Venantius Fortunatus: Personal and Political Poems

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Venantius Fortunatus, writing in the latter half of the sixth century, was not only a major Latin poet, but also an important historical figure. Born in the north of Italy and given a classical education in Ravenna, he travelled as a young man to seek patronage in the courts of Merovingian Gaul, writing both formal and informal poetry for three of the royal brothers, Sigibert, Charibert and Chilperic, and for many influential figures in ecclesiastical and secular life. He settled eventually in Poitiers, as the close friend of the ex-queen Radegund, of Agnes, abbess of the community Radegund had founded, and the major historian of the period, Gregory of Tours. In the period of cultural transition, he played an important part in adapting and developing literary traditions, influencing not only his contemporaries but also succeeding generations. He also played a personal role in events of national and international significance; his poems allow us vivid glimpses of the individual lives and characters of his patrons, painting a picture of a literary, not merely literate, culture, which complement's Gregory's canvas of bloodthirsty dynastic feuding.

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epitaph for Brumachius
epitaph for Queen Theudechild
to Bishop Gregory after a journey

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About the author (1995)

Judith George is Deputy Scottish Director and Senior Research Associate of the UK Open University. Besides her work as an educationalist, she contributes to the writing and teaching of Open University classics courses. She has written a number of articles on Venantius Fortunatus and his Merovingian context, and is author of Venantius Fortunatus: A Poet in Merovingian Gaul (Oxford, 1992).

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