The Humblest Sparrow

The Poetry of Venantius Fortunatus
Michael Roberts

A long-awaited study of the poetry of Venantius Fortunatus


In The Humblest Sparrow, Michael Roberts illuminates the poetry of the sixth-century bishop and poet Venantius Fortunatus. Often regarded as an important transitional figure, Fortunatus wrote poetry that is seen to bridge the late classical and earlier medieval periods. Written in Latin, his poems combined the influences of classical Latin poets with a medieval tone, giving him a special place in literary history. Yet while interest has been growing in the early Merovingian period, and while the writing of Fortunatus' patron Gregory of Tours has been well studied, Fortunatus himself has often been neglected. This neglect is remedied by this in-depth study, which will appeal to scholars of late antique, early Christian, and medieval Latin poetry. Roberts divides Fortunatus' poetry into three main groups: poetry of praise, hagiographical poetry, and personal poetry. In addition to providing a general survey, Roberts discusses in detail many individual poems and proposes a number of theses on the nature, function, relation to social and linguistic context, and survival of Fortunatus' poetry, as well as the image of the poet created by his work.

Jacket illustration: L. Alma Tadema, Venantius Fortunatus Reading his Poems to Radegonda VI AD 555. (Courtesy of Dordrecht, Dordrechts Museum.)
Michael Roberts is Robert Rich Professor of Latin at Wesleyan University.

Praise / Awards

  • "The Humblest Sparrow is a volume with which all subsequent work on Fortunatus must engage, and it is a necessary read as well for anyone interested in late-antique and medieval poetry."
    —Suzanne Abrams Rebillard, Cornell University, Journal of Medieval Studies

  • " is all the more to Roberts credit that through The Humblest Sparrow, Fortunatus now addresses us with words which bring our imaginations to life."
    —Stephen D'Evelyn, Journal of Roman Studies

Look Inside

Copyright © 2009, University of Michigan. All rights reserved. Posted April 2009.

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Product Details

  • 376 pages.
  • 1 B&W photograph.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2010
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-02520-6

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  • Merovingian Bishops, St. Martin of Tours, St. Radegund, Late Roman Villas, Epistolography, Ceremony, Gregory of Tours, Late Latin Poetry, Epitaphs, Panegyrics