Avi'tus, A'lcimus Ecdi'cius
(or ECDI'DIUS), son of Isicius, archbishop of Vienne, was born about the middle of the 5th century. From his earliest years he is said to have devoted himself to literature, and to have given promise of that erudition which subsequently gained for him, among his countrymen at least, the reputation of being the most profound and eloquent scholar of his age.
After bestowing an ample inheritance on the poor, lie retired into the monastery of St. Peter and St. Paul, close to the walls of his native city, and remained in the seclusion of the cloister until the death of his father (in A. D. 490), whom he succeeded in the archiepiscopal dignity. His fame as a pious and charitable priest and a powerful controversialist now rose very high.
He took part in the celebrated conference at Lyons between the Arians and the Catholic bishops, held in the presence of the Burgundian king, where, as we are told, he silenced the heretics and brought back many waverers to the bosom of the church. Gundebald himself is said to have yielded to his arguments, although from political motives he refused to recant his errors openly; and all agree, that after his death his son Sigismund publicly declared his adherence to the true faith. Avitus, at the request of his royal admirers, published treatises in confutation of the Nestorians, Eutychians, Sabellians, and Pelagians, and was peculiarly successful in gaining over a number of Jews who had settled in his diocese.
By pope Hormisda he was appointed vicar apostolic in Gaul, in the year 517 presided at the council of Epaune (concilium Epaonense
), died on the 5th of February, 523, was buried in the monastery of St. Peter and St. Paul, where he had passed so many years of his early life, and in the fulness of time received the honours of canonization.
The works of Avitus are
Sacrorum Poematum libri quinque,
dedicated to his brother, Apollinaris, bishop of Valentia, a renowned worker of miracles.
This collection consists of five distinct pieces, all in hexameter verse, extending to upwards of 2500 lines, De Initio Mundi, De Peccato Originali, De Sententia Dei, De Diluvio Mundi, De Transitu Maris Rubri.
De consolatoria Castitatis Laude,
in 666 hexameters, addressed to his sister Fuscina, a nun.
These productions display much imagination and great fluency; the plan of the different portions is well conceived and skilfully executed, and both in versification and expression they deserve the moderate praise of being much better than could have been expected, belonging as they do to what Funecius has quaintly termed the " Iners ac decrepita senectus" of the Latin language. Barthius is of opinion that we are prevented from estimating them fairly, in consequence of the numerous depravations and interpolations which he believes them to have suffered from the monks in ages still more barbarous. Besides his effusions in verse, Avitus is known to have published nine books of epistles, and a great number of homilies; but of those the following only are extant:
Eighty-seven letters to and from various persons of distinction in church and state.
A homily De Festo Rogationum et prima ejus Institutione.
5. Fragments of Homilies
Eight fragments of homilies.
6. Fragments of opuscula.
Fragments of opuscula.
These remains shew that he was well versed in scripture and in theology, and that he possessed some knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, and they contain curious and valuable information on various points of ecclesiastical history, discipline, and doctrine.
The poems were first printed at Strasburg in 1507 from a MS. in the possession of Beroaldus
, and are given in the Corpus Poetarum Latinorum of Maittaire and similar compilations
The whole works of Avitus were published collectively with notes by Père Sirmond, at Paris, 1643, 8vo., in the second volume of his Opuscula of the fathers and other ecclesiastical writers, and also in the works of Sirmond published by Père la Baume, Paris, 1690, fol.
, and reprinted at Venice, 1729, fol.
Since that period, a new homily has been discovered, and is included in the fifth vol. of the Thesaur. Anecdot. by Dom. Martenne