, render reciprocal support:
    Encourage me when I waver, arise with the hope of consolation,
    So that for us not only our flesh is shared, but our intellect
    As well, and so that each of us nourishes two spirits.
  • P.124 One of the most omnipresent realities of the social world of the western Mediterranean during Late Antiquity was the presence of the barbarians… as rulers, friends and neighbours
  • P.126 …the Goths in no way were capable of obeying laws on account of their unrestrained barbarism…
  • P.127 … a regular commerce in captives (of barbarians)
  • P.138 Burgundian Code of 517: unwanted visitors were foisted upon Roman neighbours for 3 solidi a night
  • P.141 The religious revolution of Late Antiquity, fueled by the spread of Nicene Christianity and the adoption of the Christian ethos, had repercussions in every corner of society and touched different individuals in different ways. Its ramifications surmounted social and cultural boundaries. Intellectual attitudes, aristocratic careers, social relations, family life, and gender roles all were affected. If the secular milieu of the Roman Empire represented the ancient past, the ecclesiastical world of the Christian Church symbolized the medieval future. Roman aristocrats moved in both worlds. At the same time that they perpetuated classical literary practices, they also adopted a new ecclesiastical ideology that, according to some, necessitated a rejection of the classical past. Of course, such significant social and cultural transformations did not occur without some discord and disruption. Not everyone welcomed them. The process by which Nicene Christianity supplanted not only classical paganism but also other forms of Christianity entailed a certain amount of conflict.
  • P.150 Romans may be pagan or Christian; barbarians may be ‘ignorant pagans or Arian heretics’
  • P.156 War over theological quibbles (Arian vs. Nicene)
  • P.218 The practice of sorcery was rampant in Late Antiquity
  • P.221 Persons affected with mental illness described as being possessed by demons

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