Sidonius, Caius Sollius Apollinaris Modestus

, a learned ecclesiastic of the fifth century, was descended of an illustrious family, his father and grandfather having been pretorian prefects in Gaul, and was born at Lyons about 430. He was educated with care, performed his studies under the best masters of that time, and became very skilful in all parts of literature, especially in poetry. He married Papianilla, the daughter of Avitus, who, from the office of pretorian prefect in Gaul, was raised to the imperial throne, after the death of Maximus. But Majorianus, whom Leo had taken into a partnership of the empire, forced Avitus to lay down his crown, and came to besiege the city of Lyons, where Sidonius had shut himself up. The city being taken, he fell into the hands of the enemy but the reputation of his great learning softened the barbarity of his enemies, and in return for their lenient treatment of him, he wrote a poem in honour of Majorianus, who was so highly gratified with it as to erect a statue to Sidonius in the city of Rome. The emperor Anthemius was equally pleased with a panegyric which Sidonius wrote in praise of him, and made him governor of Rome, and a patrician; but he soon quitted his secular employment, and obtained preferment in the church, being in 472 chosen, against his will, as reported, bishop of Clermont. He appears however to have been worthy of the station by learning and charity. His liberality indeed was highly | conspicuous, and even before he was bishop, he frequently converted his silver plate to the use of the poor. When Clermont was besieged by the Goths, he encouraged the people to stand upon their defence, and would never consent to the surrender of the city; so that, when it was delivered up, he was forced to fly, but was soon restored. Some time after, he was opposed by two factious priests, who deprived him of the government of his church; but he was again re-instated with honour at the end of a year. He died in peace in 487, after he had been bishop fifteen years.

He was a man learned above the age he lived in, skilled in all parts of literature and science, of a subtle and penetrating wit, and considering that he lived in the decline of Roman literature, not an inelegant writer. Of his works, nine books of epistles, with about four and twenty poems interspersed, are still extant. There are few things in his letters which relate to religion or the church, so that his opinions cannot be ascertained, but they contain many particulars relative to the learning and history of the times. They were published with notes by father Sirmond, at Paris, 1614, in 8vo;and, after his death, reprinted in 1652, with some additions, in 4to.1