Erasing Victor: Sidonius, manuscripts, and prosopography

Our last surviving panegyric from the western Roman empire was given by Sidonius Apollinaris in Rome on 1 January 468, addressed to Anthemius, the new emperor sent from Constantinople. The poem shows that the author was both not particularly knowledgeable of the earlier career of the new emperor and rather uneasy about the political context. A couple of letters in his first book tell the story of the panegyric: the first (1.5) is ostensibly written on his arrival in the city, skulking in his bedroom at an inn amid the noisy celebrations of the marriage of the new emperor’s daughter to the barbarian generalissimo Ricimer; the second (1.9) describes how Sidonius wangled the invitation to deliver the consular panegyric to the emperor on new year’s day and unexpectedly found himself appointed Prefect of Rome, with Christ’s help, thanks to his literary skill.

Sidonius’ panegyrics, like those of his model Claudian, open with prefaces in elegiac couplets. These present a mythical comparison to the real life situation of the poet: in the case of the panegyric of Anthemius, a description of Jupiter’s accession to power, wherein Sidonius compares himself to the centaur Chiron, whinnying his song of praise after the greater gods have spoken (Carm. 1. 23-24):

Sic nos, o Caesar, nostri spes maxima saecli,
   post magnos proceres parvula tura damus.

(‘In such a way, Caesar, great hope of our age, after the great magnates we offer our humble incense’).

But Sidonius continues by picking out another member of the audience, and in all modern editions, the text reads (25-30):

…audacter docto coram Victore canentes
   aut Phoebi aut uestro qui solet ore loqui;
qui licet aeterna uobis sit quaestor in aula.
   aeternum nobis ille magister erit.
ergo colat uariae te, princeps, hostia linguae;
   nam noua templa tibi pectora nostra facis.

(‘singing boldly before the learned Victor, who is wont to speak in Phoebus’ voice or in yours; although for you he is Quaestor in the eternal court, for me he will eternally be a master. So let the offering of a varied tongue worship you, emperor: for you make our hearts new temples to yourself.’)

Sidonius turns aside from the emperor to praise a quite different individual, a Quaestor of the Sacred Palace (that is, the official responsible for drafting imperial laws and speeches), who had once been his own teacher–by any standards an odd thing to do when addressing a panegyric to an emperor. But though those details seem clear, one important detail of the text is rather questionable. Loyen’s apparatus criticus on line 25 reads:

uictore Pb —tore Pa uicture M doctore CFT

That is, only one of the five manuscripts that Loyen uses, P (=Parisinus Latinus 2781) has the reading uictore and it has been written over an erasure. A black and white reproduction of the manuscript is in fact online on Gallica, and it shows that the replacement reading of the manuscript is actually uicture not uictore (though the u may have been changed from an o given the way the second stroke curls back); moreover, the traces of a deleted ascender above ui– suggest that the original reading may have been doctore.

Loyen’s mistake on the second reading of P seems to go back to the edition of Lütjohann and Leo (1887), though the latter also credits Sirmond, the seventeenth-century editor who first put uictore in the text in place of doctore. Sirmond’s note in his 1614 edition explains that the vulgate was doctore,

…Sed cum in plerisque uictore legeretur, non dubitaui, quin id eius nomen esset, qui sacri palatii Quaestor fuit Anthemio.

…but since the reading in many [manuscripts] was uictore, I had no doubt that that was the name of the man who was Anthemius’ quaestor of the sacred palace.

It is not clear to me that uictore can be found in many manuscripts, however, while uicture, a decidedly odd reading that can just about be construed as a vocative, ‘future conqueror’, is quite common (for example in Paris, Lat. 2171, Paris, Lat. 2782, Laurentianus Plut. 45.26, Copenhagen, KB, Thott 50 2o, Leipzig, UB, Rep. I 48 (corrected by a second hand to doctore)). I have found uictore only in two closely related mss in the Berlin Staatsbibliothek, lat. fol. 591 and Phillipps 1685. It is clear from the authoritative new study of the manuscripts by Franz Dolveck, to be published in the comprehensive introduction to Sidonius that Joop van Waarden and I are editing, that these Berlin manuscripts come at the bottom of any stemma and descend from manuscripts that read uicture. So while uictore is not absent from the MS tradition (and could conceivably be in other manuscripts that I have not seen), it looks like a conjecture to deal with the bewildering uicture, or even a slip of the pen. It is clear too that uicture is only found in one relatively narrow corner of the overall tradition, except in cases such as Parisinus Latinus 2781 where it has entered by contamination.

The reading doctore should be reinstated. By Dolveck’s reconstruction of the manuscript tradition of Sidonius’ poems, the agreement of what he calls α (Lütjohann’s first family) and γ (the English family), should give the reading of the archetype. These are represented in the apparatus quoted above by C and F respectively, and the other members of their families also read doctore. It is clear, in fact, that this reading reaches further into the tradition (for example, comparison to related manuscripts seems to confirm my hunch that P originally had doctore). There can be no doubt that this is the archetypal reading and that uictore is a conjecture based only on bewilderment at the corruption uicture. The text should be restored to:

…audacter docto coram doctore canentes
   aut Phoebi aut uestro qui solet ore loqui;
qui licet aeterna uobis sit quaestor in aula.
   aeternum nobis ille magister erit.

(‘singing boldly before my learned teacher, who is wont to speak in Phoebus’ voice or in yours; though he is your Quaestor in the eternal court, for me he will eternally be a master’).

The play on the word-root doct-, though unsubtle, is entirely characteristic of Sidonius. And it thus emerges that Sidonius was not so bold as to name another individual in the preface to his imperial panegyric.

In the second volume of the Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, ‘Victor 4’ is described as ‘QSP of Anthemius in late 467 and early 468 when Sidonius Apollinaris composed and delivered his Panegyric on Anthemius at Rome; Victor was himself a poet of repute and Sidonius flatteringly describes him as some one from whom he will always be ready to learn… perhaps Sidonius had once studied under him.’ The reader will be unsurprised to learn that Victor 4 is attested nowhere else. It is clear that his entry should be removed, and join the many Anonymi at the back of the Prosopography.

There are more improvements to be made in the text of Sidonius. This one should perhaps have been made earlier; however, once Franz Dolveck’s work on the tradition appears, the task of making them will become very much easier.

Gavin Kelly, Edinburgh

2 thoughts on “Erasing Victor: Sidonius, manuscripts, and prosopography”

    1. Thank you! It is certainly true that if ‘Victore’ was well attested in the manuscripts and could represent the archetype, you would assume that the paronomasia ‘docto.. doctore’ was a corruption by assimilation to the previous word and that Victore was the correct reading.

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