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Title: Friendship in the works of Venantius Fortunatus
Author: Williard, Hope Deejune
ISNI:       0000 0004 6062 2688
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis investigates the reception and transformation of Roman ideas of friendship in the Merovingian kingdoms of sixth-century Gaul. The barbarian invasions of Late Antiquity were once seen as the cause of a cataclysmic rupture in Roman culture but I argue that Merovingian elites drew widely from Classical traditions of friendship in their culture and social organisation. Using the poems, letters, and saints’ lives of Venantius Fortunatus (c. 530/540-609?), an Italian-born aristocrat who made his career writing for and about members of Gaul’s elite, I show that the Classical relationship of patronage was subsumed into friendship. Fortunatus has more often been relegated to scholarly footnotes than studied in his own right, but when his works are taken seriously as sources for the mentality of his age our picture of Merovingian society and its debt to Classical culture comes into sharper focus. Fortunatus expressed the relationship between himself and his addressees in terms of parity and equality, as well as dependence and deference, which changes how we understand the structure of the early medieval elite: alongside the patronal language of vertical hierarchy, these linguistic friendships facilitated the creation of horizontal networks through ties of mutual benefit, obligation, and affection. I argue that elite men and women used the hyper-literate conventions of epistolary culture to organise themselves into networks. Such networks were made and maintained to help their members navigate a post-imperial world which remained culturally Roman. The major contribution of my thesis is thus to provide a model for using letters and poems, literary sources medieval historians rarely exploit in full, to chart the social and cultural transition between the later Roman world and the early Middle Ages.
Supervisor: Wood, Ian ; Flynn, William Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available