Coelius Sedulius

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Coelius (or Caelius, both styles of praenomen of doubtful authenticity) Sedulius, was a Christian poet of the first half of the 5th century. He is termed a presbyter by Isidore of Seville and in the Gelasian decree.

Extremely little is known about his life. The only trustworthy information is given by his two letters to Macedonius, from which we learn that he devoted his early life, perhaps as a teacher of rhetoric, to secular literature. Late in life he converted to Christianity, or, if a Christian before, began to take his faith more seriously.[1] One medieval commentary states that he resided in Italy.[2]

His fame rests mainly upon a long poem, Carmen paschale, based on the four gospels. In style a bombastic imitator of Virgil, he shows, nevertheless, a certain freedom in the handling of the Biblical story, and the poem soon became a quarry for the minor poets. His other writings include an Abecedarian hymn in honour of Christ, consisting of twenty-three quatrains of iambic dimeters, has partly passed into the liturgy, the first seven quatrains forming the Christmas hymn "A solis ortus cardine";[3] and the Epiphany hymn, "Hostis Herodes impie." A "Veteris et novi Testamenti collatio" in elegiac couplets has also come down, but we have no grounds for ascribing to him the Virgilian cento, "De verbi incarnatione."


  1. ^ Biography of Sedulius (5th century poet) at Christian Classics Ethereal Library
  2. ^ Entry for "Sedilius" in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1912)
  3. ^ This incipit was borrowed for the Carolingian Planctus de obitu Karoli; see Peter Godman (1985), Latin Poetry of the Carolingian Renaissance (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press), 206–211.

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 


Further reading[edit]

  • Johann Huemer, De Sedulii poetae vita et scriptis commentatio (Vienna, 1878)
  • Max Manitius, Geschichte der christlich-lateinischen Poesie (Stuttgart, 1891)
  • Teuffel-Schwabe, History of Roman Literature (Eng. trans.), 473
  • Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie, xviii. (Leipzig, 1906)
  • Smith and Wace, Dictionary of Christian Biography (1887).
  • Roger P H Green, Latin Epics of the New Testament: Juvencus, Sedulius, Arator, Oxford UP 2008 ISBN 978-0-19-928457-3 (reviewed by Teresa Morgan in the article "Poets for Jesus", Times Literary Supplement 4 April 2008 p 31).

External links[edit]