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Bible Dictionaries

A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

Ennodius (1) Magnus Felix, Bishop of Pavia

Ennodius (1) Magnus Felix , bp. of Pavia, born at Arles (Ennod. Ep. lib. vii. 8) c. 473; connected with Romans of distinction ( ib. iv. i 25). The invasion of the Visigoths, and the consequent loss of his patrimony, caused him to migrate at an early age to Milan, where he was educated in the house of an aunt. In 489, the year in which Theodoric invaded Italy, his aunt died, and he was saved from beggary by marriage ( Eucharist. de Vit. ). A dangerous sickness (Ep. viii. 24) led him to serious thought and suggested the composition of his Eucharisticon, in which he reviews with penitence his past life. He was subsequently ordained deacon by Epiphanius bp. of Pavia, whose exhortations determined him to renounce his marriage, with the consent of his wife, who retired into a convent. In 494 he accompanied Epiphanius (Ennod. Vit. Epiphan. 234 A) on a mission to Gundebaud, king of the Burgundians, to procure the ransom of certain Ligurian prisoners. Upon the death of Epiphanius two years later he visited Rome, and gained reputation by composing an apology for pope Symmachus and the synod which acquitted him, as well as by a public panegyric in honour of Theodoric. The former of these was inserted in the Acta Conciliorum; the latter is generally included in collections of the Panegyrici Veteres. Under the next pope, Hormisdas, he succeeded Maximus II. in the see of Pavia, and was sent in 515, and again in 517, on an embassy to the emperor Anastasius to oppose the spread of the Eutychian heresy. Both embassies were unsuccessful. Anastasius, failing to corrupt or bend the bishop, had him placed on board an unseaworthy vessel. Ennodius, however, arrived safely in his diocese, which he continued to administer for four years. He died at the age of 48, and was buried in the church of St. Michael at Pavia, July 17, 521.

His writings exemplify throughout a profane tendency of thought and expression which Christian writers in Gaul were slow to abandon. Many of his letters suit the pen of a heathen rhetorician rather than of a Christian bishop. His illustrations are commonly drawn from Greek mythology. He speaks of divine grace as descending "de Superis," and sets the Fates side by side with Jesus Christ. His style is turgid, involved, and affected. He seems to shrink from making himself intelligible lest he should be thought commonplace, and the result is unattractive. His works are reprinted with notes in Migne's Patr. vol. lxiii. For his Life see Sirmond's ed.; Ceillier, Auteurs sacr. et ecclés. x. 569; for a just estimate of his literary merits, Ampère, Hist. lit. de la France, t. ii. c. vii.


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Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Ennodius (1) Magnus Felix, Bishop of Pavia'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. 1911.

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