Christian Emperors and Roman Elites in Late Antiquity [1 ed.] 1472440846, 9781472440846

This book brings together a number of case studies to show some of the ways in which, as soon as the Roman Senate gained

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Christian Emperors and Roman Elites in Late Antiquity [1 ed.]
 1472440846, 9781472440846

Table of contents :
List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations
Ancient Sources
1 Constantine and the Senatorial Aristocracy: The Men and Women He Could Not Ignore
2 Julian and the Pagan Tradition on Constantine
3 Quintus Aurelius Symmachus in Bauli: Literary Genres and Political Projects
4 Roman Senators and Imperial Officials at the Court of Valentinian I
5 The Brooms in Bloom: The Roman Aristocracy and the Haruspices
6 Ammianus, Phrynichus and Ancient Historians’ Self-Censorship
7 Pagan Senators and Christian Bishops: The Roman Senate at Work (382–384 AD)
8 Just Before the Sack: Between Political Crisis and Religious Anxiety in Rome
9 Saint Valentine and the Symmachi

Citation preview


Christian Emperors and Roman Elites in Late Antiquity

This book brings together a number of case studies to show some of the ways in which, as soon as the Roman Senate gained new political authority under Constantine and his successors, its members crowded the political scene in the West. In these chapters, Rita Lizzi Testa makes much of her work – the fruit of decades of research – available in English for the first time. The focus is on the aristocratics’ passion for aruspical science, the political use of ecphrastic poems, and even their control of the hagiographic genre in the late sixth century. She demonstrates how Roman senators were chosen as legates to establish proactive relations with Christian emperors, their ministers and military commanders, and Eastern and Western provincial elites. Senators wove a web of relations in the Eastern and Western empires, sewing and stitching the empire’s fabric with their diplomatic skills, wealth, and influence, while lively and highly litigious assembly activity still required of them a cultured rhetoric. Through employing astute political strategies, they maintained their privileges, including their own beliefs in ancient cults. Christian Emperors and Roman Elites in Late Antiquity provides a crucial collection for students and scholars of Late Antique history and religion, and of politics in the Late Roman Empire. Rita Lizzi Testa studied in Florence, London (King’s College), and Princeton (Institute for Advanced Study). She taught at the University of Turin and is now a professor of Roman history at the University of Perugia. She has published numerous articles, and is an author of several books on the governance of Late Antique towns, and the institutional changes from Constantine to Theoderic the Great, with respect to the role of senatorial aristocracy in Rome. She is the editor and coeditor of many volumes on the conflict and dialogue among pagans and Christians in the Roman Empire, such as Senatori, popolo, papi. Il governo di Roma al tempo dei Valentiniani, Bari 2004; Le trasformazioni delle élites in età tardoantica, Roma 2006; Pagans and Christians in the Roman Empire: The Breaking of a Dialogue (IVth–VIthCentury AD), Münster 2011 (with P. Brown); Pagans and Christians in Late Antique Rome. Conflict, Competition, and Coexistence in the Fourth Century, Cambridge 2016 (with M. Salzman and M. Saghy). She edited books also on various other topics, such as The Strange Death of Pagan Rome, Turnhout 2013; Late Antiquity in Contemporary Debate, Newcastle upon Tyne 2017; and The Collectio Avellana and Its Revivals, Newcastle upon Tyne 2019 (with Giulia Marconi).

Christian Emperors and Roman Elites in Late Antiquity

Rita Lizzi Testa

First published 2022 by Routledge 4 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 605 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10158 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2022 Rita Lizzi Testa The right of Rita Lizzi Testa to be identified as author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalog record has been requested for this book ISBN: 978-1-472-44084-6 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-032-26251-2 (pbk) ISBN: 978-1-003-28737-7 (ebk) DOI: 10.4324/b22863 Typeset in Bembo by MPS Limited, Dehradun

To my husband Marco and my daughter Giulia, thanks to whom (and sometimes in spite of whom) this book has been written


List of Illustrations Preface Acknowledgements List of Abbreviations Ancient Sources 1

Constantine and the Senatorial Aristocracy: The Men and Women He Could Not Ignore

ix x xxi xxiii xxv



Julian and the Pagan Tradition on Constantine



Quintus Aurelius Symmachus in Bauli: Literary Genres and Political Projects


Roman Senators and Imperial Officials at the Court of Valentinian I


The Brooms in Bloom: The Roman Aristocracy and the Haruspices






Ammianus, Phrynichus and Ancient Historians’ Self-Censorship


Pagan Senators and Christian Bishops: The Roman Senate at Work (382–384 AD)


viii Contents



Just Before the Sack: Between Political Crisis and Religious Anxiety in Rome


Saint Valentine and the Symmachi


Conclusion Index

263 271


1.1 Piero della Francesca. The Battle between Constantine and Maxentius. From the Basilica di san Francesco, Arezzo. © Heritage Image Partnership Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo 2.1 The Emperor Julian. Solidus aureus. © Heritage Image Partnership Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo 3.1 Roman Bauli in Campania. (Map courtesy of Jeff Matthews, ed. Naples. Life. Death et Miracles) 3.2 Bacoli today. © EyeEm/Alamy Stock Photo 4.1 The Roman Empire in Late Antiquity. (© EyeEm/Alamy Stock Photo) 5.1 Statuette of an Etruscan Haruspex. From Archäologisches Institut der Universitaet – Goettingen. (From the Catalogue Gli Etruschi, edited by Mario Torelli, Venezia 2000, Bompiani (without reserved rights) 8.1 The Siege of Rome by Alaric. Fifteenth-century French miniature. (© The Picture Art Collection/Alamy Stock Photo) 9.1 Dedication to Valentinus in the Codex Calendar of 354 (from Alamy) 9.2 The Stemma of the Symmachi (IVth–VIth AD): A Proposal. (created by me) 9.3 The Ancient Via Flaminia. (© NASA Image Collection/ Alamy Stock Photo) 9.4 The Via Interamnana in the Tabula Peutingeriana. (© Universal Images Group North America LLC/Alamy Stock Photo)

9 22 36 37 61

98 181 233 237 244 245


This book does not have a continuous narrative. Each chapter deals with different situations, questions, characters, and events of the central centuries of Late Antiquity. Some of the issues addressed have their origins in research that I have done over the years, the results of which I have partially published in Italian in specialist journals, miscellaneous volumes, and conference proceedings.1 As many of these contributions are unknown and not easily available to an Anglophone audience, I thought it appropriate to propose them here in English. I hope, in this way, also to keep the dialogue alive with those who, engaging with my work in Italian and treating similar topics, believed that it was worth their while to take some of my hypotheses as a basis for their investigations. Whether accepting or criticizing my views, these interlocutors always advanced our knowledge about the deep connections between social life, religious afflatus, cultural persistence, and tensions between new policies and old (though still vital) institutions. Many works, some of them very recent, cover much the same ground as this volume.2 Nevertheless, some aspects of the social, religious, and political history of the fourth century can still be reflected upon. The topics chosen for the various chapters in this volume are either not considered in those books, or have been interpreted differently. The first chapter opens with the love-hate (but, above all, love) relationship between Constantine and some noble Roman families: the religious factor informed the government policies of the first Christian emperor and had an impact on his ability to form an alliance with the dominant class of the empire.3 His reform of the orders had a fundamental effect in creating a class of clarissimi.4 Most senators, even those of ancient lineage, were grateful to Constantine and his sons for the new opportunities for career and service in the empire that the reform had given them: holding administrative positions at the highest levels gave them new opportunities to enrich themselves, expanding their estates, and to cover ever larger areas of the Empire with their patronage. Actually, when Emperor Julian’s expressed hostility towards his uncle, whom he despised “as an innovator and a disturber of the ancient laws and of customs received of old”, the Senate rebuked him. The second chapter then explores this episode in terms of Quellenforschung, and shows that the provincial literary tradition against Constantine became accessible under Julian and at his instigation.

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From the third chapter onwards, the senatorial mood of the second half of the fourth century is explored through the testimony of the letters and fragments of speeches of Quintus Aurelius Symmachus. In Chapter 3, in particular, the ugly poems that Quintus Aurelius Symmachus wrote to his father during his months of otium in Campania are highlighted, as well as the paintings of his villa in Bauli. They seem to me exemplary of the political obsessions of the generation of post-Constantinian senators. The fourth chapter moves from the sunny Tyrrhenian coast to cold Trier, to explore human and institutional relations between the members of the imperial court of Valentinian I and his son, Gratian, with the Roman senators. Chosen to convey to the court the mood of the assembly, in their official speeches, men such as Quintus Aurelius Symmachus or Vettius Agorius Praetextatus did not fail to underline the conditions under which the emperor could obtain and preserve the consensus of the Senate. The senatorial panegyrics, if more specimens had survived, would make it clear just how different the Roman aristocrats’ approach to “their” emperor was from that of certain provincials such as Eumenius, Nazarius, Claudius Mamertinus, Latinus Pacatus Drepanius, and other, anonymous, panegyrists. In the fifth chapter, prodigies dominate, starting with some passages from the work of Ammianus Marcellinus and other authors, including noncontemporary ones, which I read and interpret essentially by comparison with the laws of the Code of Theodosius and Justinian. Despite the endemic fear of black magic, some senators fought in defence of haruspicy as a true and unique interpretative scientia, after it had been included in the condemnation of other magical practices. Ammianus knew that the parts of his narrative involving haruspicy would be of great interest to the Roman aristocracy, which had always been accustomed to explaining political events through reflection on signs and their interpretation. The study of prodigies and oracles and their interpretation with reference to contemporary events preserved historical memory (which was essentially linked to the families of the aristocracy) and ancient tradition by renewing the interweaving of political practice and religious interpretation. This practice did not always indicate an explicit adherence to paganism, because the motivations were rather political and social. The possibility of influencing the population of Rome by presenting an explanation of disturbing omens and prodigies had been and continued to be a valuable tool of political intervention and control of the city for members of the Senate. Therefore, even when such information was no longer publicly disseminated following the legislation of the Christian emperors, experts in ancient divinatory practices continued to work, and their writings were preserved in the libraries and archives of the great senatorial families or groups connected to them. Through some references by Procopius, this attitude can be followed until the sixth century.5 The sixth chapter is dedicated to a specific practice of ancient historians. In order not to incur the punishment meted out to those who set on stage or read publicly accounts of contemporary events, Ammianus Marcellinus considered

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it appropriate to apply a healthy self-censorship to some parts of his narrative, as other writers had done before him since the first century AD. In Rome, in the second half of the fourth century, a cultured senatorial nobility again dictated its own exegesis of recent events, both because many of its members were involved, and because Theodosius I did not want skeletons in his closet while he was in the process of founding a new dynasty. This chapter, through the challenges that the “Theodosian” cultural milieu presented for Ammianus, can well illuminate the last stage of the political and social climate of the long fourth century. From a different perspective, Ammianus’s self-censorship also served me well in interpreting the trials of senators at Rome during the reign of Valentinian I.6 The strategies that the Roman senators employed not only to influence public opinion in a city like Rome, but also to ensure that what had been voted in the Senate be turned into laws, or vice versa that certain newly enacted laws be abolished (e.g. for Gratian’s anti-pagan measures) are also studied in the sixth chapter through the dossier of sources concerning the Altar of Victory controversy. The tendency of the more eminent senators to dominate their assembly and their often-frustrated normative dialogue with the emperors and the court make the continuous usurpations of the fourth century hardly surprising.7 These aspects also clarify the actions of Priscus Attalus. In the seventh chapter, the backdrop to Alaric’s sack of Rome plunges the reader in the atmosphere of the political and religious turmoil that spread in Rome, in Ravenna, and in north-central Italy, as ambassadors, armies, and usurpers criss-crossed back and forth. The Senate, which returns to the centre of this discourse, is that of the first decades of the fifth century, during its conflict with the philonicene Court of Honorius, which was supported by some senatorial groups linked to the Anici but opposed by others who tried to overthrow the emperor and his government. Finally, as a surprise, the last chapter reconstructs the identity of Saint Valentine, between Rome and Interamna Nahars, from the events of the immediate post-Constantinian age to the hagiographic texts of the sixth century. Valentine’s sanctity, valued in the sixth century but grounded in the events of the early Constantinian age, is by no means alien to the central themes of this volume. It tells of the intense rivalry between the families of the elite, which never waned over two centuries, and of the vitality of the Senate as an institution – rejuvenated in the fourth century, declining again in the sixth century – when the complex relations between pagans and Christians of the Constantinian age were reinterpreted to offer new martyrs to the most illustrious families. Be it clear that this is not a book about the Roman Empire as a whole. It is about some aspects of the Western Latin world and its different social groups that involved themselves in politics, laid out along a diachronic thread. Its focus is mainly the fourth century AD, though the study of some questions leads into the fifth or sixth century. In each chapter, the actors implied in the title of the book – Christian emperors, the Roman Senate, the senatorial aristocracy – as well as some local

Preface xiii

elites, are present and interact with each other to different degrees. Special attention, however, is always given to the activity of the Senate, as the ancient consultative assembly of the empire, and its members, the great Roman aristocracy of Late Antiquity. This focus unifies the issues addressed, creating a link among the various themes and a relationship between the chapters, which, though perhaps not always explicit, is deeper than it might appear. This overarching theme is also the reason that I wrote this book. Scholars of Late Antiquity have not paid as much attention to the institutional vitality of the Roman Senate as to the centrality of the great senatorial aristocracy. The cultural and religious identity of the last pagan aristocrats of Rome has even recently inspired a volume of more than 800 pages.8 The way in which ideas about wealth and poverty of the Roman pagan elite interacted with Christian ideals, at the same time shaping them and receiving profound influence from them, inspired a true masterpiece a few years ago.9 The persistent economic capacity of the Roman nobles – the greatest landowners of the Western Empire – the way they administered immense wealth, engaging different players in the direct and indirect management of their properties, and their ability to dialogue with the market while also evading taxes, have been studied in various essays, now finally reunited as “The Gifts of Ceres”.10 However, the renewed political commitment of many of these Roman aristocrats, members of an ancient and, at the same time, a new senatorial class that the Constantinian revolution had generated, is a historiographical concept that is too slow in establishing itself. The idea, seemingly outmoded and yet still widespread in interpreting the behaviour of the fourth-century senatorial elite, is that they were a class of idle rentiers, satisfied with an idle life without political offices, lazily moving from their splendid houses in Rome to luxurious country or seaside villas. Little consideration has been given to the legal culture that many senators did possess. As members of some great pagan religious colleges, they were depositaries of the fundamental principles of Roman public law. They also knew the laws well, either because many constitutions were enacted at their request as governors and urban or praetorian prefects, or because they had reached the office of quaestor sacri Palatii and many provisions were modelled by them. The Variae of Cassiodorus shed light on the work done by this quaestor of Theoderic, and praetorian prefect of Italy under the Ostrogothic successors, who wanted to be apprised of previous legislation and ensure the conformity of new provisions with the mos maiorum.11 An in-depth study of the powers, sphere of action, but also the culture of the praetorian prefects from the fourth to the sixth century, will be available in the papers of the International Colloquium held in Strasburg in May 2021.12 The vitality of the Roman Senate as a political body is also scantily addressed in recent research on Late Antiquity.13 Senate and senators became, in some ways, two separate political entities since Augustus established himself at the head of the res publica. The Senate gradually surrendered some of its functions to the princeps. Individual senators, on the other hand, continued to be chosen for even greater tasks than in the previous period. Many of these offices, however, were

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new and were no longer placed under the jurisdiction of the Senate, but of the emperor, who chose his legates personally. According to some scholars, this gap between the competences of the assembly and the political responsibilities of its members became definitive with Constantine: following “la décapitalisation de Rome”, the Senate acted essentially as a municipal council of the city magistrates and of the urban prefect.14 The idea goes back to Mommsen, and his perspective was shared by many scholars between the late nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century.15 Mazzarino was the first to challenge this interpretative model,16 showing how during the reign of Constantine the senatorial assembly had once again obtained the right to appoint quaestors or praetors. An inscription, erected by senatorial decree, recalled that Ceionius Rufius Albinus, as urban prefect, had asked and obtained from Constantine renunciation of the emperor’s right to appoint the quaestores candidati17 and the right of the Senate to claim for itself the auctoritas that had been lost for 381/382 years.18 This meant that it was no longer the emperor but the assembly that decided on the entry of the sons of the senators into the Senate, and that they did so in such a way that their debut in the career did not affect their families’ assets without adequate provision. It is no coincidence that Albinus asked for this senatorial prerogative to be restored, after Constantine (in 326/327) had reserved for the young quaestores the sole, but very expensive, task of organising the gladiatorial games during the main festivals (the Saturnalia) in December.19 An exquisitely institutional factor was decisive in renewing the authority of the assembly. Nevertheless, the right of the Senate to co-opt senators is rarely mentioned in modern studies, or is quoted without considering what consequences it may have had in strengthening the powers of the Senate as an assembly.20 Despite the Constantinian reform of orders, which conferred rank according the office, generation after generation, the sons of senators joined the Senate because they were born senators. When it was the assembly that again decided which candidates to accept, colleagues were once more required to show off their rhetorical ability to present the virtues of other candidates, although what mattered first and foremost was their personal financial standing (professio). In fact, it had to be made known in advance to the comes sacrarum largitionum. The admission into the Senate of the new 20-yearold clarissimi was celebrated with sumptuous games, for which their families spent huge fortunes. In some periods, according to sources, the competition among the wealthiest families of the city in organizing their children’s praetorian games became unbridled. For the wealthiest senators, this was an excellent opportunity to display their power (potentia) to the emperor and the people of Rome. Also, which offices in the management of a province or at court the emperor would confer on the new senator often depended on the fickle moods of the Roman plebs. Thus, during the fourth century, men like Ceionius Rufius Volusianus, Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, and his brothers, Virius Nicomachus Flavianus, Petronius Probinus, Sextus Claudius Petronius Probus, Q. Clodius Hermogenius Olybrius, Valerius Adelphius Bassus, Nicomachus



Anicius Paulinus, and Anicius Auchenius Bassus, entered the Senate. This is to mention just a few of the great families of the Roman aristocracy who dominated the political scene of Rome and the empire (not only of the West) for almost the two centuries to come. According to Avianius Symmachus, who wrote his booklet “On Famous Men” in prose and poetry (perhaps even including the images of those viri illustres), it was enough to write elogia of only eighty colleagues – often portrayed one after the other, father and son, in two successive epigrams – to show who really was important within the Senate of his time.21 Indeed, a young, ambitious praetor, especially if his father was prefect of Rome at the time, could manage to obtain the administration of some vital province in the Italian peninsula and then to be appointed to the proconsulate of Africa or to the Asian vicariate, depending on the economic interests that his family, or a family with which he was linked by kinship ties, had in one or another region of the Empire. Only the Pragmatica Sanctio, enacted in 554, altered the mechanism that had, from the beginning of the fourth century, regulated the choice of provincial governors among the youngest members of the great aristocratic families of Rome. By establishing that “the provincial governors must be chosen by the bishops and the first citizens of each region from the same provinces they are going to govern”,22 Justinian broke the relationship between politics, ultimately decided by the Senate of Rome, and peripheral administration, governed between the great aristocracy of Rome and the local elites. He accentuated regionalism, and also made the local people very lukewarm in their cooperation with Byzantine officials. But more than two centuries had passed since the age of Constantine. In fact, during the fourth century and a large part of the fifth, young senators, who were the sons and nephews of senators, on the strength of illustrious ancestors who they said dated back to the republican age and after holding a provincial administration, sometimes even aspired to the praetorian prefecture, an office with a power inferior only to that of the emperor, or to the quaestura sacri Palatii. In the latter case, the by-now-experienced senator could closely monitor the work of the court, especially that of the other three Consistorian colleagues, the magister officiorum and the two finance ministers, on whom many central and peripheral offices depended. Even being able to enter the imperial consistory as a quaestor sacri Palatii became a goal coveted by members of the traditional senatorial aristocracy. At the end of the fourth century, for example, Virius Nicomachus Flavianus became quaestor under Theodosius I. Over time, the consistorium acquired a growing importance as a consultative assembly of the emperor, refining its internal rules and defining an ostentatious ceremonial, to impress those who obtained access to the court.23 In the West, however, the multiplicity of imperial residences (Sirmium, Trier, Milan, Ravenna, as well as Rome), and the fact that many of them had to be abandoned for strategically safer locations at the very moment when the Imperial Palatium with its annexed offices acquired full efficiency locally, made the consistory a relatively weak body,

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particularly when compared to the more powerful development (and greater power) of that same institution in the East. This can partly explain why the aristocrats who entered the Roman Senate by birthright had a deferential respect for the ministers of the court and maintained epistolary relations with the most important of them, but had an (undeclared but emerging) awareness of their own de facto superiority over the whole bureaucracy of the Palace. Their patronage over local elites also made the difference. Until the first decades of the sixth century, the restoration of a dual channel of access to the Senate (effected by Constantine) made the relationship between the “mandarins of the ordo” (as they had been effectively defined) and the senators from the Palatine militia, a very interesting social and anthropological issue. It leaves the impression, however, that in times of tension the Roman aristocracy had excellent tools to prevail over the members of the court. In fact, in prospect, the increasing autonomy of the Western Senate contributed to the collapse of the Western part of Roman empire, while the Eastern assembly had a different role. When confronted with policies that implied the renunciation of some of their privileges, the senators of Rome willingly appointed usurpers, and took on a competitive role vis-à-vis the imperial government, thus actually pushing the West towards the end. During the fourth century, however, it was precisely the Senate’s ability to sustain the economic impulse of its aristocracy, pandering to its new desire for political participation, that revived the fate of the empire. It is this paradox, in a sense, that the various chapters of this book aim to explore. In my perspective, then, the dichotomy between the institutional weakness of the Senate and the political and economic power of the senators, widely accepted as a common interpretative category, is an artificial model for understanding well the long fourth century. Men of great economic power and renewed literary and rhetorical skills in the political sphere would neither have been able to carry out their functions of high diplomacy, nor administer vital sectors of the empire, if the Roman assembly had not supported their choices and validated their action with its deliberations. The analysis of several themes according to various perspectives seems to confirm that the late antique Senate once again began to exercise its powers in proportion to the economic clout and political skill of its members. Some of them, as the Christianization of the assembly progressed, could also boast exemplars of Christian excellence, a quality willingly attributed to the women of the family, such as the Demetrias Anicia of Augustine’s time. Others, like the Symmachi, already in the fifth century showed pride in some of their ancestors who had converted to Christianity early in the Constantinian age. In Ostrogothic Italy they commissioned the biography of their Valentine, since he was already venerated in two places of worship – Rome and Interamna – turning him into an eccentric model of a holy bishop.



Notes 1 None of the chapters literally translates a single previous contribution of mine; each, rather, gathers ideas from several earlier studies on the same topic. Actually, the story of this book is long. In 2013, I received an invitation from John Smedley of Ashgate to publish some of my articles, translated into English, in the Variorum Collected Studies Series. After translating some of them, I understood that the work would not be satisfactory: my Italian prose was too complex, the footnotes - especially of the less recent works - too long to allow a literal translation, and the bibliography on some topics, even if not on the specific aspects I dealt with, had multiplied over the years. I then stopped thinking about that project but forgot to rescind the contract signed with Ashgate. When, in 2017, Elizabeth Risch of Routledge (which acquired Ashgate in 2016) asked me if the volume was ready, since it was not, I proposed to prepare a monograph that synthesises my previous work on the fourth century, which I carried on over the years and reconsidered in different contributions, and expands on it with the addition of previously unpublished material. As far as possible, the precise relationship of these chapters to earlier published work will be clarified in the footnotes. 2 I am thinking in particular of books that will be frequently cited, such as Matthews 1975 (19902), Salzman 2002, Cameron 2011, Brown 2012, Moser 2018, Machado 2019, Gassman 2020, Salzmann 2021. 3 Nevertheless, following Constantine, some powerful aristocrats became enthusiastic sponsors of Christianity, showering the new religion and its clergy with funds and properties: an account of the effects of this process on the urbanistic facies of the Urbs, as well as on the Christian community, is Curran 2000, 116–157, and Spera 2013. 4 Dillon 2015, 43–53 argued against Jones 1964, 528, that such a reform did not lead to the devaluation of the title of clarissimus; rather, the system of rank at the top needed to be refined (ibidem, 53–62). 5 Roberto (in press). 6 Lizzi Testa 2004, 27–34. 7 A new approach to the phenomenon of usurpations in Late Antiquity is in the essays collected in 2020 in Occidente/Oriente. Rivista Internazionale di Studi Tardoantichi 1: 65–280 (Pisa-Roma: Fabrizio Serra Editore). 8 Cameron 2011. 9 Brown 2012. 10 Vera 2020. 11 Giardina 2006; Gardina, Cecconi, Tantillo, and Oppedisano 2014–2016 (only Books III–XII) with Latin text, Italian translation and a precious commentary; Arnold, Bjornlie, and Sessa 2016; Bjornlie 2019, with English translation of all Cassiodorus’s letters. 12 Porena-Huck (2021), in press. 13 It is, however, present in Clemente 2012, and (with some inconsistencies) in Salzman 2020. 14 Even considering the multiple functions of the late antique Senate, the impression that they were essentially limited to the administration of Rome also emerges from Salzman 2020, 274–275. 15 Mommsen 1887,3 II, 1, 530; 534; II, 2, 929. 16 Oppedisano 2020.



17 Quaestores candidati were those clarissimi whom the emperor indicated as suitable to obtain the quaestorship, since their families could shoulder the heavy burden of setting up gladiatorial games: Cracco Ruggini 1998, 274, n. 130. 18 CIL VI.1708 = 31906 = ILS 1222 is an unpreserved inscription, transmitted incompletely from a Carolingian manuscript (Einsideln Codex 326). It ran on the base of a statue found on the Capitoline Hill (where statues of senators were not often placed) in honour of Ceionius Rufius Albinus: PLRE I, Ceionius Rufius Albinus 14, 37. How to integrate this inscription provoked a debate between Mommsen and Seeck, with regard to which Mazzarino put forward his own hypothesis: Mazzarino 1968, 12–22 [=Mazzarino 1974, I, 183–96]. See also Mazzarino 1974, I, 443–4, n. 114. His interpretation has been accepted and clarified: from the Caesarian age until 336/337, every year only part of the quaestores were elected by the comitia and therefore by the Senate, while the quaestores Augusti or candidati were appointed by the emperor. From 336, however, the quaestores candidati no longer existed and all quaestores were created by the Senate (CTh 6.4.8; 10; 12–15): CIL VI.8.3, 5051–5052 (G. Alföldy): Lizzi Testa 2013, 359. No importance is attributed to the measure by Weisweiler 2015, 25, n. 27. 19 Chastagnol 1962, 78–80, n. 32; Roda 1977, 25–26 and 68–90; Cracco Ruggini 1998, 273–4. 20 Heather 1997 shows how the senatorial order experienced profound transformation in its composition and identity as well as in its social and political standing, but does not insist on this institutional aspect. Weisweiler 2015 and Weisweiler 2016 rightly emphasizes that the Roman aristocracy was an empire-wide elite, imbued with the same education and political conceptions, but he forgets to point out that differences remained between the Roman aristocrats. Machado 2019, 11, well describes them as “an imperial and a municipal elite simultaneously”, but the institutional basis of the special identity of certain aristocratic groups is little considered. Salzman 2020, 270–271 does not grasp the structural meaning of the right of the Senate to coopt senators. 21 In this perspective, it is not entirely correct to assume that it was only after the beginning of the fifth century that the Roman aristocracy became a smaller and more hierarchical group, as Barnish 1988 and Machado 2013, 62–63 tend to emphasise. 22 Const. Pragm. App. VII (Pro petitione Vigilii venerabilis antiquioris Romae [episcopi]), 12, in CI III Novellae, 800–1: Provinciarum etiam iudices ab episcopis et primatibus uniuscuiusque regionis idoneos eligendos et sufficientes ad locorum administrationem ex ipsis videlicet iubemus fieri provinciis, quas administraturi sunt, sine suffragio […]. 23 Tantillo 2015; Lizzi Testa 2017; Porena 2018; Tantillo 2019.

Bibliography Arnold, Jonathan J., M. Shane Bjornlie, and Kristina Sessa. 2016. A Companion to Ostrogothic Italy. Leiden-Boston: Brill. Barnish, S. J. B. 1988. “Transformation and survival in the western senatorial aristocracy, c. AD 400–700.” PBSR 56: 120–155. Bjornlie, M. Shane. 2019. The Variae: The Complete Translation. Cassiodorus. Oakland: University of California Press. Brown, Peter. 2012. Through the Eye of a Needle. Wealth, the Fall of Rome and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350–550 AD. Princeton-Oxford: Princeton University Press. Cameron, Alan. 2011. The Last Pagans of Rome. Oxford: Oxford University Press.



Chastagnol, André. 1962. Les Fastes de la Préfecture de Rome au Bas-Empire. Paris: Nouvelles Editions Latines. Clemente, Guido. 2012. “Il Senato e il governo dell’Impero tra IV e VI secolo: la religione e la politica”. In Costantino prima e dopo Costantino. Constantine before and after Constantine, edited by Giorgio Bonamente, Noel Lenski, and Rita Lizzi Testa, 321–331. Bari: Edipuglia. Cracco Ruggini, Lellia. 1998. “Il Senato fra due crisi (III-VI secolo).” In Il Senato nella storia, I (Il Senato nell’età romana), edited by Emilio Gabba, 223–375. Roma: Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato. Curran, John R. 2000. Pagan City and Christian Capital. Rome in the Fourth Century. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Dillon John N. 2015, “The Inflation of Rank and Privilege: Regulating Precedence in the Fourth Century AD.” In Contested Monarchy. Integrating the Roman Empire in the Fourth Century AD., edited by Johannes Wienand, 42–66, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gassman, Mattias P. 2020. Worshippers of the Gods. Debating Paganism in the Fourth-Century Roman West. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Giardina, Andrea. 2006. Cassiodoro politico. Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider. Giardina, Andrea, Giovanni A. Cecconi, Ignazio Tantillo, and Fabrizio Oppedisano, eds. 2014-2016. Cassiodoro. Varie. Vol. 2 (Libri III-V); 3 (Libri VI-VII); 4 (Libri VIII-X); 5 (Libri XI-XII). Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider. Heather, Peter. 1997. “Senators and Senates.” In The Cambridge Ancient History, XIII. The Late Empire, A.D. 337–425, edited by Averil Cameron, and Peter Garnsey, 184–210. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2013. “Costantino e il Senato romano.” In Costantino I. Enciclopedia Costantiniana sulla figura e l’immagine dell’imperatore del cosiddetto Editto di Milano 313-2013, edited by Alberto Melloni, vol. 1, 351–367. Roma: Enciclopedia Treccani. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2017. “Ambroise de Milan et la cour au IVe siècle: entre mythes historiographiques et réalité.” In L’évêque de cour. Figure politique, figure polémique, edited by Sylvain Destephen. Paris: Hermann Éditeurs. Machado, Carlos. 2013. “The Roman aristocracy and the imperial court, before and after the sack’.” In The Sack of Rome in 410 AD, edited by Johannes Lipps, Carlos Machado, and Philipp von von Rummel, 49–76. (Palilia 28) Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag. Machado, Carlos. 2019. Urban Space and Aristocratic Power in Late Antique Rome (AD 270535). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Matthews, John. 1975. Western Aristocracies and Imperial Court AD 364-425. Oxford: Clarendon Press (reprinted 19902). Mazzarino, Santo. 1968. “Problemi e aspetti del basso impero.” In Tardo antico e alto Medioevo. La forma artistica nel passaggio dall’antichità al Medioevo. Atti del Convegno Internazionale (Roma, 4–7 aprile 1967), 13–22. Roma: Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (reprinted in Santo Mazzarino 1974. Antico, tardoantico ed èra costantiniana. 1, 183–96. Roma: Dedalo libri). Moser, Muriel. 2018. Emperor and Senators in the Reign of Constantius II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mommsen, Theodor. 18873. Römisches Staatsrecht. II. Leipzig: Hirzel [I ed. 1874-1875]. Oppedisano, Fabrizio. 2020. “Santo Mazzarino e il senato tardoantico.” Studi Storici 1, 27–39. Porena, Pierfrancesco. 2018. “L’amministrazione palatina di Diocleziano e dei tetrarchi. Comitatus, consilium, consistorium.” In Diocleziano: la frontiera giuridica dell’impero, edited by Werner Eck, Salvatore Puliatti, 63–110. Pavia: Pavia University Press. Porena, Pierfrancesco, Olivier Huck. 2021. La préfecture du prétoire tardo-antique et ses titulaires (IVe–VIesècle)(Strasburg, 26–28 Mai 2021), in press.

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Almost all of the research that flowed into this book, with the exception of the last three chapters, was the result of dialogue with, and the suggestions of, Lellia Cracco Ruggini: her magisterium will be unforgettable, and I deeply regret that she cannot read and comment on this new work on subjects so dear to her. To Guido Clemente too, who also passed away suddenly at the beginning of this year, my heartfelt thanks. He taught me – when I was still a young student – the importance of a political approach to the history of the Senate and the Roman elites: it is to his lucid teaching that I owe my interest in institutional factors alongside social and economic ones. Peter Brown has also been exceptionally important for my research over the years, in urging me to continue studying late antique history by bringing together in a single sweep fields (ecclesiastical and secular) and regions (Rome and the wider empire) which are usually kept apart. From our long and frequent talks in Princeton on Symmachus, Ambrose, Northern Italy, and the religious and senatorial conflicts in the Urbs Roma, I learned how it was possible to order into a visible context of amazing complexity the minute particles of events, which I am accustomed to read as through a molecular microscope. Peter, moreover, warned me that translating one’s work from one language into another is very risky: to him, above all, I owe the impetus to rethink each chapter of this book as a new text, rather than offer a direct translation of previous papers. With Alan Cameron in New York and in Rome I had much discussion about the exegesis of some important letters of Symmachus. We used to disagree on almost everything: on the great Roman senator’s purpose in opposing Ambrose, on the universal value of Gratian’s provisions, on Ammianus as a lonely historian, on the dating of the Historia Augusta, and more. Every conversation with him inspired me to find new reasons and new sources with which to support my arguments. In order to develop or improve the approach to individual topics, I have also been able to benefit from fruitful exchanges of ideas with many colleagues, whom I thank. In the long discussions that followed common lunches at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, Glen Bowersock helped me to focus on Julian’s role in starting a pagan tradition about Constantine. Fabrizio Oppedisano, who recently compared Ammianus’s passages on “the brooms in



bloom” with similar images in some of Cassiodorus’s Variae, indirectly convinced me that it was worth studying this issue again. I also thank Michele Salzman, who made useful comments on my interpretation of Attalus’s usurpation and gave me some chapters of her new book, now printed, to read: our opinions, however, remained divergent in some cases. I have taken advantage also of Pierfrancesco Porena’s and Silvia Orlandi’s useful suggestions for chapter IX, accepting all their precious insights. I wish to give special thanks to Domenico Vera, who, after the labor of reading Senatori, popolo, papi, further agreed to comment on this new booklet in its entirety, and encouraged me not to give up on publishing it. My gratitude goes also to Averil Cameron, whose friendship supported the writing of this book in various ways, including helping me to choose its most appropriate title. Finally, I owe thanks to the anonymous reader for Routledge for his/her many incisive comments, which have “forced” me to make the links between the various chapters explicit and the book more appealing (I hope) to an Anglophone audience. Many other colleagues and friends read parts of this work, cooperating to improve its English style. Two earlier works, now reworked and rewoven in Chapter VII, were translated into English by Neil McLynn and Noel Lenski some years ago, before they were publicly aired: one in Oxford, at the Seminar “Late Antique Religion and Politics: from Rome to Berlin” for the opening of the Oxford Centre for Late Antiquity, the other in Konstanz, at a conference organised by Johannes Wienand. Noel Lenski also corrected the first version of chapter I during a trip along the Danube borders of the Roman Empire, on the occasion of a summer school organised in Budapest by our unforgettable colleague, Marianne Saghy. His student, Emily Hurt, who has been studying in Perugia for two years to complete her master’s thesis, patiently corrected many chapters of this book. However, the person who has accompanied this English venture throughout the years is Stefano Marrone. I can only thank fate that this childhood friend, with whom I shared the joys and sorrows of a very tough Liceo Classico, chose not to be a professor of ancient literature, and instead became a superb interpreter of modern languages, first for the European Parliament in Brussels and now in Rome, where he is the head of the Interpretation and Translation Office of the Chamber of Deputies. The last revision is due to Hendrik Dey, who is also hard at work in this hot summer. My many thanks to all these friends.




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xxiv Abbreviations



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Consularia Constantinopolitana, edidit by Theodor Mommsen. In MGH AA IX, 1 (Chronica Minora). Berlin: Weidmann 1892. De locis sanctis martyrum, quae sunt foris civitatis Romae (CPL 2339), edited by François Glorie. In Itineraria et alia geographica, edited by P. Geyer et al (CC 175). Turnhout: Brepols 1965. Dion Cassius, Historia Romana, edited by Ludwig Dindorf. Vol. I-V. Leipzig: Teubner 1863–65. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Antiquitates Romanae, edited and translated by Earnest Cary. In The Roman Antiquities of Dionysius of Halicarnassus. Loeb Classical Library. Vol. I–VII. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press 1937. Ennodius, Epistulae, edited by Friedrich Vogel. In Magni Felicis Ennodi Opera. MGH AA VII. Berlin: Weidmann 1885. ––––––––– Paraenesis Didascalica, edited by Friedrich Vogel. In Magni Felicis Ennodi Opera. MGH AA VII. Berlin: Weidmann 1885. Epigrammata Bobiensia, edited by W. Speyer. Leipzig: Teubner 1963. Epigrammata Damasiana, edited by Antonio Ferrua. Roma: Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana 1942. Epiphanius, Adversus Haereses, edited by Karl Holl, Jürger Dummer. In Epiphanius, Panarion Heresiarum. Vol. I–II. Berlin: Akademie Verlag 1915-85. Epitome de Caesaribus, edited by François Pichlmayr. In Sexti Aurelii Victoris Liber de Caesaribus. Leipzig: Teubner 1961, 131–76. Eunapius, Vita Sophistarum, edited by Giuseppe Giangrande. In Eunapii Vitae Sophistarum. Roma: Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato 1956. Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, edited by Eduard Schwartz and Theodor Mommsen. In Eusebius Werke II, 1–3. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag 1903-9; 2nd ed. 1999 (GCS NF 6.1–3). Eusebius, Oratio de laudibus Constantini, edited by Ivar A. Heikel. In Eusebius Werke. Vol. I. (GCS 7.1). Berlin: Akademie-Verlag 1902; translated by Harnold A. Drake. Berkeley: University of California Press 1976. Eusebius, Vita Constantini, edited and translated by Averil Cameron and Stuart G. Hall. In Eusebius. Life of Constantine. Oxford: Clarendon Press 1999. Eutropius, Breviarium ab urbe condita, edited by Carlo Santini. Leipzig: Teubner 1992. Festus, De verborum significatu, edited by Wallace M. Lindsay. In Sexti Pompei Festi. De verborum significatu quae supersunt cum Pauli epitome. Leipzig: Teubner 1913. Fragmenta Vaticana, edited by Paul Krueger, Theodor Mommsen, and Wilhelm Studemund. In Collectio librorum Iuris Anteiustiniani in usum scholarum III. Berlin: Weidmann 1890. Gellius, Noctes Atticae, edited by Leofranc Holford-Strevens. In Auli Gelli Noctes Atticae. Vol. I-II. Oxford Classical Texts. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2019. Gregorius Nazianzenus. Oratio 5, edited and translated by Jean Bernardi. In Grégoire de Nazianze. Discours 4–5 (SCh 309). Paris: Éditions du Cerf 1983.

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Herodotus, Historiae, edited by Nigel Wilson. In Herodotus Historiae. Libri V–IX. Oxford Classical Texts, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2015. Hieronymus, Contra Joannem Hierosolymitanum episcopum ad Pammachium, edited by Jean-Louis Feiertag. In Sancti Hieronymi presbyteri opera (CC 79A). Turnhout: Brepols 1999. ––––––––– Epistulae, edited by Jérôme Labourt. In Saint Jérôme. Lettres. Vol. I–VIII. Paris: Les Belles Lettres 1949–63. ––––––––– Chronicon, edited by Rudolf Helm and Ursula Treu. In Eusebius Werke 7. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag 1984 (3rd ed.). Himerius, Orationes, edited by Aristide Colonna. In Himerii declamationes et orationes cum deperditarum fragmentis. Roma: Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato 1951. Horatius, Carmina, edited by Enzio Cetrangolo. In La lirica latina. Milano: Sansoni Editore 1993. Iordanes, Romana, and Getica, edited by Theodor Mommsen. In De origine actibusque Getarum. MGH AA V.2, 1–52; 53–138. Berlin: Weidmann 1882. Iulianus, Epistulae, and Orationes, edited and translated by Joseph Bidez, Christian Lacombrade, and Gabriel Rochefort. In L’empereur Julien. Oeuvres completes. Vol. I–IV. Paris: Les Belles Lettres 1932–64. Itinerarium Malmesburiense (CPL 2337), edited by François Glorie. In Itineraria et alia geographica edited by P. Geyer et al (CC 175). Turnhout: Brepols 1965. Lactantius, De mortibus persecutorum, edited and translated by John L. Creed. In Lactantius. De mortibus persecutorum. Oxford: Clarendon Press 1984. Lex Ursonensis (or Lex Coloniae Genetivae Iuliae. CIL II. 5439), edited and translated by Michael H. Crawford, John D. Cloud et al. In Roman Statutes, n. 25. London: Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies. Supplement 64, 1966 (repr. 1996). Libanius, Epistulae, edited by Richard Foerster. In Libanii Opera. Vol. IX–XI. Leipzig: Teubner 1921–2. ––––––––– Orationes, edited by Richard Foerster. In Libanii Opera. Vol. I–IV. Leipzig: Teubner 1903–8. Liber Pontificalis. Texte. Introduction et Commentaire, edited by Louis Duchesne, Paris: E. de Boccard 1955–57. Livius, Ab Urbe condita, edited by B.O Foster et al. In Livy, History of Rome Vol. I–XIV. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 1919. Macrobius, Saturnaliorum Convivia, edited by Nino Marinone. In I Saturnali di Macrobio Teodosio, Torino: UTET 1977. Martyrologium Hieronymianum, edited by Gian Battista De Rossi and Louis Duchesne. In Acta Sanctorum, Novembris, Vol. II. Bruxelles: Tongerloo 1894. Notitia ecclesiarum Urbis Romae (CPL 2336), edited by François Glorie. In Itineraria et alia geographica edited by P. Geyer et al (CC 175). Turnhout: Brepols 1965. Notitia Dignitatum, edited by Otto Seeck. In Notitia Dignitatum accedunt Notitia Urbis Constantinopolitanae et Laterculi provinciarum. Berlin: Weidmann 1876 (repr. 1962).

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Novellae Maioriani, edited by Paul M. Meyer, Theodor Mommsen. In Codex Theodosianus. II. Leges Novellae ad Theodosianum pertinentes. Berlin: Weidmann 1905. Olympiodorus, Fragmenta, edited by Karl Müller. In FHG IV. Paris: Ambroise Firmin–Didot 1851; and translated by Roger C. Blockley. In The Fragmentary Classicising Historians of the Later Roman Empire. Eunapius, Olympiodorus, Priscus and Malchus. Vol. I–II. Liverpool: Francis Cairns 1981–3. Origo Constantini Imperatoris, edited by Theodor Mommsen, MGH AA IX, 1 (Chronica Minora). Berlin: Weidmann 1892, and translated by John C. Rolfe. In Ammianus Marcellinus, Vol. III (The Origin of Constantine). Loeb Classical Library Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press 1939. Orosius, Historiarum adversum paganos libri VII, edited and translated by MariePierre Arnaud Lindet. In Orose. Histoires contre les païens. Vol. I–III. Paris: Les Belles Lettres 1990–91. Palladius, Apologia, edited by Roger Gryson. In Scolies Ariennes sur le concile d’Aquilée (SChr 267). Paris: Éditions du Cerf. Panegyrici Latini, edited by Domenico Lassandro and Giuseppe Micunco. In Panegirici Latini. Torino: UTET 2000. Paulus Diaconus, Historia Romana edited by Hans Droysen. In Eutropi Breviarium ab urbe condita cum Pauli additamentis et versionibus Graecis. MHG AA II, Berlin: Weidmann 1879. Paulus Diaconus, Historia Langobardorum, edited by Ludwig K. Bethmann and Georg Waitz, Monumenta Germaniae historica. Scriptores rerum Langobardicarum et Italicarum, saec. VI–IX 48, Hannover, 1878. Paulinus Mediolanensis, Vita Ambrosii, edited by Antoon A.R. Bastiaensen, In Vita di Cipriano, Vita di Ambrogio, Vita di Agostino. Milano: Fondazione Lorenzo Valla, Mondadori 1975 (repr. 1995). Paulinus of Nola, Carmina, edited by Wilhelm von Hartel. In Sancti Pontii Meropii Paulini Nolani Carmina (CSEL 30). Wien: Temsky 1894. Paulus, Sententiae, edited by Emil Seckel, Bernhard Kuebler, Leipzig: Teubner 1927. Petrus Patricius, Fragmenta, edited and translated by Thomas M. Banchich: In The Lost History of Peter the Patrician. London, New York: Routledge 2015. Philostorgius, Historia Ecclesiastica, edited and translated by Bruno Bleckmann, Markus Stein. In Philostorgios Kiechengeschichte. Vol. I–II. Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh 2015. Plinius, Naturalis Historia, edited and translated by Alessandro Barchiesi et al. In Plinio. Storia Naturale. Vol. I–V. Torino: Einaudi 1982-88. Plinius, Epistulae, edited by Francesco Trisoglio. In Opere di Plinio Cecilio Secondo. Vol. I–II. Torino: UTET 1973. Polemius Silvius, Chronicon, edited by Theodor Mommsen. In Polemii Silvii Laterculus. MGH AA IX, 1 (Chronica Minora). Berlin: Weidmann 1892. Priscianus, Institutiones, edited by Martin Hertz. In Prisciani grammatici Caesariensis Institutionum grammaticarum libri XVIII. Vol. I–II. Leipzig: Teubner 1855–59.


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Procopius, De bello Gothico, and De bello Vandalico, edited by Jakob Haury. In Procopii Caesariensis Opera omnia, Vol. I–III. Leipzig: Teubner 1905–13. Prudentius Contra orationem Symmachi, and Peristephanon Liber, edited by Henry J. Thomson, Prudentius. Vol. I–II. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press 1953. Quintillianus, Institutio oratoria, edited by Jean Cousin. In Quintilien. Institution oratoire. Vol. I–VII. Paris: Les Belles Lettres 1975–80. Registri ecclesiae Carthaginensis excerpta, edited by Clarles Munier (CC 149). Turnhout: Brepols 1974, 182–232. Rufinus Aquileiensis, Historia Ecclesiastica, edited by Theodor Mommsen. In Eusebius Werke. II (Eusebii historia ecclesiastica translata et continuata). (GCS 9.1–3). Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs 1903–9. Rutilius Namatianus, De reditu suo, edited by J. Wight Duff and Arnold M. Duff. In Minor Latin Poets. Vol. I–II. 1934, and translated by Martha Malamud, London, New York: Routledge 2016. Seneca, Controversiae, edited and translated by M. Winterbottom. In Seneca the Elder, Declamations. Vol. II (Controversiae, Books 7–10. Suasoriae. Fragments). Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press 1989. Servius, In Vergilii Aeneidem Commentarii, edited by Georg Thilo, Hermann Hagen. In Servi grammatici qui feruntur in Vergilii Carmina Commentarii. Vol. I–III. Leipzig: Teubner 1881–87 (repr. Hildesheim 1961). Scriptores Historiae Augustae, Vita Didii Iuliani, and Vita Severi, edited by Paolo Severini. In Scrittori della Storia Augusta. Vol. I–II. Torino: Utet 1983. Scriptores Historiae Augustae, Vita Alexandri Severi, edited by Cécile BertrandDagenbach, and Agnès Molinier-Arbo. In Histoire Auguste. Tome III, 2° partie. Vie d’Alexandre Sévère. Paris: Les Belles Lettres 2017. ––––––––– Vita Gordiani, edited by François Paschoud. In Histoire Auguste. Tome IV, 1° partie. Vie des deux Maximins, des trois Gordiens, de Maxime et Balbin. Paris: Les Belles Lettres 2018. ––––––––– Vita Gallieni, edited by Olivier Desbordes and Stéphane Ratti. In Histoire Auguste. Tome IV, 2° partie. Vies des deux Valériens et des deux Galliens. Paris: Les Belles Lettres 2002. ––––––––– Vita Claudi, edited by François Paschoud. In Histoire Auguste. Tome IV, 3° partie. Vie des Trente Tyrans et de Claude. Paris: Les Belles Lettres 2011. ––––––––– Vita Taciti, edited by François Paschoud, In Histoire Auguste. Tome V, 1° partie. Vies d’Aurélien et de Tacite. Paris: Les Belles Lettres 2002. ––––––––– Vita Firmi, edited by François Paschoud. In Histoire Auguste. Tome V, 2° partie. Vies de Probus, Firmus, Saturnin, Proculus et Bonose, Carus, Numérien et Carin. Paris: Les Belles Lettres 2002. Sidonius Apollinaris, Carmina, edited by Christian Lvetjohann. In Gaii Sollii Apollinaris Sidonii epistulae et carmina. MGH AA VIII. Berlin: Weidmann 1887. Socrates, Historia Ecclesiastica, edited by Günther C. Hansen. In Socrates. Kirchengeschichte. Berlin: Akademie Verlag 1995.

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Sozomenus, Historia Ecclesiastica, edited and translated in German by Günther C. Hansen. In Sozomenos. Historia Ecclesiastica. Kirchengeschichte. Vol. I–IV. Turnhout: Brepols 2004. Svetonius (Svet.), De Vita XII Caesarum, edited and translated by John C. Rolfe. In Svetonius. The twelve Caesars, Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press 1997. Symmachus, Opera, edited by Otto Seeck. In Q. Aurelii Symmachi quae supersunt. MGH AA VI,1. Berlin: Weidmann 1883 (repr. 2001). ––––––––– Relationes, edited and translated by Jean Pierre Callu. In Symmaque. Tome V. Discours - Rapports. Paris: Les Belles Lettres 2009. ––––––––– Epistulae, edited and translated by Jean Pierre Callu. In Symmaque. Correspondance/Lettres. Tomes I–IV. Paris: Les Belles Lettres 1972–2002. Synesius, Dion, edited and translated by Antonio Garzya. In Opere di Sinesio di Cirene. Epistole, Operette, Inni. Torino: UTET 1989. Tacitus, Annales, edited by C.D. Fisher. In Cornelii Taciti Annalium ab excessu Divi Augusti libri. Oxford Classical Text. Oxford: Oxford University Press 1906 (repr. 1973). ––––––––– Historiae, edited by C.D. Fisher. In Cornelii Taciti Historiarum libri. Oxford Classical Text. Oxford: Oxford University Press 1911. Themistius, Orationes, edited by Riccardo Maisano. In Discorsi di Temistio. Torino: UTET 1995. Theodoretus, Historia Ecclesiastica. Edited by Günther C. Hansen. In Theoderet. Kirchengeschichte (GCS N.F. 5). (3rd ed.). Berlin: Akademie-Verlag 1998. Vita Melaniae, edited by Denys Gorce. In Vie de Sainte Mélanie (SChr 90). Paris: Éditions du Cerf 1952; Greek text edited and translated by Elizabeth A. Clark. In Life of Melania the Younger. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press 1984. Zeno, Tractatus, edited by Bergt Löfstedt. In Zenonis Veronensis. Tractatus (CC 22). Turnhout: Brepols 1971. Zonaras, Epitome Hstoriarum libri XVIII, edited by Theodor Büttner-Wobst. Bonn: Ed. Weber 1897. Zosimus, Histoire nouvelle, edited and translated by François Paschoud. In Zosime. Histoire Nouvelle. Vol. 1–5. Paris: Les Belles Lettres 1971–89 (repr. 2000–2003).


Constantine and the Senatorial Aristocracy: The Men and Women He Could not Ignore

Constantine remains a fruitful topic, even after the numerous works published during the modern celebrations for his proclamation in Trier (306), the Battle of the Milvian Bridge (312), and the Edict of Milan (313).1 Many of his actions continue to be debated, essentially because the ancient sources are numerous but not exhaustive, and have conflicting perspectives, leading to interpretations often conditioned by scholars’ own religious or political convictions.2 Constantine’s relationship with the senatorial aristocracy offers a good example. In the sixth century, Zosimus wrote that, when Constantine refused to ascend the Capitoline Hill with the army to perform the customary rites, he aroused so much hostility within the Senate and in the people of Rome that he felt the urge to look for “a city that would counterbalance Rome, where he built his Palace”.3 The emperor himself, on the other hand, addressing the shipmasters of the Orient in 334, proclaimed that he had built a new city on the orders of God: “For the advantage of the City which We have endowed with the name Eternal by God’s command …”.4 While Constantine believed that such an important decision had been inspired by God, a hostile pagan tradition assumed that he had been driven out of Rome and needed to set up his home somewhere else. In fact, the relationship between Constantine and the Roman aristocrats has long been examined on the assumption that the noble families of Rome, being still pagan, hated the new emperor, who had recently converted to Christianity.5 But scholars have found also more positive motivations for his transforming Byzantium into Constantinople. After 20 years of ruling only in the West, founding a new city on the Bosporus and a new Senate there was the best way to control an Eastern empire that he had conquered by force.6 This impressive building activity freed up economic energies after years of crisis.7 The creation of new governing bodies, and a Senate in particular, rekindled a wish for social advancement among the provincial upper classes. That desire proved the main driving force behind the political and ideological cohesion of the empire through centuries of prosperity, as well as a formidable stabilising factor, thanks to the devotion to the empire that the ruling classes instilled in their subordinates. Strategic and economic motives as much as political expediency drove Constantine to found Constantinople.8 If God suggested all that, he was a very good adviser. DOI: 10.4324/b22863-1


Constantine and the Senatorial Aristocracy

The pagan tradition, however, was to a large extent wrong. Constantine’s relations with most of the nobles in Rome were good. Prosopographic data have confirmed that after Constantine entered Rome at the end of October 312 some great aristocrats – already in charge under Diocletian and Maxentius – maintained their offices, even though they were pagans. One might mention the example of the three-time urban prefect Aradius Rufinus, who was urban prefect for the first time in 304 and for the second time from 9 February to 27 October 312 under Maxentius, having been also his consul in 311. The victorious emperor appointed him urban prefect for the third time from 29 November 312 to 8 December 313, and he was still celebrated in the next generation by Avianius Symmachus, who mentioned his service under both good emperors and tyrants.9 But it is interesting to see that Constantine also left in office C. Annius Anullinus, the last urban prefect of Maxentius (from 27 October to 29 November 312), who had been appointed the day before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge and two days before Constantine entered Rome.10 His son, Anullinus, became proconsul of Africa in 313, and after having personally discussed with the new emperor the restoration of property to the Christian church, he received an imperial letter and helped Constantine against the Donatist opponents of Caecilian, the Bishop of Carthage.11 As pontifex maximus, Constantine appointed one of the sons of Aradius Rufinus, L. Aradius Valerius Proculus signo Populonius, pontifex Flavialis, who was the priest in charge of the new cult of the gens Flavia in Rome.12 Like Trajan, the optimus princeps, he had the Senate dedicate “to his merits” the basilicas and temples that Maxentius had wanted to build or restore: the temple of Venus and Rome and the Maxentian basilica, and perhaps also the circular “temple of Romulus” in the Forum.13 The other son of Aradius Rufinus, Quintus Aradius Valerius Proculus, being governor of the African province of Byzacena in 321, was coopted as patron of a college of priests of the imperial cult in the city of Zama Regia.14 Another surely pagan noble, C. Ceionius Rufius Volusianus, obtained the urban prefecture after Aradius Rufinus. He held it for more than two years, while Constantine was occupied on the northern frontier, and was consul again in 314. He too had been consul of Maxentius in 311 with Aradius Rufinus.15 Having a different religious faith, especially at the beginning of Constantine’s reign, did not present a problem. In fact, there were other reasons why Constantine enhanced his collaboration with the great families of Rome. For a long time it had been believed that almost the entire class of nobles had disappeared during the third-century crisis: either that many of them had voluntarily withdrawn from office-holding, or they were excluded while the more efficient equestrians (equites) were increasingly employed in the administration and the army.16 The difficulties experienced during the third century, even if not uniformly throughout the empire, surely had some effect on the senatorial elite.17 Aurelius Victor, writing under the Emperor Constantius II and publishing his work under the Emperor Julian, identified the main cause of the political decline of the senatorial class in the edict of the Emperor Gallienus, which excluded senators both from military

Constantine and the Senatorial Aristocracy 18


command and provincial government. Chastagnol thought that Gallienus’s law was issued to counter the political inability of Roman aristocrats. In his view, Aurelius Victor says that senators were removed from command of the armies due to their indolence (“crainte de leur incurie”). That passage, however, does not support this interpretation, as it reads: “first (Gallienus) because of fear of his own indolence [and not of the senators’ indolence] precluded military command to the Senate”.19 It was typical of ancient historiography to connect political choices to the character of emperors (whom fourth-century authors catalogued as boni and mali principes), often being reluctant to find institutional or economic motivations. A literary tradition hostile to Gallienus, which Victor echoes, depicted him as lazy, and explained his reform by claiming that he preferred to remove the military command from generals of senatorial origin, instead of competing with them, for fear of being overthrown. While Victor’s passage does not offer information on the military inefficiency of the senators, clearly it alludes to the fact that they aspired to be acclaimed (and had good chances of becoming) emperors by their armies. In general, Gallienus may have tried to put into practice an experiment already attempted by Commodus, whose praetorian prefect (Perennis) had replaced the senatorial legati of the legions settled in Britannia with equestrian officials,20 in the interests of greater efficiency in the military management of the empire.21 But we would need to know more about the consequences of his reform to understand the effects it had on the political power of the senatorial aristocracy. In the epigraphic evidence senatorial legates disappeared after the capture of the Emperor Valerian.22 In the second half of Gallienus’s reign, only propraetores legati placed at the head of provinces guarded by a single legion are still attested.23 Furthermore, under Gallienus, along with the post of legatus legionis, that of tribunus laticlavius disappeared from the normal senatorial cursus: the senatorial legate was increasingly replaced by a praefectus agens vice legati. This seems to confirm that Gallienus, regardless of the reasons, wanted to remove the traditional military privileges from the senatorial order, promoting professional soldiers to positions of highest command even when they came from the ranks. It is not difficult to understand why he had such a bad reputation in the literary tradition, which remained strongly influenced by senatorial attitudes. Nevertheless, not all the aristocrats who sat in the Roman assembly lost their political potential. The worst consequences of Gallienus’s reform would have been felt in the government of provinces in which armies were stationed. But governors of senatorial rank are still attested for a long time after Gallienus,24 and it is difficult to believe that military officials of equestrian origin were no longer subordinated to the governors of senatorial rank. Although his edict anticipated the separation between civil power and military power that became typical of the fourth century, it did not immediately cause the separation of careers in all the provinces, and in some of them the political power of the senatorial class remained strong.25 These data seem to be consistent with what we now know of the genealogies of senatorial families between the second and third centuries. During the


Constantine and the Senatorial Aristocracy

fourth century some great aristocratic families boasted unconvincing genealogies dating back to the Gracchi and the Scipios, or even to Aeneas or Agamemnon. Far from being invented by the fancy of a flattering Jerome, Rutilius Namatianus or Sidonius Apollinaris, this supposed uninterrupted family continuity resulted in immensely long genealogical trees.26 In fact, the fourth-century Roman aristocracy was largely composed of families that could be traced back to the Antonine and Severan periods. The Aradii, to whom Aradius Rufinus and his sons were related, had already boasted two consuls under the Severans, and the father of Rufinus was a close associate of Gallienus, who as legate of Coele-Syria was responsible for the suppression of the separatist kingdom of Odenathus.27 Verses in honour of L. Aradius Valerius Proculus signo Populonius claimed descent for his family from the Publicolae of the Republic.28 Avianius Symmachus, who wrote them, was probably influenced by the splendid domus the family owned on Mons Caelius: the site formerly belonged to the Valerii Publicolae and, after being acquired by the Valerii Proculi, passed into the hands of the Valerii Severi.29 Anullinus’ family probably descended from a man native to Africa, attested during the third century.30 The last example of a man whom Constantine chose to govern Rome (while he was absent only a year after his victory over Maxentius), was a member of the Ceioni family, which was credited with descent from Volusus, the Etruscan chief of the Rutuli.31 In the female line (Volusianus being a relative of Gaia Nummia Ceionia, sacerdos publica at Beneventum), the ancestry of the Ceioni was traced back to the Nummi, Fulvii, and Gavii of the late second and early third century. Since their main nomen was Rufius, they were probably related to a Postumius Rufius Festus of Volsinii, whose ancestors entered the Senate in the later second century.32 We should exclude the idea that during the second and third centuries the traditional nobility had experienced a genuine decline. Some of the most prominent senatorial families had been able to withstand the crisis using strategies revealed by recent research on, for example, specific regions of Northern Italy. Matrimonial alliances allowed for the substantial amalgamation of assets along coherent territorial lines, and economic interests could be protected, consolidated, and even expanded on a local basis both through forms of semiofficial patronage and a small but essential number of governorships.33 This model of economic, social and political control of extensive regions – as achieved on a larger scale by the post-Constantinian noble class34 – allowed the senators of the high empire to keep their income substantially intact and to maintain their political and social influence over the same territories. It should be noted that the regions into which provincial families repositioned their estate holdings when they transferred some of their property to Italy under the Antonines were hardly affected by the economic decline that impacted the provinces most exposed to the repercussions of political disorder and military operations. Certain areas of influence, such as the urban prefecture, the proconsular provinces and Italian districts governed by correctors, remained the entitlement

Constantine and the Senatorial Aristocracy


of senators throughout the third century. The same limitation of senatorial administration during the second half of the third century, which Diocletian continued to pursue in a still difficult military and economic situation rather than harm the interests of the nobility, may have substantially responded to senatorial wishes, reflecting the proven ability of that class to protect itself from greater risks, counter the crisis, and protect its assets and resources, and to preserve the financial and economic pre-eminence that had always favored its political superiority. Similarly, the introduction of provincial fiscalism in the peninsula by Diocletian, specifically cited by Aurelius Victor as “the great evil of taxes extended to Italy”, does not seem to have provoked controversy or strong reactions among senators. This was not because the great aristocrats were now passive in the face of imperial measures, but because many of them had already learned (in provincial situations outside Italy) that the imposition of taxes on farmers (coloni) drove them into the control of landowners (domini), cemented their clientelae, and strengthened the grip of their patronage over the territories they wanted to continue to govern.35 Constantine, though a recent Christian convert, was not likely to ignore aristocratic men and women of this type. He would hardly have made it a matter of religious faith. A few panegyrists of the early fourth century and some Christian writers heaped high praise upon the new emperor, for restoring the Senate and revitalizing the senatorial aristocracy. Lactantius remembered Constantine’s attempt to have himself recognised as the primus Augustus by the Roman Senate.36 In the anonymous panegyric recited in Trier in AD 313 Constantine was praised for returning assets taken from private citizens “that this scourge (i.e., Maxentius) had exiled from the homeland” and “returning to the Senate its ancient dignity”.37 On the high cross-shaped staff that Constantine placed in the forum next to his colossal statue, an inscription solemnly stated that, with that “sign of salvation”, the city had been liberated from the yoke of tyranny, and the Senate and the Roman people were returned to their ancient splendour and prestige.38 In Rome the rhetorician Nazarius proclaimed that the special dignity of the Senate was due to its aristocracy, enriched with citizens who had come from all the provinces, being the greatest in nobility and wealth.39 Constantine’s arrival in Rome was prepared with great attention to public communication in order to capture the support both of the nobles who had followed Maxentius and those who had perhaps already begun to oppose him during the African uprising of Domitius Alexander. Restoration of freedom and authority to the Senate was a standard topos. It had been used by Augustus to praise himself 40 and even the Emperor Julian, of whom no particular measures in favour of the Roman Senate are known, was celebrated by Mamertinus for “having rendered to the Senate its ancient dignity”.41 We wonder whether the senatorial aristocracy shared the appreciation of the panegyrists. By examining how Constantine increased the number of senators, it is possible to assess whether or not he really “gave the fatal blow to the dignity of the Senate and people”, as Gibbon thought,42 because he transformed the ancient aristocracy into “a plethora of parvenus of equestrian


Constantine and the Senatorial Aristocracy

rank”, as Seeck described the men of the Senate to which, in his opinion, Q. Aurelius Symmachus belonged.43 Constantine certainly proceeded to swell the ranks of the Senate with equestrians (equites) and provincials, as Caesar and Augustus had done before him after the period of the civil wars. He used traditional tools: through the targeted election (lectio) of worthy individuals of both the equestrian order and the municipal aristocracies, and the adlectio, a mechanism that allowed the emperor to directly introduce a new senator into higher ranks than those of the entry-level magistracies. These procedures were frequently used when a major military emergency had subsided, to reorganise the senatorial assembly with men loyal to a new leader and replenish the ranks of the aristocratic class, which suffered the greatest losses, as they were usually the most politically exposed during a civil war. A dozen inscriptions show that Constantine promoted equites perfectissimi – that is, belonging to the middle band of the equestrian order, between the eminentissimi and egregii – to the clarissimatus (the senatorial order), thus improving their social standing. Chastagnol believed that Constantine augmented the senatorial order essentially in this way, including almost all members of the equestrian class between AD 312 and 326. A law that prohibited curiales from aspiring to the senatorial ordo, threatening to return them to their curia of origin, appeared to him to bring this operation to a close.44 The assembly would, therefore, have increased from 600 to 2,000 members in little over a decade.45 However, the year Chastagnol believed this process ended cannot be clearly understood by the constitution to which he refers. Many laws were enacted to combat what became known as the “flight of the curials” over the course of the fourth century, and this latter problem was not directly connected with the absorption of the equestrians into the senatorial class. Equites perfectissimi are recorded well into the fifth century, and therefore although they performed a reduced range of duties the equestrian order did not disappear per se, that is, not all equestrians immediately became part of the senatorial order.46 As for the numerical profile of the Senate, both figures – low and high – today seem implausible. After the reign of Augustus, the Senate’s ranks had already grown gradually, although we must assume a contraction in the third century.47 Moreover, the maximum size of the Roman assembly, derived from figures for the Constantinopolitan Senate under Constantius II, had not yet been reached by the third decade of the fourth century.48 Today, we are also much less certain about the date when the reorganization of careers began. It appears to have been after 325/326, perhaps in the years of the prefectural career of Fl. Constantius, coinciding with the reform of the praetorian prefecture.49 Constantine intervened decisively regarding the duties and powers of the praetorian prefects after having dissolved the praetorian cohorts which had sided with Maxentius. The praetorian prefects became exclusively civilian officials, the principal finance ministers, while their vicarii controlled the collection of the annona in the large circumscriptions. Senatorial dignity was granted to them not because they were nominated to the ordinary consulate (as had sometimes happened), but simply as prefects. This was a new system to

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replenish the Senate, conferring senatorial rank on the equestrians with the highest offices of the central government, and it had revolutionary aspects, because until then professional distinctions (offices) were achieved according to personal rank due to birth. Without totally annulling a system which had been firmly established for centuries, Constantine adopted a new method, after which office-holding conferred rank.50 This reform was accomplished without effectively eroding the fortune of the prominent families. The urban aristocracy had not only been able to retain its wealth, but also had a traditional governing role that no perceptive emperor could manage to ignore. Indeed, Constantine simply chose to harness all the important families in Rome. The treason of Bassianus (Constantine’s brotherin-law after his marriage to Anastasia, Constantine’s half-sister51) and Senecio (Bassianus’s brother) – both members of the gens Anicia and the Nummii Albini Seneciones – is among the few mentioned in the literary tradition.52 Other episodes of opposition may have been obliterated but, in view of the fact that Constantine managed to hold the empire for more than 30 years and to impose a new, lasting dynasty, they were not many. By itself, however, this treason confirms that, in order to achieve his results, Constantine needed ruthless determination, a devoted army and, no less, the loyalty of the capital and its elites. Their support, in fact, also meant the loyalty of the masses of clients whose opinion they influenced, and was essential for maintaining his power. His sons did not forget the lesson, and in the second part of the fourth century many members of the major Roman families occupied a dominant position at the pinnacle of the imperial administration. The introduction of new members into the senatorial register, while undeniable, did not in itself undermine the hegemony of the oldest families during the fourth century, as some modern scholars believe. It is true that, following the Constantine’s reforms, the internal hierarchy of the senate was no longer defined by the five ancient magistracies of the ancient Roman Republic but by the senior posts in the imperial administration.53 Nevertheless, the ability of senators by birth to hold the highest posts in the administration limited real change in the first half of the fourth century.54 The peculiar social fortunes of the regional prefects under Constantine seem to confirm this view. It has recently been demonstrated that after being enrolled in the senatorial order and transferred to Rome, even the highest officials of equestrian rank left no significant traces after the second generation of their families. Both Junius Bassus and Caelius Saturninus had weak roots in the great Roman nobility, which were neither evident nor enduring, despite their exceptional careers.55 The father of Bishop Ambrose, one of the new praetorian prefects of Constantine II, also offers a good example of this social phenomenon. He had a beautiful house in Rome and his sons began a typical senatorial career as advocates and governors of provinces in Italy thanks to the patronage of noble families like the Symmachi and the Petroni Probi.56 But Satyrus died young and Ambrose, instead of continuing his career as proconsul in Africa or urban prefect, and following the classic steps of members of the


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ancient nobility, became a bishop. Constantine, promoting a ruling class consisting entirely of senators (clarissimi), restored high administrative and governmental responsibilities to them, but the most coveted offices at the top were relatively few and the clarissimi rarely left them to their colleagues of equestrian origin. The assimilation of senators and equestrians happened over the course of nearly a century, and only became clearly apparent in the age of the Emperor Theodosius I.57 Already during the reign of Constantine, furthermore, the increase in the senatorial order coincided with a new set of distinctions, which quickly created internal differences and forms of hierarchical subordination. One such example was the distinction, which perhaps remained unchanged until Constantius II, between clarissimi of the West and clari of the new Senate of Constantinople; or that between true senators, the only ones actually present at the meetings of the assembly, at which they monopolized the proceedings, and clarissimi authorized to maintain their official residence outside Rome.58 In this regard, Constantine’s reforms did not alter hierarchical precedence or social equilibrium. The classes that remained economically solid were able to return to the political role exercised by them in the early centuries of the empire.59 It was usually exercised in spheres decentralized with respect to the court and its nuclei of greater administrative responsibility, centering on Rome and those regional areas where their heritage and patronage were most extensive. The effects were evident by the time of the Emperors Valentinian I and Gratian, when many of the Constantinian reforms (not only institutional, but also economic) came to maturity. The “great regulation” of July 5, 372 established the top ranks in the new order of precedence: the senatorial order had three levels, which were also extended to the officials of the court, when an equivalence was also established between the rank of those who held civilian positions and the leaders of the army. In this internal hierarchy, illustres occupied the summit, followed in descending order of importance by spectabiles and simple clarissimi.60 This hierarchy between clarissimi, spectabiles, and illustres ensured that members of old Roman families, who held the highest ranks in the imperial administration, obtained the highest rank. The positive relationship between Constantine and the higher classes of the empire was captured by the panegyrists of the time who, even in the aftermath of the Milvian Bridge, spoke of the great military success of the victor as a campaign of liberation from the tyrant.61 This way of presenting the clash between Constantine and Maxentius ensured that victory achieved after a brutal civil war would be celebrated through the centuries as the overpowering of a ruthless enemy (Fig. 1.1). The religious advisors to Constantine went even further, accompanying the rhetoric of liberation with powerful religious elements. They saw it as Constantine restoring the freedom of many innocent Christians, men who had been deprived by the tyrant of their status and condemned to forced labour, and women of high lineage who had been compelled to marry men of servile

Constantine and the Senatorial Aristocracy


Figure 1.1 Piero della Francesca. The Battle between Constantine and Maxentius. From the Basilica di san Francesco, Arezzo. © Heritage Image Partnership Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo.

status: he was therefore a true champion of freedom (libertas). Indeed, when he enforced the edict of Galerius, Constantine put an end to persecution. He ordered the return of confiscated properties to the Catholic church, and proclaimed freedom of worship for all. The rhetoric of freedom was supported by concrete measures that had an innovative influence on the legal and social dimension of the liberation of slaves, through freedom granted in church (manumissio in ecclesia).62 None of these measures, however, undermined the power of the elites, or altered the existing social balance. For instance, manumissio in ecclesia, which greatly simplified bureaucratic-administrative procedures for the liberation of slaves, was solicited by the religious advisors of Constantine at the time. Hosius, the Bishop of Corduba, was in fact the recipient of the most complete of the three laws said by Sozomen to have been issued on this subject, which can therefore be dated to the period between 313 and 321.63 The emperor granted this privilege to bishops and clerics because it met the needs of the propertied classes, the landowners (domini) defined in the text as qui religiosa mente (with pious intention).64 Without financial outlay, they could liberate (and be liberated from) a servile workforce that the expansion of the colonate in agricultural production had made less and less profitable.65 The other measures praised by Eusebius went in a similar direction. It was unlikely that the restoration of the previous social condition (status), of which Christian women and men had been deprived by Maxentius, affected lower-class individuals: thus, the tyrant’s political opponents – those punished in this manner, perhaps using claims of religious faith to eliminate opposition groups – became friends of the victorious and liberating new emperor.

10 Constantine and the Senatorial Aristocracy

Freedom of worship might undoubtedly have benefited many, but the granting of tax exemptions to Catholic bishops and clergy pursued the same politics of privilege adopted towards the senatorial aristocracy in order to guarantee the support of the ruling class. It is well known that Constantine extended similar exemptions to the religious leaders of the Jews,66 and did not consider penalising pagan priests, who usually belonged to a high social class.67 Less well known, or easily understood, is the social background of the Catholic hierarchy in this early period. But in general, the fact that Constantine was urged to confer precisely this kind of privilege on bishops and Catholic clerics would suggest that the hierarchies of the main Catholic communities at the beginning of the fourth century were dominated by elements of high social status, as was the case with Jews and with pagan priests. In fact, the Catholic priests who were exempted from liturgies, which afflicted the wealthy classes, would not have considered the exemption a benefit if they had been poor and therefore not eligible for them.68 Broadly speaking, the relationship between Constantine, Roman aristocratic groups, and the provincial elites was not regulated by cynical realism, or the desire to profit from their Christianity or their paganism, as was once thought, but by complex issues involving various opportunities. He was able to reign for more than 30 years because he rewarded the forces that had most recently risen to prominence with enhanced rank and restored dominant positions to the traditional upper classes. Constantine’s era was not a turning point, but a revolution in Gramsci’s sense of passive revolution: a conservative reshaping of the social morphology.69

Notes 1 This chapter develops a number of ideas arising from research I have published in various papers on Constantine between 2012 and 2019, reference to which will be found in the footnotes below. The main argument is from Lizzi Testa 2015a. A review of the works published as a result of the Constantinian celebrations, which have been held not only in Europe between 2005–2013, is in Bonamente 2014, and in Lizzi Testa 2014a with an overview of the celebrations in Italy in 1913, a century ago (on which, see also Bressan 2017). 2 See recently Liverani’s review (2017) of Barbero 2016. 3 Zos. 2. 29.5–30.1, 101; 234–41: “When the traditional festival of Rome occurred, during which the army was expected to ascend the Capitoline Hill to carry out the customary rites, Constantine, for fear of the soldiers, took part in the celebration; but when the Egyptian sent him a vision that unreservedly condemned the ascent of the Capitol, he kept his distance from the sacred ceremony, arousing hatred in the Senate and among the people. Since he could not bear to be blamed by almost everyone, he looked for a city that would counterbalance Rome, where he built his Palace”. The chronology of this passage is highly confused, resulting in the birth of a long-standing debate over the date of Constantine’s omission of the sacrifice to Jupiter: Fraschetti 1999, 88–108, offered a convenient summary of it. Curran 2000, 74–75, and 178–179, does not discuss the chronology; he is certain that Zosimus records Constantine’s refusal to ascend the Capitol at a state festival, when he visited Rome to celebrate a version of his vicennalia there. Moser 2018, 18–19, believes that the incident

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4 5 6 7 8


10 11



14 15 16

17 18


can be dated to 326, since it was only then that Constantine’s brothers could have accompanied him. They are mentioned in Lib. Or. 19.19, recalling when the people and Senate of Rome insulted Constantine during one of his visits to the capital. CTh 13.5.7 (334 Dec. 1): Pro commoditate urbis, quam aeterno nomine iubente deo donavimus … But, on Constantinople’s poor Christin credentials, Ward-Perkins 2012, 60–62. Alföldi 1948, 77, 109, 123. This was not the view of Arnheim 1972, 38–48, or (at greater length) Alan Cameron 1999 and Alan Cameron 2011, 33–92. See also Averil Cameron 2005, 176, and now Marcone 2010. Heather 1997, 185 ff.; Heather 2013, 12–13. On the architectural achievements of Constantine and his successors in the fourth-fifth centuries in the new city, see the quick and effective summary of Dey 2015, 77–84. Lenski 2016, 164, promised to devote a separate book to Constantinople’s history and the circumstances of its foundation. Nevertheless, Lenski 2015 already showed how the emperor was willing to open a dialogue with the civic community and the indigenous cult. On Constantinople’s Týchē, see also Lizzi Testa 2017a. PLRE I, Aradius Rufinus 10, 775; Symm. Ep. I.2.3: principibus, quorum viguisti tempore, doctus aut calcaria ferre bonis aut frena tyrannis (“you knew both how to spur on good prince, and how to rein in tyrants in whose time you flourished”, transl. Salzman and Roberts 2011, 14). About the virtues of the clari viri, which Avianius Symmachus described in his libellus, see also chapter II, p. 26, and chapter III, p. 42 ff. on the form and content of the final edition of this booklet. PLRE I, C. Annius Anullinus 3, 79. PLRE I, Anullinus 2, 78–9; for his activity in Africa, see Lizzi Testa 2014b, 254–7. On Caecilianists and Donatists, Perrin 2015 and Lenski 2016, 246–59, are particularly useful, as well as some authors’ “engagements” with Shaw 2011, published in the Journal of Late Antiquity 2013. PLRE I, L. Aradius Valerius Proculus signo Populonius 11, 747–9. His priesthoods (augur, pontifex maior, quindecemvir sacris faciundis, pontifex flavialis) are given in CIL VI.1690 = ILS 1240, where his consulate (a. 340) is also mentioned, so that they must date back earlier, to the start of his career (a. 320) under Constantine: Rüpke 2008, 543. Aur. Vict. Caes. 60.26: adhuc cuncta opera, quae magnifice construxerant, Urbis fanum atque basilicam, Flavii meritis patres sacravere. A quo etiam post Circus Maximus excultus mirifice atque ad lavandum institutum opus ceteris haud multo dispar. On these temples, Coarelli 1986, 3; Curran 2000, 76–83, and Guidobaldi 2013, 493–515. PLRE I, Q. Aradius Rufinus Valerius Proculus signo Populonius 12, 749. A tabula inscribed with the names of ten priests and their new patron was dedicated on that occasion (CIL VI.1686 = ILS 6111c). PLRE I, C. Ceionius Rufius Volusianus 4, 976–88. More prosopographic data on the Constantinian urban prefects can be found in Jacques 1986, I, pp. 81–225, and Marcone 2008, 110–3. Hopkins 1983, 123–7, derived the disappearance of many senatorial families from the data, but the latter were based only on lists of ordinarii and suffecti consuls between 18 and 135 AD. On the poor reliability of statistical analysis for antiquity, see Jacques 1987. Arnheim 1972, 38–48, comparing the different attitudes of Diocletian and Constantine, argued that Diocletian was fundamentally a man of the third century, given his tendency to favor the equestrian order and exclude senators from government, while Constantine was a man of change. Ando 2012, chapters II and III. Aur. Vict. Caes. 33.33–4: et patres quidem praeter commune Romani malum orbis stimulabat proprii ordinis contumelia, quia primus ipse metu socordiae suae, ne imperium ad optimos nobilium transferretur, senatum militia vetuit et adire exercitum. The term “edict” is in Aur. Vict. Caes. 33.37.6. It is believed that the edict was promulgated in c. 262, shortly after the capture of his father, the Emperor Valerian: Christol 1986, 45–7, offers the most detailed

12 Constantine and the Senatorial Aristocracy


20 21 22 23 24 25 26

27 28 29 30 31 32 33

34 35 36 37 38

analysis and interpretation of the evidence on Gallienus’s reform. Ando 2012, 176–200, explores the ideological background to the third-century transformations in governmental structure. Chastagnol 1992, 208. Bird 1984, 33, translated the passage differently: “Gallienus through fear that by his own indolence the Empire might be transferred to the most worthy of the nobility”, followed by Cracco Ruggini 1998, 227: “egli (Gallieno) per primo, per il timore ispiratogli dalla sua stessa ignavia, che l’impero passasse in mano al fior fiore della nobiltà, precluse i comandi militari al Senato”. Dio Cass. 72.9.1. See Strobel 2007. Christol 1997. Vitulasius Letinianus, during the combined reign of Valerian and Gallienus, was the last: CIL VII.107. Christol 1986, 44. Christol 1986, 45–60 for a complete list; but see also Le Bohec 2004; Mennen 2011, 143–4. Lo Cascio 2005, 160–1; Cosme 2007. Weisweiler 2015a, 24, on the other hand, insists on the threat posed “to the collective honor of the Sente” by Gallienus’s measure. Paula was allegedly descended on her mother’s side from the Gracchi and the Scipiones, and on her father’s side from Agamemnon, likewise Toxotius, her husband, was said to be descended from Aeneas (Hier. Ep. 108.3–4). Other examples are discussed and studied by Chausson 1998. Lizzi Testa 2004, pp. 364–5. Symm. Ep. 1.2.4: supra, n. 9. Gatti 1902, 145; Brenk 1999. He was probably C. Annius Anullinus Geminus Percennianus: PIR2 A 633. Rut. Namat. De reditu suo 1.168. PLRE I, C. Ceionius Rufius Volusianus 4, 978. Guidanti 1995; Roda 1996. The agrarian economy in Northern Italy was characterized by the aggregation of large rural domains, which cannot however be defined as latifundia. They were characterized by intensive polyculture, practised in farms of various sizes and variously specialized in order to produce tradable agricultural surpluses: Banaji 2001; Lo Cascio 2009, 19–70; Kehoe 2003; Giardina 2007; Vera 2012. Vera 1983; Vera 2006; Porena 2017. Some consequences of the continued presence of power of the same families in the same regions will also be illustrated in Chapter IX (see p. 20 and n. 127). Giardina 1993. Lact. De mort. pers. 44.11. Pan. IX (12).20.1: senatui auctoritatem pristinam reddidisti. Eus. Vit. Const. 1.40.2, with Cameron Averil and Stuart G. Hall (eds.) 1999, 216–7: this passage is based on Eus. Laus Const. 9.8–11, while the description of the statue comes from Eus. Hist. Eccl. 9.9.11. The Latin inscription, which Eusebius translates into Greek (“With this salvific sign, an authentic emblem of fortitude, I liberated your city from the yoke of tyranny: to the Senate and the people of Rome I returned, with freedom, the ancient prestige and splendour”), is very close to that on the Arch of Constantine, except that in the latter, set up by the Senate and the people, the very neutral instinctu divinitatis replaced the mention of the sign of salvation: Lenski 2008. The inscription is substantially identical to that reported in Eus. Hist. Eccl. 9.9.11, where “tyrant” is used in place of the more general “yoke of tyranny”. On the meaning of the sign of salvation, we might recall the hypothesis of Grégoire 1932, for whom it would have been a simple military banner, which the Christians later interpreted as a cross. But at least two official inscriptions on African milestones are very close in date to the victory of Constantine over Maxentius, preceding the appearance of the well-known symbol on the Ticinum medallion (AD 315): Tantillo 2017, 134–43.

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39 Nazar. Pan. Lat. X (4).35.2: the speech was given in 321, to celebrate the first five years of reign (quinquennalia) of the Caesars Crispus and Constantine the Younger. 40 Augustus, Res Gestae I:… rem publicam a dominatione factionis oppressam in libertatem vindicavi. 41 Claud. Mamert. Pan. Lat. XI (3).24.5. 42 Gibbon 1912, 424. 43 Seeck 1883, XXXIX–XLI. 44 CTh 12.1.14 (326 Nov. 24): cf. Chastagnol 1992, 236–8, n. 19. 45 Chastagnol 1970, 16. 46 Although viri egregii are no longer epigraphically attested, they were common up to that time among municipal notables: Lepelley 1986, 237, nn. 44–9; 238, nn. 50–51; 239, nn. 59–60; Lepelley 1999, 638: the title of eques Romanus continued to exist but only in Rome, as a title of navicularii (ship owners, who were essential for the supply of the City), probably so that they enjoyed the privileges of honestiores (640). 47 Jacques 1986, 87. 48 Dagron 1991, 127. 49 Porena 2003, 391. 50 The norm, which allowed senatorial status to be obtained from public offices, is attested for the first time in a law of 367 (CTh 6.35.7), but surely dated back to an earlier age. For an analysis of the procedure, Garbarino 1988, 347–62; La Rocca, Oppedisano 2016, 64–6, and Oppedisano 2019, 213–4. The importance of the formal rank of aristocrats has been explored by Lendon 1997. The rank defined not only their legal status, about which see Schmidt-Hofner 2010 (a Roman aristocratic society of honor) but also their economic opportunities and in general their life chances. 51 On Bassianus, see Callu 2002, 114; Chausson 2002, 139–43; Hermann-Otto 2007, 105. 52 Origo Constantini V.14–15. Senecio, who enjoyed Licinius’ confidence, convinced Bassianus to betray Constantine but, after the conspiracy failed, Licinius did not want to hand him over: Aiello 20142, 192. 53 Weisweiler 2015a, 25. 54 Contra Weisweiler 2015b, 43–45. But, see the Fasti of the Praetorian and Urban Prefects from c. 340 to 395c., which list men such as Antonius Marcellinus, Aco Catullinus, Fabius Titianus, Vulcacius Rufinus, C. Caeionius Rufius Volusianus Q, Fl. Maesius Egnatius Lollianus, Cl. Mamertinus, Sex. Claudius Petronius Probus, Vettius Agorius Praetextatus, Virius Nicomachus Flavianus (between the praetorian prefects), and the same persons, or their relatives, among the praefecti Urbis Romae. 55 Porena 2006. 56 On Ambrose’s father, see Lizzi Testa 2017b, 34–42, and Lizzi Testa 2021, 31–4. 57 Chastagnol 1992, 293–324; Roman 2001, 464–71. 58 Following the Anonymous of Valois (Origo Constantini VI.30: ibi etiam senatus constituit secundi ordinis; claros vocavit), clarus was the title of new Constantinopolitan senators. For Chastagnol 1992, 250, they could become clarissimi after the prefecture, the first administrative office. The clari, senators of Constantinople, had to reside in the city; the clarissimi of Rome, however, gained numerous exceptions. Since already at the time of Pliny the Younger absenteeism arrived at almost fifty per cent, the Severan jurists formulated the rule of double addresses (Dig. 1.9.11): Cracco Ruggini 1998, 253–4. 59 Machado 2013. 60 Chastagnol 1960, 432–5, offered a detailed description of the reorganization of ranks and titles; a new approach to its aims and effects is in Lizzi Testa 2004, 303–4. A well detailed analysis is given by Schmidt-Hofner 2008, 106–115. I will recall this reform in chapter IV (p. 4). 61 Maranesi 2016, 109–68. 62 Lenski 2012, 237.

14 Constantine and the Senatorial Aristocracy 63 Eus. Hist. Eccl. 1.9.6; CTh 4.7.1 Osio ep(iscopo) Dat. XIIII kal. Mai. Crispo II et Constantino II conss. (321 April 18) = CI I.13.2: Delmaire 2009, 76–8. In the Theodosian Code there is only the constitution sent to Hosius, which is quoted second in the Justinian Code, after that sent to the Bishop Protogenes (CI I.13.1 ad Protogenem Ep. Dat. IV id. Iun. Sabino et Rufino conss. (316 June 8): Delmaire 2009, 412). Their analysis is in Lenski 2012, 247–52, and a new interpretation of Hosius’ influence in Lizzi Testa 2016a. 64 CTh 4.7.1: Qui religiosa mente in ecclesiae gremio servulis suis meritam concesserint libertatem … (If any person with pious intention should grant deserved freedom to his favorite slaves in the bosom of the Church). 65 Lenski 2017. 66 CTh 16.8.2 (330 Nov. 29), CTh 16.8.3 (321 Dec. 11) and CTh 16.8.4 (331 Dec. 1) texts and notes in Delmaire 2005, 370–5; cf. Linder 1987, 72–3; 132–8; De Giovanni 2015, 115; Noethlichs 2001, 107. 67 CTh 12.1.21 (335 Aug. 4) and CTh 12.5.2 (337 May 21) for sacerdotales and flamines perpetui: Liebs 1977, 309–10 and 339; Lizzi Testa 2014b, 99–105; Lizzi Testa 2016b. 68 Lizzi Testa 2001. 69 Giardina 1990, XXVII.

Bibliography Aiello, Vincenzo. 20142. La pars Constantiniana degli Excerpta Valesiana. Introduzione, testo e commento storico. Messina: DICAM. Alföldi, Andreas. 1948. The Conversion of Constantine and Pagan Rome. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Ando, Cliff. 2012. Imperial Rome AD 193 to 284: The Critical Century. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Arnheim, Michael T.W. 1972. The Senatorial Aristocracy in the Late Roman Empire. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Banaji, Jairus. 20072. Agrarian Change in Late Antiquity: Gold, Labour, and Aristocratic Dominance. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Barbero, Alessandro. 2016. Costantino il vincitore. Roma: Salerno Editrice. Bird, Harry W. 1984. Sextus Aurelius Victor. A Historiographical Study. Liverpool: Liverpool Press. Bonamente, Giorgio. 2014. “Lo status quaestionis: un bilancio storiografico.” In Costantino il Grande: alle radici dell’Europa: atti del convegno internazionale di studio in occasione del 1700° anniversario della Battaglia di Ponte Milvio e della conversione di Costantino, edited by Enrico Dal Covolo, and Giulia Sfameni Gasparro, 33–63. Città del Vaticano: Libreria Ed. Vaticana. Brenk, Beat. 1999. “La cristianizzazione della « domus » dei Valerii sul Celio.” In The transformations of Urbs Roma in late antiquity, edited by William V. Harris, and Javier Arce, Journal of Roman Archaeology. Supplementary Series 33: 69–84. Portsmouth: Journal of Roman Archaeology. Bressan, Edoardo. 2017. “Il centenario del 1913 e la Settimana sociale di Milano su «Le libertà civili dei cattolici».” In Costantino a Milano. L’editto e la sua storia (313–2013), edited by Riccardo Macchioro, 507–520. Roma: Bulzoni Editore. Callu, Jean-Pierre. 2002. “Naissance de la dynastie constantinienne: le tournant de 314–316.” In «Humana sapit»: études d’Antiquité tardive offertes à Lellia Cracco Ruggini, edited by Jean-Michel Carrié, and Rita Lizzi Testa, 111–120. Turnhout: Brepols.

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Cameron, Alan. 1999. “The last pagans of Rome.” In The transformations of Urbs Roma in late antiquity, edited by William V. Harris, and Javier Arce, Journal of Roman Archaeology. Supplementary Series 33: 109–121. Portsmouth: Journal of Roman Archaeology. Cameron, Alan. 2011. The Last Pagans of Rome. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Cameron Averil. 2005. “The Reign of Constantine the Great.” In Cambridge Ancient History. XII. The Crisis of Empire, A.D. 193–337, edited by Alan K. Bowman, P.A. Garnsey, and Averil Cameron, 90–109. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cameron, Averil, and Stuart G. Hall, eds. 1999. Eusebius. Life of Constantine. Introduction, Translation and Commentary. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Carrié, Jean-Michel, and Rita Lizzi Testa, eds. 2002. «Humana sapit». Études d’antiquité tardive offertes à Lellia Cracco Ruggini. Turnhout: Brepols. Chastagnol, André. 1960. La préfecture urbaine à Rome sous le Bas-Empire. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. Chastagnol, André. 1970. “L’évolution de l’ordre sénatorial aux IIIe et IVe siècles de notre ère.” Revue Historique 94: 305–314. Chastagnol, André. 1992. Le Sénat romain à l’époque impériale: recherches sur la composition de l’Assemblée et le statut de ses membres. Paris: Les Belles Lettres. Chausson, François. 1998. “Les lignages mythiques dans quelques revendications généalogiques à la fin de l’Antiquité.” In Généalogies mythiques. VIII Colloque du Centre de recherches mythologiques de l’Université de Paris X- Nanterre (Chantilly, sept. 1995), edited by Danièle Auger, and Suzanne Saïd, 397–420. Paris: Les Belles Lettres. Chausson, François. 2002. “Une soeur de Constantin: Anastasia.” In «Humana sapit»: études d’Antiquité tardive offertes à Lellia Cracco Ruggini, edited by Jean-Michel Carrié, and Rita Lizzi Testa, 139–143. Turnhout: Brepols. Christol, Michel. 1986. Essai sur l’évolution des carrières sénatoriales dans la 2emoitié du IIIes. ap. J.C. Paris: Nouvelles Éditions latines. Christol, Michel. 1997. “Les classes dirigeantes et le pouvoir dans l’état, de Septime Sévère à Constantin.” Pallas 1: 57–77. Coarelli, Filippo. 1986. “L’Urbs e il suburbio.” In Società romana e impero tardoantico, II: Roma. Politica, economia, paesaggio urbano, edited by Andrea Giardina, 1–58. Roma; Bari: Laterza. Cosme, Pierre. 2007. “À propos de l’édit de Gallien.” In Crises and the Roman Empire. Proceedings of the Seventh Workshop of the International Network Impact of Empire (Nijmegen, June 20–24, 2006, edited by Oliver Hekster, Gerda de Kleijn, and Danielle Slootjes, 97–109. Leiden-Boston: Brill. Cracco Ruggini, Lellia. 1998. “Il Senato fra due crisi (III-VI secolo).” In Il Senato nella storia, I (Il Senato nell’età romana), edited by Emilio Gabba, 223–375. Roma: Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato. Curran, John R. 2000. Pagan City and Christian Capital. Rome in the Fourth Century. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Dagron, Gilbert. 1991. Costantinopoli: nascita di una capitale (330–451). Torino: Einaudi. Dal Covolo, Enrico, and Giulia Sfameni Gasparro, eds. 2014. Costantino il Grande alle radici dell’Europa. Atti del Conv. Intern. di studio (Città del Vaticano-Roma, 18–21 aprile 2012). Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana. De Giovanni, Lucio. 20015. Chiesa e Stato nel Codice Teodosiano. Alle origini della codificazione in tema di rapporti chiesa-stato. Napoli: M. D’Auria Editore. Delmaire, Roland, Jean Rougé, and François Richard, eds. 2005. Le lois religieuses des empereurs romains de Constantin à Théodose II (312–438), vol. 1. Code Théodosien. Livre XVI. (SCh 497). Paris: Les éditions du Cerf.l

16 Constantine and the Senatorial Aristocracy Delmaire, Roland, Jean Rougé, Olivier Huck, François Richard, and Laurent Guichard, eds. 2009. Les lois religieuses des empereurs romains de Constantin à Théodose II (312–438) vol. 2. Code Théodosien I–XV, Code Justinien, Constitutions Sirmondiennnes. (SCh 531). Paris: Les éditions du Cerf. Dey, Hendrik W. 2015. The Afterlife of the Roman City. Architecture and Ceremony in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Fraschetti, Augusto. 1999. La conversione. Da Roma pagana a Roma cristiana. Roma-Bari: Laterza. Garbarino, Paolo. 1988. Ricerche sulla procedura di ammissione al senato nel tardo impero romano. Milano: Giuffré. Gatti, Giuseppe. 1902. “La Casa Celimontana dei Valerii e il monastero di S. Erasmo.” Bullettino della Commissione archeologica comunale di Roma 30: 145–163. Giardina, Andrea, ed. 1986. Società romana e Impero tardoantico. 4 vols. Roma; Bari: Laterza. Giardina, Andrea, ed. 1990. “Introduzione. Stilicone o l’antico destino degli uomini vinti.” In Santo Mazzarino. 1990 (1942) Stilicone. La crisi imperiale dopo Teodosio, VII–XXVIII. Milano: Rizzoli. Giardina, Andrea, ed. 1993. “La formazione dell’Italia provinciale.” In Storia di Roma III, 1 (Crisi e trasformazioni), edited by Andrea Carandini, Lellia Cracco Ruggini, and Andrea Giardina, 51–68. Torino: Einaudi. Giardina, Andrea, ed. 2007. “The Transition to Late Antiquity.” In The Cambridge Economic History of the Graeco-Roman World, edited by Walter Scheidel, Ian Morris, and Richard P. Saller, 743–768. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Gibbon, Edward. 1912. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 1. London: Methuen Guidanti, Andrea. 1995. “L’aristocrazia norditalica tra Antonini e Severi: gli «Hedii» di Pollentia.” Simblos 1: 201–218. Grégoire, Henri. 1932. “The statue of Constantin and the signs of the croix.” L’Antiquité Classique I: 135–143. Guidobaldi, Federico. 2013. “Leggere l’architettura costantiniana.” In Costantino I. Enciclopedia Costantiniana sulla figura e l’immagine dell’imperatore del cosiddetto Editto di Milano 313–2013, edited by Alberto Melloni, vol. 1, 493–515. Roma: Enciclopedia Treccani. Harris, William V., ed. 1999. The Transformations of Urbs Roma in Late Antiquity. Portsmouth-Rhode Island: Cushing-Malloy. Heather, Peter. 1997. “Senators and Senates.” In The Cambridge Ancient History, XIII. The Late Empire, A.D. 337–425, edited by Averil Cameron, and Peter Garnsey, 184–210. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Heather, Peter. 2013. The Restoration of Rome. Barbarian Popes and Imperial Pretenders. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hermann-Otto, Elisabeth. 2007. Konstantin der Große. Darmstadt: Primus Verlag. Hopkins, Keith. 1983. Death and Renewal. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Jacques, François. 1986. “L’ordine senatorio attraverso la crisi del III secolo.” In Società romana e impero tardoantico, edited by Andrea Giardina, vol. 1, 81–225; 650–64. RomaBari: Editori Laterza. Kehoe, Dennis. 2003. “Aristocratic Dominance in the Late Agrarian Economy and the Question of Economic Growth.” Journal of Roman Archaeology 16: 711–721. La Rocca, Adolfo, and Fabrizio Oppedisano. 2016. Il senato romano nell’Italia ostrogota. Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider.

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Le Bohec, Yann. 2004. “Gallien et l’encadrement senatorial de l’armée romain.” Revue des Études Militaires Anciennes 1: 123–132. Lendon, Jon E. 1997. Empire of Honour: The Art of Government in the Roman World. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Lenski, Noel. 2008. “Evoking the Pagan Past: Instinctu Divinitatis and Constantine’s Capture of Rome.” JLA 1 1: 204–257. Lenski, Noel. 2012. “Constantine and Slavery: libertas and the Fusion of Roman and Christian Values.” In Atti dell’Accademia Romanistica Costantiniana 18: 235–260. Lenski, Noel. 2015. “Constantine and the Tyche of Constantipople.” In Contested Monarchy. Integrating the Roman Empire in the Fourth Century AD., edited by Johannes Wienand, 330–352, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Lenski, Noel. 2016. Constantine and the Cities. Imperial Authority and Civic Politics. Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania Press. Lenski, Noel. 2017. “Peasant and Slave in Late Antique North Africa, c. 100–600 CE.” In Late Antiquity in Contemporary Debate, edited by Rita Lizzi Testa, 113–155. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Lepelley, Claude. 1986. “Fine dell’ordine equestre. Le tappe dell’unificazione della classe dirigente romana nel IV secolo” In Società romana e impero tardoantico, I: Istituzioni, ceti, economie, edited by Andrea Giardina, 227–244. Roma; Bari: Laterza. Lepelley, Claude. 1999. “Du triomphe à la disparition: le destin de l’ordre équestre de Dioclétien à Theodose.” In L’Ordre équestre. Histoire d’une aristocratie (IIesiècle av. J.-C. – IIIesiècle apr. J.-C.), edited by Segolena Demougin, Hubert Devijver, and Marie Thérèse Raepsaet-Charlier, 629–646. Roma: École française de Rome. Liebs, Detlef. 1977. “Privilegien und Ständenzwang in den Gesetzen Konstantins.” Revue Internationale des Droits de l’Antiquité 24: 297–351. Linder, Ammon. 1987. The Jews in Roman Imperial Legislation. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. Liverani, Paolo. 2017. “Costantino il vincitore: a proposito di una recente pubblicazione.” Rivista di Archeologia Cristiana 93: 315–343. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2001. “The Bishop, ’Vir Venerabilis’: Fiscal Privileges and ’Status’ Definition in Late Antiquity.” In Thirteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies (Oxford, 16–21 August 1999), edited by Maurice F. Wiles and Eduard J. Yarnold, 125–144. Leuven: Peeters Publisher. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2004. Senatori, popolo, papi. Il governo di Roma al tempo dei Valentiniani. Bari: Edipuglia. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2013. “Costantino e il Senato romano.” In Costantino I. Enciclopedia Costantiniana sulla figura e l’immagine dell’imperatore del cosiddetto Editto di Milano 313-2013, edited by Alberto Melloni, vol. 1, 351–367. Roma: Enciclopedia Treccani. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2014a. “I centenarii costantiniani e il peso della contemporaneità.” AnTard 22: 13–26. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2014b. “Costantino e le chiese cristiane all’indomani del 312.” In Costantino il Grande: alle radici dell’Europa: atti del convegno internazionale di studio in occasione del 1700° anniversario della Battaglia di Ponte Milvio e della conversione di Costantino, edited by Enrico Dal Covolo, and Giulia Sfameni Gasparro, 251–272. Città del Vaticano: Libreria Ed. Vaticana. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2015a. “Le trasformazioni dell’élite senatoria nell’èra costantiniana.” Ephemeris Dacoromana XVII: 67–78.

18 Constantine and the Senatorial Aristocracy Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2015b. “Senatus dignitas non nomine quam re illustrior: Costantino e l’aristocrazia senatoria.” In Constantino, el primer emperador cristiano? Religion y politica en el siglo IV. Congreso internacional (Barcelona, 20-24 de marzo de 2012), edited by J. Vilella Masana, 149–161. Barcelona: Publicacions i Edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2016a. “Ossio e Costantino.” In Fra Costantino e i Vandali. Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi per Enzo Aiello (1957–2013) (Messina 29–30 ottobre 2014), edited by Lietta De Salvo, Elena Caliri, and Marilena Casella, 183–196. Bari: Edipuglia. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2016b. “Costantino tra fede, economia e politica: privilegi fiscali, costruzioni sacre.” In L’impero costantiniano e i luoghi sacri, edited by Tessa Canella, 147–190. Bologna: Il Mulino. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2017a. “Costantino e la Týchē: una strana coppia.” In Dinamiche politicoecclesiastiche nel Mediterraneo cristiano tardoantico. Studi per Ramón Teja, edited by Giorgio Vespignani, Silvia Acerbi, 149–160. Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2017b. “Praesul et possessor: Ambrogio e la proprietà privata.” In Ambrogio e la questione sociale, edited by Raffaele Passarella, 19–60. Milano: Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Bulzoni Editore. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2021. “Ambrose and the Creation of a Christian Community.” In Ambrose of Milan and Community Formation in Late Antiquity, edited by Ethan Gannaway and Robert Grant, 12–44. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Lo Cascio, Elio. 2005. “The Government and Administration of the Empire in the Central Decades of the Third Century.” In The Cambridge Ancient History. XII. The Crisis of Empire, A.D. 193–337, edited by Alan K. Bowman, Peter Garnsey, and Averil Cameron, 156–170. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lo Cascio, Elio. 2009. Crescita e declino. Studi di storia dell’economia romana. Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider. Macchioro, Riccardo, ed. 2017. Costantino a Milano. L’Editto e la sua storia (303–2013). Milano: Bulzoni Editore. Machado, Carlos. 2013. “The Roman Aristocracy and the Imperial Court, before and after the Sack.” In The Sack of Rome in 410 AD: The Event, Its Context and Its Impact, edited by Johannes Lipps, Carlos Machado, and Philip Von Rummerl. Wiesbaden: Reichert. Maranesi, Alessandro. 2016. Vincere la memoria, costruire il potere. Costantino, i retori, la lode dell’autorità e l’autorità della lode. Milano-Udine: Mimesis Edizioni. Marcone, Arnaldo. 2008. “Costantino e l’aristocrazia pagana di Roma.” In Di Tarda Antichità. Scritti scelti, edited by Arnaldo Marcone, 107–116. Firenze: Le Monnier Università. Marcone, Arnaldo. 2010. “L’ultima aristocrazia pagana di Roma e le ragioni della politica.” In Incontri triestini di filologia classica 8 (2008–2009), 99–111. Trieste: Edizioni Università Trieste. Melloni, Alberto, ed. 2013. Costantino I. Enciclopedia Costantiniana sulla figura e l’immagine dell’imperatore del cosiddetto Editto di Milano 313–2013, vol. 1. Roma: Enciclopedia Treccani. Mennen, Inge. 2011. Power and Status in the Roman Empire. AD 193–284. Leiden-Boston: Brill. Moreno Resano, Esteban. 2007. Constantino y los cultos tradicionales. Zaragoza: Departamento de ciencias de la Antigüedad-Universidad de Zaragoza. Moser, Muriel. 2018. Emperor and Senators in the Reign of Constantius II. Maintaining Imperial Rule between Rome and Constantinople in the Fourth Century AD. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Noethlichs, Karl Leo. 2001. Die Juden im christlichen Imperium Romanum. Berlin: Akademie Verlag. Novak, D.M. 1979. “Constantine and the Senate: An Early Phase of the Christianization of the Roman Aristocracy.” Ancient Society 10: 271–310. Oppedisano, Fabrizio. 2019. “Senato e cariche pubbliche nelle Res Gestae di Ammiano Marcellino.” In Aspetti di tarda antichità, edited by Tommaso Gnoli, 213–226. Bologna: Patròn. Paschoud, François, ed. 20002. Zosime. Histoire Nouvelle, Tome I (Livre I et II). Paris: Les Belles Lettres. Passarella, Raffaele, ed. 2017. Ambrogio e la questione sociale. Milano: Bulzoni Editore. Perrin, Michel-Yves. 2015. “Eusèbe de Césarée, Constantin, et le «dossier du donatisme».” In Constantino, el primer emperador cristiano? Religion y politica en el siglo I, edited by Josep Vilella Masana, 183–192. Barcelona: Publicacions i Edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona. Porena, Pierfrancesco. 2003. Le origini della prefettura del pretorio tardoantica. Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider. Porena, Pierfrancesco. 2006. “Trasformazioni istituzionali e assetti sociali: i prefetti del pretorio tra III e IV secolo.” In Le trasformazioni delle élites in età tardoantica. Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Perugia, 15–16 marzo 2004, edited by Rita Lizzi Testa, 325–356. Roma: L’«Erma» di Bretschneider. Porena, Pierfrancesco. 2017. “Le dinamiche di formazione della rendita agraria nell’Italia settentrionale del IV secolo e la morale economica di Ambrogio.” In Ambrogio e la questione sociale, edited by Raffaele Passarella, 61–85. Milano: Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Bulzoni Editore. Roda, Sergio. 1996. “Cisalpini in Lusitania: grandi famiglie senatorie norditaliche nell’Alto Impero romano.” In Italia sul Baetis. Studi di storia romana in memoria di Fernando Gascò, edited by Emilio Gabba, Paolo Desideri, and Sergio Roda, 32–50. Torino: Paravia/ Scriptorium. Roman, Yves. 2001. Empereurs et sénateurs. Une histoire politique de l’Empire romain. Paris: Fayard. Rüpke, Jörg. 2008. Fasti sacerdotum. A Prosopography of Pagan, Jewish, and Christian Religious Officials in the City of Rome, 300 BC to AD 499. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Salzman, Michele R., and Michael Roberts, eds. 2011. The Letters of Symmachus: Book 1. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. Schmidt-Hofner, Sebastian. 2008. Reagieren und Gestalten. Die Regierungsstil des spätrömischen Kaisers am Beispiel der Gesetzgebung Valentinians I. (Vestigia, 58). München: Verlag C.H. Beck Schmidt-Hofner, Sebastian. 2010. “Ehrensachen. Ranggesetzgebung, Elitenkonkurrenz und die Funktionen des Rechts in der Spätantike.” Chiron 40: 209–243. Shaw, Brent Donald. 2011. Sacred Violence: African Christians and Sectarian Hatred in the Age of Augustine. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Strobel, Karl. 2007. “Strategy and Army Structure between Septimius Severus and Constantine the Great.” In A Companion to the Roman Army, edited by Paul Erdkamp, 267–285. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. Tantillo, Ignazio. 2017. “Costantino nell’epigrafia delle province africane, con particolare riferimento al periodo successivo alla battaglia di Ponte Milvio.” In Costantino a Milano. L’editto e la sua storia (313–2013), edited by Riccardo Macchioro, 125–149. Roma: Bulzoni Editore.

20 Constantine and the Senatorial Aristocracy Vera, Domenico. 1983. “Strutture agrarie e strutture patrimoniali nella tarda Antichità: l’aristocrazia romana fra agricoltura e commerci” Opus 2: 489–533 (reprinted in Domenico Vera. 2020. I doni di Cerere. Storie della terra nella tarda Antichità (strutture, società, economia), 35–60. (BAT 36). Turnhout: Brepols). Vera, Domenico. 2006. “Conclusioni.” In Le trasformazioni delle élites in età tardoantica, edited by Rita Lizzi Testa, 437–447. Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider. Vera, Domenico. 2012. “Questioni di storia agraria tardoromana: schiavi, coloni, «villae».” Antiquité Tardive 20: 115–122 (reprinted in Domenico Vera. 2020. I doni di Cerere. Storie della terra nella tarda Antichità (strutture, società, economia), 365–72. (BAT 36). Turnhout: Brepols. Ward-Perkins, Bryan. 2012. “Old and New Rome Compared: The Rise of Constantinople.” In Two Romes. Rome and Constantinople in Late Antiquity, edited by Lucy Grig and Gavin Kelly, 53–78. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Weisweiler, John. 2015a. “Domesticating the Senatorial Elite: Universal Monarchy and Transregional Aristocracy in the Fourth Century AD.” In Contested Monarchy. Integrating the Roman Empire in the Fourth Century AD., edited by Johannes Wienand, 17–41, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Weisweiler, John. 2015b. “The Roman Aristocracy between East and West: Divine Monarchy, State-Building and the Transformation of the Roman Senatorial Order (c. 25 BCE – 425 CE).” In New Approaches to the Later Roman Empire: Proceedings of a Conference held at Kyoto University on 8 March 2014, edited by Takashi Minamikawa, 31–52 Kyoto: Kyoto University.


Julian and the Pagan Tradition on Constantine

In the previous chapter, we saw that in the early fourth century a few panegyrists and some Christian writers praised Constantine for restoring the Senate and revitalizing the senatorial aristocracy by replenishing its ranks with the most noble and wealthy citizens from all the provinces.1 The inscriptions tell us something more than the rhetoricians. Constantine filled the Senate with men loyal to him from the provinces, and also granted senatorial rank to equestrians who held the highest offices of central government, such as his new praetorian prefects. This reform, usually called the “reform of the orders”, led to the assimilation of senators and equestrians and resulted in – as a social effect – the formation of a ruling class entirely consisting of senators (clarissimi). We wondered whether the senatorial aristocracy shared the appreciation of the panegyrists. In this chapter we will try to clarify this question by resorting to some sources from the era of Julian and Theodosius. Some people did have a precocious perception of the social and political effects of the reforms under Constantine. By the middle of the fourth century, dissent began to be expressed regarding his institutional work. Emperor Julian, for instance, harshly criticized Constantine during his march from Paris, where he had been acclaimed Augustus by the army (February, 360 AD), to Constantinople (December 11, 361AD)2 (Fig. 2.1). According to Ammianus Marcellinus, when he understood, after triumphantly entering Naissus (Niš), that his uncle Constantius II would never recognise his acclamation, “he wrote to the Senate a sharp oration full of invective, in which he specifically charged Constantius with disgraceful acts and faults”.3 The Senate reacted by urging moderation. “Then he passed on to abuse the memory of Constantine […]”.4 It is generally believed that the charges against Constantine were also made in that oration.5 From Ammianus’s account, however, it is possible to assume that Emperor Julian wrote to the Senate a second letter at a later stage, on the journey between Naissus and Constantinople, when he decided to respond to the Senate’s exhortations to show “reverence for his own creator” by raising the level of his denunciations and including also the most illustrious ancestor, Constantine, among the despised members of Constantius’s family.6 The latter hypothesis would suggest that another oration of Julian was lost. DOI: 10.4324/b22863-2

22 The Pagan Tradition on Constantine

Figure 2.1 The Emperor Julian. Solidus aureus. © Heritage Image Partnership Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo.

In either case, he was the first to publicly express his aversion towards his ancestor, even though he had not been the first to feel it: Then he passed on to abuse the memory of Constantine as an innovator and a disturber of the ancient laws and of customs received of old, openly charging that he was the very first to advance barbarians even to the rods and robes of consuls.7 The kind of accusations that Julian launched against Constantine shows that he already had a personal program for a new government. When accusing Constantine as an innovator and disturber of the ancient laws and old traditional customs (novator turbatorque priscarum legum et moris antiquitus recepti), Julian was not targeting the religious choices of his ancestor, or in any case not only those. In fact, in order to justify epithets such as novator turbatorque, he exemplified his thoughts by recalling that his ancestor had been the first to advance barbarians, conferring upon them the consulate. Since this accusation does not seem to be based on direct evidence,8 it has been suggested that Ammianus misinterpreted Julian, who (in the wake of Porphyry) would have labeled “non-Hellenes” as barbarians, hence “Christians”. In this case, even the accusation that Constantine was a disturber of the ancient laws (novator

The Pagan Tradition on Constantine


turbatorque priscarum legum) would have referred to the innovations that he introduced in the religious field.9 Julian, however, would nonetheless have provided inexact information, Ammianus’s misunderstanding of the phrase notwithstanding, because individuals of Christian faith (regardless of their number) had received the consulate well before Constantine.10 If we trust Ammianus, and Julian really inserted such a sentence in his oration to the Senate, those words referred to the Constantinian reform of the orders, by which he had filled the Roman assembly with individuals from all backgrounds. Some comparisons seem to me to support this interpretation. Julian’s words echoed a sentence, with which Aurelius Victor had captured the audacity of the Constantinian changes, referring also to the institutional ones: And the emperor turned his remarkable mind to founding a city, regulating religious practices and, simultaneously, reforming the administration of Empire.11 The expression novando militiae ordine closely recalls Julian’s word novator: militia in fact included not only the military, but also all civil officials.12 Ordo, in turn, indicated both the institutional organization and the social group to which it was entrusted. In the view of Aurelius Victor, Constantine had been a novator because, with his measures, he transformed the social categories of those serving the empire. The historian’s sentence was very synthetic and not overtly critical, but Julian was impressed by its meaning. He first met Aurelius Victor, “the writer of history”, at Sirmium and, summoning him to Naissus, made him consular governor of Pannonia Secunda, honoring him with a bronze statue.13 Such an important office, which also meant a remarkable social advancement for a simple writer of history,14 was probably a result of Julian’s appreciation for his historical work. It is certain that the newly acclaimed Augustus read it or at least listened to some excerpts. In the concluding chapter of his Liber de Caesaribus, which had been completed in 359, Aurelius Victor had inserted the expected eulogy of the reigning monarch, but he also condemned Constantius’s courtiers as responsible for “his inadequate attention in approving provincial governors and military commanders”.15 It has been suggested that the news of Julian’s acclamation at Paris had already reached Victor when he wrote the final lines of his work.16 But it is also possible that the historian reworked parts of his compendious survey of the careers of all the Roman emperors down to Constantius, when he learnt that Julian was near Sirmium and that the new Augustus was going to listen to parts of his work in a public reading. The public reading of excerpts from not only poetic but also historical works was in fact still practised in Late Antiquity.17 According to Ammianus, Julian appreciated the admirable temperance (sobrietas) of the historian: the sentence with which he described Constantine’s institutional reforms was in this sense exemplary. In fact, Julian echoed that sentence, extending its concept in a very critical way, when he replied to the Roman Senate immediately after having met Aurelius Victor at Sirmium.

24 The Pagan Tradition on Constantine

Polemical arguments against Constantine definitely circulated among his opponents even at the time of Julian’s adolescence.18 However, until Julian’s accession no one had had the freedom to propagate them in written form, making him the first to openly criticize Constantine’s institutional reforms, just before he began to cancel many of his laws in order to reorganize the administration of the empire according to his own different vision.19 Those in Julian’s entourage immediately understood the meaning of their new emperor’s complaint.20 In fact, the first concrete judgment on the legislative work of Constantine, formulated immediately after the death of Julian by the historian Eutropius, largely reflects his thought: He issued many laws, some valid, most useless, some harsh to the point of cruelty.21 Writing under Emperor Valens and upon his orders, Eutropius (as Aurelius Victor) tried not to overdo his criticisms. However, his agreement with the negative vision of Constantine, first explicitly formulated by Julian, appears in many parts of Eutropius’s Breviarium, and it comes out clearly in this description of Constantine’s legislative activity. Since the imperial policy was evaluated on the basis of the relationship with the mos maiorum, considered the supreme value, both the novando militiae ordine by Aurelius Victor and the novator turbatorque priscarum legum by Julian are reflected in Eutropius’s crisp sentence, which expressed the worst judgment one could pass on an emperor’s reforming action.22 The criticisms levied against the Constantinian institutional reforms in the early sixties of the fourth century were not confined to the committee that Julian convened to study the existing laws and attempt a reform.23 Thirty years later, the Eastern philosopher and historian Eunapius of Sardis addressed themes that – before Julian – had been either completely neglected or had been broached by only a few panegyrists who took a very different and much more supportive view of Constantine’s reform. Since Eunapius’s work was the source of Zosimus, it is easy to understand why in the latter’s account the exemplification of the Constantinian upheavals begins with the reform of the praetorian prefecture, which accompanied his reform of the orders.24 The sentence with which Zosimus introduced the reform is strongly analogous to the one that Ammianus attributed to Julian: [Constantine], therefore, also upset the public offices established in ancient times. Here, the verb συνετάραξεν echoes the word turbator and πάλαι refers to the adverb antiquitus.25 Criticism of Constantine’s reforms therefore appeared at an early stage, but it was not the Roman senators who voiced it, as would have happened if it had been aimed at “domesticating” the nobles. The institutional reforms of Constantine were not well received in the provinces, and historians

The Pagan Tradition on Constantine


such as Eutropius, as well as Eunapius some decades later, were ready to echo the criticisms that Julian (inspired by Aurelius Victor) had addressed to Constantine on such aspects of his policy. Religious motivations, on the strength of a still pagan provincial tradition, may have fueled the criticism of Constantine. These historians, however, conveyed the widespread resentment of the eastern municipal elites for institutional changes, which exacerbated the economic and social imbalances within the cities, making the middle classes poorer, and opposing the humiliores (without offices and very poor) to the honestiores (paid in gold for their positions, and very rich).26 If we had more sources of provincial origin, their judgement on the Constantinian reorganization of the ranks and careers would probably agree with Julian’s verdict. The voice of the Roman Senate had a very different tone. For Ammianus, the nobles who listened to Julian’s letter did not agree with his showing disrespect toward Constantius II “who had been the maker of his fortune”.27 Furthermore, confronted with Julian’s accusations that “Constantine was the first to advance the barbarians even to the rods and robes of consuls”, the historian made his own comment, pointing out the contradiction into which Julian fell, later behaving even worse than his predecessor: In so doing he showed neither good taste nor consideration; for instead of avoiding a fault which he so bitterly censured, he himself soon afterwards joined to Mamertinus as colleague in the consulship Nevitta, a man neither in high birth, experience, nor renown comparable with those on whom Constantine had conferred the highest magistracy, but on the contrary uncultivated, somewhat boorish, and (what was intolerable) cruel in his high office.28 It has been assumed that Ammianus recorded not so much the Senate’s reaction as his own personal judgment, full of hatred towards the consuls of AD 362.29 Since, however, it is known from Mamertinus himself that the appointment of these consuls had raised much controversy, which he tried to counter with a really unusual chronological rectification in his Gratiarum Actio,30 it is probable that Ammianus expressed his position so clearly because it did not differ from the Senate’s hostile attitude towards Julian. But probably his self-censorship also played a role in this part of his narrative.31 Indeed, Constantine’s last descendant probably placed an analysis of his ancestor’s institutional upheaval at the center of his oration, convinced, as he was, that the most conservative elements of the Senate would share his criticism. He thought that they must have been irritated by the confusion and social mixing that the reform of the orders began to produce. However, just as Julian had been wrong in assuming that the Senate would welcome his denunciation of the complicity of Constantius II in the massacre of 337 AD, he failed once again in his conjecture. Individual senators may certainly have voiced occasional criticism vis-à-vis Constantine but that was not enough to

26 The Pagan Tradition on Constantine

establish an anti-Constantinian senatorial tradition. A Western senatorial source, the Origo Constantini Imperatoris (Excerpta Valesiana pars prior), was written immediately after the death of Constantine,32 presumably under the reign of Constantine II (who was senior Augustus from 337 AD). In this text, the only claim against Constantine was a criticism of the excessive costs of the foundation of Constantinople.33 The Roman nobles had a positive feeling toward Constantine’s institutional activity: not only in the short term, or for reasons of political opportunism, but above all in the decades that followed. This is shown by both the attitude of the city-prefect Tertullus (359–361 AD), who in AD 360 spoke in Constantius II’s defence (even though he was of pagan faith34), and Ammianus’ later comment, when he quoted the remarks of the Roman Senate in favour of Constantine. Over time it was clear that the Constantinian reforms had not damaged the interests of the senatorial aristocracy, but rather had reinforced the economic and political fortunes of many of its noblest members. The Roman Senate’s feelings toward Constantine during Valentinian I’s reign are shown by Avianius Symmachus’s five epigrams preserved in a letter to his son.35 For instance, Ammianus indicated a set of virtues that Nevitta, appointed consul by Julian, did not possess but belonged to the men chosen by Constantine: Nevitta, a man neither in high birth, experience, nor renown comparable with those on whom Constantine had conferred the highest magistracy.36 They are the same virtues of the clari viri, whom Avianius Symmachus praises in his epigrams as illustrious men. Opulence, nobility and power gave splendor to each of them; each of them had used his own exceptional experience (Ammianus’s usus) to obtain admirable glory; an excellent nature (ingenium), a penetrating spirit, and great eloquence and culture were common to all of them.37 The 80 men, whom Avianius Symmachus set out to praise, belonged to about 30/40 families made illustrious by their progenitors of the Constantinian age. In fact, many of the 80 praised men were related to one another through family relationships (such as that between Aradius Rufinus and his son, Valerius Proculus), and Avianius Symmachus had also planned to include the epigrams for his father-in-law and maternal uncle.38 Those men were senators who lived between the end of the third century and the beginning of the fourth, and had been involved in the institutional reorganization of the Tetrarchy and the Constantinian age, as I showed in the previous chapter. Celebrating those men, Avianius anchored the identity of the ruling class of Valentinian I to a glorious past and the pride of illustrious descendants, despite the fact that it was a class that had been involved in trials, and had been questioned with regard to its morality and its very administrative capability.39 If the senatorial order had reached 2,000 members already under Constantius II,40 the choice of Avianius Symmachus to praise only 80 senators makes clear how little the supposed inflation of the clarissimate, due to the generosity of

The Pagan Tradition on Constantine


Constantine’s wholesale appointments, had damaged the noble senators of Rome. In fact, a law of 356, given in Milan, had established a quorum of 50 clarissimi as the minimum number for a senatorial session, considering that “in that number the substance of every kind of virtue richly abounds”. Two provisions connected with that, or from the same law, show that the context was the nominations to the praetorship.41 In fact, during the fourth century, the composition of what has been called “the new monarchical ruling class” was not decided exclusively by the emperor.42 As the inscription placed in honour of the urban prefect Ceionius Rufius Albinus indicates, Constantine renounced the emperor’s right to appoint the quaestores candidati, returning this right to the Senate, which had lost it since 381/382.43 The emperor, following the “reform of the orders”, could confer the rank according to the office, and increase the number of senators by introducing anyone who had held a high position in the administration. However, the noblest members of the Senate acquired again the right to coopt their own sons as senators, initiating them into a political career through the traditional republican magistracies. These ancient magistracies were emptied of real political significance, apart from the consulship, but – as a result of the reform – senators by birth found incentives to engage in the government of the empire. The short-term effects included massive expansion of senatorial membership to administrators, while the state’s patronage of members of the elite massively increased.44 However, the senatorial patronage network in the selection of high officials was normally stronger than the selection the emperor could make, because the emperors normally depended on the suggestions of the praetorian prefects.45 The nobles willingly represented themselves as a monarchical aristocracy but they knew that, if two or three families of the senate allied themselves, their members had great possibilities of imposing themselves on the slow decisions of the emperor or the Court, and they could occupy alternately the highest offices in the administration of the empire.46 What happened during the reign of Valentinian I and Valens, moreover, was decisive for the senators, who learned how to protect themselves against the increased numbers of new senators by a rapid re-establishment of a hierarchy within the senatorial order. It was based on the wealth, nobility of lineage, and individual assertiveness. Those were the virtues that Avianius Symmachus praised, and Ammianus’s categories of praise subscribed to. They were the same virtues that Constantine had been able to exploit in Western senators, when he linked them back to himself and to the ideology of the renewed empire.

Notes 1 Lact. De mort. pers. 44.11; Eus. Vita Const. 1.40.2; LC 9. 8–11; Hist. Eccl. 9.9.11; Pan. 9 (12).20.1; Nazar. Pan. Lat. X (4).35.2. See chapter I, p. 5, and Lizzi Testa 2015, 149–150. The topic of this chapter is a reworking of one of the themes developed in Lizzi Testa 2009.

28 The Pagan Tradition on Constantine 2 While Eutropius (10.15.1) gives the impression that all the troops acclaimed Julian, the evidence indicates that two auxiliary units of the elite army (the Petulantes and the Celtae) took the leading role: Szidat 1977, 138–139. 3 The relationship between Julian and Constantius II progressed from the subordination of a Caesar to an Augustus to the demand for equal rank, then to open hostility and the claim for sole rulership: Bleckmann 2020, 115–120. 4 Amm. 21.10.7–8: Iamque altius semet extollens, et numquam credens ad concordiam provocari posse Constantium, orationem acrem et invectivam, probra quaedam in eum explanantem et vitia, scripserat ad senatum. Quae cum Tertullo administrante adhuc praefecturam, recitarentur in curia, eminuit nobilitatis cum speciosa fiducia, benignitas grata. Exclamatum est enim in unum, cunctorum sententia congruente, «Auctori tuo reverentiam rogamus». Tunc et memoriam Constantini … vexavit. Here and elsewhere the translation is by Rolfe 1952 ad locum. 5 Actually, this passage of Ammianus has been published as part of Julian’s letter to the Senate: Bidez and Cumont 1922, nr. 21. Den Boeft, Den Hengst, and Teitler 1991,143, however, do not exclude that the accusations against Constantine could have been expressed in a different text. Szidat 1996, 110, goes in the same direction. Kelly 2008, 306, quotes this passage only to comment that the emperor Julian himself criticized the memory of Constantine, but Valentinian and Valens “disparaged” Julian’s virtues. Marcone 2020, 331, n. 20, simply suggests that the hostility of the senators toward Julian explains the bad light in which Ammianus (28.4.14) presents the Roman aristocracy. 6 More details in Lizzi Testa 2009, 89–108. 7 Amm. 21.10.8: Tunc et memoriam Constantini, ut novatoris turbatorisque priscarum legum, et moris antiquitus recepti, vexavit, eum aperte incusans, quod barbaros omnium primus ad usque fasces auxerat et trabeas consulares. 8 Chauvot 1998, 64–70. 9 Barnes 1981, 403 n. 3; Barnes 1989, 321. 10 Barnes 1995, 135–47. 11 Aur. Vict. Caes. 41.12: Condenda urbe formandisque religionibus ingentem animum avocavit, simul novando militiae ordine. 12 Bird 1994, 50, simply translates “reorganizing the military”, which does not convey the real meaning of the Latin word militia: Carrié-Porena 2021; Carrié 2021. 13 Amm. 21.10.5–6. 14 Aur. Vict. Caes. 20.5: “All good men must put their faith in this, and I especially, for I was born in the country of a poor and uneducated father yet I achieved upper-class status in these times through such important studies”. This passage describes his extraordinary social advancement thank to his historical work. Ammianus (21.10.6) also recounts his promotion to city-prefect some years later (in 388–389 AD). 15 Aur. Victor. Caes. 42.24–25. 16 Bowersock 1978, 59. See now, with a slightly different perspective, Marcone 2019, 99. It is true that Aurelius Victor ended his Breviarium with the rule of Constantius II, but some of his comments on this emperor can be appreciated as contemporary notes of the period of Julian’s usurpation. 17 Lizzi Testa 2004, 34–6, and below, chapter VI, p. 125. 18 Paschoud 1971, 339. 19 The compilers of the Theodosian Code eliminated from the collection the dispositions with which Julian abrogated some of the Constantinian laws, apart from two: CTh 2.5.2 (3 Sept. 362) and 3.1.3 (2 Dec. 362): Lizzi Testa 2012, 486–7. Cf. Germino 2009. Harries 2012, 124, stressed that Julian’s laws reflected his personal philosophy and style to a much greater degree than the constitutions issued by any of his imperial successors. 20 About Julian’s supporters, Marcone 2019, 113–53; Marcone 2020, 333–357. 21 Eutr. 10.8.1: multas leges rogavit, quasdam ex bono et aequo, plerasque superfluas, nonnullas severas. Contra cfr. Lib. Oration 18. 151 about Julian’s legislative activity. Pagan and even

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22 23

24 25 26


28 29 30 31 32 33 34

35 36 37 38 39 40 41


Christian sources subscribed the image of Julian as conscientious legislator, and scholars usually followed those assessments, but new researches lead to a different approach: Schmidt-Hofner 2020, 126 ff. Bonamente 1978, 47. About the content of his legislation, which functioned as a medium of propaganda but had also strong ideological meaning, see Schmidt-Hofner 2020, 166–169; on Julian’s laws for a reformation of the schools and those against the Christians, Cecconi 2015; Vössing 2020. Supra, Chapter I, p. 6–7. Zos. 2.32.1. According to Zos. II.38.4, Constantine introduced two new taxes (sc. chrysargirus and follis) leading to the collapse of the cities: “[…] the wealth of the cities was slowly drained and most of them depopulated”. In addition to Aur. Vict. Caes. 41.20, Amm. 16.8.12 and Epit. 41.16, Paschoud 2003, 259, cites SHA Alex.15.3 as a possible reference. According to the Anonymous de rebus bellicis II.1–4, Constantine provoked the pauperization of the majority of the population (pauperes, afflicta paupertas, tenuiores) with the introduction of gold coinage. Actually, it was Diocletian who introduced the aureus, which is already called solidus in the Edictum de pretiis: Carrié 1994; Carrié 2016, 3–14. The pagan opposition, however, attributed this new monetary policy to Constantine, linking it with the confiscation of temple goods: Carrié 2020 On the emperors’ attitude towards temple treasures and statues of gods, Tantillo 2020, 278–80. Amm. 21.10.7: “When these [sc. Invectives] were read in the House, while Tertullus was still acting as prefect, the striking independence of the nobles was manifest as well as their grateful affection; for with complete agreement, they one and all shouted: ‘We demand reverence for your own creator’.” Amm. 21.10.8. Barnes 1998, 143–65. Kelly 2008, 104–158, clearly showed that it is methodologically preferable not to focus exclusively on individuals whom Ammianus appears to have known. Claud. Mamert. Pan. Lat. XI (3).15.4. See below, chapter VI for more examples of Ammianus’s self-censorship. Barnes 1970, 27. The anonymous text, the chronological collocation of which has given rise to much debate, was written in the years very close to the events discussed: most recently Aiello 2014, 33–40; 89–9. Origo Const. VI.30; cf. Zecchini 1993, 35. PLRE I, Tertullus 2, 882–3: being the city-prefect during a food shortage in 359, he was still in office in the summer of 361 (Amm. 21.10.7), when the letter from Julian at Naissus was read out in the Senate. Amm. 19.10.4 describes Tertullus who made sacrifices in the Temple of Castor at Ostia, when the corn-ships entered the harbour there in 359. On this episode, Lizzi Testa 2010, 274–5. More details on these poems are in Lizzi Testa 2002, and further on, in chapter III, where I will argue that they formed part of a larger work composed by Symmachus’ father. Amm. 21.10.8: […] in consulatu iunxit Nevittam, nec splendore, nec usu, nec gloria horum similem, quibus magistratum amplissimum detulerat Constantinus. Symm. Ep. I.2.3–7. Salzman and Roberts 2011, 11–7. Symm. Ep. I.2.2. On the meaning of these two letters, see Cracco Ruggini 1984. On the events that shocked the Senate of Valentinian I and the Church of Bishop Damasus, cf. Lizzi Testa 2004, 93–252, and new insights in chapter V, below. Jones 1964, 144; 527. CTh VI.4.9 Milan, May 9, 356: Placet ne minus quinquaginta clarissimi veniat in senatum: certum est namque hoc numero large abundare substantiam virtuti omnimodae. Cf. CTh VI.4. 8

30 The Pagan Tradition on Constantine

42 43 44 45


and 9 (same data). In 361 a similar constitution for the East (CTh VI.4.12) determined a similar quorum of the highest ranks in the Senate for the same purpose. Contra Weisweiler 2015, 25. CIL VI.1708 = 31906 = ILS 1222. For its discussion, see above, Preface p. xiv. Potter 2004, 364–400. On a tripartite base found in the Praetorium of Gortyn, Antonius Marcellinus, PPO Italiae, Illyrici et Africae in 340–341 (PLRE I, Antonius Marcellinus 16, 548–49), was praised as “the powerful ruler of the whole land of Hesperia, dispenser of governors, illustrious sprout of Hellas”. The inscription is the oldest evidence of the prerogative of the praetorian prefect of Italy, Illyricum and Africa to intervene directly in the appointment of provincial governors, which is variously attested in literary sources for the praetorian prefect of the East: Tantillo 2012, 414; Bigi 2020, 21–22; 40; Bigi, Tantillo 2020, 192 n. 2. Lizzi Testa 2004, 424–443.

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Carrié, Jean-M. 1994. “Dioclétien et la fiscalité.” Antiquité Tardive 2: 33–64. Carrié, Jean-M. 2016. “Ressources métallique, politiques monétaires, production et circulation des espèces dans l’Empire romain tardif”. In Produktion und Recyceln von Münzen in der Spätantike/Produire et recycler la monnaie au bas-Empire (1. Internationales Numismatikertreffen/1ères Rencontres internationales de numismatique, Mainz, Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, 15–16 mai 2014), edited by Jérémie Chameroy, Pierre-Marie Guihard, 3–27. Mainz: Schnell& Steiner. Carrié, Jean-M. 2020. “Anonymus de rebus bellicis: un etat des lieux.” Antiquité Tardive 28: 297–320. Carrié, Jean-M. 2021. “Militia. Per un chiarimento semantico-lessicale.” In Militia inermis e Militia armata. Apparati civili e militari nella tarda antichità (Spello, 27–29 giugno 2019) XXIV Convegno Internazionale dell’Accademia Romanistica Costantiniana, 669–708. Perugia: Ali&no. Carrié, Jean-M., and Pierfrancesco Porena. 2021. “La nuova articolazione del potere tardoimperiale: lo strumento amministrativo civile e il dispositivo militare.” In Militia inermis e Militia armata. Apparati civili e militari nella tarda antichità (Spello, 27–29 giugno 2019) XXIV Convegno Internazionale dell’Accademia Romanistica Costantiniana, 7–76. Perugia: Ali&no. Cecconi, Giovanni A. 2015. “Giuliano, la scuola, i cristiani: note sul dibattito recente.” In: L’imperatore Giuliano. Realtà storica e rappresentazione, edited by Arnaldo Marcone, 204–222. Firenze: Le Monnier. Chauvot, Alain. 1998. Opinions romaines face aux barbares au IVesiècle ap. J. –C.. Paris: De Boccard. Cracco Ruggini, Lellia. 1984. “Simmaco e la poesia.” In La poesia tardoantica: tra retorica, teologia e politica, 477–521. Messina: Centro di Studi Umanistici. Den Boeft, Jan, Daniël Denn Hengst, and Hans Carel Teitler, eds. 1991. Philological and Historical Commentary on Ammianus Marcellinus XXI. Leiden-Boston-Köln: Brill. Germino, Emilio. 2009. “La legislazione dell’imperatore Giuliano. Primi appunti per una palingenesi.” AnTard 17: 159–174. Harries, Jill. 2012. “Julian the Lawgiver.” In Emperor and Author. The Writings of Julian the Apostate, edited by Nicholas Baker-Brian, Shaun Tougher, 121–136, Swansea: The Classical Press of Wales. Jones, Arnold Hugh Martin 1964. The Later Roman Empire, 284–602. A Social, Economic and Administrative Survey, 3 vols. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Kelly, Gavin. 2008. Ammianus Marcellinus. The Allusive Historian. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2002. “Policromia di cultura e raffinatezza editoriale: gli esperimenti letterari dell’aristocrazia romana nel tardo Impero.” In Humana sapit: études d’antiquité tardive offertes à Lellia Cracco Ruggini, edited by Jean-Michel Carrié, and Rita Lizzi Testa, 187–199. Turnhout: Brepols. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2004. Senatori, popolo, papi. Il governo di Roma al tempo dei Valentiniani. Bari: Edipuglia. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2009. “Alle origini della tradizione pagana su Costantino e il senato romano (Amm. 21, 10, 8 e Zos. 2, 32, 1).” In Transformations of Late Antiquity. Essays for Peter Brown, edited by Philip Rousseau, and Manolis Papoutsakis Rousseau, 85–128. Farnham (Surrey)-Burlington: Ashgate. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2010. “Insula ipsa Libanus almae Veneris nuncupatur: funzionari e vescovi a Roma tra IV e VI secolo.” In Istituzioni, carismi ed esercizio del potere (IV–VI secolo d.C.

32 The Pagan Tradition on Constantine Convegno Internazionale (Perugia, 25–27 giugno 2008), edited by Giorgio Bonamente, and Rita Lizzi Testa, 273–303. Bari: Edipuglia. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2012. “Costantino come modello, nelle fonti legislative e patristiche.” In Costantino prima e dopo Costantino. Constantine Before and After Constantin, edited by Giorgio Bonamente, Noel Lenski, and Lizzi Testa, 481–500. Bari: Edipuglia. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2015. «Senatus dignitas non nomine quam re illustrior»: Costantino e l’aristocrazia senatoria. In Constantino, el primer emperador cristiano? Religion y politica en el siglo I, edited by Josep Vilella Masana, 149–161. Barcelona: Publicacions i Edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona. Marcone, Arnaldo. 2019. Giuliano. Roma: Salerno Editrice. Marcone, Arnaldo. 2020. “Pagan Reactions to Julian.” In A Companion to Julian the Apostate, edited by Stefan Rebenich, Hans-Ulrich Wiemer, 326–359. Leiden, Boston: Brill. Paschoud, François. 1971. “Zosime 2, 29 et la version païenne de la conversione de Constantin.” Historia 20: 334–353. Potter, David S. 2004. The Roman Empire at Bay. AD 180–395. London, New York: Routledge. Salzman, Michele R., and Michael Roberts, eds. 2011. The Letters of Symmachus: Book 1. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. Schmidt-Hofner, Sebastian. 2020. “Reform, Routine, and Propaganda: Julian the Lawgiver.” In A Companion to Julian the Apostate, edited by Stefan Rebenich, HansUlrich Wiemer, 124–171. Leiden, Boston: Brill. Szidat, Joachim. 1977. Historischer Kommentar zu Ammianus Marcellinus Buch XX–XXI. Teil I: Die Erhebung Julians (Historia. Einzelschriften, 31), Stuttgart 1977; Teil 2: Die Verhandlungsphase (Historia. Einzelschriften, 38), Stuttgart 1981; Teil 3: Die Konfrontation (Historia. Einzelschriften, 89). Stuttgart: Fr. Steiner, 1996. Tantillo, Ignazio. 2012. “«Dispensatore di governatori». A proposito di una dedica a un prefetto al pretorio da Gortina (IC IV 323).” RFIC 140: 407–424 Tantillo, Ignazio. 2020. “I tetrarchi, le statue divine e i tesori dei templi.” Antiquité Tardive 28: 261–288. Vössing, Konrad. 2020. “The Value of a Good Education: The School Law in Context.” In A Companion to Julian the Apostate, edited by Stefan Rebenich, Hans-Ulrich Wiemer, 172–206. Leiden, Boston: Brill. Weisweiler, John. 2015. “Domesticating the Senatorial Elite: Universal Monarchy and Transregional Aristocracy in the Fourth Century AD.” In Contested Monarchy. Integrating the Roman Empire in the Fourth Century AD., edited by Johannes Wienand, 17–41, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Zecchini, Giuseppe. 1993. Ricerche di storiografia latina tardoantica. Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider.


Quintus Aurelius Symmachus in Bauli: Literary Genres and Political Projects

Introduction Symmachus’s works have once again attracted the interest of scholars of Late Antiquity.1 Indeed, alongside the classic edition of Seeck, which was reprinted in 1961,2 a complete French translation of his Letters, Orations, and State Papers (Relationes) is now available,3 while the Italian translation of his Relationes, along with almost all the books of his letters, offers an extensive historical commentary.4 Nonetheless, the judgement that his first modern editor expressed at the end of the nineteenth century, giving limited human and cultural value to this late-fourth-century Roman senator, continues to weigh on the man and his works. Seeck believed Symmachus’s family (the Symmachi) to be among the many parvenus of equestrian rank, who filled the senatorial assembly following Constantine’s reform of the orders; and, considering Symmachus’s arrogance intolerable, denigrated his intellectual abilities. He found his ten books of Epistulae both too brief and inane, due to the lack of specific references to the great historical events of the time. He judged his Orationes to be dripping with empty rhetoric, and the Relationes frustrating, apart from the third Relatio de ara Victoriae. This latter, in fact, began to elicit broad echoes after few years, feeding into the theme of conflict between Christians and pagans at the end of the fourth century.5 Seeck, however, committed at least one major error.6 Aurelius Valerius Tullianus Symmachus, consul in 330, was not the first to obtain the consulship in the fourth century among the Symmachi; nor was he of equestrian birth. M. Aurelius Nerius Symmachus, vir perfectissimus in 312 or in 337 – and therefore still eques towards the end of the reign of Constantine – was not Symmachus but Symmachius, as Alan Cameron has brilliantly demonstrated.7 Aurelius Valerius Tullianus Symmachus, in contrast, had illustrious ancestors in Rome that can be traced back to the third century AD.8 Just like the Symmachi, other fourth-century families could be traced back to antiquity, and recent studies on the Roman Senate in Late Antiquity have suggested a new way of considering their political attitudes, and cultural-religious interests. While only briefly assuming prominent public roles – but because they tool only the highest offices willingly, which were very limited in number – fourth-century DOI: 10.4324/b22863-3

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senators were actively involved in politics and, Christian and pagan alike, they returned to being as competitive and inclined towards intrigue as their predecessors of the high empire. Symmachus’s career is exemplary in this regard. He was born, probably as the eldest son of L. Aurelius Avianius Symmachus, in the year 340. By ca. 360, before the age of 20 or just immediately after,9 he was quickly appointed quaestor, praetor, and pontifex maior. In 365, the same year that his father held the important office of urban prefect, he became governor (corrector) of Lucania et Bruttii, and in 368 he was designated as senatorial envoy to the imperial Court in Trier, where he delivered the traditional speech of praise on the fifth anniversary of Valentinian I’s rule. By early March 373, he was in Africa as proconsul of the province, and by June 384 (after spending ten years without any public office) Valentinian II appointed him prefect of the city of Rome. Although he delivered a panegyric on the usurper Maximus in January 388, he was designated consul for 391. In the last decade of his life, Symmachus continued to be deeply involved in politics, both to obtain his son-in-law Flavianus the Younger’s full reintegration into politics after the battle at the River Frigidus on 5 September 394 – when Flavianus the Elder chose suicide over the dishonour of defeat – and to confirm his son Q. Fabius Memmius Symmachus’s career as praetor, giving exceptional games in the Flavian Amphitheater in 401. We have no further letters from him after 402, when he is presumed to have died after his journey as senatorial envoy to the imperial Court at Milan in the same year.10 Recently, his letters have contributed to a deep revision of the political and social history of the second half of the fourth century.11 According to Gibbon, “few facts, and few sentiments, can be extracted from his verbose correspondence”.12 In fact, as chance would have it, they survived because the vagueness of their contents (which so frustrated eighteenth- and nineteenthcentury scholars) led to their rediscovery after a long period of neglect (from the sixth to the ninth centuries). During the twelfth century, they were used as models of epistolary art at the time of the spread of the Artes Dictaminis (guides to the art of writing epistles). It is now evident, just from considering some of them, that they “reveal much about the life of a Roman noble”, as even the critical Jones had to admit.13

Some samples from the first book of Symmachus’s letters Among the nine books of Symmachus’s letters, the first is unique in many ways. For some scholars, it was the only one to have been published by the author, no later than in early 390.14 For Alan Cameron, it was prepared for publication together with the first six others by Symmachus himself. The latter view seems to explain better the different structure of Bks I–VII compared to that of Bks VIII–IX. In Bks I–VII, letters are grouped together by addressee, while in Bks VIII–IX (with few exceptions) they are scattered throughout the books. If Symmachus published the first book and Memmius all the others, it is

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difficult to explain why Memmius would have decided to change completely the arrangement followed in the first seven books. As Cameron suggested, then, “it is likely that it was Memmius who published Bk I together with Bks II–VII between 402 and 408”. But it was, Symmachus himself who revised the letters of Bk I and (after 39515) made a preliminary selection of the letters included in Bks II–VII, preparing them for publication.16 Even though less exceptional than once believed, the first book remains atypical. It collects the correspondence that Symmachus had kept with some of the great senators of his time, during a specific period of his career, between approximately 370 and 384:17 Ausonius, Praetextatus, Probus, Titianus, Hesperius, and Antonius.18 It opens, moreover, with 12 letters to his father, L. Aurelius Avianius Symmachus, one of the most successful members of the Senate. He held the role of princeps senatus (first Man of the Senate, who gave his opinion first in senatorial deliberations), was the leader of numerous embassies to the imperial court, and died in 377 as consul designatus, after serving as urban prefect in 364/65.19 Symmachus’s letters to his father could, at first glance, appear insignificant, apparently written only to keep open a formal communication with Avianius, while he moved from one villa to another in his properties in Campania. At the same time, Symmachus’s trip seems to have been organized simply to enjoy a well-deserved holiday on his return from a year as proconsul in Africa. As he writes in the letter: To avoid being blamed for the interruption in our correspondence, I prefer to promptly fulfill my responsibility rather than to sit idly by in anticipation of a reply; besides, with one’s parents, one can certainly not weigh up or count words. Indeed, I would appear to be in the wrong if I should take issue with you by demanding a strict application of the law; it is unreasonable to demand equal deference between unequals. As a consequence, your every letter is a benevolent concession, while mine simply fulfill an obligation. These considerations and others of this sort have strongly impelled me not to neglect my duty to write. 2. Now I must inform you about the order of our activities: it is no less a pleasure, in fact, to give an account of recreation than of work. We left the villa in Bauli for our home on the Lucrine Lake, not because we were bored of lodging there, on the contrary, the longer you stay there, the more you grow to love it, but more because I was afraid that, if I had allowed my love for Bauli to grow, I would not have been able to appreciate the other places that I have yet to visit. (Symm. Ep. I. 1.1–2)20 (Fig. 3.1 and Fig. 3.2). Recent research on the management style of large senatorial villas in Late Antiquity, along with changes in land rent, calls for a different appreciation of the ideology of otium (idleness) in this context.21 Indeed, these letters from Symmachus to his father were not all written in the autumn of 375, as Seeck would have it, but mostly during the summer – the season when, while the coastal towns were overcrowded, the countryside hummed with the cereal

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Figure 3.1 Roman Bauli in Campania. (Map courtesy of Jeff Matthews, ed. Naples. Life. Death et Miracles)

harvest – and others were written during the grape harvest that lasted until midOctober.22 Father and son were away from Rome, taking advantage of the summer holidays, the messium et vindemiarum feriae (harvest and grape harvest holidays) provided for by the calendar to allow senators to supervise the harvest.23 Symmachus and Avianius, large landowners like other senators, employed their free time away from political activity keeping an eye on their properties closest to Rome (in Latium and Campania), which were managed directly by actores, overseeing the harvest and the condition of the buildings (Ep. 1.10). In the letters to his father, Symmachus speaks above all about little poems, hobbies, and the search for solitary places, rather than specific management activities. These were, in any case, topics too technical to be dealt with in correspondence, which respected specific standards of style, and were usually addressed verbally by a messenger, or listed in indiculus, breviarium, or commonitorium appended to his letters.24 The movements of these great men, however, were influenced by the organization of the harvest, often in neighbouring properties, some of which (those in Latium) probably cultivated cereals, while others (those in Campania) were rich in wheat and grapes. For

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Figure 3.2 Bacoli today. (© EyeEm/Alamy Stock Photo)

Avianius and his son, as for other members of the senatorial aristocracy, otium and asset management were inseparable realities.25 During these summer vacations, a certain element of hedonism was clearly not lacking, and guests were delighted with authentic flavours and culinary delicacies (Ep. 1.7); but this simply enlivened the management and upkeep of suburban properties, that was the real reason for such trips.26 It should therefore be clear why Symmachus chose to open his collection with these 12 letters to his father. Far from reflecting the pleasures of an idle young rentier, they were intended to demonstrate to the reader the ideals that young Symmachus embodied among aristocrats, and the cultural and moral qualities for which, having already merited the proconsulate of Africa, he had been able to pursue the career of magistracies (honores), placing himself at the centre of an impressive network of the leading political and cultural figures of the time such as Ausonius, Probus, and Praetextatus, among others. Prominent virtues include the pietas towards his noble father and the attentive care of his properties – already substantial, thanks to a generous donation from his father,27 and expanded through a prosperous marriage to the daughter of Memmius Vitrasius Orfitus. The rhetorical and literary preparation, however, is no less important: not that of a specialized rhetorician or poet, but rather of one of the highest members of society, sufficiently educated in various fields (grammar, language, philosophy, and the arts), and therefore capable of dialogue on par with the most illustrious figures of his social class. This element should not be misconstrued, as there is a risk of misinterpreting the cultural attitude of this elite and some of its literary activities.

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Most of them were undertaken with the help of the specialized staff at their service, such as the copying or publication of ancient works, of which some important evidence remains in manuscripts.28 Even the short poems (poetic nugae) included in this first letter had a significance that goes beyond their limited artistic value. These little poems were an example (specimen) of the cultural level that attending the best schools of rhetoric had allowed Symmachus to reach. In composing them, he showed himself capable of versifying in accordance with the most advanced forms of expression of the time. Alongside the other components that appear in the letter (filial affection, or pietas, and the responsible management of his estates), also his poetic ability indicated not only a proud awareness of his right to a position of importance, but also the responsibilities that being a member of a large family involved. This is demonstrated by an informed reading of the “literary” content of the first letter. I dedicated some verses to Acindynus, the founder of the house, and to his ancestors, in which I attributed a rational explanation to the apparent arbitrary nature of the painting, which gives each of them a different outfit. I would dwell on them a little longer before showing you the verses, if I were not afraid that this delay would increase your anticipation. Therefore, accept a slight poem, wrapped in rough thread: 3. An Attic palla clothed my father-in-law, a toga picta my father:/the one presided over sacred rites, the other gave laws to the Quirites./But as evidenced by the clasp that fastens my military attire,/among the peoples of the East I ruled as the emperor’s praetorian./About my fasces, though, the painting is silent; look to the fasti. (Symm. Ep. I.1.2–3) Particular attention should be paid to the translation of the first lines: Ibi Acindyno conditori eiusque maioribus emmetra verba libavi et picturae licentiam, quae vestitum disparem singulis tribuit, in rationem coegi. Just after the beginning (“I dedicated some verses to Acindynus, the founder of the house, and to his ancestors”) Symmachus does not say “and I corrected the liberties taken in their painted portraits, which assigned inappropriate attire to each figure”,29 but “I attributed a rational explanation to the apparent arbitrary nature of the painting, which gives each of them a different outfit”. It should therefore not be assumed that “Symmachus does not explain how he corrected the attire in these pictures”, or that “Presumably Symmachus had these portraits repainted, since they were not wearing clothing appropriate to their rank or office”.30 The meaning of the sentence is different, and it involves the genre of those verses. The poem, which Symmachus had inscribed as an epigraph of the scene depicted on the wall of the villa of Bauli, was an ekphrastic poem, intended to create an “icon-text”, a combination of painting and poetry that illuminated each other. This genre had come back into vogue in fourth-century culture. After its development in the Hellenistic age, from the early imperial age it had

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been employed utilising the “ability to render visible what was painted” – the Aristotelian concept of enargheia – so that the written word attempted to reproduce the virtuosity of a work of art.31 Ekphrasis was recommended by the rhetoricians among the exercises included in the program of the progymnasmata as, according to Theon (Progymnasmata 11), the ability to make visible (enargheia) was proportional to the persuasive power of the speaker.32 Through the enargheia (which Quintillian called phantasia, or visio) implicit in ekphrasis, the speaker could reach the most remote part of the mind and stir the deepest emotions in the spectator.33 In Late Antiquity, when epideictic oratory shared similar rhetorical structures and the same attention to performance with Christian homiletics and poetry, ekphrasis had great momentum. Innumerable ekphrastic inscriptions, in prose or verse, were placed in the epigraph of images, which were frontally positioned; that is, in a position that allowed the painted subject to indicate, explain, or demonstrate something. This frontality is considered typical of the art of Late Antiquity.34 In the first letter to his father, to demonstrate his poetic skill, Symmachus makes use of a genre that was popular at the time. He writes his verse imagining it recited by Acindynus, the most recent owner-restorer of the house, before Orfitus bought it and Symmachus received it as part of his wife’s dowry. Depicted frontally, Acindynus addresses the viewer to illustrate the portraits of his father-in-law, his father, and himself, outlining their respective careers: his father-in-law, to whom the Attic palla and priestly duties (praefuit sacris) are attributed, was a prominent priest of Greek origin; his father, Septimius Acindynus, had served as urban prefect in AD 292–95; he himself was painted with the clasp that fastened his military attire (fibula castrensis), a symbol of the praetorian prefecture in the East between AD 338 and 340. Nevertheless, the end of the epigram recalled that the painting would have to show also the fasces of the consul, since Acindynus came to achieve this prestigious position in AD 340, as the reader-viewer could verify by checking the annals (sed fasces pictura tacet; tu respice fastus).35 Despite the lack of literary merit in these hexameters, the poem possesses all the most important features of the ekphrastic genre. The dialogue established with the viewer creates an embrayage, a process that intends to create an illusion of presence and contemporaneity. As with the frontal depiction of the image, the poet’s description is actualizing and static, not narrative, but fixed in a constantly renewed present. It was particularly useful to create the illusion of modernity and the permanence of the described values.36 To this phatic function is added a conative one, typical of poetry that makes use of exhortation and the verbal forms of the imperative. The pre-eminence of the image is imposed on the viewer, but the text is syncretic: combining image and inscription, it leads the viewer to return to the image after reading the written text, because – as intended by the conclusion of Symmachus’s epigram – it adds further aspects to the painting. This, therefore, is the intended meaning of the phrase “I dedicated some verses to Acindynus, the founder of the house, and to his ancestors, in which I attributed a rational explanation to the apparent arbitrary

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nature of the painting”. Paulinus of Nola gave the best explanation of the way in which the ekphrasis operated in that imaginary dialogue with the spectator, being convinced that the writing would show what the painting explained (ut littera monstret/quod manus explicuit).37 The image revealed the “essential”, which the written poem was intended to explain to the viewer in an orderly and rational manner. Symmachus and Paulinus, moreover, shared a common culture, even if they put it to different purposes.38 The full meaning of Symmachus’s poetry is best understood if read together with the other epigram, in elegiac couplets, included in the first letter: […] I am revealing to you another of my secret ramblings, even though I am still worried to hear your opinion about the first. Listen to my verses on the history of Bauli: 5. Here the god Alcides gathered a herd to be stabled,/snatched from the home of the three-bodied Geryon./ Subsequently, a more recent age, corrupting Boaulia, called it Bauli, obscuring the meaning of its name./Fortune has descended from this god to distinguished masters,/so that the fame of this place should not tolerate obscure owners./Hortensius, fortunate in his wealth, often visited these halls,/who competed in eloquence against the man from Arpinum./Here the consul Acindynus,/and Orfitus, who prescribed laws for the heirs of Aeneas, lived long glorious lives./Among these, you Symmachus, radiant youth, but with a senior office, famous and proud of your twelve fasces./ But the idle pastimes of Bauli do not yet call you./May public service keep you young and ever vigilant! (Symm. Ep. I.1.4–5) The second epigram, in elegiac distichs, may appear to have been written to clarify the etiology of Bauli, but its real purpose is to present a review of some of the illustrious characters that resided there: the orator Hortensius, the great opponent of Cicero, the previously mentioned Acindynus, who was painted on the walls of the villa, his father-in-law Memmius Vitrasius Orfitus Honorius, and Symmachus himself. His father replied to the letter from his son, and this text is one of only two by others that Symmachus wanted to publish alongside his own: the other is from his spiritual father, Ausonius.39 Avianius did not skimp on praise. Admiring the refinement of a text that skillfully mixed prose and verse, he sent five of his own epigrams of six hexameters each, produced as eulogies to distinguished notables of the time. This is a gift about which not only Campania could boast but above all Rome, or even Athens, if such eloquent words were translated into the glory of the Greek language! For what is more elegant than your letter, which I recently received? What more pleasing than this blend of verses? In all sincerity, your letter ended too quickly for those who would like to read more. If only it were still possible to hear from those who, through their images, inspired you to compose these epigrams! They would readily praise these successors of their deeds, who have re-illuminated the luster

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of the painting with equally beautiful verses. I therefore rejoice that your stomach is not more replete with oysters and mussels than your soul is with beautiful poetry. 2. And since you started to write verse first, and have melted my reserve, you will receive eulogies from me too, that I had just recently sketched in honour of the illustrious men of my age. For since there is nothing for me to do, and since if I do nothing the wretched recollection of my troubles overtakes me, I have found what I could add to those pamphlets that I had just recently composed (inveni quod illis libellis, quos nuper dictaveram, possimus adicere). You know that Terentius, not the comic writer but the man from Reate, that parent of Roman erudition, adorned his books of the Hebdomades by the addition of epigrams. I intend to imitate him, if Fortune allows. (Symm. Ep. I. 2.1–2) It is generally believed that these short compositions were the only fragments of a poetic work that Avianius conceived when he received the letter from his son, but which remained unfinished, having quickly exhausted the motivation that had sustained the project.40 However, this is not precisely what is contained in the text. Indeed, an attentive reading appears to convey something completely different: And since you started to write verse first, and have melted my reserve, you will receive eulogies from me too, that I had just recently sketched in honour of the illustrious men of my age […] I have found what I could add to those pamphlets that I had recently composed (inveni quod illis libellis, quos nuper dictaveram, possimus adicere). When Avianius replied to his son, he had already completed his work, and the letter he received from Symmachus – a mixture of prose and verse – spurred him to return to a text that he had composed and abandoned, to enrich it with poetic additions: the five epigrams were a first taste of this.41 Nevertheless, Symmachus may well have already read his father’s booklet, or at least have already known of its contents, because the rhymes he sent translated the same value system into poetic form. With painstaking meticulousness, Symmachus employed an ekphrastic poem to illustrate how the different clothing indicated the careers of the three men in the portraits, indirectly demonstrating the importance of holding public offices for the senatorial aristocracy. Indeed, different offices conferred the potestas (power) that Avianius celebrated in his own epigrams in an inseparable combination with nobilitas (nobility). The impression that such an emulative relationship had begun in more complex terms than the arrangement of the correspondence would suggest is heightened by the contents of the second poem. The etiological opening is instrumental in introducing the subsequent inhabitants of that place, all inevitably excellent. From what can be deduced from the characters lauded in the five epigrams – Aradius Rufinus, Valerius Proculus, Anicius Iulianus, Petronius Probianus, and Verinus – and those of the father-in-law and

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maternal uncle of Avianius delegated to Symmachus42 – many, if not all of the prominent figures, who appeared in the pamphlets, held the highest positions available to the post-Constantinian aristocracy. Also, Septimius Acindynus and Memmius Vitrasius Orfitus signo Honorius had to be included. If, however, Avianius did not take them into consideration, the second poem intervened to cover a gap left by the booklet, since he suggested his father add both to his Catalogue of praiseworthy Men (“aretalogy”). Their nobilitas and potestas were invoked as antecedents and guarantors of the career that he himself had embraced. Within a typically aristocratic idea of possessio, on the strength of which the antiquity of a family was also guaranteed by the stability or condition of its possessions, even if they had been acquired by marriage or bequest, owning the villa of Acindynus-Orfitus gave Symmachus the prestige not only of the previous owners, but also that of the most prestigious guest Bauli had seen, Hercules, the hero of the 12 labours.43 Symmachus’s poems (poetic ioci) produced their effect, and Avianius probably brought the new project to its conclusion. It is not necessary to dwell here on the political significance of Avianius’s writings. Suffice it to note that, not by chance, several months after this exchange of letters, Symmachus recalled the literary work of his father in the Senate (“to return to you better, unoccupied, the soul ennobled with beautiful letters”), in the oration in which he thanked the Roman senators (patres conscripti) for vesting his father with the position of ordinary consulate.44 Within this context, however, in order to study the importance of the relationship between text and image, it is necessary to understand the form and content of the final edition of Avianius’s booklet (libelli). It must be assumed that, in a combination of prose and poetry, they also contained the painted portraits of the lauded famous men (clari viri). The first poem from his son, which had given Avianius an opportunity to add epigrams to his text, was an ekphrastic poem, whose verses were intended to illustrate the portraits. This was reminiscent of the funeral elogia and anticipated that which Ausonius, at the time in close epistolary contact with Symmachus, would write between 378 and 379 under the effigy of his father.45 He also emulated the epigrams that their cultured friend from Syracuse, Naucellius, composed by drawing inspiration from the portraits.46 It is possible, therefore, that Avianius nurtured the idea of including also the images of the clari viri, whom he praised in his pamphlets. Indeed, once enriched by verses and images, Avianius’s booklet might have imitated the Hebdomades vel de imaginibus of Marcus Terentius Varro, as had been his intention.47 Little is known of this work today. It was, however, famous in antiquity by virtue of its illustrations. For this reason, Pliny the Elder recalled Varro, and extolled him as the Roman inventor of a new type of illustrated text, capable of disseminating and immortalising the images of great men.48 We should therefore imagine the Hebdomades as a biographical antiquarian work, in which the prose profiles of illustrious figures were embellished by their portraits, and illustrated by poetic summaries of their actions

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and honours. If Avianius, by adding verses to his illustrated work in prose, might have assumed that they imitated the Varronian Hebdomades, his text would have presented itself in a complex form, laid out editorially, in which the power of the images was combined with that of the text, in a sort of comparison between the respective forms of communication. A volume of prose and verse with painted portraits of the famous men, which outlined their political and moral profile, was an enterprise that a member of the aristocracy could easily achieve, also by drawing on the abilities of members of his own family: his son, who showed pleasure in writing poetry, and was urged to contribute to the composition of poems, to the extent that the father’s booklet closely resembled the Hebdomades;49 artisan clients, such as the painter Lucillus, who decorated their house and was an artist of great versatility, gifted in the art of portraiture, as Naucellius and perhaps Flavianus Senior himself were there to experiment with.50 In Avianius’s work, the taste for portraiture – in which private clients still asked for individual characterization and the capacity to express roles and social standing – was combined with an interest in the biographical genre. This interest developed into a real passion, given the large number of lives (of the Caesars, philosophers, and saints) that the time produced. Regardless of their religious faith, culturally active members of society tried to select in their works the devices through which the lives of individuals or group behaviour could be regulated.51 For many reasons, therefore, Avianius had been led to reproduce the form of the Varronian Hebdomades. The content of his work, however, was very different. Reducing the number of individuals lauded to 80, compared to the 700 portraits by Varro, Avianius had given his book a flavour of modernity. He celebrated only men who flourished at the time of his youth. The significance of this choice can be understood in the context in which it was made. The elderly senator wrote his booklet during the months between late 374 and early 375, which he spent away from the capital, in a form of selfimposed exile. He was intent on reflecting on the significance (and economic and political consequences) of the popular revolt that had seen his beautiful house in Trastevere burned down.52 Avianius’s work was therefore written at both a time of personal tribulation and a very difficult period for the senatorial class of Rome, troubled by the trials for adultery and divination conducted against its younger members by Pannonian officials of Valentinian I.53

Conclusion In addition to its literary meaning, therefore, Avianius’s booklet contained strong political ideals. In the selection of nobles whose portraits he handed down – just 80 individuals belonging to no more than 30/40 families – there was an implicit indication of those who received legitimacy from the past to govern Rome in the present. With their nobility, their wealth, and their political qualities, the men praised by Avianius knew how to perform in the service of good emperors and hold back tyrants (principibus quorum viguisti

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tempore, doctus/aut calcaria ferre bonis aut frena tyrannis). In describing the values and means by which they had restored the fortunes of the empire at the beginning of the century, Avianius wanted to show their young descendants how to achieve a new political hegemony within the ruined Senate of Valentinian I. With respect to the opinion held by Seeck and, albeit with significant differences, by some scholars today, it is clear that the cultural wealth – beyond movable and immovable property – of some members of the late fourthcentury senatorial aristocracy was still significant.54 It was an important component of the central political role the senatorial aristocracy played. Indeed, no emperor, neither Constantine, nor, at the end of the fourth century, Theodosius I, could ignore its members.

Notes 1 Quintus Aurelius Symmachus signo Eusebius as a politician and his literary production as an orator are the central topics of several books, or large parts of them, and new papers: Sogno 2006, Ratti 2010, and Ratti 2012; Alan Cameron 2011, 353–98, Brown 2012, 93–119; Kelly 2015a; Cameron 2016, Sogno 2017. 2 Seeck 1883 (1961). This chapter deepens some aspects of an essay published in the volume in honour of Lellia Cracco Ruggini (Lizzi Testa 2002) and a paper given in Florence in 2015 never published. 3 Callu 1972; 1982; 1995; 2002; 2009. Del Chicca 1984 was the first Italian translation (with an extensive introduction and commentary) of his oration for Valentinian I; Pabst 1989 offers the Latin text, a first German translation with an extensive introduction and long explanatory notes of all his Orations. 4 Vera 1981; Roda 1981; Marcone 1983; Marcone 1987: Rivolta Tiberga 1992; Pellizzari 1998; Cecconi 2002. The first, seven and eight books of letters are still missing in the Italian edition. Only the translation of the first book of letters is available in English: Salzman and Roberts 2011 (reprinted in 2015 with some corrections but the same pagination), on which see Kelly 2015b. 5 Seeck 1883, XXXIX–XLI. It was Ambrose who circulated and published Symmachus’ Third State Paper (III Relatio) together with both his letters to Valentinian II, in order to publicise the victory of Christianity over the senator and orator Symmachus: Liebeschuetz 2005, 62. Therefore, scholars were strongly conditioned in their interpretation of the events by the order that the bishop gave to the three texts in his epistolary collection: Lizzi Testa 2007, 251–3. Prudentius later (ca. AD 402/403) immortalised the conflict in a long poem, the Contra Symmachum (Against Symmachus), advancing Symmachus’s reputation as an eloquent pagan advocate. 6 Seeck 1883, XL–XLI. 7 CIL VI.1747; PLRE I, M. Aurelius Nerius Symmachus 3, 870–1. New research on the Symmachi family started with Polara 1974, Cameron Alan 1977, 17–18, Vera 1981, XXVII–XXVIII. More recently, Cameron Alan 1999, 477 and 487–8, was definitive, observing that Nerius’s name was Symmachius, and not Symmachus. Tullianus was his agnomen. The correct form of his name would thus not be Aurelius Valerius Tullianus Symmachus but Aurelius Valerius Symmachus Tullianus. But we maintain the name as given in PLRE. 8 The Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry dedicated one of his works to the student Chrysaorius, and the ancestor of this man, described as “Symmachus, son of Symmachus, man of many allies, ally of Rome”, is still remembered by Elias in his

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9 10 11

12 13 14






sixth-century commentary on the Isagogé of Porphyry. This seems to indicate that by 270 the Symmachi had been “a prominent Roman family from three generations”: Cameron Alan 1999a, 477–8; cf. Lizzi Testa 2004, 382. For Salzmann and Roberts 2011, XVIII, n. 29, “the Symmachi were influential members of the Roman senatorial elite from as early as the last quarter of the third century”. Heather 1997, 191; contra Salzman and Roberts 2011, XXIII, n. 57. PLRE I, Quintus Aurelius Symmachus signo Eusebius 4, 865–70, is still useful for his main career stages. In different way, a new impulse came from Matthews 1974, and Matthews 1975, who shared with Cameron 1999b the idea that Symmachus and his pagan colleagues of the Roman Senate were a group of snobish, selfish nobles with little or no learning and a very little interest in administrative offices. On the contrary, Bruggisser 1993 gave a different portrait of Symmachus’ attitudes to literature, but he was not interested in his political identity. Salzman and Roberts 2011, XV. Jones 1964, I, 155. Salzman and Roberts 2011, XIV and LIII–LXVI shares, and confirms with further arguments, the view of Callu 1972, 17–18, accepted also by Roda 1981, 69, n. 34, Bruggisser 1993, 25–31, and Kelly 2015a, 214 ff. that the Bk I had been separately published by Symmachus himself. Neverthless, they gave different dates: after Symmachus’ urban prefecture (Callu); before Symmachus’ urban prefecture (Kelly); around 390 (Cameron 2011, 368–370); “no later than the early 390” and before the usurpation of Eugenius in 392–394 (Salzman, Roberts). Sogno 2006, 61, noted that Symmachus’s friend, Protadius, in Symm. Ep. IV.34.3, datable to November 395 (Marcone 1987, 76–7), deplored the fact that he entrusted his letters periturae chartae, to perishable paper. Against the common opinion, this could perhaps imply that as late as 395 Symmachus had not yet published his first book of letters, confirming the view that Q. Memmius and not his father published it, together with books II–VII, between 402 and 408. Nevertheless, as Alan Cameron 2016, 72, 93–9, suggested, Symmachus could have prepared the first book for publication, and probably chose those to be included in the other books. Memmius, then, simply published the books, without editing them. The question of the date of publication of Bks I–VII is still open and this is not the place to go into it, but Cameron 2016s reasons are very convincing, while those given by Kelly 2015a – who thinks that with the publication of Bk I Symmachus wanted to show his competence for a prefecture – may apply even more so around 390, in the hope of having the consulship, which he in fact had in 391. Different reasons for rejecting his proposal are given by Salzman 2018, 101. None of the letters in the first book can be dated after 381/384, despite Callu 1972, 18, who stated that no letter was later than 385: Salzman 2011, XIV, n. 5; Kelly 2015a, 201–214: some letters to Probus, Praetextatus, and Hesperius are datable to the years 383 or 384, but “a sizeable number of definitively dateable letters cluster in the years 380 and 381”. The third book contains letters from the period 370–390, the fourth has letters from 398 to 402, the fifth contains those from 376-96, and the seventh from 397 to 402. The second and the sixth books are addressed to a single recipient, respectively, Nicomachus Flavianus Senior, and Symmachus’s daughter and her husband Nicomachus Flavianus Iunior. All addressees in the first book are among the most famous personalities of imperial political life in the decade 370–384: Decimius Magnus Ausonius (Epp. I.13–43); Vettius Agorius Praetextatus (I.44–55), Sex. Claudius Petronius Probus (1.56–61); his brother Celsinus Titianus Symmachus (I.62–74), Decimius Hilarianus Hesperius, son of Ausonius (I.75–88); Fl. Claudius Antonius, a relative by marriage of the Emperor Theodosius I (I.89–93); Flavius Syagrius (I.94–107). For more details on these

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19 20 21

22 23 24 25 26


28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36

politicians and the different rethorical style that Symmachus used with each of them, Bruggisser 1993, 25–31; and Kelly 2015a, 201–214. Lizzi Testa 2004, 381–411; 444–6; Salzman and Roberts 2011, XVIII–XIX; Kelly 2015a, 203–205. My translation of these first two paragraphs is partially, but not substantially different, from Salzman 2011, 7–8. Roda 1985. Confirmation comes from contemporary Christian texts, since bishops from senatorial or high municipal classes re-elaborated this ideology to sanctify dead bishops who spent their life in otio, that is, saved cities such as Thessalonika from barbarian assaults with their “otiose” prayers: Lizzi Testa 1994 and Lizzi Testa 2008. Seeck 1883, LXXIV; contra Lizzi 2004, 375–9: 376–7, accepted by Salzmann 2011, 2 n. 6, and Kelly 2015a, 203. Regarding the summer holidays for senators, in July and in September, the first testimony is found in Svet. Iul. 40. Valentinian I issued a law (CIL II.12.4 on 369 April 28, or May 4), confirming the same periods of judicial suspension. Lizzi Testa 2003, and Cameron Alan 2016, 81–85; Laquerriere-Lacroix 2017, 327–9. Amm. 28.4.18–19: Vera 1986, 259, Castrorao Barba 2020, 108–18. Symm. Ep. I.1.2 on oysters and mussels sent as a gift to his father along with his verses; Ep. 1.5 on his father’s leisure in Preneste; Ep. 1.9 on the care taken to make sure that everything was in order for his father and his companions. In general, destinations such as Baia held a strong attraction for Roman aristocrats, not only in the late fourth century: see D’Arms 1970, infra. In Late Antiquity, as owners of large properties in Italy, they used to visit them every year during the harvest, and not only on special occasions, as Seeck seems to believe. In this sense, Symmachus’ letters to his father are not strictly connected with his return from Africa. His marriage, as well as the urban revolt against his father, occurred over a time span larger than Seeck imagined, rather between the end of Symmachus’ proconsulate in the spring-summer of 374 and early summer 375. The outrage perpetrated against Avianius, in particular, did not take place in the autumn of 375. Already during the summer of that year, Avianius was away from Rome, having retired to a property in Latium not far from Praeneste, where he had moved before reaching his son in Campania. The revolt against Avianius must be brought forward, between late 374 and early 375: Lizzi Testa 2004, 375–9; Salzman and Roberts 2011, 2, n. 6. About Seeck’s chronology, see the discussion by Kelly 2015a, 203–204. Symm. Ep. I.6 is about an estate at Ostia that Avianius had bequeathed to Symmachus immediately after inheriting it from an unidentified kinswoman. Hillner 2003, 136, suggested that the house referred to in Symm. Ep. I.12.2 as being refurbished was the one in Trastevere that had been recently destroyed by an angry mob. As Kelly 2015a, 204 says, this “would create a pleasing ring composition in the cycle” of the letters to his father, but Symmachus speaks of the building as “our house” (I.12.1) and seems to consider it part of his patrimony: Salzman, Roberts 2011, 33. Evidence in Pecere 1986 and, notwithstanding Cameron Alan 2011, 421–56, see Cracco Ruggini 2013, 109–21: 115–21. Salzman and Roberts 2011, 7. Salzman and Roberts 2011, 9–10. Description was not mimetic, but rather acted on the imagination of the spectators: Agosti 1995; Nelson 2000, 143–168; Elsner 2005. Elsner 2004, 307–308; Cameron 2004. Quint. Inst. 6.2.29. Liverani 2014. PLRE I, Septimius Acindynus 2, 11. The poem confirms that the ancestral portraits (imagines) were still relevant among Rome’s fourth-century elite. Badel 2005, 116–8, suggests that imagines as masks were replaced by imagines as paintings.

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37 Paul. Nol. Carm. 27, vv. 580–7. 38 Brown 2012, 208–211. 39 Symm. Ep. I.32: Salzman and Roberts 2011, 74–7. On the parallels between the letters to his father and those to Ausonius, Kelly 2015a, 205–207. Symmachus intended to present his correspondence as “correspondence between men of letters”, whose interests were exquisitely literary, as was the Pliny of his age (Kelly 2013), when he was not (Cameron 2011, 360). In fact, as we shall see more clearly in the next chapter, Symmachus was a politician, a career senator, whether he aspired to the urban prefecture or the consulship, or to maintain a hegemonic position within the senate after and despite the Frigidus, when he decided to publish his letters. 40 This was a shared opinion: Rougé 1961, 59–77: 61; Novak 1979, 286; Cracco Ruggini 1984, 499. 41 Lizzi Testa 2002, 192. 42 Lizzi Testa 2002, 193, n. 37. Avianius delegated to Symmachus the epigrams about his father-in-law and his maternal uncle. The first was probably Fabius Titianus, consul in 337 and twice urban prefect of Rome (PLRE I, Fabius Titianus 6, 918–9). The identification of his maternal uncle is uncertain. Chastagnol 1962, 113 suggested Avianius Maximilianus (PLRE I, Av(ianius?) Maximilianus, 575), prefect of the watch (praefectus vigilibus) in the early fourth century, since his first name can be reconstructed as both Au(relius), and Av(ianius). 43 The mythical story, which linked the tenth labor of Hercules to Bauli, had probably already been enhanced by Orfitus, Symmachus’s father-in-law, as seems to indicate the inscription (Orfitus et Constantia in nomine Herculis/Acerentini felices bibatis) on the glass bowl with gold leaf that was used as a wedding gift, where Hercules appears in the middle of the couple: Cameron 1996. According to Chausson 2002, 50, n. 87, the Constantia married to Orfitus on the glass bowl was not the daughter of a sister of Constantine, but the sister of Constantius II who brought back Pope Liberius from exile (Lib. Pont. 207), probably a third sister of Constantius II, born after Constantina and not after Fausta. 44 Symm. Or. 5.1. Lizzi Testa 2004, 344–355. 45 Ausonius’ Epicedion in patrem also was an ekphrastic poem: Aus. Epic. in patrem, Praefatio. 46 Epigr. Bob. 8.58–9. The epigram in which Naucellius traces his biography is inspired by two of his portraits: one was painted by Lucillus, the painter of Symmachi; the other by the painter’s son, who had the same name and followed in the same profession as his father. Epigrams 6 and 7 (56–7) also refer to the portraits of the poet. 47 Symm. Ep. I.2.2: Scis Terentium… hebdomadon libros epigrammatum adiectione condisse. Illud nos, si fors tulerit, conamur imitari. Following Salzman 2018, Symmachus’s choice of Varro was part of ongoing tensions between pagan and Christian intellectuals just before Augustine attacked Varro in his The City of God. She also tried to better recreate Varro’s lost work and his reputation among Christians as well (ibidem, 98–99). 48 Even if Aulus Gellius (Noct. Att. 3.10.1) mentions only the epigrams and not the portraits, the testimony of Pliny the Elder (Nat. Hist. 35.1) appears conclusive on the nature of Varro’s Hebdomades which, by adding an epigram and a brief biographical note to each image, followed the model of Callimachus’s Pinakes. 49 Symm. Ep. I.2.8: Nam et Varronis libri diversis notantur auctoribus. This is, once again, original information on the works of Varro, which does not appear in any other source. 50 Lucillus had decorated the house of Symmachus in Rome: Symm. Ep. IX.50. The painter is praised in a letter to Virius Nicomachus Flavianus Senior (Symm. Ep. II.2), who was urged to personally judge his skill. 51 Cameron 1991, 89–154. 52 On the analogy between the personal situation of Avianius, when he decided to write his work, and that of Varro, who composed the Hebdomades in the years immediately before and after his own exile, see Bruggisser 1993, 98, and Salzman 2018, 99.

48 Literary Genres and Political Projects 53 Lizzi 2004, 371. I will explore the period in greater detail in the next chapter. 54 For evidence see Brown 2012, 93–119.

Bibliography Agosti, Gianfranco. 1995. “Poemi digressivi tardoantichi (e moderni).” Compar(a)ison 1: 131–151. Badel, Christophe. 2009. “La noblesse romaine et la chasse.” In Chasses antiques: pratiques et représentations dans le monde gréco-romain (IIIe s. av.-IVe s. apr. J.-C.): Actes du colloque international de Rennes (Université Rennes II, 20-21 septembre 2007), edited by Jean Trinquier, and Christophe Vendries, 37–51. Rennes: Pr. Universitaires de Rennes. Brown, Peter. 2012. Through the Eye of a Needle. Wealth, the Fall of Rome and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD. Princeton-Oxford: Princeton University Press. Bruggisser, Philippe. 1993. Symmaque ou le rituel épistolaire de l’amitié littéraire. Recherches sur le premier livre de la correspondance. Fribourg: éditions Universitaires Fribourg Suisse. Cameron, Alan. 1977. “Paganism and Literature in Fourth Century Rome.” In Christianisme et formes littéraires de l’antiquité tardive en occident, 1–30. Vandoevres-Genève: Fondation Hardt. Cameron, Alan. 1999a. “The Antiquity of the Symmachi.” Historia 48: 477–505. Cameron, Alan. 1999b. “The Last Pagans of Rome.” In The Transformations of Urbs Roma in Late Antiquity, edited by William V. Harris, 109–121. Portsmouth-Rhode Island: Cushing-Malloy. Cameron, Alan. 1996. “Orfitus and Constantius: A Note on Romaan Gold-Glasses.” IRA 9: 295–301. Cameron, Alan. 2004. “Poetry and Literary Culture in Late Antiquity.” In Approaching Late Antiquity, edited by Simon Swain, Mark Edwards, 327–354. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Cameron, Alan. 2011. The Last Pagans of Rome. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Cameron, Alan. 2016. “Were Pagans Afraid to Speak Their Minds in a Christian World? The Correspondence of Symmmachus.” In Pagans and Christians in Late Antique Rome, edited by Michele Salzman, Marianne Sághy, and Rita Lizzi Testa, 64–111. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; reprinted in Cameron, Alan. 2016. Studies in Late Roman Literature and History. Bari: Edipuglia, 223–65. Cameron, Averil. 1991. Christianity and the Rhetoric of Empire. The Development of Christian Discourse. Berkeley-Los Angeles-Oxford: University of California Press. Castrorao Barba, Angelo. 2020. La fine delle ville romane in Italia tra Tarda Antichità e Alto Medioevo (III–VIII secolo). (Munera 49). Bari: Edipuglia. Cecconi, Giovanni A. Commento storico al libro II dell’epistolario di Q. Aurelio Simmaco. Pisa: Giardini. Chastagnol, Andrè. 1962. Les Fastes de la préfecture de Rome au Bas-Empire. Paris: Nouvelles Editions Latines. Chausson, François. 2002. “Une sœur de Constantin: Anastasia.” In Humana sapit: études d’antiquité tardive offertes à Lellia Cracco Ruggini, edited by Jean-Michel Carrié, and Rita Lizzi Testa, 131–155. Turnhout: Brepols. Cracco Ruggini, Lellia. 1984. “Simmaco e la poesia.” In La poesia tardoantica: tra retorica, teologia e politica, 477–521. Messina: Centro di Studi Umanistici.

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Cracco Ruggini, Lellia. 2013. “Correctors and the Classical Text.” In The Strange Death of Pagan Rome. Reflexions on a Historiographical Controversy, edited by Rita Lizzi Testa, 109–121. Turnhout: Brepols. D’Arms, John H. 1970. Romans on the Bay of Naples. A Social and Cultural Study on the Villas and their Owners from 150 B.C. to A.D. 400. Harvard: Harvard University Press. Del Chicca, Fanny, ed. 1984. Q. Aurelii Symmachi v.c. Laudatio in Valentinianum seniorem augustum prior. Roma: Editrice Herder. Elsner, Jaś. 2004. “Late Antique Art: The Problem of the Concept and the Cumulative Aesthetic.” In Approaching Late Antiquity, edited by Simon Swain, Mark Edwards, 271–309. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Elsner, Jaś. 2005. “Art and Text.” In A Companion to Latin Literature, edited by Stephen J. Harrison, 300–318. Oxford: Blackwell. Heather, Peter. 1997. “Senators and Senates.” In The Cambridge Ancient History, XIII. The Late Empire, A.D. 337-425, edited by Averil Cameron, and Peter Garnsey, 184–210. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hillner, Julia. 2003. “Domus, Family, and Inheritance: The Senatorial House in Late Antique Rome.” JRS, 93: 129–145. Jones, Arnold Hugh Martin. 1964. The Later Roman Empire, 284-602. A Social, Economic and Administrative Survey. 3 vols. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Kelly, Gavin. 2013. “Pliny and Symmachus.” In Pliny the Younger in Late Antiquity edited by Bruce Gibson, Roger Rees. Arethusa 46 (2): 261–287. Kelly, Gavin. 2015a. “The First Book of Symmachus’ Correspondence as a Separate Collection.” In Culture and Literature in Latin late Antiquity. Continuities and Discontinuities, edited by Paola Francesca Moretti, Roberta Ricci, and Chiara Torre, 197–220. (STTA, 13). Turnhout: Brepols. Kelly, Gavin. 2015b. “Review of Salzman, Roberts 2011.” CR 65 (1): 161–163. Laquerriere-Lacroix, Aude. 2017. “À propos de la lettre Divjak 8* de saint Augustin: normes et pratiques en matière de maîtrises foncières.” In Atti dell’Accademia Romanistica Costantiniana. XXII, edited by Carlo Lorenzi, and Marialuisa Navarra, 327–343. Napoli: Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane. Liebeschuetz, John Hugo Wolfgang Gideon (ed. with the assistance of Hill, C.). 2005. Ambrose of Milan. Political Letters and Speeches. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. Liverani, Paolo. 2014. “Chi parla a chi? Epigrafia monumentale e immagine pubblica in epoca tardoantica.” In Using Images in Late Antiquity, edited by Stine Birk, Troels Myrup Kristensen, and Birte Poulsen, 3–32. Oxford: Oxbow Books. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 1994. “Tra i classici e la Bibbia: l’otium come forma di santità episcopale.” In Modelli di santità e modelli di comportamento: contrasti, intersezioni, complementarietà, edited by Giulia Barone, Marina Caffiero, and Francesco Scorza, 43–64. Torino: Rosenberg & Sellier. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2002. “Policromia di cultura e raffinatezza editoriale: gli esperimenti letterari dell’aristocrazia romana nel tardo Impero.” In Humana sapit: études d’antiquité tardive offertes à Lellia Cracco Ruggini, edited by Jean-Michel Carrié, and Rita Lizzi Testa, 187–199. Turnhout: Brepols. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2003. “Un’epistola speciale: il ‘commonitorium.” In Forme letterarie nella produzione latina di IV–V secolo (Aquila, 5–6 nov. 2001), edited by Franca Ela Consolino, 53–89. Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2004. Senatori, popolo, papi. Il governo di Roma al tempo dei Valentiniani. Bari: Edipuglia.

50 Literary Genres and Political Projects Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2007. “Christian Emperor, Vestal Virgins, and Priestly Colleges: reconsidering the End of Roman Paganism.” An Tard 15: 251–262. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2008. “Martino vescovo santo: un modello di santità nell’Occidente tardoantico.” Cr St 29: 317–344. Marcone, Arnaldo. 1983. Commento storico al libro VI dell’epistolario di Q. Aurelio Simmaco. Pisa: Giardini. Marcone, Arnaldo. 1987. Commento storico al libro IV dell’epistolario di Q. Aurelio Simmaco. Pisa: Giardini. Matthews, John F. 1974. “The Letters of Symmachus.” In Latin Literature of the Fourth Century, edited by J.W. Binns, 58–99. London-Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul Books. Matthews, John F. 1975. Western Aristocracies and Imperial Court (A.D. 364-425). Oxford: Clarendon Press (repr. 1990). Nelson, Robert S. 2000. “To Say and to See: Ekphrasis and Vision in Byzantium.” In Visuality before and beyond the Renaissance, edited by Robert S. Nelson, 143–168. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Novak, D.M. 1979. “Constantine and the Senate: An Early Phase of the Christianization of the Roman Aristocracy.” Ancient Society 10: 271–310. Pabst, Angela, ed. 1989. Quintus Aurelius Symmachus Reden. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. Pecere, Oronzo. 1986. “La tradizione dei testi latini tra IV e V secolo attraverso i libri sottoscritti.” In Società romana e Impero tardoantico. 4 vols, edited by Andrea Giardina, vol. 4, 19–81. Roma-Bari: Laterza Editori. Pellizzari, Andrea. 1998. Commento storico al libro III dell’epistolario di Q. Aurelio Simmaco. Pisa: Istituti editoriali e poligrafici internazionali. Polara, Giovanni. 1974. “Il nonno di Simmaco.” Parola del Passato 157: 261–266. Ratti, Stéphane. 2010. Antiquus Error: les ultimes feux de la résistance païenne. Turnhout: Brepols Publisher. Ratti, Stéphane. 2012. Polémiques entre paœiens et chrétiens. Paris: Les Belles Lettres. Rivolta Tiberga, Paola. 1992. Commento storico al libro V dell’epistolario di Q. Aurelio Simmaco. Pisa: Giardini. Roda, Sergio. 1981. Commento storico al libro IX dell’epistolario di Q. Aurelio Simmaco. Pisa: Giardini. Roda, Sergio. 1985. “Fuga nel privato e nostalgia del potere nel IV sec. d. C.: nuovi accenti di un’antica ideologia.” In Le trasformazioni della cultura nella tarda Antichità. Atti del Conv. di Catania (27 sett.-2 ott. 1982), edited by Mario Mazza, and Claudia Giuffrida, 95–108. Roma: Jouvence. Rougé, Jean. 1961. “Une émeute à Rome au IVe siècle. Ammien Marcellin, XXVII, 3, 3-4: essai d’interprétation.” RÉA 63: 59–77. Salzman, Michele R. 2018. “Symmachus’s Varro: Latin Letters in Late Antiquity.” Bulletin of the Institute for Classical Studies 2: 92–105. Salzman, Michele R., and Michael Roberts, eds. 2011. The Letters of Symmachus: Book 1. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. Sogno, Cristiana. 2006. Q. Aurelius Symmachus. A Political Biography. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press. Sogno, Cristiana. 2017. “The Letter Collection of Quintus Aurelius Symmachus.” In Late Antique Letter Collections. A Critical Introduction and Reference Guide, edited by Cristiana Sogno, Bradley K. Storin, and Edward J. Watts, 175–189. Oakland: University of California Press.

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Vera, Domenico. 1981. Commento storico alle Relationes di Quinto Aurelio Simmaco. Pisa: Giardini Editore. Vera, Domenico. 1986. “Simmaco e le sue proprietà: struttura e funzionamento di un patrimonio aristocratico del quarto secolo d. C.” In Symmaque. Colloque génévois à l’occasion du mille six centième anniversaire du conflit de l’autel de la Victoire, edited by François Paschoud, G. F. Fry, and Y. Rütsche, 231–276. Paris: Les Belles Lettres (reprinted in Domenico Vera. 2020. I doni di Cerere. Storie della terra nella tarda Antichità (strutture, società, economia), 115–134. (BAT 36). Turnhout: Brepols).


Roman Senators and Imperial Officials At the Court of Valentinian I

Introduction: historiographic models and new perspectives Traditional scholarship suggests that the Senate and senators of Rome had different fates from Augustus onwards. While the Senate was progressively deprived of its most important functions, the senators, individually chosen by the princeps and devoted to him, held higher and more significant offices than before.1 After Constantine, however, the late antique senatorial aristocracy itself became only a pale reflection of the great aristocracy of the republican age.2 From the end of the nineteenth century until well into the twentieth, the picture of the main institute of ancient Rome and its members was truly depressing. For Jones the emperor had always two official bodies of advisers, the Senate and the consistory, but in the West the Senate “had ceased to be an effective council of state”, since the emperor did not normally reside in Rome. The Senate was not consulted on the emperor’s decisions, and it did not have the right to vote. Although it was informed, it could not propose any alternatives, did not more autonomously pass laws, and did not interfere with political strategy, which was outlined elsewhere.3 Similarly, Chastagnol, following the “la décapitalisation de Rome”, thought that the Senate acted essentially as a municipal council of the city magistrates and of the urban prefect.4 As for the late Roman nobility, following the reforms of Constantine, very little would have remained of the old senators, their number having been enlarged by equestrians and provincials promoted to high offices. Using a certain sociological perspective – a theory taken from the reflection of Tocqueville and examined through the studies of Mosca, Pareto, and Michels – which equates the engine of history with the fortunes of the elites, the Roman aristocracy has been portrayed as a fossil, destined to be supplanted by other and fresher social forces.5 Other sociological theories have also worked in conjunction to create a negative consideration of the late antique Roman nobility. From a structural viewpoint, the behaviour of late Roman nobles was considered a sign of a regressive process, a consequence of the re-emergence of the elementary structures of kinship (“les structures élémentaires”). Their activity was centred on matrimonial and familial links and gave pivotal value to a complex system of patronage (frequently alluded to with the term amicitia). It was not appreciated as DOI: 10.4324/b22863-4

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an expression of political participation, but rather as a return to archaic systems of functioning of the empire.6 A better knowledge of late sources has brought some corrections to the vision of both a late-antique Senate lacking real competences, and a senatorial nobility incapable of carrying out genuine political activity.7 However, scholarship is still varied. We have already shown why the thesis that Constantine turned the senatorial elite into a monarchical aristocracy, whose composition was exclusively decided by the emperor, cannot be accepted. According to this view, even the most distinguished senatorial families were beholden to the diktat of the emperor and the highest Court officials.8 In fact, the composition of the Senate was not decided exclusively by the emperor, and the senatorial aristocracy was never completely “domesticated”. Its members, while accepting and rhetorically asserting all the tropes of contemporary rulership ideology, were always ready to arouse a usurper when necessary (as we will see in chapter VIII with the exemplary case of Priscus Attalus’s usurpation). A corollary of this thesis would entail imagining the Roman Senate as an insignificant political institution that had lost all freedom to make independent decisions, and whose role was limited to approving decisions that had been made by someone else, as Jones already put it. More recently, an accurate analysis of the political responsibilities of the Senates of Rome and Constantinople from the fourth to the sixth century – brilliantly grounded in the imperial constitutions and the most famous collections of letters (for example, Symmachus and Libanius for the fourth century) – seems to confirm the idea that the two assemblies had not become pure ceremonial bodies.9 However, in concluding the analysis of the fourth century, the author points out that the moments in which the “senate(s) played a political role in issues that went beyond the concerns of the senatorial order and the administration of the cities of Rome and Constantinople” remained exceptions, while from the fifth century onwards the two Senates as institutions gained considerable political weight.10 I wonder how the Senate of Rome could have increased its political role in the fifth century if it had not already begun to do so in the fourth century, and, precisely thanks to Constantine’s reforms, acquired powers and responsibilities that increased its political relevance. It is the latter hypothesis, therefore, that we intend to test.

The Roman Senate in the Fourth Century AD Jones’s verdict seems to me still to affect the evaluation of the responsibilities of the Roman Senate in the fourth century: since the emperor no longer resided permanently in Rome, the assembly “had ceased to be an effective council of state”. On the contrary, precisely because of the emperor’s absence, during the fourth century the assembly succeeded in recovering some of its ancient attributes. For example, since the emperor resided far from Rome, one of the Roman senators returned to being the First Man of the Senate (princeps senatus), as in the Republican age. He was the first to express his opinion

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(ius sententiae) in senatorial debates, with the result that he enjoyed great power to orient the proceedings of the assembly, directing the vote and final deliberations.11 The title princeps senatus could simply have been honorary if the Roman senators were called only to approve imperial decisions or to express their opinions through acclamation, as many believe.12 But the topics discussed in the assembly were various, and even regular activities – those for which little difference is believed to have existed between the Senate of Rome and the municipal councils of the major cities in the Empire – aroused strong debate. The urban prefect asked the Senate to address some item of business not every day but in particular moments of crisis, or when prescribing forced financial contributions. For example, in the fourth century, the Roman assembly did not deal with the elections of the bishop of Rome, but was urged to intervene in cases of disputed elections. In those situations, the Senate issued a decree to remove the schismatic bishop from the city and ensure public order.13 Similarly, even if the urban prefect was responsible for public buildings in Rome, the Senate was called upon to give its opinion when the extension of a building would have changed the road layout.14 We should think that only the randomness of the surviving testimony prevents us from knowing better the senatorial activity in this sector. Moreover, Rome needed its Senate also to ensure supplies for the city. The senators, gathered in assembly, had to provide support when the praefectus annonae – the head of an imperial office that the highest members of the elite did not like to hold15 – and the urban prefect were facing a famine, or critical delays (defectus annonae) in the arrival of African wheat. The latter topic offers a good case study for our analysis. Food crises (for lack of wheat, or oil, or wine) were not few in Rome during the fourth century: riots ob inopiam vini are attested in 353–355; further sedition, vini causando inopiam, occurred in 356–357; in 359 or 360 the plebs were in turmoil because headwinds prevented the ships from docking; in 361 a gravissima fames gripped the Urbs annonae vacua; in 374 the house of the urban prefect Avianius Symmachus was set on fire for lack of wine; in 376 a serious famine was resolved with a generous contribution from senators; in 382–383 an excessive drought, which hit Africa, and an insufficient flood of the Nile caused a general famine throughout the Mediterranean area; a delay in the importation of wheat to Rome in 384 raised panic among the citizens, and Symmachus – since the senators had refused to remedy with personal contributions – ordered the expulsion of all the pilgrims (as already had Orfitus in 353–355); in 395–396 during the conflict with Gildo, however, the senators voted a collatio twice; in 397–398, when Gildo openly rebelled against Honorius, Stilicho succeeded in conveying wheat from Sardinia, Gaul and Spain to the Urbs.16 Only three times, in ten cases, would the Senate seem to have been directly involved: in 376, in 384, in 395–396. If so, the Roman assembly was very rarely involved in providing relief from famines. However, from the account of Ambrose – who compares the crisis resolved in 376 with a collection of gold among the senators and that of 384, which instead led to the expulsion of

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the peregrini – it would seem that it was customary practice that an urban prefect, at the first signs of supply difficulties, immediately turn to the Senate to obtain a contribution from his colleagues to stem the crisis.17 So Symmachus did in 384.18 So too the urban prefect, who in 395, before also asking the emperor for help, got the senators to give a gold grant (collatio) and again a repeated offering (oblatio) of wheat.19 It is therefore likely that always or almost always, before asking the emperor to intervene in aid of the plebs annonaria, each prefect turned to the Senate, asking his colleagues to intervene with personal contributions in order to avoid riots of the plebs, or extreme measures such as the expulsion of foreigners. His reputation as a good administrator, and therefore his eventual subsequent career, depended on the ability of a prefect to maintain public order. For this reason, because of the feuds between different family clans, who lived together and clashed within the assembly,20 or because senators refused to buy wheat at their own expense, the price of which they usually raised during a famine by speculation, the Senate did not always respond positively to the requests of the urban prefect, rather urging him to make repeated appeals for help to the emperor. The very fact that the Senate could freely decide whether or not to help the Romana plebs with financial support from its members, forcing the emperor to intervene in case of refusal, is a strong indication of the bargaining strength of that assembly towards the imperial officers and the emperor himself. After all, Rome was not like any other major city of the empire simply because the emperor no longer resided permanently there. Constantinople remained “just a ceremonial conurbation or comfortable temporary residence” until Theodosius I decided to reside there in November 380.21 Throughout most of the fourth century, the Urbs was still considered the capital city of the empire, the real center of politics, culture, and administration. The senators who dominated the assembly were different from their colleagues in Constantinople and from the members of any municipal council (even of greatly important cities such as Antioch or Alexandria). The most distinguished stratum of senatorial families never acted as mere curials, not even in front of the emperor or his highest officers gathered in consistory. Nobility of birth, culture, networking all over the empire, and even the ability to create alliances between family clans in violent competition with other clans (as many of Symmachus’s letters show) made the Roman nobles special senators, to whom not only the local curials but also the emperor and his military and civilian officers looked on with admiration and envy. Even when they faced purely local activities in the Roman assembly, they did so with the arrogance and determination of those who believed that their choices had resonance throughout the empire. And often it was simply true. I believe that, when dealing with the Roman Senate, it is misleading to distinguish too closely between local government and responsibilities at the imperial level, although the Senate was in fact often required to address the latter as well as the former. The nominations to the traditional urban magistracies, such as the quaestura and praetura (and in Rome also the suffect consulship),22 should be included in the regular activity of the

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Senate and, since the responsibilities of these magistracies consisted mainly of financing circus games to entertain the urban plebs, they would seem to concern a Senate with mere municipal dimensions. Costs of such a liturgy were often ruinous, but the wealthiest did not escape this sort of tax, as Symmachus’s extensive correspondence on the organisation of the praetorian games for his son between 398 and 401 shows. Many laws in the Theodosian Code (in title 6.4 especially), however, and some of Symmachus’s Relationes testify to the terrible debates that such liturgies, from which some senators tried to escape, provoked in the Senate.23 All the more reason we should appreciate the testimony of the inscription, found in the Capitol, in honour of Ceionius Rufius Albinus.24 The right to appoint the quaestores candidati, previously exercised by the emperor, gave the senate a chance to intervene with respect to the pure calculations of the censuales, those imperial officers in charge of monitoring the financial obligations of the senators, and eventually organise the games for the praetores (but perhaps also quaestores and consules suffecti) who could not afford the expense and were expected to reimburse the fisc at a later time.25 The senatorial right to nominate questores, praetores and consules suffecti is well attested. The Senate met a third time in January, in addition to the two monthly meetings, to designate the minor magistrates, and, as can be deduced from Symmachus, the urban prefect was not even obliged to send the list of those chosen to the Court. He did so more et devotione commonitus, not for a specific legal obligation.26 Such a right allowed the truly powerful families to launch their children into prestigious careers In this sense, the appointment of new senators by birth transcended the role of the Senate as a simple municipal council. The new young senators, who began their political life by giving sumptuous games as questors and then increased their ascendancy over the people as new praetors and consules suffecti, were all potential high officials, since they were later appointed comites of the emperor, then obtained a proconsulate, the urban prefecture, sometimes the praetorian prefecture, and the eponymous consulship, as the Fasti of the highest imperial offices show. The Senate, therefore, with the choice of young minor magistrates, contributed to the government not only of the capital city but also of the empire. Other competences of the Roman Senate are debated. It is not certain whether in the fourth century the Senate had to approve imperial appointments (by adlectio) of the homines novi,27 but the Senate suggested candidates for offices to the emperor.28 A constant collaboration between the Senate and the emperor in this field seems probable. It was the result of formal mutual respect between the ancient institution and the princeps, although imperial ratification of any change of rank was after all always necessary. For example, the Senate could freely decide to co-opt a new member among the consulares, but its choice had to be ratified by the emperor.29 The opposite also was normal, since emperors and the Roman Senate were deeply dependent on each other, even more so than before in the fourth century, a time when emperors were mostly absent from the capital. Nor was it only the nominations that offered a regular opportunity of expressing mutual loyalty. A similar dynamic pertained in the case of honorific

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statues for high dignitaries and senators erected in the name of the emperor in Rome (and Constantinople). The Senate could make proposals for an honorific statue, which were submitted to obtain imperial approval.30 But the emperor asked the Senate for its approval when he himself made his proposals.31 In this sense, these statues did not simply express “the dependence” of the senatorial aristocracy on imperial institutions,32 but rather the mutual dependance between the emperor and the Senate. It would appear that the Senate could negotiate everything with the emperor, if even the request for recruits in times of crisis (such as during the Gildonic War) was subject to discussion.33 On problems relating to Rome (the minor magistracies, senatorial status, legal privileges, and the like) or on more general problems, the Senate issued senatorial decrees (senatusconsulta) upon imperial request.34 The senatorial embassies often urged the emperor to issue provisions which, if they concerned the senatorial order, were then discussed and approved in the assembly before becoming law, as several texts directed to the Senate (ad senatum) in the Theodosian Code show.35 The Senate also maintained its judicial authority, and served as a Court of justice especially in trials of senators for capital crimes. This principle was asserted formally under Valentinian I, and from 376 onwards the iudicium quinquevirale (a Court with five senators selected as judges) became the rule, surviving into the Ostrogothic Age.36 Also, the right to decree the deification of the deceased emperor was exclusively senatorial: the procedures of the emperor’s deification (relatio in numerum divorum), or the cancellation of his memory (abolitio memoriae) because he had behaved like a tyrant, are variously attested during Late Antiquity: in both cases it was a constitutional prerogative that the senators preserved all the more jealously as they no longer chose the prince (ius principis creandi), a right which, according to Aurelius Victor, the Senate exercised only up to Carus.37 And yet, even the most detailed analysis of the competences of the Roman Senate permitted by the extant sources, which are not always attentive to institutional data, is not sufficient to understand the role of the Senate in the fourth century. Rather, we must take into account a simpler fact, which evenemential history makes clear: every emperor needed the Senate of Rome, even if he consulted the members of a new consultative assembly (the consistorium, still in formation under Constantius II), and had a powerful army to control the borders. The emperor needed that ancient assembly – enlarged in numbers but which often met with only a few members from some of the most significant Roman families – to secure the consensus of the great nobles, who came to dominate that assembly almost immediately after Constantine’s reforms. No emperor for the whole century, in fact, could govern the empire without the support of the richest, noblest, most cultured landowning class, whose clientele branched out into almost all the regions of the Roman West.

The Senatorial Aristocracy in the Fourth Century The reforms with which Constantine broadened the bases for attaining senatorial status would certainly have condemned the nobility to become a fossil,

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if we might use the example of the elites overthrown by the French or the Russian revolutions: rigid and inelastic entities, that is, fatally destined to be replaced by alternative groups. The senatorial aristocracy of Rome, however, was different. Osmotic for centuries, it was accustomed to living through transformations, and capable of incorporating social mobility, with which it had always attempted to compensate for an endemic lack of fertility. Above all through the fourth century AD, it was able to redefine its identity through the assimilation of new, non-traditional cultures, religions, and power management strategies.38 Indeed, “it is in the rise of the senatorial bureaucrat and the adaptation of the old aristocracy to new conditions that the real story of the fourth century lies”.39 The Roman aristocracy can hardly be imagined as a fossil. Nevertheless, the increase of administrative offices concentrated in the Court, many miles from Rome but very close to the emperor, and the social rise of many officials who became Roman nobility as clarissimi would have greatly affected the political weight of the traditional nobility. The bureaucratisation of late Roman empire is undeniable: even if the figures are approximate, the comparison between the number of high-ranking bureaucrats recorded toward the middle of the third century (about 249 senior bureaucrats in the entire empire) and the well over 20,000 public officials that can be assumed worked in both parts of the empire between the end of the fourth and the beginning of the fifth centuries, speaks volumes.40 Nevertheless, this process took time, and periods of great acceleration – as during the reign of Constantius II – were followed by interludes characterised by breaks and delays. Only the great disposition of July 5, 372 (“le grand réglement du 5 juillet 372”, as A. Chastagnol called it) put into effect the equating of high office with senatorial status. In that constitution, while the success of the system of promotions was ratified, precise distinctions were established inside the senatorial order. In essence, the existence of a hierarchy was registered,41 in which not only the new class of civil and military officials (militia) who worked in key posts in the army and civil administration, but also those nobles who chose, or would have chosen in the future, to play an active role in the service of the empire, had predominance. The prosopography clearly shows that at the time of this reform, during the reign of Valentinian I, the highest rank that conferred the title of illustris was awarded not only to soldiers at the height of their career – magistri militum such as Flavius Iovinus, or Flavius Theodosius, the father of the future Emperor Theodosius I, Dagalaifus, Severus, Flavius Merobaudes, and Flavius Equitius – but also to urban prefects from long established families, such as L. Aurelius Avianius Symmachus, C. Ceionius Rufius Volusianus, Vettius Agorius Praetextatus, Q. Claudius Hermogenianus Olybrius, and Claudius Hermogenianus Caesarius. Obviously also praetorian prefects had the highest rank, but at that time in the prefectures of Gaul, Italy, and Africa, and Illyricum, for example, they belonged both to the traditional aristocracy (Sex. Claudius Petronius Probus, Vulcacius Rufinus), and to local nobility especially from Gaul (Claudius Mamertinus, Fl. Claudius Antonius, Decimius Magnus Ausonius, Iulius Ausonius, Decimius Hilarianus Hesperius,

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Eutropius, Fl. Mallius Theodorus), with only few men of Pannonian origin (Viventius and Maximinus). Notwithstanding the traditional scholarship, which considered Valentinian I an emperor against the Senate, I still believe that Petronius Probus himself partially conceived and surely supported the great disposition of July 5, 372.42 And he was a noble senator, who was reconfirmed as head of the most important prefecture of the Western empire for many consecutive years.43 The negative effects of a levelling of the senatorial order on the clarissimate had been experienced probably only for a few years just before 360 AD, when the increase of the number of officials brought both the Western and Eastern Senates to 2,000 members. The great regulation of July 5, 372, formalising clear distinctions of rank, lessened the consequences of that process. It also did not affect the real composition of the Senate.44 Its most prestigious members remained the illustres who resided (physically and not only fiscally) in Rome and could monopolize the activity of the assembly. It allowed room for new manoeuvres, permitting the influence of lobbies and the organization of votes. The great Roman aristocrats, who were also very rich landowners, would hardly have continued to put their efforts into such activities if their actions inside the Senate had not allowed them to pursue strong strategies, which could have an effect on both the Court and the emperor. Some scholars have preferred to imagine these nobles as simple “political amateurs” rather than earnest officials committed to rising in power. These “amateurs” held a few positions over a long period of time, with more than ten-year breaks between offices, so as not to have to renounce their beloved leisure (otium). The careers of Q. Aurelius Symmachus, his father Avianius, Nicomachus Flavianus, Vettius Agorius Praetextatus, and many others are often given as examples.45 Indeed, after the proconsular governorship, the highest offices, such as the urban prefecture, praetorian prefectures and ordinary consulate, were the subjects of strong competition, due to the limited number of posts available. This kind of career was less chosen than it was imposed by the new organisation that Diocletian and Constantine decided on in order to make the empire easier to govern. The rhetoric of otium served both to justify long breaks, as well as to impose respect for the alternation between the different families in competition for the few high offices. It implied a “carefree wait”. These senators knew that they could take advantage of the benefits of a preceding mandate and prepare for the following one above all when they were free from offices (per intervalla officii).46 In those years, new contacts were enhanced, new relationships were deepened, and there was enough time to complete a number of recommendations for minor administrative offices. These latter were unattractive for themselves or for their children, but useful to ensure their control over parts of the administration through distant relatives, friends, and new acquaintances, who entered the circle of their patronage as clients. These modalities, according to Lévi-Strauss’s model of “elementary structures”, caused the empire to retreat into forms of primitive management.

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“Network analysis”, which historians and sociologists created as an instrument to study contemporary society but has also been applied to ancient history, offers a different perspective.47 In this approach, more attention is paid to the active role of the individual and his ability to find room to manoeuvre through personal relationships, within a specific regulatory system. The network of social links that an individual manages to create or use is considered to be a dynamic fact, a means to gain access to resources, and reach pre-determined goals, though not necessarily through forms of corrupt, immoral or illegal behaviour.48 In this light, the relationships with friends and family members that the late antique senatorial aristocracy re-evaluated is evidence of their unaltered ability to develop creative governing strategies, from which the imperial power itself benefited. The analysis of the relations between several senators of Rome and some officials of the Court during the reign of Valentinian I will allow a verification of the relative value of these models. We will draw a lot of information from Symmachus’s early works, which he composed in a period earlier than that described in the previous chapter. While we will try to understand whether the established links were only functional for the personal career of single individuals, or if instead they had an impact on the maturation of new lines of government, we will also discover when and how Symmachus forged those links with outstanding figures in the political scene of which he could boast by collecting the letters of the first book of his correspondence. But we will also question whether nobles such as Symmachus, when they engaged in forms of power management other than the tenure of very high offices, managed to influence imperial politics; and whether they acted without regard for the Senate, or in ways that resulted from the interaction between the Senate of Rome, officials of the court, and the emperor.

Senators and Officials at the Imperial Court in Gaul In the winter of the year 368, the young senator Q. Aurelius Symmachus49 received the honor of being designated senatorial envoy to the imperial Court in Trier to declaim the traditional speech of praise to Valentinian I on the fifth anniversary of his rule (quinquennalia)50 (Fig. 4.1). On that occasion, he also offered to the emperor the Senate’s gift (aurum oblaticium), a voluntary tax collected from all senators. It was a great privilege for a young and ambitious man to be charged with the task. We can try to imagine who in the Senate supported him, in order to reveal his family’s connections.51 The decision to trust in the young man’s rhetorical abilities may have been advocated by Praetextatus, who presided over the Senate as city prefect in 367–368.52 Praetextatus surely was close to Symmachus’s father, since in 368 he ensured that Avianius dedicated the pons Valentiniani in Rome to Valentinian I, despite having started to restore the bridge during his own administration four years before.53 However, among the senators in 368, more than a few members of the traditional aristocracy

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Figure 4.1 The Roman Empire in Late Antiquity. © EyeEm/Alamy Stock Photo.

were ready to support the Symmachi. A set of data suggests that the Pannonian Viventius also backed Symmachus’s candidacy for the mission to Trier. Despite being one of the Pannonian officials who, according to the longdominant historiographic interpretation, was sent to Rome to restore order in the administration by thwarting aristocratic conspiracies and plots,54 Symmachus spoke of him with great respect. When, as urban prefect in 384, Symmachus had to settle a tax collection case, which tax inspectors continued to consider open, he declared that his predecessor Viventius had already efficiently resolved the case during his urban prefecture. The good memory of that man of illustris rank still persisted, although he was deceased (vir clarissimae et inlustris memoriae, tunc praefectus Urbis).55 Viventius was one of those members of the new service aristocracy that, in order to obey imperial regulations, had moved to Rome and, on becoming an illustris senator (after the quaestura sacri Palatii, when he was appointed urban prefect in 365), had settled there permanently.56 A funerary inscription allows for the identification of the family mausoleum in the area of San Sebastiano.57 In 389, his daughter Lucceia wanted two women she truly cared for to be buried there, the virgo ancilla Dei Maximilla, and her mother Nunita, quae fuit matrona

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diaconis, who were both also from the Pannonia region.58 Lucceia’s choice for a “Christianity of excellence”, which drew nourishment from contact with the world of the consecrated virgins of the church of Damasus, is not surprising. Viventius had protected the consecration of that Bishop of Rome from the uproar of the Ursinian party.59 He was a moderate Christian, and he had already demonstrated his attitude in the very first months of his quaestorship, when Valentinian I stayed in Milan during his journey from Sirmium towards Gaul and had to face the protests of the intransigent Milanese Nicene group, led by Hilary of Poitiers.60 In 364, he was also the drafter of a disposition of Valentinian I, which scholars usually refer to as the “edict of tolerance”.61 Since the edict is mentioned in a later law but is not preserved in the Theodosian Code, we do not know the addressee, nor we can indirectly deduce from whom it had been solicited.62 If the request for that disposition had come from the Senate, it was Avianius Symmachus, as urban prefect in 364, who sent to Valentinian I the senatorial demand in response to which the “edict of tolerance” was drafted. That edict presented an imperial program, which was consistent with the Senate’s desires, but also followed Viventius’s personal convictions.63 Another episode, concurrent with if not a consequence of the “edict of tolerance”, makes this clear. Viventius prevented his colleague, the chief-marshal (magister officiorum) Ursatius, from exploiting the sudden illness of the new Emperors Valentinian I and Valens by opening an investigation for black magic, which would have turned the case into a new Scythopolis.64 It seems to me that Viventius, a Christian who in 365–367 preferred Damasus’s Christianity to Ursinus’s rigorous excesses, for various reasons enjoyed high esteem among some pagan Roman senators. Describing him as “a just and prudent Pannonian” (integer et prudens Pannonius),65 Ammianus spread an opinion, which perhaps he had heard from Symmachus, and which this latter shared with his father. In fact, Viventius drew up a group of laws that governed building activity in Rome, which were addressed to Avianius during the year of his urban prefecture. Some of them ordered the restoration of ancient monuments, rather than the construction of new buildings. Others reconsidered the tasks, salary and social conditions of breadmakers (pistores), and regulated the tax burden and exemptions of those persons “subject to the service of limeburning and of transport” (calcis coctores and vectuarii).66 According to the traditional opinion, Valentinian I enacted these laws to repress abuse and speculation by the urban prefect and his aristocratic colleagues. On the contrary, they show Avianius’s interests in bringing calm to a city that depended to a great extent on the annona, and to safeguard the public finances and social peace with moderate but important restoration works. A group of nobles went on to advise the emperor to impose similar measures again at a later moment.67 From this standpoint, taking the view of a collaboration between the emperor and the urban prefect, who solicited the laws the emperor addressed to him, the same relationship between the president of the Senate and the imperial quaestor (directly committed to legislative activity) takes on a new perspective.

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The good relations among Avianius, Viventius, and Roman senators of the families of the Ceionii and Praetextatus (who already in the first years of the reign of Valentinian I enhanced the dialogue between the new Nicene Christians and those pagans who had not shared Julian’s excesses) explain why Viventius was chosen as urban prefect in late 365. In fact, during the year, Volusianus, a senator less skilled than Avianius, although belonging to the old and important family of the Ceionii, did not manage to avoid an uprising and major popular rebellion during his urban prefecture.68 The model of the despot emperor, who severely whipped the Roman aristocracy through his Pannonian officials, as Valentinian I has been depicted, must be forgotten. And instead, it is necessary to emphasize how some senators could influence the emperor when he chose the urban prefects, even if these latter did not belong to the traditional aristocracy. Being appointed city-prefect by the emperor on the advice of the Roman Senate (and probably of Avianius, First Man of the Senate, precisely at that time), Viventius himself supported senators such as Praetextatus, when in 367 it was necessary to designate a senatorial envoy to the imperial Court of Valentinian I. Indeed, the connections of the young Symmachus in Trier – especially, as we shall see, among the quaestors and the masters of the rolls (magistri memoriae) who held these offices some years after Viventius – provide confirmation that Viventius himself paved Symmachus’s way to the Court. In fact, Viventius did not represent the only intermediary between Symmachus, the Roman Senate, and the Court. Before leaving for Trier, Symmachus received a letter from an imperial teacher (imperialis magister), to whom he hurried to reply in order to justify his not being the first to take the initiative.69 Some considerations seem to me to strengthen the hypothesis that the anonymous interlocutor was Ausonius, who had been chosen as Gratian’s preceptor already for some years, or over the course of 368.70 The imperial teacher addressed Symmachus immediately after he learned that the Roman Senate had chosen him as official panegyrist, because it was customary to send a letter before meeting an important person.71 The “homage of his unadorned eloquence”, with which Symmachus compensated for his not having written first, would indicate not only the commitment to write frequent letters but also to send him his literary production.72 If this correspondence dates back to 368, however, Symmachus could only refer to his speech for Valentinian I. In fact, all of Symmachus’s orations resonate with several of Ausonius’s topics: an emphasis on peace and order restored by the emperor after his ascent to the throne; fruitful cooperation between imperial officials; hopes invested in Gratian, the young Augustus; similarities between God and the emperor. But in his First Oration there are recurring rare expressions, identical to those used in Ausonius’s Versus Paschales, which was quite contemporary.73 Therefore, the possibility that Ausonius directly intervened in Symmachus’s speech in praise of the Emperor Valentinian I should be carefully considered. His intent was to reenforce some key points in imperial propaganda for mutual benefit. Also, this kind of literary contribution should be interpreted as an example of

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the nature of the relationship between the Senate and members of the Court, more than the result of a view “common to all the emperor’s men”. And it served not only to promote the personal career of a young senator but, as we shall see, to strengthen a line of government not shared by the whole assembly. It may well be the case that it was Ausonius who suggested to Symmachus the following sentence in his first panegyric: “You deserved a day, glorious Gratian, you deserved, that from you sprouted sacred seeds, that you were the seedbed of princes, that you became a royal vein: you have taught the children that will soon become the fathers of all”.74 The praise for Valentinian I’s father, named Gratian, like his first son, is structured in an elegant tricolon, and ends the eulogy of the emperor’s birth and education. With two sons ascending to the imperial throne, Valentinian I and Valens, Gratian the elder had become the rightful progenitor of a new dynasty. The phrase, apparently banal, had a particular value when it was pronounced in the summer of 368, since it echoes, and at the same time clarifies, a famous episode narrated by Ammianus. The historian recounts that on August 24, 367, after Valentinian I had finished the speech in which he asked the army to approve the appointment of his eight-year-old son, Gratian, as Augustus, Eupraxius – then master of the rolls – was the first of all to cry out: “The house of Gratian is worthy of this”, and was at once advanced to the quaestorship.75 The scene suggests that Eupraxius began an acclamation, which was immediately picked up by the officials of the Court, who had been convinced by that utterance to concur with the army. He was obviously met with great satisfaction by Valentinian I, who saw his dynastic project take form quickly and effectively. The meaning of the acclamation, ambiguous in itself, since Gratian was the name of both Valentinian I’s father and son, is explained in Symmachus’s panegyric: Valentinian I’s father’s descendants deserved to become emperors, and therefore Gratian deserved to be the progenitor of a new dynasty. Symmachus might have heard the story in Trier, and inserted it into the speech immediately before delivery. But it does not look like a last-minute insertion. Therefore, it would be reasonable to believe that it was Ausonius himself – present at the acclamation and aware of its effect both on the court, and on Valentinian I – who suggested that Symmachus use it in his speech. This latter proved so successful, that the emperor asked the young orator also to write the speech for his third appointment as a consul on January 1, 370.76 Such an imperial decision, of course, was not only the fruit of a well-recited Oration, rich in well-turned phrases; neither were the relationships established by the aristocracy with one or more members of the Court merely a means to increase individual power. The matter was more complex. The comparison between Symmachus’s First Oration and Ammianus’s account suggests that before Symmachus left for Trier, Gratian’s proclamation had led to a serious discussion in the Senate. In naming his son Augustus, Valentinian I had described his act as an expression of “dutiful and timely affection” (pietatis officium aggrediar tempestivum), but, in his later Third Oration in praise of Gratian, Symmachus stated, albeit in a veiled manner: “You certainly are the one we

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considered elected, so to speak, before the due time” (tu nempe es, quem paene intempestive putabamus electum).77 This means that the senatorial discussion surrounded the opportuneness of a choice, which had been supported by the army as tempestiva, and which had been shared by Court officials (even if only thanks to the inspired idea of Eupraxius). In fact, in the Senate it had not been unanimously accepted.78 In his first speech at Trier as the Senate spokesman, Symmachus had failed to find other reasons for the legitimacy of Gratian as new Augustus beyond those suggested by the joke of the master of the rolls, the same that Ausonius supposedly suggested to him. The Senate certainly could not have refused Gratian’s designation but, if a different majority had been created, Valentinian I would have lost the consent of the majority of the Roman senators, suffering the risk of usurpation as happened to Constantine, Constantius II, and, more recently, after the death of Julian, to his brother, Valens.79 In itself, therefore, the choice of Symmachus as a panegyrist in the year 368 shows that he had cooperated (with his father, Praetextatus, Viventius, and others) in creating the necessary consensus around the dynastic solution Valentinian I desired. The emperor was grateful to him. It was during his time at Court (368–370) that Symmachus received also the honorific title of count of the third order (comes tertii ordinis), a new distinction that may be associated with his patronage of guilds in Rome.80 Symmachus therefore arrived at Court knowing he could count on the support of such figures as Viventius, Ausonius, and Eupraxius. This is confirmed by another episode, which can be cited as an example, as it is even more representative of the continuing ability of the Senate (and not only its individual members) to develop strategies in support of, or as an alternative to, the powers that operated at the administrative centre of the empire. Valentinian I’s new quaestor, Eupraxius, was among the later friends of Symmachus. However, only two letters, addressed to a Euphrasius/Eupraxius in the fourth book of his correspondence, appear to have content related to this official. The man is described as a frequent correspondent of Symmachus, whom he greatly admired for the quality of his oratory, and repeatedly pressed for unpublished orations.81 Their relationship had begun with a mutual admiration of their shared rhetorical skills, and the scene of their meeting may have been the Court of Trier, where Eupraxius employed his eloquence in drafting imperial documents, and Symmachus – brilliant young orator of the Roman Senate – had reached the attention and curiosity of the litterati viri among the imperial courtiers. In 384, Symmachus did not fail to express feelings of deep esteem regarding Eupraxius.82 He defined him as “irreproachable, extremely fair” (emendatissimus vir), with a judgement that, as was the case with Viventius, recalls a similar evaluation by Ammianus. In Ammianus’s opinion, Eupraxius was: a man who left many proofs of noble self-confidence worthy of imitation by sensible men, one who never deviated from the principles of a fearless nature, but was always firm and resembled the laws, which, as we know,

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in the manifold cases in Court speak with one and the same voice; and he then remained truer to the cause of justice which he had espoused, even when the emperor, becoming arbitrary, assailed him with threats when he gave him good advice.83 A fearless temperament and attachment to justice, in fact, had induced him to stand up to the arrogance and even threats he often received from the emperor. Although it anticipated events described subsequently, Ammianus’s appreciation stemmed from the way Eupraxius was able to handle a dangerous and embarrassing situation at the Court, in the presence of a senatorial embassy during the trials for magic and adultery against members of the senatorial aristocracy. The urban prefect Olybrius, on the pretext of an illness, had left Maximinus, just then transferred to the charge of the city’s grain supply (praefectus annonae) to conduct the trials, and he distinguished himself by his violence and brutality.84 The senatorial ambassadors, led by Praetextatus, arrived in Trier in order to protest against the excessive harshness of the legal proceedings, and above all to call for the abolition of an imperial order enacted on Maximinus’s suggestion. The immediate reaction of Valentinian I was, according to Ammianus, an explosion of rage and the denial that the decree in question had ever been enacted. In the end, however, the mission was successful thanks to the intervention of the quaestor Eupraxius, who, tactfully contradicting the emperor (albeit in the strongest possible terms), was able to remedy the cruel order (crudele praeceptum).85 As he had been so ready to produce the offending rescript, it might be assumed that Eupraxius was not completely unaware of what the senatorial ambassadors would have wished to discuss. It is possible to imagine preventive conversations between Eupraxius and members of the senatorial embassy hosted in Trier. The envoys may have been introduced to the quaestor in an informal meeting before being officially received by the emperor. In early January 370, Symmachus had returned to Trier to celebrate the third consulate of Valentinian I,86 but it is not known if he remained on the cool banks of the Moselle long enough to meet the Roman senators Praetextatus, Minervius, and Venustus, nor if he was present at the embarrassing scene that took place in the presence of those envoys.87 Even though he had already returned to Rome by that time, by virtue of his friendship with Ausonius and Eupraxius, Symmachus would have nevertheless taken it upon himself to introduce the senators by writing letters for the quaestor, the imperial teacher (imperialis magister), and other members of the Court who might have been able to intervene on behalf of the envoys. At a preliminary meeting, therefore, the arguments to put before the emperor would have been prepared and mutually agreed on beforehand, to improve the chances of success for the ambassadors’ visit. If this was the extent of Eupraxius’s cooperation with the senatorial ambassadors, then his future appointment to the urban prefecture should be counted as part of the sphere of political decisions made by the emperor and the Senate together, if not directly suggested to the emperor by the Senate, as we already saw for Viventius.88

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Considering the laws brought before the Senate (leges ad senatum) between the years 370 and 373, two constitutions, which Seeck had already judged to be fragments of the same text, appear to have been enacted to correct the “cruel order” that Maximinus had requested.89 Without conceding plenary indulgence,90 they ensured a clear distinction between public haruspicy, which was once again considered legal, and black magic, which continued to be considered high treason, and could thus be investigated cruelly, even against senators.91 Therefore, the focus of that order could not have been the use of torture against nobles accused of high treason (maiestas), since this procedure had already been included in constitutions dating back to the time of Constantine.92 It was expressed in two serious, innovative measures: the crime of poisoning (crimen veneficii) had been assimilated to high treason (maiestas), with the result that it was considered lawful to treat the accused in the Roman trials cruelly, even if they were nobles. Moreover, because a haruspex was involved in the attempt to poison Chilon, sacrificial and divinatory rites had been associated with black magic and investigated as poisonings. The two constitutions indicate that senatorial envoys had been able to demonstrate that the connection between the use of magic and high treason, with regard to the personality of the accused, had already been evoked by Constantius II for the members of the imperial Court,93 but until that moment it had never been applied to the senators, because it would have affected their dignity (presidium dignitatis). Regarding the confusion between divination and black magic, they reminded Valentinian I of the laws (leges) he had proclaimed at the beginning of his reign, which had annulled the tortuous laws of Constantius II, the spirit of which was recalled in Maximinus’ s order.94 As Ammianus demonstrates to us, during their ambassy at Court, Praetextatus, Minervius, and Venustus had the assistance of Eupraxius, who, being quaestor, was able to produce the set of legislative texts in question, although Valentinian I denied having issued the cruel order. Further, another of Symmachus’s friends, Cl. Antonius, who had drafted the cruel order when he was master of the rolls, once promoted to the quaestorship wrote an imperial oration to the Senate, through which any correctives the emperor decided to make to his last order were proposed. From Symmachus’s letter to Antonius, it is clear that only after being discussed in the senatorial assembly did the content of the imperial oration became law:95 that law from which two fragments remain in the Theodosian Code.

Conclusion The story of Praetextatus, Minervius, and Venustus’s mission at Court confirms that the relationship between old Roman nobility, the Roman Senate, and the imperial Court was unquestionably more complex than has previously been imagined. Since pivotal decisions about their lives and estates were made in the Court, it was inevitable that late antique nobles would compete with the new service aristocracy to occupy the highest offices and to have a strong

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connection with the emperor. Nevertheless, competition implies not only conflict, but also collaboration, especially when it was necessary to decide important administrative and government policy. Many aristocrats directly committed themselves to the highest administrative posts and, without neglecting their responsibilities even when they had no offices, continued to exert influence on the governance of the empire. In so doing, they not only furthered their careers and those of their children and relatives, but also revitalised the effectiveness of the Senate which, in some periods, came to enjoy the special consideration of the emperor once again. The sources do not always allow us to know in detail the facts and movements of illustrious personages between Rome and the emperor’s Court in different periods during the reign of other emperors.96 The examples given show that the model of “elementary structures” could explain, only along with other factors, the end of ancient civilization. The concept of network analysis, however, helps us to understand how the Roman nobility survived, both to the benefit of itself and of the Senate as one of the two official bodies of advisers of the emperor. In the following chapters, we will reveal some of the other ways – other than revitalising old traditional political responsibilities already in the course of the fourth century – in which the great nobles constantly showed the emperor that they had a power which, although different from that of his officials and armies, was such that he could not ignore. They knew well how to influence (in traditional ways but with ever-new content) the Roman plebs, directing their political moods. Many of them, for example, were used to explaining political events through the interpretation of prodigies and oracles. In the next chapter, using the stories told by Ammianus Marcellinus, we will argue that Roman aristocrats continued to interpret wonders, because it was a highly effective way to exercise control over the city and intervene in politics.

Notes 1 Talbert 1984, 5– 27; Roda 1998, 147–172; Eck 2000, 214–218. I gave a paper on the subject of this fourth chapter at the School for Advanced Study in Princeton, partially published in Lizzi Testa 2007. 2 Supra chapter I, n. 16. Clemente 2018 for the Republican nobilitas. 3 Jones 1964, I, 329–33. 4 Chastagnol 1982, 187; 222–7. Recently also Van Dam, 2017, 50–7 believes that Constantine’s absence from Rome reflects the marginalization of the city and its senatorial elite from the centre of power. 5 Useful comments in Brown 2000. Luis 2003 gave a historiographic picture of the topic of the elites. For the Byzantine world, see Averil Cameron 2004. 6 Following the model of Lévi-Strauss (19672, 4), Patlagean 1977, 113–55, gave this interpretation of Byzantine society. 7 Clemente 2012. 8 Above, Preface, p. xiv; chapter I, p. 7; chapter II, p. 27. 9 Schmidt-Hofner, in press. I very much thank this colleague for sending me his still unpublished work. 10 Such a summary does not seem really to consider account the cases that have been examined during of the first section, mainly, moreover, with reference to the Senate of

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12 13




17 18



Rome. New light on the Senate’s role in the fourth century is in fact shed in the final section of his paper (4. The Politics of Procedure), where it is shown that it already played an important role “as an arena for consensus-building between the elite and the emperor and within the elite itself”. During the Republican age the title of “First Man of the Senate” was awarded to the oldest of the censors (Gell. Noct. Att. 14.7.9), and it was a very prestigious honor. At the time of Varro, this system was already altered and, in the second half of fourth century, Symmachus (Rel. VIII.2, with Vera 1981, 77–78; 357; 397; Epp. II.7.2 e 4.5, with Cecconi 2002, 82; 111; 158–159) complained that those who supported the greatest expenses for their own magistracies were believed to have the right to speak first. On the meaning of acclamations in the Roman Senate, Wiemer 2004 and 2013. At least one case is attested before the fight between Damasus and Ursinus: Coll. Avell. 1.3, ed. Guenther, p. 2, 8–9: Felix notatus a senatu vel populo de urbe propellitur. Numerous other senatorial interventions concerned the episcopal schisms of the fifth and sixth centuries: Lizzi Testa 2019, xiv–xvi; Lizzi Testa in press. Chastagnol 1960, 346–349, believes that the Senate was involved only when it had to contribute public money from the aerarium, or it was necessary to resort to the materials of an ancient building, but different conclusions should be drawn from Coll. Avell. 3.2 (dat. a. 386), p. 47, 7–9: ac si placuerit tam populo quam senatui iter vetus, quod basilicae praeterit dorsum quodque ripae Tiberini amnis adiacet, innovari. From the letter of the emperors to the PVR Sallustius, that the authorisation of the Senate must be requested to make changes to the streets surrounding the basilica of San Paolo fuori le mura: Liverani 2011, 530–532. In the first half of the fourth century, we know only a few among the noblest, who began their careers as praefecti annonae Urbis cum iure gladii: Naeratius Cerealis (the brother of Vulcacius Rufinus and Galla) in 328; M. Maecius Memmius Furius Baburius Caecilianus Placidus (of whom we will talk in chapter IX), between 337/350, and L. Aurelius Avianius Symmachus, the father of Symmachus, between 340/350. All of them became afterwards praefecti urbani. Unclear relationships of dependence on the office of the urban prefecture (Giardina 1977) may have prompted senators by birth to let others hold that office. On the famines or less serious food crises (defectus annonae) that struck Rome in the fourth century, see Cracco Ruggini (1961) 1995, 152–170. On the provisioning of the city: Carrié 1975, 1036–1070; Pavis D’Escurac 1976; Sirks 1991; Virvoulet 1995, 51–59; Cracco Ruggini 1997, 157–167. Ambr. De off. III.44–52; Cracco Ruggini (1961) 1995, 116–118; Vera 1981, 285; Cecconi 2002, 159–163. Symm. Rell. XVIII and XXXVII (wheat crisis) and Rel. XXXV (oil crisis) are entirely dedicated to the problems of food-supplies of 384–385. Rell. IX. 7–8 and 35.1 also allude to the first. The request of the PVR to the Senate, for the senators to remedy the difficulties with their own resources, is mentioned in Rel. XXXVII.2 (with Vera 1981, 285–286; 381; 428; see also Vera 1981, 135–138). Symm. Ep. II.7.3 (with Cecconi 2002, 83; 111; 159–165) refers to the expulsion of peregrini and how, even after that provisio, there was a fear of a shortage of food. All sources are discussed in Cracco Ruggini (1961) 1995, 164–166. The collatio is mentioned in Symm. Ep. VII.68; the negotiations with the Court are described in Symm. Ep. VI.22 (with Marcone 1983, 95; 170; 196). The oblatio is mentioned in Symm. Ep. VI.26 (with Marcone 1983, 99–101; 171; 197). With Florentinus, Symmachus complains about the new difficulties of supplying the Urbs after the open rebellion of Gildo (Ep. IV.54 with Marcone 1987, 90–91; 124; 149), while the Stilicho’s enterprise is praised both by Symm. Ep. IX.42 (with Roda 1981, 169–170; 343; 388) and Claud. De cons. Stil. I.307–309. Even after Gildo’s defeat, however, supplies to the Urbs remained irregular and the plebs rumbled against the senators (Symm. Ep. VII.38).

70 Roman Senators and Imperial Officials 20 In Ep. VI.26 (quoted in n. 13), Symmachus recalls that the dispute between senators had descended into an execrable fight, with unpronounceable accusations and imprecations. 21 Errington 2006, 145. 22 Roda 1977, 25–26; 68–90; Cracco Ruggini 1998, 273–277; Chastagnol 1992, 243; 429. For the praetorship, Giglio 2007 and Moser 2018, 234–246. 23 Symm. Or. 8 (with Pabst 1989, 120–123; 166–167); Rel. XXIII.2 (with Vera 1981, 168; 367; 411). 24 Above, Preface p. 5–6, n. 17; ch. II, p. 11, n. 42. 25 Above, n. 23, especially Vera 1981, 168. 26 Symm. Rel. XLV, with Vera 1981, 330–334. 27 In Ostrogothic Italy the Senate had to confirm all the appointments to high offices, and this suggests that this procedure dated back to the fourth century: La Rocca, Oppedisano 2016, 78–83. 28 The Senate proposed Avianius Symmachus as consul for 377 (Symm. Or. 4.2; 3 and 7). For this consular appointment Avianius and his son recited two separate orations of thanksgiving in the Senate (Or. 4, 1 with Pabst 1989, 98–109; 159–163): Lizzi Testa 2004, 353–354. 29 Symm. Rel. V (with Vera 1981, 63–64; 355–356; 395–396), and perhaps Or. 6 (with Pabst 1989,112–115; 165). 30 CIL VI.1698 = ILS 1257 (377) for Avianius’ statue. For Theodosius pater (384), Symm. Rel. IX.4 (with Vera 1981, 89; 358; 399), and especially 43 (with Vera, 316 323; 385; 433). For Vettius Agorius Praetextatus (384) Symm. Rel.12 with Vera 1981, 102–107; 360–361; 401); CIL VI.1715 (399) for Mallius Theodorus. 31 Niquet 2000, 77–86 for both situations. On the statue base for Nicomachus Flavianus the elder with the imperial letter of 431 (CIL VI.1783 = ILS 2948; AE 1971, 24), Hedrick 2000, 247–258 and Cecconi 2002, 70–73; Cameron 2011, Ch. 17 and 18; Cecconi 2013, 160. 32 As Weisweiler 2012 concluded regarding the practice of granting public honours, after a brilliant analysis of the political semantics of these monuments (see also Weisweiler 2011 in the same sense). 33 Symm. Ep. VI. 58, 62 and 64 (with Marcone 1983, 138–139, 180, 206; 142–143, 181–182, 207; 144–146, 182, 207–208). 34 For the topics discussed in the Senate, see also some texts collected in the Collectio Avellana: Lizzi Testa 2018a, 32–6. The Senate preserved its legislative activity also under the Ostrogoths: Cass. Var. 9.15–6, with Lizzi Testa 2016, 92–7 and 339–62. 35 Symm. Rel. VIII.2–3 (Vera 1981, 79, 357, 397–398); Harries 1988, 169, on the fourstage procedure through which the laws sent to the Senate reached their final form. 36 CTh 9.1.13 (376); cf. 9.16.10: Giglio 1990, 198; Lizzi Testa 2004, 235–48; SchmidtHofner 2008a, 536; Kalas 2015, 159. The secretarium senatus was where senators conducted trials of their peers accused of capital crimes: Nash 1976, 194; Cass. Var. 4.22.3 and 23.2 (with Neri 2014, 98–99; 344–47). 37 Aur. Vict. Caes. 37.5. Sources and bibliography on the competences that the late antique Senate managed to preserve or restore as its own are discussed by Cracco Ruggini 1998, 238–41, and 305–308; Lizzi Testa 2013, 357–60. 38 Giardina 1997, 3–116. This also happened because the aristocrats of birth, who inherited senatorial status, continued to coexist until the sixth century with those who acquired it through offices: La Rocca, Oppedisano 2016, 11–21. New perspectives on the continuous Constantinian interest in a mutual collaboration with distinguished members of the Roman nobility are also given in the first chapter (“Constantine and the Senate of Rome”) of Moser 2018, 13–44. 39 Heather 1997, 209. 40 Heather 2010, 247.

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41 Chastagnol 1960 gave a systematic description of this reform, as a hierarchical and nonfunctional reordering (CTh 6. 5.12). Only five fragments of the law are preserved by the Theodosian Code: Pergami 1993, 591–3. See also Vera 1988, 44–5. 42 Lizzi Testa 2004, 303–305. 43 Lizzi Testa 2004, 299: his first prefecture was of Illyricum, Italy and Africa from summer 368 to 375. With new testimonies from Gortyn a it is possible to better reconstruct his career: Porena 2020. 44 Despite the scholars’ different positions (Jones 1964, 527–32; Chastagnol 1978, 57–70; Giglio 1990, 29–46), the problem of membership in the Senate probably first concerned the Senate of Constantinople, since Theodosius issued some laws in order to limit the access of curial families to the senatorial order, but in the middle of the fifth century it was still considerably stratified, even if only the illustres were considered necessary for the conduct of ordinary activities in the assembly. In the West the development of the composition of the Senate was different (Garbarino 1988, 65–6; 137–8 and infra), as it is clear also from the recent analysis of the Senate of sixth-century Rome of La Rocca and Oppedisano 2016, 24–32; 55, and the conclusions at 201–4. 45 Matthews 1975, 1–55; contra Giardina 1976–7. 46 For Avianius’s activity even when he was free from offices: Lizzi Testa 2004, 387–99. 47 Between 1968 and 1974, anthropologists of the so-called Manchester School formulated the theory of “network analysis”: see Boissevain 1974. Piselli 1995 offers a retrospective on the consequences of such an investigation in the fields of sociology and its application to history. Saller 1982 used the model in his research on the Roman patronage, especially during the High Empire. 48 Clark 1979, and Clark 1992 shows how network analysis can be applied to late antique society, analyzing the Origenist controversy and its actors. Mullet 1997 used it to analyze the social network of a Byzantine bishop of the twelfth century. 49 PLRE I, Quintus Aurelius Symmachus signo Eusebius 4, 865–70: after holding the requisite magistracies of quaestor and pretor, Symmachus was made governor (corrector) of Lucania et Brittii in 364–5, while his father held the prestigious office of urban prefect: see also III, p. 34. 50 This speech is preserved as Symmachus’s First Oration. Seeck 1883, 318–23 suggested that it was delivered in winter 369, so that older editions follow the latter date for this oration, but Chastagnol 1983 and Chastagnol 1987, 255–68, reestablished the exact chronology of Valentinian I’s jubilee, proving that 368 is the right date. Del Chicca 1984 was the first Italian translation (with an extensive introduction and commentary) of Symmachus’s First Oration; Pabst 1989, 48–66; 126–39 offers the Latin text and a first German translation with explanatory notes. See now the French edition of Callu 2009, 1–10, and for the date, xxii. 51 Sogno 2006, 1–12, explores the political context of the speech, and believes that Symmachus came to the imperial Court to establish a network of contacts that would help him “lay the foundation of a political career”. Weisweiler 2015, 36–9, points out that Symmachus closely follows “the tropes of contemporary rulership ideology”, comparing them with those used by Ausonius in his Gratiarum Actio recited on January 1, 379 (ibidem 30–35). My approach is partially different. 52 PLRE I, Vettius Agorius Praetextatus 1, 722–4. 53 From the epigraphic evidence, Avianius dedicated Valentinian’s bridge in 368, during Praetextatus’s urban prefecture: Lizzi Testa 2004, 447–54. Sogno 2006, 6 suggested that it was his influence that smoothed the way for Symmachus’s honor. 54 The idea of a conflict between Valentinian I and the Roman aristocracy was formulated by Thompson 1947, followed by Alföldi 1952. Matthew 1975 already corrected such an interpretation: see also Raimondi 2001, 11–7. 55 Symm. Rel. XXX.3: Vera 1981, 239, 375, 420.

72 Roman Senators and Imperial Officials 56 PLRE I, Viventius, 972. 57 Viventius’s mausoleum was later transformed into the Platonia: Ferrua 1937 and Ferrua 1961. In the fifth century, the relics of the Pannonian martyr St. Quirinus were placed there: Bertolino 1994, 186, n. 14. 58 ICVR 6.1355. 59 Ursinus’s followers accused Viventius of corruption and abetting: Coll. Avell. 1.6.2–5, and Amm. 27.3.11–2, with Lizzi Testa 2004, 151–7. 60 Recalled from exile with the edict of the Emperor Julian, bishops like Hilary wanted to regain all the sees that Constantius II had entrusted to semi-Arian priests and tried to free the see of Milan from the Cappadocian Auxentius, accusing him of “blasphemy and unorthodox faith”. As investigator, in 364, Viventius declared that the accusations were inconsistent, so that Valentinian I took part in the liturgy celebrated by Auxentius and delivered to Hilary the imperial order to leave Milan. On this public examination (certatio), see: McLynn 1991, 75, n. 61, and Williams 1992, 19; Williams 1997, 192, n. 80; Barnes 2002, 227–231. Lizzi Testa 2018a compares it to other similar episodes. 61 The compilers of the Theodosian Code did not keep the law that Valentinian I recalled in CTh 9.16.9 (leges a me in exordio imperii mei datae). The edict must be considered as one of the first acts of the newly elected emperor, issued between 26 February and 28 March 364, in order to get the collaboration of the Senate, which had not participated directly in his designation. 62 That was the normal procedure: De Giovanni 2006, 1297, believes that usually law was directed to the person that had requested it. 63 I know only one case in which an imperial official refused to draw up a law and preferred to resign, that of Benivolus of Brescia, magister memoriae at the Court of Valentinian II: Lizzi Testa 2018a, 37–9. The episode, however, indicates that high-level officials, involved in the legislative process, had a certain intellectual autonomy and participated in the formulation of laws. In this sense, the same political relevance of Cassiodorus, Theoderic’s quaestor, appears less an exceptional fact than the example best known to us of a procedural tradition. 64 Amm. 27.3.11–3 praises Viventius, recalling his urban prefecture; the harsh definition of Ursatius as “a rough Dalmatian” (Dalmata crudus) (PLRE I, Ursacius 3, 984–5) is given in the story of the investigation (Amm. 26.4.4). For Ammianus, who asserted that Valentinian I and Valens had been harmed by secret sorcery had, the purpose “to rouse hatred of the memory of the Emperor Julian and his friends”. Montero 1991, 85, believes that Ammianus’s critics are reliable. Amm. 19.12.1–9, narrates the treason trials at Scythopolis in Palestine, halfway between Antioch and Alexandria, on which see Lenski 2002, 213–4; 223–34. 65 Amm. 27.3.11–3. 66 A survey of the constitutions in question can be found in Schmidt-Hofner 2008b, 299–312 (pistores), especially 311 (calcis coctores and vectuarii). 67 Lizzi Testa 2001 analysed this series of laws, which reflect also a pagan program; a detailed revision of the constitutions that Valentinian I addressed to Avianius is also in Lizzi Testa 2004, 339–40; 421–4. 68 PLRE I, C. Ceionius Rufius Volusianus signo Lampadius 5 978–980. Amm. 27.3.8–9 recalls the urban sedition against him: Lizzi Testa 2004, 61–75. 69 Symm. Ep. IX.88: iam remota est causa haesitantiae postquam me prior salutatione dignatus; … indicasti certe meorum te aliqua legisse; novus tibi non ero nec inexpertum formidabo arbitrum. PLRE I, Minervius 2, 603, suggests that Minervius has to be ‘perhaps identified with the unnamed recipient of Symm. Ep. IX.88’, interpreting the expression imperialis magister as a synonym of magister epistularum; on contrary, we agree with Havet 1892, 69–70; Roda 1981, 219–2; 355; 402–3; Roda 1981a; Bowersock 1986; Callu 2002, 126, n.1; Kelly 2015, 200, n.12.

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70 Coşkun 2002, 37–43, believes that Valentinian I offered Ausonius the position of tutor of his son Gratian in the summer of 368, but I agree with Sivan 1993, 101, n. 33, who dates his appointment to 366–7. It is interesting to note that, when the emperor with the consent of the army appointed his son an augustus, on 24 August 367, the young boy “had already been instructed in the liberal arts” (Amm. 27.6–9: ineunte adulescentia, quoniam humanitate et studiis disciplinarum sollertium est expolitus). 71 Around the same time, Ausonius sought the friendship of another important senator, Sextus Claudius Petronius Probus, to whom he wrote before 371, when the latter received the consulate: Aus. Ep. 16. 72 Symm. Ep. IX.88.1–2: Patentes amicitiae tuae fores benigne accitus intrabo et compensare meditabor pudentis silentii moras crebrioribus paginis.Tu tantum bona venia respice obsequium linguae inopis et paulisper imperialis magistri submitte iudicium (“Kindly invited, I will enter through the wide-open doors of your friendship, and I will try to compensate for the delay of my fearful silence with more frequent writings. Consider only with benevolent indulgence the homage of my unadorned eloquence and suspend your judgment of the emperor’s teacher for a while”). 73 Sivan 1993, 111–5. 74 Symm. Or. 1.3: Meruisti quondam, inclite Gratiane, meruisti, ut de te sacra germina pullularent, ut esses seminarium principatus, ut fieres vena regalis: erudisti liberos parentes omnium mox futuros. 75 Amm. 27.6.14: His dictis solemnitate omne firmatis, Eupraxius (Caesariensis Maurus) magister ea tempestate memoriae, primus omnium exclamavit: “Familia Gratiani hoc meretur” statimque promotus quaestor (“After these words had been ratified with all solemnity, Eupraxius, a Moor of Caesariensis, then master of the rolls, was the first of all to cry out: “The house of Gratian is worthy of this”; whereupon he was at once advanced to the quaestorship”). Cfr. McEvoy 2013, 104 ff. 76 Symm. Or. 2.1. 77 Amm. 27.6.6; cf. Symm. Or. 3.3–4. Symmachus’s Third Oration was given on 18th of April 369, or on 3th of January 370 (Callu 2009, xxiii). 78 Raimondi 2001, 154; 160; 165. 79 On the possible involvement of some Roman senators in support of many western usurpations, see below, Chapters VIII–IX. 80 Discussion of the value of this title in Salzman, Roberts 2011, xxv, n. 67. 81 Symm. Epp. IV.64–5 (with Marcone 1987, 93; 98–9). Eupraxius and Euphrasius are the addresses of Symm. Epp. IV.58; 60; 62–4, and it is not easy to distinguish among them. Nevertheless, Epp. IV.58–63 are addressed to a different man, a Spanish collaborator of Symmachus, who had to give his best horses for the praetorian games of Memmius in 399. 82 Symm. Rel. XXXII.1 (with Vera 1981, 245, 376, 422). 83 Amm. 27.6.14: … nusquam a statu naturae discedens intrepidae, sed constans semper legumque similis, quas omnibus una eademque voce loqui in multiplicibus advertimus causis: qui tunc magis in suscepta parte iustitiae permanebat, cum eum recta monentem, exagitaret minax imperator et nimius. 84 Amm. 28.1.5–23. 85 Amm. 28.1.24–5: “But the quaestor Eupraxius mildly contradicted him, and through his freedom of speech the cruel order, which surpassed all examples of harshness, was rescinded”. 86 Since none of the events recorded in the Second Oration is quoted in the oration for Gratian (Third Oration), it is likely that the latter was composed earlier, after the proclamation of the young son, to be recited in February 368: Chastagnol 1987, 255–66. 87 The embassy was conducted in late 370, or early 371 (Lizzi Testa 2004, 229), but we do not know if Symmachus remained in Trier after the first few months of 370, once the consular celebrations concluded.

74 Roman Senators and Imperial Officials 88 Ammianus does not describe the urban prefecture of Fl. Eupraxius, which he held in 374 when dedicating a new forum (CIL VI 1177 = ILS 776). Alföldi 1952, 70 and Matthews 1989, 212, believe that Ammianus had political reasons for that, but Seeck was probably right in suggesting that Eupraxius’s prefecture was described in a lacuna of the text at 29.5.1: Barnes 1998, 239–40. 89 CTh 9.38.5 (May 19, 371) and 9.16.9 (May 29, 371): Seeck 1919, 240. For Pergami 1993, 547, the contents of the two fragments do not authorize the attribution to a single context, and Schmidt-Hofner 2008a, 538, shares his opinion. However, if you think that the law was issued in response to requests of the senatorial embassy, the two texts can be placed under the single rubric of “the processes of magic”. 90 CTh 9.38.5. 91 CTh 9.16.9 (May 29,371): Schmidt-Hofner 2008a, 536. 92 On CTh 9.5.1 (314 [320–323] Jan.1), see Giglio 2002, 213. In CTh 9.35.1 (July 8. 369), Valentinian I also admitted as obvious the use of torture on nobles accused of treason. 93 CTh 9.16.6 (358) by Constantius II. 94 About the legislation on divination, see also the next chapter. 95 Symm. Ep. I.89.1. 96 Moser 2018, 34, shows how Constantine and the Senate already remained in close contact, even at a distance, through letters exchanged between him and cultivated senators, or regular embassies to the imperial Court.

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Chastagnol, André. 1960. La préfecture urbaine à Rome sous le Bas-Empire. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. Chastagnol, André. 1978. “Sidoine Apollinaire et le sénat de Rome.” Acta Antiqua Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 26: 57–70. Chastagnol, André. 1982. L’évolution politique, sociale et économique du monde romain de Dioclétien à Julien. La mise en place du régime du Bas Empire (284–363). Paris: C.D.U. et DESES réunis. Chastagnol, André. 1987. “Les quinquennalia de Valentinien Ier et Valens.” In Mélanges de numismatique offerts à P. Bastien à l’occasion de son 75eanniversaire, edieted by Hélène Huvelin, Michel Christol, and Georges Gautier, 255–266. Wetteren: Édition Numismatique romaine. Chastagnol, André. (1992). Le Sénat romain à l’époque impériale. Recherches sur la composition de l’Assemblée et le statut de ses membres. Paris: Les Belles Lettres. Clark, Elizabeth. 1979. Jerome, Chrysostome and Friends. Essays and Translations. New YorkToronto: E Mellen Press (repr. 1982). Clark, Elizabeth. 1992. The Origenist Controversy. The Cultural Construction of an Early Christian Debate. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Clemente, Guido. 2012. “Il senato e il governo dell’Impero tra IV e VI secolo: la religione e la politica.” In Costantino prima e dopo Costantino, edited by Giorgio Bonamente, Noel Lenski, and Rita Lizzi Testa, 321–332. Bari: Edipuglia. Clemente, Guido. 2018. “When the Senators became ‘The Best’.” In Institutions and Ideology in Republican Rome: Speech, Audience and Decision, edited by Henriette van der Bloom, Christa Gray, and Catherine Steel, 203–221. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cracco Ruggini, Lellia. 1997. “Spazi urbani clientelari e caritativi.” In La Rome impériale: démographie et logistique. Actes de la Table Ronde (Rome, 25 Mars 1994). (CÉFR, 230), 157–191. Roma: École Française de Rome. Cracco Ruggini, Lellia. (1961) 1995. Economia e società nell’«Italia Annonaria». Rapporti fra agricoltura e commercio dal IV al VI secolo d.C. Bari: Edipuglia. Cracco Ruggini, Lellia. 1998. “Il senato fra due crisi (III-VI secolo).” In Il senato nella storia. Il senato nell’età romana, 2 vol., edited by Emilio Gabba, I, 223–375. Roma: Istituto Poligrafico e zecca dello Stato. De Giovanni, Lucio. 2006. “In tema di lex imperiale tra IV e V secolo.” In Tradizione romanistica e costituzione, edited by Maria Pia Baccari, and Cosimo Cascione, 1289–1300. Napoli: Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane. Eck, W. 2000, “Emperor, Senate and magistrates.” In The Cambridge Ancient History 11: The High Empire. AD 170–192, edited by Alan K. Bowman, Peter Garnsey, and Dominic Rathbone, 214–237. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Errington, R. Malcom. 2006. Roman Imperial Policy from Julian to Theodosius. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. Ferrua, Antonio. 1937. “Dalla Pannonia a Roma, storia della fine del IV secolo.” Civiltà Cattolica 4: 135–137. Ferrua, Antonio. 1961. “Lavori in S. Sebastiano.” Rivista di Archeologia Cristiana 37: 218–226. Garbarino, Paolo. 1988. Ricerche sulla procedura di ammissione al senato nel tardo impero romano. Milano: Giuffré Editore. Giardina, Andrea. 1976–77. “Recensione a Matthews, Western Aristocracies and Imperial Court (A. D. 364–425), Oxford 1975.” Dialoghi di Archeologia 9–10: 668–678.

76 Roman Senators and Imperial Officials Giardina, Andrea. 1977. “Sulla concorrenza tra prefettura urbana e prefettura dell’annona.” Syculorum Gymnasium 30: 65–74. Giardina, Andrea. 1997. L’Italia romana. Storie di un’identità incompiuta. Bari-Roma: Editori Laterza. Giglio, Stefano. 1990. Il tardo Impero d’Occidente e il suo senato. Perugia: Edizioni Scientifiche italiane. Giglio, Stefano. 2002. “PS. 5.13–15, edictum de accusationibus e giurisdizione criminale nel tardo Impero romano.” Studia et Documenta Historae et Iuris 68: 205–263. Giglio, Stefano. “Il munus della pretura a Roma e a Costantinopoli nel corso del tardo impero romano.” Antiquité Tardive 15: 65–88. Harries, Jill. 1988. “The Roman Imperial Quaestor from Constantine to Theodosius II.” Journal of Roman Studies 78: 148–172. Havet, Louis. 1892. La prose métrique de Symmaque et les origines métrique du Cursus. Paris: E. Bouillon. Heather, Peter. 1997. “Senators and Senates.” In The Cambridge Ancient History, vol 13. The Late Empire, A.D. 337–425, edited by Averil Cameron and Peter Garnsey, 184–210. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Heather, Peter. 2010. “Elite Militarisation & the post-Roman West.” In Istituzioni, carismi ed esercizio del potere (IV–VI secolo d. C), edited by Giorgio Bonamente, Rita Lizzi Testa, 245–265. Bari: Edipuglia. Hedrick, Charles W. 2000. History and Silence. Purge and Rehabilitation of Memory in Late Antiquity. Austin: University of Texas Press. Jones, Arnold Hugh Martin 1964. The Later Roman Empire, 284–602. A Social, Economic and Administrative Survey, 3 vols. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Kalas, Gregor. 2015. The Restoration of the Roman Forum in Late Antiquity: Transforming Public Space. Austin: University of Texas Press. Kelly, Gavin. 20015. “The First Book of Symmachus’ Correspondence as a Separate Collection.” In Culture and Literature in Latin late Antiquity. Continuities and Discontinuities, edited by Paola Francesca Moretti, Roberta Ricci, and Chiara Torre, 197–220. (STTA, 13). Turnout: Brepols. La Rocca, Adolfo, and Fabrizio Oppedisano. 2016. Il senato romano nell’Italia ostrogota. Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider. Lenski, Noel. 2002. Failure of Empire. Valens and the Roman State in the Fourth Century A.D. Berkeley-Los Angeles-London: University of California Press. Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 19672. Les structures élémentaires de la parenté. Paris-La Haye: Mouton. Liverani, Paolo. 2011. “I vescovi nell’edilizia pubblica.” In Pagans and Cristians in the Roman Empire: The Breaking of a Dialogue (IVth–VIth Century A.D.), edited by Peter Brown, Rita Lizzi Testa, 529–539. Berlin, Münster: LIT. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2001. “Paganesimo politico e politica edilizia: la cura Urbis nella tarda antichità.” Atti dell’Accademia Romanistica Costantiniana 13: 671–707. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2004. Senatori, popolo, papi. Il governo di Roma al tempo dei Valentiniani. (Munera 21). Bari: Edipuglia. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2007. “L’aristocrazia senatoria e la corte dell’imperatore: l’ottica rovesciabile di centro e periferia al tempo di Valentiniano I.” In Poteri cemtrali e poteri periferici nella tarda antichità. Confronti conflitti, edited by Lucietta Di Paola, Diletta Minutoli, 109–130. (Papyrologica Florentina, XXXVIII). Firenze: Edizioni Gonnelli.

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Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2013. “Costantino e il Senato romano.” In Costantino I. Enciclopedia Costantiniana sulla figura e l’immagine dell’imperatore del cosiddetto Editto di Milano 313–2013, vol. 1, edited by Alberto Melloni, 351–367. Roma: Enciclopedia Treccani. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2016. “Cassiodoro, Variae IX, 15 (Il re Atalarico a papa Giovanni).” In Flavio Magno Aurelio Cassiodoro Senatore, Varie. vol. 4 (libri VIII–X), edited by Andrea Giardina, Giovanni Alberto Cecconi, and Ignazio Tantillo, with the collaboration of Fabrizio Oppedisano, 92–7 (trad.); 339–57 (comm.). Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2018a. “Clerical Exile and Imperial Functionaries: Mechanism of Civic Exclusion in Late Antiquity”. In Mobility and Exile at the End of Antiquity. (Early Christianity in the Context of Antiquity 19), edited by Dirk Rohmann, Jörg Ulrich, and Margarita Vallejo Girvés, 37–50. Berlin: Peter Lang. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2018b. “La Collectio Avellana: il suo compilatore e i suoi fruitori, fra Tardoantico e Alto Medioevo.” In La Collectio Avellana fra Tardoantico e Alto Medioevo. (Cristianesimo nella Storia 39,1), edited by Rita Lizzi Testa, 9–37. Bologna: Il Mulino. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2019. “Introduction.” The Collectio Avellana and Its Revivals, edited by Rita Lizzi Testa, Giulia Marconi, viii–xxxii. Newcastle upon Tyne (UK): Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Lizzi Testa, Rita. in press. “Rome Elects her Bishop: The Collectio Avellana and Cassiodorus’ Variae Compared.” In Religion, Power, and Politics in Late Antiquity: Bishops, Emperors, and Senators in the Collectio Avellana 367–553 AD, edited by A. Evers, B. Stolte. Luis, Jean-Philippe. 2003. “Les trois temps de l’histoire des élites à l’époque moderne et contemporaine.” In Les élites et leurs facettes. Les èlites locales dans le monde hellénistique et romain. (CÉFR 309), edited by Mireille Cébeillac-Gervasoni, Laurent Lamoine, 37–49. Roma: École française de Rome. Marcone, Arnaldo. 1983. Commento storico al libro VI dell’epistolario di Q. Aurelio Simmaco. Pisa: Giardini Editore. Marcone, Arnaldo.1987. Commento storico al libro IV dell’epistolario di Q. Aurelio Simmaco. Pisa: Giardini Editore. Matthews, John F. 1975. Western Aristocracies and Imperial Court (A. D. 364–425). Oxford: Clarendon Press (repr. 1990). Matthews, John F.. 1989. The Roman Empire of Ammianus Marcellinus. London: Gerald Duckworth & Co. McEvoy, Meaghan A. 2013. Child Emperor Rule in the Late Roman West, AD 367–455. Oxford: Oxford University Press. McLynn, Neil. 1991. “The Apology’ of Palladius: Nature and Purpose.” Journal of Theological Studies n.s. 42: 52–76. Montero, Santiago. 1991. Política y adivinación en el Bajo Imperio Romano: emperadores y harúspices (193 d. C–408 d. C.). (Coll. Latomus 211). Bruxelles: Revue d’Études Latines. Moser, Muriel. 2018. Emperor and Senators in the Reign of Constantius II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mullet, Margaret. 1997. Theophylact of Ochrid. Reading the Letters of a Byzantine Archbishop. Aldershot: Ashgate. Nash, Ernest. 1976. “Secretarium Senatus.” In In Memoriam Otto J. Brendel: Essays in Archaeology and the Humanities, edited by Larissa Bonfante, and Helga von Heintze, 191–206. Mainz: Von Zabern. Neri, Valerio. 2014. “Varie IV, 22 (Il re Teoderico all’illustre Argolico prefetto dell’Urbe).” In Cassiodoro. Varie. Vol. 2 (libri iii–v), edited by Andrea Giardina, Giovanni A. Cecconi,

78 Roman Senators and Imperial Officials Ignazio Tantillo & Fabrizio Oppedisano, 98–99, 344–347. Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider. Niquet, Heike. 2000. Monumenta virtutum titulique: senatorische Selbstdarstellung im spä tantiken Rom im Spiegel der epigraphischen Denkmä ler. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag. Pastorino, Agostino, ed. 1978. Opere di Decimo Magno Ausonio. Torino: UTET. Patlagean, Évelyne. 1977. Pauvreté économique et pauvreté sociale à Byzance, 4e–7esiècle. Paris: Mouton. Pavis D’Escurac, Henriette. 1976. La préfecture de l’annone, service administratif impérial, d’Auguste à Constantin. (BÉFAR, 226). Roma: École Française de Rome. Pergami, Federico. 1993. La legislazione di Valentiniano e Valente (364–375) (Materiali per una palingenesi delle costituzioni tardo-imperiali s. II, 4). Milano: Giuffré Editore. Piselli, Francesca., ed. 1995. Reti. L’analisi di network nelle scienze sociali. Roma: Donzelli. Porena, Pierfrancesco. 2020. “Le iscrizioni del Pretorio di Gortina e la carriera prefettizia di Sex. Petronius Probus.” In Senatori romani nel Pretorio di Gortyna. Le statue di Asclepiodotus e la politica di Graziano dopo Adrianopoli, edited by Francesca Bigi, Ignazio Tantillo, 87–141. Pisa: Edizioni della Normale. Raimondi, Milena. 2001. Valentiniano I e la scelta dell’Occidente. (Studi di Storia greca e romana 5), Alessandria: Edizioni Dell’Orso. Roda, Sergio. 1977. “Magistrature senatorie minori neltardo impero romano.” SDHI 43: 23–112. Roda, Sergio. 1981a. “Una nuova lettera di Simmaco ad Ausonio? (A proposito di Symm. Ep. IX, 88.” Revue des Études Anciennes 83: 273–280. Roda, Sergio. 1981. Commento storico al libro IX dell’epistolario di Quinto Aurelio Simmaco. Pisa: Giardini Editore. Roda, Sergio. “Il senato nell’Alto Impero romano.” In Il senato nella storia. Il senato nell’età romana, 2 vol., edited by Emilio Gabba, I, 129–221. Roma: Istituto Poligrafico e zecca dello Stato. Saller, Richard P. 1982. Personal Patronage under the Early Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Salzman, Michele Renee. 2020. “Senat I (Rom).” In Reallexikon Für Antike und Christentum, vol. 30, edited by Christian Hornung, Heinzgerd Brakmann, Sible de Blaauw, Therese Fuhrer, Hartmut Leppin, Winrich Löhr, Heinz-Günther Nesselrath, Maren Niehoff, Georg Schöllgen, Ilinca Tanaseanu-Döbler, 251–294. Stuttgart: Anton Hiersemann. Schmidt-Hofner, Sebastian. 2008a. “Die Regesten der Kaiser Valentinian und Valens in den Jahren 364 bis 375 n. Chr.” ZRG 125: 498–602. Schmidt-Hofner, Sebastian. 2008b. Reagieren und Gestalten: Der Regierungsstil des spätrömischen Kaisers am Beispiel der Gesetzgebung Valentinians I. (vestigial, 58). München: C.H. Beck. Schmidt-Hofner, Sebastian. In press. “Politics and Procedure in the Late Roman Senate(s). (Rome and Constantinople, 4th-mid 6th century).” In Spätantike Quellen für das Studium der senatusconsulta, edited by Pierangelo Buongiorno, Noel Lenski, and Umberto Roberto, Stuttgart: Steiner. Seeck, Otto. 1919. Regesten der Kaiser und Päpste für die Jahre 311 bis 476 n. Chr. Vorarbeit zu einer Prosopographie der christlichen Kaiserzeit. 2 vols. Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler. Sirks, Boudewijn. 1991. Food for Rome. The Legal Structure of the Transportation and Processing of Supplies for the Imperial Distributions in Rome and Constantinople. Amsterdam: J.C. Gieben.

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Sivan, Hagith. 1993. Ausonius of Bordeaux. Genesis of a Gallic Aristocracy. London-New York: Routledge. Talbert, Richard J.A. 1984. The Senate of Imperial Rome. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Thompson, Eduard A. 1947. The Historical Work of Ammianus Marcellinus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (Gröningen 19692). Van Dam, Raymond. 2007. The Roman Revolution of Constantine. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Vera, Domenico. 1981. Commento storico alle Relationes di Quinto Aurelio Simmaco. Pisa: Giardini Editore. Vera, Domenico. 1988. “Alcune note sul quaestor sacri palatii.” In Hestìasis. Studi di tarda antichità offerti a Salvatore Calderone. (Studi Tardoantichi I, 1986), edited by Lietta De Salvo, Mario Mazza, and Antonino Pinzone, 27–53. Messina: Sicania. Virvoulet, Catherine. 1995. Tessera frumentaria. Les procedures de distribution du blé à Rome à la fin de la République et au début de l’Empire. (BÉFAR, 286). Roma: École Française de Rome. Weisweiler John. 2011. “The Price of Integration: State and Elite in Symmachus’ Correspondence.” In Staatlichkeit und Staatswerdung in Spä tantike und Frü her Neuzeit, edited by Peter Eich, Sebastian Schmidt-Hofner, Christian Wieland, 346–375. Heidelberg: Heidelberg University Publishing. Weisweiler John. 2012. “From Equality to Asymmetry: Honorific Statues, Imperial Power, and Senatorial Identity in Late- Antique Rome.” Journal of Roman Archaeology 25: 319–350. Weisweiler John. 2015. “Domesticating the Senatorial Elite: Universal Monarchy and Transregional Aristocracy in the Fourth Century AD.” In Contested Monarchy: Integrating the Roman Empire in the Fourth Century AD, edited by Johannes Wienand, 17–41. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Wiemer, Hans-Ulrich E. Flaig,. 2004. “Akklamationen im spä trö mischen Reich. Zur Typologie und Funktion eines Kommunikationsrituals.” Archiv fü r Kulturgeschichte 86: 27–73. Wiemer, Hans-Ulrich E. Flaig. 2013. “Voces populi. Akklamationen als Surrogat politischer Partizipation.” In Genesis und Dynamiken der Mehrheitsentscheidung, edited by Egon Flaig, 173–202. Mü nchen: Oldenbourg. Williams, Daniel Harrison. 1992. “The Anti-Arian Campaigns of Hilary of Poitiers and the Liber contra Auxentium.” Church History 61: 7–22. Williams, Daniel Harrison. 1997. “Necessary Alliance or Polemical Portrayal? Tracing the Historical Alignment of Arians and Pagans in the Later Fourth Century.” Studia Patristica 29: 178–194.


The Brooms in Bloom: The Roman Aristocracy and the Haruspices

Preface Following the annalistic tradition, Ammianus Marcellinus frequently describes portentous events in his history.1 One such strange phenomenon also occurred at a crucial stage of the Roman trials, during the reign of Valentinian I: After this, Maximinus received a successor (i.e., Ursicinus as vicarius), and was summoned to the emperor’s Court, as Leo had been before him; and there, being promoted to the praetorian prefecture, he was no whit milder, but like the basilisk, was harmful even from a distance. At that time, or not much earlier, the brooms with which the assembly-hall of the nobles was swept were seen to bloom, and this was an omen that some men of the most despised station would be raised to high rank in the offices of state … After him came Ursicinus, inclined to milder measures… To him succeeded Simplicius of Emona, a former teacher of literature and later an adviser of Maximinus … At last, since like and like readily flock together, a Gaul called Doryphorianus was found, reckless to the point of insanity…2 At the beginning of 372 AD, Maximinus had been promoted praetorian prefect in Gaul.3 According to Ammianus, he was born at Sopianae (modern Pécs, not far from Budapest in Hungary) from very humble parents,4 but he quickly ascended to this highest office due to the violence and cruelty with which he, as prefect of the annona and then urban vicarius, had managed an investigation into poisoning, long delayed by the prefect of Rome Olybrius. While such a man, presented as an evil and psychopathic character,5 was elevated among the highest authorities of the empire, the secretary (notarius) Leo – a Pannonian himself, elsewhere bitterly attacked for his brutal cruelty – also became chief-marshal of the court (magister officiorum) in place of Remigius.6 Ammianus does not comment on such promotions, but he establishes a connection between the departure of Maximinus to Gaul, the appointment of Leo and other horrible men as vicarii in Rome, and the portent of the blooming brooms in the hall of the Senate house. DOI: 10.4324/b22863-5

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The question arises as to whether the narrator used the story as a literary device to express his personal opinion on these promotions, or if he reflected a recollection of a group of Roman senators. This issue is different from what Alan Cameron posed in 1964, when he thought it necessary to prove that there was no “Circle of Symmachus”, to which Ammianus belonged – an idea strongly supported by contemporary scholars of great fame, such as Alföldi, Ensslin, Thompson, Pighi, and Pack.7 Cameron found in the historical work of Ammianus and in Symmachus’s correspondence all the evidence necessary to refute the idea of a close association between some of the most famous writers of the time and the exclusive, pagan members of the senatorial aristocracy of Rome. Ammianus had been a lonely historian.8 In fact, we do not intend to reaffirm here the existence of an alleged literary “Circle of Symmachus”, nor claim that Ammianus was not “a lonely historian”. Even granted that he was, his involvement with the events of his time was profound, otherwise he would not have written a work that, in books 26–31, suggests to the reader the sense of precariousness and oppressive uncertainty that the reigns of Valentinian I and Valens had spread over the whole empire.9 It is interesting to see, however, how much the interpretation that he transmitted of certain events was exactly the one that some groups of the senatorial aristocracy were able to impose as dominant, thanks to their ability to catalyse the consensus of the senatorial assembly and the emperor with his court of officials.

Prodigies and Their Interpreters In ancient times, extraordinary meteorological or geological phenomena, classifiable among ostenta or portenta, as well as the birth of monstrous beings, technically defined monstrua, or miracula, could be interpreted in a religious sense. Earthquakes or seaquakes, volcanic eruptions, droughts, floods, famine and pestilence, or celestial phenomena such as eclipses of the sun or moon, comets, lightning, and the aurora borealis, but also the appearance of deformed creatures, both human and animal, were considered omens of future upheavals in societal organization, since the natural order and political order were believed to be interconnected systems.10 Therefore, they were carefully recorded, interpreted, and made the subject of expiatory rites. In more ancient times, ordinary citizens, magistrates, or priests who had witnessed some unusual event reported it to the consuls. At the beginning of each year, they presented a State-paper (Relatio) to the Senate that decreed which of them was to be expiated. The aversion rites could be entrusted to consuls and pontiffs.11 The habit of announcing them publicly and recording them in the Annales, after approving a system of “procuration of wonders”, seems to have fallen into disuse as early as the end of the second century BC.12 Since the beginning of the same century the Senate had accepted the cooperation of Etruscan aristocratic families, putting aside its diffidence towards the foreign origin of haruspicy. While the augurs looked for and interpreted the will of the gods through omens given by birds (augury), the

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haruspices – experts in Etruscan discipline – studied and interpreted the signs given by lightning, and also inspected the entrails of sacrificial animals (extispicy). The examination of the prophetic entrails (exta fatidica), such as liver, bile, spleen, heart, lung, and peritoneum, was initially intended to ascertain whether the gods liked the offer presented; later this practice took on the meaning of a consultative or divinatory examination, where the aim was to predict the future and discover whether an action enjoyed divine approval.13 A connection was then established between cataclysms, eruptions, and other deadly omens with the Servile Wars and the ascendance of the Gracchi, as well as with the Social War, thus clearly showing to what extent Roman and Etruscan aristocrats defended their common oligarchic interests.14 Between the second and the first centuries BC, remunerated haruspices publici were available to the magistrates in the colonies (duumviri and aediles) and consuls in Rome.15 The Emperor Claudius organized them as a collegium. The haruspex primarius, from the ordo LX haruspicum, became the official haruspex of the emperor.16 After a period of probable decline, Septimius Severus created a haruspex legionis,17 and Severus Alexander is reported to have founded a school of haruspicy alongside others of rhetoricians and grammarians.18 Towards the end of the second century AD, the Senate had more Etruscan members descended from families of equestrian rank than before (only two Etruscan senators of equestrian origin are attested in the period between the first and second centuries AD), and their presence inaugurated a new phase in the consolidation of the haruspices’ influence”.19 Through many centuries, generations of pontifices and haruspices exercised their divinatory abilities to interpret all kinds of portents, and established positive or negative relationships between signs offered by nature and the political events they decided they most appropriately referred to. All these priests came from the same senatorial class that controlled political life, just like the decemviri (then quindecemviri) sacris faciundis. Especially on the occasion of natural disasters interpretable as prodigies, the Senate commissioned the quindecemviri sacris faciundis to consult the Sibylline Books, and put in place the procuratio procedure.20 For the biographer of the Historia Augusta, this traditional custom was observed still in 262, when the reign of Gallienus was plagued by terrible calamities. An earthquake devastated the cities of Asia and Libya for days, also causing damage in Rome. At the same time, a tidal wave had engulfed many cities, and a terrible plague claimed up to five thousand men in a single day. These devastating natural events were “procured” by a prescription of the Sibylline Books, which imposed a solemn, expiatory sacrifice to Iuppiter Salutaris.21 Since these events are not reported by any contemporary sources, but by a collection of biographies written between the fourth and the fifth centuries AD, we may wonder how reliable the text is. However, the Sibylline Books were apparently burned by Stilicho, so a consultation in 262 AD is not impossible.22 Zosimus also cites the plague that struck the empire during the reign of Gallienus, and Eusebius remembers that an epidemic struck Egypt at that time.23 It is clear that the Historia Augusta’s

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biographer made that emperor responsible for the accumulation of all these troubles, because he was fiercely hostile to him. Indeed, at the end of the chapter, he suggested that nature had thus indicated its aversion to that emperor, since he was a man hated by men as much as by the gods. In so doing, the writer reflected a senatorial tradition that was strongly hostile to Gallienus.24 Not much, apparently, had changed by the fourth century. Seventy-eight prodigies occur in Ammianus’s work: 60 concern the fate of several emperors, including Emperor Julian, to whom 31 episodes are related, half of which coincide with the direful prodigies observed before and during the fatal expedition against the Persians. Julian’s direct consultations also are described: they were initially secret and he alternated them with the practice of augury (auguratio), which was common to many educated men of the fourth century, even those of Christian education.25 His involvement with omens grew during the Illyrian campaign, when Aprunculus Gallus, aruspicinae peritus, later governor of Narbonne, was constantly by his side.26 Julian himself, however, participated on several occasions in the inspection of the entrails of sacrificed animals, so much so that his enemies called him victumarius.27 Ammianus discusses the efficacy of divinatory practices on a number of other occasions, and his view is made explicit in a digression where the mechanism for auguries, auspices, haruspicy, oracles, and dreams is attributed to the control of Themis.28 While she always gives clear signs for foretelling the future, the interpreter can misinterpret them, just as “a grammarian can speak ungrammatically, a musician can sing out of tune, and a physician be ignorant of a remedy”.29 For the narrator, however, omens have a function also from a narratological perspective, because they are deliberately placed so as to give prominence to moments Ammianus considers significant.30 This is exactly the case of the blooming brooms in the Senate-house, when Maximinus had been elevated to the pinnacle of honour. In addition to drawing attention to the serious escalation of the Roman trials, however, the prodigy allowed the author to indirectly disagree with Maximinus’s appointment. We wonder who else shared his dissent.

Positive Omens and Their Reverse It is not clear from the text who reported that portent (to the Senate?), nor who asked for it to be interpreted or how. We don’t even know from what source Ammianus became aware of this piece of news and its exegesis. As the narrative deals with a prodigy that occurred in a public place, the incident called for the interpretation of the haruspices. However, assuming that this passage depended on a written source would presuppose that at the time, the official records of portents and associated practices of divination still existed, even if not in the form of the Tabula Pontificis of Cato’s day,31 or had been reconstituted. Since elsewhere in his history Ammianus shows that he has consulted the books of Tages32 and Vegoe,33 where the Etruscan discipline

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was collected, one might think that he was not quoting an official response, but the personal interpretation of an exceptional event about which he had collected information orally. However, the terms he uses are technical: “the brooms were seen to bloom […] and this was an omen […]”.34 The prodigy in itself seems to be unique, since in the ancient tradition no similar phenomena are attested. It was, however, built by reversing a positive omen.35 In previous centuries, the sprouting of lifeless wood on several occasions had foreshadowed sovereignty announced under the auspices of fate. The palm, in particular, was regarded in Greece as a symbol of success and victory. Just before Caesar’s victory at Pharsalus, a palm tree had grown up between the stones of the floor of the temple of Victory, to prefigure his future glory.36 And from a palm branch that Caesar cut and kept as an omen of victory had blossomed a bud that grew to exceed the parent plant, as a premonition of the future star of Augustus.37 In general, even the oak sacred to Jupiter, beech and holm were used as omens. Augustus ceded the island of Ischia in exchange for Capri, because in the latter an old holm, already bent to the ground, had shown signs of renewed vigour on his arrival.38 From the stump of an oak tree in the Flavian estates, new branches sprouted every time Vespasia gave birth, and one of them was very sturdy and long.39 Centuries later, Cassiodorus depicted Theoderic as a good farmer (diligens agricola) who made an inanimate wood (fasces ex fascibus) sprout, when he conferred the dignity of chief marshal of the court on Eugenes who had already been quaestor.40 And “green laurels were seen on a brown stock” when the king elevated Felix to the consulship.41 As recently suggested, in the construction of such images Cassiodorus drew on a pre-existing literary heritage.42 We could add that in so doing, he shifted his attention from prodigious nature, whose signs if well interpreted made the future knowable to men, to the prodigious powers of an Ostrogoth king, being the herald of a flourishing literary tradition, that of thaumaturgical kings. But, in general, it is likely that the sprouting of a lifeless piece of wood had developed around the idea of the fertility of the great senatorial houses capable of generating new blood, as some of Cassiodorus’s letters seem to suggest. The same image could be used to enhance Caesar and Augustus, as well as the continuity of certain dynastic houses, if they were appreciated by the Senate. In the fourth century, Symmachus praised the glorious Gratian, father of Emperor Valentinian I, celebrating his sacred germs: “You deserved a day, glorious Gratian, you deserved, that from you sprouted sacred seeds, that you were the seedbed of princes, that you became a royal vein: you have taught the children that will soon become the fathers of all”.43 The panegyrist of the Roman Senate was able to give an imperial dimension to images that Cassiodorus used later to celebrate some senators such as stems (stirpes) or seeds (germina), from which other sprouts spontaneously swarmed. Sidonius Apollinaris saw suckers of another species grow from a cut vine branch in the house of Anthemius’s father, alluding to the ability of a senatorial lineage to generate an imperial sprout.44

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Ammianus’s prodigy of the brooms could have developed from the reversal of the same ideas. Since no buds were born from a palm or a dried oak but rather base sorghum had flourished, such unnatural vitality was interpreted as a negative omen. Indeed, a response predicted that wretched individuals would rise to great power. This portent was not the only one. Another unusual event had occurred just before the brooms flourished.

The Ass in the Tribunal At this time or a little earlier a new form of portent appeared in Annonarian Tuscany, and how it would turn out even those who were skilled in interpreting prodigies were wholly at a loss to know. For in the town of Pistoia, at about the third hour of the day, in the sight of many persons, an ass mounted the tribunal and was heard to bray persistently, to the amazement both of all who were present and of those who heard of it from the reports of others; and no one could guess what was to come, until later the portended event came to pass. For one Terentius, born in Rome, a fellow of low origin and a baker by trade […].45 Terentius was not only “a fellow of low origin and a baker by trade”, but had been appointed governor of Tuscia Annonaria.46 He became senator47 by way of a reward because “he had brought Orfitus, a former urban prefect, into court on the charge of embezzlement”.48 As with the flowering brooms, Ammianus does not urge the reader to reflect on the gravity of Terentius’s political ascent, but unlike the broom prodigy, he repeats twice that the premonition of Pistoia remained unexplained: “[…] how it would turn out even those who were skilled in interpreting prodigies were wholly at a loss to know” […] “and no one could guess what was to come, until later the portended event came to pass”. In fact, “those who were skilled in interpreting prodigies (prodigialium rerum periti)” were not the Etruscan haruspices. Elsewhere, with a similar periphrasis “the other adepts in interpreting wonders” (gnari prodigialium rerum), Ammianus indicated those who, in the staff of Emperor Julian, gave an incorrect interpretation of the omen of the lion that had been slain by a shower of arrows. That time, during the Persian campaign, the Etruscan haruspices brought out in vain their military haruspicy books (prolatis libris exercitualibus), to emphasise their different opinion, being spurned by the opposition of the “philosophers, whose authority was then highly valued”.49 It has been suggested that Ammianus attempted to defend the efficacy of traditional divination against those Christians, such as Gregory of Nazianzus, who mocked Julian for not being able to foresee his own failure, or Ambrose, who referred to Julian’s defeat as a proof of the negative role played by the haruspices.50 It is possible that Ammianus took part in a debate that was quite heated in Rome at the end of the fourth century AD, but his position cannot be cited as part of the pagan versus Christian conflict. Ammianus did not target

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Christians who refused divination, but instead all those who had a poor knowledge of the true Etruscan discipline and discredited it. For him, Julian himself had been co-responsible for such a confusion:51 due to his tendency to appropriate a “knowledge monopoly” in these matters,52 he did not understand that his advisers had given different interpretations of the lion prodigy, because some of them were false experts, interested only in continuing the campaign against the Persians.53 Describing prodigies and portents, Ammianus appropriated the opinion of cultivated men, who were versed in the Etruscan discipline through the study of sacred books, and like him had a predilection for “scientific” explanation of ominous signs, such as earthquakes, eclipses, comets, and other unusual events. The portent of Pistoia remained unexplained, because the haruspices were not consulted, and nobody cared about the interpretation of the brooms in bloom, although the haruspices had given a correct response, since they were the real experts in divinatio naturalis, which was based on signs that presented themselves spontaneously (oblativa signa). The outcome of the two prodigies (which differed but produced similar effects) is more than a literary device. While describing bad omens that occurred during the reign of Valentinian I, Ammianus talked about the usefulness of true divinatory science, which was easily confused with magic even by recent legislation. His was a political approach, which he shared with a group of Roman nobles. As we will see, it is possible to identify them.

Black Magic and Haruspicy: Fluctuating Laws Just before narrating the portent regarding Terentius, Ammianus recalled that, during the magic and treason trials held by Constantius II in 359, the birth of a monster had been reported at Daphne. In that charming and magnificent suburb of Antioch, an infant was born “with two heads, two sets of teeth, a beard, four eyes and two very small ears”. A being so deformed could only foretell the impending deformation of the state, but portents of that kind “were no more expiated by public rites as they were in the time of our forefathers”, and it passed by unheard of and unknown.54 The analogy with the Pistoia portent and that of the brooms in bloom in the Senate house hall is strong. In fact, Constantius II was the first to suppress divination without distinguishing between public and private practice. Before him, Constantine had judged public haruspicy to be lawful but banned its private use by prohibiting even attendance upon haruspices who were old friends.55 Such a distinction was traditional. Laws had forbidden private divination since the time of Augustus and Tiberius.56 The spread of the practice of consulting haruspices constituted a danger for imperial power, because sacrifices could be practiced also for the purpose of knowing the future of the prince and attempting to influence the course of events by resorting to magic. Constantine himself had previously listed the magicians and the sorcerers among “all most atrocious

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criminals” next to murderers and adulterers, declaring that their “appeals must not be accepted”.57 Sorcerers, as well as murderers and adulterers, were excluded from the imperial pardons (indulgentia principis) that he granted in 322 on the occasion of the birth of Crispus and Helena’s son.58 In 331, he also decreed that “when a woman sends a notice of divorce the following criminal charges only shall be investigated, that is, if she should prove that her husband is a murderer, a sorcerer (medicamentarius), or a destroyer of tombs”, where medicamentarius can be understood as a terminological variant of maleficus vel veneficus.59 Constantine, however, did not want to negate the influence of haruspices in the public sphere. In 321, in fact, he established that the soothsayers (haruspices) should be consulted in the event that lightning struck his palace or any other public building, and that written records of such must be collected and sent to the emperor.60 Constantine’s constitutions, while constantly prohibiting private divination, did not assimilate it to lesemajesty.61 Even the law enacted by Constans in 341 did not contain a general ban on all sacrifices: by referring to his father’s measures, he intended to repeat the prohibition of domestic or divinatory sacrifices issued by Constantine in 319/329.62 By contrast, Emperor Constantius II already in 356 issued a number of provisions against pagan sacrifices and magic; and consulting haruspices, mathematici, and harioli, or practicing the augural art and making predictions or divination, were judged acts punishable by death.63 Again in 358, occult practices and haruspicy – if performed by members of the imperial comitatus – were included among the cases of lese-majesty: […] If any wizard, therefore, or person imbued with magical contamination who is called by the custom of the people a magician, a soothsayer, a diviner, or at any rate an augur, or even an astrologer, or one who conceals some art of divination by interpreting dreams, or at any rate, one who practices any similar art, should be apprehended in My retinue or in that of the Caesar, he shall not escape punishment and torture by the protection of his high rank […].64 The specific intent was perhaps to damage Julian and his friends,65 but it was typical of Constantius II’s interdictions not to distinguish between white magic and black magic, and to identify divinatory rituals with pagan rites, using terms and language from some Christian authors who had condemned them as of the third century.66 It would perhaps be necessary to consider what influence the profoundly hostile attitude towards the cult of the gods in Firmicus Maternus’s De errore profanarum religionum may have had on Constantius II.67 During the brief reign of Julian, as a result of the emperor’s religious and cultural beliefs, an important role was also restored to haruspicy, in which many among the upper classes took an interest, and which combined antiquarian cultural components and religious faith.68 Julian proclaimed the reopening of the pagan temples and the restoration of pagan worship through

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sacrifices. The actual dates of his edicts are not recorded, and it is also possible that they can be dated to Julian’s first day in Constantinople, as Ammianus’s narrative suggests. Since he began to sacrifice publicly as soon as the news of the death of Constantius II reached him towards the end of November 361 at Naissus, it is likely that the edicts were issued from there: thereafter, those who practiced forms of divination were no longer clandestine.69 We do not know, however, whether Julian distinguished between public and secret divination, the latter being a risk for any Roman emperor. Emperor Jovian apparently assumed an attitude similar to that of Constantine. Though a Christian, before starting peace negotiations with the Persians, as well as when he knew of new prodigies, this emperor did not prevent the army from making sacrifices on his behalf in order to foresee the future.70 However, we know from other sources that he forbade magic and blood sacrifices,71 so we ought to assume that he enforced once again the laws of Constantius II, who had assimilated the various forms of divination to black magic. Unfortunately, Ammianus’ story of the ass who mounted the tribunal, which nobody was able to interpret, does not help us to understand if Jovian had again forbidden the consultation of haruspices also for public wonders (portenta), because he framed the event in an ambiguous manner. For chronological reference, it may have occurred during the reign of Jovian (27 June 363–17 February 364), since the writer says that the portent took place shortly before the urban prefecture of Avianius Symmachus (364–365),72 but it is described after the accession of Valentinian I (26 February 364). At that time, the situation had changed again.

Valentinian I Between Haruspices and Magicians I judge that haruspicy has no connection with cases of magic, and I do not consider this religion, or any other that was allowed by our elders, to be a kind of crime. Of this opinion the laws given by Me in the beginning of My reign are witnesses, in which free opportunity was granted to everyone to cultivate that which he had conceived in his mind. We do not condemn haruspicy, but We do forbid it to be practiced harmfully.73 The compilers of the Theodosian Code have not preserved what the emperor defines as “the laws given by Me in the beginning of My reign” (leges a Me in exordio imperii meae datae), but we can infer their content from the context in which the reference is included. It is certain, then, that Valentinian I restored the legitimacy of public haruspicy, while upholding the ban on private haruspicy, reaffirming the distinction between harmless divination (public haruspicina) and not permitted magical practices (maleficium).74 Since the emperor speaks in the singular, it is probable that some of those provisions were issued in his name only, i.e., after February 26 (the day of his proclamation) and before March 28, 364, when he associated his brother Valens to the throne as Augustus.75 To the newly elected emperor it must have seemed necessary to

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specify under what conditions haruspicy was licit, after the previous prefect Apronianus had to fight vigorously in Rome against poisoners (venefici),76 and, in Constantinople, he and his brother were simultaneously seized with violent fevers, which many believed to have been provoked with magical arts and secret sorcery. The commission in charge of the investigation, however, thanks to the moderation of the quaestor Viventius, found no evidence against “the friends of Emperor Julian”, whose memory was also intended to be affected in this way.77 Among the laws mentioned in the constitution as having been issued at the beginning of his reign, Valentinian I probably also considered the measures enacted in September that reiterated the condemnation of nighttime sacrifices and the use of magical arts.78 According to Zosimus, in fact, this measure was taken by Valentinian I, who was persuaded not to enforce it in Greece by Vettius Agorius Pretextatus, then proconsul Achaiae, so that “the most sacred mysteries, which ensured salvation of mankind”, could be celebrated there, surely at Eleusis.79 The prohibition of the study, teaching and practice of astrology (cesset mathematicorum tractatus) both in public and in private, at night or during the day, on the other hand, must be attributed to his brother Valens, the constitution being addressed to the praetorian prefect of the East, Domitius Modestus, shortly before he staged numerous trials on magic in Antioch.80 In Rome not only were public consultations resumed but divination also continued in secret, especially after 368/369: in the charges filed by senator Chilo and his wife Maxima, the haruspex Campensis was numbered among the suspects;81 and the main accusation against Hymetius was that he had engaged the haruspex Amantius to perform magical practices that involved the fate of the emperor.82 At the end of 371, and in the early part of 372, less than one year after the Rome trials reached their climax, in the East Emperor Valens and his ministers also undertook a series of trials: divination practices by poisoners and astrologers originated in Antioch and they quickly spread to Asia, where the proconsul Festus is accused by Eunapius of putting to death “those who honored the gods”, likely those who resorted to clandestine sacrifices.83 Ammianus, who witnessed the events personally, lamented that “everywhere the scene was like a slaughtering of cattle”,84 and he claimed that Festus conducted his investigations in emulation of his friend Maximinus in Rome. Magic and haruspicy, often confused, continued to be a privileged terrain for the expression of high-level political competition. Imperial surveillance and supervision of those involved in public divination directly, or through professional haruspices, remained high because of the risk of usurpation. Entrusted to Valentinian’s Pannonian henchman Maximinus, when still prefect of the annona (late in 369), the Roman trials led to fierce repression. By torturing a wrestler, an organ builder, and a haruspex, whom a former vicarius (Chilo) and his wife accused of attempting to poison them, he obtained information to prosecute also young scions of the senatorial class on charges of magic or adultery: they had used clients who were experts in the forbidden arts for criminal purposes. When the names of some Roman aristocrats were

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mentioned, Maximinus informed the emperor, deliberately accentuating the gravity of the situation:85 […] The hellish judge, in a malicious report to the emperor informed him that the offences which many men had committed at Rome could not be investigated or punished except by severer measures. On hearing this, the emperor in anger, being rather a cruel than a strict foe of vices, gave one general judicial sentence to cover cases of the kind, which he arbitrarily fused with the design of treason and ruled that all those whom the justice of the ancient code and the edicts of deified emperors had made exempt from inquisitions by torture should, if circumstances demanded, be examined with torments.86 The rescript, without distinguishing between magic and lawful divination such as haruspicy, and regarding each case as treason, allowed any senator involved in divination to be indicted for treason, and thus to be subjected to torture.87 It is not preserved in the Theodosian Code, because it was later abolished by that above-mentioned decree (CTh 9.16.9) in which Valentinian I reaffirmed the legality of public haruspicy. The latter was enacted in late May of 371.88 Its date makes it plausible to assume that, at the time of Maximinus’s departure from Rome in 372, after the legitimacy of haruspicy had been restored, the haruspices immediately interpreted the prodigy of the brooms, as Ammianus relates. It was, therefore, not a personal but an official interpretation. It was also, however, a negative omen, no different from the one which occurred in Pistoia at the end of the reign of Jovian or the beginning of the reign of Valentinian I. Both indicated that the empire would be exposed to negative influences. Its implicit warning was that, even if the emperor had issued good laws at the beginning of his reign, he himself undermined the effects of his own legislation because he had appointed unworthy people to the highest positions. The haruspices’ responsa never ceased to provide a vehicle through which to channel political dissent, if not necessarily conspiracy and treason. Reconstructing the occasion of the enactment of the law of 371, we will try to identify who was involved in such an interpretation of recent portents. On May 19, 371, about ten days before issuing the law that restored the legitimacy of haruspicy, addressing the Senate, Valentinian proclaimed: An indulgence, Conscript Fathers, brands those persons whom it frees: it does not take away the infamy of crime but grants remission of punishment as a favor. In the case of one or two accused persons, this shall be approved. He who gives indulgence to the Senate condemns the Senate.89 The meaning of this law becomes clear if we assume that it was issued together with that of May 29, 371, in response to the embassy that the Senate had sent to court when Maximinus was made vicarius of Rome in 370. Such a

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promotion conferred upon him even greater authority, and (for Ammianus) greater opportunities for violence against senators potentially associated with magicians and haruspices.90 According to Ammianus, the ambassadors of the Roman Senate “were to ask that punishments should be inflicted that were not too severe for the offences, and that no senator should, in a fashion neither practiced nor permitted, be subjected to torture”.91 But they could only achieve their aim either if the emperor granted a plenary indulgence for the Senate, or if he issued a law that once again made a legislative distinction between magic and haruspicy. In fact, Valentinian I gave a double response: negative, with respect to the request for a plenary indulgence for the Senate that would have thrown infamy on the entire assembly (CTh 9.38.5); positive, in restoring the distinction between magic and haruspicy (CTh 9.16.9).92 Since this distinction had been traditional from Augustus, and having himself deliberated in this sense at the beginning of his reign, Valentinian could not escape the complaints of the senators. Ammianus dramatizes the scene with literary efficacy: When the deputation had been admitted to the council-chamber and had presented their request, Valentinian said that he had never made such a decree, and cried out that he was the victim of calumny. But the quaestor Eupraxius mildly contradicted him, and through his freedom of speech the cruel order, which surpassed all examples of harshness, was rescinded.93 Eupraxius knew the text of the rescript, evidently because he himself, as quaestor, had written it by order of the emperor.94 The story of this embassy shows that the emperor was ready to grant what the Roman Senate requested. The Roman assembly was able, in the second half of the fourth century, to suggest legislative changes by asserting suitable motivations that referred to mos maiorum and recent legislation.95 In fact, at the suggestion of the Senate, the two constitutions of 371, whether they were parts of the same edict or issued separately, canceled the rescript that Maximinus obtained in 369/70 regarding the handling of senatorial trials. This is confirmed by the way in which the subsequent investigations were conducted and their outcome: other senators as Aginatius, Avienus, Cethegus, Cornelius, and Paphius, as well as Lollianus, the very young son of the former prefect of Rome Volusianus Lampadius, were beheaded,96 and even some senatorial women met the same fate.97 But they were executed for practicing magic (maleficium) in its various guises and manifestations (sorcery, astrology, poisoning). Campensis and Amantius were also put to death: however, not as haruspices, but because they had performed private divination and magic.98 Magic was a vague concept, which could include any form of ritual that could usefully be denounced as illicit, since it was a way of not just entreating divine powers but actually seeking to manipulate them to achieve not only love, victory, and health but also sex, defeat, and murder. Most Romans of senatorial rank (male and female), whose activities Ammianus reports, were

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involved in private rituals for casting charms, spells, and incantations; and several other defendants were charged with adultery and rape, often related crimes because of their association with love charms. However, Tarracius Bassus, Camenius, Marcianus, Eusafius, Paphius, Cornelius, Aginatius, Eumenius, and Avienus were not tortured during the investigation,99 while other senators were either exiled (Alypius, Frontinus, Hymetius),100 or acquitted (Bassus, Camenius, Eusafius, Marcianus).101 This means that, at the exhortation of the Roman Senate, Valentinian I abrogated the principle by which black magic and high treason had been assimilated, returning the praesidium dignitatis to the senators.

The Roman Senate and Its Legates It was a senatorial embassy that achieved such a result, because its members were particularly qualified to demonstrate both how magic and haruspicy were different, and why public divination should not be considered illegal. Among the legates Ammianus remembers “Praetextatus, former prefect of the city (ex urbi praefectus), Venustus, a one-time deputy-prefect (ex vicarius), and Minervius, who had been a consular governor (ex consularis)”.102 Venustus is believed to be Nicomachus Flavianus Senior’s father, since Macrobius called the latter “Venustus, mirandus vir”.103 Seeck identified him with Volusius Venustus, native of Canusium (Puglia), governor of Apuliae et Calabriae under Constantine, and of Sicily before 362. After about 20 years without offices (during the reign of Constantius II), the same Volusius Venustus was reportedly sent as an envoy by the Senate to the Emperor Julian, and by this latter appointed vicarius Hispaniarum.104 The ambassador to Valentinian I in 370, then, would have been an elderly senator, at the height of a very long career: probably too long to have been covered by one person. The father of the elder Flavian must have been about the age of Avianius Symmachus and, like the latter, he probably started his career under Constantius II. He was rewarded by Julian, who appreciated him during his embassy in 362 and appointed him vicarius Hispaniarum.105 In fact, like Avianus Symmachus, he was pagan, as were his son (the elder Flavian), who remained pagan to the point of committing suicide at the Frigidus in 394, and L. Ragonius Venustus, who is mentioned in an inscription that celebrated his taurobolium and criobolium on 23rd of May 390.106 About this latter, a good hypothesis is that he was Volusius Venustus’s grandson, the other anonymous son of the elder Flavian.107 Minervius, former governor in 370 as Ammianus calls him, possibly was the unnamed father of Minervius, Protadius, and Florentinus.108 Since they were friends of Quintus Aurelius Symmachus – who wrote 18 letters to Protadius109 and 15 to Minervius,110 while Florentinus received 7 from him and 2 more jointly with his brothers111 – we could infer that their father belonged to Avianius’s generation and, like him, wished to ensure that his sons had literary taste and classical culture. Actually, Protadius was interested in the history of

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Gaul, and Florentinus received from Claudian the dedication of the second book of his Rape of Proserpine.113 Furthermore, since he was chosen by the Senate to express the assembly’s grievances towards the “cruel rescript”, with which especially pagan individuals had been hit, we can speculate that he shared the pagan faith of the other two members of the embassy. The leader of these senators sent to the court in Trier was, in fact, Vettius Agorius Praetextatus. His special personality was so well known that his fame as a learned pagan persisted into the fifth century. He is the principal speaker in the Saturnalia of Macrobius, who depicted him as a religious expert. Alan Cameron demonstrated that the Macrobius’s Praetextatus is the character of a work that, about half a century after his death, represented an idealized past not for religious but rather antiquarian purposes. Nevertheless, this character is perfectly consistent with all we know about the man who lived and worked between the first and second half of the fourth century.114 Much contemporary evidence about him does confirm that the real Praetextatus did not differ from the way Macrobius described him.115 Emperor Julian, with whom he shared religious as well as literary interests, appointed him proconsul Achaiae. That was the first very important office after others that were traditional for senators of senatorial birth, and which he had held under Constantine’s sons.116 In this respect, Praetextatus’s career was similar to Avianius’s cursus honorum, although the father of the orator and letter writer was a little older, and he was especially praised for his rhetorical and political talents.117 Praetextatus was proconsul Achaiae until 364 AD, and already in that post he showed that his pagan faith went beyond ritual practice, as he was able to persuade Valentinian I (probably the first to become emperor after having been baptized) not to enforce in Greece his law against nocturnal sacrifices, thereby defending the Eleusinian Mysteries.118 Praetextatus participated in these rites. Indeed, inscriptions record that he was augur, priest of Vesta, priest of the Sun, quindecemvir, curial of Hercules, devotee of Liber and the Eleusinian Mysteries, high priest who initiated the faithful to the mysteries, temple overseer, an initiate of the taurobolium and Father of the Fathers, and holder of the highest priesthood of the Mithras cult.119 His administration as prefect of the city in 367–368 was highly praised by Ammianus, because he restored calm at Rome, where the fights between Damasus and Ursinus and their followers had resulted in many victims.120 In two years “he removed all the Maeniana”, “and he separated from the sacred buildings the walls of private houses, which had been irreverently built against them”.121 Moreover, an inscription records that as a city prefect he restored the sacred statues of the “Divine Councillors” and their cult in its old form.122 These 12 gods stood in the Porticus Deorum Consentium below the summit of the Capitoline Hill in the forum, probably among the columns of the portico, which had been built in the second and third century BC and restored in different periods.123 While the prefects of the city were in charge of all public buildings in Rome and their maintenance,124 each evidently chose which buildings needed restoration during his administration. Praetextatus had

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political motivations for his choice, as the Dei Consentes were so named as they were members of the divine Council of the Olympians, while Roman senators were represented as a council of the supreme Deity by the best late antique rhetoricians.125 If it is true that these gods were called also Complices because they were beside Jupiter when he hurled thunderbolts, then these reasons were inseparable from religious ideals.126 The gods were connected with that activity of Jupiter, which the haruspices were called to interpret, as perhaps Praetextatus knew well from his antiquarian research on Etruscan discipline. Before leaving his office in 368, Praetextatus asked Valentinian I to let Avianius Symmachus dedicate the pons Valentiniani (modern Ponte Sisto), since the latter had started to restore it when he was city prefect in 364–365. The inauguration was a splendid occasion of popular joy, still remembered by Ammianus about 20 years later, and it helped to increase the fame of both Praetextatus and Avianius, as well as their respective family clans.127 They openly showed that they shared the same cultural and religious interests and had the same political attitudes, and were able to create strong alliances among the opposing groups of the Senate when they administered the city either individually, as in 364–365 (Avianius), or 367–368 (Praetextatus), or by combining the prefecture of the city (Symmachus) with the praetorian prefecture of Italy, Illyricum, and Africa (Praetextatus) in 384. In fact, Symmachus edited the letters sent to Praetextatus in the first book of his Letters, from which an interesting humanizing portrayal of this important man comes out.128 These men and some of their other political allies (lesser-known figures for us because of the incomplete sources) vividly demonstrate that still in the second half of the fourth century, even the most fervent Christian emperors could not ignore the Roman senators, regardless of their religious faith.129 Their exceptional political fortune was proof that the equation between individual faith and political success, as desirable for Christians as it was alien to the political practice of the ancient pagan world, was not yet feasible in the empire, despite its being more and more Christianised. Praetextatus’s witty remark to Pope Damasus “Make me Bishop of Rome, and I will become a Christian overnight” could be part of a discussion on this subject among the cultivated, still-pagan senators in Rome.130 And, of course, all three fuelled Christian animosity. The author of the anonymous Carmen contra paganos (Poem against the pagans) recalls also some aspects of Avianius’s and Symmachus’s political successes, in particular those that the three officials had been able to achieve thanks to the mutual support given and obtained in the senatorial assembly.131 But, as we might expect in a work, which is certainly best understood as an attack on Praetextatus,132 its author focuses on some characteristics that for contemporaries must have been typical of that man. Actually, three times in the first part of text, he makes clear the attacked senator’s connections with haruspicy: You (i.e., senators), whom the lying/genuine Etruscan haruspex constantly constantly makes fun of;133

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but there has been no one more consecrated in the world than he/he to whom Numa Pompilius, first of many haruspices,/taught to contaminate (madness!) with vain rite and with blood of animals,/the altars on the putrid sepulchres;134 I ask: what did your consecrated person bring to the city? […] he always a friend of the Etruscans,/who endeavored to spread absorbed poisons on beings unable to defend themselves,/looking for a thousand ways to harm and trying as many ways and ploys (artes).135 Assuming that the author of the Carmen contra paganos referred to Praetextatus, the second passage alluded to a deep knowledge also of the oldest rituals of the art, traced back to Numa, while in the third, the writer seems to denounce that, as a haruspex, Praetextatus would have conducted magical, harmful, and illegal practices on his friends after making the bloody ritual sacrifices. Obviously, it was an invective to shame a senator who had just died. On the contrary, from the Saturnalia it seems that for posterity Praetextatus’s reputation was that of a learned pagan, with a profound knowledge of the rituals, especially those of the ancient Etruscans. It was he whom Macrobius entrusted with explaining the origins of the festival of the Saturnalia, and the meaning of the Roman calendar and of the traditional cults, as he was uniquely qualified to address these sacred subjects (sacrorum omnium unice conscius).136 And discoursing on Vergil’s knowledge of pontifical lore, Praetextatus frequently inserted citations from libri Etruscorum, as translated by Tarquitius Priscus.137 Nothing of his culture could be connected with magic, but rather with Etruscan discipline.

The Roman Senators’ Game The arguments, with which the Senate agreed to send Venustus, Minervius, and especially their leader Praetextatus to Valentinian I in 370, are consistent with the cultural identity of these legates. They reveal also the political attitude of the majority of senators, since they had been persuaded that the legality of public haruspicy had to be restored, realizing that it was the only way to regain their special privileges (praesidium dignitatis). Still, haruspicy was at the center of the legates’ request, as the law issued in 371 shows. This means that these legates represented opposition to Valentinian I for having promoted characters such as Terentius, Maximinus, or Leo and the other Pannonian officials, who confused haruspicy and magic. The prodigies narrated by Ammianus as bad omens for the empire had the same meaning. Other senators involved in spreading dissent through the portent of Pistoia and the wonder of the brooms in bloom can be identified from the Fasti, since these show that the group of families whose members had been appointed to the highest offices in 364–368 AD changed in the following years. Once he had ascended to the throne, being preoccupied with serious military problems, Valentinian I wisely accepted men that Julian had already chosen, favoring the

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rise of the Symmachi,138 the Nicomachi,139 the Ceionii,140 and the Orfiti Praetextati,141 from whom he received support for his dynastic projects.142 A letter of Symmachus to Flavian the Elder, which can be placed between the spring and summer of 365, clearly shows the extent of the efforts deployed by the senators of his group to retain control of the main offices.143 The vigilance which Symmachus urged on his cousin, to protect himself from the plotting of adversaries (adfectatas insidias), proved a winning strategy: the attacks, multiple and taking various forms, had no success for almost five years. The prosopographic picture changes from late 368,144 when various members of those noble families ended up being involved in prosecutions for adultery and magic.145 According to Ammianus, these changes were brought about by the rapid rise of Maximinus, and the arrival in Rome of other Pannonians who rose to high rank in the imperial hierarchy, such as Leo, Ursicinus, Simplicius, and Doryphorianus.146 Nevertheless, an analysis of the major political offices offers a different result. Almost simultaneously at the end of 368 Olybrius had been appointed prefect of Rome,147 and his son-in-law Sextus Claudius Petronius Probus was praetorian prefect of Illyricum, Italy, and Africa. This combined management of city and praetorian prefecture introduced a sort of administrative anomaly and represented a genuine turning point for the pressure groups that influenced the emperor.148 Such an anomaly persisted all the more if Probus – as some scholars believe – maintained the same office as head of the largest and most important prefecture of the Roman Empire in the West for an extraordinarily long time (seven consecutive years, until the death of Valentinian I). In this position, he was able to appoint members of his two families (Probi and Anici) and others among his clients to the most strategically important offices of the Western empire.149 Claudius Petronius, either the same Probus (who for two years was also praetorian prefect), or perhaps his younger brother, was proconsul of Africa from January or June 368 until 370.150 In 370 Olybrius, perhaps the son of the city prefect, was consularis governor of Tuscia.151 Furthermore, between 368 and 370, Anicius Auchenius Bassus, another relative of Probus, made his debut in political life as quaestor candidatus uno eodemque tempore praetor tutelaris.152 As Probus was the praetorian prefect of Illyricum, Italy, and Africa from 368 to 375, he was able to either foster the rise, or promote the career, of many officials of his prefecture, such as the noble Ambrose and Satyr from Rome,153 Maximinus and Leo, both Pannonians,154 Simplicius from Emona, Ursicinus, and Doryphorianus, to name a few. Ammianus eventually restored only one aspect of the truth. Roman senators remained the principal actors in government throughout the reign of Valentinian I, even though after 368 “some men of the most despised station [rose] to high rank in the offices of state”.

Conclusion In the early days of 376, as soon as Valentinian I died, and the young Gratian succeeded him, Symmachus delivered two speeches in front of the senatorial

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assembly. In the Oration in favour of Trygetius (pro Trygetio), praising what the new prince would do to be called “a real father of the fatherland” (pater patriae), he indirectly blamed the dead emperor, who had not chosen men of merit, ruining the harmony of the Senate (concordia senatus).155 The assembly was just about to ask Gratian for Maximinus’s indictment. While the members of that senatorial delegation are not known, it was Symmachus – at the behest of Gratian – who reported the execution of that official to the assembly, so it is clear that he was more involved in the request than any other senator.156 He remembered these events also in the Oration on his father (pro patre), with which he thanked all the senators who had designated Avianius as consul for the following year.157 And while the responsibility of some colleagues, who had been bad advisers of Valentinian I, remained in the background,158 one figure stood alone in having been the cause of the past mayhem, the diabolical Maximinus.159 Narrating the prodigies of the ass who mounted the tribunal of Pistoia, or the brooms in bloom in the Senate house, Ammianus made his own the interpretation upheld by the senators around Symmachus. Praetextatus, in particular, had been asked for his advice in relation to Symmachus’ two last speeches,160 and Symmachus had expressed his intense distress to Praetextatus, because “despite numerous sacrifices, and these often repeated by each of the authorities, the prodigy of Spoletium has not yet been expiated in the public name”.161 Those who demonized Maximinus were the same who in 370 had sent legates to Valentinian I and in Trier had been able to obtain the last law that restored the legality of public haruspicy. Ammianus acted as their spokesman, since this reading of the recent past was welcomed when Theodosius I was chosen in 379 to deal with the military catastrophe of Adrianopolis, and became official when Ammianus finished his work in Rome,162 where Theodosius I arrived in 389–390.163 The criticism, although reluctant, of Valentinian I could not but benefit the exaltation of the Spanish emperor, also because the infamy cast on Maximinus redeemed the reputation of his father. The general Theodosius Senior had been executed on charges of treason in the months between the 375 and 376, and he was probably the victim of a fight between different factions.164 However, we must ask ourselves how Theodosius I could accept and appreciate Ammianus’s history, where portents and prodigies and their interpretation by haruspices, as well as the inauspicious omens that accompanied the campaign of Julian against the Persians were enumerated, almost emulating the lists of wonders that Livy had prefixed to the defeat of Lake Trasimeno and appended to the disaster of Cannae.165 On the evidence of the laws preserved in the Theodosian Code, Theodosius I marked a turning point for the end of bloody sacrifices and the traditional cults.166 From Constantinople he condemned sacrifices at night or during the day,167 while meetings in the temples were authorized provided that no sacrifices were made.168 According to Libanius, the mere fact of sacrificing an animal for a banquet became suspect

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Figure 5.1 Statuette of an Etruscan Haruspex. From Archaologisches Institut der Universitaet – Goettingen. (From the Catalogue Gli Etruschi, edited by Mario Torelli, Venezia 2000, Bompiani (without reserved rights).

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and could give rise to complaints. While during the usurpation of Maximus the inspection of the entrails was again forbidden,170 and a new law was issued in Rome against the malefici in 389,171 other strict laws against sacrifices and the frequentation of temples were issued in 391 and 392.172 The haruspices, however, did not only inspect the entrails of the sacrificed animals. Their activity turned to lightning, portents, and natural wonders, such that prodigious or unusual physical events continued to retain their semiotic and political value. Christian writers might well ridicule Praetextatus for his naive confidence in the deceitful responses of Etruscan haruspices,173 and after 394 Flavianus Senior could also be described as performing infinite sacrifices to discover whether the coming battle against Theodosius had divine approval: for the false omen that Eugenius would prevail, according to Rufinus, “he deserved death”.174 Nevertheless, even in the mid-sixth century somebody was able to interpret a public portent, giving a political interpretation of it. Procopius recalls that, at the time of Athalaric, grandson of Theoderic, a castrated steer broke away from a herd of cattle pastured at the Forum of Peace and tried to mount the bronze bull (the work of Phidias) that decorated a fountain. Then an Etruscan – whose clothing is reminiscent of an ancient haruspex from third/second century BC – predicted that a eunuch would dominate Rome:175 (Fig. 5.1). General Narses would arrive in Italy shortly thereafter.176

Notes 1 Meslin 1974, 353–63, n. 18; Lepelley 1990–1991, 366–67; Scardigli 2011. In this chapter I expand on Lizzi Testa 2006. 2 Amm. 28.1.41–42; 44; 45; 53: Post haec praegresso Leone, acceptoque successore, ad principis comitatum Maximinus accitus, auctusque praefectura praetoriana, nihilo lenior fuit, etiam longius nocens, ut basilisci serpentes. In id tempus aut non multo prius, scopae florere sunt visae, quibus nobilitatis curia mundabatur, idque portendebat, extollendos quosdam despicatissimae sortis ad gradus potestatum excelsos… Post hunc venit Ursicinus ad mitiora propensior … Huic successit Hemonensis Simplicius, Maximini consiliarius ex grammatico … Tandemque, ut solent pares facile congregari cum paribus, Doryphorianus quidam repertus est Gallus, audax ad usque insaniam … The translation is by Rolfe 1958, 113 and 119. Cf. Den Boeft et alii 2011, 84–7. 3 He became praetorian prefect of Gaul after 22–23 February 372, and not in 371, as established by PLRE I, Maximinus 7, 577–78, and accepted by other scholars: Barnes 1998, 241–2. On the political effects that the presence of Maximinus as prefect of Gaul had after the death of Valentinian I, Girardet 2004, 121–127. It is a good assumption that the officials of Illyricum supported the rise of Valentinian II to defend themselves against the possibility of Gratian being wholly dominated by their enemy Maximinus, Kelly 2013, 360–374 believes that it was a negotiated solution with the help of Valens that Valentinian II, once elected, came under his brother’s control and the senior officials whose hostility had provoked the crisis left office. 4 His ancestors were the Carpi, settled in Pannonia by Diocletian: Amm. 28.1.5; on the Carpi, “a people whom Diocletian drove from its ancient abode (i.e. from Dacia) and transferred to Pannonia”, cf. Aur. Vict. 39.43; Hier. Chronicon 226b: Carporum et Basternarum gentes in Romanum solum translatae sunt; Oros. Hist. adversus pagan. 7.15.12: Kovàcs 2011, 16–17. 5 Ammianus likes to compare him to a snake, here (28.1.4) for the third time: 28.1.7, and 33. On Amm. 28.1.7, and the practice of magic in Sardinia, see Mastino, Pinna 2008.


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6 Amm. 28.1.12; 41–2; 30, 5, 10. PLRE I, Leo 1, 498: in 364 Leo was a numerarius of the magister militum, and was promoted notarius after having canvassed for Valentinian’s election at Nicaea (Amm. 26.1.6). Amm. 28.6.8; 29.5.2 and 30.2.10: PLRE I, Remigius, 763. 7 Cameron 1964. 8 I wonder how much Arnaldo Momigliano himself drew inspiration from Cameron’s new research, when he conceived his famous “The Lonely Historian Ammianus Marcellinus”, published a decade later: see Lizzi Testa 2021, 2. 9 Kelly 2007 well explores the differences in “compositional strategies” that mark off books 26–31 from the rest of Ammianus’s history. The focus of his contribution is the account of the magic and treason trials in Rome and Antioch, which “artistically mirrors the events”, so that the reader experiences the oppression in which the Romans lived during the reign of these rulers. The contribution lacks any mention of the fact that the harsh judgment against Valentinian I and Valens was functional to the exaltation of the new emperor Theodosius I, who had prevented the Roman empire from collapsing as – according to Ammianus – it was about to do before his arrival. On the salutary impact of a truly responsible government for a better future, see Den Boeft 2007. Detailed discussion also below in chapter VI. 10 Jacques, Bosquet 1984; Sordi 1989, and Guidoboni 1994. 11 Liv. 32.9. 12 Händel 1959. 13 Amm 21.1.9 (auguria et auspicia); 10 (about the haruspices and Tages’ discipline). 14 Torelli 1969, 335; Sordi 1989, 87–102; 127–132. 15 Lex coloniae Genitivae, 62 = CIL I2.594: Thulin 1922. 16 Torelli 1975, 124–5; Rawson 1978, 140 and 147. 17 According to Domaszewski 1895, 111, the favour that Septimius Severus reserved for haruspicy pushed him to make the haruspex a military official. Actually, none of the inscriptions that mention a haruspex legionis is believed to be prior to the third century AD: Thulin 1922, III, 650–1; Montero 1991, 19. 18 SHA Al. Sev. 44.4, 36: Rhetoribus, grammaticis, medicis, haruspicibus, mathematicis, mechanicis, architectis salaria instituit et auditoria decrevit et discipulos cum annonis pauperum filios modo ingenuos dari iussit. Following this text, Severus Alexander decreed that a salary be given to rhetoricians, grammarians, doctors, haruspices, mathematicians, and others, but in the legal texts haruspicy does not appear among the disciplines that guaranteed a salary for teachers of the municipalities and colonies, nor is any haruspex attested in Rome as a teacher: Haack 2005, 77–9. 19 Montero 1991, 13–35. 20 Cic. div. 2.112; Dion. Hal. 4.62.5; Liv. 22.9.8: pervicit ut, quod non ferme decernitur, nisi cum taetra prodigia nuntiata sunt, decemviri libros Sibyllinos adire iuberentur; Dion Cass. 39.15.3. 21 SHA Gall. 5.2–5: […] Pax igitur deum quaesita inspectis Sybillae libris factumque Iovi Salutari, ut praeceptum fuerat, sacrificium. 22 Until the beginning of the fifth century AD, the quindecemviri sacris faciundis were the conservators of the Sibylline Books. On these latter, Wissowa 19122, 534–40. 23 Zos. 1.37.3; Eus. Hist. Eccl. 7.22.1, and 5. 24 SHA Gall. 5.1 and 7: […] Quae omnia contemptu, ut saepius diximus, Gallieni fiebant, hominis luxoriosissimi et, si esset securus, ad omne dedecus paratissimi. Desbordes and Ratti (eds.) 114, recall how difficult it was for Orosius (Hist. adversus pagan. 7.22.5–6) to justify the divine anger against Gallienus, who had stopped the persecution against the Christians initiated by his father. For a discussion of Gallienus’ institutional reforms, see supra Ch. I, pp. 2–3. About the hostile senatorial tradition, Homo 20132 (1996), cap. III; 1976, 39–41; and in the context of the third century AD, Bleckmann 1992, 220–275, and Johne, Hartmann, & Gerhardt 2008, 223–9.

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29 30 31 32


34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45

Amm. 22.1.1; Lib. Or. 1.20; 15.29: Festugière 1957. Amm. 22.1.1–2. Lib. Or. 12.82; Amm. 22.14.3. Amm. 21.1.7–14, and specifically 8: “These prophecies are said to be under the control of the divine Themis, so named because she reveals in advance decrees determined for the future by the law of the fates […] and therefore the ancient theologians gave her a share in the bed and throne of Jupiter, the life-giving power”. Amm. 21.1.13. Ross 2016. Cat. Origines, Fragm. 77 Peter. Like other late writers, Ammianus usually cites the Etruscan discipline with the name of its sacred books (17.10.2: […] ut in Tageticis libris legitur vel Vegoicis […]). The books of Tages were divided into Libri haruspicini, fulgurales and rituales: Torelli 1975, 33. Tages had come up from the ground when a peasant was ploughing near Tarquinia in Etruria, and taught the people who flocked to him the secrets of prophecy. He was described as a boy with the wisdom of an old man (Cic. De divin. 2.50: puerili specie … sed senili … prudentia; Amm. 21.1.10: Wood 1980), and he was considered an authority in the fourth century AD, with the likes of Pythagoras, Orpheus, Plato or Moses: Sabbah 1970, 180, n. 81. The libri Vegoici had been revealed to Arruns Veltymnus by Vegoia – the Etruscan lasa Vécu –, to whom Servius (ad Aen. 6.72) attributed the appearance of a nymph. They dealt with fulgural art and in the age of Augustus were preserved in the original language in the temple of Apollo on the Palatine (Serv. ad Aen. 6.72), evidently with the Sibylline Books. Tarquitius Priscus, a scholar of Etruscan origin, translated them in Latin in the last century of the Republic. Cultivated Latin scholars, such as A. Caecina (who was the source of Seneca and Pliny’s Treaties), Nigidius Figulus and Fonteius Capito, as well as the Emperor Julian and Vettius Agorius Praetextatus in the fourth century AD, consulted this Latin version: Rawson 1985, 298–316. Amm. 28.1.42: scopae florere visae sunt […] idque portendebant […]. According to Varro, a portentum is an omen quod aliquid futurum portendit (Serv. A 3.366). On the magical meaning of the broom and the ritual cleaning, see now Montero 2017. Lizzi Testa 2006, 243. Caes. BC 3.105. Svet. Aug. 94.11. Svet. Aug. 92.2 Svet. Vesp. 5.2–4, and Domit. 15.2; cf. Tac. Hist. 2.78.2; Dion. Cass. See Brunell Krauss 1930, 133–43, and now Vigourt 2001, 343–65; Escámez de Vera 2015, 169–93. Cass. Var. 1.12.3: Nati sunt fasces ex fascibus et naturam retinentes fetus arborei pullulaverunt iterum decenter abscisi. Cass. Var. 2.2.5: rediit per te Transalpinae familiae consulatus et arentes laurus viridi germine renovasti. Other examples from Cassiodorus’ Variae are discussed by Oppedisano 2019, 213–22. Symm. Or. 1.3: Meruisti quondam, inclite Gratiane, meruisti, ut de te sacra germina pullularent, ut esses seminarium principatus, ut fieres vena regalis: erudisti liberos parentes omnium mox futuros. Cf. above, ch. IV, p. 64. Sid. Carm. 2.129–31; Tommasi 2015, 94. Amm. 27.3.1–2: Hoc tempore vel paulo ante, nova portenti species per Annonariam apparuit Tusciam, idque quorsum evaderet, prodigialium rerum periti penitus ignorarunt. In oppido enim Pistoiensi, prope horam diei tertiam, spectantibus multis, asinus tribunali escenso audiebatur destinatius rugiens, et stupefactis omnibus, qui aderant quique didicerant referentibus aliis, nulloque coniectante ventura postea quod portendebatur evenit. Terentius enim, humili genere in urbe natus et pistor […]. The translation is by Rolfe 1958, 13, with the exception of





49 50 51 52 53 54 55


The Brooms in Bloom “born in that city”, which I translated as “born in Rome” because Urbs, without the addition of any specification, denotes the city of Rome: cf. Den Boeft et alii 2005, 34–43, esp. 38. Cf. Loschiavo 2017, on the government of Rome during the reign of Valentinian I. When the Diocletianic province of Tuscia (et) Umbria was divided, the northern part became known as Tuscia Annonaria (grain-bearing), probably north of the Arno River, or even including the territory of Volterra, while Tuscia Urbicaria, or Suburbicaria (near, or below Rome) included Umbria. The passage of Ammianus (written towards the end of the fourth century AD) testifies to a division that does not appear in Polemius Silvius’ Chron. 1.535.2, nor in the Notitia Dignitatum (ND Occ. 1. 57; 2.15; 19.4), and in inscriptions pertaining to governors of a later period the name of the province is still Tuscia et Umbria (ILS 1251 and 1252). This seems to indicate that Ammianus’ passage, in describing the governorship of this province in 364, is anachronistic, unless one reads annonariam and not Annonariam, translating it “in Tuscany, the granary”. For Thomsen 1947, 223, 232, 235, the division must have taken place in about 385–92, (CTh 11.28.12, Nov. 15, 418), and in fact Paul. Med. Vita Ambrosii 27, remembers that Ambrose invitatus a Florentinis ad Tusciam usque descendit. The last reference to this division would be Tuscias utrasque in Cass. Var. 4.14.5, while the reference to Tuscia in Cass. Var. 4.5, which was probably written some years later, would indicate that the province had been administratively reunified: see discussion and bibliography in Lo Cascio 2014, 90–3 (transl.); 328–29 (comm.). PLRE I, Terentius I, 881. As corrector Tusciae, he received CTh 2.1.4, 12.1.61, and 12.1.65: see Schmidt-Hoffner 2008, 511 and 555. The last governor of Tuscany with this title was Maximinus (PLRE I, Maximus 7), while his successors were called consulares: Cecconi 1994, 213. Amm. 27.3.2. Orfitus was the father of Rusticiana, who became the wife of Quintus Aurelius Symmachus late in 374: Lizzi Testa 2004, 375–9; Salzman, Roberts 2011, XXVIII, n. 79. He was a man from a noble family, who held the urban prefecture of Rome twice (353–355; 357–359) during the reign of Constantius II: PLRE I, Memmius Vitrasius Orfitus signo Honorius 3, 651–3. Cameron 1996, 295–30, suggests that Orfitus was married to an imperial woman, Constantia, thus explaining his rapid rise and why he was later convicted of embezzlement (but see Chapter III, n. 43). In 364 he had to go into exile and suffered the confiscation of his assets, but he had already returned to Rome in 365, retaking possession of his confiscated estates (Amm. 27.7.3). His recall did not mean the end of the peculation affair, as we know from Symm. Rel. XXXIV.8 and Ep. IX.150 (cf. Vera 1981, 254–72). As Orfitus’s son in law, Symmachus was himself involved, since any claims against Orfitus would have affected the assets of his wife. Amm. 23.5.10–11. Gr. Naz. Or. 5.9.1; 13.5; Ambr. Ep. 73.38: see Rike 1987, 69, and Davies 2004, 232. See now Kahlos 2020, 144–7. Fögen 1997, 151–71. Amm. 23.5.10: “However, the Etruscan soothsayers, who accompanied the other adepts in interpreting prodigies, since they were not believed when they often tried to prevent this campaign […]”. Amm. 19.12.19–20. CTh 9.16.1 (February 1, 320): its traditional date (319) must be corrected in relation with the prefecture of Valerius Maximus: Porena 2003, 402–5. This text is probably an imperial letter (epistula) sent to the new prefect of Rome, to inform him of the measures taken in the previous Edict (ad populum), of which an extract is given in CTh 9.16.2 (May 15, 319): Delmaire 2009, 134–9. Svet. Tib. 63.2; Dio 56.25.5; Ulp. Collatio legum mosaicarum et romanarum 15.2.1–3; Paul. Sent. 5.21.3-4: De Giovanni 2003,2 31–5; Delmaire 2009, 134, n. 3.

The Brooms in Bloom 103 57 CTh 11.36.1 (November 2, 313): Delmaire 2009, 276–9: provocationes suscipi non oportet. 58 CTh 9.38.1 (October 30, 322). 59 CTh 3.16.1 (in the year of the consulship of Bassus and Ablabius); cf. Di Mauro Todini 1988; Delmaire 2009, 64–9. 60 CTh 16.10.1 (March 8, 321): Delmaire 2005, 426–9. 61 Bradbury 1994, 139, already suggested that Constantine’s laws against sacrifice were generally cast as “moralizing proclamations”. Watts 2015a, 49, brilliantly noticed the lack of explicit provisions for punishment, and underlined (Watts 2015b, 200) that especially from Constantine’s changing policy on haruspicy it was unclear what rites should be permitted and the degree to which the emperor should be associated with them. Lenski 2016, 234, showed that the alleged edict against animal sacrifice (probably late in 324) was worded vaguely enough to not put a sure halt to the practice. Gassman 2020, 49-52, tends to give a coherent image of Constantine’s behaviour towards pagans and his explicit desire to oppose their worship and sacrifices, where the preserved constitutions are exemplary of his comings and goings and contradictions on this topic: Lizzi Testa 2016, 161–168. Cf. now also Moser 2018, 79–80. 62 CTh 16.10.2 (accepta Marcellino et Probino cons): Delmaire 2005, 428–9. Cf. CTh 16.10.3 to the urban prefect in 342: Delmaire 2005, 430. Behrwald 2009, 63 and 107, stressed that a connection between suburban temples and public spectacles is not attested outside this law. Belayche 2009, 198 and Lenski 2016, 234 noted the similarity to the Hispellum rescript. 63 CTh 9.16.4 (January 25, 357) and 5 (December 4, 356); cf. CTh 16.10.4 (December 1, 356, or 357). These prohibitions were probably issued together: Cuneo 1997, 308–11; Delmaire 2009, 142–145; cf. Delmaire 2005, 430–3. On the new developments of this edict: Desanti 1990, 146; De Giovanni, 20032, 165; Delmaire 2004, 326–8, however, believes that even Constantius II, while reinforcing restrictions on sacrifices, never issued a general prohibition measure. Gassman 2020, 54, believes that Constantius II openly divorced himself from the traditional gods and their worship, but Moser 2018, 294– 298 is more skeptical: for instance, sacrifices are attested at Ostia in 359, carried out by the urban prefect Tertullus (Amm. 19.10.4). Libanius (Or. 30. 33–35), who asserts that they were still allowed also at Alexandria, may be tendentious (Van Nuffelen 2014, 305), but he probably tried to explain in a rational way Constantius II’s incoherent behaviour in order to satisfy Christian and pagan expectations. On the removal of the altar of Victory before his visit to Rome in 357, his admiration for the city’s temples and monuments, as well as the appointment of priests to the public colleges, see chapter VII, p. 161, n. 138. 64 CTh 9.16.6 (July, 5, 357): […] si quis magus vel magicis contaminibus adsuetus, qui malificus vulgi consuetudine nuncupatur, aut haruspex aut hariolus aut certe augur vel etiam mathematicus aut narrandis somniis occultans artem aliquam divinandi aut certe aliquid horum simile exercens in comitatu meo vel Caesaris fuerit deprehensus, praesidio dignitatis cruciatus et tormenta non fugiat […] Translation by Pharr 1952, 238. See the Latin text in Delmaire 2009, 144–7. 65 The hypothesis that Constantius II feared the complicity of officials in his Court was formulated by Thulin (1909) 19682, III, 141, and later developed by Montero 1991, 85. For the context in which CTh 9.16.6 was enacted, and the resulting political repression, see Lizzi Testa 2004, 223–4. 66 Christians openly condemned haruspicy from the third century, when apparently it was revived under the Emperors Septimius Severus and Alexander Severus. Tertullian, Cyprian and Arnobius denounced the arts of divination as demonic, while the consulentes of Alexander Severus, to be identified with the haruspices, convinced him not to erect a temple to Christ (SHA Alex. Sev. 43.7). Lactantius and Eusebius (Lact. de mort. pers. 10.1-4; Eus. Vita Const. 2.50) ascribed to haruspices alone the decision of




69 70 71



74 75 76 77 78

79 80


The Brooms in Bloom Diocletian to start the great persecution, being convinced by them that the very presence of Christians prevented the haruspices from giving their responsum. Already in 314, the Council of Ancyra (c. 24) had established punishments for Christians who predicted the future or practiced magic: De Giovanni 20032, 51–2 and 87. Even in the seventh century, however, church councils provided for penalties against the clerici magi aut aurispicibus consulentes: Montero 1991, 167–79. Gassman 2020, 54–75 has a new approach to this work, which is fully acceptable, but he does not ask to what extent its calls for the eradication of polytheistic worship had an effect on the legislative provisions of the emperors Constans and Constantius II, who were its addressees. Ammianus 21.1.6–14: Camus 1967, 206. On the contrary, for Cameron 2011, 265–9, persistence of similar doctrines among the upper classes in Rome had only a cultural significance, which became just an antiquarian taste in the early decades of the fifth century, when Macrobius wrote his Saturnalia. Amm. 22.5.2; Lib. Or. 18–126; Bowersock 1978, 61 and 70–1. Amm. 25.6.1: […] hostiis pro Ioviano caesis, extisque inspectis […]; cf. 25.10.1–2. Them. Or. 5.67–70; Lib. Ep. 1147. Jovian’s legislation on religious issues is not extant and all we know is based on Themistius’ Oration 5 addressed to the emperor. Nevertheless, Socr. HE 3.24–5, who knew that speech, claims that he forbade public sacrifices: Heather-Moncur 2001, 171, n. 110; Kahlos 2009, 79–80. Amm. 27.3.3: “However, long before this happened (i.e. Terentius, being convicted of cheating, was put to death during the urban prefecture of Claudius Hermogenianus Caesarius in 374 AD), Apronianus was succeeded by Symmachus”. The first law addressed him as prefect of Rome is CTh 7.4.10 (April 22, 364) and he was still in office on 9 (10) March 365 (CTh 1.6.4 and 10.1.9): PLRE I, L. Aurelius Avianius Symmachus signo Phosphorius 3, 863–5); Schmidt-Hoffner 2008, 524. CTh 9.16.9 (May 29, 371) ad Senatum: Haruspicinam ego nullum cum maleficiorum causis habere consortium iudico neque ipsam aut aliquam praeterea concessam a maioribus religionem genus esse arbitror criminis. Testes sunt leges a me in exordio imperii mei datae, quibus unicuique, quod animo inbibisset, colendi libera facultas tributa est. Nec haruspicinam reprehendimus, sed nocenter exerceri vetamus. Compared to Pharr 1952, 238, I translated religio with “religion” rather than “superstition”, to draw attention to the terminology used by the writer of Valentinian I’s law who, while following the tenor of the Constantinian CTh 9.16.1 (where superstitio is used), preferred to define public haruspicy as religio. In fact, in the Theodosian Code superstitio indicates pagan or heretical practices as extraneous to the official religion: Grodzynski 1974; Salzman 1987; Pergami 1993, 126; 548; Delmaire 2009, 150–2. Hunt 2007, 72–75. Amm. 26.4.1–3; Amm. 30.9.5 praises the religious tolerance of Valentinian I. Amm. 26.3.1–5; PLRE I, L. Turcius Apronianus signo Asterius 10, 88–9. Amm. 26.4.5; Zos. 4.1.1. On the chronological discrepancies between Ammianus’ and Zosimus’ story, see Paschoud 1979, n. 111. CTh 9.16.7 (September 9, 364). The nocturnal rites, authorized by Emperor Magnentius, had been forbidden in 353 by Constantius II with CTh 16.10.5, but they were surely put back into force by Emperor Julian: Delmaire 2009, 148–9; cf. Pergami 1993, 76–7. Zos. 4.3.2–3. CTh 9.16.8 (December 8, 370): Pergami 1993, 307 and 530; Delmaire 2009, 148–51. Schmidt-Hoffner 2008, 535–536 believes that 373 could be a possible date, but prohibition of harmful magic, including astrological practices were very frequent and that law not necessarily was directly connected with the Antiochian trials. Amm. 28.1.8.

The Brooms in Bloom 105 82 Amm. 28.1.17–23. With regard to Hymetius (PLRE I, Iulius Festus Hymetius, 447), see Lizzi Testa 2003, 59–61 and Lizzi Testa 2004, 235–48. 83 Eun. Vita Soph. 7.6.11. 84 Amm. 20.1.40; cf. Eunap. Vita Soph. 7.6.5. On Valens’ trials, see Lenski 2002, 223–34. 85 Amm. 28.1.10: Cumque multiformiter quasi in proludiis negotium spectaretur, et quidam sulcatis lateribus, nominassent nobiles aliquos, tamquam usos artificibus laedendi per clientes aliosque humiles …. 86 Amm. 28.1.10–11: […] Tartareus cognitor, relatione maligna, docuit principem, non nisi suppliciis acrioribus, perniciosa facinora scrutari posse vel vindicari, quae Romae perpetravere complures. His ille cognitis efferatus, ut erat vitiorum inimicus acer magis quam severus, uno proloquio, in huius modi causas, quas arroganter proposito maiestatis imminutae miscebat, omnes, quos iuris prisci iustitia divorumque arbitria quaestionibus exemere cruentis, si postulasset negotium, statuit tormentis affligi. 87 Amm. 28.1.10–11. When Ammianus implies that Valentinian I was violating some sacrosanct privilege by allowing the torture of senators in those trials, he is not misleading, as some scholars believed (Cośkun 2000, 86–8 and Lenski 2002, 220). The emperor himself knew that magic had often been regarded as treason, and trials for treason had always permitted the torture of aristocrats (Amm. 19.12.17). The point is that his rescript confused again magic and haruspicy, and it violated “the justice of ancient code and the edicts”, since senators who simply used haruspicy had been tortured as guilty of lese-majesty. 88 See chapter IV, n. 61. 89 CTh 9.38.5 (May 19, 371) ad Senatum: Indulgentia, patres conscripti, quos liberat notat nec infamiam criminis tollit, sed poenae gratiam facit. In uno hoc aut duobus reis ratum sit: qui indulgentiam senatui dat, damnat senatum. The translation is by Pharr 1952, 253, but I preferred to translate the Latin indulgentia with the legal term “indulgence” rather than “pardon”, because even in late antique legislation, as well as in the modern Code of Law, there was a distinction among indulgence (indulgentia), pardon or indult (remissio poenae), and amnesty (venia). Pardon, like indulgence, extinguished the punishment and not the crime (while the amnesty extinguished both of them), but could only be granted to individuals, not to all members of the Senate: Waldstein 1964, infra; Gaudemet 1962, 16–18. On this law and its relationship with CTh 9.16.9, see Ch. IV, n. 89. 90 Lizzi Testa 2004, 229–35. 91 Amm. 28.1.24. 92 Trivial transcription errors (XIIII-IIII) could have caused the difference in the date transmitted for the two constitutions. According to Pergami 1993, 547, the content of the two fragments does not authorize attribution to a single context, but Seeck 1919, 240, thought that they should be parts of the same text. 93 Amm. 28.1.25: … Moderate redarguit quaestor Eupraxius, hacque libertate emendatum est crudele praeceptum, supergressum omnia diritatis exempla. 94 On Eupraxius’ career, supra Chapter IV, p. 64–7. 95 Supra, Chapter IV, 2, p. 62. 96 Amm. 28.1.56; 50; 16; 29; 26. On their family ties, see Lizzi Testa 2004, 279–90. 97 Anepsia (Amm. 28.1.56); Claritas, and Flaviana (Amm. 28.1.28): Lizzi Testa 2004, 265–72. 98 Amm. 28.1.8 and 29; 28.1.19 and 21. 99 Amm. 28.1.27; 29; 30ff.; 48. 100 Amm. 28.1.16; 21; 17; 19; 20; 22. 101 Amm. 28.1.40. 102 Amm. 28.1.24. 103 Macr. Sat. 1.5.13: Invitandos ad eundem congressum convictumque censeo Flavianum qui, quantum sit mirando viro Venusto patre praestantior, non minus ornatu morum gravitateque vitae quam copia profundae eruditionis adseruit.


The Brooms in Bloom

104 Seeck 1883, CXIII-CXIV. Cf. PLRE I, Volusius Venustus 5, 949, which follows Seeck’s hypothesis of Venustus’s career. 105 Amm. 23.1.4: the date must be late in 362, since Venustus’ fellow ambassador Apronianus, who was made prefect of Rome, was in office before the end of 362; Chausson 2007, 177–8. 106 CIL VI.503 = ILS 4151: PLRE I, Lucius Ragonius Venustus 3, 948. Ragonius Venustus’ inscription is one of a couple of dozen initiations in oriental cults, mostly from a shrine of Magna Mater and Attis on the Vatican hill known as Phrygianum (Platner-Ashby 1929, 325–6; Vermaseren 1977, 47–9). The taurobolium attested by these inscriptions was a private ritual, celebrated with the sacrifice of a bull during an initiation ritual, after which the initiated senator dedicated an inscribed altar to Magna Mater and Attis. Some of them still survive; most have not been seen since they were dug up in 1609 during the construction of St. Peter’s. Cameron 2011, 144–53, believes that the 370–90 series of inscriptions from the Phrygianum Vaticanum reflects a revival of oriental cults that was not a general pagan revival of Roman aristocrats but a revival “by a single group, the circle of C. Ceionius Rufius Volusianus signo Lampadius”. That of Ragonius Venustus in 390 is the last known taurobolium from the inscriptions of the Phrygianum Vaticanum. For a different perspective on the devotion to the gods as the source of aristocratic glory, which the inscriptions in the Phrygianum expressed, see Gassman 2020, 83–105. On the vivid account of taurobolium by Prudentius, which was probably a pure fiction, see McLynn 1996, 312–30; Cameron 2011, 159–63. 107 On the links that were established between a part of the Nicomachi Flaviani and the Ragonii Venusti, belonging to a senatorial family attested in the third century and then, at the end of the fourth, by L. Ragonius Venustus, see Chausson 1996. 108 PLRE I, Minervius 1, 603. 109 Symm. Epp. IV.17–34: Marcone 1987, 55-77; 113–19; 136–43. 110 Symm. Epp. IV.35–49: Marcone 1987, 77–87; 119–23; 144–7. 111 Symm. Epp. IV.50–5; 56–7: Marcone 1987, 87–93; 123–5; 148–50. 112 Symm. Ep. IV.18.36: PLRE I, Protadius 1, 751–2. 113 Claud. De raptu Pros. II praef. 50; PLRE I, Florentinus 2, 362. 114 For Praetextatus’s image in the Saturnalia, Liebeschuetz 1999, 185–205; Kahlos 2002, 180–200; Cameron 2011, 246–7, 259, 263–8, 392. 115 The main innovations of chapters 7 and 8, which Cameron 2011 dedicated to Macrobius and the Saturnalia (231–272) as well as to Praetextatus and the Poem against the Pagans (273–319), are discussed by Consolino 2013. Most of the results of Cameron’s research on Macrobius and his work are now generally accepted, so that the composition of the Saturnalia is placed in the years immediately following 431. December 17 to 19, 382 (instead of 384) seems to be the best fictive date of the meeting which is the subject of the Saturnalia. 116 His career is given in full on the front of his funerary monument (CIL VI.1779 = ILS 1259 = CLE 111 = CCCA 246), where the transition to public offices, after a list of priesthoods and initiations, is marked uniquely by the formula in re publica vero. Praetextatus had been quaestor, praetor, governor of Tuscia et Umbria in central Italy, and consular of Lusitania in Spain before 362. His public career flourished under Valentinian I and then during the reign of Valentinian II, since after being appointed prefect of Rome in 367-368 he was rewarded with the very prestigious praetorian prefecture of Italiae, Illyrici et Africae by May 384. When he died in December 384, he had been designated consul for the following year, the highest office a Roman senator could hope to achieve. Other inscriptions preserve only partially his cursus honorum and priesthoods: PLRE I, Vettius Agorius Praetextatus 1, 722–4; Kahlos 2002, 216–29, Salzman, Roberts 2011, 91–6; Gassman 2020, 144–151.

The Brooms in Bloom 107 117 The most important steps of Avianius’ career are mentioned in ILS 1257. His wife, whose name we still do not know, was most likely the daughter of Fabius Titianus, himself a man who held multiple offices (including the consulship in 337), and the urban prefecture twice (339–341; 350–353), as attested by nine statue bases that commemorate his efforts in that office (PLRE I, Fabius Titianus 6, 918–19). Probably thanks to the patronage of his father-in-law, Avianius did not suffer political repercussions when, being a young praefectus annonae (340 AD), he imprudently dedicated an inscription to the Emperor Constantine II. When the latter, who had attempted to add Italy to the part of the Empire that he had been allotted after Constantine’s death, was killed in Aquileia by his brother Constans, Avianius Symmachus immediately engraved the inscription again, canceling the name of Constantine II for the dedication in honor of the new master of the West (AE 1988, 217; EDR 80759, and Cecconi 1996). In fact, Avianius became vicarius of Rome and was chosen by the Senate as leader of various embassies, when a civil war was going to take place between Constantius and the new aspirant to the imperial throne, Julian. While returning to Rome from Antioch, where he had met Constantius II (Lib. Ep. 1004, 132–4), Avianius went to Julian, who was then in Naissus: Amm. 21.12.24. Following Ammianus’s narrative, and given that Avianius became PVR in 364, he was probably an appointee of Julian (with whom he variously worked during his reign: Iul. Ep. 82.445 a-b). Claudius Mamertinus put into effect: Lizzi Testa 2004, 390–9. 118 CTh 9.16.7 (Sept. 9, 364): Schmidt-Hoffner 2008, 535; above n. 70. 119 In addition to CIL VI, 1779, where he is referred to as augur, pontifex Vestae, pontifex Solis, quindecemvir, curialis Herculis, sacratus Libero et Eleusinis, hierophanta, neocorus, tauroboliatus, pater patrum, the list of priesthoods and initiations is recorded also in CIL VI 1778 = CCCA 263 = CIMRM 420, and in substantially the same order. 120 Coll. Avell. 7 (dated Jan. 12, 368); he had granted amnesty to the followers of Ursinus (Coll. Avell. 5), while expelling Ursinus himself (Amm 27.9.9), and returned to Pope Damasus the basilica of Sicinninus (Coll. Avell. 6): Lizzi Testa 2004, 129–70, on the conflict between Damasus and Ursinus. 121 Amm. 27.9.10. According to Cracco Ruggini 1979, 20, n. 43, lines 39–40 ([…] antiquasque domos, turres ac tecta priorum/subvertens […]) of the Carmen contra paganos alluded to the measures mentioned here by Ammianus. A connection with the enquiry into the demolition of temples in Italy by Christians that Praetextatus apparently initiated (Symm. Rel. XXI) is also possible: Lizzi Testa 2004, 414–16. 122 CIL VI.102 = ILS 4003: [Deorum c]onsentium sacrosancta simulacra cum omni lo[ci totius adornatio]ne cultu in [formam antiquam restituto]/[V]ettius Praetextatus, v(ir) c(larissimus), pra [efectus u]rbi [reposuit] /curante Longeio [ …. v(ir) c(larissimus, c]onsul[ari]. 123 The first excavations in the portico started in 1833 and the inscriptions was found in 1834: Platner, Ashby 1929, 421–2; Coarelli 1989,6 61. An account of the archaeological phases of the shrine is Nieddu 1986, 37–52. 124 Chastagnol 1960, 42–5. 125 Rut. Namat. De reditu suo 1.13–18: Religiosa patet peregrinae curia laudi/nec putat externos, quos decet esse suos;/ordinis imperio collegarumque fruuntur/et partem genii, quem venerantur, habent:/Quale per aetherios mundani verticis axes/concilium summi credimus esse dei. Mart. Cap. 1.42 (ac mox Iovis scriba praecipitur pro suo ordine ac ratis modis caelicolas advocare, praecipueque senatores deorum) clarifies the heavenly projection of the Roman Senate. 126 Dumézil 1973, 614. 127 Amm. 27.3.3: “[…] Symmachus, a man worthy to be classed among the conspicuous examples of learning and moderation, through whose efforts the sacred city enjoyed an unusual period of quiet and prosperity, and prides itself on a handsome bridge, which Symmachus himself, by decision of our mighty emperors, dedicated, and to the great joy of the citizens […]”. From the inscriptions on the parts of the bridge found in the Tiber it appears that Avianius restored its triumphal arch, placed on it the statues of the


128 129

130 131


133 134 135 136 137



The Brooms in Bloom Emperors Valentinian I and Valens in the act of haranguing the people, and built two marble parapets that recalled the celebration of the five-year (quinquennalia) imperial vows (suscepta and soluta): Lizzi Testa 2004, 447–54. These letters (Symm. Epp. I.44–55) are translated in English and well commented by Salzman, Roberts 2011, 96–115. In 384, while Symmachus as city prefect, and speaking on behalf of the Roman Senate, disputed with the Court of Valentinian II and with Bishop Ambrose on the ara Victoriae, Praetextatus as prefect of Italiae, Illyrici et Africae had apparently initiated an enquiry into the demolition of temples in Italy by Christians (Symm. Rel. XXI). Nonetheless, when he died, in late 384, he was consul designate for the following year. Hier. Contra Joannem Hierosolymitanum 8. After 384 and the battle for the restoration of the altar of Victory, contemporaries like Damasus or Jerome, as well as posterity (Macrobius, e.g.), could look to Avianius and Pratextatus not only as very close friends (on Praetextatus as mentor of the young Symmachus, see supra, chapter IV), but also as mutual political supporters. Moreover, Symmachus could be considered Praetextatus’ spiritual heir (Carmen contra paganos, ll. 112–14: Symmachus heres): Lizzi Testa 2004, 412–24. The date and authorship of the anonymous Poem against the pagans, as well as the identity of the Roman aristocrat who is the target of this ferocious invective, have long been debated. About the latter, for almost a century Nicomachus Flavianus was the favourite option, but in 1979 Lellia Cracco Ruggini proposed to identify the victim with Vettius Agorius Praetextatus, later supporting her own proposal (Cracco Ruggini 1998) when a catalogue of lost manuscripts once belonging to the Abby of Lobbes (where the Poem is ascribed to the authorship of Pope Damasus: Damasi episcopi versus de Praetextato praefecto urbis) was found (Dolbeau 1981). See now Cameron 2011, chapter VIII (273–319), where authorship and identity of the attacked senator are confirmed by a thorough examination of the whole text of the Poem as well as of Praetextatus’s epitaph, written on the four sides of the marble base upon which a statue of Praetextatus may have stood (CIL VI.1779). Carmen contra paganos, l. 8: Etruscus ludit semper quos vanus/(or, in the best codices) verus aruspex. Carmen contra paganos, ll. 34–7: Sed fuit in terris nullus sacratior illo/quem Numa Pompilius, e multis primus aruspex/edocuit vano ritu pecudumque cruore/polluere (insanum!) bustis putentibus aras. Carmen contra paganos, ll. 46; 50–3: Sacratus vester urbi quid praestiti, oro? […] Etruscis semper amicus/fundere qui incautis studuit concepta venena/mille nocendi vias, totidem cum quaereret artes. Macr. Sat. 1.7.18–10 (the origins of the festival of the Saturnalia); 1.12–16.37 (the Roman calendar); 1.17–23 (traditional cults and rituals); 1.7.17 (Licet omnes qui adsunt pari doctrina polleant, sacrorum tamen omnium Vettius unice conscius). Macr. Sat. 3.1–9 (on Virgil’s knowledge of pontifical lore); 3.7.2 (on Libri Etruscorum translated by Tarquitius Priscus, and on the different colors that some animals can assume and the meaning that this prodigy has for the future of the emperor and his offspring); 3.20.3 (on the fruits and trees of good or bad omen). When Avianius was city prefect in 364–365, he succeeded in promoting the young members of his family: his son Symmachus became corrector Lucaniae et Brittiorum (365); Avianius Valentinus and Avianius Vindicianus, probably brothers of Symmachus, were consulares Campaniae in successive years between 365 and 367 (Cameron 1999, 484–7, n. 65). Flavian the Elder, possibly the son of the legate Volusius Venustus, started his career as governor of Sicily in 364–365: Symm. Epp. II.44 e 27; cf. PLRE I, Virius Nicomachus Flavianus 15, 347–9.

The Brooms in Bloom 109 140 Caecina Albinus became consularis Numidiae from 364 to 367 (PLRE I, Publilius Ceionius Caecina Albinus 8, 34–5), while his father Volusianus Lampadius (Amm. 27.3.5–9) followed Avianius in the urban prefecture (PLRE I, C. Ceionius Rufius Volusianus signo Lampadius 5, 978–80). For Macrobius (Sat. 1.2.15), Symmachus and Caecina Albinus were cum aetate tum etiam moribus ac studiis inter se coniunctissimi. 141 In 368, when Praetextatus himself was prefect of Rome, Hymetius was proconsul Africae (366–368). From Jerome (Ep. 107.5, éd. Labourt) we know that he was the husband of Praetextata, who is usually considered to be Praetextatus’ sister: PLRE I, Iulius Festus Hymetius, 447, and PLRE I, Praetextata, 721. 142 This group of families expressed full support to Valentinian I still during 368, when Praetextatus was urban prefect, Avianius dedicated a new bridge to Valentinian I, and Symmachus was sent to Trier for the quinquennial celebrations of the emperor (cf. Chapter IV). 143 Symm. Ep. II.27, is considered the second among the dated letters of Symmachus, not long after March 25, 365, when Symmachus received the last constitution as corrector Lucaniae et Brittiorum: Cecconi 2002, 88; 117; 227–31. 144 Hymetius, presumably the brother-in-law of Praetextatus, was accused of embezzlement and magic for having secretly consulted a haruspex after his African proconsulship (Amm. 28.1.17–18). He was not put to death but exiled for treason to Dalmatia. 145 To name but a few with their family membership: Cethegus, Paphius and Cornelius were from the Cornelii Scipiones and the Orfiti; Lollianus was Volusianus Lampadius’ son; Tarracius Bassus and Camenius came from the Ceionii Iuliani; Avienus belonged to the family of the Valerii Messala Corvini; Aginatius was from the Anicii or the Ceionii. Narrative of the trials in Amm. 28.1.16 (Cethegus); 29 (Paphius and Cornelius); 26 (Lollianus); 27 (Tarracius Bassus and Camenius); 48–50 (Avienus); 30–5, and 53–6 (Aginatius); discussion of the topic in Lizzi Testa 2004, 253–315. 146 Ammianus 28.1.41; 44; 45; 53: supra, n. 1. 147 PLRE I, Q. Clodius Hermogenianus Olybrius 3, 640–2. 148 Giardina 1977, 84–6; 91–5; Giardina 1983, 175. 149 Probus’s number of praetorian prefectures and their geographic areas have long been debated: PLRE I, Sex. Claudius Petronius Probus 5, 736–40, is outdated in many respects. A summary of the various hypotheses (up to 2004) can be found in Lizzi Testa 2004, 316–19. New testimonies from the Praetorium of Gortyna and a careful rereading of all the sources of the period made it possible to better reconstruct his career: Porena 2020. 150 For the different hypotheses about the identity of this proconsul, see Giardina 1983; Giardina, Grelle 1983. 151 PLRE I, Olybrius 1, 639, is known only by CTh 12.1.72 (May 5, 370): SchmidtHoffner 2008, 556. 152 PLRE I, Anicius Auchenius Bassus 11, 152–4. His administration in Campania is dated from 379 to 382 by CIL X. 6656 = ILS 5702, from Anzio. 153 Paul. Med. Vita Ambr. 5 gives us the civil career of Ambrose before the bishopric: after finishing his liberal studies in Rome, he exercised advocacy in the court (auditorium) of Sextus Claudius Petronius Probus at Sirmium (between 368/370), who chose him as a member of his consilium. When Ambrose became consularis of Aemiliae et Liguriae, Probus apparently said “Go, and do act not as a judge, but as a bishop” (Paul. Med. Vita Ambr. 8), a sentence that Paulinus judged a sort of omen of his future episcopal election. Satyrus’ career was similar to Ambrose’s civil career: Ambr. De exc. Sat. 49 (nam quid spectatam in stipendiis forensibus eius facundiam loquar? Quam incredibili admiratione in auditorio praefecturae sublimis emicuit?; 58: qualis fuerit in universos provincialium, quibus praefuit studia docent. Cf. PLRE I, Ambrosius 3, 52; Uranius Satyrus, 809. For the


154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162



165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172

The Brooms in Bloom influence of Probus on Ambrose’s election: McLynn 1994, 37; 39–52; 97; Barnes 2002. Leo may have promoted Maximinus PPO Galliarum, having become magister officiorum after Remigius (Amm. 30.2.10). He himself then, in 374, intrigued against Probus, hoping to succeed him as PPO Italiae (Amm. 30.5.10). Or. 5.3: […] mihi autem vere pater patriae videtur, sub quo laudari vir optimus non timet. Est etiam illa securitas temporis tui, quod nemo se apud principem minorem fieri putat, si ipse alterum sibi praeferat. Symm. Ep. X.2.3: Vera 1981, 449. Symm. Or. 4.10–12. Evidence for Avianius’consulship is CIL VI.1698 = ILS 1257, and Symm. Or. 4, 1 (Callu 2009, 28): CLRE, 19. Symm. Or. 4.6: quisquis bonus est, iam designatus est. Renuntiet ceteris artibus, quae spem plerumque frustrantur. Vitam denique subeat consularem. Ad mores rediit honor, quem saepius, ut de ambitu taceam, fata praestabant. Symm. Or. 4.11: alienorum simulatione criminum Maximinus fidem fecit suorum; cf. Ep. X, 2, 2–3. Symm. Ep. I.44 (Salzman, Roberts 2011, 96–7). Symm. Ep. I.49 (Salzman, Roberts 2011, 106–7). The final drafting of Ammianus’ History has been questioned. It seems appropriate to share the opinion of Matthews 1989, 21 and n. 34, who believes that the writer did not change his initial project, and that he wrote the books 27–31 after Adrianople, in the West. The work may have been finished in 390/391 (Kelly 2008, 8, n.17: between late 389 and mid-391), although the possibility remains that its definitive drafting was prior to 393/395. In 389, when Theodosius arrived in Rome, it was not finished yet, but the writer read some parts of it in front of the Court and probably to the emperor himself: Lizzi Testa 2004, p. 37–40. After Gratian’s death (383) and the elimination of Maximus in 388, only the last young son of Valentinian I was still alive, and under Theodosius’ protection. Theodosius was in Rome – for the first time since 357 a ruling emperor visited the Urbs with his whole imperial entourage – from June 13th, 389, and left the city to go to Milan and Aquileia after nearly three months (August 30th), in order to go back to Constantinople, where he was on July 18th, 391: Matthews 1994, 254; 262; Errington 2006, 134–141. He was the victim, according to a glossator of the text of the Chronicon of Jerome, of the factio Maximini.The gloss found in MSS X and C of Jerome’s Chronicon attributes the killing of Theodosius Senior to Maximini factio. To Hier. Chron. ad an. 376 (Theodosius Theodosii postea imperatoris pater et plurimi nobilium occisi), the Codd. LMB added: multorum per orbem bellorum victoriis nobilis in Africa, factione eorum perimitur, qui et ipsi mox caesi sunt: item Maximinus ex praefecto et ceteri: Chron. Min. I (MGH AA t. IX, 1, ed. Mommsen, Berlin 1892), 631. Theodosius Senior had been eliminated, not because he had sided with the presumed conspirators, as Alföldi would have it, but probably because he was the head of one of the factions vying for power behind the throne of the young Gratian: Cameron 1971, 259. Liv. 22.1.8–20; cf. 22.57.1–6: Lepelley 1990–1991, 368. Delmaire 2005, 87, but with a different approach Cameron 2011, 59–75. CTh 16.10.7 (Dec. 21, 381): Delmaire 2005, 434. CTh 16.10.8 (Nov. 30, 382): Delmaire 2005, 436–7. Lib. Or. 30.17. CTh 16.10.9 (May 25, 385): Delmaire 2005, 438–9. CTh 9.16.11 (in Rome, August 16, 389): Delmaire 2009, 154–5. CTh 16.10.10 (Febr. 24, 391) recalled the prohibition of animal sacrifices, and to approach temples or altars meant severe penalties against iudices, consulares, correctores and praesides who went there to perform worship: Delmaire 2005 438–44. In CTh 16, 10, 12 (Nov. 8, 392: Delmaire 2005, 442–7), the emperor is concerned that the animal

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173 174 175


entrails (spirantia exta) were examined to learn the fate of the emperors or anyone else (nihil contra salutem principum aut de salute quaesierit). The influence of Christianity is evident in the choice of expressions, reminiscent of Christian doctrine and liturgical form. On Theodosius I’s legislation against pagan cults, see Errington 2006, 245– 250, who stressed the general climate of opinion within which Christian extremists could act with this new kind of legislation, but also its initial issuing as a semiprivate initiative of Cynegius, and its dubious effectiveness. A survey of the Theodosian anti–pagan laws is Lizzi Testa 2014, 125–129, with previous bibliography. Carmen contra paganos, ll. 34-37: above, n. 34. Ruf. HE 2.33: Cameron 2011, 100–13; Bonamente 2013; Bonamente 2019. Proc. Bell. Goth. 8.21.16–17. Furthermore, Procopius mentions an oracle pronounced around 530, shortly before the battle between the Gothic troops and the Gepids at Salona in Dalmatia (De bello Got. 1.7.6–8), and the prodigy that took place on the mosaic portrait of Theoderic in the square of Naples (De bello Got. 1.24): Pricoco 1998. His victories over the Goths in 552 (battle of Taginae) and versus the Franks and Alamanni in 554 helped to secure Emperor Justinian’s retaking of Italy from the Goths after a 19-year struggle: Alexander 2002, 49–52, and other modern military historians have rated Narses a better general than his rival Belisarius. On Procopius’s view of Narses, Cameron 1985, 203; Kaldellis 2004, 193–6. On Narses’ eunuchism, which ancient and modern historians emphasise, see Stewart 2015.

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Haack, Marie-Laurence 2005. “Haruspices et haruspicina dans l’Histoire Auguste.” In La divination dans le monde étrusco-italique. 9, Les écrivains du IVesiècle: l’“Etrusca disciplina” dans un monde en mutation. Actes de la table ronde tenue à Clermont-Ferrand (17 et 18 septembre 1999), Caesarodunum suppl. 67, 72–86. Tours: Université de Tours, Institut d’études latines. Händel, Paul. 1959. “Prodigium.” In: Real-Encyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft 23, 2, cc. 2283–2296. Heather, Peter, and David Moncur, eds. 2001. Politics, Philosophy, and Empire in the Fourth Century. Select Orations of Themistius. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. Homo, Léon. 20132. Roman Political Institution. London: Routledge. Hunt, David. 2007. “Valentinian and the Bishops: Ammianus 30.9.5 in context.” In Ammianus after Julian. The Reign of Valentinian and Valens in Books 21-31 of the Res Gestae, edited by Jan den Boeft, Jan Willem Drijvers, and Hans C. Teitler, 71–93. LeidenBoston: Brill. Jacques, François, and Bernard Bosquet. 1984. “Le raz de marée du 21 Juillet 365: du cataclysme local à la catastrophe cosmique.” Mélanges de l’École Française de Rome. Antiquité 96: 423–461. Johne, Klaus-Peter, Udo Hartmann, and Thomas Gerhardt, eds. 2008. Die Zeit der Soldatenkaiser. Krise und Transformation des Römischen Reiches im 3. Jahrhundert n. Chr. (235–284), vol. 1. Berlin: Akademie Verlag. Kahlos, Maijastina. 2002. Vettius Agorius Praetextatus. A Senatorial Life in Between. Roma: Institutum Romanum Finlandiae. Kahlos, Maijastina. 2009. Forbearance and Compulsion. The Rhetoric of Religious Tolerance and Intolerance in Late Antiquity. London: Duckworth. Kahlos, Maijastina. 2020. Religious Dissent in Late Antiquity, 350–450. Oxford: Oxford University Press Kaldellis, Anthony. 2004. Procopius of Caesarea: Tyranny, History and Philosophy at the End of Antiquity. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Kelly, Christopher. 2007. “Crossing the Frontiers: Imperial Power in the Last Books of Ammianus”. In Ammianus after Julian. The Reign of Valentinian and Valens in Books 21–31 of the Res Gestae, edited by Jan den Boeft, Jan Willem Drijvers, and Hans C. Teitler, 271–292. Leiden-Boston: Brill. Kelly, Gavin. 2008. Ammianus Marcellinus. The Allusive Historian. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kelly, Gavin. 2013. “The Political Crisis of AD 375-376.” Chiron 43: 357–409. Kovàcs, Péter. ed. 2011. Fontes Pannoniae Antiquae. In aetate Tetrarcharum I (A. D. 285–305). Budapest: Pytheas. Labourt, Jérôme. ed. 1955. Saint Jérôme. Lettres. Tome V. Paris: Les Belles Lettres. Lenski, Noel. 2002. Failure of Empire. Valens and the Roman State in the Fourth Century A.D. Berkeley-Los Angeles-London: University of California Press. Lepelley, Claude. 1990–1991. “Le présage du nouveau désastre de Cannes: la signification du raz de marée du 21 Juillet 365 dans l’immaginaire d’Ammien Marcellin.” In: Cataclismi e calamità naturali: loro incidenza nella vita socio-economica e politica della Sicilia tardoantica (Palermo, 30 nov.–1 dic. 1990).” Kokalos 36–7: 359–374. Liebeschuetz, John Hugo Wolfgang Gideon. 1999. “The Significance of the Speech of Praetextatus.” In Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity, edited by Polymnia Athanassiadi and Michael Frede, 185–205. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

The Brooms in Bloom 115 Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2003. “Un’epistola speciale: il commonitorium.” In Forme letterarie nella produzione latina di IV-V secolo (L’Aquila, 5-6 nov. 2001), edited by Franca Ela Consolino, 53–89. Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2006. “Quando nella curia furono viste fiorire le scope: il senato di Valentiniano I.” In Le trasformazioni delle élites nell’età tardoantica, edited by Rita Lizzi Testa, 239–276. Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2014. “Il terrore delle leggi in difesa dell’insatiabilis honor della Chiesa: la retorica della rappresentazione cristiana dell’Impero.” In Política, religión y legislación en el Imperio Romano (ss. IV y V d. C.). Politica, religione e legislazione nell’Impero romano (IV e V secolo d. C.), edited by MariaVictoria Escribano Paño - Rita Lizzi Testa, 117–138. Bari: Edipuglia. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2016. “Costantino tra fede, economia e politica: privilegi fiscali, costruzioni sacre.” In L’impero costantiniano e i luoghi sacri, edited by Tessa Canella, 147–190. Bologna: Il Mulino. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2021.“Alan Cameron and the Symmachi.” In Late Antique Studies in Memory of Alan Cameron, edited by William V. Harris-Anne Hunnel Chen, 1–10. Leiden-Boston: Brill. Lo Cascio, Elio. 2014. “Il re Teoderico al saione Gesila.” In Cassiodoro. Varie. vol. 2 (Libri III-V), edited by Andrea Giardina, Giovanni Alberto Cecconi, Ignazio Tantillo and Fabrizio Oppedisano, 90–3 (tr.); 328–329 (comm.). Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider. Loschiavo, Luca. 2017. “L’asino che salì al tribunale e ragliò ostinatamente. Il governo di Roma all’epoca di Valentiniano I fra lotte politiche, tradizione giuridica e innovazioni legislative.” Antiquité Tardive 25: 223–234. Marcone, Arnaldo. 1987. Commento al libro IV dell’epistolario di Q. Aurelio Simmaco. Pisa: Giardini Editore. Mastino, Attilio, Pinna Tomasino. 2008. “Negromanzia, divinazione, malefici nel passaggio tra paganesimo e cristianesimo in Sardegna: gli strani amici del preside Flavio Massimino.” In Epigrafia romana in Sardegna. Atti del I Convegno di studio (Sant’Antioco, 14–15 luglio 2007), edited by Francesca Cenerini, Paola Ruggeri & Alberto Gavini, 41–83. Roma: Carocci editore. Matthews, John. F. 1989. The Roman Empire of Ammianus Marcellinus. London: Duckworth. Matthews, John. F.. 1994. “The Origin of Ammnianus.” Classical Quarterly n.s. 44: 252–269. McLynn, Neil. 1994. Ambrose of Milan. Church and Court in a Christian Capital. Berkeley-Los Angeles-London: University of California Press. McLynn, Neil. 1996. “The Fourth-Century Taurobolium.” Phoenix 50 (3–4): 312–330. Meslin, Michel. 1974. “Le merveilleux comme langage politique chez Ammien Marcellin.” In Mélanges d’histoire ancienne offerts a William Seston, 353–363. Paris: E. de Boccard. Montero, Santiago. 1991. Política y adivinación en el Bajo Imperio Romano: emperadores y harúspices (193 d. C – 408 d. C.). (Coll. Latomus 211). Bruxelles: Latomus. Revue d’études latines. Montero, Santiago. 2017. La escoba y el barrido ritual en la Religion Romana. MadridSalamanque: Signifer libros. Moser, Muriel. 2018. Emperor and Senators in the Reign of Constantius II. Maintaining Imperial Rule between Rome and Constantinople in the Fourth Century AD. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Nieddu, Giuseppe. 1986. “Il portico degli Dei Consenti.” Bollettino d’Arte 71 (37-38): 37–52.


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Oppedisano, Fabrizio. 2019. “Senato e cariche pubbliche nelle Res Gestae di Ammiano Marcellino.” In Aspetti di Tarda Antichità. Storici, storia e documenti del IV secolo d.C, edited by Tommaso Gnoli, 213–226. Bologna: Pàtron. Paschoud, François, ed. 1979. Zosime. Histoire Nouvelle. II, 2 (livre IV). Paris: Les Belles Lettres. Pergami, Federico. 1993. La legislazione di Valentiniano e Valente (364–375) (Materiali per una palingenesi delle costituzioni tardo-imperiali s. II, 4). Milano: Giuffré Editore. Platner, Samuel Ball and Thomas Ashby. 1929. Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Porena, Pierfrancesco. 2003. Le origini della prefettura del pretorio tardoantica. Roma: L’Erma di Bretscheider. Porena, Pierfrancesco. 2020. “Le iscrizioni del Pretorio di Gortina e la carriera prefettizia di Sex. Petronius Probus.” In Senatori romani nel Pretorio di Gortyna. Le statue di Asclepiodotus e la politica di Graziano dopo Adrianopoli, edited by Francesca Bigi, Ignazio Tantillo, 87–141. Pisa: Edizioni della Normale. Pricoco, Salvatore. 1998. “Due profezie sibilline nella guerra gotica di Procopio di Cesarea.” In Sibille e linguaggi oracolari. Mito Storia Tradizione. Atti del Convegno (MacerataNorcia, sett. 1994), edited by Colombo Chirassi, and Tullio Seppilli, 555–567. Macerata: Università degli studi di Macerata. Rawson, Elizabeth. 1978. “Caesar, Etruria and the Disciplina Etrusca.” Journal of Roman Studies 68: 132–152. Rawson, Elizabeth. 1985. Intellectual Life in the Late Roman Republic. London: Duckworth. Rike, R.L. 1987. Apex Omnium: Religion in the Res Gestae of Ammianus. Berkeley-Los Angeles-London: University of California Press. Rolfe, John C., ed. 1958. Ammianus Marcellinus. III. London-Cambridge Ma: William Heinemann LTD.-Harvard University Press. Ross, Alan J. 2016. Ammianus’Julian: Narrative and Genre in the Res Gestae. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sabbah, Guy. 1970. Ammien Marcellin. Histoire, vol. 2 (livres XVII-XIX). Paris: Le Belles Lettres. Salzman, Michele R. 1987. “Superstitio in the Codex Theodosianus and the Persecution of Pagans.” Vigiliae Christianae 41 (2): 172–188. Salzman, Michele R., and Michael Roberts, eds. 2011. The Letters of Symmachus: Book 1. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. Scardigli, Barbara. 2011. “Prodigi in Ammiano Marcellino.” In Scritti di storia per Mario Pani, edited by ilvana Cagnazzi, Marcella Chelotti and Andrea Favuzzi, 441–454. Bari: Edipuglia. Schmidt-Hofner, Sebastian. 2008. “Die Regesten der Kaiser Valentinian und Valens in den Jahren 364 bis 375 n. Chr.” ZRG 125: 498–602. Seeck, Otto. 1919. Regesten der Kaiser und Päpste für die Jahre 311 bis 476 n. Chr. Vorarbeit zu einer Prosopographie der christlichen Kaiserzeit, 2 vols. Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler. Sordi, Marta, ed. 1989. Fenomeni naturali e avvenimenti storici nell’antichità. (CISA, XV). Milano: Editrice Vita e Pensiero. Stewart, Michael Edward. 2015. “The Andreios Eunuch-Commander Narses: Sign of a Decoupling of Martial Virtues and Masculinity in the Early Byzantine Empire?” Cerae 2: 1–25. Thomsen, Rudi. 1947. The Italic Regions from Augustus to the Lombard Invasion. Kobenhavn: Gyldendal.

The Brooms in Bloom 117 Thulin, Carl Olof. 1905-1909. Die Etruskische Disciplin. Darmstadt: W. Zachrissons boktryckeri a.-b repr. 1968). Thulin, Carl Olof. 1922. “Haruspex.” In Dizionario Epigrafico d’Antichità Romane, vol. 3, 650–652. Roma: L. Pasqualucci Editore. Tommasi, Chiara Ombretta. 2015. “Teo-teologia in Sidonio Apollinare: tra modulo encomiastico e provvidenzialità dell’impero.” In Poesia e teologia nella produzione latina dei secoli IV-V. Atti della X Giornata Ghisleriana di Filologia classica (Pavia, 16 maggio 2013), edited by Fabio Guasti, and Michele Cutino, 73–105. Pavia: Pavia University Press. Torelli, Mario. 1969. “Senatori etruschi della tarda repubblica e dell’impero.” Dialoghi di Archeologia 3: 285–363. Torelli, Mario. 1975. Elogia Tarquinensia. Firenze: Sansoni. Van Nuffelen, Peter. 2014. “Not the Last Pagan: Libanius between Elite Rhetoric and Religion”. In Libanius: A Critical Introduction, edited by Lieve Van Hoof, 293–314. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Vera, Domenico. 1981. Commento storico alle Relationes di Quinto Aurelio Simmaco. Pisa: Giardini Editore. Vermaseren, Maarten J. 1977. Corpus Cultus Cybelae Attidisque. III. Italia-Latium. Leiden: Brill Vigourt, Annie. 2001. Les présages impériaux d’Auguste à Domitien. Paris: Éditions de Boccard. Von Domaszewski, Alfred. 1895. “Die Religion des römisches Heeres.” Westdeutsche Zeitschrift für Geschichte und Kunst 14: 1–123. Waldstein, Wolfgang. 1964. Untersuchungen zur römischen Begnadigungsrecht: abolitio, Indulgentia, venia. Innsbruck: Universitätsverlag Wagner. Watts, Edward. 2015a. The Final Pagan Generation (Transformation of the Classical Heritage, 53). Berkeley: University of California Press. Watts, Edward. 2015b. “Christianization”. In Late Ancient Knowing: Explorations in Intellectual History, edited by Catherine M. Chin and Moulie Vidas, 197–217. Berkeley: University of California Press Wissowa, Georg. 19122. Religion und Kultus der Römer. München: Beck. Wood, J.R. 1980. “The myth of Tages.” Latomus 39: 325–344.


Ammianus, Phrynichus and Ancient Historians’ Self-Censorship

Introduction Although many scholars have long been concerned with the Res Gestae of Ammianus Marcellinus, partly with the intention of better understanding its author’s human and intellectual personality, both the author and the work remain enigmatic in many ways.1 One of the many eccentricities, for example, is that he is the only ancient author who offers a detailed account of those Roman trials for magic and adultery mentioned already in the previous chapter. The other contemporary sources contain nothing but allusions.2 In Ammianus, this narrative is contained in the beginning of Book 28, while the magic and treason trials in Antioch occupy the first part of Book 29.3 The arrangement of this material is symmetrical, with roughly equal space reserved for the two stories. Nevertheless, only the Roman trials have a prologue. Ammianus frequently used a sort of preface before the longest digressions to justify the interruption of the narrative with preliminary remarks.4 The prologue before the Roman trials, however, is different. It recalls the main prefaces in Books 15 and 26,5 since it is rhetorically structured and gives suggestions on how to interpret the following events. In particular, Ammianus introduces his subject with hesitancy and tells us that, “despite the favorable times” (tamen praesentis temporis modestia fretus), he could not write in complete freedom of spirit. We should ask why he wanted be so careful in describing the trials – once he had decided to narrate them – and what consequences his caution had for the accuracy of his account. In this chapter, therefore, we will not examine the events that took place in the Urbs during the reign of Valentinian I and their epilogue under the emperor Gratian, but will mention them only in relation to the content of the prologue. I do not believe that the author’s thoughts in this Preface have such broad significance as to involve the entire project of the Res Gestae, as has been said,6 but this does not make it any less important. In fact, it makes it possible to reconstruct not so much the Roman milieu in which Ammianus was placed – which Alan Cameron and Arnaldo Momigliano doubted could be done satisfactorily7 – but rather the aspirations and expectations that the arrival in Rome of the new emperor Theodosius I may have aroused in a historian like Ammianus. He had also DOI: 10.4324/b22863-6

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arrived in the Urbs almost at the same time as the emperor, and his literal loneliness could just “act as a metaphor for his loneliness in the field of history”.8

Phrynichus’s Case Comparing the prologue to the Roman trials with the opening of Book 26 is useful insofar as they are different. In both prefaces, Ammianus explains that his fear of dealing with the events that he is about to describe would drive him to recoil from them. The words used to make clear that the subject was of extreme delicacy are similar: the “dangers that are often coming with truth” (pericula veritati saepe contigua) frightened the historian.9 The analogy, however, is apparent. In the prologue of Book 26, the dangers that made it difficult to continue the narrative were due to the fact that what had happened during the reign of Emperors Valentinian I and Valens was known to the readers, the majority of whom were younger than Ammianus, and they might have known more details than himself.10 The “dangers that are often coming with truth” were those that prejudiced the truth when dealing with well-known recent events, of which it was difficult to speak with real objectivity. It was a problem of the relationship between history and daily news. In fact, at the same time Ammianus emphasized that the fundamental principles of history did not allow the narrative to be exhausted within the limits of pure news reporting.11 The role of the writer of history as a contemporary historian was to select the most important facts and interpret them. The references to this criterion, which are almost absent in the first part of the work, increase (not by chance) from Book 26.12 I do not believe that this can be explained as fruit of an aristocratic prejudice, by which Ammianus disdained to take into account events that did not involve individuals of noble origin. It was rather, or primarily, an intellectual criterion, through which he could choose only events worthy of mention, while omitting others.13 In the prologue to Book 28, Ammianus develops different ideas. He would have been tempted to omit the account of the Roman trials for their mournful developments:14 the charm of evil could spur the readers on to imitation.15 Other motivations and the decision to narrate those events wisely came from Tacitus. Tacitus, considering the effects of his Annales on readers, concluded that the uninterrupted litany “of cruel orders, perpetual accusations, false friendships, ruined innocents, and never changing causes of slaughter”, albeit devoid of pleasure, could however be instructive.16 Further, it was necessary to describe them, even though many of the descendants of those who had suffered punishment or ignominy in the reign of Tiberius could have made life difficult for the historian.17 Another reason to fear came from what happened to a Greek author in the distant past. The short digression on Phrynichus does confirm that Ammianus’s feelings were similar to those expressed by Tacitus. According to Herodotus’s account, Phrynichus was an Athenian tragedian, who staged his


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play “The Capture of Miletos” shortly after (paulo postea) the Persians had attacked and captured the city, during the Ionian Revolt of 499–4 BC. At first favorably impressed by the play, the Athenians suddenly changed opinion. They punished Phrynichus with a fine of a thousand drachmas and prohibited him from continuing to stage his tragedy.18 Insisting on the tragic aspects of that event, he seemed not so much to have consoled the Athenians for the pain endured by the Milesians, as to have blamed them for not having done enough for them.19 The comparison with the story of Phrynichus is not generic, as it has appeared to some scholars.20 It seems to me that Ammianus implies a precise analogy between himself and the Athenian tragedian. Since Phrynichus’s play was chosen one or two years after the city of Miletus had been conquered and its people mostly killed or sold into slavery,21 he was the first to stage a subject of contemporary history. His case was also the first instance of public censure in the Greek world. The story then served to clarify that Ammianus, like Phrynichus, was about to insert so many delicate contemporary arguments as to risk a similar punishment into his work. Since not only descendants, as Tacitus said, but also many people implicated in the Roman trials were still alive when he was writing, he needed “to narrate those events wisely, and with some omissions (carptim ut quaeque memoria digna sunt explanabo)”. If he had not been able to deal with them properly, his words would have sounded like a rebuke to the citizens of Rome and he would have risked suffering the same fate as Phrynichus. Let us try to see if this hypothesis is supported by the narrative. If so, the considerations in the prologue to Book 28 should guide those who study the causes, methods and consequences of the Roman trials. The author indirectly affirms that he chose to temper his account with self-censorship, thus avoiding the same fate as Phrynichus. This means that Ammianus warned the reader that his report could conceal part of the truth.

The Inconsistencies of Ammianus’s Narrative Ammianus’s warning is borne out by the account, which has some evident inconsistencies. In a literary text, they are rarely accidental. The uncertainty of the chronology of the start of the trials is an obvious example. To be consistent with the general interpretation suggested in the following tale, he first says that they began when the urban prefect Olybrius entrusted a case of poisoning, brought by a former vicarius named Chilo and his wife, Maxima, to the praefectus annonae, Maximinus.22 The year, therefore, was 369–70.23 In the prologue to Book 28, however, Ammianus dates the troubles to “the sixteenth year and more after the destruction of Nepotianus” (anno sexto decimo et eo diutius post Nepotiani exitium), thus meaning that they began in 365 or 366 and continued thereafter.24 We wonder whether this different chronology does not lead to a different reconstruction of the events. Indeed, the urban revolts against Volusianus Lampadius and Avianius Symmachus, or even the struggles

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between Damasus and Ursinus, during the years 365–69, showed the Roman aristocrats fighting for control of the city.25 In this sense, the trials presided over by Maximinus may have been a mere tool in the battle for political preeminence between aristocratic families. Actually, Maximinus started to judge the first cases of poisoning in 369, while the situation of political turbulence had lasted since at least the second year of the reign of Valentinian I (365/366). And his arrival coincided with the urban prefecture of Olybrius, when the powerful Sextus Claudius Petronius Probus influenced the most important appointments in the administration of the Western empire.26 Another passage of the prologue of Book 28 seems to confirm that Ammianus, while he attributed responsibility for the trials to the emperor and his Pannonian officials, suggested also a different explanation, involving the struggles between aristocratic clans. At the beginning of the prologue, the new period that he was introducing is compared with the grueling battles between Magnentius and Nepotianus, because those judicial prosecutions renewed woeful massacres, just like27 the treachery of the king of the Parthians reopened war scenarios in the East. Magnentius was a general who proclaimed himself emperor in Gaul during the reign of Constantius II. Iulius Nepotianus, son of Eutropia, the sister of Constantine I, proclaimed himself emperor28 apparently to hinder Magnentius.29 Many gladiators supported his coup de main,30 and it is well known that they were mainly clients of the Roman nobles, along with charioteers, actors, mimes, choristers, and dancers.31 Nepotianus entered Rome, eliminating the prefect praetorian Anicetus after violent clashes outside the city walls,32 and during that month (from June 3–30, 350) his partisans showed no pity the supporters of Magnentius.33 Similarly, in the aftermath of defeat, the magister officiorum of Magnentius, Marcellinus, spared no executions, proscriptions, and confiscations for his adversaries.34 During these fights, as in the period of the trials, many senators resolved to flee the city and live in hiding in order to avoid prosecution. Such a massacre, which decimated the aristocracy, could be attributed to the cruelty of the two usurpers, which ancient authors usually did.35 Yet, neither Magnentius nor Nepotianus would have had the slightest chance to take action in Rome, had various aristocratic clans not supported them. A certain degree of risk, which was not particularly high, since the victors were usually lenient with compromised senators, was outweighed by the possibility of lavish political rewards. And the new Constantinian aristocracy was very much concerned with attaining the highest honours in the imperial service. The partisans of Constantine’s son and legitimate emperor, Constantius II, were all related to each other and to the Constantinians. Volcacius Rufinus and his brother, Naeratius Cerealis, were brothers of Galla, wife of Iulius Constantius and mother of the Caesar Gallus.36 Valerius Maximus was the son of another one of their sisters.37 They were already far from Rome before the battle of Mursa and thus managed to escape the repression of the usurper. Memmius Vitrasius Orfitus took an active part in the military operations in 352 in support of Constantius, and perhaps as his ambassador to the Senate.38 An


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inscription on a glass bowl celebrates the marriage between Orfitus and Constantia in the name of Hercules. If the latter was the daughter of a sister of Constantine, and Orfitus was the noble who became proconsul Africae after the victory against the usurper, he too had a family connection with the Costantinians.39 Although the still-young Caesar Julian emphasized the loyalty of the Senate to his uncle as the legitimate emperor, many aristocrats chose to side with the usurper Magnentius.40 One of these was Fabius Titianus, who was sent as envoy of the Gallic usurper to Constantius II in 351 before the battle of Mursa, to suggest that the emperor abdicate. During the interview with Constantius II he accused Constantine and his sons of allowing the destruction of cities by their negligence, but he was allowed to return safely to Magnentius.41 Titianus’s daughter had been married to Lucius Aurelius Avianius Symmachus.42 We do not know which side this latter took in 350. After the political error he had made in the past, when Constantine II had invaded Italy,43 he probably decided to remain on the sidelines. Certainly aligned with Magnentius, however, was Aurelius Celsinus, who for the second time (the first had been in 341) succeeded Fabius Titianus as urban prefect of the usurper in 351 (from March 1 to May 12). Celsinus and Titianus may have been relatives, and both were related to Avianius Symmachus after his wedding with Fabius Titianus’s daughter, since one of the latter’s sons was called Celsinus Titianus. Indirectly, they were linked also to Clodius Celsinus Adelphius (husband of the poetess Proba), who was urban prefect of Magnentius in the last part of 351 (from 7 June to 18 December), immediately after Aurelius Celsinus.44 In turn, Clodius Celsinus Adelphius passed the baton to Aradius Proculus Populonius, member of the gens Aradia, whom Avianius Symmachus would go on to praise in his epigrams.45 In conclusion, political opportunities, friendships, personal enmities, and possible family relationships with the Constantinians drove Roman aristocrats to opposing factions. And such contrasts sometimes resulted in actual bloodshed. Not without reason, Ammianus seemed to believe that in Rome during the reign of Constantius II clashes between the nobles were the real cause of the degeneration of political life. From Herodotus’s tale on Phrynichus’s tragedy, or from other Greek sources unknown to us, Ammianus also inferred that in Athens, immediately after the Ionian revolt and the sack of Miletus, political coalitions with different ideas had faced each other, in a scenario similar to the situation at Rome. While some scholars do not believe that contrasts between different groups either for or against the Persians dominated Athenian life by the year 490 BC,46 the prosopographic data from the ostraka seem to offer considerable evidence in this direction.47 In 493/92 BC the Athenians expressed various reactions to the exemplary punishment that the Persians had inflicted in Miletus, and changed opinion even while Phrynichus staged his tragedy. Evidently, different positions towards the Persians already faced off. The decree of censorship levied against the Capture of Miletos after its performance was probably wanted by the isolationist faction, which was philo-Persian and

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anti-Themistoclean. However, reading Herodotus’s tale, Ammianus believed that the fate of Phrynichus could be explained as a consequence of his excessive involvement with one of the opposing political coteries and his inability to censor himself in talking about contemporary events that were still extremely painful for those who then attended the performance. For Ammianus himself, “despite the favorable times”, it would have been of little benefit to describe contemporary events, naming those who were primarily responsible for Valentinian I’s trials. The analogy between himself and Phrynichus was surely not generic. Ammianus quoted Phrynichus’s punishment to explain to his audience how he decided to narrate the Roman trials. Much would be left unsaid because of the risk of incurring severe public censure. He would not, however, have written such a prologue if he had not wondered whether political caution could distort the historical narrative, and how an historian could remain honest while avoiding untrue statements. It does seem that the way he chose was to keep quiet about part of the truth. The question that Ammianus raised in the prologue of Book 28 was one of self-censorship.

Ancient Historians and Self-Censorship Ancient historians needed to self-censor more often than it might seem. In a society where high culture was a privilege of the few, it would have been recommended that public communication be filtered by selecting the limited knowledge that it was appropriate to reveal to all. According to the allegorical interpretation of the expulsion from Eden, or the legend of Faust, selfcensorship was regarded as not only legitimate, but also desirable, since the writer showed the ability to choose what was best not to scrutinize or not know.49 “Apollo sings and dances with the Muses, said Synesius, but then withdraws to sing the secret song”. To make all listeners “indiscreet researchers of the arcane” was considered a form of petty demagoguery, so dangerous in itself as to alter the basic rules of living in a civilized community.50 Moreover, both the circulation of an historical work, and its impact in certain political circles, determined the need for and level of self-censorship, especially if the narrative extended to almost contemporary events. Authors usually wrote according to the interest of the current emperors, whom they rarely defied. Even Labienus, an intellectual of the equestrian order so unscrupulous and violent in his libelli that he was nicknamed Rabienus, when preparing to read his historical work, decided to omit some passages during a recitation, opting for self-censorship, as “the parts that I’m skipping can be read after my death”.51 In this case, his prudence was useless, because the Roman Senate ordered his writings burned (and probably his historical writings, not only the libelli) in 12 AD, while he let himself die in pain in the tomb of his ancestors.52 And perhaps Tacitus, even if he explicitly quotes only Cassius Severus’s fierce pamphlets, also had Labienus’s contemporary speeches in mind, since he remembered that Augustus first, with a specious application of the law of high treason, had put the famosi libelli on trial as defamatory.53


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According to Tacitus, Augustus acted to silence the intemperance of Cassius Severus, who had memorized Labienus’s writings and, after his death, declared that in order to destroy Labienus’s work they would have had to burn him too. The Senate exiled him to Crete, probably in the same year (12 AD) in which Labienus’s works were burnt.54 When Augustus extended crimes of lese-majesty “from facts to words”, historians became circumspect. In 25 AD, under Tiberius, Aulus Cremutius Cordus was put on trial for crimes of opinion, for what he had written in his work.55 But when a reading of it was done in front of Augustus, it had not caused any scandal.56 It is plausible that at the time he too, like Labienus, had applied some form of self-censorship to his text, removing some parts, or better avoiding reading those passages in which he praised Julius Caesar’s killers, in particular defining Cassius as “the final man worthy of the name of Roman”. The circulation of his books probably unleashed the accusation.57 As has been suggested, Aulus Cremutius Cordus’s trial seemed new and unprecedented just because, for the first time, not only the outrage against the emperor and the women of the royal family, but also the indirect insult against Julius Caesar had been considered a crime of high treason. Julius Caesar was evidently inserted into the dynastic line of the prince as a progenitor.58 The extension of the crime of high treason, however, was not the work of Tiberius, but of the last years of Augustus. For instance, Livy published his Book 121 (according to its periocha) only after the death of the princeps. Not by chance, that was the book in which Livy discussed Brutus and Cassius and their government in the eastern provinces when they prepared to face the triumvirs at Philippi. Both Aulus Cremutius Cordus and Livy considered reading these parts of their works in front of Augustus dangerous, and avoided exposure.59 Horace suggested that Asinius Pollio did not write a history of the civil wars, as that project was inappropriate.60 The endless phase of civil wars, from 44 BC to Actium, soon became a taboo subject for common talk and was subject to much self-censorship. Discussing such matters in a historical work seemed risky even to members of the imperial house. Ammianus certainly knew the anecdote that Suetonius narrated about Emperor Claudius: he agreed to begin his historical work from the rise of Augustus, rather than the assassination of Julius Caesar, after his mother and grandmother had convinced him of how dangerous his project was.61 Other historical periods also suffered similar censorship. Pliny recalled the advice he gave discreetly to a “certain author”, who was giving public readings of his work, to modify or omit episodes in which living people had taken part, because many would be ashamed to listen to the vile actions that they had not been ashamed to commit. Syme thought that Tacitus was Pliny’s “certain author”. Pliny would have explained to this author that, during a public reading, it would have been embarrassing to listen to the atrocities committed in the final years of Domitian when perhaps sitting right next to those responsible for the wrongdoings. Apparently that author, while refusing to remove the piece from the text, consented, however, to not reading it.62

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Public Readings, Books Publishing, and Political “Propaganda” Self-censorship soon acted as a socio-cultural brake and as a political obstacle, with the result that we do not know other episodes such as those of the JulioClaudian period. Together with the self-censorship that many authors spontaneously practiced, another factor reduced imperial repression: the particular system of circulation of culture, which remained quite different from that of modern society. Although the total volume of distribution of texts could vary greatly through the centuries, the circulation of some major prose works remained within modest limits.63 The harshest forms of censorship, therefore, were only triggered when a work was presented to the emperor and his court.64 Oral communication as a way of spreading texts, including nontheatrical writing, became increasingly important from the time of Augustus. It never represented, however, the final form in which literary compositions were released. Recitations were mostly designed as a preview of parts of the texts, which later could be published as a few written copies. The reading of literary texts, rather than decreasing, actually increased in proportion to the growth of the book market. In the decades after Augustus, the recitatio ended up favoring compositions in verse, thus transforming itself into a veritable theatrical performance.65 Nevertheless, as there is no evidence that vast poems were read in their entirety, so we cannot be sure that the great prose works were progressively excluded from this type of cultural dissemination. As for historical works in particular, we should believe that, when extracts were read in public, it was because the emperor wanted it. Under such conditions, we wonder how boundaries could be traced between selfcensorship practiced out of caution on the one hand, and on the other the omission of certain aspects of a story in order to create consensus around the prince that we could call “propaganda”. Despite the complexities that the use of this modern term can raise, it is difficult to deny its operational effectiveness.66 Not to publish, as long as Augustus lived, a different version of the civil wars from that favoured by the prince meant allowing his version to assert itself as the only official record. The consequences were experienced under Tiberius, when discordant voices, perhaps naively confident that times had changed and they could more freely circulate hidden books (set manserunt, occultati et editi), were violently silenced.67 Both these elements of the relationship between self-censorship and “propaganda” are well illustrated by the story of Aurelius Victor, who was working at nearly the same time as Ammianus. His Caesares were certainly inspired by Constantius II, but when they were completed, between 359 and 360, the political situation suddenly became very confusing. In February 360, the army ruled in favour of Julian, acclaiming him Augustus in Paris. Nevertheless, only in November was he ready for open revolt, appearing in public with his head crowned by a diadem. Aurelius Victor decided to be prudent. In reading his work in Sirmium in October 361, when Caesar Julian was ready to attack


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Constantius II, who was moving from Antioch to Constantinople, he removed the original dedication to the latter, and quickly made other little changes to avoid compromising himself in such unclear circumstances. Such opportune self-censorship earned him a bronze statue in Trajan’s forum and the governorship of Pannonia Secunda, with the title of consularis.68 Ammianus tells the tale of the extraordinary fate that befell this man, who “was born to an uneducated father of humble origins”, and reached consular rank “thanks to his noble studies”.69 Similar experiences, even in a world where greater social mobility had apparently developed, were to remain the exception. They demonstrate how important it was to grasp these opportune and unrepeatable moments that direct confrontation with imperial authority could offer an unknown writer. I suspect that Ammianus would not have added Phrynichus’ story in his prologue to the Roman trials had he not hoped he would be able to read parts of his text in public, and had he not feared that he would not be able to continue his readings in the presence of a hostile emperor, worried members of the court and alarmed Roman aristocrats, all present at that “worldly occasion”.70 A historical work, given the relative rarity with which readings of prose works were presented, was not a theatrical drama, and just the possibility of a public reading could suggest a comparison between the Capture of Miletus and a part of his work. Ammianus, moreover, probably knew that the censorship imposed on Phrynichus had not only prohibited possible replicas of the tragedy but also its larger use in different contexts. Scholars of the Athenian society of the fifth century BC now offer interesting evidence.71 It would seem that, at least until 387 BC, every play in Athens was given a single performance, meaning that the decree against the Capture of Miletos was perhaps intended to prevent the play from being used in different forms.72 Actually, in addition to the theatre, the plays could also be performed on other occasions, since the verb χρᾶσθαι, which Herodotus uses, had a more general meaning.73 During the symposium, for example, special parts (monodies, chorales, and rheseis) of dramatic compositions, which were very successful with the public, were sung and recited.74 Dramatic texts in Athens in the fifth century BC could therefore circulate in various forms. One can easily imagine what political implications the private recital of parts of the Phrynichus’s tragedy would have had in terms of “propaganda” in favour of Themistocles and his allies. It is also clearer why a decree of censorship was issued against it. The comparison that Ammianus establishes between the fate of Phrynichus and that which might have befallen him is further proof of this interesting aspect of Athenian cultural and political life. It also shows that the late antique historian imagined ancient Greek symposia as no different from the exclusive auditoria of late fourth-century Rome, where public readings of works in poetry and prose were held. The presence of Emperor Theodosius in Rome, while Ammianus lived there, made the analogy between apparently very different socio-cultural and political situations stronger.

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Ammianus’s Public Readings in Rome, and His Self-Censorship Very few ancient testimonies on Ammianus and his Rerum Gestarum libri remain.75 Of these, Libanius’s Ep. 1063 (Förster) has significant information, describing Markéllinos as a writer from Antioch, whose work enjoyed fame with the Roman public at the time.76 Some years ago, there was a move towards a different interpretation of this passage. It was argued that the addressee of Libanius’s letter was not the historian, but a young orator from Antioch who dedicated himself to providing public epidéxeis in Greek of his own speeches.77 Following Fornara, however, various scholars have agreed to recognise this letter as a source of information about the origin of Ammianus (the historian) from Antioch, his relationship with Libanius, and his activities in Rome in that period.78 In fact, even regardless of the data provided by this letter, there is enough evidence that Ammianus was resident at Antioch during his youth, and completed his Res Gestae in Rome.79 Nor is it entirely true that “excluding this letter, we would not otherwise know that Ammianus gave public readings”. As we have just shown above, reading parts of one’s own work, whether in prose or poetry, was customary as the first form of publication of the same throughout antiquity; the Res Gestae characterises itself both as text and as speech;80 in the prologue to Book 28, Ammianus compares himself, a historian, with Phrynichus, a tragedian, implying a kind of staging of at least that part of his work that the prologue introduces (i.e. the narration of the Roman trials). I still believe, therefore, that Libanius’s letter to Markéllinos was addressed to the author of Res Gestae, and that it is legitimate to draw details from that text. First is the period when Ammianus decided to give public readings of some parts of the Res Gestae in Rome. Since the letter was written in 392, the lectures, of which men returning to Antioch from Rome informed Libanius, would have taken place not actually that year, but earlier. And if we accept the idea that a member of Theodosius’s court, back in Constantinople on June 18, 391, informed Libanius of his compatriot’s fame in Rome,81 Ammianus’s readings could be ascribed to the emperor’s official visit to Rome in June 389, and thus dated either to that year or the next, when the court was in constant and close contact with Rome.82 In around 389/90, the historian was giving public readings of parts of his work in Rome. Those lectures were destined to continue. As Libanius was certain that Markéllinos would have given further readings, also urging him on in this sense, the letter has been taken as evidence of the composition of Ammianus’ work in two parts, supposing that only the books up to 25 had been prepared by that time.83 But, the readings in the presence of Emperor Theodosius definitely concerned the sections that would have been of most interest to the emperor. I would suggest that even Books 28 and 29 were almost completely ready in 389/390, and that Ammianus did his best to make his work interesting for Theodosius.


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In 389, that emperor had just appointed the historian Aurelius Victor urban prefect, the first after the elimination of the usurper Maximus.84 Ammianus understood that it would be convenient not to alienate an emperor who wanted to learn the deeds of Roman ancestors,85 who appeared to appreciate the dedication of historical works and who, in general, kept an eye on contemporary intellectual production with almost the same political-cultural curiosity that Augustus once had. Nicomachus Flavianus Sr. dedicated his Annales to Emperor Theodosius by express wish of the emperor, and we can imagine that he also gave a public reading of excerpts of them at the court, since that was the first form of “publication” of a work.86 Unlike the first princeps, however, the Spanish emperor did not need to hold treason trials for crimes of opinion. Those who still produced culture within senatorial circles, or among intellectuals from the provinces, were happy to lend their support to Emperor Theodosius. Hailed as the conqueror of the tyrant Maximus, for the moment he was the only politically stable point of reference for most of the Western aristocracy, as well as for the young Valentinian II and his mother Justina.87 From the “the sphragis and closure of the Res Gestae”, it is clear that as a historian, Ammianus knew that he could not address the rule of a reigning emperor: Haec ut miles quondam et Graecus, a principatu Caesaris Nervae exorsus, ad usque Valentis interitum, pro virium explicavi mensura: opus veritatem professum numquam (ut arbitror) sciens silentio ausus corrumpere, vel mendacio. Scribant reliqua potiores, aetate et doctrinis florentes. Quod id (si libuerit) aggressuros, procudere linguas ad maiores moneo stilos.88 The deeds of Theodosius could have been treated by younger authors and only in the form of a panegyric.89 This reference could be ironic, or could rather express sad awareness of the difficulty of dealing truthfully with the facts of a princeps, as from the age of Augustus onwards.90 But, in itself, the final sentence alludes to the tradition that historians should leave the ruling emperor to panegyrists. And the suggestion that the present reign deserved to be related in panegyrical form did not necessarily imply opposition to the regime. On the contrary, it could rather be taken as praise for the greatness of the facts to be narrated, at least formally. However, several passages of the Res Gestae express disconcertment with the Gothic policy implemented by Theodosius. In particular, two stories covering events subsequent to Valens’s death could be considered as “attempts at an ending”, and seem to leave open the question of whether Ammianus was optimistic about the future and agreed with the official line expressed by Themistius and Pacatus on the peace of 382, or whether vice versa he had a negative view and therefore a political criticism of the regime.91 This is not the place to explore this issue. As a former soldier and a Greek, Ammianus may have changed his mind after finishing Book 28, becoming disillusioned, while writing the last book of the Res Gestae, with an emperor who in 388/389 had seemed (and not only to him) to give ample hope.92

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Returning to the narrative on the Roman trials and its prologue, we believe that Ammianus worked quickly when he knew that Emperor Theodosius was to visit Rome. He decided to not expand the passages in which he narrated the campaigns of the emperor’s father, Count Theodosius, in Britain and Africa,93 since his work would have been closer to true panegyric. But, Theodosius, the men of his court, and most of the senators, who would be present at the reading, would have appreciated his emphasis on the crimes of Maximinus through a long narrative of the Roman trials and the promised description of the well-deserved end of that official.94 According to Thompson, Ammianus exaggerated the crimes of Maximinus because, in suppressing a conspiracy of the Anicii and Ceionii against Valentinian I, he had also tried and put to death the father of Emperor Theodosius as their accomplice. Alföldi accepted and clarified this hypothesis.95 Their theory has long seemed unacceptable, because Ammianus says that the young scions of the Roman aristocracy were tried also for private crimes, in particular adultery, fornication, and poisoning, and not as members of a political plot.96 Furthermore, the alleged alliance between a Hispano-Gallic group of officials at the Court of Valentinian I and members of the Roman Senate appears to be unfounded.97 According to Matthews, no preordained political design would have been behind the so-called persecution of the senatorial nobility during the trials, but merely the desire of Valentinian I to curb rampant immorality within the aristocracy, which turned out to have unexpected effects.98 Nevertheless, such a profusion of trials speaks to conflicts both between the emperor and some aristocratic groups, and different Roman families aspiring to the most important offices in the government of the city. They cannot be explained without returning to political categories.99 In fact, it cannot be ruled out that the Pannonian Maximinus was responsible for the elimination of the father of Emperor Theodosius, even if there was no connection between the Roman trials and the death of Theodosius the Elder. A note in two manuscripts of the Chronicon of Jerome attributed his killing to the factio of Maximinus.100 Cameron thought that he was executed on charges of treason in the months between late 375 and early 376, as a result of vengeance among the heads of factions fighting for power behind the throne of the young Gratian. The demonization of Maximinus would have contributed to the exaltation of the family of Emperor Theodosius.101 I believe that the long narrative of the Roman trials was quickly written when Ammianus knew that he would have the opportunity to give public readings of his work. The story is not connected with other parts of the work where he underlines the cruelty, violence and arrogance of Valentinian I. He therefore used these events to convey an indirect impression of the reign of Valentinian I. The description of trials in Antioch had the same purpose in relation to Valens, and this could explain the symmetrical arrangement of the two tales at the beginning of two consecutive books. Both of them gave examples of how arrogant and violent the administration of justice had been during the reign of those two emperors, with the implicit purpose of devaluing the favorable judgement on their success in other administrative areas or in the


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military.102 Ammianus was here following a well-known literary tradition, being conscious that the denigration of the previous emperor helped to exalt the one currently in power.103 As the prologue to Book 28 allows us to understand, Ammianus was aware that Maximinus was not the only person responsible for committing all those “legal” crimes, yet he represented him as such throughout the story. His interpretation of Roman trials responded to the needs of the moment. To prepare some extracts of his work for public readings not only stimulated his political aspirations, in the hope of obtaining promotion from Theodosius as had Aurelius Victor. That opportunity also influenced his artistic intent. He set up the narrative of the Roman trials as a digression, compacting the events of many years into a single narrative. Referring all criminal events to the evil genius of Maximinus and his henchmen, he gave the entire section a highly effective dramatic tone. That piece, which is outstanding in an artistic sense, was designed to impress a highly composite audience, made up of both court dignitaries and army generals (i.e. the whole imperial entourage, which had come to Rome with the victorious emperor), and the elite of traditional senatorial families.

Conclusions In 389/90, Ammianus was ready to read the long narrative of Roman trials in front of Emperor Theodosius. This explains not only why he was inclined to lay all responsibility at the door of Maximinus, but also why he decided to remain silent on the role of the noble groups who had facilitated his rise, resulting in a bloody phase of political instability. Many of those men still dominated life in the city, and Emperor Theodosius showed himself to be inclined to a political reconciliation with all those who wanted to support him.104 In such a climate, it would have been unwise to reconstruct the sad events of the reign of Valentinian I, insisting upon the responsibility of certain aristocratic families, like the Anicii-Probi. The conflicts that usually animated their members, creating oppositions across different clans, were converted into alliances, as opportunity required. As a result, it would not have been suitable for Ammianus to adopt a position in favour of one side or the other as Phrynichus had incautiously done. Cautiously narrating events, in which some of his listeners may have been directly involved, was not just a matter of political expediency, or the desire to seize the unique opportunity of being appreciated by the ruling emperor. Ammianus partly shared the interpretation of these events that Quintus Aurelius Symmachus had given, according to which the Senate could have asked Gratian to incriminate Maximinus.105 Although he was not a member of a supposed circle of Symmachus, he felt culturally akin to the senators who, like Praetextatus, Venustus, and Minervius, had not feared the wrath of Valentinian In seeking to obtain again a clear distinction between black magic and haruspicy, as we saw in the previous chapter. After the death of Valentinian I, those same senators had been inclined to put an end to the

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conflicts with the family groups that had occupied the highest positions in Rome and the empire after 368 (mainly people connected with the Anicii and Probi), in order to create a new concord in the senate in support of Gratian and the young Valentinian II. At stake was not only the possibility of new political promotions for members of their families but also the consolidation of the political line of religious moderation that they had managed to maintain in the early years of Valentinian I’s reign. As we shall see in the next chapter, however, new scenarios opened up, despite the continuing ability of some senators to influence the majority of the assembly and direct its dialogue with the emperor and imperial Court.

Notes 1 Kelly 2008, 104–106, gives a useful summary of scholarly opinions on Ammianus’s biography, some aspects of which I will discuss later in this paper. This chapter develops some themes from Lizzi Testa 2000. 2 Amm. 28.1.1–57. Jerome, Rufinus, Socrates, and Collectio Avellana, Epp. I and II, do not describe the events but refer to them in allusive way. Passages from these authors will be quoted where necessary for comparison. 3 Amm. 29.1.5–44, and 29.2.1–28. Matthews 1989, 217; M.-A. Marié 1992, 350; Lensky 2002, 223–34; Lizzi Testa 2004 draws on Ammianus’s account of the Roman trials to reconstruct the cultural and political events of the second half of the fourth century in Rome and the empire. Regarding Kelly 2007, 275–292, and the account of the trials for sorcery, adultery and treason in Rome and Antioch, see Chapter V, n. 9. 4 Amm. 14.6.2, before describing the faults of the Romans; 15.9.1, to introduce the excursus on Gaul and the customs of the Gauls; 22.8.l, before the digression on the Thracian provinces; 22.15.1, on Egypt; 23.6.1, a few words before the digression on Persia: cf. Emmet 1981, 15–33. 5 Amm. 15.1.1, and 26.1.1–2. The general Preface of the work is missing, but Sabbah 1978, 13–19, tried to image its main themes using Amm. 31.16. 9. 6 Den Boeft 2007, 305. 7 Cameron 1964, Momigliano 1974; see chapter V, n.7–8. 8 Kelly 2008, 71–72. 9 Amm. 28.1.2: Me retraheret metus; 26.1.1: referre pedem a notioribus. 10 Although the sentence ad residua narranda pergamus has been interpreted as the historian revealing that he changed his original plan to finish his work with the death of Julian, Ammianus is making a different point: Fornara 1990, 170. 11 Amm. 26.1.1: praeceptis historiae…, discurrere per negotiorum celsitudines assuetae, non humilium minutias indagare causarum. Eunapius, fr. 8 ed. Müller, vol. 4, 15, also believed that the historian had to go through “the indispensable facts”. 12 Only two passages can be found up to Book 25: Amm. 23.1.1 (ut praetereamus negotiorum minutias), and 23.6.74 (per minutias demonstrantes). From Book 26, it is possible to list: Amm. 26.1.1 (loc. cit.); 27.2.11 (cum neque operae pretium aliquod eorum habuere proventus, nec historiam producere per minutias ignobiles decet); 28.1.2 (carptim ut quaeque memoria digna sunt explanabo); 28.2.12 (tamen ne per minutias gesta narrando); 31.5.10: sufficiet enim, veritate nullo velata mendacio, ipsas rerum digerere summitates. 13 Excluding Amm. 28.1.15 (non omnia narratu sunt digna, quae per squalidas transiere personas), where Ammianus clearly refers to individuals of lower social class, elsewhere the methodological choice responds to an intellectual criterion. He criticizes the authors of imperial biographies, because they are full of trivial gossip, and deplores the Romans who were delighted to read Juvenal and Marius Maximus (Amm. 28.4.14). In the same


14 15 16

17 18


20 21



24 25 26 27 28 29

Ancient Historians’ Self-Censorship way, Tacitus considered it unnecessary to fill entire volumes with useless details: cum ex dignitate populi Romani repertum sit res inlustris annalibus, talia diurnis urbis actis mandare (Tac. Ann. 13.31.1). Paradoxically, the Historia Augusta (Macr. 1.1–5), echoes the same historiographic criterion, condemning the biographers who loved the ridiculous details, while it would have been more convenient to make available to posterity only facts worthy of mention: cf. Syme 1968, 97–98. The omission of certain events did not appear in contradiction with the repeated profession of truth (Amm.14.6.2; 15.1. 1 and 2 9; 16.8.6; 25.4.23; 26.1.1; 31.16.9), or with the idea that a partial representation of reality could lead to its substantial deformation (29.1.15): Syme 1968, 95. Amm. 28.1.1: […] clades excita luctuosas, quas obliterasset utinam iuge silentium! This idea comes from Cic. Leg. 3.30–32: cf. Den Boeft 2007, 302. Tac. Ann. 4.33.21 ss.: ceterum ut profutura, ita minimum oblectationis adferunt. Nam situs gentium, varietates proeliorum, clari ducum exitus retinent ac redintegrant legentium animum; nos saeva iussa, continuas accusationes, fallaces amicitias, perniciem innocentium et easdem exitii causas coniungimus, obvia rerum similitudine et satietate. Tac. Ann. 4.33.29: […] at multorum qui Tiberio regente poenam vel infamias subiere posteri manent. Herodotus VI.21.2. Miletus was an Athenian colony, and the Athenians who had first sent a fleet to support the Ionian Revolt had then recalled their twenty ships for reasons not entirely clear: Musti 1990, 283. About the title of Phrynichus’tragedy (The Capture, or The Sack of Miletos), see Rosenbloom 1993, 160, n. 3. The decree of censorship, difficult to define in relation to the crime (Ammendola 2001, 102–4), has been interpreted differently. Amm. 28.1.3–4: indignatione damnatus est populi arbitrati non consolandi gratia, sed probrose monendi. In Herodotus VI.21 it is said that the tragedian was heavily fined, but not that this was due to the audience’s complaints: Den Boeft 2007, 303. Ammianus does not clarify the content of the decree against Phrynichus. Matthews 1989, 209. Hammond 1955, 386–7. On the chronology of the sack of Miletus, in relation to the staging of Phrynichus’s tragedy, different opinions have been expressed. Taking up a hypothesis of Rosenbloom 1993, 170–2, Zimmermann 2011, 558, suggested that the tragedy was represented at the Dionysian agons of 491, Themistocles being archon in 492/1 BC. See also Muccioli 2012. Amm. 28.1.8–10. Quintus Clodius Hermogenianus Olybrius was urban prefect from January 1st, 369 (CTh 14. 3.13; see Pergami 1993, 429 and Schmidt-Hoffner 2008, 569 on the month) until August 21st, 370 (CTh 2.10.5: Schmidt-Hoffner 2008, 511). Maximinus was praefectus annonae from 368 until 370 when he became vicarius Urbi (Amm. 28.1.6, and 12). Ammianus calls Chilo ex vicario, but we know only a proconsul Africae with this name (CTh 13. 4.4, June 20, 374: Pergami 1993, 642; Schmidt-Hoffner 2008, 565). If Ammianus is not wrong (contra Thompson 1947, 138–40), we must think that he was vicarius before being proconsul Africae. Amm. 28.1.1. The clash between Flavius Magnus Magnentius and Iulius Nepotianus (one acclaimed in Gaul after the death of Constans, and the other in Rome) started at the end of June 350 (Chron. Pasch. ad an. 349, and Hieron. Chron. ad an. 350). Lizzi Testa 2004, 61–85; 327–79;129–206. Lizzi Testa 2004, 297–315. Amm. 28.1.1: Dum apud Persas, ut supra narravimus, perfidia regis motus agitat insperatos, et in eois tractibus bella rediviva consurgunt, anno sexto decimo et eo diutius post Nepotiani exitium […]. Aur. Vict. Caes. 42.6, wrongly calls him Potentianus. Eutropia was his mother: PLRE I, Iul. Nepotianus 5, 624, and PLRE I, Eutropia 2, 316. Bastien 1964, 14; Elbern 1984, 49–50.

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30 Zos. 2.43.2 is clarified by the other sources, which speak of gladiators: Aur. Vict. Caes. 42.6 (armataque gladiatorum manu); Eutr. 10.11.2 (per gladiatoriam manum); Oros. Hist. adversus pagan. 7.29.11 (gladiatorum manu fretus); Socr. HE 2.25; Soz. HE 4.1.2, and Epit. 42.3, according to which Nepotianus would come to power hortantibus perditis (“since men who had nothing to lose exhorted him”). 31 Amm. 14.6.14, and 18–9; MacMullen 1988, 58–121, and notes at 237–57; Cracco Ruggini 1997a, 174–6. 32 Aur. Vict. Caes. 42.6; Zos. 2.43.3, ed. Paschoud, 250–51; PLRE I, Anicetus 1, 66, and PLRE I, FI. Anicius, 67. 33 Following Consul. Constant. 350, 3, Nepotianus became emperor on June 3rd, 350. Aur. Vict. Caes. 42, 6–8, calculates 27 days between the proclamation and his death; Epit. 42, 3 speaks of 28 days. Eutr. 10.11.2, and Zos. 2.43.2–4, are more generic. 34 PLRE I, Marcellinus 8, 546. Iulian, Or. 3 [2], 57d-58a; 58c, 59b, and Zos. 2.42.2–5, attributed a central role to Marcellinus in the proclamation of Magnentius in Autun on 18th of January 350: Tantillo 1997, 296. As magister officiorum he was later sent to repress Nepotianus. 35 Athan. Apol. ad Const. 6.27–9; an allusion is also in Them. Or. 3.43 C; Hier. Chron ad a. 350; Soz. HE 4.7, 1; Socr. HE 2.32. 36 PLRE I, Volcacius Rufinus 25, 782–83. He was praetorian prefect in Illyricum (347–52), when Magnentius killed Constans. While PPO, he was sent by Magnentius as envoy (with other three people) to Constantius II, and he alone was not arrested (Petr. Patr. fr. 16). After the elimination of Magnentius, he maintained his office, assuming the praetorian prefecture of Gallia in 354. His brother Naeratius Cerealis in 351 served on the court which met at Sirmium to try Photinus (Epiph. Adv. Haer. 71; Socr. HE 2.30; Soz. HE 4.6: Barnes 1993a, 221), and there remained with Constantius II until summer 352, when he was made city-prefect: PLRE I, Naeratius Cerealis 2, 197–199. 37 Valerius Maximus (PLRE I, Maximus 17, 582) could be identified with Maximus 12 (PLRE I, 581), whom Petr. Patr. fr. 16 describes as envoy from Magnentius and Vetranio to Constantius II in 350. 38 Some inscriptions celebrate him as expeditiones bellicas gubernans (CIL VI.1739–40; 1742), and legatus secundo difficillimis temporibus petitu senatus et p(opuli) r(omani): CIL VI.1739–42. He presumably joined Constantius II during the usurpation of Magnentius and accompanied his army in 350–2. He was appointed proconsul Africae in 352/53 with the right to hear appeals: PLRE I, Memmius Vitrasius Orfitus signo Honorius 3, 651–3. 39 Cameron 1996, with Chapter III, n. 43. 40 Iulian. Or. 1.38c; 3 [2], 97 b-c. 41 Zos. 2.49.1-2. On the ambassy, see also Iulian. Or 3 [2], 96a; Them. Or. 4.62c; 7, 97: PLRE I, Fabius Titianus 6, 918–919. Cf. Raimondi 2007, 288–9. 42 Chastagnol 1962, 112–4, and Arnheim 1972, 119. Cf. Jacques 1986, 180 ff. 43 AE 1988, 217, with the comments by Gasperini 1988, 242–50, and Cecconi 1996. Cf. chapter IX, n. 84. 44 PLRE I, Aurelius Celsinus 4, 192, and PLRE I, Clodius Celsinus signo Adelphius 6, 192–93. L. Aradius Valerius Proculus signo, see Cameron 1999, and Lizzi Testa 2004, 382–383. 45 PLRE I, Populonius 11, 747–9; Symm. Ep. I, 2, 4. 46 Rosenbloom 1993, 169. 47 Culasso Gastaldi 1996, 509. 48 On the political sympathy and perhaps also personal friendship between Themistocles and Phrynichus, see Podlecki 1966, 14; Bauman 1990, 12–16; Nenci 1998, 188. 49 Finley 1977, 606. 50 Syn. Dion 246, 17–20; 248, 9–12.


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51 Sen. Controv. 10, Praef. 5: libertas tanta, ut libertatis nomen excederet et, quia passim ordines hominesque laniabat, Rabienus vocaretur; 8: memini aliquando, cum recitaret historiam, magnam partem illum libri convolvisse et dixisse: “haec, quae transeo, post mortem meam legentur”. 52 Sen. Controv. 10, Praef. 5: effectum est enim per inimicos, ut omnes eius libri comburerentur: res nova et invisitata supplicium de studiis sumi; 7. Svet. Tib. 61.10, does not name the executed authors, but Calig. 16.1, remembers that Labienus’ writings were put back into circulation as well as Cremutius Cordus’s and Cassius Severus’s books. 53 Tac. Ann. 1.72: Primus Augustus cognitionem de famosis libellis specie legis eius tractavit. Augustus used in this sense a disposition of Lex Cornelia de maiestate that it was not lawful to speak badly in public of someone with impunity (ne in quemvis impune declamari liceret): Rotondi 1912, 360. 54 Sen. Controv. 10, Praef. 8. In 24 AD, Tiberius transferred him to Seriphus in the Cyclades: Tac. Ann. 4.21. Both Svet. Aug. 55, and Dio, 56.27.1, remembered Cassius Severus’ punishment: Canfora 1993, 224 ff. 55 Tac. Ann. 4.34.1. 56 Svet. Tib. 61.10: animadversum statim in auctores scriptaque abolita, quamvis probarentur ante aliquot annos etiam Augusto audiente recitata. Cf. Dio 57.24.3. 57 Svet. Tib. 61.3: obiectum et historico, quod Brutum Cassiumque ultimos Romanorum dixisset (not only Cassius, but even Brutus had been praised). 58 Tac. Ann. 4.34.1: novo ac tunc audito crimine. On this passage, Canfora 1993, 242. 59 Aelianus, Fr. 83, ensures that even Livy gave public readings of his Roman history, such that a Spaniard came from Gades (Plin. Ep. 2.3.8) to meet him. In addition, while Asinius Pollio (who claimed to have started this custom) gave readings at home (Sen. Controv. 4, Praef. 2: primus enim omnium Romanorum, advocatis hominibus scripta sua recitavit), Livy probably read his work at Court, having been assigned to initiate the future Emperor Claudius into history. 60 Hor. Carm. II.1. 61 Svet. Claud. 41.4, with Finley 1977, 607. 62 Plin. Ep. 9.27: Recitaverat quidem verissimum librum partemque eius in alium diem reservaverat. Ecce amici cuiusdam orantes obsecrantesque ne reliqua recitaret. Tantus audiendi, quae fecerint pudor, quibus nullus faciendi, quae audire erubescunt. Et ille quidem praestitit, quod rogabatur: sinebat fides. Before Syme 1958, 120, Fabia 1895, 8–9, suggested that the episode concerned Tacitus, since he was the only historian who was writing on the Flavian age around 105–7 AD. Cf. Sherwin-White 1966, 509–10. 63 Harris 1983, and Harris 1989,147ff., tried to establish the amount of literacy in the population, but see Humphrey 1991, and Cavallo 1991, 200ff.: while drawing a picture of the levels of literacy and circulation of literary texts, they remain skeptical about giving quantitative estimates of literacy. See also Cavallo 1978, 119–45; Cavallo 1983, 166–86, and Cavallo 2015. On the situation in Late Antiquity, Carrié 2010. 64 Finley 1977, 609. 65 Citroni 1995, in his Introduction, gives a picture of the different methods of communication in ancient Rome. 66 Maranesi 2016, 19–26, gives a useful synthesis of the results of recent reflections on the function of rhetoric in ancient texts as a vehicle of “propaganda”. Obviously the “propaganda” practicable by ancient rhetoricians and writers cannot be compared with what happened during the French Revolution, when the term first spread: Ellul 1967, 14. 67 Tac. Ann. 4.35, 16–7. 68 Bird 1984, 5–15. 69 Amm. 21.10.6; cf. Aur. Vict. Caes.20.5. 70 Obviously, only excerpta of a long prose work could be read: see also Plin. Ep. 9.27 (partem eius in alium diem reservaverat), and Ep. 3.18.4.

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71 Kolb 1979, 538 and n. 22, thought that Herodotus had misinterpreted the decree of censorship and that the Athenians wanted to prevent the dramatic material of Phrynichus from being used by other poets. 72 Nenci 1998, 188. 73 Mülke 2000. 74 Fr. 161 K.-A of Aristophanes’ Geritade makes explicit reference to the performance in symposia of excerpts from the tragedies of Aeschylus: other examples are reported by Mastromarco 2012. 75 Priscianus, Inst. 11.51, ed. Keil, 487, is the only ancient author who expressly remembers Ammianus, giving his work the title Rerum Gestarum libri, as preserved by the manuscript tradition. 76 Lib. Ep. 1063 was written in 392: Pellizzari 2017, 391–5 (with an Italian translation). 77 Fornara made his hypothesis known in a seminar held in Oxford and in Liverpool in 1987 and published it a few years later (Fornara 1992). Matthews 1989, 478–9, cites his suggestion to reject it, while Bowersock 1990 and Barnes 1993b, 55–70, showed they shared it. 78 Matthews 1989, 478, n. 1; Barcelò 1993; Cracco Ruggini, 1997b, 177–9; Sabbah 2003; Demandt 2013, 381, n. 20. 79 Kelly 2008, 114–115. 80 Amm. 14.6.2: Kelly 2008, 114, n. 39. 81 Matthews 1994, 254 and 262. 82 Coming back from Rome, the emperor remained in northern Italy, between Milan and Aquileia, until the late spring of 391 (on 19 June he was still in Aquileia): Chapter V, n. 163. 83 Sabbah 1997, 108 ff., and Cracco Ruggini 1997b, 32, n. 21. 84 Amm. 21.10.6: virum sobrietatis gratia aemulandum, multo post urbi praefectum; CIL VI.1186 = ILS 2945. Cf. PLRE I, Victor 13, 960. Bird 1975, 49–54, and 1984, 12, supposed that he started as notarius before becoming governor of Pannonia, and later holding the African proconsulate and the vicariate of Rome, but see Kuhoff 1983, 57, 67, 126, 307, 418. 85 Epit. de Caes. 48.11: Theodosius was diligens ad noscenda maiorum gesta. 86 CIL VI.1783 = ILS 2948: cuius (scl. Theodosii) in eum effusa benivolentia, et usq(ue) ad annalium, quos consecrari sibi a quaestore et praefecto suo voluit. Since Nicomachus is called quaestor et praefectus, it happened between 389 and 391 (Cecconi 2002, 73), when we think that Ammianus read Emperor Theodosius some parts of his work. 87 Lizzi Testa 2020, 881–883, on the relations of the Court of Valentinian II, the Roman Senate, and Emperor Theodosius during the years of Magnus Maximus’s usurpation. 88 Amm. 31.16.9: “These events, beginning from the principate of Nerva Caesar up to the death of Valens I, a former soldier and a Greek, have unrolled to the best of my strength: it is a work which claims truthfulness and which, so I think, I have never knowingly dared to warp with silence or falsehood. Let the rest be written by men with youth on their side, in the bloom of learning. To those who would embark on this, if it please them, I give the advice to forge their tongues to grander styles”. Translation is by Kelly 2007, 219. 89 Paschoud 2004, and Paschoud 2005. 90 The translation of procudere linguas ad maiores moneo stilos, as given by Kelly 2007, 226 must be accepted, while I do not agree with his idea that the allusion is pessimistic about both historiography and the period (ibidem, 231). 91 On the Barbarian attempt on Constantinople (Amm. 31.16.4–7), and the massacre of Goths in the Eastern cities (Amm. 31.16.8), see Kelly 2007, 236–239. 92 Errington 2006, 139–141.


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93 Amm. 27.8.3; 28.3; 28.5.15, and 6.26; 29.3.6, and 4.5; 29.5 (in Africa). On the anonymous enemies of Theodosius’s father, Mratschek 2007. Disillusion of part of the aristocracy toward Theodosius after 389: Errington 2006, 134–141. 94 Amm. 28.1.57, promises to describe with more details the suppression of Maximinus, but the last reference to this official is in Amm. 29.3, which does not concern his death. 95 Thompson 1947, 93-107 e 138–40, and Alföldi 1952, 90–2. 96 Demandt 1969, 617; Matthews 1975, 56–67, and Matthews 1989, 209 ff. 97 Matthews 1971, 122–128, and Matthews 1975, 94. Nevertheless, Bravo 1997, 21–30, is confident that at the Court of Valentinian I and Gratian a Roman-Hispanic clan operated and that its members pushed Gratian to choose Theodosius as emperor in the East after Adrianople; contra Lizzi Testa 1997, 135. 98 Matthews 1975, 56–67, and Matthews 1989, 209 ff. 99 Giardina 1976–1977. According to Lizzi Testa 2004, 93–206, even the struggles for the election of the Bishop of Rome echoed the political conflicts between Roman aristocrats during the reign of Valentinian I. 100 The sentence Theodosius Theodosii postea imperatoris pater et plurimi nobilium occisi (Hier. Chron. ad an. 376), in the Codices LMB is given including a note: Theodosius Theodosii postea imperatoris pater multorum per orbem bellorum victoriis nobilis in Africa factione eorum perimitur, qui et ipsi mox caesi sunt: item Maximinus ex praefecto et ceteri: Chronica Minora I, MGH AA IX, 1, 631. 101 Cameron 1971, 259. The conflict between Maximinus and Theodosius the Elder dated back to the period when the latter was comes rei militaris in Britain (368–369), where he put down Valentinus’ s rebellion (Amm. 28.3.4–6). Valentinus had been exiled there ob grave crimen (Amm. 30.7.10), and he is also mentioned in Zos. 4.12.2 (wrongly calling him Valentinianus), Hier. Chron. ad an. 371, and Iord. Rom. 308: PLRE I, Valentinus 5, 935. For Kelly 2013, 402, there is no need to assume an internal power struggle at Gratian’s Court, since the most pressure on Maximinus came from the election of the young Valentinian II in Illyricum. 102 Paschoud 1992 showed that Ammianus alternates positive and negative aspects in Valentinian’ s portrait, giving a picture with substantially distorted effects of light and shade. On the contrary, Teitler 2007 argues that he also acknowledged his merits both in the epilogue where he lists the emperor’s virtues, and elsewhere in the narrative. 103 Giardina 1989 (2014), XLV–XLVI. 104 Already when Emperor Theodosius was preparing to march against Maximus, but especially afterwards, during his residence in the city and in Northern Italy, he appointed some members of the Roman aristocracy to the most prestigious positions, such as Virius Nicomachus Flavianus, Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, Ceionius Rufius Albinus, and other men who were linked with them, such as Latinius Pacatus Drepanius, or Flavius Eutolmius Tatianus in the East: Cracco Ruggini 1979, 54 ff.; Lizzi Testa 2001; Errington 2006, 134–138, who brilliantly examines some parts of the official speech delivered by the Gallic orator Latinus Pacatus Drepanius as the surest evidence for Theodosius’s attitude towards Rome and the Senate. 105 See Chapter V, p. 96–97, n. 155 and 156.

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Chastagnol, André. 1962. Les Fastes de la Préfecture de Rome au Bas-Ermpire. Paris: Nouvelles Éditions Latines. Citroni, Mario. 1995. Poesia e lettori in Roma antica. Forme della comunicazione letteraria. Roma-Bari: Editori Laterza. Cracco Ruggini, Lellia. 1979. “Il paganesimo romano tra religione e politica (384-394 d. C): per una reinterpretazione dei Carmen contra paganos.” Memorie dell’Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei s. VIII, vol. XXIII (1): 3–141. Roma: Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei. Cracco Ruggini, Lellia. 1997a. “Spazi urbani clientelari e caritative.” In La Rome impériale. Démographie et logistique. Actes de la table ronde (Rome, 25 mars 1994), 157–191 (CEFR 230). Roma: École française de Rome. Cracco Ruggini, Lellia. 1997b. “La storiografia latina da Ammiano Marcellino a Cassiodoro (e anche più in là): documenti, relitti e fantasmi reinterpretati.” Cassiodorus 3: 175–187. Culasso Gastaldi, Enrica. 1996. “I Filaidi tra Milziade e Cirnone. Per una lettura del decennio 490-480 a. C.” Athenaeum 84: 493–526. Demandt, Alexander. 1969. “Der Tod des Alteren Theodosius.” Historia 18 (5): 598–626. Demandt, Alexander. 2013. “Ammianus Marcellinus. Der letze römische Histopriker.” In Zeitenwende. Aufsätze zur Spätantike, edited by Alexander Demadt. Berlin-Boston: De Gruyter. Den Boeft, Jan. 2007. “Non consolandi gratia, sed probrose monendi (Res Gestae 28.1.4). The Hazards of (Moral) Historiography”. In Ammianus after Julian. The Reign of Valentinian and Valens in Books 21-31 of the Res Gestae, edited by Jan den Boeft, Jan Willem Drijvers, and Hans C. Teitler, 293–311. Leiden-Boston: Brill. Elbern, Stephan. 1984. Usurpationen in spätrömischen Reich. Bonn: Habelt. Ellul, Jacques. 1967. Histoire de la propagande. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. Emmet, Alanna M. 1981. “Introductions and Conclusions to Digressions in Ammianus Marcellinus.” Museum Philologicum Londiniense 5: 15–33. Errington, Malcom R. 2006. Roman Imperial Policy from Julian to Theodosius. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. Fabia, Philippe 1895. “Les ouvrages de Tacite. Réussirent-ils auprès des contemporains?”, Revue de Philologie 19: 1–10. Finley, Moses. 1977. “Censura nell’antichità classica.” Belfagor 32: 605–622. Fornara, Charles W. 1990. “The Prefaces of Ammianus Marcellinus.” In Cabinet of the Muses. Essays in Honor of T.G. Rosenmeyer, edited by Mark Griffith, and Donald J. Mastronarde, 163–172. Atlanta: Scholars Press. Fornara, Charles W. 1992. “Studies on Ammnianus Marcellinus. I. The Letter of Libanius’ and Ammianus’ Connection with Antioch; II. Ammianus’ Knowledge and Use of Greek and latin Literature.” Historia 41 (3): 328–344; 420–38. Gasperini, Lidio. 1988. “Dedica ostiense di Aurelio Avianio Simmaco all’imperatore Costante.” MGR 13: 242–251. Giardina, Andrea. 1976–1977. “Recensione a Matthews, Western Aristocracies and Imperial Court (A. D. 364–425), Oxford 1975.” Dialoghi di Archeologia 9–10: 668–678. Giardina, Andrea. 1989. Anonimo. Le cose della guerra. Milano: Fondazione Lorenzo Valla (anast. reprint 2014). Hammond, Nicholas G.L. 1955. “Studies in the Greek Chronology of the Sixth and Fifth Genturies B.C.”. Historia 4 (4): 371–412. Harris, William V. 1983. “Literacy and Epigraphy.” Zeitschrift für Papirologie und Epigraphik 52: 87–111.

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Harris, William V. 1989. Ancient Literacy. Cambridge Mass., London: Harvard University Press. Hercher, Rudolf, ed. 1864. Claudii Aeliani. De natura animalium libri XVII, Varia historia, Epistolae fragmenta. Leipzig: Teubner. Humphrey, John H., ed. 1991. Literacy in the Roman World. Ann Arbor: Journal of Roman Archaeology. Jacques, François. 1986. “L’ordine senatorio attraverso la crisi del iii secolo.” In Società romana e impero tardoantico, edited by Andrea Giardina, vol. 1, 81–225; 650–664. RomaBari: Editori Laterza. Keil, Heinrich, ed. 1855. Grammatici latini, Vol.2. Leipzig: Teubner (anast. repr. Hildesheim 1961). Kelly, Gavin. 2007. “The Sphragis and Closure of the Res Gestae.” In Ammianus after Julian. The Reign of Valentinian and Valens in Books 21-31 of the Res Gestae, edited by Jan den Boeft, Jan Willem Drijvers, and Hans C. Teitler, 219–241. Leiden-Boston: Brill. Kelly, Gavin. 2008. Ammianus Marcellinus. The Allusive Historian. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kelly, Gavin. 2013. “The Political Crisis of AD 375-376.” Chiron 43: 357–409. Kolb, Frank. 1979. “Polis und Theater.” In Das griechische Drama, edited by Gustav A. Seeck, 504–545. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. Kuhoff, Wolfgang. 1983. Studien zur zivilen senatorischen Laufbahn im 4. Jahrhundert n. Chr. Ämter und Amtsinhaber in Clarissimat und Spektabilität. Frankfurt am Main-Bern: Peter Lang. Lensky, Noel. 2002. Failure of Empire. Valens and the Roman State in the Fourth Century A.D. Berkeley-Los Angeles: University of California Press. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 1997. “L’ascesa al trono di Teodosio I.” In Congreso Internacional “La Hispania de Teodosio” (Segovia-Coca, 3-6 octubre 1995), edited by Ramón Teja, and Cesáreo Pérez, vol. 1, 135–148. Madrid: Universidad SEK. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2000. “Ammiano e l’autocensura dello storico.” In Letteratura e propaganda nell’Occidente latino da Augusto ai regni romanobarbarici (Arcavacata di Rende, 25-26 maggio 1998), edited by Franca Ela Consolino, 67–105. Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2001. “Paganesimo politico e politica edilizia: la’cura Urbis’ nella tarda antichità.” In Centralismo e autonomie nella tarda antichità. Categorie concettuali e realtà concrete (Perugia 1-4 ottobre 1997) XIII Conv. Intern., Atti Accademia Romanistica Costantiniana, 671–707. Napoli: Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2004. Senatori, popolo, papi. Il governo di Roma al tempo dei Valentiniani. Bari: Edipuglia. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2020. “Ambrogio a Treviri: cronologia e finalità delle sue missioni alla corte di Magno Massimo.” Koinonia 44 (II): 875–890. MacMullen, Ramsey. 1988. Corruption and the Decline of Rome. New Haven-London: Yale University Press. Maranesi, Alessandro. 2016. Vincere la memoria, costruire il potere. Costantino, i retori, la lode dell’autorità e l’autorità della lode. Milano-Udine: Mimesis Edizioni. Marié, Marie-Annie. 1992. “Deux sanglants épisodes de l’accession au pouvoir d’une nouvelle classe politique: les grands procès de Rome et d’Antioche chez Ammien Marcellin (Res Gestae XXVIII, 1; XXIX, 1 et 2).” In De Tertullien aux Mozarabes. Mélanges offerts à Jacques Fontaine, vol 1, 349–360. (Coll. Ét. Aug. SA 132), Paris: Institut d’Études Augustiniennes.


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Mastromarco, Giuseppe. 2012. “Erodoto e la «Presa di Mileto» di Frinico.” In Harmonia: scritti di filologia classica in onore di Angelo Casanova, edited by Guido Bastianini, Walter Lapini, and Mauro Tulli, 483–494. (Studi e Saggi, 109). Firenze: Firenze University Press. Matthews, John. 1971 “Symmachus and the Magister Mìlitum Theodosius.” Historia 20 (1): 122–128. Matthews, John. 1989. The Romam Empire of Ammianus Marcellinus. London: Duckworth. Matthews, John. 1994. “The Origin of Ammnianus.” Classical Quarterly n. s. 44: 252–269. Momigliano, Arnaldo. 1974. “The Lonely Historian Ammianus Marcellinus.” Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa n.s.3. 4, 1393–1407 (reprinted in Id. Essays in Ancient and Modern Historiography. Oxford 1977, 127–140, and in Sesto Contributo alla storia degli studi classici e del mondo antico. Rome, 1980, I, 143-157). Mommsen, Theodor, ed. 1892. Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Auctores Antiquissimi IX. Berlin: Weidmann. Mratschek, Sigrid. 2007. “Et ne quid coturni terribilis fabulae relinquerent intemptatum … (Amm. Marc. 28.6.29). Die Gottin der gerechtigkeit und der comes Romanus.” In Ammianus after Julian. The Reign of Valentinian and Valens in Books 21-31 of the Res Gestae, edited by Jan den Boeft, Jan Willem Drijvers, and Hans C. Teitler, 245–270. Leiden-Boston: Brill. Muccioli, Federicomaria. 2012. “L’ ingresso sulla scena politica di Temistocle e «La presa di Mileto» di Frinico: problemi di cronologia.” Incidenza dell’Antico: Dialoghi di Storia Greca, 10: 53–78. Mülke, Markus. 2000. “Phrynichos und Athen: der Beschluss über die Miletu Halosis (Herodot 6, 21, 2).” In Skenika: Beiträge zum antiken Theater und seiner Rezeption: Festschrift zum 65. Geburtstag von Horst-Dieter Blume, edited by Susanne Gödde, and Theodor Heinze, 233–246. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. Müller, Karl, ed. 1841. Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum, vol. 4. Paris: A.F. Didot. Musti, Domenico. 1990. Storia Greca. Linee di sviluppo dall’età micenea all’età romana. RomaBari: Editori Laterza (II ed.). Nenci, Giuseppe, ed. 1998. Erodoto. Le Storie. Libro VI. La battaglia di Maratona. Milano: Mondadori. Paschoud, François. 1992. “Valentinieni travesti, ou: De la malignité d’Ammien.” In Cognitio Gestorum. The Historiographic Art of Ammianus Marcellinus. Colloquium (Amsterdam 26-28 August 1991), edited by Jan den Boeft, Daniel den Hengst, and Hans C. Teitler, 67–84. Amsterdam: Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Paschoud, François, ed. 2003. Zosime. Histoire Nouvelle. Tome I (Livres I et II). Paris. Les Lelles Lettres. Pellizzari, Andrea. 2017. Maestro di retorica. Maestro di vita. Le lettere teodosiane di Libanio di Antiochia. Roma: l’Erma di Bretschneider. Pellizzari, Andrea. 2004. “Ammien 31, 16, 9: une recusation?.” REL 82: 238–248. Pellizzari, Andrea. 2005. “Biographie und Panegyrik: Wie spricht man vom lebenden Kaiser?.” In Biographie und Prosopographie. Internationales Kolloquium zum 65. Geburtstag von Anthony R. Birley, edited by Konrad Voessing, 103–118. (178). Stuttgart: Historia Einzelschrift. Pergami, Federico. 1993. La legislazione di Valentiniano e Valente (364-375) (Materiali per una palingenesi delle costituzioni tardo-imperiali s. II, 4). Milano: Giuffré Editore. Podlecki, Anthony Joseph. 1996. The Political Background of Aeschylean Tragedy. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

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Raimondi, Milena. 2007. “Modello costantiniano e regionalismo gallico nell’usurpazione di Magnenzio.” Mediterraneo Antico. Economie società culture 9 (1): 267–292. Rosenbloom, David. 1993. “Shouting «Fire» in a Crowded Theater: Phrynichos’s Capture of Miletos and the Politics of Fear in Early Attic Tragedy.” Philologus 137: 159–196. Rotondi, Giovanni, ed. 1912. Leges publicae populi Romani. Milano: Società editrice libraria. Sabbah, Guy. 1978. La méthode d’Ammien Marcellin: recherches sur la construction du discours historique dans les Res Gestae. Paris: Les Belles Lettres. Sabbah, Guy. 1997. “Ammien Marcellin, Libanius, Antioche et la date des derniers livres des Res Gestae.” Cassiodorus 3: 89–116. Sabbah, Guy. 2003. “Ammianus Marcellinus.” In Greek and Roman Historiography in Late Antiquity, edited by Gabriele Marasco, 43–84. Leiden: Brill. Schmidt-Hofner, Sebastian. 2008. “Die Regesten der Kaiser Valentinian und Valens in den Jahren 364 bis 375 n. Chr.” ZRG 125: 498–602. Sherwin-White, Adrian N. 1966. The Letters of Pliny. A Historical and Social Commentary. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Syme, Ronald. 1958. Tacitus. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Syme, Ronald. 1968. Ammianus and the Historia Augusta. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Tantillo, Ignazio. 1997. La prima orazione di Giuliano a Costanzo. Introduzione, traduzione e commento. Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider. Teitler, Hans. 2007. “Ammianus on Valentinian. Some Observations.” In Ammianus after Julian. The Reign of Valentinian and Valens in Books 21-31 of the Res Gestae, edited by Jan den Boeft, Jan Willem Drijvers, and Hans C. Teitler, 53–70. Leiden-Boston: Brill. Thompson, Eduard A. 1947. The Historical Work of Ammianius Marcellinus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (Anast. Repr., Gröningen 19692). Zimmerman, Brandon. ed. 2011. Handbuch der griechischen Literatur der Antike, vol 1 (Die Literatur der archaischen und klassischen Zeit). München: C.H. Beck Verlag.


Pagan Senators and Christian Bishops: The Roman Senate at Work (382–384 AD)

Introduction The famous debate between the Roman senator Quintus Aurelius Symmachus and Bishop Ambrose of Milan, universally known as the “Altar of Victory affair”, has been discussed for centuries, even up to the present. The controversy started soon after Emperor Gratian decided to remove the Altar of Victory from the Senate House and introduce some other anti-pagan measures. Following what Ambrose and Symmachus say, in 382 an embassy, led by Symmachus, tried to present the complaint of the Roman Senate to the emperor in Milan, but somebody prevented the legates from being received at Court. Two years later, in the summer, after Gratian was dead and Valentinian II had appointed Symmachus prefect of the City, Symmachus himself sent an official memorandum (his Third Relatio) to the new emperor, arguing for the return of the Altar of Victory and the cancellation of the other measures, but his request was denied by the imperial Court. It seems that it was a letter of Ambrose that persuaded Valentinian II to refuse the Senate’s request. The bishop of Milan also prepared a second letter in response to the failed official document of the city prefect. He then published Symmachus’s text, together with both of his letters, in order to publicize the Christian victory over the pagan senator. From an ambiguous letter that Ambrose wrote to Eugenius in 393 (after he was proclaimed emperor by Arbogastes), and a passage of Paulinus’s Life of Ambrose based on this letter, we know of other embassies from the Senate: to Emperor Theodosius I, when he was in Milan; to Valentinian II just before he died in Gaul; and two more to Eugenius. Apparently, for about a decade, no emperors were willing to annul Gratian’s dispositions. What exactly Gratian’s dispositions were, in addition to having the Altar of Victory removed, is not easy to decode from the three texts published by Ambrose, and even less from his vague letter to Eugenius. According to a strong scholarly tradition, Gratian blocked funding for public sacrifices, abolished the fiscal immunities previously enjoyed by the Vestals and all priestly colleges, and confiscated the landed property of temples. Since his laws have been believed to be of universal nature – affecting temples all over the empire – the young ruler has been credited with undermining the religious DOI: 10.4324/b22863-7

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system of ancient Rome, opening the door to the final stage of Roman paganism during the reign of Theodosius I. Yet if this were so, it is amazing that, outside Italy, no one seems to have noticed what was happening. Gratian’s alleged universal measures did not even deserve a mention by the Eastern pagan writer Zosimus, which suggests that not even his pagan source Eunapius (who wrote at around the time when these provisions were made) took note of such a serious change. Some years ago, I argued that the dispositions drafted by Gratian in 382 concerned only the Altar of Victory and the privileges of the Vestals.1 Since not everybody shared my interpretation,2 I would like to sum up here my old arguments and add some new ones confirming that Gratian’s imperial decree was of limited nature. It did not affect the whole empire but, over time, it could have had strong repercussions on Rome’s cultic practices. Moreover, rereading Symmachus’s Relatio and Ambrose’s letters, I have found that the way in which the Roman Senate reacted to Gratian’s anti-pagan measures is of great interest for understanding how senators worked in assembly when they tried to reverse a governmental decision. I thought it useful, therefore, to deal with it here, in order to understand whether and how the political strategies of the Roman Senate had changed in the last 20 years of the fourth century.

Which Sources Are Available for the Altar of Victory Affair and Gratian’s Decree? No major work of the twentieth century that explored relations between paganism and Christianity in Late Antiquity cared to study the nature of Gratian’s dispositions or chose to examine their effects. This is true of French,3 German,4 and Italian scholarship,5 as well as British/American.6 Since a rescript of emperor Honorius sent to Carthage in August 415 seemed to fit Ambrose’s remarks and Symmachus’s complaint of financial losses of the temples,7 it has become usual to include among Gratian’s measures a general confiscation of land from the temples ( fundi templorum), and even of the temples themselves, and as a result to assume that temple buildings everywhere decayed into ruin from that time onwards.8 But Honorius’s law has nothing to do with the decree of Gratian. It is a long text, with some references also to the sacerdotales paganae superstitionis, the frediani and dendrophori, which have been well studied.9 The section that interests us is written as follows: Also, in accordance with the constitution of the sainted Gratian, We command that all places that were assigned by the false doctrine of the ancients to their sacred rituals shall be joined to the property of Our privy purse. Thus, from the time when public expenditure was prohibited to be furnished to the worst superstition, the fruits from such places shall be exacted from the unlawful possessors thereof. But if the bounty of previous emperors or if Our Majesty wished any of the aforesaid property


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anywhere to be granted to any persons, such property shall remain in their patrimony with eternal validity. We decree that this regulation shall be observed not only throughout Africa, but throughout all regions situated in Our world.10 The English translation can be misleading, if some of the law’s expressions are not explained. “All places that were assigned by the false doctrine of the ancients to their sacred rituals (Omnia etiam loca, quae sacris error veterum deputavit)” does mean not “all temples”, but rather “all properties of temples ( fundi, or praedia templorum)”, since they underwrote the cost of sacrifices. The same terms (universa loca vel praedia) appear in a text, which – accepting a new possible date – Emperor Valens sent to his comes rerum privatarum Orientis in September 364: “It is Our pleasure that all parcels of land and all landed estates (universa loca vel praedia), which are now the property of temples and which have been sold or donated by various Emperors, shall be reclaimed and added to Our private patrimony”.11 And a few months later, in December 364, Valentinian I sent an order to Mamertinus, praetorian prefect of Italy, Illyricum, and Africa, that “all property, which has been transferred from Our patrimony and placed in possession of temples by the authority of Emperor Julian of sainted memory, be restored to Our privy purse”.12 This comparison proves that in 415 Honorius was referring to the properties of the temples, and not to the temples themselves. Moreover, the word deputavit, which is used twice in Honorius’s decree, specifically indicated not what “belonged” to a temple but what “had been granted to its use” by the emperor.13 Both of Valentinian I’s constitutions shed light on the administrative changes that some provincial temples underwent during the third to fourth century AD. From the time of Alexander Severus, the finances of loca sacra – at least those whose finances were tied up with municipal funding – started to be placed under the authority of the emperor.14 Just as the imperial treasury restored to the cities only part of their revenues, making use of the rest for public works and other outlays judged useful by the imperial administration, the same was done for the municipal temples. This was a consequence of Septimius Severus’s reorganization of patrimonium principis and res privata into two different departments with a proper administrative staff in the provinces,15 but it did not affect all the various types of temples throughout the empire. Locally, the economy of individual sacred places and their lands remained varied, since they could be rural temples, temples linked to collegia or sodalicia, private temples, or temples dependent on village communities, in addition to those belonging to the cities. They were not governed by a uniform discipline. No general law could decide the fate of all them.16 While the process, by which the finances of the temples flowed into the imperial patrimony (res privata) over the course of almost two centuries is variously imagined by the scholars,17 it is evident from the quoted laws of Valentinian I that Emperor Julian had returned the management of their finances to the cities and temples that had been deprived of them. With the

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constitution of December 364, Valentinian I cancelled that order; and, with the rescript to Caesarius, he annulled the effects of Constantius II’s policy, who (according to Libanius) had sold or given away the properties of some temples and perhaps even some temples themselves.18 It was not all temples in the provinces, however, but rather those whose resources had been incorporated into the imperial patrimony that were affected by these measures. Even if they were valid both in the West (where he had addressed the praetorian prefect of Italy, Illyricum, and Africa) and in the East (from whence he received the request of the comes Caesarius), Valentinian I’s dispositions concerned only the city temples in the provinces, whose lands and other sources of revenue had been transferred to the imperial patrimony. Both constitutions provoked disputes and litigation, because they interfered with the interests of the landowners (domini). Those in particular who had bought or obtained in donation the buildings or land of temples felt injured to varying degrees.19 The laws were usually unclear. They were often repeated, sometimes in the same way and with the same words, and the landowners never ceased to ask the emperor for clarifications through their provincial governors as they filed lawsuits against the imperial tax authorities in the (often realized) hope that they would last indefinitely. Honorius’s law is exemplary of this process. Gratian had already answered the request of the Carthaginians, repeating his father’s laws, but in 415 the law was still disregarded because the landowners, religious colleges and other associations did not know (or pretended not to know) which rule on the revenues from their different temples was in force. Since Gratian’s law, cited by Emperor Honorius, had been given in response to a number of local issues, it was kept in the governor’s archive in Carthage, and its text had been probably sent to the Court with a demand for clarification. In fact, the emperor quoted it, probably repeating its terms. But, as a rescript, Gratian’s law was not inserted in the Theodosian Code. This could explain why in Justinian’s Code, where Honorius’s law (CTh 16.10.20) was also included (Cod. Iust. I.11.5), the reference to the constituta divi Gratiani was eliminated. Justinian’s compilers could not find any law of Gratian’s with such provisions, and so decided to keep the disposition, freeing it from any reference to the past emperor. The same compilers of Justinian understood that Honorius’s law responded to specific requests from Carthage, with the result that in their Code, it is rightly directed to the Carthaginian people (popolo cartaginiensi). In 415 it had been explained once again to those citizens that revenues of land and other incomes that belonged to the public temples of Carthage – the same evidently already involved in the disposition of Emperor Gratian (and Valentinian I) – and those belonging to a series of local pagan colleges (mentioned below in the law) would have to come under the control of the imperial patrimony. Since the income of those temples was considered to have been usurped, those responsible would have to refund about 30 years’ worth of profits to the tax authorities. Gratian’s law, which had therefore been enacted around 375, concerned the properties of the temples of Carthage. Reaffirming it in 415,


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Honorius asked that it be applied to all the territories of his kingdom.20 That decree had nothing to do with what Gratian had issued on the Altar of Victory and eventually the properties of temples in Rome in 382. Compared to the constitution of Valentinian I and that of Gratian, Honorius’s law introduced a significant novelty in 415 that should be noted. While Valentinian I and Gratian had ordered that the revenues of the temples (which Julian had once returned to them) should be joined to the property of the imperial privy purse (as well as the sold or donated temples’ lands and buildings), Honorius added that “any such property, granted to any persons or to the Church by the generosity of the previous emperors or by his own Majesty, shall remain forever in their patrimony”.21 Over the course of a generation, the tax authorities surrendered to the interests of some Christian owners, including churches, while the “sacred rituals” of “the false doctrine of the ancients” were judged “pagan superstition” and, along with their priests, subject to punishment. This is not surprising after a law such as the one that Honorius had sent in 407 to the praetorian prefect Curtius, which contained some of the fiercest anti-pagan provisions issued at the time.22 It has been thought that this latter decree also recalled Gratian’s measures of 382 because, in the (incomplete) text of the Theodosian Code, it opens with the order that “their income from taxes in kind shall be taken away from the temples and shall augment the annona for the benefit of the expenses of Our most devoted soldiers”.23 It is misleading, however, to believe that this order was a reiteration of the one issued by Gratian.24 In this law, only the order to strip the temples of their ornaments and even to demolish them is said to be “often decreed by repeated sanctions”.25 This same claim, however, seems erroneous, because (according to the preserved decrees) such a provision did not appear elsewhere. On the contrary, a law in 399 clearly states that the prohibition of pagan worship should not cause the destruction of temples.26 Apart from sporadic changes in politics, for special military situations such as during some years of the reign of Honorius, the preservation of pagan places of worship was assured in the West for another century.27

Which Sources Are Reliable for the Altar of Victory Affair and Gratian’s Decree? In his first letter to Valentinian I, Ambrose says that “they (scl. the privileges of the temples) have been curtailed or forbidden over almost the whole world by several previous emperors”.28 We do not know which period he was referring to, whether to the Severan age or the Tetrarchic, but the bishop is clearly talking about the legislation that had, in time, affected different regions of the Roman Empire before Gratian’s measures in 382. From his second letter, it is easier to understand that those decrees did not concern Rome: Ambrose here laughs at Symmachus’s statement that the River Nile recently wanted to “avenge the losses of the priests of the city of Rome”, adding that strangely the same river “did not avenge the losses of its own priests”.29 These passages

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confirm the picture we drew above of the revenues of the municipal temples in Roman provinces in different periods up until the reign of Valentinian I. Yet on Gratian’s decree for Rome Ambrose is anything but explicit or precise. In his first letter, the imperial measures change shape, passing from the generic “to order the restoration of altars to pagan deities as well as to provide money for the expenses of impious sacrifices”, or “grant their privileges”, to more specific “the setting up an altar to idols” […] and “the granting of money for impious sacrifices”.30 This is not very surprising. Ambrose asserted that his first letter was independent of the Relatio. According to him, he had known that an initiative had been taken up, either in the Senate or in the consistory, to convince Valentinian II to issue a decree in favour of the pagans. Lacking the time to organize a general counter-petition, which all the bishops would have signed,31 he had written to put the young prince on his guard about the moral significance and the political consequences which his assent to these requests would have had.32 The tone is that of someone who claims absolutely not to know either the author of the petition or its exact contents. He therefore asked the consistory for a copy of it, so that he could reply with greater thoroughness.33 We wonder whether Ambrose was so vague in defining the Senate’s demands because, in writing his first letter, he was really ignorant of their exact content, or if his imprecision is a rhetorical tool.34 The bishop used same hazy terminology ten years later, in the letter to Eugenius, when he wanted to explain that he had withdrawn from Milan because of his personal conviction that the emperors who granted requests like this [i.e. the petition of the pagans] “would appear to be making a donation to idolatry, and not merely a restitution” (dare, not reddere).35 In neither the one letter nor the other is the altar ever qualified as the Altar of Victory in the Senate house. There is no exact reference about the financing of sacrifices and, indeed, everything is left deliberately general. And yet, in 394, when he wrote to Eugenius, he had already read Symmachus’s Third Relatio and had already written his second letter to Valentinian II. But even this second letter – although Ambrose says that, having received a copy of Symmachus’s text, he intends to reply point by point – creates many problems. In fact, Ambrose’s and Symmachus’s texts are very different. Ambrose himself published his two letters to Valentinian II and the Third Relatio together to give the perspective of an ideal debate between a Roman senator and himself, a Catholic bishop.36 This was probably his impression, but it was incorrect. While nobody asked for Ambrose’s letters, the Third Relatio was an official document. The urban prefect wrote his memorandum by the Senate’s appointment and, as we shall see later, after having discussed the main issues with the senators convened in the assembly. Since Symmachus received the mandate of obtaining the re-establishment of those pagan privileges that Gratian’s measures had suppressed from the Senate, what he asked to restore had to be exactly what Gratian had deleted. He could neither omit any of them nor be vague about any of them. If then Ambrose attributes to Gratian


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measures that Symmachus does not mention, or defines them in unclear terms, we cannot but trust the credibility of the prefect’s text.37 Let us move on to the texts, which make all of this much clearer. Ambrose opens his second letter by indicating the purpose of the senatorial request: “When Symmachus, the most distinguished prefect of the City, had petitioned Your Clemency, that the altar which had been removed from the Senate house of the city of Rome should be returned to its place […]”.38 The bishop could no longer use the technique of amplificatio, as in the first letter (“I am surprised that some people have conceived the hope that you are duty bound to order the restoration of altars to pagan deities”39), and instead of using the plural, he clearly says that it concerns only one altar. He does something more: he identifies in the restoration of the Altar of Victory the principal theme of the prefect’s petition, and it is under the heading “On the Altar of Victory” that the presumed dispute between Ambrose and Symmachus was passed down into the tradition, being already known as such to Paulinus of Milan and Ennodius at the end of the fifth century.40 Yes, Symmachus did spend much time on the symbolic values represented by the altar of the Senate house, values which were to be maintained even if Victoria was not believed in as a goddess (reddatur saltem nomini honor, qui numini denegatus est).41 The Altar, according to Symmachus, was apotropaic since it guaranteed protection in the conflicts with barbarians or with any other enemies of Rome.42 This was a mark of the devotion to antiquity and tradition which the Senate fostered;43 this was where the Senate had established and re-established its own corporate identity.44 The Altar, then, guaranteed political concord between all the Senate’s members in their allegiance to the dynasty, and assured the empire’s unity in the loyalty (fides) of its peoples.45 But this was not, however, the only request, and Ambrose himself replied to Symmachus on this subject only towards the end of his second letter, merely explaining why a Christian emperor could not allow Christian senators to witness the sacrifices made to the goddess Victory by his pagan colleagues: the oath of all had to be given to the emperor, not to a false deity.46 But Symmachus’s text addressed many other themes. The Roman senator also requested the revocation of the annulment of certain fiscal privileges, the reinstatement of certain imperial grants, and appeals to the emperor not to deny the right of receiving fundi through inheritance. In his first letter, Ambrose summarily described all this as an effort “to provide money for the expenses of impious sacrifices”.47 And, according to the scholarly consensus that still holds, the measures which Symmachus here sought to reverse struck at all the Roman colleges and/or all the temples.48 On the contrary, the language of Symmachus is specific. The privileges he names first, as having been unexpectedly withdrawn by Gratian for the benefit of the imperial treasury, are those “prerogatives of the Vestal Virgins” which even Constantius II had left unaltered.49 At issue here is a body of privileges which are listed and clarified in what follows.

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1. The stipendium castitatis The first is the stipendium castitatis.50 It is certain that since the time of King Numa, according to Livy (Liv.1.20.3), when the college was first instituted, only the Vestals (and perhaps the curions and flamines) received this sort of tribute. None of the priests of the four major Roman colleges could receive this sort of public salary, since their priesthoods were assimilated to a magistrature. At the beginning of his second letter, Ambrose attributed this privilege (a “tribute offered to chastity” for Symmachus) to all priests of Rome. In an effort to sum up the complex contents of the Third Relatio, Ambrose claims that Symmachus had put forward three points: “that Rome demands what he calls her ancient cults; that priests and Vestal Virgins ought to be paid the wages that are due to them; that when the priests were deprived of their wages, general famine followed”.51 For Ambrose, the remuneration concerned all priests, and, as in other passages of letters, these priests are listed before the Vestal Virgins. But the Vestals are the only ones Symmachus mentioned, because in fact only they could receive a stipendium castitatis. 2. Immunity from public duties The second of the privileges that Symmachus quoted as withdrawn from them (Vestalium virginum praerogativa detracta) is specified as “immunity from public duties (munera)”.52 Far from referring to all the priestly colleges of the empire, or even the greater colleges of Rome, according to Symmachus, that provision involved only the Vestals. As is made clear immediately afterwards, the impact of the cancellation of this privilege was felt by “virginity dedicated to the public good (saluti publicae dicata virginitas)”. In this sense, the sacerdotium damna mentioned in the following phrases ( fiscus bonorum principum non sacerdotum damnis, sed hostium spoliis augeatur) refer not to the spoliation or losses of “the priests”, as is commonly translated, but to those “of the priestesses”. In fact, the Vestals, and the Vestals alone, are the only priests to be mentioned so far.53 On fiscal immunity, however, Ambrose was faithful to the text of the Third Relatio: “Let the Vestal Virgins, he says, have their immunities”.54 In this case, too, Symmachus is specific in speaking of vacare muneribus, but at least the subjects from whom the privilege has been withdrawn are the same. Nevertheless, when Ambrose proceeds with a comparison between the Vestal Virgins and the Christian Virgins, to emphasize that Christian emperors ought more reasonably to have granted these immunities to Christian virgins, he defines them as subsidia largitatum.55 How could the fiscal immunities granted to Vestals be defined as “generous assistance” to all Christian virgins? He is probably dealing with a sort of immunity from public duties (munera curalia), which, for Christian women of middle class, could have amounted to a genuinely significant economic privilege, while it would have had a purely symbolic value for the aristocratic Vestals. The latter were not subject to financial burdens of this sort either by birth or by land, since they were not able


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to inherit within their family while they remained Vestals, being released from patria potestas.56 3. The exchequer retains lands left to the virgins and ministers As to the stipendium and the fiscal exemption, which are the first two of the “withdrawn privileges (detracta praerogativa)” mentioned by Symmachus, in spite of Ambrose’s further references also to the other ministers or priests, there is no room for doubt about the injured party: it is clearly the Vestals. But the third privilege could have led Ambrose and modern scholars to believe that the provisions were general. “In addition, the fiscus (exchequer) retains lands left to the Virgins and ministers in accordance with the wishes of the dying”.57 The expression virgines et ministri did not indicate Vestals and pontifices, because the latter are always called sacerdotes in the sources.58 Still less could the ministri of the Relatio indicate the sacerdotes of the other priestly colleges of Rome. In the ancient sources, minister is not strictly equivalent to sacerdos. In the lemma that Festus dedicates to the institution of the college of the Vestals, they are called sacerdotes and ministrae because they performed the sacred rites themselves.59 The original function of the term minister, signifying the specifically cultic aspect of a priest, meant that over the course of Late Antiquity it was progressively used to indicate the members of the lesser priesthoods,60 or rather the celebrants of lesser rank, as subordinate religious functionaries.61 Such a distinction between sacerdotes and ministri, which was typical of the pagan religious colleges, was used also by Christian communities (the orthodox, as well as the heretical). Here minister meant those figures associated with holy rites, but of inferior, or at least different, rank compared to the priesthood.62 As for the term pontifex, while there is no passage anywhere in which pagan pontifices are defined as ministri, the inscription placed by Aconia Paulina on the base of the statue dedicated to Coelia Concordia shows that they were defined without qualification as sacerdotes.63 We have further confirmation that ministri and sacerdotes were not considered equivalent terms at all. From the Theodosian Code it would seem that the first decree, which cancelled the fiscal privileges of all the pagan priests, was issued in 396. Arcadius, then, took care to list sacerdotes, ministri, praefecti, hierophantae sacrorum sive quolibet alio nomine nuncupatur, to ensure that none were forgotten.64 Since the measure was addressed to the praetorian prefect of the East, it was not necessarily received also in the West, meaning that the members of the priestly colleges of Rome may not have been affected by it. In the case, however, that it was also valid for Rome, only at the very end of the fourth century were the privilegia of pontifices, augures, quindecemviri and septemviri epulonum really limited. The disposition of Gratian, against which Symmachus was appealing, only affected the Vestals and some their specific rights. No other college was involved. Concerning Gratian’s decree on lands which were left for the Vestals to inherit from private individuals, Ambrose’s declaration seems to clarify the text of the Relatio nicely: “Nobody has deprived the temples of their donations, or

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the college of the haruspices of its legacies; only estates have been confiscated […] Their estates have been taken away, but their legal rights have not”.65 We must notice that, since the subject of the prohibition is not specified, Ambrose’s readers would have been able to infer that the measure was extended in general to all the traditional priests. Shortly beforehand, however, in emphasizing the contrast between the pagan and Christian cases, he had stated that: “What a Christian widow bequeaths to the priests of a temple is valid, what she bequeaths to the ministers of God is invalid”.66 The bishop himself, then, provides confirmation, albeit indirectly, that only the Vestals had lost the right to inherit land; all the other priests continued to enjoy it. Moreover, Ambrose uses the phrase praedia sublata sunt (“Their estates have been taken away”). From expressions like these, it is easy to believe that there was a general confiscation of all the lands of temples, however we must trust Symmachus’s text and remember that this measure also concerned only the pagan virgins. Even if we can exclude that the third measure that Symmachus mentioned was a general prohibition, one which prevented any further bequests of landed property in favour of all the traditional priesthoods, we have to understand what exactly it did mean. Since, according to Symmachus, Gratian decreed that the fiscus should seize the lands which private individuals left for the Vestals to inherit, I suspect that it did not result in the confiscation of all the lands of the temple of Vesta.67 The text does not say that the fiscus had to take over all the fundi belonging to the college, but that the emperor had forbidden the Vestals to receive any in the future.68 We must infer that it was not a retroactive measure. The right of inheriting real property was denied to these priestesses, as if they were legatariae incapaces—unqualified to receive bequests.69 Although Symmachus does not fail to bring out the paradoxical nature of such a sanction,70 Gratian’s prohibition on any inheritance of lands left to the Vestals by will, while it prevented any further growth in their property, did not threaten their existing patrimony, and did not make it impossible for the ancient college of Vesta to survive. 4. The allowances owed to holy chastity (sacra castitatis alimenta) The last of the “withdrawn privileges” (praerogativa detracta) is variously described as victus modicus, sacra castitatis alimenta, annona.71 We are dealing here with a subsidy in the form of foodstuffs, which had been delivered to the Vestals from the arca frumentaria,72 and which, in all ancient communities, had been freely given to those responsible for the divine cults which were believed to be particularly beneficial for the community. This privilege had not been shared by the Vestals with their ministri, it being rather exclusive to the Vestals. Indeed, when we hear more precisely from whom this subsidy in kind (annona) had been stripped to be reassigned to the dock-workers, it is only the Vestals that are evoked by Symmachus.73 A certain discrepancy emerges also in Ambrose’s handling of this subsidy. In the first place, again, the first word in the phrase


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sacerdotibus quoque suis et ministris queruntur alimenta publica non praeberi would have to be imagined as feminine to correspond to Symmachus’s sacrae castitatis alimenta and virginibus sacris annona.74 Apart from this, it is odd that Ambrose should bracket Symmachus’s request that the annonae be restored to the Vestals with the recent legal prohibitions on Christian priests receiving inheritances from individuals and on obtaining exemptions from munera if they were of curial origin. The two sets of privileges simply do not match one another.75 On the other hand, it is precisely paragraphs 13 and 14 of the bishop’s second letter to Valentinian II that make it clear why Ambrose also constantly attributed to priests privileges that Symmachus clearly says were denied only to the Vestals, as if all the pagan priests were included in those measures. In these sections of the second letter, he compares the legal-economic conditions of Christian clerics of curial origin with those that would have been enjoyed again by pagan priests if Gratian’s measures had been repealed. He could not refer to the members of the four main colleges of Rome, who, like the Vestals, were of senatorial rank and therefore exempt from the liturgies that fell on the decurions. Ambrose was thinking of pagan priests in Italy and in the other provinces of the empire, for whom even Constantine had confirmed some important tax exemptions.76 As for Christian clerics, the legislation in question dated back to Constantine, who already in 313 had granted dispensation from all liturgies to the Catholic clerics and bishops of his part of the empire,77 but then had imposed strong limits on the entry of curials into the clergy,78 even to the point of forbidding it.79 After the interventions of Constantius II and Julian, in 364 Valentinian I established new strict rules,80 which two laws – enacted in the West and East in 383 by Gratian and Theodosius I – reaffirmed, bringing the issue again to the forefront. The bishop, in fact, pointed out that Christian priests were forbidden to receive donations and testamentary bequests from women who were not their close relatives,81 and that, if they were of curial origin and heritage, they were obliged to hand over their property to children or close relatives when they entered the orders.82 The first prohibition was issued in a law ad Damasum episcopum urbis Romae, to be read in the churches of Rome on July 30, 370,83 but could have been taken up in the constitution issued by Gratian’s chancellery on April 18, 383, which opens with post alia.84 In 384, in fact, Jerome, in his letter to Eustochium, also denounced the malpractice of the men of the church and of monks, whom the legislative prohibition had wanted to strike, as if it were a recent law and not from several years prior.85 In 383, with the constitution CTh 12.1.99 to the praetorian prefect of Italy, Hypatius, Gratian responded to a petition from the heads of the synagogues, alarmed by an ordinance that obliged them to take part in the municipal councils,86 since they were no longer excluded from the procedure of nominatio.87 He turned to the Jews, abrogating their immunity from the compulsory public services of decurions, which patriarchs and other Jewish priests had been granted for centuries, so that they would not be privileged compared to Christian clerics who had been excluded from that immunity. Referring to these Christians,

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the law of 383 specified that “not even clerics are free to deliver themselves to divine service until they have discharged all the service due to their municipalities. If any person, therefore, is truly dedicated to God, he shall provide another person with his own property and thus establish him to complete his compulsory public services for him” (as Valentinian I had already established). It is clear from the content of Gratian’s law that the emperor had been induced to deal again with the problem of the privileges of Christian clerics within the framework of a general reorganisation of the tax-exempt categories, which had already been initiated by his father. The measure of 382 on the privileges of the Vestals and the removal of the altar of Victory, which had provoked the strong reaction of the Senate, was also part of this process.88 One can understand Ambrose’s alarm in 384, a few months after Gratian’s law reaffirmed the hateful order, which clerics and bishops of curial origin constantly evaded. The Bishop of Milan, moreover, had been struck above all by the irreverent and sarcastic tone of the constitution that Theodosius had issued at the same time as the Western one: Decurions who prefer to serve the Church rather than the municipal councils, if they wish to be what they pretend, shall hold in contempt those goods which they stealthily withdraw. For We do not free them under any other terms except that they shall have no regard for their patrimony. Indeed, it is not seemly for spirits bound by divine worship to be occupied by desire for patrimonies.89 In the second letter to Valentinian II, in fact, he seems to respond to both constitutions: […] the loss of material goods is not a cause of grief for us […]. Which I wanted to point out not because I feel sorry for it, but so that it may be known what I am not complaining about; I prefer, in fact, that we are poorer in money than in grace.90 The confrontation between pagan priests and Christian clerics, raised in response to Symmachus, did not, however, convince the emperors to revise the legislation on the ordination of curials. After Theodosius again legislated in the same terms in 386,91 Ambrose expressed himself clearly in 388, when he wrote to Theodosius about the synagogue of Callinicum:92 How will I excuse your intervention with the bishops, who are now complaining loudly that some, after thirty or more years as priests or ministers of the church, are being diverted from their sacred office and assigned to the curia? […] How can I excuse, I say, this fact to the bishops, who complain about the treatment of their clergy and write that the churches are depopulated by the heavy attack? This I wanted you to know.93


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The problem, still unresolved in 388, had arisen in 383 and already then seemed very relevant to all the bishops around Ambrose. This could explain, in my opinion, why in 384 the bishop of Milan wrote a second letter to Valentinian II, which only purported to concern the Altar of Victory, since the Court had already refused Symmachus’s request. In reality, Ambrose was concerned about the possibility of letting citizens of curial origin be ordained clerics while maintaining their patrimonies. Due to the decree of Valentinian I, which Gratian and Theodosius reaffirmed, not only had ordinations recently declined, at a time when Christianization was growing, but ecclesiastical personnel of high culture and considerable landed wealth, which the church could use in works of charity and for new sacred buildings, decreased significantly.94 Theodosius listened to the appeal of the Italian bishops, of which Ambrose had spoken in 388. Like Valentinian I and Valens in 371 and 373, respectively,95 in 390 he simply granted an amnesty: without changing the regulations, he conferred immunity from civil obligations and the right to maintain their patrimony to curial clerics of the minor orders up to the rank of exorcist.96 The constitution, issued in Milan in 390, established the year of the second consulate of Theodosius I and Cinegius as the terminus ante quem for the remission: this was 388, the same year in which Ambrose had written from Aquileia and then spoke to the sovereign in church to explain the political consequences of the regulations on priests of curial origin. In conclusion, reading again the Third Relatio of Symmachus, I still believe that this is the most reliable text for understanding precisely what measures, addressed to which priests, Gratian took in 382. They did not apply to all the priestly colleges, as Ambrose claimed. It suited the bishop to interpret the ban as if it were addressed “to pagan priests and Vestals”, i.e. as if it were a general measure, when speaking to the emperors about the legal and economic conditions of Christian virgins and clerics of curial rank. Nor was the ban issued in a general law. Since Ambrose notes that the privileges of the pagans had been abolished in Rome by means of rescripts,97 we must believe that rescripts were used as the legal basis for intervening in the life of the college of Vesta and limiting its privileges. Even if Gratian’s rescripts were limited in their scope and effectiveness – and he was far from embarking on a radical policy of eliminating paganism in 382, as he has been generally credited with – the measures that were taken against one of the most ancient priestly colleges were certainly severe. Those privileges gave Vestals a special status. In abrogating them, Gratian delegitimized the Roman priestesses and all the state cults that were celebrated annually in Rome, since the Vestals played a role in at least ten annual public festivals.98 They carried out these rites assisted by fatalium sacrorum ministri. In fact, the ceremonies the Vestals conducted were defined as sacra fatalia, because they were watched over by the fatale pignus Imperii Romani which was kept in the temple of Vesta.99 They had always been connected with the prosperity and survival of Rome, as Symmachus’s appeal to the salvific function of the Vestals (saluti publicae dicata virginitas) emphasized, recalling the belief that the holiness

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of those perfect officiants had always succeeded in winning divine benevolence for the protection of the homeland.100 Also, it was most likely the income from the college of Vestals that probably kept the ancient state cults going. All this was well known to Ambrose who, summing up the themes dealt with by Symmachus, connected ancient cults, the Vestal Virgins, and the salvation of the empire: “Rome demands what he calls her ancient cults; and that priests and Vestal Virgins ought to be paid the wages that are due to them; and that when the priests were deprived of their wages general famine followed”.101 Ambrose tried to ridicule this belief, but, a few years later, Orosius indicated that Christians themselves shared the idea that consecrated virginity could offer protection to the homeland. He imagined a story of an old Christian virgin who, during the Gothic invasion at the beginning of fifth century AD, was able to preserve the vasa sacra of S. Peter’s.102 That story was evidently built on the well-known episode of the Vestals, who in the fourth century BC had preserved from the Senonian Gauls the mysterious sacra conserved in Vesta’s aedes.103

The Roman Senators’ Strategies The close relationship between the ancient cults of Rome and the Vestal Virgins explains only a part of the story that passed into tradition as the “Altar of Victory affair”. In 382, Roman senators were on the alert but they did not get alarmed. They merely sent an embassy to Milan. In response to the reaction of Christian senators – appropriately briefed by Pope Damasus – some pagan members of the Senate argued that the recent removal of the Altar of Victory was not a mere symbolic gesture, as it had been before. They therefore persuaded the assembly to send a city prefect’s memorandum to the Court, to explain that the traditional religion of Rome was an expression of politics and an essential form of public life, and it could not be renounced without the very salvation of the empire being seriously threatened. This is shown by the two phases in which the question developed, the actors involved, and the diverse problems connected to the strictly religious ones.104 Ambrose and Symmachus agree that the reaction of the senatorial assembly had developed in two phases. In 382, an embassy led by Q. Aurelius Symmachus – a senior senator but without the official status – was sent to Emperor Gratian by vote of the assembly,105 but it was denied an audience by disreputable men “precisely because otherwise justice would not have failed me”.106 Ambrose confirms that the legation had only “attempted” to present its requests.107 Both the bishop and Symmachus even agreed on the fact that, in 382, the Senate was not unified in the vote to send the legation: Symmachus actually highlights that, in 384, the agreement in the assembly had been unanimous, while, in 382, some had hoped to prevail on others in obtaining the favor of the Court.108 Ambrose explicitly affirms that, in 382, the Christian senators had not approved sending the embassy.


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A passage of his first letter shows that the different groups of senators had contrasting points of view: But let it not be said that this (scl. in 384) is a petition of the Senate: a handful of pagans are exploiting the title they all share. For about two years ago, when they were trying to make the same petition, the holy Damasus, bishop of the Roman Church, chosen by the judgement of God, sent me a memorandum which the Christian senators – and they were innumerable – had given him, insisting that they had authorised nothing of that kind, that they did not agree with that kind of petition of the pagans, that they were not giving their consent; complaining both publicly and privately that they would not attend the Senate, if any decree of that kind was issued.109 The behavior of the Christian senators, in particular, arouses our interest: But perhaps it will be said: “why then were they (the Christian senators) not present in the Senate when these petitions were recently drawn up?” Surely the men who stayed away express their views clearly enough. And do we wonder that they (the pagan senators) are depriving private individuals at Rome of the freedom to oppose them, seeing that they will not allow you to be free to refuse to command something of which you disapprove, and so to remain true to your own belief ?110 Those who sent their letter (libellus) to the emperor had clearly not signed on to the deliberations of the assembly because they weren’t even present at the moment of the vote. It is difficult to understand why they were absent. One could suppose that the Christian senators were not the most assiduous in attending the Senate. Ambrose described the fact as compromising the freedom of Christian senators to remain faithful to their own opinions. This might indicate that the group favorable to the restoration of the Altar of Victory had had recourse to a “lobbying strategy” in order to obtain the majority by organizing the vote on a day in which they knew that they would be able to achieve it. If this was the strategy, one can understand the reaction of the Christian senators when they realized that they had been kept in the dark about the agenda of this session, while the bishop of Rome, Damasus, explained to them that the subject was of vital importance for the integrity of their faith.111 They immediately wrote a letter to the emperor in order to explain their position. Some travelled to Court to speak with Gratian in person. Finally, with Damasus’s help, they prepared a document, which the pope sent to the bishop of Milan. Ambrose could forward it to Gratian before the embassy itself arrived, evidently affirming that the document brought by the ambassadors was not representative of the vote of the entire assembly. The Christian senators tried in various ways to reach the emperor to explain that they had been outraged by the rest of the assembly. This is an interesting

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testimony of how difficult it was to approach the imperial Court in the last 20 years of the fourth century. They finally succeeded because Damasus involved the bishop of Milan. It was not, however, a ploy which reached the goal by crosswise and fraudulent means. The bishop of Rome and the metropolitan of Annonarian Italy followed the procedure recommended by some council canons, particularly those voted at Serdica in 343: This also your providence ought to treat, that since you have decreed that lest they be branded as depraved, bishops should not proceed to the Court. Whoever has or has received requests such as have mentioned before, let him send [them] by his deacon, for the person of an agent will not cause ill will, and he will be able to report more quickly what he has accomplished. And this seems to follow: that from whatever province bishops should send their requests to his [their] brother and fellow bishop who is established in the major city, that is the metropolis, that he should send his deacon and the petitions, providing letters of introduction, on the same basis to our brother and fellow bishops who at that time are staying in those regions and cities in which the auspicious and blessed Augustus governs the state. If any [bishop] has friends in the palace [of whom] he wishes to request something (if it is honourable), let it not be prohibited to ask and indicate it through his deacon to those who he knows can present [his request] by kindly intercession in his absence.112 The bishops that gathered had decided not only what the content of the petitions to be presented to emperor should be, but also that it should not be the bishop who forwarded them. For a long time, it was thought that the canons of the Council of Serdica, ignored in the East, were little known even in the West. But, since in Rome they were believed to have been issued by the Council of Nicaea in 325, some of them were held in high esteem, and gave rules of priestly behaviour. Ambrose refered to them as mos sacerdotalis when he confronted Magnus Maximus at Trier.113 If the Christian senators succeeded by following that custom, after several unsuccessful attempts in petitioning the emperor, the procedure outlined at Serdica had evidently been approved, shared and assimilated into Court ceremonial. The senatorial embassy, on the other hand, had not been given an audience in 382. We do not know what criteria governed the ius admissionum, nor who was responsible for applying it at the end of the fourth century.114 The Codex Theodosianus reserves one rubric for the regulation of embassies, but the norms are addressed to provincial functionaries and praetorian prefects, with the intention of limiting visits to the Court by too many legations. If the criteria for admitting the Senate’s petitions were the same as those applied by the prefects to select those sent by the provincial governors, we should consider that the embassy led by Symmachus in 382 was refused because, according to the letter of the Christian senators, it was judged an “impudent petition”, or a superfluous transaction’.115


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The rationale deployed by the Christian senators did not have any technical validity, as voting on decrees in the Senate required only a simple majority, presumably only of those present, though probably only after 383.116 However, it might have carried political weight and influenced the decision of the magister officiorum, who was the first filter between the sovereign and the embassy. Symmachus defined as improbi those who prevented the legates of 382 from being received by the emperor. It has been suggested, rightly I believe, that his following statement can explain this allusion: “The Senate rightly attacks those who have given their own power precedence over the reputation of the prince. It is our work to keep watch on behalf of your Clemency”.117 Elsewhere, in fact, Symmachus recalls that Gratian’s magister officiorum of 382–3, Macedonius, had fallen into disgrace immediately after the death of the emperor and had been sent to Rome under escort, together with his accomplice, Ammianus, in order to be judged by the quinqueviral tribunal of senators headed by the urban prefect.118 The senators who had voted for the embassy succeeded in avenging themselves, but in 382 their requests had still gone unheard. Two years later, however, the issue seemed so important to the Senate that it was resumed again. Once Gratian was gone from the scene, those immediately responsible for the exclusa legatio acted in such a way as to attain broader goals without organizing any lobbying actions.119 One window into the new scenario is offered by certain key terms that recur in both the Third Relatio and Ambrose’s letter to Emperor Eugenius: The most distinguished man Symmachus, when he was prefect of the city, petitioned the younger Valentinian of august memory to order that ‘what had been removed from the temples should be restored to them’ (ut templis quae sublata fuerant reddi iuberet).120 The same expression “what had been removed from the temples” returns in this letter, though not when he remembers that an embassy of the Senate “on the same subject” was sent to Theodosius I, nor when he recalls the one sent by the Senate to Valentinian II in Gaul; but rather where the bishop embarks upon a recapitulation of the events of the previous decade,121 and, to underline that Eugenius had refused the requests of two other embassies, finally agrees to make gifts to the same legates who had made those requests: And it could perhaps be said, august emperor, that you ‘did not restore to temples’ but made a donation to men who have deserved well of yourselves […] When you had become emperor, envoys petitioned you ‘to make restitution to the temples’, and you did not; for the second time others asked, and you resisted; and yet later did you really think it was right to make the gift to the very men who were making the petition?122 Scholars usually take the object of the “restitution to the temples” from a previous passage of the same letter of Ambrose. There the bishop recalls that

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he presented two petitions to the emperors, in which “I indicated that it was impossible for a Christian to return the financial means for pagan sacrifices”, and that if Valentinian II had accepted, he would appear “to be making a donation to idolatry, and not merely a restitution”, that is “he was making a voluntary contribution to the expenses of superstition”.123 The summary was not from both of his letters (as he claims) but solely from his first letter to Valentinian II (written before receiving Symmachus’s Third Relatio), as is clear from the conclusion of §2, where he quotes his speech to Valentinian II.124 However, translating the expression templis quae sublata as “the resources which had been taken away from the temples”, without considering that templis reddideris, or templis redderes simply means “giving back to the temples”, means not taking into account either what Ambrose himself said in the second letter to Valentinian II (after reading the Third Relatio), or what precisely Symmachus himself had said. In fact, claiming to paraphrase the words of Symmachus in the second letter to Valentinian II, the bishop reports: “But he says, ‘ancient altars should be restored to their idols, and ancient ornaments (ornamenta) to the temples’”,125 whereas Symmachus had written: “But even supposing that it would have been wrong to refrain from causing this bad omen, surely it was fitting at least not to lay hands on the ornaments (ornamentis) of the Senate chamber (curiae)”.126 It is clear that Ambrose was referring to the Altar of Victory, which had been removed from the Senate house.127 Just as the statue of Victoria could be defined as an ornamentum, the curia was a templum. Indeed, according to Varro, in order for the deliberations of the Senate to have full judicial force, its meetings had to occur in a place that had been inaugurated.128 The sources indicate no less than sixteen places where the Senate met in the Republican era, whether inside or outside the pomerium; some of them were used regularly, others only in exceptional cases: the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus; those of Concordia, Bellona, Castor, and Pollux; and Apollo, the Atrium Libertatis, the Curia of Pompey, and that of Octavius.129 The curia Iulia, from which the Altar and/or the statue had been removed was of course regarded as a templum, since it was the senatorial meeting place par excellence which, from 44 BC onward, had replaced the curia Hostilia next to the comitium. Like any templum, its ornamenta needed to be replaced: Ambrose himself speaks of ornamenta delubris. The words reported by the bishop did not only summarize the request advanced in the Senate, nor in this case did he render the object of the request in the plural simply to emphasize the situation. The explanation can come by considering that Symmachus opens his Relatio by declaring that the Senate had decided to send a new petition, just after noting “that crimes were finally being subjected to law”.130 Since the emperor had ordered the praetorian prefect of 384, Vettius Agorius Praetextatus, to investigate the spoliation of materials from the temples and other public buildings,131 and if (as I believe) the two questions had been put in relation to one another in the discussion of the assembly,132 then the text of that law was produced in the Senate in order


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to introduce the debate on the Altar of Victory, and was sent the bishop from the Court (as an appendix) together with Symmachus’s Third Relatio. Ambrose, therefore, was mixing the content of the final deliberation of the Senate, as reproduced in the Third Relatio (ornamentis saltem curiae decuit abstineri), with the content of that recent measure of Valentinian II. In such a scenario, the discussion in the Senate opened as a reflection on the formal, legalistic aspects of the question. It is known that the urban prefect headed the senatorial college of quinqueviri, instituted by Gratian to investigate the trials in which senators had been implicated.133 In order to conduct their actions as a judicial Court and issue their sentences, the senators often came upon judicial inconsistencies that they then indicated to the emperor via the Relationes of the urban prefect. In the case in question, the Senate charged the urban prefect Symmachus with presenting a memorandum to the emperor and asking for the abrogation of Gratian’s measures, because the assembly decreed that those dispositions were contradictory and had been superseded by the decree sent to Praetextatus. Actually, the first argument treated by the Third Relatio sheds light on the anomaly of Gratian’s measures vis à vis the entire legislative tradition: all emperors, independently of the personal faith they professed, had preserved the status religionum as a guarantor of the fate of the empire.134 All of them, even since the time of Constantine, had remained faithful to this principle, except Gratian, whose provisions did not have the support of mos and could even be invalidated by the recent provision of Valentinian II. Symmachus’s argument was not “fallaciously legalistic”, as has been believed. Imperial orders had gradations of impact and were expressed in legislative forms whose efficacy varied. Gratian’s measures had not been issued as a lex generalis but rather a rescript, a disposition issued in response to a particular request. If in the case of a trial, the rescript did not have the effect of a definitive sentence but gave the appearance of being merely interpretative and, as such, controvertible,135 in an extra-judicial context, it had a limited purview and was able to be modified. Roman senators were persuaded by a legalistic argument (i.e. that Gratian’s rescript had been overtaken by the law sent to the praetorian prefect Praetextatus) to let Symmachus send Valentinian II his Relatio. Since that decree was valid not only for Rome but for the entire Western empire, the rescript was to be considered abolished, and the Altar of Victory to be restored, as well as the privileges of the Vestals. Confirmation also comes from the structure of the Third Relatio, which makes a single request of the emperor: repetimus igitur religionum statum qui reipublicae diu profuit. Placed at the beginning and repeated at the end of the text,136 this frames the sections pertinent to the restoration of the altar and the abrogation of the measures taken against the Vestals. The latter topics are not really requests but have the form of a judicial petition, like when a judge might ask for imperial interpretation after finding normative inconsistencies that had created uncertainties, and subsequently suggest options for their correction. This proposed reconstruction, while it departs from the “personalising”

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portrait drawn by Ambrose, seems to me to restore a historical profile to the action of the Senate. This is congruent with the functions that the main consultative assembly of the Western Empire was normally called on to perform even during the fourth century AD. Scholars usually forget to consider it. As far as the content of the Senate’s request is concerned, the decree obtained by Praetextatus on the despoliation of the temples and public buildings of Rome permitted Symmachus to place a stronger emphasis on the profound connection that existed between the status religionum, instituta maiorum, patriae iura et fata. The question of the Altar of Victory could be presented as an aspect of the larger problem of the preservation of Rome, and above all, the maintenance of its monumental appearance ( facies). This means that in the assembly, the restoration of the ornaments in the Senate house was exploited by associating it with a larger debate on the politics of public buildings. In a city like Rome, temples and other public monuments were supposed to be preserved from abuses and speculation by builders. They were, after all, an expression of Rome’s history, of the victories of its empire, and of its civilisation. This argument, which was probably just mentioned in the text of the first embassy, was widely valued in 384, as shown through the exhortation to the emperor to permit noble senators to transmit to their descendants what they had received from their ancestors137 and by the description of the behavior of Constantius II when he visited Rome.138 Although everything we know of the decree sent to Praetextatus depends on Symmachus’s Relatio 21, and despite the fact that he remains noncommittal about the type of action which, as urban prefect, he had been charged with punishing (vindicata fana), it is possible that not only the appropriation of sacred ornamenta was investigated but also the various thefts of marble, columns, and all the reusable materials which in those difficult economic times were much sought after for new buildings.139 One need only reread the constitutions concerning the violation of sepulchers in the Codex Theodosianus in order to understand that even tombs, especially the oldest and most revered tombs, were constantly subject to similar vandalism with the goal of reusing their most precious architectural elements.140 That decree, although it was primarily relevant to temples that had been subjected to thievery, drew inspiration from a series of laws designed to limit building corruption, which we can trace back to Emperor Claudius. The SC Hosidianum, in about 44–46 AD, seems to have included early building regulations for Rome and Italy, forbidding the demolition of the urban fabric and villas (inducere ruinis domum villarumque).141 After about a decade, the SC Volusianum too intervened against property speculators who bought dilapidated buildings in order to trade in architectural materials. Both of them sought to prevent Rome and the Italian landscape from being spoiled by ruins.142 Furthermore, even at the time of Valentinian I one sees this kind of building politics in the laws that forbade the construction of new public works without imperial authorization and ordered restoration projects to be given priority over new construction. Both principles were already present in regulations included in the Digestum which dated back


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respectively to the Severan and Antonine periods.143 While a constitution of Constantius II allowed total freedom to provincial governors,144 Emperor Julian compelled them to finish monuments that had already been started before beginning a new one.145 Thus, it does not seem accidental that friends of Julian were the functionaries who, under Valentinian I, requested the implementation of that policy. From high imperial texts, as well as from late antique dispositions, we note an awareness that the architectural aspect of the city was meaningful because of the ethical and social values that it expressed. To preserve the traditional facies meant to show respect for the past. The magnificence of the monuments indicated the greatness of the present. It is quite clear that a kind of hostility from an important group of senators toward the nouveau riche had a serious impact on the formulation of this notion of city planning regulations. In the high empire the targets were the homines novi and liberti; from the post-Constantinian period the new functionaries, who came to Rome in order to sit in the Senate thanks to their high offices in the imperial Court, were included. These new senators were primarily interested in a policy that would have demolished old neighborhoods and ancient public edifices, not only to invest their substantial new fortunes in the city, but also because of their desire to reuse ever-larger urban spaces for newly founded tituli and churches. Many of them were Christians, so that also from this point of view the novitas Christiana was affirmed as part of that ideology of modernity, which had been defended by the new classes brought to power by the Constantinian revolution: equites and provincial notables who had begun to flow into the Senate, causing it to grow progressively. Yet, the inquest concerning temple properties, ideally linked to a conservative sort of building politics, found strong support also among Christian senators of the old nobility, who had become annoyed or threatened by the urban devastation that the speculations of their nouveau riche colleagues promised to produce. We should trust Symmachus when he says that in implementing the new mandate the Senate had reached unanimous concord: nulla est hic dissensio voluntatum. The senators’ agreement on a subject, which its supporters could have put on the agenda of the assembly under the heading “maintaining the monumental facies of Rome”, can reasonably explain how it was possible for the Roman Senate to send more embassies after, and despite, the refusal of Symmachus’s Third Relatio in 384. In his epistle to Eugenius, Ambrose summarised the content of the new petitions with the repeated expression ‘to make restitution to the temples’ (reddere templis), in order to call attention to the “philo-pagan” significance that they had in his opinion. However, Theodosius’s attitude in 389146 confirms that the senators who went to him, repeating the requests of 384, had strong arguments, so strong as to not seem negligible for an emperor after a trip to Rome and the success obtained in the Senate.147 Theodosius, in fact, was probably tempted to accept the embassy’s requests, at least if we consider how Ambrose represented his speech to the emperor, and how the bishop overlooked his reply, adding a curious clause:

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On a later occasion I spoke my mind also in the presence of the most clement Emperor Theodosius, and I did not hesitate to address him face to face, and after a delegation of the Senate with a petition of that kind been announced (though not the whole Senate had made that demand148), the emperor delayed his assent to my submission. And so for some considerable number of days I did not approach the emperor, and I did not incur his displeasure, because he knew that I was not doing it for my advantage, but because it was for his own good, and that of my soul, that ‘I was not ashamed to speak in the presence of the king’ (Ps. 119.46 (Vulg. 118.46).149 It seems to me that Theodosius “delayed” his assent,150 and Ambrose stayed away from Court to put pressure on the emperor to give it, which he eventually did, if only in part.151 Indeed, while, according to Ambrose, neither the request of 384 nor those of the years that followed were received – and his is the lone voice we have here, apart from Paulinus of Milan who bases his report on these letters152 – legislation for Rome and the West reflected what the Senate had asked through further embassies headed by Symmachus and other senators.153 In 399, a constitution sent to the vicarii of Spain and southern Gaul ordered that temples and art works of value be guarded as ornamenta.154 From the reactions that this decree aroused in the West, it is clear that the law was not sent to these regions alone: not only was Prudentius impressed by it,155 but also Apollodorus, the African proconsul of 399, requested information about it,156 and the bishops, who gathered in council in Carthage in 401, would not forget it in their debates.157 The senatorial aristocracy succeeded in obtaining from Honorius such a provision, in order to avoid the devastation of antique monuments, among which were the temples. Notwithstanding the opposition of some Catholics, they were recognized for their value as public works.158 And, although they were no longer maintained at state expense as expressions of religio publica, with that law they continued to be preserved and restored at public expense by the urban prefects, because of their significance as monuments. In this sense, Symmachus’s exhortation “If the honour has been denied to the divinity, let it at least once more be paid to her name” was not in vain (note the pun on nomen, numen).159 The principle of the preservation of the temples and sacred statues as public works that should not be destroyed, but rather preserved and restored due their great value, remained valid in the West until at least the age of Theoderic, and apparently created a division between the legislative orientations of the two parts of the Empire. In the East, destroying rural temples was generally permitted in 399,160 and in 435 that authorization had been enlarged to include all temples still standing.161 In the West, the situation had developed following the decree of 399: a constitution of Majorian affirmed that those who destroyed and appropriated the property of temples were threatened with a fine of 50 pounds of gold.162 Theoderic reiterated the spirit of this law in


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510/511, when he presented the restoration and the preservation of the templa and loca publica as an urgent matter that many senators, to whom he sent this order, felt strongly about.163 Thanks to archaeological research, furthermore, we know that many temples at Rome were preserved intact and kept both from demolition, and also from being transformed into churches, until the late sixth century.164

Conclusion In 399, as well as in 384, when the subsidies and privileges of the Vestals were connected with the theme of restoring the Altar of Victory, a group of senators succeeded in assembling a majority in favor of causes that their Christian colleagues would otherwise have opposed strongly, using a strategy of soliciting common interests, or rather thinking up formulas (for instance: divine statue = ornamentum; temples = operae publicae) around which it was possible to create broad consensus. The law of 399 not only dealt with temples and cult statues but also with permissions for the cursus publicus: it consisted therefore of a legislative package sought for quite broad reasons.165 If one wishes to maintain the principle of a reaction païenne, we should therefore attribute to it qualities that were worked out in procedures astutely fought out in the Senate. Some of its members played on the presence or absence of colleagues; they decided how to draw up the agenda of the assembly; they chose the “right terms” to define the individual items; they knew how to solicit the common interests of pagans and Christians, even the most zealous of Catholics. Appealing to the emperor through the urban prefect Symmachus in 384, they had tried to convince Valentinian II and the Court that the traditional religion of Rome was an expression of politics, one which could not be renounced without the very salvation of empire being seriously threatened. Since it was a civic religion, it also was totally distinct from any other form of personal devotion to oriental or other cults, including Christianity. It is surprising, however, that many pages can be devoted to proving that Symmachus was a “pagan” because he had this belief, or that with “slippery rhetoric” he did distinguish between public worship and personal devotion when, in fact, both concepts were implicit in that of civic worship.166 Nor was Symmachus’s proclaimed “tolerance” false rhetoric, even if the term cannot be understood in the modern sense.167 As post-Constantine pagans, pagan senators had ceased to believe that Christians should be persecuted and were convinced that Christianity could be accepted as one of many sects to which even the emperor (like anyone) could freely belong. But, according to them, he could be Christian in private, while in public, and for the public good, he had to guarantee the public celebration of the rites necessary for the maintenance of the traditional cults, which had made Rome great. This is what Symmachus openly, and with good rhetoric, said to the emperor and the Court. It is true that, if Valentinian II had granted Symmachus’s appeal, he would have accepted not only the restoration of funding and the restoration of the

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Altar of Victory in the curia, but also “his dependence upon the primordial religious order of the Roman world”.168 It is not true, however, that the emperor would have enjoyed the alleged “religious self-determination” that Christians (from Tertullian to Lactantius and on, on this occasion, to Ambrose) promised. To refuse Symmachus’s request would have meant acknowledging the dominance of episcopal authority that Ambrose represented, and celebrating his double intervention as a pastoral mission. Even more concretely, Valentinian II would have shown that he accepted (perhaps reluctantly but of necessity) that his government no longer depended on the authority of those senatorial families (Symmachi, Nicomachi, Praetextati, Ceionii) who had urged the urban prefect Q. Aurelius Symmachus to send his Relatio, but rather on the authority of the Probii-Anici, who had suggested removing the altar and suspending the privileges of the Vestals and their temple. In 384, thanks to the many years of Probus’s prefectural rule, the latter hoped to continue to dominate the political scene by drawing power from their alliance with the new ecclesiastical order – the Damasan and Ambrosian church – whose exclusive authority in the religious field they had to accept. When some senators decided to raise an army against Theodosius in 394, they engaged in battle not simply because they were still pagans, but because they were pagans and politically active. The soldiers who fought at the River Frigidus were not “the last pagan army of the ancient world”, as Bloch supposed. It was an army assembled by Nicomachus Flavianus Senior and Arbogastes for political purposes, though these purposes inevitably, due to the public nature of traditional civic religion, also included religious motives. In the next chapter, leaving aside the usurpation of Eugenius, which has been well examined recently,169 we will deal with that of Priscus Attalus, where political-religious dynamics can again be identified.

Notes 1 This chapter expands on research partially published in Lizzi Testa 2007 and 2015. 2 Even if Cameron 2011, 41–43, did not accept my reading, Brown 2012, 103–107, and McEvoy 2013, 122–124, shared it. Gassman 2020, 107, n. 1, refers to Cameron 2011, 43, without engaging in the discussion. 3 Let us notice, please, the ideal links between Palanque 1933, 117 and 510, Piganiol 1972,2 250, and Chastagnol 1960, 157–160. Paschoud 1983 has a similar approach. 4 Von Campenhausen 1929, 167; 170–184; Alföldi 1943, 48–84; Klein 1972; Rosen 1994. 5 Paredi 1960,2 285–6; 303; Cracco Ruggini 1974; Vera 1981, 12–23. 6 Dudden 1935, 241–269, especially 258, reflected by Bloch 1945, 203 ff.; Salzman 1989; Evenepoel 1998–1999. McLynn 1994, 151–152, 166, 312–313; Cameron 2011, 33–51; Salzman, and Roberts 2011, xxxii. The description of Gratian’s measure, as given by Errington 2006, 124 and infra (“the removal of the altar and the confiscation of the property that financed the cults”), on the other hand, is very precise and, as we shall see, fits perfectly with my reading of the various texts involved in the Altar of Victory affair. 7 CTh has been compared with Symm. Rel. III.13 and Ambr. Ep. 73 (18 M).16.


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8 Pensabene 1999, 753–4, influenced by Chastagnol’s incorrect perspective that in 382 pagan temples lost their status as public monuments, which was transferred to Christian churches: Chastagnol 1966, 436–7; Chastagnol 1969, 142–3. Nevertheless, Palanque 1933, 117, suggested that the confiscation that the law ordered concerned the fundi, not the temples; see also, in the same vein, Vera 1981, 16. See also Cameron 2011, 42–45, on the confiscation of temple estates. 9 Delmaire 2005, 460–2 and Annexe IV, pp. 492–494. 10 CTh Omnia etiam loca, quae sacris error veterum deputavit, secundum divi Gratiani constituta nostrae rei iubemus sociari ita ut ex eo tempore, qui inhibitus est publicus sumptus superstitioni deterrimae exhiberi, fructus ab incubatoribus exigantur, quod autem ex eo iure ubicumque ad singulas quasque personas vel praecedentium principum largitas vel nostra maiestas voluit pervenire, id in eorum patrimoniis aeterna firmitate perduret. Quod non tam per Africam quam per omnes regiones in nostro orbe positas custodiri decernimus (transl. Pharr 1952, 475). 11 CTh 10.1.8 ad Caesarium, comes rerum privatarum (Febr. 4, 365, or better Sept. 4, 364 in Mediana): Universa loca vel praedia, quae nunc in iure templorum sunt quaeque a diversis principibus vendita vel donata sunt retracta, ei patrimonio, quod privatum nostrum est, placuit adgregari. For the first date, Pergami 1993, 7–11, who considered this text an example of Valentinian as senior emperor being able to issue laws for Valens’ territory. On the contrary, Schmidt-Hoffner 539–540 suggested to date the constitution to 4 September 364, accepting the – palaeographically justifiable – textual corruption from Sept. to Feb. and thinking that the place of issue MED – was not Milan but Mediana, a place near Naissus, where Valens had met his army and issued CTh 15.1.13 ( June 19, 364). 12 CTh 5.13.3 ad Mamertinum, PPO Italiae, Illyrici et Africae (Dec. 23, 364, Milan): Universa quae ex patrimonio nostro per arbitrium divae memoriae Iuliani in possessionem sunt translata templorum, sollicitudine sinceritatis tuae cum omni iure ad rem privatam nostram redire mandamus. See Pergami 1993, 10–1; 123; Schmidt-Hoffner 514. 13 Delmaire 2005, 645. 14 Ulpian, Libro LXVIII ad edictum, in Dig. I.8.9.1-2; Biundo 2006, 37–49. 15 On municipal finances, Lepelley 1996, 240. 16 For the Republican Age and the earlier Empire, Stambaugh 1978. In late Antiquity: Bonamente 2011, n. 9. 17 Goddard 2006, 282–288, based on the fundamental essay of Lepelley 1996, 240. Contra Delmaire 1989, 641–4, who believes that only during the reign of Emperor Gratian did the finances of the temples flow into the imperial patrimony. 18 Lib. Or. 30.38. In a law of 405 (CTh 10.10.24) Emperor Constantine is remembered for banning petitions on temple property, but emperors could still donate it (Lib. Or. 17.7; Amm. 22.4.3; cf. CTh 16.10.20; 11.20.6) or sell them (CI 11. 70.4): cf. Bonamente 1992. 19 In northern Italy, the Bishop of Verona, Zeno, attacked landowners who protected “smoking shrines” on their estates and were “struggling every day to hang on to their temple rights”: Zeno, Tract. I.25.10, p. 75: Ius templorum ne quis vobis eripiat, cotidie litigatis. Zeno’s exact dates are unknown; his death is usually placed ca. 379, but links with Ambrose (Lizzi 1990, 162) would support a date after 384 (Lizzi 1989, 4, n. 8). For the connection between his homily and Valentinian I’s law, Lizzi Testa 2010, 92–93. 20 CTh […] Quod non tam per Africam quam per omnes regiones in nostro orbe positas custodiri decernimus. 21 CTh (= CI I.11.5): […] Quod autem ex eo iure ubicumque ad singulas quasque personas vel precedentium principum largitas vel nostra maiestas voluit pervenire, id in eorum patrimoniis aeterna firmitate perduret. […] Ea autem, quae multiplicibus constitutis ad venerabilem ecclesiam voluimus pertinere, Christiana sibi merito religio vindicabit.

Pagan Senators and Christian Bishops 167 22 CTh 16.10.19 is an extract from Sirmondiana 12: Delmaire 2005, 454–457. On this law see also below, chapter VIII, n. 211. 23 CTh 16.10.19: Post alia: templorum detrahantur annonae et rem annonariam iuvent expensis devotissimorum militum profuturae; cf. Sirm. 12: Iam vero templorum detrahantur annonae et rem annonariam iuvent expensis devotissimorum militum profuturae (Delmaire 2009, 516). 24 Cameron 2011, 43, incorrectly interprets the iteration of this provision. 25 CTh […] cum hoc repetita sciamus saepius sanctione decretum (Delmaire 2005, 454; Delmaire 2009, 516). 26 CTh 16.10.18 (August 20, 399). 27 On the conservative policy regarding the pagan buildings in the West, see more details below. 28 Ambr. Ep. 72 (17M), 5: At cum per totum fere orbem a pluribus retro principibus (scl. haec privilegia) inhibita interdictaque sint. This does mean that no emperor actually promulgated a general confiscation of the land and other revenues of the temples: Tantillo1997, 387 and n. 60; Goddard 2006, 284. 29 Ambr. Ep. 73.19. 30 Different indications are in the following places: Ambr. Ep. 72.3; 4; 9. 31 Ambr. Ep. 72.10. 32 Ambr. Ep. 72.13. 33 Ambr. Ep. 73.1: poposci tamen exemplum mihi relationis dari. 34 Even a rapid reading of Ambr. Ep. 72 and the Third Relatio in conjunction, however, reveals that in his first letter Ambrose was already well informed about the themes developed by Symmachus and that even the Prefect was not wholly ignorant of what the bishop had written to the consistory: cf. Lizzi Testa 2007, 253–254. Differently, Gassman 2020, 119, n. 83: but, Christian senators expressed their objections after the embassy of 382 had been sent by the Roman Senate. 35 Ambr. Ep. extra coll. 10 (57M). 2 for the pun between dare and reddere; 6, on what Eugenius did against the true religion. Cameron 2011, 74–89, gives an excellent exegesis of Ambrose’s letter to Eugenius, showing that nothing there licenses the idea of a third embassy to that emperor, nor that Eugenius cancelled Gratian’s measures. On how to interpret the Ambrosian reddere templis, however, I do not agree with him: see below. 36 This is especially clear at the end of the second letter: Ambr. Ep. 73.39: Respondi lacessentibus tamquam non lacessitus; refellendae etenim relationis, non exponendae superstionis mihi stadium fuit (I have answered those who have provoked me, as if I had not suffered provocation. For it has been my aim to refute their address, not to expose their superstition). On the composition of Ambrose’s tenth book of epistles, Nauroy 2012, 55–59. 37 Cameron 2011, 42, in responding to my arguments, pointed out that Symmachus also used slippery rhetoric to present his claims. Gassman 2020, 114, reiterates that Symmachus’s relatio and Ambrose’s letters must be equally read as rhetorical pieces, and puts the relatio under scrutiny, in essence providing a reasoned summary of its content. On the results of his reading, see below. As for the rhetoric of the texts, I would like only to add that presenting reality rhetorically is different from describing it in a confused way. My conviction remains, after a new reading of the various pieces, that Symmachus, while using all the rhetorical instruments at his disposal, could only describe precisely the measures he was asking to abrogate, while Ambrose had an interest in being generic because in writing his second letter he had, as we shall see, other aims. 38 Ambr. Ep. 73.1. 39 Ambr. Ep. 72.3: miror quomodo aliquibus in spem venerit, quod debeas aras diis gentium tuo instaurare praecepto. 40 Paul. Med. Vita Ambr. 26.1: directa legatio est sub nomine senatus a Symmacho tunc praefecto urbis de repetenda ara Victoriae et sumptibus caerimoniarum; Enn. Epigramma factum de


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Pagan Senators and Christian Bishops epistola domni Ambrosi contra Symmachum de ara Victoriae quando petens cultum ipsius victus est Symmachus (Carm. II.142, MGH AA VII, 266): Dicendi palmam Victoria tollit amico, / Transit ad Ambrosium: plus favet ira deae. Symm. Rel. III.3. Symm. Rel. III.3: Quis ita familiaris est barbaris, ut aram Victoriae non requirat! Symm. Rel. III.4: Consuetudinis amor magnus est. Symm. Rel. III.5: Ubi in leges vestras et verba iurabimus? In front of that altar senators swore to be loyal to the emperor, and the sacramentum publicum contained an invocation to the goddess Victory: Svet. Aug. 100; Cal. 15.5; Tac. Ann. I.7-8; Dion LVII.3.2; LIX.3, 4; 9.2; SHA Prob. 12.7: Vera 1981, 34. Symm. Rel. III.5: illa ara fidem convenit singulorum. For the fides in the Roman political tradition, Giardina 2000, IX ff. In fact, the Senate offered Constantine a gold victoriola representing the statue of Victory erected by Augustus in the Curia: Vera 2016. Ambr. Ep. 73. 31–33. Ambr. Ep. 72.3 ad usus quoque sacrificiorum profanorum praebere sumptum. Exemplary is Cameron 2011, 41ff.: Gratian confiscated the temple estates, which had the status of public property. Symm. Rel. III.7: nihil ille decerpsit sacrarum virginum privilegiis; cf. 11: Quanto commodo sacri aerarii vestri Vestalium virginum praerogativa detracta est? Sub largissimis imperatoribus denegetur, quod parcissimi praestiterunt? Symm. Rel. III.11: honor solus est in illo veluti stipendio castitatis. Ambr. Ep. 73.3: Tria igitur in relatione sua vir clarissimus praefectus urbi proposuit quae valida putavit: quod Roma veteres, ut ait, suos cultus requirat et quod sacerdotibus suis virginibusque vestalibus emolumenta tribuenda sint et quod emolumentis sacerdotum negatis fames secuta publica sit. (transl. Liebeschuetz and Hill 2005, 81). Symm. Rel. III.11. Symm. Rel. III.12. Cf. Liebeschuetz and Hill 2005, 75: “The exchequer of good emperors ought not to be filled at the expense of priests, but with plunder from enemies!” and Vera 1981, 392: “Le spoglie dei nemici riempiano le casse dei buoni imperatori e non le spoliazioni dei sacerdoti”. For the differences between aerarium and fiscus, see Delmaire 1989, 4–13. Symmachus is not inaccurate, as he might seem: since sacrae largitiones and res privata were both parts of the fiscus, this last could indicate also the aerarium principis, which was part of it. Ambr. Ep. 73.11: habeant, inquit, Vestales virgines immunitatem suam. Ambr. Ep. 73.12: Ponamus tamen subsidia largitatum conferenda virginibus: quae Christianis munera redundabunt? Quod tantas opes sufficiet aerarium? The expression subsidia largitatum (which Liebeschuetz and Hill 2005, 85, translates as “generous assistance”) is clarified by what follows: “What treasury will be able to afford such huge expense?”. Gardner 1986, 23–25; Wildfang 2006, 64–75. Symm. Rel. III.13: agros etiam verginibus et ministris deficientium voluntate legatos fiscus retentat. Lizzi Testa 2007, 256–257 with an investigation of epigraphic and legal testimonies. Fest. 344b.22: Sex Vestae sacerdotes constitutae sunt ut populus pro sua quaque parte haberet ministram sacrorum; cf. ThLL s. v. minister, c. 1000, 23; 38; s. v. ministra, c. 1004. CIL V.762 = ILS 3498: illae magistrae illae ministrae Bonae Deae aedem fecerunt. Ernout and Meillet 1959, s. v. minister, and ministra. Many laws show that the pagan and Christian ministri were considered different from the sacerdotes: e. g. CTh 16.10.14 for pagan ministri; 16.2.31 and 41 ([…] si episcopus vel presbyter, diaconus et quicumque inferioris loci Christianae legis minister […]); 16.6.7 ( […] eos, qui episcoporum seu clericorum vel ministrorum nomine usurpato […]) for catholic ministri; 16.5.12;13; 24; 36.2; 54.1 (heretical ministri). CIL VI.2145 = ILS 1261: Cecconi 2002, 275.

Pagan Senators and Christian Bishops 169 64 CTh 16.10.14 (Caesario praefecto praetorio) in Costantinople, December 7, 396: Privilegia si qua concessa sunt antiquo iure sacerdotibus ministris praefectis hierofantis sacrorum sive quolibet alio nomine nuncupantur, penitus aboleantur nec gratulentur se privilegio esse munitos, quorum professio per legem cognoscitur esse damnata. On the meaning of ministri, who have to be considered “les servants en tout genre”: Delmaire 2005, 448, n. 1. 65 Ambr. Ep. 73.16: Nemo tamen donaria delubris et legata haruspicibus denegavit: sola sublata sunt praedia […]. Praedia igitur intercepta, non iura sunt. 66 Ambr. Ep. 73.14. 67 We do not have any evidence for lands belonging to the temple of Vesta. On several occasions, however, there is mention of the fields, the agricultural lands, and the sacred woods owned in Republican times by the Vestals: Sicul. Flacc. de cond. agr. p.162: collegia sacerdotum itemque virgines habent agros et territoria quaedam determinata et quaedam aliquibus sacris dedicata, in eis etiam lucos, in quibusdam etiam aedes templaque: cf. Bodei Giglioni 1977, 41. The writings of the land surveyors frequently mention estates owned by the Vestals: Campbell 2000, 71; 83; 85; 131, and the commentary at 361–362. 68 Since Symmachus is worried that this particular measure of Gratian could dissuade people from making a will in favour of the Vestals, we must believe that, until then, it was quite a common practice and, overall, that the new law didn’t forbid all kinds of donations, only landed properties: Symm. Rel. III.13: coepit causae huius exemplum sollecitare morientes. Ergo Romanae religiones ad Romana iura non pertinent? That habit had been maintained from the most ancient times: Augustus, for example, assigned the Vestals also a part of the ager Lanuvinus: Liber coloniarum, 235: ager eius limitibus Augusteis, pro parte est adsignatus militibus veteranis, et pro parte virginum Vestalium lege Augustiana fuit; cf. Svet. Aug. 31. 69 Symm. Rel. III.13, and especially the examples of §14 (capiunt legata liberti, servis testamentorum iusta commoda non negantur: tantum nobiles virgines et fatalium sacrorum ministri excludentur praesidiis hereditate quaesitis?), where he compares the legal capacity of freedmen and slaves to receive testamentary legacies. 70 Symm. Rel. III.13: quod nomen accipiet ablativo facultatum, quas nulla lex, nullus casus fecit caducas? 71 Symm. Rel. III.15; 16. 72 Symm. Rel. XXXVII. 2. 73 Symm. Rel. III.15. 74 Ambr. Ep. 73.13. 75 Ambr. Ep. 73.13: Sacerdotibus quoque suis et ministris queruntur alimenta publica non praeberi. Quantus hinc verborum tumultus increpuit! At contra nobis etiam privatae successionis emolumenta recentibus legibus denegantur et nemo conqueritur; non enim putamus iniuriam quia dispendium non dolemus; 14: Conferte causas: Vos excusare vultis decurionem cum ecclesiae excusare non liceat sacerdotem […]. 76 Priests of Roman cults were already exempt from the public duties (munera) in the most ancient municipal laws (Lex Ursonensis LXI.2, CIL II.5439). In the provinces, the priests of cults accepted by the Empire were dispensed from tutelage (tutela) (Fragmenta Vaticana 173 a, 179), and from those public duties that would have driven them away from the cities where they performed their rituals (Dig. L.5.13, Ulpian); Dig. L.4.18.24. Again in 364 and 371 Valentinian I reiterated the privilege for the municipal priests “to be held exempt from compulsory services”, since such services could bring them “beyond the boundaries of their own municipality”: CTh 12.1.60 (ad Byzacenos, Sept. 12, 364); 12.1.75 (ad Viventium p(raefectum) p(raetorio), Jun. 28, 371): Delmaire 2009, 304–311. 77 Eus. Hist. Eccl. 10.7.1-2: Constantine granted Caecilian, Bishop of Carthage, and his clerics exemption from all compulsory public services (before April 15, 313); CTh 16.2.1 (Oct. 31, 313 [?]), and CTh 16.2.2 (Oct. 21, 319) confirm that this exemption was soon extended to Catholic bishops and clerics in the part of the Empire under his rule.


Pagan Senators and Christian Bishops

78 If CTh 16.2.3 was addressed to Bassus on 18th of July 320, a previous law (between 318 and 320) put limits on the entry of decurions into the clergy, since CTh 16.2.3 established the non-retroactivity of the rule. After the battle of Chrysopolis, with the constitution to Dracilianus (CTh 16.5.1, Sept. 1st, 326), Constantine decreed that “the privileges that have been granted in consideration of religion must benefit only the adherents of the Catholic faith” (catholicae tantum legis observatoribus) in the East, while “heretics and schismatics shall be not only alien from them but shall also be subjected to various compulsory public service”. 79 CTh 16.2.6 ( June 1st, 329 to Ablabius, praetorian prefect) established that exemption from compulsory public services should not be granted to all who petition under the pretext of being clerics, but rather, when a cleric died, another should be selected, one who had not the wealth of resources whereby he might support the compulsory public services. Clerics appointed against this provision would be removed from the clergy and delivered to the municipality: Lizzi Testa 2014a; Lizzi Testa 2016, 150–160. 80 CTh 12.1.59, ad Byzacenos, established: “If any person should choose service in the Church, he shall either make a near kinsman a decurion in his stead by transferring to him his own property, or he shall cede his property to the municipal council which he left. Of course, a person must of necessity be recalled to the municipal council if he did neither of these when he began to be a cleric” (Transl. Pharr 1952, 351). See Laniado 2002, 11–13; 16; 23–24; 49–55. 81 Ambr. Ep. 73.13: […] at contra nobis etiam privatae successionis emolumenta recentibus legibus denegantur; cf. 14: […] soli ex omnibus clerico commune ius clauditur […] nulla legata vel gravium viduarum, nulla donatio. 82 Ambr. Ep. 73.13: si privilegium quaerat sacerdos, ut onus curiale declinet, patria atque avita et omnium facultatum possessione cedendum est […] quod sacerdos ferias ministerii sui emat totius patrimonii sui damno […] praetendens communi salti excubias domesticae inopiae se mercede soletur; cf. 14: conferte causas. Vos excusare vultis decurionem, cum Ecclesiae excusare non liceat sacerdotem. 83 CTh 16.2.20 (Jul. 30, 370): the emperor ordered ecclesiastics, ex-ecclesiastics, and those men who wished to be called “continents” not to visit widows or female wards. If denounced for such behaviour, they were banished by the public Courts. Furthermore, they were barred from obtaining anything from these women either by way of donation or from a legacy in a will. Following promulgation of this law, each item of property which these women wanted to bestow on the aforementioned groups of men was to be seized by the tax office. For the proper interpretation of this decree, Lizzi Testa 2005, 97–103. 84 CTh 12.1.99, from Milan on April 18, 383 ad Hypatium PPO (Italiae): Post alia. Iussio qua sibi Iudaeae legis homines blandiuntur, per quam eis curialium munerum datur immunitas, rescindatur, cum ne clericis quidem liberum sit prius se divinis ministeriis mancipare, quam patriae debita universa persolvant. Quisquis igitur vere deo dicatus est, alium instructum facultatibus suis ad munera pro se complenda constituat. 85 Hier. Ep. XXII.28 ad Eustochium (383/384). The law was quoted again by Hier. Ep. LII.6 ad Nepotianum in 394. 86 CTh 12.1.84 (Febr.15, 381) did not mention yet the Jewish patriarchs, who in 383 were deprived of an immunity that they had enjoyed for centuries, and which Constantine himself had granted them, iterating in 330 (CTh 16.8.2) a disposition of 321 (CTh 16.8.3). 87 The nominatio was the procedure by which citizens were included among the members of the local council on the basis of their origin and patrimony: the nominatores proposed the names for the vacancies in the council; the ratification of the council (creatio) was followed by the confirmation of the governor, after a period of 1 to 3 months, during which an appeal could be made: Jacques 1984, 340–351; Laniado 2002, 116–9.

Pagan Senators and Christian Bishops 171 88 Lizzi Testa 2007, 261–2. That provision was probably suggested by the urban prefect Anicius Auchenius Bassus: Errington 2006, 124. 89 CTh 12.1.104 Postumiano Praefecto Praetorio (Nov. 7, 383): Curiales qui ecclesiis malunt servire quam curiis, si volunt esse quod simulant, contemnant illa, quae subtrahunt. Nec enim eos aliter nisi contemptis patrimoniis liberamus. Quippe animos divina observatione devinctos non decet patrimoniorum desideriis occupari. 90 Ambr. Ep. 73.13, and 14: nemo conqueritur; non enim putamus iniuriam, quia dispendium non dolemus […] Quod ego non ut querar, sed ut sciant quid non querar, comprehendi; malo enim nos pecunia minores esse quam gratia. 91 CTh 12.1.15 (Dec. 31, 386) ad Cynegium PPO (Orientis): Clerici ad curiam pertinentes sciant ex patrimonio suo, si ipsi immunes cupiunt permanere, alios idoneos esse faciendos, qui recedentum praesentiam personamque restituant in publicis muneribus subeundis. 92 Ambr. Ep. 74 (40M.), and Ep. extra coll. 1 (41M) to Marcellina, his sister. From the comparison between Ep. 74 and the copy sent to the sister, it is clear that some additions (reported in the edition) were made to the former before it was published. McLynn 1994, 302, and, with some differences of interpretation: Lizzi Testa 2017, 54–55. 93 Ambr. Ep. 74.29: Quomodo excusabo apud episcopos, qui nunc quia per triginta et innumeres annos presbyteri quidam gradu functi, vel ministri Ecclesiae retrahuntur a munere sacro et curiae deputantur, graviter gemunt? […] Quomodo, inquam, hoc excusabo apud episcopos, qui queruntur de clericis, et impressione gravi vastari scribunt ecclesias? Hoc tamen in notitiam clementiae tuae pervenire volui. 94 Lizzi Testa 2001. 95 In 371, Valentinian I granted a fiscal amnesty to those decurions who had been ordained clerics, while maintaining their possessions, before the beginning of his own reign (CTh 16.2.21, May 17, 371); also Emperor Valens in 370 granted them a tenyear amnesty: CTh 16.2.19 (Oct. 17, 370) to Modestus PPO Orientis. 96 CTh 12.1.121 (Jun. 17, 390) ad Tatianum PPO (Orientis): Qui ante secundum consulatum mansuetudinis meae ex ordine curiali vel presbyteri fastigium vel ministerium diaconi vel exorcistae suscepit officium, omne eius patrimonium immune a curialibus nexibus habeatur ac liberum. Is vero, qui se ad religiosa divini cultus obsequia quocumque sub nomine post memorati consulatus tempora praescribta contulerit, omni sciat cedendum esse patrimonio. This law applied throughout the Empire. In 391 it was necessary to clarify that the sons of the clerics, if not ordained priests themselves, would perform the compulsory public services using their paternal patrimony: CTh 12.1.123 (July 28, 391) ad Tatianum PPO (Orientis). Cf. Delmaire 2009, 322, n. 2. 97 Ambr. Ep. 72.5: […] et datis antiquata rescriptis. 98 About the ceremonies the Vestals traditionally celebrated: Beard 1980; Scheid 1990, 429–32; Wildfang 2006, 22–36. 99 Liv. 26.27.14 (Vestae aedem petitam et aeternos ignes et conditum in penetrali fatale pignus imperii Romani). 100 Symm. Rel. III. 11. 101 Ambr. Ep. 73.3 (supra, n. 51). 102 Oros. Hist. adversus pagan. 7.39. 103 Fraschetti 1993, 677. 104 The account of events, as given by Gassman 2020, 118-128 (re-reading Symmachus, Relatio 3) and 129-139 (with rapid analysis of Ambrose, Epp. 72 and 73), exempts me from going over them, concentrating on the interpretation of some new data. 105 Ambr. Ep. 72.10: nam et ante biennium […]. 106 Symm. Rel. III.1 (senatus amplissimus scl.) iterum me querellarum suarum iussit esse legatum […]. Cui ideo divi principis denegata est ab improbis audientia quia non erat iustitia defutura. 107 Ambr. Ep. 72.10: cum hoc petere temptarent… 108 Symm. Rel. III.2: “There is no conflict of interests here. For men have ceased to think that they can prevail through the support of men at Court if their views are









Pagan Senators and Christian Bishops unrepresentative” (Nulla est hic dissensio voluntatum, quia iam credere homines desierunt, aulicorum se studio praestare, si discreperent). Ambr. Ep. 72.10: […] Sed absit ut hoc senatus petisse dicatur: pauci gentiles communi utuntur nomine. Nam et ante biennium ferme cum hoc petere temptarent, misit ad me sanctus Damasus, Romanae Ecclesiae sacerdos iudicio dei electus, libellum quem Christiani senatores dederunt et quidem innumeri, postulantes nihil se tale mandasse, non congruere gentilium istiusmodi petitionibus, non praebere consensum, questi etiam publice privatimque se non conventuros ad curiam si tale aliquid decerneretur […] (transl. Liebeschuetz, and Hill 2005, 66). The expression libellum quem Christiani senatores dederunt et quidem innumeri gives no indication of the number of Christian senators who sat in the Senate. It indicates, instead, that not all the Christian senators signed the libellus, nor did the majority do so, but rather a large number signed it. Ambr. Ep. 72.11: […] Sed fortasse dicatur, cur dudum non interfuerint senatui cum ista peterentur. Satis loquuntur quid velint qui non interfuerunt: satis locuti sunt qui apud imperatorem locuti sunt. Et miramur tamen si privatis resistendi Romae eripiunt libertatem, qui nolunt esse liberum tibi non iubere quod non probas, servare quod sentis? (transl. Liebeschuetz, and Hill 2005, 67). From Ambr. Ep. 72.10, we can understand the sort of arguments Damasus used in order to persuade Christian senators to sign an additional petition: Dignum ergo est temporibus vestris hoc est Christianis temporibus, ut dignitas Christianis senatoribus abrogetur, quo gentilibus senatoribus profanae deferatur voluntatis effectus? Concilium Serdicae, Can. 9 a-b: Hoc quoque Providentia vestra tractare debet ut – quia decrevistis ut episcopi, ne inprobitas notetur, ad comitatum non pergant – quicumque quales superius commemoravimus praeces habuerit vel acceperit, per diaconum suum mittat; quia persona ministri non erit invidiosa, et quae inpetraverit celerius poterit referre. Et hoc consequens esse videtur, ut de qualibet provincia episcopi ad eum fratrem et coepiscopum nostrum praeces mittant qui in maxima civitate, id est metropoli, consistit; ut ille et diaconum eius et supplicationes destinet, tribuens commendaticias epistulas, pari ratione ad fratres et coespiscopos nostros qui illo tempore in his regionibus et urbibus morantur in quibus felix et beatus Augustus rempublicam gubernat. Si vero habet quis episcoporum amicos in palatio, qui cupit aliquid (quod tamen honestum est) inpetrare, non prohiberi per diaconum suum rogare et significare eis quos scit benigna intercessione sibi absenti posse praestare (transl. Hess 1958, 216–19). The presbyters, who represented Pope Julius at the Council of Serdica, brought a text to Rome, which was archived after that of Nicaea. Ambrose refers to the mos sacerdotalis in Ep. 30 (24M). 2: Dixi non esse hunc morem sacerdotalem […]: Lizzi Testa 2019. The officium admissionum of Late Antiquity stemmed from a similar institution of the high Empire: Schmidt 1893, 381–382; Seeck 1893, 382; Seeck 1893a, 382–383. During the fifth century, the Notitia Dignitatum (Occidentis XI.13; Orientis IX.16) describes the hierarchical subordination of the magister admissionum to the head of his office, the magister officiorum, but we do not know when, during the fourth century, this dependence became stable. At that time, the magister admissionum became a simple executor of the ceremonial without real responsibilities in the choice of people who could be received at Court, while the magister officiorum had the job of receiving embassies and maintaining relationships with foreign delegations, and with simple citizens or senators: Clauss 1980, 19; 63–4;67–72; Delmaire 1995, 75–82. On Cass. Var. VI.6.2 (per eum senator veniens nostris praesentatur obtutibus), see Petrini 2015, 132 ff. CTh 12.12.3 (May 30, 364) to Mamertinus, praetorian prefect: “The provincials […] and then dispatch them to the office of Your Eminence, in order that the more impudent petitions may be rejected […]”; cf. 12.12.9 (May 10, 382) to the Provincials: “[…] so Our provincials shall know […] that they must convey to Our sacred imperial

Pagan Senators and Christian Bishops 173

116 117 118

119 120

121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139

ears those matters which may reasonably be alleged before the emperor, and they must not suppose that Our Eternity should be besieged with superfluous transactions”. Cecconi 2002, 281. CTh 6.2.13 ( Jan. 10, 383) allowed senators to reside elsewhere other than in Rome and in Constantinople. Symm. Rel. III.2: Merito illos senatus insequitur, qui potentiam suam famae principis praetulerunt; noster autem labor pro clementia vestra ducit excubias. Cf. Vera 1981, 27. Rel. XXXVI; Vera 1981, 277–280. Q. Aurelius Symmachus was very hostile to him: cf. Rel. XLIV.1, where Macedonius is shown as a minister corrupted by some members of corporations (the salt-contractors) at Rome: Vera 1981, 323–330; Gassman 2020, 109, n.15. The situation appeared favourable for a reopening of the issue: McEvoy 2013, 68. Ambr. Ep. extra coll. 10.2: Retulerat vir amplissimus Symmachus cum esset praefectus urbi ad Valentinianum augustae memoriae iuniorem, ut templis quae sublata fuerant reddi iuberet. Liebeschuetz and Hill 2005, 257 translated “the resources which had been taken away from the temples”, but it is a free interpretation based on the idea that in 382 Gratian had taken away lands and other resources from all the temples. Ambr. Ep. extra coll. 10. 4–5. Ambr. Ep. extra coll. 10.6: […] et fortasse dicatur, imperator auguste, quia ipse non templis reddideris sed bene merits de te donaveris […] Te imperante petierunt legati ut templis redderes, non fecisti; iterum alteri postulaverunt, renisus es; et postea ipsis qui petierunt donandum putasti? Ambr. Ep. extra coll. 10.2: Dedi libellos imperatoribus duo, quibus significarem sumptus sacrificiorum Christianum virum non posse reddere […] deinde quia dare eos ipse simulachris videretur non reddere; […] sed arbitratu proprio largiebatur ad superstitionis impensas. Ambr. Ep. extra coll. 10.2: “if he did this, he would subsequently either stay away from the church, or if he came he would either not find a bishop at all, or he would find one who would oppose him in the church”, which exactly recalls Ep. 72.13. Ambr. Ep. 73.10: sed vetera, inquit, reddenda sunt altaria simulacris, ornamenta delubris. Symm. Rel. III.4: Quodsi huius ominis non esset iusta vitatio, ornamentis saltem curiae decuit abstineri. An account of the various removals of the altar of Victory and its statue is given by Gassman 2020, 107–108. Varro in Aulus Gell. Noct. Act. 1.7.7. Bonnefond-Coudry 1989 and, for the Empire, Talbert 1984. Symm. Rel. III.1: Ubi primum senatus amplissimus semperque vester subiecta legibus vitia cognovit et a principibus piis vidit purgari famam temporum proximorum. Symm. Rel. XXI.5: suggestionibus viri excellentis et de re publica bene meriti Praetextati praefecti praetorio. The connection was a conjecture of Palanque 1933, 131. Supra, chapter IV, n. 36. Cf. Symm. Rel. III.2, on the role of the Senate as guardian of the ancient institutions (instituta maiorum) and of the laws (patriae iura); that role decided Rome’s destiny ( fata); and 3. Pergami 2007, 64. Symm. Rel. III.3, and 19. Symm. Rel. III.4: Praestate. Oro vos, ut ea quae pueri suscepimus, senes posteris relinquamus. Consuetudinis amor magnus est. Symm. Rel. III.7: […] et per omnes vias aeternae Urbis laetum secutus senatum vidit placido ore delubra, legit inscripta fastigiis deum nomina, percontatus templorum origines est, miratus est conditores. Praetextatus had probably requested the decree – as was customary in the legislative system of Late Antiquity – in order to avenge offences against temples and to investigate with a quaestio and through inquisitio the despoliation of public buildings (cultum spoliatorum moenium). In Symmachus’ Relatio 21 there are some references:


140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151

152 153

154 155 156

157 158 159 160 161 162 163

Pagan Senators and Christian Bishops Symm. Rel. XXI.1: quidve intemptatum relinquant, qui in arce terrarum Christianae legis iniuriis vindicata fana finxerunt?; 3: qui sub occasione iustae inquisitionis, qua me cultum spoliatorum moenium investigare iussistis; 5: suggestionibus viri excellentis et de re publica bene meriti Praetextati praefecti praetorio abusus existimor, quid, si ex illo decreto quod probabiliter impetravit, necdum a me ulla quaestio ulla temptata est? CTh 9.17.2 (March 28, 349); 3 (356); 4 (356 or 357). Julian manifested the same intent in 363 (CTh 9.17.5). Reiner 1987. Sargenti 1983, 265–280. Dig. L.10.3 (Macer, liber II de officio praesidi), 904; Dig. L.10.7.1 (Callistratus, Liber II de cognitionibus, 905). CTh 15.1.7 (May 3, 361). CTh 15.1.3 ( June 29, [326] 362) to Secundus Salutius. This is the possible date of Ambr. Ep. extra coll. 10.4: McLynn 1994, 257. In 383-88, part of the senators (among them Symmachus) had supported Magnus Maximus: Errington 2006, 133–134. The sentence simply recalls Ambr. Ep. 72.10, which the bishop chose (or was able) to use in recapitulating the events that he described. Ambr. Ep. extra coll. 10.4. (transl. Liebeschuetz and Hill 2005, 257–8). I agree with Liebeschuetz and Hill 2005, 258, n. 1, to read distulit for Zelzer’s detulit. Theodosius did, however, resent Ambrose’s intervention as an intrusion into a matter that did not completely concern him, for he ordered that henceforth Ambrose should not be informed of the proceedings in the consistory: Ambr. Ep. extra coll. 11.2: McLynn 1994, 314. Liebeschuetz and Hill 2005, 27. Paul. Med. Vita Ambr. 26 offers details not known from any other source. Those who petitioned Eugenius are identified as “Flavian the prefect at the time and Count Arbogast”, but neither Flavian nor Arbogast can have been members of an embassy to Court, because both were ministers at Court: Cameron 2011, 83; on embassies after 384, see also Gassman 2020, 110, n. 21. CTh 16.10.15 (Jan. 29, 399, or better August 29, 399) Macrobio vicario Hispaniarum et Procliano vicario quinque provinciarum: Sicut sacrificia prohibemus, ita volumus publicorum operum ornamenta servari. See Delmaire 2005, 450–1. Prudent. Perist. 2.481-4; Contra Symm. I.501-5. The compilers of Theodosian Code divided the constitution that the emperor sent in answering Apollodorus into two fragments: CTh 16.10.18, sent on the same day (Aug. 20, 399) from the same place (Padua) to the African proconsul, is a fragment of the same constitution from which CTh 16.10.17 also comes. Moreover, CTh 16.10.18 starts with a sentence which recalls CTh 16.10.15: Delmaire 2005, 452–5. Conc. Carthaginiense (June 16, 401). c. 58, and conc. Carthaginiense (Sept. 13, 401). c. 84. We can interpret the law (16.10.19) addressed to Curtius in the same year (399) as a consequence of Catholics’ opposition: see above n. 22. Symm. Rel. III.3: reddatur saltem nomini honor, qui numini denegatus est. CTh 16.10.16 ad Eutichianum PPO Orientis (July 10, 399): Si qua in agris templa sunt, sine turba ac tumultu diruantur. His enim deiectis atque sublatis omnis superstitioni materia consumetur. CTh 16.10.25 ad Isidorum PPO Orientis: cunctaque eorum fana templa delubra, si qua etiam nunc restant integra, praecepto magistratuum destrui collocationeque venerandae christianae religionis signi expiari praecipimus. Nov. Maioriani 4 (Jul. 11, 458): Oppedisano 2013, 148–50. Cass. Var. I.6.2 ordered the restauration of the basilica Herculis; Var. III. 3.30 and 31 for the protection of aqueducts but also of temples and public places (31.4) that needed to be restored; also Var. IV.24 (Spoletium) celebrated the splendor reparationis: La Rocca and Marano 2014, a and La Rocca and Marano 2014b 258; 348–9.

Pagan Senators and Christian Bishops 175 164 Poulsen 1993, 150–152. For the different regions of the Roman empire, see the essays collected by Hahn, Emmel and Gotter 2008. 165 See, for instance, the second part of CTh 16.10.15: Erutae huiusmodi chartae ex eorum manibus ad nostram scientiam referantur, si inlicitis evectiones aut suo aut alieno nomine potuerint demonstrare, quas oblatas ad nos mitti decernimus. Qui vero talibus cursum praebuerint, binas auri libras inferre cogantur. 166 Paraphrasing the text of Symmachus, which he strictly scrutinizes following the indications of Cameron 2011, 42, this is essentially what Gassman 2020, 118–28 highlights. 167 Giardina 2012, XXXVIII-XXXIX; Lizzi Testa 2014b, 315–318; the papers edited by Wallraff 2016, and Sfameni 2017. 168 Gassman 2020, 128. 169 Cameron 2011; Bonamente 2013 and Cecconi 2013; Lizzi 2020.

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Pagan Senators and Christian Bishops 177 Hahn, Johannes, Stephen Emmel and Ulrich Gotter, eds. 2008. From Temple to Church. Destruction and Renewal of Local Cultic Topography in Late Antiquity. Leiden-Boston: Brill. Hess, Hamilton. 1958. The Canons of the Council of Serdica, A.D. 343. A Landmark in the Early Development of Canon Law. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Jacques, François. 1984. Le privilége de liberté. Politique impériale et autonomie municipale dans les cités de l’Occident romain (166–244). Roma (CÉFR,76): École Française de Rome. Klein, von Richard. 1972. Der Streit um den Victoriaaltar. Die dritte Relatio des Symmachus und die Briefe 17, 18 und 57 des Bischofs Ambrosius von Mailand. Einführung, Text und Erläuterungen, Darmstadt (Texte zu Forschung 7): Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. La Rocca, Cristina, and Yuri Marano. 2014a. “Cassiodoro. Variae III, 31 (Il re Teoderico al senato della città di Roma).” In Cassiodoro. Varie, vol. II (libri III–V), edited by Andrea Giardina, Giovanni A. Cecconi, and Ignazio Tantillo, with the assistance of Fabrizio Oppedisano, 44–7; 256–258. Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider. La Rocca, Cristina, and Yuri Marano. 2014b. “Cassiodoro. Variae IV, 24 (Il re Teoderico al diacono Elpidio).” In Cassiodoro. Varie, vol. II (libri III–V), edited by Andrea Giardina, Giovanni A. Cecconi, and Ignazio Tantillo, with the assistance of Fabrizio Oppedisano, 100–1; 348–349. Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider. Laniado, Avshalom. 2002. Recherches sur les notables municipaux dans l’Empire protobyzantin. Paris: Association des Amis du Centre d’Histoire et Civilisation de Byzance. Lepelley, Claude. 1996. “Témoignages épigraphiques sur le controle des financess municipales par les gouverneurs à partir du règne de Dioclétien.” In Il capitolo delle entrate nelle finanze municipali in Occidente ed Oriente. Actes de la XeRencontre franco-italienne sur l’épigraphie du monde romain (Rome, 27–29 mai 1996), edited by Silvio Panciera, 235–247. Roma (CÉFR, 256): École Française de Rome. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 1989. Vescovi e strutture ecclesiastiche nella città tardoantica (l’Italia annonaria nel IV–V secolo d. C.). Biblioteca di Athenaeum; 9. Como: Edizioni New Press. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 1990. “Ambrose’s contemporaries and the Christianization of northern Italy.” The Journal of Roman Studies LXXX: 156–173. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2001.“Come e dove reclutare i chierici? I problemi del vescovo Agostino.” In L’adorabile vescovo di Ippona. Convegno Intern. (Paola, 24–25 maggio 2000), edited by Franca Ela Consolino, 183–216. Soveria Mannelli: Rubbettino Editore. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2005. “Clerical Hierarchy and Imperial Legislation in Late Antiquity: the Reformed Reformers.” In Reforming the Church before Modernity, edited by Christopher M. Bellitto, and Louis I. Hamilton, 87–103. Aldershot: Ashgate. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2007. “Christian Emperor, Vestal Virgins, and Priestly Colleges: Reconsidering the End of Roman Paganism.” AnTard 15: 251–262. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2009. “Augures et Pontifices. Public Sacral Law in Late Antique Rome (fourth–fifth centuries AD).” In The Power of Religion in Late Antiquity, edited by Andrew J. Cain, and Noel Lenski, 251–278. Farnham-Burlington: Ashgate. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2010. “L’église, les domini, les païens rustici: Quelques stratégies pour la christianisation de l’Occident (ive-vie siècle).” In Le problème de la christianisation du monde antique, edited by Hervé Inglebert, 77–113. Paris: Picard. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2014a. “Costantino e le chiese cristiane all’indomani del 312.” In Costantino il Grande alle radici dell’Europa. Atti del Conv. Intern. di studio (Città del Vaticano-Roma, 18–21 aprile 2012), edited by Enrico Dal Covolo, and Giulia Sfameni Gasparro, 251–272. Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2014b. “Conclusioni.” In Tolleranza religiosa in età tardoantica (IV–V secolo). Atti delle Giornate di studio sull’età tardoantica (Roma 26–27 maggio 2013), edited by


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Arnaldo Marcone, Umberto Roberto, Ignazio Tantillo, 311–325. Cassino: Edizioni Università di Cassino. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2015. “The Famous ‘Altar of Victory Controversy’ in Rome: The Impact of Christianity at the End of the Fourth Century.” In Contested Monarchy. Integrating the Roman Empire in the Fourth Century AD., edited by Johannes Wienand, 405–419. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2016. “Costantino tra fede, economia e politica: privilegi fiscali, costruzioni sacre.” In L’impero costantiniano e i luoghi sacri, edited by Tessa Canella, 147–190. Bologna: Il Mulino. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2017. “Praesul et possessor: Ambrogio e la proprietà privata.” In Ambrogio e la questione sociale, edited by Raffaele Passarella, 19–60. Milano (Accademia Ambrosiana. Studia Ambrosiana 10): Bulzoni Editore. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2019. “L’autorità del concilio di Serdica in Occidente: testimonianze ambrosiane (epp. 30, 2-3; 72, 10).” In Autorità e recezione dei concili, edited by Giuseppe Ruggieri, CrSt 40 (1): 35–57. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2020. “Memorie d’imperatori vivi, orazioni funebri e preghiere in suffragio per i principi defunti: Ambrogio di Milano.” In Memórias e Mortes de Imperadores Romanos (I a.C.-VI d.C.). Memories and Deaths of Roman Emperors (I BC-VI AD), edited by Margarida M. de Carvalho, Rita Lizzi Testa, and Janira Feliciano Pohlmann. História (Sao Paulo) 39:1–21. McEvoy, Meaghan A. 2013. Child Emperor Rule in the Late Roman West, AD 367–455. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Mc Lynn, Neal. 1994. Ambrose of Milan. Church and Court in a Christian Capital. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press. Nauroy, Gérard. 2012. “Édition et organization du recueil de lettres d’Ambroise de Milan: une architecture cachée ou altérée?” In La correspondence d’Ambroise de Milan, edited by Aline Canellis, 19–61. (Centre Jean Palerne: Mémoires 33). Saint Étienne: Publications de l’Université de Saint-Etienne. Oppedisano, Fabrizio. 2013. L’impero d’Occidente negli anni di Maioriano. Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider. Palanque, Jean-Rémy. 1933. Saint Ambroise et l’Empire romain. Contribution à l’histoire des rapports de l’Église et de l’État à la fin du quatrième siècle. Paris: E. De Boccard. Paredi, Angelo. 20154. Sant’Ambrogio e la sua età. Milano: Jaca Book. Paschoud, François. 1983. “Le rȏ le du providentialisme dans le conflit de 384 sur l’autel de la Victoire.” Museum Helveticum 40: 197–206. Pensabene, Patrizio. 1999. “Monumenti di Roma tra continuità e perdita di funzione: trasformazione urbana e reimpiego in età tardo-antica.” Mediterraneo antico 2: 749–776. Pergami, Federico. 1993. La legislazione di Valentiniano e Valente (364–375). Milano: A. Giuffré Editore. Pergami, Federico. 2007. Amministrazione della giustizia e interventi imperiali nel sistema processuale della tarda Antichità. Milano: A. Giuffré Editore. Petrini, Francesco M. 2015. “Cassiodoro. Variae VI, 6 (Formula della dignità magisteriale).” In Cassiodoro. Varie, vol. III (libri VI–VII), edited by Andrea Giardina, Giovanni A. Cecconi, and Ignazio Tantillo, with the assistance of Fabrizio Oppedisano, 14–5; 132–136. Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider. Piganiol, André. 19722. L’Empire chrétien (325–395). Paris: PUF. Poulsen, Birte. 1993. “The Dioscuri and the Saints.” Analecta Romana Instituti Danici XXI: 141–152.

Pagan Senators and Christian Bishops 179 Reiner, Johannes M. 1987. “Zum Senatusconsultum Hosidianum.” Revue historique de droit français et étranger 55: 31–38. Rosen, Klaus. 1994. “Fides contra dissimulationem. Ambrosius und Symmachus im Kampf um den Victoriaaltar.” Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum 37: 29–34. Salzman, Michel R. 1989. “Reflections on Symmachus’ Idea of Tradition.” Historia 38 (1): 348–364. Salzman Michele Renee, and Roberts Michael. Eds. 2011.The Letters of Symmachus: Book 1. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. Sargenti, Manlio. 1983. “La disciplina urbanistica a Roma.” In La città antica come fatto di cultura. Atti del Convegno di Como e Bellagio (16–19 giugno 1979), 265–284. Como: Edizioni New Press. Scheid, John. 1990. “Indispensabili straniere.” In Storia delle donne. L’Antichità, edited by Pauline Schmitt Pantel, 424–464. Roma-Bari: Laterza Editori. Schmidt, John. 1893. “Admissio.” In Realencyclopädie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft (= RE), edited by August F. Pauly, and Georg Wissowa, I (1), coll. 381–382. Stuttgart: Metzler. Schmidt-Hofner, Sebastian. 2008. “Die Regesten der Kaiser Valentinian und Valens in den Jahren 364 bis 375 n. Chr.” ZRG 125: 498–602. Seeck, Otto. 1893. “Admissionales.” In RE I, 1 col. 382. Seeck, Otto. 1893. “Adnotatio.” In RE I, 1 coll. 382–383. Sfameni, Carla. 2017. “Suus enim cuique mos, suus ritus est (Sym., Rel III, 8). Il pluralismo religioso pagano a Roma in età tardoantica attraverso le testimonianze dei culti domestici.” In La Storia delle religioni e la sfida dei pluralismo, edited by Segio Botta, Marianna Ferrara, Alessandro Saggioro, 190–202. (Quaderni di Studi e Materiali di Storia delle religioni, 18). Brescia: Morcelliana. Stambaugh, John E. 1978. “The Functions of Roman Temples.” In Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II.16.1, edited by Wolfgang Haase, 554–608. Berlin: de Gruyter. Talbert, Richard J. A. 1984. The Senate of Imperial Rome. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Tantillo, Ignazio. 1997. La prima orazione di Giuliano a Costanzo. Introduzione, traduzione e commento. Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider. Vera, Domenico. 1981. Commento storico alle Relationes di Quinto Aurelio Simmaco. Pisa: Giardini Editore. Vera, Domenico. 2016. “Signum dei o signum deae nel panegirico del 313? Costantino, l’imitatio Augusti e l’Italia istituzionale nel IV secolo.” Antiquité tardive 24: 391–409. Von Campenhausen, Hans. 1929. Ambrosius von Mailand als Kirchenpolitiker. Berlin: de Gruyter. Wallraff, Martin (ed.). 2016. Religiöse Toleranz: 1700 Jahre nach dem Edikt von Mailand. Berlin-Boston: De Gruyter. Wildfang, Robin L. 2006. Rome’s Vestal Virgins. A Study of Rome’s Vestal Priestesses in the Late Republic and Early Empire. Routledge: London- New York.


Just Before the Sack: Between Political Crisis and Religious Anxiety in Rome

Introduction The elevation of the senator Priscus Attalus to the throne in the winter of 409, while Alaric threatened to besiege Rome for the second time, arrived at the end of a tormented period. Between 401 and 408, a succession of troubles and a first, dramatic, siege of Rome gradually changed the relationship between the Court of Honorius and the Roman aristocracy (Fig. 8.1). The events prior to Attalus’s usurpation are well known, but some of them deserve further assessment, as does Attalus’s domestic and foreign policy, his identity and that of the men of his government. In reconsidering all these aspects, we are led to wonder whether it was Alaric who raised Attalus as a puppet emperor, as is usually believed and has again been argued recently, or whether it was the Senate, which over a period of a few months sought an alternative to Emperor Honorius. Should the latter seem the best answer, then we will have to understand why the Senate had come to such a solution and what it hoped to gain from a new princeps. For a new vision of those dramatic years and of the role played by Rome’s main institutional assembly, it will be useful to rethink the so-called “Mini Pagan Revival of 409–410”. The ancient documentation is open to question but, as a whole, it preserves evidence that we cannot dismiss as the result of mere literary rhetoric.

Honorius, Stilicho, and Alaric: A Dramatic Overture At the beginning of his reign (395), Honorius was in Milan, but when Alaric crossed the Alps in the winter of 402–403, he retired to Ravenna. Procopius speaks of his “flight”,1 but in the West the move was not judged as evidence of neglecting Rome. Moving with the Court to the harbor city of Ravenna was a wise decision, and it was probably made in agreement with the Senate2; and Honorius was simultaneously providing for Rome, where emperors had rarely lived and no soldiers had resided since Constantine’s disbanding of the equites singulars, by sponsoring a massive restructuring of the Aurelian walls, documented by three inscriptions on the Portuense, Labicana, and Tiburtina gates.3 Other emperors before Honorius had chosen strategically better places from DOI: 10.4324/b22863-8

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Figure 8.1 The Siege of Rome by Alaric. Fifteenth-century French miniature. (© The Picture Art Collection/Alamy Stock Photo).

which to defend the empire; his general Flavius Stilicho managed to lift the siege of Milan and defeat Alaric’s Visigoths in Pollentia (today’s Pollenzo) and Verona (402–403); Rome seemed better protected, so the senators must have been well disposed toward their emperor. Nevertheless, in this period Honorius returned frequently to Rome, and this could indicate the need to use his presence to combat not only the panic that had spread through all of


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Italy when Alaric crossed the Alps, but also the political anxieties of aristocrats and the people.4 Apparently, he did it well. When the emperor came to Rome in 403 before triumphantly taking up his consulship in January 404,5 important restorations of public buildings had been completed, statuary groups were dedicated to celebrate the recent victories over Gildo and Alaric,6 and the population was cheered by the sumptuous games organized by Honorius.7 According to Theodoret, there were also gladiatorial games, which (pace Eusebius of Caesarea) Constantine not had really stopped in 325, but which Honorius then forbade later in 404.8 Very quickly, however, the situation deteriorated. In 405, a composite horde of foreign peoples, mainly Goths, crossed the Danube and invaded Italy through Raetia and Noricum. Stilicho also repelled the new invaders, and defeated Radagaisus at the battle of Faesulae (Fiesole, near Florence).9 But over the course of 406 other bands of Germanic people (notably Vandals, Alans, and Suebi), crossed the frozen Rhine with their wagons goods, and families.10 Near Mainz (Mogontiacum) they suppressed the opposition of the Frankish federates and overran Gaul, heading south toward the Pyrenees and reaching Toulouse after sowing widespread devastation along the way.11 During this trouble, the uprisings of non-Romanized peasants revived in Gaul, especially in Armorica (modern Brittany) among the Bacaudae, a group of local bandits whom Maximian had already fought at the end of the third century and whom the Burgundians incited anew in 408.12 Meanwhile, in the face of the new threat, and the incapacity of the government in Ravenna to meet it, Roman troops in Britain had proclaimed a series of pretenders as emperors. One of them, calling himself Constantine, quickly gained control of Gaul early in 407, settling first in Lugdunum (Lyon) and then, when Honorius’s praetorian prefect and his magister equitum per Gallias escaped to the Court in Ravenna, at Arelate (Arles).13 Honorius, therefore, was again in Rome in the winter of 407,14 and it is believed that while there he celebrated his second marriage with Thermantia,15 daughter of Stilicho and Serena and sister of Eucherius and Maria. The festivities, however, were not enough to divert public opinion from recent events. News came that Alaric was moving his followers out of Epirus, passing into Venetia and pitching his camp near the city of Emona (Ljubljana).16 After 402, Stilicho had persuaded Honorius to make an agreement with Alaric, whereby he again appointed him magister militum but required in exchange that Alaric return to Epirus, which was under eastern control.17 Such a decision had represented an affront to Arcadius’ government, which profited from a pause in hostilities against the Persians in 407 to turn its attention to Alaric with a counter-order to return to the West.18 From Emona, and then from Virunum, not far from the Alpine passes that led to Italy, Gothic emissaries asked Honorius for a subsidy. Responsible for a huge mass of people on the march, Alaric needed a sum of money to feed thousands of needy men, women and children as they waited for the response to their request for a region (other than Epirus) where they could settle.19 In my

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opinion, from this moment on, the clash between groups with opposing opinions on Stilicho’s policy on how to respond to Alaric and his Goths’s requests grew in the Senate. From these divisions, some senators were able to create a majority in favor of electing an emperor other than Honorius. At first, part of the senatorial assembly expressed a clear opposition to Stilicho’s policy. Scholars have insisted on the senators’ acquisitiveness,20 essentially because they attributed to Alaric the request for 4,000 pounds of gold (roughly 288,000 solidi),21 although neither Zosimus nor Olympiodorus say that Alaric made such a request. In particular, Zosimus recalls that the Senate voted this amount, and Olympiodorus remembers that “Alaric, when Stilicho was still alive, took 4,000 pounds of gold as money to withdraw the army”: that is, “he took”, not “he asked”.22 We cannot be completely sure that the sum of money that the assembly voted to give to Alaric was exactly that amount. Zosimus depends on Olympiodorus, who elsewhere curiously gives the same sum when he indicates the annual income (in cash as agrarian rent) of the richest senators. It could be a fictitious figure.23 If, instead, the figures of both Olympiodorus’s passages were not invented but true, it would indicate that the Senate was not put under pressure by a precise request from Alaric, and that the subsidy they decided to grant him and his Goths was far from onerous since it was shared among all the senators.24 More than the amount of gold, the other measures that the Ravennate government, under pressure from Stilicho, had taken after 402 – such as the closure of the ports to commerce between the two parts of the empire25 – would have definitively lost Stilicho the support of some of the great Roman senators, especially those who were owners of lands scattered throughout the empire (not just in the West). That decision also had ideological implications because “according to the senators, it ended up subverting the very foundations of traditional unity between the two partes”.26 Similarly, both economic and ideological interests prompted the large landowners in Africa to oppose Stilicho in 398, at the time of the Gildonic war, when the Roman assembly agreed to declare Gildo hostis publicus but to not grant recruits (tirones) for the army.27 The same can be said for Stilicho’s approach towards the Goths, which did not actually differ from what Theodosius and his sons had theretofore pursued. Having had the status of foederati since 382, the Goths had been used on multiple occasions.28 Alaric, just 20 years old, had seen more than 10,000 Goths massacred in the battle between the fifth and sixth of September 394 at the Frigidus, lined up in the front row to ensure Theodosius I won against Eugenius and his ally Arbogastes.29 An alleged member of the Gothic aristocracy, who grew up in the empire and shared the favor of Theodosius I,30 Alaric always expressed the need (albeit with disordered actions) for his Goths to be guaranteed land, means of survival, and a certain autonomy so as not to exacerbate their humiliation and feelings of revenge.31 Not only Stilicho but also other senators recognized him as an indispensable mediator between Rome and the Germanic peoples. The Eastern sources – above all Olympiodorus via Zosimus – have handed down an image of Alaric as a leader


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with moderation and prudence, who was reluctant even in the moments of greatest tension to bring ruin to a city like Rome, for which he had deep admiration.32 Although this literary tradition may have come about in different ways, it also reflected the opinion of a part of the Roman Senate, without which it would hardly have arisen.33 However, in 408 a semi-barbarian general (born of a Roman mother and a Roman cavalry officer of Vandal origins),34 pleading the miserable fate of the Gothic troops in front of the senatorial assembly, would have appeared very suspicious to some Roman senators. But others would have understood how inevitable it was, given the situation created on the Rhine border, to accept Alaric’s request.35 Actually, during a tumultuous senatorial session, when Stilicho urged the payment of a sum of gold to Alaric,36 the Senate’s first vote was for war against Alaric. Stilicho finally succeeded in forcing the assembly to conciliation. Even so, the brother of Mallius Theodorus openly denounced the concession with the famous words, which Zosimus gives in Latin: “non est ista pax, sed pactio servitutis”.37 The men who “promptly fled for sanctuary to a Christian church in fear of punishment”, and borrowed a dramatic sentence from the Ciceronian Philippics (12.14) to express his dissent, showed that, if not economically, then certainly symbolically, Stilicho’s proposal could be interpreted as very onerous. Jerome used the same rhetorical tone to describe the conditions of Rome in this period: “Who would believe it? […] Rome, whose womb is now a battlefield, does fight not for glory but for its salvation! Worse yet, Rome does not fight but redeems life for the price of gold and all of its goods”.38 In the Roman Senate, as well as in government circles in Ravenna, the death at Constantinople (on 1st May 408) of Honorius’s brother Arcadius, which the emperor learned of while still in Rome,39 increased the fear of a general upheaval. It took the form of a general and widespread anti-barbarian feeling, which had long been predominant in the Eastern Court.40 Stilicho, in fact, had convinced Honorius not to leave Italy, but instead to send Stilicho himself to Constantinople, while Alaric could be used against Constantine in Gaul.41 This proposal favoured Olympius’s anti-Stilichonian strategy. He insinuated that Stilicho was plotting to march to Constantinople in order to impose his own son, Eucherius, on the throne in place of Theodosius II.42 From Rome, Honorius proceeded to Ticinum (modern Pavia), where the troops departing to confront Constantine III in Gaul were assembled. It was there that a rebellion of the soldiery, instigated by Olympius,43 resulted in the killing of the highest officials in government on August 13.44 Stilicho himself was executed in Ravenna, on August 22, 408. His son escaped to Rome, escorted by some of Stilicho’s supporters.45 In the confusion that attended the fall of Stilicho, while the war against Constantine in Gaul was suspended,46 diplomatic relations between the Court and Alaric rapidly deteriorated, because Honorius rejected Alaric’s new proposals.47 Regulating the feud against Stilicho’s supporters seemed to him to be the most urgent problem,48 and he did not make adequate preparations for the

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defence of Italy. In the last months of 408, Alaric crossed into Italy and marched directly on Rome,49 after having sent for his brother-in-law, Athaulf, to join him from Upper Pannonia. Rome was under siege throughout the winter months of 408–409 and its effects were catastrophic. As hope of getting help from Ravenna decreased, the authorities prepared to arm the people. Hunger, disease, and plague followed the rationing of food.50 The same part of the Roman Senate that at first had sided with the Court of Ravenna against Stilicho, after having experienced the irresolution of Honorius and his officials, was able to develop a defensive strategy. It could only be achieved by obtaining a reconciliation with Alaric.

In Rome During the Sieges While Rome was besieged, the Senate – now acting also independently of the directives of the Court of Ravenna – sent to the Visigothic camp a delegation composed of two men: Basilius, a Spaniard and former prefect of Rome in 395,51 and Iohannes, who was a client of Alaric and personally known to him.52 At first, Alaric replied with arrogance. As his price for lifting the blockade, he demanded all the gold, silver, movable property, and barbarian slaves inside the city.53 A second embassy, later dispatched by the Senate, produced more negotiable terms, with the result that Palladius, the comes sacrarum largitonum, was appointed to supervise the collection of money and resources required by Alaric,54 while legates of the Senate were sent to Ravenna to make sure that Honorius signed the treaty and exchanged hostages. From the way that the events took place, the impression is that a part of the Senate agreed with some of Alaric’s initiatives, hoping to push the Court to come to terms with him and his Goths. When money and resources were given to him, Alaric immediately allowed supplies to arrive from Ostia, and left free access to and from the city for three days so that markets could reopen. Finally, he withdrew his forces to a camp in Tuscia, from which he controlled the roads to and from Rome.55 At the beginning of 409, however, the treaty still awaited ratification. While the cities of Northern Italy, totally without protection, had been required to raise their own forces against Athaulf, who arrived from Upper Pannonia,56 the usurper Constantine was recognised as legitimate emperor in Gaul. Three senators were sent to Ravenna, where they emphasized the suffering at Rome, and urged Honorius’s assent to ratify the agreement with the Visigothic King. The emperor promoted some of the senatorial legates to very high offices: Caecilianus was appointed praetorian prefect of Italy to succeed Theodorus, and was retained at Ravenna,57 while the other ambassador, Priscus Attalus, replaced Heliocrates as comes sacrarum largitionum.58 In this way, Olympius believed he was restoring Honorius’s authority over the Roman Senate. Yet on their way back to Rome, the legates were attacked by Alaric’s Goths, and the detachment of 6,000 men, which had been recalled from Dalmatia for service in the city, was not even able to protect them. The garrison was


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intercepted and almost totally destroyed, apart from its commander Valens and the legate Priscus Attalus.59 The third ambassador, Tarrutenius Maximianus, was captured by Alaric’s Goths near Rome and ransomed by his father, Marcianus (future city prefect), for 30,000 solidi paid in cash.60 Another delegation arrived at the Court in February 409. They traveled with an escort provided by Alaric, which is a good indication that the majority of the Senate now supported Alaric’s demands.61 From that point, some major changes were registered in the high offices: Olympius, responsible for the fall of Stilicho and the aggressive policy towards Alaric, was dismissed and fled to Dalmatia after an inconclusive clash with Athaulf, who had already reached Pisa;62 Iovius, a friend of Alaric, became praetorian prefect of Italy and invited the Visigothic leader to a peace conference at Ariminum;63 Priscus Attalus was further promoted from comes sacrarum largitionum to prefect of Rome.64 Scholars usually neglect the role of the senatorial legates in these political changes.65 I believe that they went to Ravenna to force Honorius to eliminate those who had prevented him from ratifying the treaty with Alaric. Priscus Attalus was probably again present among the ambassadors,66 and the Bishop of Rome, Innocentius, accompanied them.67 According to Zosimus, in the same period Honorius was pushed “by shame and by necessity” to withdraw the law that he himself had issued, which had debarred non-Catholics from the imperial service.68 He was probably referring to the abrogation of a law that had forbidden the “enemies of the Catholic religion” to have military commands and Court offices, since it had been addressed on November 14, 408, both to Olympius, magister officiorum, and to Valens comes domesticorum.69 By itself, Honorius’s decision could be interpreted as one of many legislative afterthoughts that characterized the religious policy of Late Antiquity. But that law had been issued in the wake of the purges conducted at the fall of Stilicho, and its abrogation would allow Arians and pagans to obtain important offices at Court and in the army again. It was eventually passed with the tacit agreement of Bishop Innocentius, who was in Ravenna in 409 and remained there in the following year, thus escaping the sack.70 Before he left the city, the urban prefect of 408, Gabinius Barbarus Pompeianus, had given his consent for the Senate to conduct pagan rituals on the Capitol, which they had been inspired to do by a group of men from the Etruscan town of Narnia.71 The following abrogation of that anti-pagan and anti-heretic law, therefore, seems to indicate that some of the Christian officials in Ravenna were willing to cooperate with the Roman senators when they changed their perspectives and mostly agreed to reach an agreement with the Visigothic King. While on the extraordinary episode of the pagan ceremonies Sozomen makes us certain that Zosimus did not invent the story, we do not have other evidence for the repeal of the law enacted in 408 because the Theodosian Code does not preserve this second provision. Furthermore, in the narrative concerning those two laws, Zosimus made a drastic selection of information reported from his source.72 Even speaking of his hero, Generidus, the strongminded German general who apparently forced Honorius to revoke the ban,73

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his tale is quite inaccurate. Indeed, the uplifting story he devoted to that pagan soldier, which showed that pagans of rare moral virtue and military ability had been ruled out by the law, demonstrates that the Byzantine historian was more successful in adapting episodes of ancient history to his present requirements than in understanding how the majority of the Roman Senate and Christian officials changed their minds during the months preceding the sack of Rome. In this sense, we cannot completely trust what Zosimus says about the attitude of the Roman Senate at that time. Some of the senators had acted independently from the Court well before the second siege of Rome, and the number of those who began to think of a concrete alternative to the government in Ravenna grew after Iovius had obtained more acceptable terms from Alaric, while the emperor snubbed them again. Well-known events show this. The negotiations of the new praetorian prefect in Ariminum had produced terms that might have been acceptable to Honorius, since Alaric asked for an annual allowance of gold, together with quantities of supplies and the provinces of Venetia, Noricum, and Dalmatia for his people to inhabit. In transmitting this request to Ravenna, however, Iovius added upon his own initiative the recommendation that Alaric should be given the rank of magister utriusque militiae to consolidate his position among Goths. Honorius replied contemptuously, asking Iovius not to negotiate ranks and offices on the emperor’s behalf.75 When Alaric learned the full text of Honorius’s reply to his proposals, he had an outburst of anger and swore that he would march to Rome and reduce the city to ruins. The emperor, when he was informed of this negative development, prepared for war, and bound Iovius and his functionaries by an oath taken upon his own head, never to abandon war against Alaric.76 The story of this oath, in particular, reveals how fragile Honorius’s position already was, and how he perceived that he had lost the support of the majority of officials in the Senate and Court. Although Zosimus speaks of Alaric’s repentance (or rethinking), it was probably on Iovius’s advice that Alaric made a further attempt to convince the emperor to negotiate or, alternatively, to pull the few still reluctant members of the Senate over to his side. He offered more moderate terms, using bishops as his emissaries.77 Zosimus calls them “bishops of the cities”, but Sozomen speaks generically of “bishops”.78 If they were “bishops of the Italian cities”, as has been suggested,79 we might think that they were mainly Catholic bishops, who followed Bishop Innocentius’s lead in coming to terms with Alaric. Actually, according to Zosimus, everyone praised Alaric’s proposals as wise and honest, and only by their oath did they show that they could not accept them.80 Upon the final rejection of this approach by Ravenna, Alaric marched directly for Rome, and after the senators refused to give their support, he besieged Rome again.81 According to Zosimus’s narrative, we are led to believe that the senatorial assembly was devoted to Theodosius’s dynasty to the bitter end, so that only when Alaric captured the harbour of Portus and its granaries containing food


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stores for the winter, threatening to distribute them to his own army, did the senators submit and accept a puppet government whose policy and personnel were both imposed by Alaric. Yet, in portraying such a passive Senate, Zosimus seems to forget facts that he himself (and often he alone) reports. Even the scholars who follow his interpretations of the events neglect the fact that the Senate had organized diplomatic missions to the Visigothic camp and, when senatorial envoys had reached Ravenna, many heads had fallen possibly due to their influence at Court, since they wanted Honorius to sign a treaty with Alaric. In fact, Priscus Attalus and his supporters obtained control over the entire assembly when the inconsistent attitude of Ravenna’s government in offering any effective assistance was made clear, resulting in everyone thinking it opportune to have a new emperor.82 Although some senators had worked to achieve their plan during the whole of previous year, some scholars agree to consider the new Augustus the puppet emperor of a Germanic Kaisermacher.83 They are following a historiographical model that it is in itself correct: since German generals could not be raised to the purple, they supported weak emperors, who would follow their commands. This model, however, is not always strictly applicable, and the case of Priscus Attalus is a likely exception.

Alaric, Attalus, and the Roman Senate Before the Sack: Sources in Comparison The first to recount Priscus Attalus’s election was probably Olympiodorus, who, during his life, may have collected in Rome evidence of what had happened.84 Other authors, who drew from his work, interpreted his story in various ways: Having taken Portus rather easily, (Alaric) conquered Rome after tormenting it more with the lack of food than other means; and the Romans having voted [καὶ ψηφισαμένων τῶν Ρωμαίων] (this in fact Alaric granted them), he proclaimed Attalus their emperor.85 Since for the second time he did not obtain what he had asked for, having also sent some bishops as ambassadors, he came to Rome and besieged the city; and after taking Portus, he forced the Romans to vote as emperor Attalus [βιάζεται Ρωμαίους βασιλέα ψεφίσασται τὸν Ἄτταλον], who was prefect of the city.86 Then the whole Senate, gathered to decide what should be done, gave in to all Alaric’s impositions: death was inevitable if no supplies arrived in the city from the port. Therefore, when they received Alaric’s embassy, they called him in front of the city: as he ordered, they placed on the imperial throne Attalus, who was prefect of the city, and invested him with the purple and the crown.87

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Although Alaric’s power over the Senate occurs in all three passages, according Sozomen and Zosimus the assembly had obeyed an order of Alaric in appointing Attalus, while for Philostorgius Alaric had granted the Romans (i.e. the Senate) the right to choose their own emperor, though later he himself proclaimed him. Whether Philostorgius also drew from Olympiodorus (as Zosimus and Sozomen did),88 or whether he used another, independent and well-informed source about the events of Rome,89 his version seems to be preferable. Zosimus (although his narrative is longer) summarizes the story, leaving out the moment of the senators’ choice – an election that both Sozomen and Philostorgius describe with the same verb ψηφίζω – and remembering only that Attalus was dressed in a purple mantle and a diadem, because these features were central to the Byzantine emperor’s investiture ceremony and gave legitimacy to the sovereign.90 Seeck and Stein implicitly agree with Philostorgius’s version but later, until recently, Zosimus’s story became widely accepted.91 Zosimus wrote while reading Eunapius of Sardis and Olympiodorus of Thebes, but also had direct experience with the political attitudes of the fifth-/sixth-century Senate in Constantinople. Thus, only with difficulty could he attribute autonomous planning to the fourth-/fifth-century Roman Senate. Not dissimilarly, even modern scholars, who were trained with Theodor Mommsen’s Römisches Staatsrecht and shared the idea that the Senate of Rome was reduced by Constantine to a purely municipal body, found it hard to attribute to the late antique Senate a renewed political authority.92 The hypothesis suggested here is that after Stilicho’s death some of Alaric’s choices were accepted by a gradually increasing group of senators, who finally came to obtain a majority in the assembly. They were in favor of dethroning Honorius, with the implied (but hidden) purpose of neutralizing Alaric. This view, however, extreme in appearance, is confirmed by what we know of Priscus Attalus, by his government’s program and by the men chosen to support him. Attalus’s personality, as it emerges in particular from the exchanges of letters with Symmachus, has already been well sketched.93 He was an educated senator (capable of grasping the erudite historical or literary references of Symmachus), zealous in writing letters, clever in political speeches,94 but also inclined to versify, so much so that (after less than fortunate political adventures) it was he who composed and recited the epithalamium for the wedding of Athaulf and Galla Placidia (Jan. 1, 414).95 He was also rich enough to be a sought-after member of the aristocratic circles of Rome, even before becoming a leading member of the Roman Senate. Most likely a native of Asia,96 he could be considered a vivid example of the multicultural and multiethnic composition of the late antique Senate after the Constantinian reform. The fact that he was likely the son of Publius Ampelius, a pagan native of Antioch,97 and had a political adventure lasting up to the imperial acclamation lead us once again to reflect on the rapidity of the assimilation of the provincial elites by a lively, multilingual, quarrelsome institutional body, deeply conservative but also prone to unscrupulous solutions.


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Publius Ampelius, who is generally believed Attalus’s father, had been enthusiastically praised by one of the most famous rhetoricians of the time when, as governor of Greece in 359/60, he had been appreciated by the notables of Megara, Sparta, and Chalcis in Eubea for the way he had organized and coordinated multiple public works that were then directly financed by those cities.98 His son Attalus was enrolled during those years in the school of Himerius, showing that the good governor was also a solicitous father, having entrusted the young adolescent99 to one of the best teachers of the famous Athenian school.100 Attalus, therefore, may have acquired in Athens those rhetorical tools that earned him his noted ability in negotiations, and prompted the Roman assembly to place him in charge of various senatorial legations in Ravenna as early as 398 and then between 408 and 409. From his father, moreover, even earlier than from future colleagues and friends like Symmachus, he learned what political orientation it would be useful to take in such difficult times. As urban prefect in 371–372, Ampelius had instructed that the Ursinians be arrested if they entered Rome, thus following the favorable attitude of the Valentinian functionary Viventius and the influential senator Praetextatus towards Pope Damasus.101 He himself had presided over the trial of Iulius Festus Hymetius (husband of Praetextatus’s sister) in the Senate, thus enhancing the long unapplied judicial competence of senatorial assembly. It should not be surprising, therefore, that his own son Attalus in 398 was chosen as a member of a senatorial embassy to Honorius, seeking relief from Stilicho’s order to provide new recruits (tirones) against Gildo, although at the end of 397 those same senators had declared him hostis publicus. The embassy was successful.102 This gives us all the more reason to believe that in his second legation to Ravenna, in February 409, Priscus Attalus had managed to persuade Honorius to get rid of Olympius and his protégés, despite having been promoted comes sacrarum largitionum during the first embassy thanks to Olympius himself. After his appointment, Attalus took up residence in the palace and the next day he convened the Senate and gave a solemn speech. Zosimus describes his first oration as “a speech full of presumption”.103 However, given his previous successes, and since he was the first emperor perhaps after decades who addressed the senators the day after his appointment – as if he were a princeps of the first and second centuries104 – those who chose him firmly believed in the purposes set out therein. As Sozomen recalls, he declared his intention “to return the ancient rights to the assembly (tà pátria)”, to subject Egypt and bring also the Eastern part of the Empire under the dominion of Italy;105 or, according to Zosimus, “the intent to conquer all the earth for the Romans”, implying an intention to make Rome once again the capital of its empire, after reconquering the Eastern Empire.106 What Sozomen says about the ancient rights of the Senate could refer to the right of the curia to appoint Roman emperors, since the example of Attalus himself showed that that right was finally re-established. Attalus may have also mentioned the right of the Senate to be consulted on vital issues, like war or peace, as Stilicho had recently

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chosen to do. As for Attalus’s ambition to become the ruler of both halves of the Empire, even this would not have seemed too unrealistic. It had, after all, been Stilicho’s plan, shared by the Senate,107 until the situation had changed due to the unfortunate conjuncture of military and political events.108

Priscus Attalus in Action When Attalus went into action, he seemed to behave in accordance with his proclaimed intentions. Neither Sozomen nor Zosimus tell how Attalus planned to block the convoys of grain destined for Constantinople. However, two laws were issued in the months before the sack in August 410, which show that Ravenna and Constantinople feared that usurpation could spread.109 The fact that he truly believed he could be recognised as the only emperor of the West and East seems evident in the way he acted immediately after his speech in the Senate. With regard to the West: Attalus refused to recognise Honorius as emperor and did not want to be recognised by him as co-emperor, deciding instead to immediately undertake “an expedition against the emperor who was in Ravenna”. According to Zosimus, Alaric had advised him otherwise: to deal with the loyalty of the comes Africae as the first problem, since by blocking the supply of wheat to the Urbs, Heraclianus could have ruined their plans.110 Zosimus’s story (dependent on Olympiodorus’s pro-Theodosian narrative) is here affected by his favorable disposition towards Alaric and the need to explain Attalus’s ὕβρις as the cause of his sad end. We should consider instead that, although Attalus, Alaric, and their advisors were initially uncertain what the best strategy was, they agreed together on the first military actions. As Procopius recalls, Alaric had elected Attalus “with the intention to remove Honorius and give Attalus all power over the West”.111 His proclamation was based on the rejection of the incompetent emperor in Ravenna, and indeed, Alaric and Attalus together set off with their army for Ravenna, and together they undertook campaigns in Northern Italy in order to bring reluctant cities under their control. The cities of Aemilia, apart from Bononia, were captured, and an expedition to Liguria was organized.112 Again, Attalus and Alaric together besieged Ravenna, and Honorius became so desperate that he sent out an embassy led by Iovius to the camp of Attalus, offering recognition and a share in the empire. But Attalus answered with insolence, replying that Honorius would have to abandon his throne and go into exile.113 Since the events had been swift and tumultuous, Attalus and Alaric may have hoped in the future to convince Heraclianus not to confirm his loyalty to the Court of Ravenna. According to Zosimus again, Attalus did not take the advice of Alaric to send a Gothic general, Druma, to overcome Heraclianus’s resistance, being persuaded by certain soothsayers that he would take Africa without fighting at all.114 The story is not credible. Attalus chose a Roman, Constans, to cross over to Africa with less than adequate forces. This suggests that Constans had not received orders to engage in battle with Heraclianus but


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rather had been given the task of negotiating with him and bringing him over to Attalus’s side. Heraclianus was known to the newly elected emperor as an unscrupulous and terribly ambitious individual, as he had proven while in command of the armies of Africa in succession to Bathanarius (the husband of Stilicho’s sister), and for having murdered Stilicho with his own hand at Ravenna.115 News of his avarice came from Africa, suggesting that he would sell himself to the highest bidder.116 But, before Constans arrived, news came that 4,000 reinforcements were arriving in Ravenna, sent by Theodosius II and Pulcheria to provide a reliable garrison for Honorius.117 This made all the difference. Heraclianus killed Constans as soon as he reached Africa, sent Honorius financial aid, and, while even Iovius (still in Ravenna) began to meditate treason, he prevented wheat, oil, or other food from reaching Rome, causing a famine much more serious than that which it had suffered when Alaric besieged it.118 The possession of Africa, and not the conquest of the cities of Northern Italy or the capture of Ravenna, decided the fate of Attalus and indirectly caused the sack of Rome.119 As for the East: At the beginning of their adventure, before their agreement failed, Attalus and Alaric certainly expected to recapture the eastern part of the empire as well. Attalus not only refused to recognise Honorius, he also did not even try to marry Galla Placidia, the half-sister of Honorius, who was then probably living in Rome and would have given him a link to the Theodosian dynasty.120 Therefore, among the “other even greater promises” which according to Zosimus the new emperor had made in his first speech in the Senate, which “attracted to him the vengeance of the divinity”,121 there was also a promise to get rid of Theodosius II. The hypothesis that the traditional aversion of most Roman senators to principes pueri was solicited for this purpose in Attalus’s first speech comes from the Historia Augusta. As is well known, this text is a collection of imperial biographies from Emperor Hadrian to Numerianus (117 AD–285 AD), put together (according to most scholars) by a single writer, who belonged to one of the exclusive aristocratic families of Rome.122 There are good reasons to believe that Flavius Vopiscus – one of the six pseudonyms assumed by the author of the Historia Augusta, presented as the writer of the last of the Lives in the work123– in his Life of Tacitus (Vita Taciti) lends to this emperor of the third century AD some traits that are in fact typical of the character and program of Emperor Attalus.124 Tacitus is an emperor elected by the Senate and not by the army. When he, following the traditional topos of the refus du pouvoir, cites his old age and the difficulty of campaigning as a pretext for refusing,125 the senators respond with repeated acclamations: “We have appointed you emperor, not soldier (miles)”; “You command, the soldiers fight”.126 Tacitus is an emperor litteratus and, boasting a kinship with Cornelius Tacitus, orders that ten copies of that Roman historian’s work be made every year, and be placed in all libraries.127 The Tacitus of Vopiscus projects the same idealized image that was used by the most illustrious members of the Roman Senate in the fourth century, in order to connect with their (sometimes only presumed)

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ancestors of the late Republican and Augustan age. The belief, however, that a man without a military background and with a predominantly civilian career could fully exercise his imperium because “the head gives orders, not the feet”,129 emerges clearly only in the Vita Taciti.130 It seems to fit in very well with the political program of the senators who appointed Attalus, confident that the positions granted to Alaric and his affiliates were merely practical expedients. In this Life, moreover, the diatribe against the principes pueri is given ample space in the imaginary speech to the Senate of the consularis Mecius Faltonius Nicomachus, behind whom Nicomachus Flavianus senior (or his son) could be hidden.131 This topic of boy-emperors became central in the senatorial debates especially after 395, when, at the death of Theodosius I, the empire passed to his very young sons, Honorius and Arcadius.132 A fortiori, Attalus may have denounced the appointment of the little Theodosius II in the East just a year earlier in his speech in the Senate. As further proof of this hypothesis we might consider another incident that occurs in the Vita Firmi – within the Quadriga Tyrannorum, signed by “Flavius Vopiscus” himself. Here a “big dispute” between Vopiscus and a certain Fonteius is imagined over the title to be attributed to Firmus, a tyrant who seized Egypt during the reign of Emperor Aurelian.133 The usurper Firmus, as described in this Life, is a fictional character, since there is no mention from any other source of a usurper who arose in Egypt during Aurelian’s reign. It is a character designed to hide Firmus, the Moorish rebel in 372–373, against whom Theodosius senior (father of Theodosius I) fought.134 What is interesting, however, are the similarities between the acts that the historical narrative attributes to Attalus and those around which, with much irony, the dispute between Vopiscus and Fonteius pretends to be built. While Fonteius, assuming a legitimist position, claimed that Firmus had been a petty bandit,135 Vopiscus believed that he had worn the purple, minted coins where he appeared with the title of princeps, and used the title imperator in his edicts. Rufius Celsus, Ceionius Iulianus and Fabius Sossianus also agreed. For them, “the great principes, in fact, had always defined the individuals that they killed as bandits because they had tried to seize power”. Vopiscus, in essence, expressed the opinion of the author of the Historia Augusta on the nature of the usurpers: they arose when the legitimate emperors were no longer able to deal with the defense of the empire, they did not protect the financial, social, and political privileges, necessarily inviolable, of the great senators of Rome, and they were considered usurpers only after being defeated. This is precisely the opinion that every single senator, who agreed first to appoint Attalus, and not too much later to depose him, would have subscribed to. Our evidence for the program of senatorial restoration and the image of a traditional senator-emperor contained in Attalus’s speech to the Senate is not restricted to descriptions by late historians who drew on Olympiodorus. Attalus issued medallions showing a seated Rome crowned by a small victory, and surrounded by the legend INVICTA ROMA AETERNA. The image of dea Roma on coins was not unusual, but the legend, which had disappeared


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from coinage after the foundation of Constantinople, emphasized that Rome was again the real seat of imperial power.136 The legend RESTITUTIO REI P(UBLICAE), as far as the term Res Publica could be commonly used in Late Antiquity to refer to the empire, had probably the same meaning because it indicated that the empire had been returned to its previous greatness.137 Moreover, Attalus adopted titles that intentionally omitted the abbreviation D. N. for D(ominus) N(oster), wanting to be celebrated instead as IMP(erator) and P (ius) F(elix) AUG(ustus), according to a strong senatorial tradition.138 A further aspect of Attalus’s government might be considered typically senatorial. Although he named Alaric magister militum, and Athaulf comes domesticorum,139 he was careful not to place all military commands in Gothic hands. He instead entrusted the Roman Valens with a high military command, as magister equitum.140 In addition, only Romans received civilian offices: Postumius Lampadius, recently prefect of Rome, became praetorian prefect; Marcianus, who had ransomed his son from the Goths for 30,000 solidi, was chosen to succeed Attalus himself as city-prefect;141 Iohannes, who had taken part in a senatorial embassy to Alaric during the previous winter and was well accepted by him, filled the post of magister officiorum;142 and, as his consul for 410, the emperor selected Tertullus.143

The Religion of Priscus Attalus and His Officials Attalus chose the language of ancient traditions to show that the Senate of Rome was still able to preserve them. The devotion to ancient gods was part of these traditions, and thus Philostorgius believed that Attalus was pagan.144 Modern scholars do not all have the same opinion: some of them interpreted his reign as a pagan reaction against a century of Christian emperors, while recently this view has been rejected.145 In fact, for almost every member of Attalus’s government, the evidence is based on a few discordant testimonies, which are difficult to interpret consistently. The case of Tertullus is exemplary.146 When he was appointed consul for 410, according to Orosius he pronounced an enigmatic sentence in the assembly: No wonder that that miserable man (sc. Attalus) was rightly mocked for this parade, if his consul Tertullus, ‘made of shadow’, dared to say in the curia: “I will speak to you, conscript fathers, as consul and pontifex: consul I already am, pontifex I hope to become”, hoping for an honor from someone who had no hope and being damned for having placed his hope in a man.147 It can be excluded that he aspired to become the bishop of Rome.148 Tertullus hoped to be elected pontifex by a man, not by the electoral body that chose bishops in Rome. Orosius does not define him umbratilis consul because he wanted to underline that Tertullus had been recognized neither by Ravenna nor by Constantinople;149 instead, given the context, umbratilis consul should be

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understood as “a consul made of shadow”, “dark”, or “dim”, clearly because he did not place his faith in God but in a man. In Orosius’s view, the man by whom Tertullus hoped to be elected pontifex was Attalus, the “man who had no hope”, to whom he referred at the beginning of the sentence, calling him miserable (miser). Attalus was certainly present when Tertullus gave this speech, which was either a quick answer just to thank Attalus after learning that he had been chosen consul for the following year, or a part of the gratiarum Actio pronounced before Emperor Attalus on January 1, 410, at the time of taking office.150 Tertullus, then, hoped to become a member of the traditional college of pontiffs, since the princeps Attalus himself was pontifex maximus.151 Orosius’s passage, therefore, opens two possible scenarios: the first is that in 409 the college of pontiffs still existed and the emperor, in his capacity as pontifex maximus, filled vacancies in the pontifical college, following what had been custom from as early as Augustus until (in our evidence) Constantius II at least; the second is that, if after Gratian’s repudiation of the pagan title of pontifex maximus (as Zosimus pretends152) neither Theodosius I nor his sons held that office, Attalus, the first emperor to again reside in Rome, wanted to be simultaneously elected princeps and pontifex maximus. In either case, according to Orosius, Tertullus was a hopeless man and, like his princeps, a pagan. Paul the deacon interpreted Tertullus’s speech as showing that he hoped to become princeps himself.153 Tertullus, in this view, was not hoping to become a member of the college of pontiffs, but pontifex maximus himself. Evidently, Paul the deacon believed that Tertullus hoped to be appointed Augustus in place of the very young Theodosius II, once Italy had restored control over the Eastern part of the empire, since he would hardly have stated in front of Attalus that he hoped to be chosen as Western emperor instead of him. On the 1st of January 410, the adventures of Attalus had not yet come to an end. However, even if Paul the deacon’s interpretation remains obscure, it is certain that he was referring to the college of pontiffs, and it seems to me to be proof that Tertullus shared Attalus’s plan to focus senators’ attention on some ancient traditions of Rome (like the college of pontiffs and Vestals). Finally, we should not forget Zosimus. He recalls that the men Attalus chose enjoyed great popularity as magistrates and that Romans rejoiced in particular for the consulships of Tertullus.154 Since Tertullus was the new consul of 410, he was in charge of organizing the chariot races in the circus. These games took place in the emperor’s city of residence, which had not been Rome for more than a century. As Tertullus belonged to a rich and ancient senatorial family, and was apparently very ambitious, we can image that the races he organized were truly spectacular. Also, for the first time in over a century, they were organized in the Circus Maximus in Rome. The great appreciation of the Romans for Tertullus, then, could specifically refer to the amusement that he provided them on that occasion; and all the more so if the festive calendar had indeed undergone drastic reduction due to a law issued in 409 by Honorius.155 In any case, Tertullus probably would not have deserved Zosimus’s special mention if the latter had not believed him a pagan.


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On Postumius Lampadius a note of caution is required, as he should not be considered pagan simply because he was a member of the new équipe.156 He is probably distinct from the man of the same name, who in 408 shouted out “non est ista pax sed pactio servitutis” before taking refuge in a Christian church in fear of punishment.157 He was an enemy of Alaric, and so it is unlikely that he held office under Attalus. Nor can he be the Lampadius who was city prefect in 398, and who is generally believed to be a brother of the Christian Flavius Mallius Theodorus, originally from Milan.158 Following Mazzarino’s suggestion, Chastagnol proposed identifying Postumius Lampadius with the consularis Campaniae, described as patron of Capua in two inscriptions. He was urban prefect (403–408), and probably commissioned the Lampadiorum diptych of Brescia.159 The French scholar identified him with a Lampadius who corresponded with Augustine. Since he believed that fate and fortune played a role in the disposition of man to sin, he was thought to be pagan.160 Yet nothing in Augustine’s letter suggests that his Lampadius was a person of high rank, as the bishop addressed him with the simple epithet caritas tua, rather than excellentia tua. Nor does anything in the letter confirm that the man was pagan. On the contrary, as Augustine was hopeful that his reply would safeguard Lampadius’s faith, and as he warns him not to indulge in sin by moving away from “the remedy of confession”, his Lampadius was definitely a Christian who hoped to see the doubts of a true believer dispelled by the bishop.161 Nevertheless, having ruled out that the correspondent of Augustine was pagan, we are still not sure that the praetorian prefect of Attalus was not a pagan, as this Postumius Lampadius was another individual.162 Sufficient information does not exist to define his religious orientation, besides the fact that he was co-opted into a government whose officials, despite apparently different religious attitudes, agreed to enhance the ancient, pagan, traditions of Rome. The city-prefect of Attalus, Marcianus, is also difficult to identify. He is perhaps identical with the father of the senatorial envoy Tarrutenius Maximianus, Attalus’s colleague on the mission to Ravenna, whom Marcianus had ransomed from captivity.163 Matthews also assumed that the urban prefect of Attalus was the apostate Marcianus mentioned in the Carmen contra paganos (v. 86), which he dated to 394, during Eugenius’s usurpation.164 But Cameron has convincingly demonstrated that the work dates from 384,165 making Matthew’s suggestion improbable given the 25-year interval between 384 and 409.166 Nevertheless, this identification is not impossible if we suppose that not in 394, but rather in 384 he was among those individuals that the Roman aristocrat targeted by the invective of the Carmen contra paganos (Praetextatus) induced to apostatise by offering them honours.167 Marcianus would have then been about 30 years old and have already had a proconsulate (not necessarily of Africa) shortly after his vicariate.168 Following this hypothesis, he would have been about 50 years old in 409. Moreover, he could be the same Marcianus who was made to repay the salary paid to him during the tyrannicum tempus.169 Such an expression could indicate either the usurpation of Maximus or Eugenius, as Symmachus called both of them usurpers (tyranni).170 But it

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would be easier for Symmachus to intercede in favour of his friend171 (sending two letters to the Bishop Ambrose to help him) after a usurpation such as that of Eugenius, in which he himself had not been directly involved. This would mean that Marcianus had another office under Eugenius in 394 (a higher office than a proconsulate, since it was unsual to go backwards in a career), before being appointed by Attalus in 409 (an interval of ten years between two offices was normal in Late Antiquity).172 A friend of Symmachus (like Ampelius and Attalus were), who had been denounced as an apostate in 384 by a Christian polemist but who had strong administrative experience, could be chosen as prefect of a city like Rome, which had just emerged from a long period of siege. Although Bishop Ambrose may have helped him after Eugenius’s usurpation at the urging of Symmachus, it does not necessarily follow that Marcianus had once again turned to Christianity.173 He could be credited with the same willingness as Attalus and Tertullus to reconcile his faith with the aeternitas of Rome and civic/pagan traditions. Iohannes, chosen by Attalus for the delicate office of magister officiorum, was the first filter between the sovereign and the embassy and communicated the reasons for the audience to the emperor.174 During the previous winter, Johannes had taken part in a senatorial embassy to Alaric, being his close friend, as primicerius notariorum,175 meaning that in 394/395 he could have been either a simple notarius, or already tribunus et notarius as Paulinus of Milan calls him.176 According to Paulinus, “after Eugenius and his satellites were crushed, [Ambrose] had no greater care than to intercede for those whom he found under impeachment”. He sent a letter to Theodosius I and, “after Iohannes, at that time a tribune and secretary, but who is now prefect, had been sent to protect those who took refuge in the church, he himself (scl. Ambrose) went to Aquileia to intercede for them” (my italics).177 We should see directus est in Paulinus’s text as having a reflexive meaning, and interpret it “after Iohannes went to protect those who took refuge in the church”. Otherwise, we should believe that Ambrose himself asked Johannes to go to Aquileia.178 After Eugenius’s execution on September 6, 394, the Milanese Court depended on Theodosius I, who (trusting Paulinus of Milan) had yet to be persuaded to be merciful to those who had taken sides with the usurper. Iohannes, then, decided to go and protect those who had taken refuge in the church of Milan, having previously agreed on this with Bishop Ambrose. Even so, we are not sure that Iohannes was a Christian of the Milanese church. As a member of the Court, he may have decided to protect refugees in the church, considering that many of them were his colleagues, even his superiors, regardless of their religious inclination. On the other hand, Ambrose himself undertook to protect those men in order to perform an act of mercy (legally intercessio), which some councils recommended but the imperial authority was late in recognizing as legal.179 Regardless of the faith of the men he then defended, the bishop of Milan acted to obtain recognition for what he considered a right of Christian bishops. The Church’s asylum was still a terrain of conflict between the imperial authority and the bishops. How serious and


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protracted was their disagreement in the West, where asylum was recognized for the Catholic Church only in the fifth century,180 is evident from another episode of the Life of St. Ambrose, which would have occurred soon after the crisis provoked by Eugenius’s usurpation.181 According to Paulinus, the soldiers who had dragged a certain Cresconius out of a church, even though he had been staunchly defended by Ambrose and his clerics, ended up being torn to pieces by the leopards as soon as they entered the amphitheater, exulting to report to Stilicho the success of their mission.182 Indeed, such miraculous events recur in the Life of St. Ambrose every time Paulinus wanted to demonstrate that some of the bishop’s enterprises, unlike those of an emperor faltering in true faith or of Arian officials and soldiers (as in this last case), nevertheless had the support of God which immediately manifested itself.183 Iohannes, therefore, may have agreed with Ambrose for reasons other than those which had prompted the bishop to protect the refugees in his church, not necessarily because he himself was a fervent Christian. However, Paulinus of Milan did not omit Iohannes’ extraordinary political career when he wrote the Life of St. Ambrose in Africa, recalling that Iohannes had become a praetorian prefect.184 This indicates a prolonged familiarity with a man who – if we have correctly interpreted the passage – had had the courage to support the bishop of Milan, even though Theodosius I could have seriously punished him. According to Paulinus’s narrative, what Stilicho ordered only two years later (on the advice of the praetorian prefect Eusebius, when Theodosius I died185) was to be read in comparison with the clemency that emperor adopted, following the advice of Ambrose and, possibly, Iohannes’s bravery. We could then believe that Iohannes was a devoted Christian, all the more so if Iohannes was one of the three spectabiles viri (Ioannes, Laurentius, and Niceforus) who dedicated the silver reliquary which is kept in the treasury of Saint Eufemia in Grado and which may have come from Aquileia after 568, when Patriarch Paul transferred the thesaurum ecclesiae to Grado.186 The reliquary is adorned with the figures of Christ flanked by Peter and Paul and the saints Cantius, Cantianus, and Cantianilla (martyrs from Aquileia), saint Quirinus, martyr of Sciscia, and saint Latinus. It is therefore an example of the evergetism of high-ranking officials in Aquileia in the late fourth century.187 If one agrees to identify the donor with Iohannes, the magister officiorum of Attalus, he was definitely a Christian. Coming to Attalus himself, we must start with the religious expectations he was able to raise. According to Sozomen, Attalus’s fall upset both pagans and Arians, the former because they had conjectured from his interests and his early education that he would openly declare his paganism and restore the temples, religious festivals, and sacrifices; and the latter because they had believed that he would restore them to the position they had enjoyed under Constantius and Valens, since he had been baptized by Sigesarius, an Arian Gothic bishop.188 The passage has been subject to detailed analysis: even had Attalus truly been pagan, “since he immediately accepted baptism on his elevation, it is clear that he was willing to put career before religion”; his

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officials could not have been pagans, because “appointing pagans to his administration would have undermined the effect of his own baptism”; moreover, the fact that “he is said to have been baptized rather than converted suggests that he was not only not a pagan but already a catechumen”.189 The text of Sozomen can be easily misinterpreted because we know too little of the doctrinal relations among the different religious groups of Late Antiquity and their eventual alliances.190 In the first decade of the fifth century, men like Attalus, Marcianus, and the same Lampadius, who in the last 20 years of the fourth century had been active in the Senate next to Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, Virius Nicomachus Flavianus, and Vettius Agorius Praetextatus, all of them still pagan, would not have lost interest in religious topics. The same shifting from one religious system to another that Christians praised as conversions, or denounced as apostasy, was not always the result of pure opportunism. It cannot be excluded that at least some wealthy Roman aristocrats – as well as people from lower classes but with the same paideia – were genuinely interested in learning about, discussing, and exploring different cultural-philosophical doctrines, and changing their views over time. Augustine was not a member of the Roman Senate, but at least some senators may have shared his spiritual labour and even some of the religious affiliations he passed through before choosing Nicene Catholicism. Not all Christian groups, moreover, were as exclusive as the Nicenes around Ambrose and some of his Italian colleagues. The text of Sozomen speaks of tacit coexistence between pagans and Arians who were upset by Attalus’s fall. In particular, chronological references to Constantius II and Valens, when many Nicene bishops had been exiled from their sees, points to a moment that was decisive for the direction of imperial religious policy towards Arians, semiArians and Nicenes. For example, when Ambrose decided to strongly support Pope Damasus against his adversary, the antipope Ursinus, he sent a third letter to the emperors from Aquileia to remind them that Ursinus was still wandering Italy as a tireless agitator, capable of fostering an alliance of Arians and Jews against the Catholic Church, and planning to gather their supporters together “at secret meetings”.191 Such an accusation was put forward mainly to prevent any possible act of imperial clemency towards the elderly antipope. Nevertheless, it was not entirely groundless, as, immediately thereafter, Bishop Palladius of Ratiaria asked for a mixed jury of Jews and pagans (gentilitatis cultores) which might annul the verdict of Ambrose and other council bishops in Aquileia to expel him from his see.192 Behind the request of the Homoian Palladius, as well the action of Damasus’s opponent, Ursinus, Ambrose saw a doctrinal convergence, which he considered monstrous: Arians, pagans, and Jews found a meeting point in the shared belief that Christ was of purely human nature. If, in 386, he had not devised legislation and found miraculous ways to avoid the arbitration to which the Court had summoned him, the mixed jury would have decreed the victory of his Arian opponent, Auxentius.193 Due to the lack of documentation, the doctrinal choices of Christian groups, who had been marginalized from Theodosius I onwards, are not very


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well known. That said, they cannot simply be denied. An example worthy of consideration is Attalus’s Arian baptism. His decision to be baptized by a Gothic (Arian) bishop could have been founded on philosophical/cultural ideas, as pagans and Arians shared objections to Nicene Christology. Even if today it seems an obvious possibility that Attalus accepted an Arian baptism only to please Alaric’s Goths, as Sozomen seems to suggest, political ends may simply have been a contributing factor. It is unlikely, however, that Attalus was already a catechumen. Augustine describes the practice of the catechumenate before receiving baptism,194 which was probably common among all Catholics, but we do not know if Arians followed the same procedure. Attalus thus was born and grew up the cultivated pagan man that later Christian and pagan sources describe him as being. But neither did his paganism prevent him from appointing pagan, Christian, and Arian officials to his government, nor did his subsequent baptism change the nature of such political collaborations. His way of proceeding is interesting. He chose his officials on the basis of common political goals, guided by what – to use a Symmachan word – he himself could emphatically call amicitia. However, it may have been simply the varied religious affiliation of his officials, more than the paganism of some of them, that was a theme of his programmatic speech, or at least that constituted a part of his program. The “choice of the best” was a subject of considerable rhetorical efficacy, to which the Senate was particularly sensitive.195 The argument that such a choice would be independent of the religious interests of the officials could be used by Attalus as a new corollary of the traditional topic: to denounce the way in which the young principes christiani had recently ordered that non-Catholics be banned from public office and other similar measures.196 In fact, in the first decades of the fifth century, pagans still existed and were present in the Senate, as they were in the rest of society.197 Just before electing Attalus, those same senators who were planning to find an alternative to Honorius – according to Sozomen, “those of the Senate who were Hellenizing” – thought it necessary to make sacrifices on the Capitol and in the other temples.198 It is difficult to understand what actually happened at the end of 408, in a besieged Rome in the throes of famine, pestilence, and fear. It was said that “certain Tusci”, called or accidentally met by the prefect of the city, promised that they would save Rome as they already had saved Narnia, driving the barbarians away with thunder and lightning. Sozomen and Zosimus enhanced different aspects of this same episode, which they both read in Olympiodorus, who was a well-informed source.199 Comparing their stories, and leaving out the question of the role played by the city-prefect Gabinius Barbarus Pompeianus and by Bishop Innocentius,200 it is clear that, for Olympiodorus, the senators played the pre-eminent role in the story.201 The haruspex fulgurator, who was capable of attracting the fulmina auxiliaria against the enemies of the city, was a figure of the most ancient Etruscan tradition.202 Those Tusci were therefore experts in haruspicy, which some cultivated men in the fourth and fifth century AD valued for its magical

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aspects. The same coexistence, in Zosimus’s tale, of haruspical fulgural rites (i.e. not divinatory, related to the inspection of the entrails of sacrificed animals) and sacred processions to the Capitol and the other city temples is difficult to understand in terms of traditional ceremonies. It is likely, therefore, that Olympiodorus reported as real events a debate held in the Senate on the need to return to the cultivation of ancient religious rites, even those which were very archaic, since some Etruscan senators (the Tusci) claimed that elsewhere precisely those had been successful. In the assembly, however, the opinion prevailed of those who maintained that the salvation of Narnia, as had occurred in Thebes and in some well-fortified cities of Northern Italy, had depended not on a haruspex fulgurator but on the military strategy of Alaric, who had preferred not to waste time besieging cities that were naturally inaccessible and politically irrelevant.204 There is, in fact, no real discrepancy between Zosimus and Sozomen in relation to the celebration of the rites, because the ecclesiastical historian says that “it seemed necessary to the senators to celebrate them”, not that they celebrated them.205 The fact remains that, in 408, celebrating pagan rituals seemed to some of the senators of Rome to be a possible way to save the city.

Conclusion Even the proclamations that the Chancellery of Honorius issued after Stilicho’s elimination confirm that the pagans of Rome seemed once again to pose a serious threat, especially in the event that they might support the claims of Donatists and other heretics. In February 409, it was ordered that the forbidden books (“the books of their false doctrine”) be burned under the eyes of the bishops, and the mathemati (i.e. astrologers), who had not “transferred their faith to the practice of the Catholic religion”, “be banished not only from the city of Rome but also from all municipalities”.206 The burning of prophetic and magical books had a pedigree stretching back to Augustus and Tiberius.207 In the recent memory of the early fifth century, not even the Pannonian Maximinus had gone so far in Rome; but Valens resorted to it.208 Ammianus, who witnessed the events personally, commented that for the most part the books were treatises on the liberal arts and law texts.209 Honorius’s law was also enacted in the name of Theodosius II, which explains why the expulsion is said to have been extended beyond Rome, to all the cities of the empire. It is clear, however, that the Court of Ravenna was mainly concerned with Rome, perhaps as a direct consequence of the debate on whether to follow the antiquarian practices suggested by the Tusci and as a continuation of that “witch hunt” that Stilicho had already started with his hardening of anti-pagan measures, and – if Rutilius Namatianus was well informed – by blatantly burning the ancient Sybilline books.210 Honorius’s law was distinguished from other provisions, which had targeted magicians and astrologers since the high empire, because it gave bishops the authority to make sure that the order to burn the forbidden books was carried


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out. This was a novelty. However, in 407, something similar was contained in a long law sent to Curtius, which, alongside other severe provisions against temples and cult statues, asked the bishops to prevent ritual banquets and other kinds of pagan ceremonies.211 It is not difficult to understand, then, who put pressure on the imperial Court to obtain both constitutions. Similarly, the laws, which exacerbated the sanctions against Donatists that were common to other heretics, imposing the maximum pecuniary penalties on the former, had been clearly enacted at the request of the bishops of the Council of Carthage of 404, who were concerned by the reinvigoration of the Donatist movement.212 From the council, instructions had also been received in Ravenna to post in the most frequented places of the cities the rescript that the Donatists had obtained from the Emperor Julian, which gave them the right to return from exile and to use again their own places of worship. The aim was not only to counteract their claims, but to discredit them by making public the favor obtained from an apostate emperor.213 In one of his sermons, Augustine – probably mindful of the warnings that Ambrose had given to the emperors Gratian and Theodosius I about the alliance drawn up by heretics, pagans, and Jews – expressed fear that the Donatists would find support from pagans, other heretics, and Jews in Africa and elsewhere (especially in Rome).214 In years of serious military and political alarm for the young successors of Theodosius I, while the political and religious unity of the Western Empire was revitalized just as when the Donatist schism had risen in 312/313,215 new laws condemned the collusion of Donatists, heretics, and Jews.216 Other laws ordered the defensores civitatis, the curials, and members of all offices to be vigilant in preventing in every city of the empire illicit meetings of those who were not in communion with the Catholic episcopate (qui ab ecclesiae catholico sacerdote dissidet).217 Moreover, in January 409, Honorius reiterated that the severe measures previously issued against heretics, Jews, and pagans remained in force, while penalties against negligent authorities were increased.218 According to Augustine, in fact, the Donatists and the other heretics claimed that those laws had fallen with the death of Stilicho, who would have issued them without the knowledge and against the will of Honorius.219 The imperial prohibitions, however severe, did not usually provoke in the subjects that terror, which they intended to arouse with their vehement language and with the terrifying punishments that they threatened. They rarely had universal value, and were only applied if a documented denunciation had been made against the alleged guilty party. Sometimes, however, they worked to accelerate Christianization, because the bishops, after having requested them, acquired prestige and authority by interceding with the emperor in aid of those who had been denounced.220 In 409, in fact, Honorius safeguarded the image of the bishop as a “man of peace and forgiveness” with a constitution, which exempted the prelates from asking for revenge. It entrusted the governors with the task of punishing, with a capital sentence, those “convicted or confessed criminals” who “break forth into such sacrilege” of invading Catholic churches and inflicting outrages on the priests and ministers,

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or on the worship itself. A few months before, the emperor from Ravenna had strengthened the jurisdiction of the Catholic bishops, specifying the official value of the audientia episcopalis compared to other forms of arbitration.222 In general, the legislative activity of 408–409 tried to tighten the adhesion of some senatorial families around a fragile emperor whose power was tottering. These families were of sure Nicene faith, and well connected with the Catholic bishops who in Africa fought against the Donatists and Pelagians.223 Indeed, the government of Ravenna was not unaware for long of the Senate’s attempt to find an alternative to emperor Honorius. This is shown also by a constitution of April 409. While yet another senatorial delegation left Ravenna hoping to reach Rome unharmed with the escort provided by Alaric, Honorius ordered that no amusements were to be held “on the Lord’s Day which is commonly called the Day of the Sun”, not even on the occasion of the imperial anniversaries (imperii nostri ortus … aut natali debita sollemnia).224 Theodosius I had already forbidden profane performances to be held on Sundays, but he had made an exception for the imperial anniversaries (praeter clementiae nostrae natalicios dies), and was followed by his sons Honorius and Arcadius in 399.225 Honorius, therefore, made a dramatic decision, and one with great precocity with respect to the East, where it was first adopted only in 425.226 The aim was not so much to promote the Christianization of Rome, by giving preeminence to the Christian holiday calendar. Rather, following a quick calculation of all the imperial anniversaries scheduled on Sundays that year, the financial ministers advised the emperor against pledging the funds of the imperial treasury to public games in Rome, which, given the circumstances, would have occurred in his absence, and to preserve the money in case of serious difficulties and the need for sudden escape to Constantinople. Political motives also pushed in this direction, since on such occasions the Roman people did not hesitate to manifest their dissent with repeated shouts (acclamationes). Indeed, when the new city prefect of 409, Attalus, had harangued the people in the amphitheater while the nightmare of Alaric’s siege was ongoing, the Romans would hardly have expressed enthusiasm for Honorius in his absence as they had done in 400 (though they had also repeated the name of Stilicho many times), or when he had gone to celebrate his sixth consulate.227 In this scenario, Emperor Attalus’s decision to form a government whose ministers were of proven administrative skill, and boasted different religious affiliations, should be judged as a thoughtful political choice.228 His baptism performed by Sigesarius, an Arian Bishop of the Goths, points in the same direction. Was that a way of indicating that the princeps of Roma Aeterna, just elected by the Senate, would not discriminate against his officials on the basis of their professed faith, nor enact anti-pagan and anti-heretical laws that privileged only Nicene Catholics, such as those that the Chancellery of Honorius had recently issued so copiously? The expectations of pagans and heretics disappointed by his end may have been aroused by such choices. Attalus’s adventure, therefore, did not represent a final great experiment of pagan revival, as some still believe.229 It was not even a “mini pagan revival”,


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as it was ironically named to deny that some pagans still survived in Rome.230 Religion was not the trigger element of that event, as it had not been also in the case of the conflict between Theodosius I and Eugenius. When they elected Attalus to avoid a new siege of Rome by satisfying Alaric’s now moderate demands, the Roman senators made a political choice. They hoped for a stable alternative to Honorius’s government. The symbols and myths of Roma aeterna were valued because they made it possible to obtain the collaboration of officials of different religious attitudes – pagans, non-intransigent Nicene Christians, Jews – and a broad consensus of the people.

Notes 1 Proc. Bell. Vand. 1.2.8-9. For an assessment of how Honorius’ personality and his politics affected ancient sources, see Näf 2013, 79–108, esp. 84–7, who reviews the negative tradition. The content of this chapter builds on research developed in Lizzi Testa 2012a. 2 Zos. 5.30.1–3. The first law issued in Ravenna was CTh 7.13.15 (Dec. 6, 402). For Ravenna as Honorius’ residence, see Gillett 2001, 141. The city, where Honorius had resided for about a year before traveling to Rome in 402-403, was protected by vast marshes and had an excellent port, from which it was possible to escape to the East. It could be considered a temporary seat, not necessarily a permanent residence (Gillett 2001,139–140; Kelly 2012, 263, and more extensively Kelly 2016, 338-339), as it later became. On Ravenna’s transformation into an imperial residence, Dey 2015, 110–119, from whom it is clear that the fifth/sixth-century city grew up in comparison with Constantinople, not Rome. This happened because all of the western scions of the Theodosian dynasty, as well as Theoderic, spent much of their youth in Constantinople, or also because (in my opinion) in the imagery of contemporaries Rome continued to be the unique capital of the Empire and Constantinople an imperial residence, albeit one associated with the name of Constantine, which he conceived as the New or Second Rome (Grig and Kelly 2012, 11), but which was really able to compete as a second capital only toward the end of the fourth century. 3 A radical restructuring of the walls of Rome was done by the praefectus urbi Fl. Macrobius Longinianus: CIL VI.1188 (=31257), 1189, 1190. Dey 2011, 48–54; 137–54 with careful analysis of the written and material record; see also Spera 2013, 167–8. 4 Claudian’s De Bello Getico, read in Rome after the victory of Stilicho’s troops over Alaric in 402, vividly describes the anxieties of the time: the defenses of Italian cities were frail, Italians fled to the islands, and wealth was considered a burden at a time of escalating violence (Get. 213–26). See Cameron 1970, 180. 5 We must agree with Kelly 2016, 337-345, and his close reading of Claudian’s last panegyric, in distinguishing the ceremonies held for Honorius’s adventus in late 403 from those for the consulship on I January 404. 6 Between 402 and 408, the Senate dedicated an arch adorned with imperial simulacra to Arcadius, Honorius and Theodosius II, to commemorate the recent victories over the Goths (the triumph over Alaric in 402, or Radagaisus in 405): Liverani 2007, 84–9. Some bases in the Roman Forum are attributable both to a monument with an imperial dedication erected for the victory over Radagaisus, and to two statues in honor of Stilicho near the rostra: Bauer 1996, 73, 404–5. 7 While in the first part of his Panegyric on the sixth consulship of Honorius Claudian summarizes the recent events, in the second part he describes Honorius in Rome, now

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11 12 13 14 15

16 17

speaking to the people and nobles from the Roman Forum, then in the Palatium, giving orders to organize splendid games for the entertainment of the people. Eus. Vita Const. 4.25.1 claims that Constantine forbade gladiatorial combats (cf. Socr. HE 1.18.1; Soz. HE 1.8.6) but CTh 9.18.1 (Aug. 1, 315) assumes the continuation of gladiatorial games. CTh 15.12.1 (Oct. 1, 325) implies a more general ban, but its version in Cod. Iust. 11.44.1 only forbids condemned criminals to be forced into gladiatorial work, evidently allowing the use of prisoners of war, slaves and volunteers. Furthermore CTh 9.40.8 (Jan. 15, 365) shows that Constantine’s bans were not respected in the West, to the extent that Honorius himself organized gladiatorial games in 404: Delmaire 2009, 196–7; cf. Rivière 2002b; Potter 2010, Lenski 2016, 128, 317, n. 62. According to Theod. HE 5.26.1-3 (cf. Cass. Hist. Tr. 10.2.1–2), however, he had them abolished immediately afterwards, since the crowd killed the monk Telemachius, who tried to stop the fighters from participating. For the Huns’s migration, Pohl 2002; Heather 2005, 152–158. Kulikowski 2007, 206 says that Heather’s idea of Germanic people’s migrations is a “neo-Romantic vision”, and strongly rejects his “idée fixe” that the Huns were responsible for the fall of the Roman Empire, but Heather’s treatment of Gothic history is still the best available on the subject. Radagaisus’s followers were considered Goths (Oros. Hist. adversus pagan. VII. 37.4 ff: 8.16; cf. also August. De civitate Dei V.23). On Radagaisus’s force, Heather 2009, 173; 175, and n. 36; 177, n. 40. The victory over Radagaisus at Faesulae could be the reason for the commissioning of Probus’ ivory diptych, given its strong emphasis on imperial victory: Lejdegård 2014, 182–4, and more in general, for the support of the Anicii to Honorius. Heather 2005, 221, and Heather 2009, 174: the Rhine crossing is generally dated 31 December 406 on the basis of Prosper, Chronicle AP 379. Kulikowski 2000, 328–329, suggested that the chronicler might have meant 31 December 405, but following the counterargument of Birley 2005, 455–460, Kulikowski 2007, 171, n.37 appears less sure. Ward-Perkins 2005, 15–7. Thompson 1952; Cracco Ruggini 1983; Giardina 1983; Van Dam 1985, 25–58; Drinkwater 1992; Cracco Ruggini 1995; Neri 1998, 400–17; Montecchio 2002, 223–45; Pottier 2011; D’Incà 2016; Neri 2019, 53–61. Zos. 5.27.2, and 31.4. Zos. 6.3–4, describes the usurpation of Constantine: cf. Paschoud 2003 (1989), 17–9, n. 114. Heather 2005, 219–220 on Stilicho’s project to win Alaric’s support against the northern threat. Gillett 2001, 138, and with details Kelly 2016, 339, n. 18: “He made either two successive visits or a single extended visit to Rome, from late 406 or early 407 until early 408”. Zos. 5.28 1–2; Olymp. fr. 2. The first wife of Honorius, the little Maria, whom the emperor had married when she was about 10 years old, was recently deceased. Maria, Thermantia, and Eucherius were the children of Stilicho and Serena. The latter, daughter of Honorius (PLRE I, Honorius 2, 441), had been adopted by Theodosius I on her father’s death and married Stilicho in c. 384 (PLRE I, Serena, 824): see PLRE II, Aemilia Materna Thermantia, 1111–2. Stilicho apparently hoped to marry his son Eucherius (PLRE II, Eucherius 1, 404–405) to Galla Placidia, who was the daughter of Theodosius I and Galla (daughter of Valentinianus I and Iustina: PLRE I, Galla 2, 382). She was half-sister to Pulcheria, and the emperors Arcadius and Honorius, who were born from Theodosius I and Aelia Flavia Flaccilla: PLRE II, Aelia Galla Placidia, 888–9. Zos. 5.29.1. Zos. 5.26.2, reports only Stilicho’s plans to seize control of the provinces of eastern Illyricum for the western government, but Soz. 9.4.3, mentions Iovius’s appointment as prefect of Illyricum, and Stilicho’s intention that he should collaborate with Alaric. Kulikowski 2007, 171.


Just Before the Sack

18 Zos. 5.29. 7–8. 19 Zos. 5.29.4–5. Matthews 1975, 276, believes that from the area where the Goths had camped, Alaric negotiated with Stilicho for a march into Pannonia but, according to Zosimus, on that occasion Alaric’s request was only for money, of which he did not specify the amount. 20 Matthews 1975, 277–8; Kulikowski 2007, 172. 21 Wolfram 1985, 267; Heather 2005, 221: “he demanded four thousand pounds of gold”; Kulikowski 2007, 172: “demanding 4,000 pounds of gold”; Roberto 2012b, 63. 22 Zos. 5.29.9; Olymp. fr. 5 (FHG IV, 58). Paschoud 2011 (1986), 220, compares Zosimus’s and Olympiodorus’s passages. 23 Olymp. fr. 44 (FHG IV, 67–8 = Phot. Bibl. Cod. 80): «(Olympiodorus) reports that many Roman families annually obtained about 4,000 pounds of gold from their properties, without considering wheat, wine and all other products ». According to Vera 1983, and Vera 1986, we can trust Olympiodorus’s figures (also those given in the rest of quotation), as evidence of the wealth of Roman senators at the time. Cameron 1999 and Cameron 2012, 144–6 doubted the reliability of those indications, but see Vera 2016, 220–2. 24 For the traditional view, see Kulikowski 2007, 172: “the senators who had to pay for this massive subvention understandably resented it”. 25 CTh 7.16.1 (Dec. 10, 408) canceled the measure after the death of Stilicho, the “public enemy”: Roberto 2013, 269, n. 14. 26 Mazzarino 1942, 169. 27 Mazzarino 1942, 171; see below n. 102. 28 The term foederati appears for the first time in CTh 7.13.16 (February 15, 406), but Goths had been considered federates since 380: Lippold 1968, 24 ff. Näf 2013, 95, indicates the year 382, evidently not considering the foedus that the emperor Gratian had established with them before Theodosius I: Demandt 1970, 717 ff; cf. Wolfram 1985, 230–2. 29 For Alaric’s participation in the battle at the Frigidus, Ioh. Ant. fr. 280 Roberto; Oros. Hist. adversus pagan. VII.35, recalls the massacre of the Gothic warriors that, according to him, was the second victory of that battle. Cf. Heather 2005, 212; Kulikowski 2007, 163; Roberto 2013, 113. 30 On Alaric’s belonging to the royal dynasty of the Balthi, Wolfram 1985, 67, n. 18; Kulikowski 2007, 161: the only source for this is Jordanes (Get. 146), who probably invented a “Visigothic” dynasty to match the Amal family of the Ostrogothic King Theoderic. 31 Already in the spring of 395, after facing fierce attacks by the Huns, Alaric and his followers had moved from Thrace to Macedonia and Greece, obeying the directives of Rufinus and the emperor Arcadius, who diverted him from attacking Constantinople by moving to western territories: Heather 2010, 191–194: Stilicho’s role, Kulikowski 2007, 164–166. Beaten repeatedly by Stilicho, however, he managed to obtain a new foedus in 397, which guaranteed them settlement in the center of Macedonia and Alaric the role of magister militum per Illyricum with authority over the foederati stationed in the region. On the negotiations with Eutropius, who was duly toppled in the summer of 399, Heather 2005, 214; Kulikowski 2007, 166–168. On Gainas and Constantinopolitan politics, Cameron and Long 1993, Chs. 5–6 and 8. In the autumn of 401 Alaric took his followers to Italy and attempted to extract a deal from Stilicho, but Arcadius entered into diplomatic relations with the Huns, showing strong hostility towards the Visigoths: Roberto 2012a, 59–61. On Alaric’s first Italian adventure, Heather 1991, 207 ff. In the autumn/winter of 402/403, two battles later, Alaric retreated back to his old seats in Dacia and Macedonia (Heather 2005, 220), or in the northwestern Balkans, in the province of Pannonia II (Kulikowski 2007, 170).

Just Before the Sack 207 32 Heather 2005, 224; 226; 229; Roberto 2012b, 62–6, and Roberto 2013. Meier 2020, 35–36, gives a quick picture of Alaric’s adventure and shows how all the contradictions and paradoxes of late antique barbarian warlords came together in him; ibidem, for the different modern interpretations of Alaric’s decision to conquer Rome. 33 Alaric’s image as a moderate Gothic leader, respectful of Rome, derives substantially from Olympiodorus (Paschoud 1989, 193–4 = 2006, 216–7), who wrote a few years after 410 (around 420, according to Baldini 2004a, 214–9, while, following Gillet 1993, 25, Olympiodorus wrote around 440). Olympiodorus, who was perhaps in Rome for the proclamation of the emperor Valentinian III (Cameron 1965, 490–1 = 2016, 20), in his work – written in Greek but dedicated above all to the events of the Roman West between 407 and 425 (Paschoud 1985, 185–96 = 2006, 145–7) – transmits the historiographical tradition of senatorial circles of Rome (Matthews 1970, 91–2; Baldini 2006), whether or not he drew from the Annales of Nicomachus Flavianus (Paschoud 1998; Ratti 2003). 34 PLRE I, Flavius Stilicho, 853–8. On his father, Oros. Hist. adversus pagan. VII. 38, and Ioh. Ant. fr. 187; his mother was a Roman: Hier. Ep. 123.16: Heather 2005, 216. 35 See Machado 2013 for the Senate’s composition and its divisions. 36 Zos. 5.29.6–9. The meeting took place in May 408, following the chronology suggested by Seeck: Paschoud 2011 (1986), 217–8. On that occasion, the senators were certainly called to give their opinion and, from the terms Zosimus uses to describe the voting procedure ([εἰς] τὴν ἐναντίαν (γνώμην) ἐχώρουν, corresponding to pedibus in sententiam ire) one might think that they maintained the ancient custom of voting for discessionem. 37 Zos. 5.29.9. He is probably distinct from Postumius Lampadius, who was PPO under Attalus (see infra), but may be identical with Lampadius the brother of Fl. Mallius Theodorus: PLRE II, Lampadius 2, 655; Paschoud 2011 (1986), 221. 38 Hier. Ep. 123.16: Quis hoc crederet? […] Roma in gremio suo, non pro Gloria, sed pro salute pugnare? Immo ne pugnare quidem, sed auro et cuncta superlectili vitam redimere? Present in nuce, in the reaction of the Senate, is that agreement between the pagan and the Christian part of the assembly, which we will see operate in the following period during the first siege of Alaric and then in the choice of Priscus Attalus. On the “coalition between the pagans or filo-pagans of Rome and the Christians of Milan”, which “may seem strange, but which was in the nature of facts and historical demands”, see Mazzarino 1942, 176. 39 Zos. 5.31.1. 40 Cameron 1970, 415. When news of Stilicho’s death spread, a murderous pogrom was launched in the cities of northern Italy against the defenseless wives and children of Germanic soldiers serving in the Roman army; their husbands immediately joined the invading Goths: Zos. 5.35.5–6. Later in the same year, as Alaric was camped outside Rome, many Gothic slaves escaped from the city and joined him: Zos. 5.42.3. 41 Zos. 5.31.3–6. 42 Zos. 5.32.1–2. The son of Arcadius had already been proclaimed Augustus when he was 8 months old, and he was then elevated to the throne at 7 years old as Theodosius II, under the protection of his sister, Pulcheria. 43 He was a native of the Black Sea region and planned the downfall of Stilicho (Olymp. fr. 2; Philost. XII.1) when he was magister scrinii, after having incited a military rising at Ticinum, in which many high officials who owed their posts to Stilicho were murdered (Zos. 5.32.2–7). According to Zosimus, Olympius’ influence was supreme after Stilicho’s death. He took the post of magister officiorum for himself (Zos. 5.35–1; Olymp. fr. 8; Philost. XII.1), persecuted former supporters of Stilicho, placed his own supporters in command of the army, and, early in 409, prevented the ratification of the agreement with Alaric after the first siege of Rome (Zos. 5.35.2–3; 44.2): PLRE II, Olympius 2, 801–2.


Just Before the Sack

44 Zos. 5.32.4–7. The mutineers first murdered Limenius, formerly praetorian prefect in Gaul, Chariobaudes, who had been military commander there, and other officials. In the course of a riot, the magister officiorum Naemorius, the comes sacrarum largitionum Patruinus, the quaestor sacri palatii Salvius, and the praetorian prefect of Italy, Fl. Macrobius Longinianus, were killed. It was a real coup d’état, organized against Stilicho’s supporters and his regime. 45 Zos. 5.34.1–7. 46 Zos. 5.43.1–2. Olymp. fr. 12 (Paschoud 2011 (1986), 205–7, n. 59, and 288–9, n. 100), and Soz. 9.12.7, recall that Honorius was compelled to send the imperial insignia in recognition of the usurper. That happened early in 409 and not in 410, as it could seem from Zos. 6.13.1 (contra Paschoud 2003 (1989), 65). 47 Zos. 5. 36.1–3. After Stilicho’s death, Alaric had suggested that the emperor continue his previous agreement, proposing the payment of a moderate sum of money, the exchange of hostages between himself and the Romans, and the concession of Noricum and Pannonia for his people to inhabit. 48 Stilicho’s widow, Serena, had been executed by order of the Senate on charges of plotting to hand Rome over to Alaric: Zos.–4. According to Paschoud 2011 (1986), 257–66, the episode took place in the autumn 408, during Alaric’s first siege of Rome (apparently at the instigation of Galla Placidia). The Senate used political motives (the “betrayal of the fatherland”) as a pretext, because the relationships of Stilicho and his son Eucherius with Alaric could make them credible. Nevertheless, as the comparison with the testimony of the Life of Saint Melania allows us to understand, the real reason was economic, since the Senate wanted to take revenge for the support granted by the Christian Serena to the young ascetic couple Melania Iunior and Pinianus, who were at the time engaged in liquidating their property for charitable works, while the city-prefect Pompeianus had proposed to confiscate their property to satisfy Alaric’s requests, at least in part. Before the Senate could meet to discuss it, Pompeianus was attacked and killed in the Forum in a bread riot: Vita Melaniae (Gr) 19; (Lat) II.1, with Gorce 1952, 166. Two eunuchs of Honorius’ Court had been sent to convey Stilicho’s daughter and second wife of Honorius, Thermantia, to her mother and to kill Eucherius: Zos. 5.35.3, and 37.5. According to Oros. Hist. adversus pagan. VII.38.1; 5–6, there was a suspicion that Eucherius meditated a persecution of Christians, but his family had him protected in a church (Philost. 12.3). 49 His itinerary is recorded in Zos. 5.37.2: Matthews 1975, 287. 50 Zos. 5.39.1–3. In those circumstances, the charitable work of Laeta, the widow of the former Emperor Gratian, and her mother, earned them gratitude: Zos. 5.39.4. 51 PLRE I, Basilius 3, 149. 52 Zos. 5.40.1–2; PLRE I, Iohannes 2, 459; see below, n. 142. 53 Zos. 5.40.3–4. 54 Zos. 5.41.4–5: this time it was Alaric who requested 5,000 pounds of gold, 30,000 pounds of silver, and large quantities of spices and clothing. On Palladius, see PLRE II, Palladius 19, 822–4. 55 Zos. 5.42.2–3. 56 Zos. 5.45.5. 57 Zos. 5.44.1–2. PLRE II, Caecilianus 1, 244–6: Caecilianus was a close friend of Symmachus, the Bishop Ambrose, and Flavianus junior: see Symm. Ep. III.36 to Bishop Ambrose, who accepted to support Caecilianus against Pirata, so that the lawsuit was settled. Symm. Ep. VI.40 about the good reputation of the urban prefecture of Flavianus junior. In 414 Caecilianus and Flavianius junior were sent to Africa on a special mission concerning the annona (CTh 7.4.33), during which he received a letter also from Augustine (Aug. Ep. 151), which describes him as an old friend.

Just Before the Sack 209 58 Zos. 5.45.3: Heliocrates was suspected of collusion in collecting public debts, and escaped punishment by taking refuge in a church (PLRE II, Heliocrates 1, 530). 59 In early 409, Valens was in command of five legions in Dalmatia when Honorius summoned him to Italy to protect Rome: Zos. 6.45.1–2. When Attalus became emperor, he made Alaric and Valens his two magistri militum (Zos. 6.7.2: PLRE II, Valens 2, 1137. 60 Zos. 5.44.1, and 45.1–4: PLRE II, Maximianus 2, 739; Paschoud 2011 (1986), 290–1. 61 Zos. 5.45.5; Paschoud 2011 (1986), 297. 62 Zos. 5.45.6: about three hundred Huns (the court troops) were led exceptionally by the magister officiorum Olympius, but they did not stop Athaulf, called to Italy by Alaric. Since the clash took place when the second embassy was sent by the Senate to Court, it will be placed in February 409. Zos. 5.46.1 speaks of Olympius’s exile, between the end of February and March 409: Paschoud 2011 (1986), 298–9, n. 105. At a later date, he was apparently reinstated, again removed, and put to death for his role in Stilicho’s death: Olymp. fr. 8; Philost. XII.1. 63 On Iovius’s appointment: CTh 2.8.25 (1st April 409); Zos. 5.48.2 mentions his earlier connection with Alaric: Matthews 1975, 293, n. 4; Paschoud 2011 (1986), 302 and 306–8. 64 Attalus became city prefect in March, just before Iovius’s appointment; Pompeianus was probably dead in February: PLRE II, Gabinius Barbarus Pompeianus 2, 897–8, and n. 42. 65 Cecconi 2013, 148 is inclined to attribute to the Senate no more than a “discrete vitality as an organism, especially at the diplomatic level”. On the contrary, the role of the Senate as a political body was variously evident in the fifth century: see now Oppedisano 2020, infra. 66 Zos. 5.46.1; cf. Matthews 1975, 292, n. 4, and Paschoud 2011 (1986), 301. 67 Zos. 5.45.5: cf. Paschoud 2011 (1986), 297. 68 Zos. 5.46.3–4. 69 CTh 16.5.42 (Nov. 14, 408): Eos, qui catholicae sectae sunt inimici, intra palatium militare prohibemus, ut nullus nobis sit aliqua ratione coniunctus, qui a nobis fide et religione discordat. On this law, see Delmaire 2005, 292–293. It was not a specifically anti-pagan constitution, as it probably included both pagans and Arians. Only seven years later, in 415, did Theodosius II impose the exclusion of pagans as such from any militia or dignitas (CTh 16, 10, 21): Delmaire 2005, 462–3. 70 Oros. Hist. adversus pagan. VII.39.2. According Demougeot 1954, 32, n. 3, Innocentius remained at Court until 412 AD. 71 Zos. 5.41.1–3, and Soz. 9.16.3 (on this episode, see below, pp. 200–201). 72 Zos. 5.46.2: he speaks generically of the “many innovations in the offices and the rest” that Honorius made, but he does not describe them. 73 According to Zos. 5.46.3–4, he refused otherwise to take up the command to which he had been appointed. Cf. Jones 1964, 208 and n. 85; 938 and n. 3. 74 Zos. 5.46.3–4: On Generidus career, PLRE II, Generidus, 500–1. 75 Zos. 5.48.4; Soz. 9.7.3. 76 Zos. 5.50.1: Honorius enlisted 10,000 fresh Hunnish troops, imported supplies from Dalmatia to feed them, and sent out spies to watch the roads to Rome, in order to know Alaric’s progress. 77 Zos. 5.50.2–3: Alaric stated that he would be satisfied with the only province of Noricum to inhabit, since that was “a territory troubled by incursions over the upper Danube, from which the empire received very few taxes”. He renounced the gold, and agreed to accept such supplies as the emperor thought fit. “He wanted friendship and alliance between him and the Romans against anyone who took up arms and waged a war against the empire”. 78 Zos. 5.50.2; Soz. 9.8.1.

210 79 80 81 82 83


85 86 87 88

89 90


92 93 94 95

Just Before the Sack Matthews 1975, 294. Zos. 5.51.1–2. Zos. 6.6.1–3. Zos. 6.6.3 speaks of “the whole senatorial assembly”. According to Matthews 1975, 291, and 295, “A puppet emperor, a puppet government”; similarly Heather 1991, 216; Heather 2005, 226 does not define Attalus a puppet emperor but says that Alaric “persuaded the Senate to elect its own emperor, Priscus Attalus”: Kulikowski 2007, 174–176, shares the common opinion. In the view of Szidat 2010, 253, and 266: “Attalus’ elevation in 409 clearly depended on the leader of the Goths Alaric, and even Olybrius must to be seen as a “Marionette” of Ricimer”. See also Icks 2020, 8 “Alaric raised the Roman senator Priscus Attalus as a puppet emperor in his conflict with Honorius in 409 CE”, but elsewhere (34–35) he seems to believe that the emperor had been chosen in accordance with the wishes of the Senate. Meier 2020, 35 (without discussing the events) describes Priscus Attalus as a “Marionette Kaiser”. Above n. 33, for the chronology of his work and his probable trip to the capital around 425/26 on occasion of the election of emperor Valentinian III. According to Matthews 1970, 89–91, Olympiodorus drew on a western senatorial tradition, which (according to Paschoud 1975) had expressed itself in a complete historiographic form, the one to which Christians such as Augustinus and Orosius replied: Lippold 1986; Marcone 2002. Philost. HE 12.3.4. Soz. HE 9.81.1. Zos. 6.6.3; 7.1.1. Paschoud 2003 (1989), 66–8, n. 138. According to Zecchini 1989, 597–8, Olympiodorus (a pagan) and Philostorgius (an Arian) wrote in the first part of the reign of Theodosius II, when the Court still had a liberal attitude towards the different religions: Olympiodorus had finished his work in the early 430s; Philostorgius, who used the latter’s work as a source and must have had time to read it, completed his ecclesiastical history around 440. Sozomen, younger than them, was still writing between 443 and 448. Bleckmann, Stein 2015, I, 426; II, 571–2. Neri 2002, 385, pointed out that Zosimus’ and Philostorgius’ versions can be reconciled if we image that Zosimus described the enthronement and Philostorgius the two phases of Attalus’ election. The acts that signaled the legitimacy of an imperial investiture are discussed by Kolb 2001, 91–102, Szidat 2010, 71–75; cf. Icks 2012. Seeck 1913, 403–4; Stein 1959, 258. On the contrary, Paschoud 2003 (1989), 43, n. 125, considered Zosimus’ version more likely. The latter was accepted by all scholars, who considered Attalus a puppet emperor (above, n. 83). But Delmaire 1989, 177, Cesa 1992–1993, 32–3, and Cesa 1994, 112–3 had a different opinion. More recently, with a similar view, Neri 2002, 385; Lizzi Testa 2012a, and Cecconi 2013, 150, n. 36. Already Lejdegård 2002s dissertation argued (110) that Attalus had probably been chosen by the Senate, even though Alaric forced its decision. Mazzarino 1968s opinion was, instead, different; cf. Giardina 1990, XXII–XXIII; Clemente 1991, 87; Mazza 2008. Cecconi 2013, 143–9. Symm. Epp. VII.15–25: the letters, which Symmachus exchanged with Priscus Attalus, list him among the more cultured and refined men of the capital, who loved letters, idle time (otium) spent in villas, but also in political activity. Olymp. fr. 1. Athaulf married Galla Placidia on 1st of January 414 in Narbonne, which had been previously occupied: Cesa 1992–1993, 49 and n. 53. The woman was returned to Honorius in 416: Oost 1968, 93–8.

Just Before the Sack 211 96 Philost. HE 12.3.4 (Ἵων τὸ γένος, where the word Ἵων must refer to Ionia, sc. Asia): PLRE II, Priscus Attalus 2, 180–1; but it does lack evidence: Bleckman, Stein 2015, II, 572. 97 Chastagnol 1962, 266–8; Matthews 1975, 303; Delmaire 1989, 175, n. 11. Cf. PLRE I, Publius Ampelius 3, 56–57: Ampelius’s career is partly given in Amm. 28.4.3. He was apparently pagan: Lib. Epp. 208 and 315 refer to him around 357 as a praeses Cappadociae, or a landowner there. Sid. Carm. 9.304 mentioned him also as a celebrated poet. In 396/397 (while he exchanged various letters with Priscus Attalus), Symmachus tried to protect the property, which Ampelius had purchased almost thirty years earlier on the Quirinal (sub clivo Salutis) from a certain Postuminus, from the aims of the notary Eusebius, explaining the complicated question to the quaestor sacrii palatii Felix, and to Paternus, comes sacrarum largitionum (Symm. Epp. V.54 and 66: Rivolta Tiberga 1992, 158–66; 227, and 181; 231). 98 Ampelius was proconsul Achaiae in 359/60: IG XII.9.907 = SIG,3 905 from Chalcis, and Himerius pronounced in his honor the Orations 31 and 50: Raimondi 2012, 25; 97. On the financing of public works by the same curials who commissioned those Orations from Himerius, see Lewin 2001, 621–46. 99 Attalus was younger than Symmachus, who calls him filius: Symm. Ep. II.82 (filius noster Attalus spectabilis vir). He was probably born before 350. 100 Him. Or. 29 to Privatus: Raimondi 2012, 112; 125. 101 Collect. Avell. 11, 52–3; Lizzi Testa 2004, 152–70. 102 Symm. Ep. VI.58: Marcone 1983, 138, 180, 206. Symmachus addressed some officials at Court to support Attalus’ request (Epp. 7.54, 113, 114), and he was pleased with the success of the embassy: Ep. 6.62 (Marcone 1983, 142–3, 181–2, 207); Ep. 6.64 (Marcone 1983, 144–6, 182, 207–8). The senators who had declared Gildo hostis publicus, being large owners and taxpayers, were unwilling to grant recruits to set up an efficient army capable of eliminating him. According to Mazzarino 1942, 170 and 175, the great tragedy of the Western empire is symbolically contained in this conflict. Mazzarino’s perspective can be confirmed by taking into account the internal divisions of the senatorial assembly into groups of different orientations and the rapid change of alliances between senators who held different opinions. Above, n. 23. 103 Zos. 6.7.3: “Attalus convened the Senate the next day and held a speech full of arrogance, boasting that he would conquer the whole earth for the Romans; he also made other even greater promises, and perhaps for this reason he attracted the revenge of the divinity, which not long afterwards took him out of the way”. 104 Parsi 1963, for a discussion of imperial rituals during the first two centuries of the empire. 105 Soz. HE 9.8.2. 106 Zos. 6.7.3: Paschoud 2003 (1989), n. 126. 107 Zos. 5.29.7–9: “in his speech to the Senate, gathered in the imperial palace, Stilicho recalled that Alaric, fighting with him against the emperor of the East, could take the Illyrians out of his power and annex them to the Empire of Honorius; he also added that this had not happened because of Serena, who wanted to keep the harmony between the two emperors intact, and it seemed to everyone that Stilicho had spoken rightly, and decided to pay 4,000 pounds of gold for peace with Alaric”. 108 Bleckmann 1997, 591–2. 109 CTh 9.38.11 (Febr. 12, 410), and CTh 7.16.2 (April 24, 410). 110 Zos. 6.7.5, and 6. 111 Proc. Bell. Vand. 1.2.28. 112 Zos. 6.10.1–2; Paschoud 2003 (1989), 57. 113 Zos. 6.8.1; Soz. 9.8.4; Paschoud 2003 (1989), n. 128. On the imperial embassy and its negative outcome, cf. Soz. 9.8.4; Olym. fr. 13 adds as members of Honorius’embassy his magister utriusque militiae Valens (who is to be distinguished from Attalus’magister


114 115 116 117 118 119

120 121 122

123 124

125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132

Just Before the Sack equitum of the same name), his quaestor sacri palatii Potamius, and primicerius notariorum Iulianus: Matthews 1975, 297, n.5. Zos. 6.7.6; Soz. HE 9.8.3–4. Zos. 5.37.6. Heraclianus confirmed himself as such few years later, when in 413 he rebelled and apparently aimed to become emperor: PLRE II, Heraclianus 3, 539–40. Hier. Ep. 130.7, complained of his avarice and cruelty towards refugees from Rome in 409/410, and accused him of taking bribes. Zos. 6.8.2. Zos. 6.10.2; Zos. 6.11.1. On Iovius’s treason: Zos. 6.9.1. According to Zos. 6.9–12, at the beginning the Senate met with a blank refusal to send a barbarian army to Africa; and later, when the Senate had accepted Alaric’s proposal to send the Gothic general Druma against Heraclianus, Attalus himself and a few others still opposed it, with the result that Alaric broke his alliance with his emperor (Zos. 6.12.1–2: on the two Senate meetings, Matthews 1975, 298, n. 3). He summoned him to Ariminum and ceremonially deposed him, marching to Ravenna to discuss the peace with Honorius. Alaric, frustrated again by Honorius (influenced by the Goth Sarus, who had been attacked by Athaulf and had been able to escape from Picenum), immediately marched to Rome, imposed the third siege on the city, and on 24 August entered Rome from the Porta Salaria. Attalus’s regime was still believed at Constantinople to exist as of April 24 (CTh 7.16.2). On the second phase of Attalus’s adventures with Athaulf, see Cecconi 2013, 145–7. Oost 1968, 93–4; Icks 2020, 38 and 40. Zos. 6.7.3. Paschoud 2002, lxxiii–lxxvi; Paschoud 2013, 197. He concealed his identity behind six pseudonyms, who are said to be active in the Tetrarchic and Constantinian era: Callu 2002, xiv–lxxiii. Cameron 2011, 743–781 made strong arguments that this text was produced in the late fourth century (between 361–385), but I agree with many of the observations in Paschoud 2012 and Paschoud 2013, and believe that the Historia Augusta was written around 400, or better around 410. He pretends to be the author of the Lives of Aurelianus, Tacitus, Probus, four usurpers (the Quadriga Tyrannorum: Firmus, Saturninus, Proculus, and Bonosus), and three last emperors: Carus, Carinus, and Numerianus. Paschoud 2002, 191 has shown that this Life is the longest ancient account dedicated to an emperor who lasted just seven months and that, in the whole work (with the exception of the secondary Lives of the first part), it presents proportionally the least amount of truly historical facts and the most inventions (ibidem, 227). SHA, Tac. 4.6. SHA, Tac. 5.2: tu iube milites pugnent. SHA, Tac. 10.3. Cracco Ruggini 1985. SHA, Tac. 5.2: Severus dixit caput imperare non pedes. Neri 2002, 375–3. Paschoud 2002, 267. To identify the precise historical context of this debate was one of the main strands of the Historia Augusta-Forschung, the problem being linked to the date of composition of the collection. After the classic volume of Hartke 1951, scholars also thought it had been composed a few decades after 395: Straub 1952; Kolb 1987, 52; Chastagnol 1994, XXXI; XXXIII; CLXI–CLXII). Honoré 1987, 173–6, and Honoré 1989, 9–17, claimed to recognize in the oration of Mecius Faltonius Nicomachus the speech that Nicomachus Flavianus Senior held in the Senate when Theodosius I, instead of recognizing Eugenius, raised his young son Honorius to the dignity of Augustus on January 28, 393. See, instead, Paschoud 2002, 266–7. An interesting proposal is that of Neri 2002, regarding Attalus.

Just Before the Sack 213 133 SHA, Firmi 2.1. On “tyrants” in the fourth century, see Tantillo 2021. On this passage in the Historia Augusta see also below chapter IX, p. 236, n. 74. 134 Mazzarino 1962, 410–25; Mazzarino 1966, II, 2, p. 259; Mazzarino 1980, p. 438; cf. Paschoud 2002, 208–11. 135 SHA, Firmi 2.2: Emperor Aurelian would have him called latrunculus, not tyrannus, in an edict issued after having eliminated him. The dispute between Vopiscus and Fonteius, while alluding to a real political debate, deliberately covers its nature. In fact, the term tyrannus, propagandistically used already by Constantine to disqualify the defeated Maxentius, among many variants, had also the sense of latro: Neri 1997. 136 RIC X, Priscus Attalus, 1403–8; 1411–2. 137 RIC X, Priscus Attalus, 1416–7. 138 Lopez Sanchez 2003, 269–286, esp. 274–799, with the comments by Cecconi 2013, 153–5. On the role of coinage in usurpations, Wigg-Wolf 2020, 117–20. 139 It remains uncertain if Alaric was appointed magister militum, or magister utriusque militiae (Zos. 6.7.2; Soz. HE 9.8.2): Cesa 1994, 114, n. 63. That military appointment had been apparently suggested by Iovius before the conference at Ariminum, but Honorius had opposed his proposal (Zos. 5.48.4; Sozom. 9.7.3). 140 On Valens’s identity, above n. 59. 141 Zos. 6.7.2. PLRE II, Postumius Lampadius 7, 656, and below, p. 196. About Marcianus, cf. above n. 60; PLRE I, Marcianus 14, 555–6, and below, pp. 196–7. 142 PLRE I, Iohannes 2, 459, and PLRE II, Iohannes 4, 594; see also n. 52 and below, pp. 197–8. 143 Zos. 6.7.4. His consulship was never acknowledged in the East. PLRE II, Tertullus 1, 1059. 144 Philost. HE 12.3.4, with Bleckmann, Stein 2015, II, 572. 145 Manganaro 1960 was first in proclaiming what Cameron 2011, 194–195, ironically calls “a mini pagan revival of 409–410”, which he rejected; but Oost 1968, 93, shared the same opinion of Manganaro. Matthews 1975, 295–6, and Paschoud 2003 (1989), 44, thought that most of the officials Attalus appointed were pagans. See also Lizzi Testa 2012a, and now Icks 2020, 37. 146 Tertullus, the designated consul of 410, is not the same as the city-prefect of 359, who sacrificed to Castor and Pollux in their temple in Ostia (Amm. 19.10.1–4) and read the emperor Julian’s letter to the Senate (Amm. 21.10.7), but he was surely his relative: Lizzi Testa 2010, 296. 147 Oros. Hist. adversus pagan. VII.42.8: nec mirum si iure hac pompa miser lusus est cuius ille umbratilis consul Tertullus ausus est in curia dicere “loquar vobis, patres conscripti, consul et pontifex, quorum alterum teneo, alterum spero” sperans ab eo qui spem non habebat et maledictus utique quia spem suam posuerat in homine. 148 As Cameron 2011, 195, believes. 149 As Cecconi 2013, 159, n. 63, suggested. 150 This was the usual custom for a new consul: Chastagnol 1982, 219. 151 Cameron 2011, 165, believes that “if the reference were to the college of pontiffs, the two wishes would be curiously incommensurate, because the consulate was the supreme honor available to a private citizen”. For a different view, Lizzi Testa 2009, 253–6, and Lizzi Testa 2020, 131–2. 152 Zos. 4.36.5. Cameron 1968, and Cameron 2007 suggested that Zosimus is not trustworthy, but see Cracco Ruggini 2011, and again Cameron 2011, 51–6. 153 Paul. Diac. Hist. Rom.–10 Droysen: Tertullus consul, qui se futurum principem in senatu gloriatus est, pari nihilominus exitu periit. His narrative depends on Orosius for all events after those narrated by Eutropius. 154 Zos. 6.7.4. “The situation”, according to Zosimus, “only disturbed the Anicii family”. The motivation that Zosimus gives is superficial. He says that since the Anicii were the only family to possess wealth, they were annoyed when the community was in a


155 156 157 158 159 160 161

162 163 164 165 166

167 168

169 170 171 172 173

Just Before the Sack prosperous condition, but it is probable that he read in his source that the Anicii remained faithful to Honorius and the Theodosian dynasty when the rest of the Senate appointed emperor Attalus. See Lejdegard 2014, 182–8: Probus’ diptych confirms that relations between the Anicii and the Theodosian dynasty tightened after Eugenius’s usurpation. See below for the legislation enacted between 407 and 410, which confirms the close relations between the government of Ravenna and the Nicene Catholic members of the Roman Senate. See below, n. 224. Mazzarino 1942, 257–9. Zos. 5.29.9, and above n. 37. Both Chastagnol 1962, 260–1, Mazzarino 1942, 257, and Paschoud 2003 (1989), 44, agree in believing that they were two different men. He was well known by Symmachus (Epp. VI.64; VIII.63 e 65): PLRE II, Lampadius 1, 654, who was probably the same Lampadius 2 (PLRE II, 655). Chastagnol 1962, 260–1; PLRE II, Postumius Lampadius 7, 656. Chastagnol 1962, 260. Von Haehling 1978, 316, also believed that this Lampadius was a pagan. Aug. Ep. 246.3 (Caritas tua); 1 (ad salutem fidei tuae;… non enim parvum malum est, perversis opinionibus non solum ad committendum blandimento voluptatis adduci, sed etiam ad defendendum peccatum a medicamento confessionis averti). I share the opinion of Cameron 2011, 193–4. Contra Cameron 2011, 194–5. Above, nn. 60 and 141. Matthews 1975, 295, and 304, following Chastagnol 1962, 268–269. This proposal is accepted by PLRE I, Marcianus 14, 555–6. Cameron 2011, 273–319, adding important data to Cracco Ruggini 1979, who had been confirmed by Dolbeau 1981, 38–43, and Cracco Ruggini 1998, 493–516. See chapter IV. Cameron 2011, 194. However, if the Carmen was written in 384, we cannot argue that the Marcianus who was city prefect of 409 was also proconsul of Africa under Eugenius in 393/394 (as Cameron 2011, 194 does), because Marcianus is called proconsul of Africa only in the Carmen, without other evidence for dating this appointment. Carmen adversus Paganos, 78–9. Carmen adversus Paganos 86: […] perdere Marcianum, sibi proconsul ut esset. If Marcianus was proconsul Africae, he could be identical with Anonymus 40 (PLRE I, 1074), but he could be also one of those proconsules Asiae, or proconsules Achaiae, whose names disappeared in the lacunas of the years after 379 (for the first group), or after 376 (for the latter group): PLRE I, Fasti, 1076–1077. As vicarius (of a western diocese), he was the addressee of CTh 9.38.7. Symm. Ep. III.33 to the bishop Ambrose (Pellizzari 1998, 130–3; 256; 285–6). Symm. Epp. II.31 e V.38 (Maximus); VII.104 (Eugenius). Symm. Ep. VIII.9, was the first letter that Symmachus sent to Marcianus, asking him for friendship. The other letters of the same book (Epp. VIII.23, 54, 58, 73) do not give interesting details. McLynn 1994, 362, thinks that “he had held, like Flavianus, a senior Court office”. Marcianus, city prefect of Attalus, was probably not identical with the correspondent of Augustine (Ep. 258), whom the bishop remembered as an old friend from his pagan days, but who had become Christian when the letter was written, because the epithets the bishop uses are not enough to identify him as illustris (contra Matthews 1975, 303). On the help that Ambrose gave to those involved with Eugenius’s usurpation, writing a letter to Theodosius to be merciful, and then going personally to speak with the emperor in Aquileia, see Paul Med. Vita Ambr. 31.5.

Just Before the Sack 215 174 During the fifth century, the Notitia Dignitatum (Occidentis 11.13; Orientis 9.16) describes the hierarchical subordination of magister admissionum to the head of his office, the magister officiorum, who still in the sixth century had the function of receiving embassies and keeping the relationships with foreign delegations, simple citizens or senators (Cass. Var. 6.6.2): Petrini 2015, 14–5; 133. 175 Zos. 5.40.2; above n. 142. 176 Paul. Med. Vita Ambr. 31.5: Iohannes tunc tribunus et notarius, qui nunc praefectus est. For the promotion of rank and the political rise of notaries from the age of Valentinian I, see Teitler 1985, 68–72; Delmaire 1995, 47–56. Many constitutions addressed Iohannes as praetorian prefect of Italy in 412–413, but some also in 422 (PLRE I, Iohannes 2, 459). Since Paulinus wrote his Life of St. Ambrose in Africa, apparently in 422 (Zocca 1998; Cracco Ruggini 2001, 504–7; Navoni 2016, 50–1), and not in 412/ 413, as Lamirande 1981 and Lamirande 1983, 21–4, suggested, Iohannes was probably praetorian prefect of Italy and Africa in 422. 177 Paul. Med. Vita Ambr. 31.5: postea vero quam directus est Iohannes tunc tribunus et notarius, qui nunc praefectus est, ad tuitionem eorum qui ad ecclesiam confugerant, etiam ipse Aquileiam perrexit precandum pro eis. Trans. Kaniecka 1928, 74; cf. Navoni 2016, 136–7. 178 Matthews 1990 (1975), 247. McLynn 1994, 354, believe that Johannes “arrived from Theodosius to supervise them” but Paulinus says “to protect” them. 179 Christian priests intervened in defense of persecuted slaves, debtors, criminals, who asked for assistance, with the aim of avoiding or delaying the death penalty and leaving the culprit time to do penance. Technically, therefore, the asylum was a request to implement the Roman procedure of intercessio. Martroye 1918, 168–9, supposed that the sentence ad misericordiam ecclesiae confugiant qui iniuriam patiuntur (Can. 8) of the Serdica council (343 AD) is the first known reference to the practice of asylum law. cf. Leclerq 1921, 1441. 180 In the East and West, asylum provoked tensions and conflicts between bishops and empire. Basil, John Chrysostom and Synesius claimed respect when they exercised asylum in the church, while some laws of the end of the fourth century forbade the bishops to exercise asylum for slaves, curial workers, workers of imperial and debtor ateliers: CTh 9.40.16; 11.30.57; 9.45.3 (perhaps fragments of a single law of July 398). The two episodes mentioned by Paulinus of Milan confirm that in the West it was variously practiced, not a sanctioned right. Const. Sirm. 13 (Dec. 21, 419); CI I, 12, 3, and 4 seem to indicate that in the West a general law on this subject was enacted only in the second decade of the fifth century: Gaudemet 1958, 282–7; Lizzi 1987, 108–11; Teja 1999, 109– 21. 181 Paul. Med. Vita Ambr. 34.1: “At the same time, when the emperor Honorius in the time of his consulship was giving an exhibition of wild beasts from Libya in the city of Milan”. The consulate to which Paulinus alludes must be the third, covered by Honorius in 396. 182 Paul. Med. Vita Ambr. 34.3. 183 Paul. Med. Vita Ambr. 34.2. On the nature of the Vita Ambrosii as the first episcopal biography, see Mohrmann 1975, 307. On the special nature of the Ambrosian charisms, see Lizzi Testa 1994; Cracco Ruggini 2001, 507–17; Lizzi Testa 2008. 184 Iohannes’s career did not differ from those of other important officials who started out as simple notaries under the reign of Valentian I and his sons: see Raimondi in press. 185 Paul. Med. Vita Ambr. 34.1: “[…] permission was then given to the soldiers who had been sent for the purpose by Count Stilicho at the request of Eusebius the prefect, to take a certain Cresconius from the church”. On Eusebius, PLRE I, Eusebius 32, 306–7: he was praetorian prefect of Italy in 395–396. 186 Paul. Diacon. Hist. Lang. II.10. On the silver reliquary, see Spinelli 2008, 52–8. The donors of the elliptical capsella are indicated in the lower band: LAVRENTIVS V(ir) S(pectabilis) IOANNIS V(ir) S(pectabilis) NICEFORVS V(ir) S(pectabilis) SAN


187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 199


201 202 203 204 205 206

Just Before the Sack (c)TIS REDDEDID [reddiderunt] BOTVM [votum]. In the upper band the Cantiani saints, represented in the middle of the capsella, and the other two saints chosen by the donors, are mentioned. The stylistic and palaeographic analysis tends to date the reliquary to the fifth-sixth century, but it does not take into account the possible identification of Iohannes, as suggested by Lizzi 1989, 165–6, n. 96. Lizzi 1989, 165–6, n. 96. Soz. HE 9.9.1. See now Roberto 2020b, 181. Cameron 2011, 194. However, something can be known by bringing together different sources: Lizzi Testa 2013. Ambr. Ep. extra Coll. 5.3: Lizzi Testa 2004, 194–5. Pall. Apol. 139: Gryson 1980, 322. Ambr. Ep. 75.13: Lizzi Testa 2018, 37–44. On Augustine’s de doctrina christiana, Lizzi Testa 2009, 3–33. See chapter IV, on Symmachus’s Panegyric to emperor Gratian. CTh 16.5.42: above at n. 69. On other similar laws enacted between 407/409 by Honorius and Theodosius II, see below, pp. 201ff. For the presence of pagans through the fifth century, see Roberto 2020a; Lizzi Testa 2020. Soz. HE 9.6.3. Zos. 5.41.1–2 has some differences, compared to Soz. HE 9.6.1-7. Some of them seemed particularly important to Mazzarino 1974, 378–88: according to Sozomen, the city-prefect summoned the Etruscans, while according to Zosimus they were already present in Rome; Sozomen does not mention Pope Innocentius at all, and says that “it seemed necessary to the senators to celebrate those ceremonies”, while according to Zosimus the Etruscans’ suggestion was not followed (cf. Paschoud 2011(1986), 278). See also Cracco Ruggini 1979, 120–3; Fraschetti 1999, 270–2. Only Zosimus reports that Pompeianus had even secured the consent of the bishop of Rome. Sozomen may have omitted this episode either because he felt embarrassed, or perhaps because that detail was insignificant for the providential interpretation of the story he wanted to give (Soz. HE 9.6.5–6). In fact, according to Orosius (Hist. adversus pagan. VII.39.18), the sack of Rome came to punish a corrupted city (ad correptionem superbae, lascivae et blasphemae civitatis). Similarly, Sozomen believed that a virtuous monk could not stop Alaric because the “Fury” pushed him, that is God, who punished the city. Zosimus, however, attributed a role to the Pope in imposing on the urban prefect that such sacrifices could be celebrated, but secretly, not publicly. That would have be more appropriate when the author lived than in Rome at beginning of fifth century. Still at the end of that century, the bishop of Rome did not have the power to prevent the celebration of the Lupercals, and simply forbade baptized and neophytes to participate in the rituals (Gel. Ep. adversum Andromachum, 30 (= Coll. Avell. Ep. 100.463). Gelasius also remembered that he was not the first bishop of Rome to try to stop those festivals, but for a long time the warnings of bishops had no success (Ibidem, 31). Baldini 2004b, 89. Plin. nat. hist. 2.140, cites the episode of Porsenna, who used lightning against the monster Volta in defense of Volsinii. Montero 1993; supra cap. IV. According to Proc. Bell. Goth. 1.17.12–4, Narnia was not attacked even by Vitiges during the clash with Belisarius in 537, because it was built on precipitous ground that was very difficult to access. Baldini 2004b, 89–90. CTh 9.16.12 (Febr. 1st, 409): Delmaire 2009, 156–7.

Just Before the Sack 217 207 Svet. Vit. Augusti 31.1; Tac. Ann. 6.12; Agricola 2; Paulus, Sent. 5.23.17–8; see Canfora 1993, 174–5; 192–3; 221– 260; Lizzi Testa 2000, 90–3. 208 Amm. 29.1.41–2, 17. Books were assembled and burned publicly before the tribunal in Antioch during a second phase of trials: Lenski 2002, 213–214; 218–219 (the second phase); on the third phase, ibidem 225–34. For the trials, which Maximus conducted in Rome, see supra, chapter IV. 209 Amm. 29.1.40; 41: deinde congesti innumeri codices, et acervi voluminum multi, sub conspectu iudicum concremati sunt, ex domibus eruti variis ut illiciti, ad leniendam caesorum invidiam, cum essent plerique liberalium disciplinarum indices variarum et iuris. Many claimed to have sacrificed their entire libraries rather than run the risk of being caught with a text that could be judged illegal. On the story that occurred to John Chrysostom and his friend, Lenski 2002, 225. 210 Rut. Namat. De reditu suo 2.5, 51–6, returning from Rome to his Gallic estates a few years after the sack in 410, accused Stilicho of burning the Sybilline books. 211 CTh 9.16.12: Mathematicos, nisi parati sint codicibus erroris propria sub oculis Episcoporum incendio concrematis. Cf. CTh 16, 10, 19, 3 (Nov. 15, 407): Episcopis quoque locorum haec ipsa prohibendi ecclesiasticae manus tribuimus facultatem: Delmaire 2005, 2005, 454–7; Lizzi Testa 2014, 132–3, with previous bibliography. 212 CTh 16.5.39 (Dec. 8, 405): Delmaire 2005, 284–5. The conference of Catholic bishops appealed to the Court of Ravenna, asking for imperial protection for their churches and properties and the application also to Donatists of the laws in force against heretics (Reg. eccles. Carthag. 47, 186). 213 CTh 16.5.37 (Febr, 25, 405): Delmaire 2005, 280–2. Of the same edict, which on 12th of February 405 banned the Donatists, several extracts remain in the Theodosian Code – CTh 16.5.37, and 38 (Feb. 12, 405); CTh 16.6.3 (Feb. 12, 405) – and the copy addressed to the praetorian prefect: CTh 16.6.4 and 5 (Feb. 12, 405). The edict is quoted by Honorius in CTh 16.11.2 (March 5, 405) as an “Edict of Unity” (Edictus de unitate). On the influence of Augustine in the elaboration of the text, cf. Buenacasa, Villegas 2013. 214 Aug. Serm. 62.12.18, PL 38.423; for Ambrose’s letters, see above, n. 191. 215 On Constantine’s dispositions in favor of Caecilianus’ Catholic church, Lizzi Testa 2014; Lizzi Testa 2016. 216 CTh 16.5.44 (Nov. 24, 408): Delmaire 2005, 296–297, n. 2. 217 CTh 16.5.45 (Nov. 27, 408) to Theodorus, PPO Italiae, Illyricum et Africae: PLRE II, Theodorus 9, 1086–7. He was the son of the consul of 399 (PLRE I, Flavius Mallius Theodorus, 900–2), supposed brother of Manlia Daedalia. 218 CTh 16.5.46 (Jan. 15, 409), and 47 (June 26, 409): Delmaire 2005, 298–301. 219 Aug. Ep. 97.2; De Giovanni 1980, 96. 220 Lizzi Testa 2014, 126. 221 CTh 16.2.31 (Jan. 16, 409) = Sirm. 14. See De Giovanni 1980, 44-46 = 20005 42–44; Delmaire 2005, 180–3 with the correct date: the constitution is addressed to Theodorus, PPO Italiae, Illyricum et Africae (Sept.13, 408 – Jan. 15, 409: above, pp. 197–8). This constitution was important for the later concession of the right of asylum to the Church: Ducloux 1994, 188–90. It also changed the meaning of delation: Rivière 2002a, 295–8. 222 CTh 1.27.2 (Dec. 13, 408), defined episcopal jurisdiction inter nolentes: Delmaire 2009, 30– 33; Corbo 2006, 182–4. 223 The defensor Ecclesiae was officially recognized by the emperor after the revolt of Gildo, under the pressure of the African bishops afflicted by the Donatist crisis: Lizzi Testa 2012b, 407–12. On the pressure that Pelagianism in Rome and Africa made on Augustine, Brown 2012, 291–321. 224 CTh 2.8.25 (April 1, 409): Delmaire 2009, 54–5; Di Berardino 2014, 48–51.


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225 CTh 2.8.20 (April 17, 392: Delmaire 2009, 48–9), and 23 (Aug. 27, 399) CTh 15.5.2 (from May 20, 386, it must be dated to 394 (Delmaire 2009, 378–9). 226 CTh 15.5.5 (Febr. 1, 425): Delmaire 2005, 380–2), and again in 469 (CI 3.12.9). 227 Claud. Laus Stil. 2.404–5; above n. 5. 228 Eugenius in 394 and John in 423 did not have a different policy: Zecchini 2020. 229 Mallä 1983–1984, 47–55. 230 Cameron 2011, 194.

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Just Before the Sack 225 Stein, Ernst. 1959. Histoire du Bas Empire. Paris-Bruges: Desclée. Straub, Johannes. 1952. Studien zur Historia Augusta. Bern: Franke. Szidat, Joachim. 2010. Usurpator tanti nominis. Kaiser und Usurpator in der Spätantike (337–476 n. Chr.). (Historia Einzelschriften, 210). Stuttgar: Franz Steiner Verlag. Tantillo, Ignazio. 2021. “Emperors and Tyrants in the Fourth Century. Outlining a New Portrait of the Ruler and of His Role through Images and Words.” In Emperors and Emperorship in Late Antiquity. Images and Narratives, edited by María Pilar García Ruiz, Alberto J. Quiroga Puertas, 15–52. Leiden– Boston: Brill. Teitler, Hans Care. 1985. Notarii and exceptores. An Inquiry into Role and Significance of Shorthand Writers in the Imperial and Ecclesiastical Bureaucreacy of the Roman Empire (from the Early Principate to c. 450 A.D.). Amsterdam: J.C. Gleben. Teja, Ramón. 1999. Emperadores, obispos, monjes y mujeres. Protagonistas del cristianismo antiguo. Madrid: Editorial Trotta. Thompson, Edward Arthur. 1952. “Peasant Revolts in Late Roman Gaul and Spain.” Past & Present 2: 11–23. Van Dam, Raymond. 1985. Leadership and Community in Late Antique Gaul. Berkeley–Los Angeles-London: University of California Press. Vera, Domenico. 1983. “Strutture agrarie e strutture patrimoniali nella tarda antichità: l’aristocrazia romana fra agricoltura e commercio.” Opus, 2: 489–533. Vera, Domenico. 1986. “Simmaco e le sue proprietà: struttura e funzionamento di un patrimonio aristocratico del quarto secolo d. C.” In Symmaque. Colloque génévois à l’occasion du mille six centième anniversaire du conflit de l’autel de la Victoire, edited by François Paschoud, G. F. Fry, and Y. Rütsche, 231–276. Paris: Les Belles Lettres (reprinted in Domenico Vera. 2020. I doni di Cerere. Storie della terra nella tarda Antichità (strutture, società, economia), 115–134. (BAT 36). Turnhout: Brepols). Vera, Domenico. 2016. “La Vita Melaniae iunioris, fonte fondamentale per la storia economica e sociale della tarda Antichità.” In «Libera curiositas». Mélanges d’histoire romaine et d’Antiquité tardive offerts à Jean-Michel Carrié, edited by Christel Freu, Sylvain Janniard, and Arthur Ripoll, 217–227. Turnout: Brepols (repr. in Domenico, Vera. 2020. Fisco, Annona, mercato. Studi sul tardo impero romano. Bari: Edipuglia, 359-77). von Haehling, Raban. 1978. Die Religionszugehörigkeit der hohen Amtsträger des Römischen Reiches seit Constantins I. Alleinherrschaft bis zum Ende der Theodosianischen Dynastie (324450 bzw. 455 n. Chr.). Bonn: Habelt. Ward-Perkins, Bryan. 2006. The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Wigg-Wolf, David. 2020. “The Role of Coinage in Usurpations: Gaining and Maintaining Power.” Occidente / Oriente. Rivista internazionale di studi tardoantichi 1: 117–128. Wolfram, Herwig. 1985. Storia dei Goti. Roma: Salerno Editrice (Ital. transl.). Zecchini, Giuseppe. 1989. “Filostorgio.” In Metodologie della ricerca sulla Tarda Antichità. Atti del I Convegno dell’Associazione di Studi Tardoantichi, edited by Antonio Garzya, 579–598. Napoli: M. D’Auria Editore. Zecchini, Giuseppe. 2020. “Per una fenomenologia delle usurpazioni nella tarda antichità.” Occidente/Oriente. Rivista internazionale di studi tardoantichi 1: 107–116. Zocca, Elena. 1998. “La Vita Ambrosii alla luce dei rapporti fra Paolino, Agostino e Ambrogio.” In «Nec timeo mori». Atti del Congresso internazionale di studi ambrosiani nel XVI centenario della morte di sant’Ambrogio (Milano, 4-11 aprile 1997), edited by Luigi F. Pizzolato, and Marco Rizzi, 803–826. Milano: Vita e Pensiero- Pubblicazioni dell’Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore.


Saint Valentine and the Symmachi

Introduction Valentine’s Day, held in honor of the patron saint of lovers, is now celebrated almost all over the world to the delight both of young couples and (especially) purveyors of fine chocolates, flowers, and other various gift items.1 Although not so popular as today, St. Valentine was already known in Late Antiquity. Since the fourth century AD, at least two cities have fought for his birthplace: the great Rome, and the small Interamna Nahars (today Terni, in Umbria). Scholars still wonder who Valentine was, where and when he lived, and if he was really beheaded for his Christian faith as some passions of the sixth century relate. Archaeological and epigraphical data from the two main places where St. Valentine was venerated have been recently published, and so can be compared with some prosopographical data in the Passion where St. Valentine appears as a bishop of Interamna. Putting forward a new hypothesis on his identity, I will suggest here that Valentinus belonged to the aristocratic family of the Symmachi. Some of them, who lived in the fourth century (such as Quintus Aurelius Symmachus; his father, Avianius; and their senatorial colleagues), occupy many pages of this work, but its members dominated the life of Rome for another two centuries. I have chosen, therefore, to include this last chapter, in order to show how the fortunes of the sixth-century Symmachi were connected to their relatives in the fourth century. If my new hypothesis about St. Valentine’s identity is right, his story is exemplary of how important religious phenomena greatly influenced individual lives and, indirectly, historical processes. The spread of Christianity among the Roman aristocracy, a few decades after the reign of Constantine, changed the relations between the center of the empire and its peripheries, and created new links between the great aristocrats residing in Rome and the senators of collateral family branches who lived and acted elsewhere. Christianization also acted in other, different directions. For example, it offered Christian aristocrats the opportunity to create new forms of relationship with the faithful, emulating those that bishops and priests in the cities had begun to establish. Memory, or rather its preservation, was the instrument. The archives and libraries of their domus, in fact, did not only preserve works DOI: 10.4324/b22863-9

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of ancient divinatory practices (as we have seen in chapter V), but also biographical collections written for and never circulated beyond small groups of relatives and friends, including not only lives of emperors but also of other noteworthy figures, where some characters and events were concealed behind pseudonyms. Among old manuscripts one could also find short accounts of some of their ancestors who had acted and fought during the first phases of the Christianization of the Roman aristocracy, which provided glimpses of city life that for a long time had been better kept hidden. For fifth-century aristocratic Christians, especially when the conversion of the entire family clan had come late in the day, relatives from the early decades of the fourth century could become models of Christian life, even venerable martyrs. This chapter therefore offers different scenarios than those examined so far, but which still show how, in different ways, the aristocracy continued to exercise power in the city.

Saint Valentine and paleochristian hagiography The identity of St. Valentine is still one of the most debated questions of paleo-Christian hagiography.2 In his Roman Martyrology (1586), Cardinal Baronio registered two saints of the same name on the same date (the 14th of February): St. Valentine, bishop of Terni, commemorated in a funerary basilica located at the 64th mile of the Via Flaminia; and St. Valentine, presbyter and martyr, venerated in a Roman sanctuary at the second mile of the same road.3 Baronio accepted the testimonies of different sources as true: a passion that calls St. Valentine the bishop of Terni;4 the Hieronimian Martyrology, which in the oldest manuscript reports the commemoration of St. Valentine of Terni, but not that of St. Valentine of Rome;5 and a Passion of Maris and Martha, which describes St. Valentine as a Roman presbyter martyred during the reign of Claudius II Gothicus (268–270). Like Baronio, Henskens, editor in 1658 of the Vita S. Valentini episcopi in the Acta Sanctorum, also accepted the idea that two different St. Valentines existed and died on the same day (dies natalis).6 It is not difficult to understand Henskens’s choice. In the seventeenth century, two distinct places of popular devotion along the same Via Flaminia were vital, one in Rome and one in Terni, and two different Passions seemed to respond to the faith aroused by those cults. The Hieronimian Martyrology, moreover, did not yet have a critical edition. It is a sort of calendar of the universal church attributed to Saint Jerome but compiled in Aquileia or Milan between 431 and 450, and it is difficult to use.7 Modern scholars, in an attempt to resolve this aporia, left four coexisting hypotheses, which alternated in popularity over time: 1. There were two distinct saints, the bishop of Terni and the Roman presbyter; 2. The true Valentine was the Roman one, and he was martyr and saint; 3. The true St. Valentine was a proto-bishop, and came from Terni; 4. Only one St. Valentine was venerated, but in two distinct places of worship, one built in Rome on the site of his martyrdom, the other in Terni, his hometown and place of burial.


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Saint Valentine in Rome The idea that St. Valentine was the martyr venerated in Rome was prevalent until recent years. The list of bishops of Rome, transmitted by the Codex-Calendar of 354,8 mentions a basilica at the second mile of the Via Flaminia among the constructions of Pope Julius (337–352): the basilica of Valentine (basilicam in via Flaminia mil. ii quae appellatur Valentini).9 Only at the end of the seventh century is this church mentioned as a basilica dedicated to a saint. It was then known as “the church of the blessed Valentine” or “the basilica of St. Valentine, the martyr”. In the first half of that century, in fact, between the pontificate of Honorius (625–638) and Theodore (642–649), the Roman basilica had been completely rebuilt and was included in the main pilgrim itineraries.10 This area of the Via Flaminia (where the Viale Maresciallo Pilsudski is today) was excavated in two stages, at the end of the nineteenth century and then again in the mid-twentieth century. A large settlement was discovered, which included a martyrial basilica, inserted in a sub divo necropolis, and catacombs on three levels within the slope of the Monti Parioli. Since the more recent analysis of the site, the evolution of the late antique cemetery area is quite well known.11 The inscriptions found there are almost all fragmentary, but some plausibly belong to the age of Pope Damasus. One of them is written in semi-Philocalian characters: since the terms SEPULC [rum] and [pr] ESB [iter] INST [ans] occur, it has been suggested that the epigraph described the embellishment of a sepulcher by a presbyter in charge of the work.12 Another inscription, preserved in a very fragmented state and found out of context, but whose celebratory aim is understandable, is also written in Philocalian characters.13 In three other funerary inscriptions from the cemetery, Valentinus is invoked as a saint and dom (i) nus.14 The basilica was therefore an active center for worship since the midfourth century, as evidenced by the presence of an honored burial or memoria, which the Christian community of Rome connected to sanctus Valentinus. The mention of St. Valentine in Rome, however, is not only missing from the Hieronimian Martyrology; it is also absent from the Depositio martyrum of the Church of Rome (about 330), transmitted by the Codex-Calendar of 354.15 The first Martyrology, which records the commemoration of St. Valentine of Rome on February 14th, is Bede’s Martyrology (+735), where the Passion of Maris and Martha is summarized. This text relates that Maris and Martha, parents of Audifax and Habakkuk, all of Persian origin, arrived in Rome to venerate the Apostles. They suffered all kinds of tortures for having accepted baptism by Pope Callixtus. The same fate is suffered by both Asterius, an official of the prefect of the Emperor Claudius, and Valentine, the venerable man who had converted Asterius by giving his daughter back her sight.16 The Passion is an edifying text, devoid of real substance, which was written to give a story to a series of martyrs who were revered in various places in the immediate surroundings of Rome.17 Given the mention of Pope Callixtus (217–222), even allowing for some chronological inconsistencies, the Emperor Claudius mentioned there can only be Claudius II Gothicus (268–270). This information alone, however, makes

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the story completely unreliable from a historical point of view. In fact, under Claudius II Gothicus, no persecutions are attested. This is also confirmed by the fact that, when Emperor Constantine wanted to ennoble his origin, after passing from a tetrarchic to a dynastic system of power, his choice fell precisely on Claudius as the founder of his family. Since this genealogical invention had the explicit propagandistic function of attracting both Christians and pagans, his advisers would never have directed him to Claudius II Gothicus if he had been a persecuting emperor.18

Saint Valentine in Terni In honor of St. Valentine, a basilica was built in Terni on a hill about a mile from the city, inside a cemetery area, where there was already a necropolis in the classical age.19 The oldest mention of this basilica is in the life of Pope Zacharias in the Liber Pontificalis (741–752).20 In 1989, however, the Umbrian epigraphic corpus was published, and a group of inscriptions from the funerary area of the Basilica of St. Valentine in Terni finally received attention.21 They are comparable to other inscriptions from the previous period, found in the same territory.22 Furthermore, as we will see, some excavations were carried out in the cemetery of St. Valentine between 1997 and 1998.23 However, it is necessary to first consider the results of other excavations, which were conducted in the porch of the urban cathedral (Duomo), when it was repaved between 1999 and 2000.24 To the left of the entrance of the Duomo, the remains of a building with a polygonal apse dating back to the sixth century AD have been discovered. This structure, pre-dating the modern basilica, enables us to better understand the relationship between this area and the cemetery where the basilica of St. Valentine was built. The building with a polygonal apse was originally built in the proximity of the Roman amphitheater, and was included within the walls. Since also in other cities the cathedral and the house of the bishop (domus episcopi) were usually included within the walls, this building was probably the seat of the first bishops of Interamna Nahars.25 They lived and worked there but were buried elsewhere, at least as long as the laws, which in ancient times prevented intra civitatem burials, were applied.26 At the time of Theoderic the Great the change was already underway. The deceased started to be buried not only around the inhabited areas, but also inside them, at the shrines of the saint, or at the church (apud ecclesiam). A funerary area is in fact connected to the building with a polygonal apse next to the modern Cathedral (Duomo) in Terni. Coffer tombs and in-ground burials have been found there, following the practice of burial ad sanctos, which spread during the sixth century AD. Prior to that, however, bishops were buried outside the walls (extra muros). The cemetery around the basilica of St. Valentine hosted some of them: Homobonus, between the late fourth and early fifth centuries;27 the vir sanctus (probably a local bishop), who is mentioned on a fragmentary epigraph in dactylic verses of 468 AD;28 Bonus sanctae memoriae, who is remembered in a dedicatory inscription of 514.29 Nervinia Heuresia and Frilitus were also


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buried there. With their rank of honestiores, they represented the local Christian elite.30 In fact, the most ancient epigraphic and archaeological evidence of a Christian settlement in Interamna Nahars comes from the funeral area of the Basilica of St. Valentine. The excavations, carried out between 1997 and 1998, offered various finds: “a cappuccina” tombs with multiple layers of depositions; lead sarcophagi, some with multiple depositions; stone sarcophagi, the oldest of which is from the Constantinian era.31 Glass vials have also been found, which were used as containers for fine wine and probably had ritual significance, especially in funerary contexts of the fourth and fifth century AD.32 It has been suggested that one of the sarcophagi of the first half of the fourth century, divided into two compartments (evidently to preserve relics), may have been the sarcophagus of St. Valentine.33 The sarcophagus has a continuous frieze with aligned heads, and represents the sacrifice of Isaac, the multiplication of the loaves, the healing of the bleeding woman and the resurrection of Lazarus. This combination of Old and New Testament scenes is quite common on this type of sarcophagus. They mostly come from Roman ateliers, but the “rather coarse” stone with which this particular one was made seems to indicate a local manufacture.34 It has recently been assumed that the sarcophagus was used as an altar in the Roman basilica of St. Valentine, and that it contained the saint’s relics, some of which would have been stolen from Rome and brought to Terni at the beginning of the fifth century AD. The heads of its frieze were chiseled off at the time of the iconoclastic decrees of Leo III (727–740), when the Byzantine Duke Exilaratus applied them in the Roman countryside.35 The artifact, however, comes from the cemetery area of St. Valentine in Terni. It should therefore be assumed that the sarcophagus itself (that is the whole altar, not only the relics) was stolen from the Roman church and transferred to the cemetery basilica in Terni (where it comes from) in the first decades of the fifth century. If so, it could not have been chiseled off in the eighth century in the Roman basilica. This is an obvious inconsistency, which arises from the attempt to reconcile the evidence from an artifact found at the cemetery in Terni with the idea that St. Valentine was a Roman saint whose relics were originally placed in the Parioli cemetery. As we will see, there could be a different explanation. New evidence from excavations conducted in 1997–98 in the cemetery area of St. Valentine in Terni suggests that the place had become a center of worship already in the midfourth century. Since the oldest epigraph found there recalls a woman with an unknown name and bears the consular date of 366,36 it can be argued that this place at the 64th mile of the Via Flaminia arose more or less at the same time as that at the second mile of the same road in Rome. Among the inscriptions found in the Roman cemetery of St. Valentine, however, the oldest chronologically is that of Veneriosa, who died on the 3rd of October 359 at the age of four years. Since the text underlines that the child was born in Interamna, we must suppose not only a relationship between the Roman basilica and the cemetery in Terni, but also the chronological precedence of the latter.

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The Passion of Saint Valentine, Bishop of Interamna The evidence, which has been found both in the area between the Roman amphitheater and the modern Duomo, and in the area of the cemetery of St. Valentine in Terni, at the moment seems to exclude that St. Valentine was the proto-Bishop of Interamna Nahars: at least, until an inscription with the name of Valentine as bishop is found in one of the two places. However, the new archaeological and epigraphic evidence found in St. Valentine’s cemetery in Terni can be compared with information provided by the Passion in which St. Valentine is celebrated as bishop. This is a very unusual text that the Bollandists called the Vita Sancti Valentini, probably because it does not correspond to the canons of traditional hagiography. The space dedicated to interrogations and torture, for example, is reduced to a minimum and there is also no reference to the origins and life of the saint. A brief summary of its content will demonstrate its peculiarity. After a short prologue celebrating the moral and thaumaturgical virtues of the beatus vir Valentinus, the Passion tells the story of the Athenian Craton, a teacher of Greek and Latin rhetoric residing in Rome, who hosts his students and fellow citizens Proculus, Efibus, and Apollonius. Since his only son, Cerimon, also a student, is suffering from a very serious and incurable disease, Fonteius tribunicius advises Cerimon to call the Bishop of Interamna, Valentinus, who had saved his brother from an identical illness. The bishop demands the conversion of the whole family, and Valentinus’s catechesis occupies a large part of the narrative. The saint explains that one can be saved from illness and death not only by his own faith but also thanks to the faith of other people. He dwells on the main dogmas of the Christian faith, from the virgin birth of Jesus to the miracles he performed, his passion and death, and the waiting for the Second Coming. In this way, after healing Cerimon, Valentinus baptizes the boy, his parents, Athenian guests, as well as other students including Abundius, the son of the city prefect, Furius Placidus. The latter, sharing the indignation of the senators of Rome, who have the bishop arrested and flogged, orders him beheaded in the middle of the night, without trial, and only because Valentinus remains firm in his faith. The three students of Craton, who bring Valentinus’s body back to Interamna to bury him not far from the city, are tried (also at night) and killed in a hurry by the consular Leontius. The latter, then, for fear of a popular uprising, flees immediately after issuing the sentence, while the son of the city prefect, Abundius, buries the three martyrs near the body of Valentinus.37 Paleographic research done on the hagiographic text has confirmed that this Passion dates back to the sixth or seventh centuries, and was written in central Italy.38 Internal elements of the narrative – such as structure, content, doctrinal slant, and some data from prosopography – suggest that the events did not take place under Claudius II Gothicus. Leaving aside the doctrinal aspects, which have already been studied, some prosopographic data attract attention.39 The magistrate who executed Valentinus in Rome, named Placidus,40 may be Caecilianus Placidus, urban prefect in 346–347.41 The consularis Leontius, who brings to trial and executes the three students (scholastici) of Craton, may be one of the Leontii attested while Caecilianus Placidus was praetorian prefect of Italy in 342–344.42


Saint Valentine and the Symmachi

Also, in the Actus Silvestri, Emperor Constantine appoints a pagan philosopher named Craton (the same as the father of the sick Cerimon) as judge in a dispute between Christians and Jews; a dispute that shares common doctrinal questions on the divine nature of Christ and on the Trinity43 with the dialogue between Craton and Valentinus in the Passion. Finally, Marcus Fonteius (with the same name as the tribunicius in the Passion) is mentioned as amator historiarum in the Historia Augusta.44 Based on this information, it has been suggested that the aporias of this strange text (which does not contain many standard features of either early Christian biographies or later Passions) could be better understood if the events narrated in the Passion of St. Valentine, bishop of Interamna, are interpreted as having occurred a few years after death of the first Christian emperor.45 To prove this, however, it is necessary to more securely identify the officials named as characters in the Passion and, above all, to guess the identity of Valentinus, to whom Pope Julius dedicated a basilica in Rome at the second mile of the Via Flaminia.

Was Saint Valentine a Member of the Symmachi Family? Fonteius is a key character in the Passion, although he appears only fleetingly. His character is essential to the actio, because he, having already experienced Valentine’s thaumaturgical powers, is the one who advised Craton to bring him from Interamna to Rome.46 Cicero defended Marcus Fonteius, governor of Gallia Narbonensis (between 76 and 74 BC, or 74 and 72 BC) in 69 BC, but the oration is incomplete,47 and the governor, although he was acquitted, was probably guilty of extortion since he disappears from the fasti of the Roman magistrates.48 In the imperial age, another Marcus Fonteius cooperated in preparing a revolt against Galba, and he too is portrayed as a greedy and unbecoming man.49 It is therefore possible that the author of the Passion did not find his Fonteius in Cicero, but in the Historia Augusta. At first glance, however, it seems strange that a hagiographer, who wrote in the sixth century AD, would have read this collection of imperial biographies (from Emperor Hadrian to Numerianus, 117–285 AD). A single writer put them together, but he concealed his identity behind six pseudonyms said to be active in the Tetrarchic and Constantinian periods.50 Such a text seems unlikely to have been used by a man in charge of writing the life of a saint. Rich in inventions, it is full of trivial and insignificant episodes, and collects tendentious and defamatory voices against the powerful of the moment (both of the church and of the empire), with the sole purpose of amusing a few faithful friends and satisfying their pseudo-erudite tastes. Furthermore, the Historia Augusta had restricted circulation after its first publication, being kept in the private library of one of the families of the exclusive aristocracy of Rome, to which its author belonged.51 However, in the sixth century, after that text had remained unknown for almost two centuries, Jordanes quoted a long passage from it in his Getica.52 Since he says it came from the fifth book of the Historia Romana by Quintus Aurelius Memmius Symmachus, it was recently proposed that the Historia Augusta really coincided with the work of the consul of 485, but that hypothesis now appears unsustainable.53 In any case, in

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the late sixth century the Historia Augusta became known again. As when the book was first published, it was read only by a small group of nobles. Therefore, if the Historia Augusta came into the hands of those involved in writing the Life of St. Valentine, it was only because the text was intended to exalt Valentine, who had belonged to the family of the author or the client. Indeed, this is what the name of the saint suggests. In the fourth century, Valentinus was a rare name. But it was the name of the man to whom the dedication Valentine floreas in deo of the Codex-Calendar of 354 is addressed (Fig. 9.1).

Figure 9.1 Dedication to Valentinus in the Codex Calendar of 354 (from Alamy).


Saint Valentine and the Symmachi

The Codex-Calendar is an illustrated compendium of the most important events performed in Rome in 354 AD: a calendar with all the festivals and cults celebrated at that time either with games (ludi) and circus races (Circenses) or without them; the sessions of the Senate; the unlucky days (dies Aegyptiaci); a list of Natales Caesarum; the zodiac signs with their astrological information; a list of consuls and the portraits of the consuls, and a list of the urban prefects of Rome over the last hundred years. There are also Christian sections: a list of the bishops of Rome; the Easter cycle; the Depositions of the Bishops of Rome (depositio Episcoporum) and the Depositions of Martyrs (depositio martyrum); the World Chronicle (Liber Generationis); and the Chronicle of the city of Rome (Chronica Urbis Romae).54 The calligrapher Furius Dionysius Philocalus, whose activity for Pope Damasus is well known, made the Codex-Calendar for Valentine.55 Only a wealthy aristocrat could have commissioned such a prestigious artifact. In the West, excluding those coming from a military career, and considering only the members of the senatorial aristocracy, two men called Valentine are known so far: they are both from the Symmachi family. One of them was the brother of Lucius Aurelius Avianius Symmachus (father of the orator Quintus Aurelius Symmachus): Valerius Valentinus, who was consularis Numidiae in 330, after being governor of the province of Flaminiae et Piceni.56 The second Valentine, belonging to the same family, was the brother of that same orator: he was Avianius Valentinus, consularis Campaniae between 364 and 375.57 Salzman has suggested identifying the dedicatee of the Codex-Calendar of 354 with the latter.58 While Lucius Aurelius Avianius Symmachus and his son, Symmachus, continued to hold traditional priesthoods and perform sacred city rites, Avianius Valentinus was a Christian. For the one who commissioned such a work from Philocalus, Christian holidays and major events in the history of the church were as important as traditional holidays and important events in the city of Rome. No member of the Roman Senate in the first half of the fourth century, even if he was Christian, could renounce the ethical and political values by which Rome had become a great empire without thinking of thereby jeopardizing the survival of the city. It was those values that were expressed by the inclusion of the oldest religious institutions mentioned in the Codex-Calendar, which were credibile and venerated by virtue of their antiquity. The Codex-Calendar, on closer inspection, reflects the same concept that Valentinus’s brother, Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, expressed in his Third Relatio.59 In a syncretistic religious dimension, he maintained that there was only one divine being, which anyone could worship in different ways: uno itinere non potest perveniri ad tam grande secretum.60 We can assume that both the dedicatee of the Codex-Calendar of the 354, and Valentine, to whom (according to the same source) Pope Julius dedicated the basilica quae appellatur Valentini, were members of the same family. Like Valentinus (but not Sanctus Valentinus), the latter is mentioned in the CodexCalendar of 354:

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Iulius […] multas fabricas fecit: basilicam in via Portese miliario iii: basilicam in via Flaminia mil. ii quae appellatur Valentini; basilicam Iuliam, quae est regione vii iuxta forum divi Traiani; basilicam trans Tiberim regione xiiii iuxta Callistum; basilicam in via Aurelia mil. iii ad Callistum.61 It is unlikely that the basilica at the second mile of the Via Flaminia, quoted in the List of Bishops of Rome (Catalogue of Liberius) of the Codex-Calendar, was a construction other than the cymiterium via Flamminea, which the Liber Pontificalis attributes to the same pope. Even the compiler of the Liber Pontificalis considered it excessive that, in 15 years, Pope Julius had built five basilicas, and ascribed two urban cult buildings and three cemeteries to him.62 Pope Julius probably built the basilica Iulia in regio VII, near Trajan’s forum, as well as the one in Trastevere in regio XIV.63 In a suburb of the city, in addition to the cemetery at the second mile of the Via Flaminia, he built the cemetery at the third mile of the Via Aurelia at the tomb of Pope Callixtus (where he himself was buried),64 and the anonymous cemetery at the third mile of the Via Portuense, which was also connected with the memory of one or more martyrs.65 The hypothesis of a titulus in a cemetery, instead of a basilica ad corpus, has seemed unsustainable.66 Still today, however, we do not know much about the type of buildings that the Roman Church built on estate properties donated by private individuals during the Constantinian period and the years immediately following,67 notwithstanding innovative perspectives on the titular churches of Rome.68 It cannot, therefore, be excluded that Pope Julius had dedicated a memoria for celebrating a lay benefactor, who had offered in life, or bequeathed, the land on which the cemetery had been built. However, we must think that this rich donor was revered as a martyr immediately after his death, since the other two cemeteries of Pope Julius were connected with the memory of martyrs.69 This does mean that some relics of this man, if not the body, were kept in a tomb of the cemetery at the second mile of the Via Flaminia: Pope Damasus was able to enhance his memory.70 St. Valentine’s story was just one of many histories beneath the developing public façade of Christianity, which grew up between old modes of status distinction and new kind of collective evergetism.71

Saint Valentine, or rather Junius Valentinus Valentinus, venerated in the Roman Cemetery, could have been Junius Valentinus. His name is poorly preserved in an inscription on the base of a statue found in Naples in 1859 and now in the National Archaeological Museum, which calls him consularis Campaniae. The dating of the epigraph, possible due to the presence of the epithet victor that Constantine assumed after 324, is after 325–326.72 His noble name was Junius, because he was to born of one of the Symmachi and a mother named Junia. His career, according to the evidence, seems to have been very short; perhaps he died young. After 350, the memory of this Junius Valentinus was perpetuated in the Symmachi family


Saint Valentine and the Symmachi

through the revival of his name, which during the fifth century was given both to a nephew of the orator Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, and to Junius Valentinus, recently identified as the urban prefect of Emperor Eparchius Avitus.73 Junius Valentinus, consularis Campaniae, was probably a brother of Avianius Symmachus, the probable uncle of both Valentine the dedicatee of the Codex-Calendar of 354 and the orator Quintus Aurelius Symmachus. (See the proposed Stemma of the Symmachi in Fig. 9.2.) Besides the name, the passage of the Historia Augusta where Fonteius appears allows us to strengthen this hypothesis. This character, curiously defined amator historiarum, engages with Vopiscus in a “big dispute” over the title to be attributed to Firmus (one of the four tyrants of which Vopiscus is the selfproclaimed author), as we saw in the previous chapter.74 Rufius Celsus, Ceionius Iulianus, and Fabius Sossianus’s opinion expresses well the ideological orientation of part of the Roman Senate, since different groups of senators manifested their renewed political effervescence from the reign of Constantine by periodically supporting alternative leaders to the emperors in office.75 Also, in various sections dedicated to the Triginta Tyranni, of which Trebellius Pollio is said to be the author, the prevailing idea is that the usurpers were only considered such after having been defeated, that they arose when the legitimate emperors no longer dealt with the defense of the empire, and that they did not protect the financial, social and political privileges of the great senators of Rome. The names of the interlocutors in the dispute between Vopiscus and Fonteius, in particular those of Rufius Celsus, Ceionius Iulianus, and Fabius Sossianus, are invented with the usual sarcasm built on thinly veiled allusions. With Rufius Celsus and Ceionius Iulianus, the author amused himself by splitting the name of Ceionius Rufius Albinus, the learned interlocutor of the Saturnalia.76 His homonymous grandfather was consul in 335 and urban prefect in 335–337. Behind Ceionius Iulianus could be hidden the corrector Tusciae et Umbriae sometime before 370, celebrated in a dedication from Narni,77 or even his father, Ceionius Iulianus Camenius, who was consularis Campaniae in 324 (just before Junius Valentinus), and urban prefect in 333.78 Fabius Sossianus could allude to the praefectus Aegypti of 307, whom Lactantius cited as the one who had suggested and led the persecutions against Christians.79 The names of these men place the debate on the nature of the usurpers around the third/fourth decade of the fourth century AD. The clash between two sons of Constantine in 340 could have been the occasion. Constantine II, who in the division of the empire after the death of his father had held Britannia, Gaul, and Spain as well as a sort of authority over the other two brothers, tried to take possession of Italy. He invaded it but was killed near Aquileia by contingents sent against him by his brother, Costans, in the first days of April 340.80 After his death, he was called publicus inimicus/hostis in the Acta; some of his provisions were abolished, his name was erased from inscriptions, and canceled from almost all legislative texts.81 No longer princeps, he was listed as a tyrannus. His abolitio memoriae, however, did not pass in the

Figure 9.2 The Stemma of the Symmachi (IVth–VIth AD) A Proposal (created by me).

Saint Valentine and the Symmachi 237


Saint Valentine and the Symmachi

Senate without heated discussion. Many senators were hostile to Constans,82 and such a resolution would have had judicial and economic consequences on those who had sided with the usurper and their direct descendants. The most powerful families usually had a greater chance of obtaining the clementia Caesaris. But anyone accused of maiestas for supporting a usurper (while managing to avoid the death sentence) would not have escaped exile and confiscation of property. The sentence also fell on children and descendants, who were perpetually excluded from offices.83 The previously quoted passage of the Vita Firmi in the Historia Augusta could refer to this debate. The clash, in fact, had not remained confined to the legions, but produced political feuds between the senatorial families who divided themselves in support of one leader or the other. The Symmachi also participated. Avianius Symmachus, while he was prefect of the annona in 339–340, had placed a dedication in honor of Constantine II, which he promptly re-incised in the name of Constans.84 He was able to avoid the consequences of this political error thanks, perhaps, to the father of his wife, Fabius Titianus. The latter avoided taking sides, or more likely supported Constans.85 In fact, after having been city prefect in 339–341, Titianus was appointed praetorian prefect of the Gauls in 341. He replaced the previous prefect, Uranius, who was probably eliminated during the descent into Italy of Constantine II. Uranius is rightly identified with Uranius Satyrus, the father of Bishop Ambrose, whose mother was perhaps a relative of the Symmachi.86 The consularis Campaniae Junius Valentinus may have been less fortunate than his brother Avianius, and been eliminated by Placidus. Caecilianus Placidus’s appointment in 342 as praetorian prefect of Italy, Africa, and Illyria (a prefecture that would have been divided in two separated parts, if the attempt by Constantine II had been successful), reflects the confidence that Constans had in him after the campaign against his brother. Before the praetorian prefecture, between 340 and 342, he was appointed iudex iterum ex delegationibus sacris, a special appointment under circumstances that remain obscure.87 Such an office could be explained by the chaotic situation after the elimination of Constantine II, when the new emperor in Rome wanted to quickly end infighting between the senatorial families with a few, exemplary, trials de maiestate. In addition to Placidus, the character of Leontius of the Passion might also reflect a real historical figure. The story tells us that “in the middle of the night” he conducted the trial against the three students (Procolus, Efibus, and Apollonius), who were charged with having brought Valentine’s body to Interamna. He condemned them to beheading, fleeing afterwards for fear of the citizens’ reaction.88 A man called Domitius Leontius was the praetorian prefect of the East in 340–344. For loyalty to Constans, in 344 he was appointed consul. The decurions of Berytus dedicated a statue to him. He was probably a native of that city, and he spent his career in the East, and does not seem to have had contact with Italy.89 However, the urban prefect of 355/356 was also called Flavius Leontius, and it was this man who was perhaps best known to

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the writer of the Passion of St. Valentine.90 During his administration, he had held the plebs at bay after the arrest of a beloved charioteer, and fearlessly faced the seditious Petrus Valvomeres (whom he had arrested and relegated to Picenum), averting a dangerous revolt.91 But in particular, as city prefect, he took Pope Liberius “in the middle of the night, and with great difficulty for fear of the people”, and brought him to Milan and then into exile, since the bishop of Rome did not want to sign the sentence against Athanasius.92 The Roman Church certainly had a vivid memory of this Leontius. In 356, Constantius II addressed a constitution to him, which confirmed the privileges granted to the church of Rome and to the clerics. It was probably he who advised Constantius II to issue it, with the aim of calming the reaction of Roman presbyters who refused the imposition of Felix and were determined to get Liberius back as their bishop.93 In the inscriptions which praised the urban prefecture of Flavius Leontius, it is said that he had previously held a lower office with jurisdiction of appeal.94 He, therefore, may have been corrector or consularis Tusciae et Umbriae, or vicarius Urbis in the year of the usurpation of Constantine II.95 These offices could have put him into a judicial relationship with Interamna. Even without going that far, however, there are several reasons Flavius Leontius may have been known to the author of the Passion of St. Valentine. This writer chose names that recalled well-known public officials, who had been implicated in the political and religious turmoil that marked the succession of the sons of Constantine. Although living in the sixth century, he seems to have known what had happened to his hero in the middle of the fourth century. There is no sure evidence about the alleged elimination of Junius Valentinus, but we cannot overlook the fact that his career seems to have been short and so perhaps his life. There are also other clues to consider. If the elimination of this Roman senator had taken place following a showdown between political opponents – both summary and due to a charge of high treason endorsed by the emperor – it would clarify some characteristics of the hagiographic text, such as the reticence of the hagiographer to give the coordinates of the martyrdom and the nocturnal and furtive work of the two officials in Rome and Interamna. We must then assume that Junius Valentinus was a Christian – the first of the Symmachi family – and had been essential in the conversion of other members of his family. In this case, he would have been the one who brought his nephew, Avianius Valentinus (who commissioned the Codex-Calendar of 354 from Philocalus, the future calligrapher of Pope Damasus), to Christianity. Behind his execution by the city prefect, Placidus, we should also read religious motivations. Caecilianus Placidus was in fact pagan, having been pontifex maior, augur publicus, and quindecemvir sacris faciundis.96 The Passion also recounts that the prefect Placidus acted resolutely following the indignation of the Roman Senate: tunc indignatio paene omnium senatorum accensa est. Almost all senators (paene omnium senatorum) would have reacted, when some nobles converted following the teaching of Valentine. From the Senate came the


Saint Valentine and the Symmachi

order to capture him, beat him, force him to sacrifice to demons, and lock him in prison. But since he did not give in, “in the silence of the night he was taken out of prison and beheaded on the orders of Furiosus Placidus, prefect of Rome”.97 The wealthy aristocrats of Rome were hardly all Christians around 340, although not all were still pagans:98 the adverb (paene) that the hagiographer used does not seem random. Most of the senators would have been concerned about the consequences that such a striking case of conversion could have, in terms of emulation, on other members of the nobility. Moreover, according to the hagiographic narrative, Craton had promised to give Valentinus half of his wealth if he saved his son.99 Valentinus obviously refused it, but such a promise suggests that the indignation of the senators was caused by very concrete reasons.100 In a letter to the bishop of Piacenza, Sabinus, the bishop of Milan, Ambrose, describes the reaction of the Roman Senate when the news spread that Meropius Pontius Paolinus and his wife, Therasia, wanted to renounce all their assets and lead an ascetic life.101 Those Roman nobles, who shaved their heads and eyebrows to become followers of Isis, judged it scandalous (indignum facinus) that a senator had renounced his rank, depriving the assembly of his fiscal assets.102 Even the consideration of the economic repercussions that the church donations of the newly converted could have was the cause of conflicts, not only between pagans and Christians but also within the church. Although aristocratic largess increased especially during the episcopate of Damasus,103 the Liber Pontificalis clarifies its earlier origins. According to the Liber, Pope Julius engaged a primicerius notariorum in the registration of monumenta, donations, testaments, manumissions and other practices of the church.104 Already in the mid-fourth century, therefore, the bishops of the most important seats organized an efficient chancellery apparatus to better manage their duties. Constantinian provisions on episcopal jurisdiction, as well as on the church’s legal capacity to receive legacies and donations in testament as sanctissimum catholicae venerabileque concilium, were beginning to have important effects.105 It is useful to understand the indignation which Paolinus’s conversion to the ascetic life still aroused in the 390s, even in a Senate (theoretically) already entirely Christian. We can thus better appreciate what Valentinus’s behavior had provoked 50 years before, only a few decades after the conversion of Constantine, especially if he was Junius Valentinus, a member of the senatorial aristocracy, who had made donations to the church both in life and in death due to his attraction to ascetic Christianity. The seeds of a new Christian spirituality, a “Christianity of excellence” that seems to have also affected the great ladies of the Roman aristocracy, dated back to the preaching of the Alexandrian bishop, whom Pope Julius welcomed in Rome in those years.106 Even Eusebius, bishop of Vercelli, who around 350/355 (or after returning from exile) promoted ascetic communities for men and women, was trained in Rome as a lector of Pope Julius together with Liberius.107 The Passion of St. Valentine could refer, at least in part, to a real story. The latter was part of

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Symmachi family memories, since it recalled the conversion of one member of the family already in the first decades of the fourth century. For the hagiographer, Valentinus’s death was only due to religious reasons. This does not exclude, however, that he could have been a senator killed during a civil struggle. A significant example offers a comparison. On June 29, the Hieronimian Martyrology records the martyrdom of St. Nevatianus. His name recalls that of Iulius Nepotianus, son of the sister of Constantine, Eutropia, and Nepotianus (member of a senatorial family that dated back to the second century AD), whom Constantine had made consul in 336.108 Nepotianus had been proclaimed Augustus in Rome on June 3, 350, by those who remained faithful to the Constantinian cause and opposed the proclamation in Gaul of Magnentius, an officer of Germanic origin.109 The men of his retinue were collected mainly from the circus environment, thus confirming the active participation of the noble families in Nepotianus’s coup.110 Since several Christian families had also lined up on his side, the Hieronimian Martyrology could refer precisely to these massacres in recording the martyrdom of Saint Nevatianus and hundreds of other Christians on June 29.111 Similarly, the Sanctus Valentinus recorded in the Hieronimian Martyrology could refer to Junius Valentinus, a member of the Symmachi family, who fell during the Roman struggles that followed the descent of Constantine II on Italy. When the first draft of the Hieronimian Martyrology was composed, a senator dominated the life of Rome and featured prominently in the doings of the Roman Church: Aurelius Anicius Symmachus. He was a relative of the orator Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, perhaps a nephew, born from his brother (Avianius Valentinus) and a woman of the Christian Anicii family.112 In 418–419, as urban prefect, he did some work in the Roman forum and repaired a marketplace in Ostia.113 He had close relations both with Emperor Honorius and his general Constantius, who was the husband of Galla Placidia and father of the future Emperor Valentinian III. Anicius Symmachus dedicated statues both to the emperor in the porticus of the Theater of Pompey114 and to Constantius (dated 420) during his prefecture.115 In that period, the Christian community in Rome was deeply divided by the Pelagian controversy, which aroused the same doctrinal problems to which the Passion of St. Valentine referred.116 In consequence of such divisions, after the death of Pope Zosimus, Roman factions warred over the episcopal succession. The Emperor Honorius, the general Constantius, and Aurelius Anicius Symmachus were all involved in trying to resolve the conflicts that raged in the city’s streets. On the schism between Bonifacius and Eulalius, the Collectio Avellana retains an exclusive dossier of the letters that the Roman aristocrat exchanged with the emperor and his general.117 It does not seem to me pure coincidence that the first mention of Valentinus as sanctus appears in the Hieronimian Martyrology, a document composed when Anicius Symmachus was playing an important role in soothing that schism.


Saint Valentine and the Symmachi

The Symmachi and Interamna Nahars Our hypothesis that Junius Valentinus, from a branch of the Symmachi, was the benefactor of the church during Julius’s bishopric, can be supported by verifying the relationship between Valentinus and Interamna. In addition to the properties at the second mile of the Via Flaminia – where the basilica Valentini was built, before 352 (when Pope Julius died) and 359 (when the little 4-yearold Veneriosa from Interamna was buried there) – such a rich aristocrat could have had landed property even in the south of Umbria. If Junius Valentinus had been eliminated after a trial de maiestate, his family might have chosen to bury him away from Rome, along the Via Interamnana. In that place – in a side-street off the Via Flaminia, where the mid-fourth century, paleo-Christian cemetery of St. Valentine is set on a necropolis of the classical age118 – his memory could have been venerated by the small group of local Christian elite over whom he had exercised his patronage and charity. An inscription dated to the period in question is dedicated to Abundius, a presbyter. The name is the same as that of the son of the urban prefect Placidus, who, in the Passion, converts to Christianity and buries Procolus, Apollonious, and Efibus next to Valentinus.119 The great impact of powerful landowners on the shape of suburban and rural Christianity is now well known: the spread of asceticism as well as the buildings for worship, which required the presence of clerics, depended on them.120 We do have some evidence for potential ties between a branch of the Symmachi family with Interamna Nahars. The name Junius, although it has no direct evidence in Terni, is attested in Todi (about 20 km away from the modern town) in the early imperial age.121 Other clues come from the Historia Augusta. Interamna is mentioned only three times by late authors, and two out of the three citations come from the lives of this collection. According to “Aelius Spartianus”, Emperor Septimius Severus stopped in Interamna in 193 AD to receive a delegation from the Senate, who had declared him an “enemy of the state” shortly before.122 Interamna is only a name in the story, but the news that Severus chose to encamp his army there seems reliable. In the confusion of those months, the future emperor could not opt for a better tactical and logistical place than Interamna. It was the last major city before the bottlenecks of the Via Flaminia along the lower course of the Tiber. It was at a distance from Rome that an army could cover in at most two days of marching. In this basin, a large camp could be set up easily and could be supplied and well defended on all sides. Interamna therefore would have served Severus both in the event that he was induced to attack Rome, and if he had to defend himself from one of his three competitors (one in Rome, one in Gaul, and the other in Syria). The negotiations were successful: instead of falling on Rome with the army, Emperor Severus entered it with the support of the Senate.123 If the story is reliable, a mediation was carried out by the notables of Interamna. They were probably connected by familial links with the Roman senators who had been sent as legates because they were in favor

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of Severus. The prosopographic investigations, in fact, have now discredited the idea that the members of the main Roman assembly were mainly recruited outside Italy in the fourth century AD. In fact, they still came mostly from Roman-Italic families, especially from central-southern Italy, which kept large estates in this area of the peninsula.124 After almost half a century, Interamna was again the scene of a confrontation, this time bloody, involving an emperor: in 253 AD, Emperor Gaius Vibius Afinius Trebonianus Gallus and his son, Volusianus, were killed there. Aurelius Victor, Eutropius, and the Epitome de Caesaribus agree on Interamna as the place of the elimination of Gallus and his son, while the Codex-Calendar of 354 places it in Forum Flamini (San Giovanni Profiamma, a village outside of Foligno).125 In the Historia Augusta the Vita Treboniani Galli is missing, since the years 244–253 AD fall in a gap that covers the reigns of Philip the Arab, Decius, Gallus, and Volusianus. If it had been written, or if it had been preserved, we would certainly find there the mention of Interamna as the place of the elimination of Gallus and his son, as in the account of the three epitomators. In fact, the most frequently used sources by the author of the Historia Augusta are Eutropius, Aurelius Victor, and (through a Greek source, which in turn used a Latin one) Zosimus. The lacuna in the Historia Augusta certainly has a plausible explanation in the accidental loss of a block of paper, an event not uncommon in the transmission of classical texts. Some scholars, however, have speculated that it itself constitutes one of the many fictions used by the author of this collection of imperial biographies.126 If so, Gallus was among the emperors without a Life, because of the family to which he belonged, or because of his policies which ensured that he was not congenial to the author of Historia Augusta (or his senatorial group) as an imperial model. Behind the appearance of recounting the lives of many earlier emperors in that biographical collection, there was the purpose of praising or mocking fourth-/fifth-century emperors. The examination of the brief mentions of Interamna in the Historia Augusta confirms, above all, that the frequent succession of emperors during the third century AD increased the importance of the section of the Via Flaminia that passed through the small city (Fig. 9.3). Many emperors were elected in different provincial sectors by their own armies and most of them were eager to gain recognition from the Senate. In that same period, the Via Interamnana was also improved. It was a road axis complementary to the Via Flaminia, represented in the Tabula Peutingeriana, where it is indicated with the legend inter manana. Just in that sector of the suburbs of Interamna there was the abovementioned necropolis of the classical age where the early Christian cemetery of St. Valentine was built (Fig. 9.4). Such a strengthening of the eastern branch of the Via Flaminia during the third century AD does reflect the economic choices of wealthy Roman senatorial families, who were interested in expanding the properties they already owned in southern Umbria. In Chapter I, we already showed that the Roman nobility did not experience a general decline during the second/third century AD. Some families


Saint Valentine and the Symmachi

Figure 9.3 The Ancient Via Flaminia. (© NASA Image Collection/Alamy Stock Photo).

were able to counter the crisis through marriage alliances, semi-official forms of patronage, or political-institutional control of the regions where their economic interests were prevalent.127 In areas further away from Rome, the wealthy local families, taking advantage of a very chaotic period and a severe crisis, were equally able to expand their fortunes by speculating on the ruin of others.128 This model of economic control over large regions – more clearly evident in the post-Constantinian era – allowed the senatorial families of the high empire to keep their income substantially intact and not to diminish their political and social influence in the areas which already partially fell under their patronage.129 In general, therefore, the road system played a central role in the history of Interamna. But it must also be true that the eastern branch of the Via Flaminia grew in importance in proportion to the desire of the great Roman senators to keep active the communication routes between Rome and the areas where the economic surplus of their possessions was concentrated.

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Figure 9.4 The Via Intermanana in the Tabula Peutingeriana. (© Universal Images Group North America LLC/Alamy Stock Photo).

On this point, a last passage of the Historia Augusta is of interest. Here, Interamna is mentioned as the place where the cenotaphs of Emperor Marcus Claudius Tacitus and his half-brother and successor, Lucius Annius Florianus, were built.130 None of the news in the Vita Taciti can be confirmed, not even that which tells us that the emperor wanted the work of the historian Cornelius Tacitus to be preserved and disseminated through the reproduction of copies to be placed in libraries.131 The link that the Historia Augusta establishes between the Emperor Claudius Tacitus and Interamna, however, is


Saint Valentine and the Symmachi

noteworthy. In describingTacitus as a senator, “Vopiscus” believed that the notion would be more credible if the man had owned properties in Interamna as well as in Campania where he would have retired after the election.132 This means that, in the late fourth century, the properties of some of the oldest families (or those presumed such) of the late antique Roman Senate extended into southern Umbria. Even a Danubian general, such as perhaps Tacitus was,133 could be believed to be a senator of ancient lineage if lands had been attributed to him in that region. In general, however, the impression is that Interamna was a place known to the author of the Historia Augusta because part of his possessions, or those of some of his family, extended there. The hypothesis that St. Valentine, who was venerated both in Rome and in Interamna, belonged to a branch of the Symmachi family would suggest that only one Valentine existed. We do not know if he was a native of Rome or Interamna, but he was certainly linked to the latter town and its local nobility. Even in this area he possessed praedia, which he bequeathed to the Christian community as a result of being converted to Christianity and before being executed around 340. In this case, his cult would have arisen in two places not by transmigration but because both places were linked to his donations and his name.134

From Historical Events to Passion The author of the Passion of St. Valentine may have been a client of the Symmachi. In the fifth/sixth century AD the political and cultural importance of this family was renewed. Quintus Aurelius Memmius Symmachus was urban prefect around 476/491 and consul in 485135 (see the proposed Stemma of the Symmachi at Fig. 9.2). He was also caput senatus, a title that only three Western senators of the highest social level obtained between the end of the fifth and the middle of the sixth century AD.136 Some facts of his life are well known: in the dispute between Symmachus and Laurentius for the episcopal seat (498–507), he had supported the future pope, while the senator Festus had sided with Laurentius;137 and he was executed on charges of treason by Theoderic in 525, after his son-in-law, Boethius, was also put to death by the same Ostrogothic king.138 Quintus Aurelius Memmius Symmachus was not only a man of central importance in the political life of Rome and in relations between the West and the East. Indeed, the renewed cultural interest in the Letters of his relative, Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, seems to be due to his commitment to publish the last still unpublished letters of his ancestor.139 It has already been mentioned that Aurelius Memmius Symmachus wrote a Roman History in seven books, where (according to Jordanes) the Historia Augusta was quoted as his own. The alterations introduced in the text of Historia Augusta, as reported by Jordanes, show an effort to Christianize some passages, and can be attributed to him.140 Praised by Boethius for his love of knowledge and literary activity,141 he was considered a model of eloquence by Ennodius, who sent him copies of

Saint Valentine and the Symmachi 247 142

his writings for an opinion. Priscian dedicated three of his minor works to him.143 Aurelius Memmius Symmachus also made a critical edition of Macrobius’s Commentarium in Somnium Scipionis, improving the text, as attested by the subscriptions of the codices.144 By inexplicable coincidence, precisely inspired by this Commentarium, Geoffrey Chaucer imagined being led by Scipio Africanus to a wonderful park with a temple of Venus, where, on Valentine’s Day, birds and lovers gathered to choose their companions. The poem (The Parlement of Fouyls), a dreamlike journey, was the first work (in c. 1382) to connect Valentine’s Day with the season of love between both birds and humans.145 It seems possible to me that Quintus Aurelius Memmius Symmachus, or a son of his son-in-law, Boethius, who was named Flavius Symmachus and was consul in 522146 (see the proposed Stemma of the Symmachi at Fig. 9.2), commissioned the Passion of St. Valentine to increase the value of their first Christian relative. A narrative was thus established to celebrate his holiness, which the author of the Hieronimian Martyrology had attributed to him already in the first decades of the fifth century, probably under the patronage of a Symmachus who was caput senatus. According to the tradition reported in the Chronicon of Benedetto del Soratte, who lived between the tenth and eleventh centuries, Galla excellentissima patricia, daughter of Quintus Aurelius Mennius Symmachus, built a basilica in onore sancti Valentini aepiscopi in Sabina, in the current town of Stimigliano (Rieti).147 This testimony seems to me to acquire a decisive value in confirming the hypothesis presented here regarding the identity of St. Valentine. Quintus Aurelius Memmius Symmachus’s love for Roman history probably led the hagiographer to choose Fonteius, the amator historiarum of Vopiscus, to give a name to the tribunicius who advised Craton to call Valentine to save his son. The hagiographer, like a painter in his canvas, did not neglect to paint also the client of his work.148 The text, which according to some scholars followed a few years after the Passion of Maris and Martha,149 sought to counter the spread of a narrative according to which St. Valentine was a simple Roman priest and one of the many martyrs of an emperor who had never ordered persecutions. In the spirit of family, the “Life of St. Valentine” would have had a historical approach, containing elements and names that alluded to the period (the first half of the fourth century) in which Valentinus had lived. To this end, the hagiographer was allowed to draw on the works preserved in the family library, even the exclusive and little-known texts such as the Historia Augusta, which Quintus Aurelius Memmius Symmachus had just rediscovered. Thus, to summarize, I would suggest that Junius Valentinus was executed on a charge of treason both because he took part in a conflict between senatorial factions that supported two different emperors, when the candidate favored by the Symmachi had become a usurper following his defeat, and also because he was the Christian among the members of the losing faction (and, in fact, his brother, Avianius, was spared in part because he was a pagan, in addition to having the proper family connections). His political allegiances and


Saint Valentine and the Symmachi

his Christianity together, in my view, are essential for understanding why Christians immediately venerated Valentinus as a martyr, and why, in the sixth century, his rich, powerful, and cultured descendant chose to celebrate him in a Passion.

Notes 1 Segatori 2012, 350–1. This chapter assembles strands of research which have been just recently published as Lizzi Testa 2020 and Lizzi Testa 2021a. 2 Menestò 2012, 3–5. 3 Baronio (1586) 1984, 37. Regarding the funerary basilica of St. Valentine at Terni, which lies about a mile outside the city, an analysis of the figures in the Hieronimian Martyrology seems to indicate not the 63rd mile but the 64th: Scorza Barcellona 2009, 19, n. 23. 4 BHL 8460. D’Angelo 2012, 179–222 is the author of the critical edition of BHL 8460, with a complete review of the tradition (BHL 8460, 8460b, and 8461). See also the hagiographic Appendix H 3 Passio s.Valentini (BHL 8460), in D’Angelo 2015, 226–42 (text) and 243–7 (Italian trans.); see E. D’Angelo 2017, 313–6 (BHL 8460 = BHU 196). 5 Martyrologium Hieronymianum, 20. According to its two families of manuscripts, the original commemoration of Valentine of Interamna under the date of 14 February is given by Delehaye 1931, 92, n. 1, as follows: Interamne via Flaminia miliario LXIIII natale Valentini. 6 Acta Sanctorum, Novembris, vol. II, 756–7. 7 Verrando 1991, 106, believes that it cannot be inferred that only St. Valentine of Terni existed on the basis of the fragments of “so patchy” a document as the Hieronimian Martyrology is for the 14th of February. For a synopsis of the texts of the Hieronimian Martyrology citing St. Valentine on the date of the 14th February, see Martyrologium Hieronymianum, 20. 8 The List of Bishops of Rome is in section XIII of the Codex-Calendar of 354. It is the earliest known source for the Liber Pontificalis (Lib. Pont. I, 2–9). Since this list ends when Pope Liberius took office (352), it is also called Catalogue of Liberius: Mommsen (1850) 1909, 549–668; Koep 1925, 407–15; Pietri 1976, 389. 9 MGH AA IX, 76. 10 The Notitia ecclesiarum Urbis Romae, 73, recounts that the martyr St. Valentine rested in a large basilica, which Pope Honorius restored: deinde intrabis per Urbem ad aquilonem, donec pervenies ad portam Flamineam, ubi sanctus Valentinus martir quiescit via Flaminea, in basilica magna, quam Honorius reparavit. On the contrary, according to the Liber Pontificalis, Pope Theodore built a church in honor of Blessed Valentine from the ground up (Liber Pont. 1, pp. 332–3: fecit et ecclesiam beato Valentino via Flamminea, iuxta pontem Molbium a solo, quam et ipse dedicavit et dona multa optulit). Geertman 1975, 198–200, suggested that Pope Honorius began to rebuild the church, which Pope Theodore completed. The De locis sanctis martyrum, quae sunt foris civitatis Romae, 118, also speaks of a “beautifully decorated” (mirifice ornata) church of the martyr St. Valentine; the Itinerarium Malmesburiense, 142, recalls that St. Valentine rests in his church: ibi in primo miliario foris sanctus Valentinus in sua ecclesia requiescit. 11 Krautheimer 1976, 276–98; Fiocchi Nicolai 1991; Cecchelli 2001, 95–6; 371–5; Palombi 2009. 12 ED 199, n. 49;2ICUR X, 27273 = EDB17593. Furius Dionysius Philocalus drew the marble epigraphs, written by Pope Damasus for the tombs of the martyrs, in ornate and elegant square capitals (Philocalian). On Philocalus as the calligrapher of the CodexCalendar of 354, see below.

Saint Valentine and the Symmachi 249 13 ED 49a, p. 197–8; ICUR X, 27270 = EDB19105–19107. 14 The inscription in verse of the medicus Pastor is in ICUR 27276 = EDB17065; in the other two, shorter inscriptions, we read ad domnu Val[entinum] (ICUR 27277= EDB17067); e ad d[…] (ICUR 27278 = EDB17068). 15 This absence, however, is not an isolated case, since other commemorations are also missing from the Calendar: Pietrì 1976, 112–5 and 365–6. 16 BHL 5543 in AASS, Ian. II, coll. 214–9. 17 Scorza Barcellona 2009, 21. 18 The theme is a genealogical myth, which delegitimized Emperor Maximian and created Constantine’s dynastic legitimacy. It appeared in the panegyric of 310 (Pan. Lat. VII (6), 2.1–3), and it was taken up again in the panegyric of 312 (Pan. Lat. VIII (5): Wienand 2012, 153–154; Gregori and Filippini 2013; Maranesi 2016, 78–83. This supposed relationship is illustrated in SHA Claud. 1.1; 3.1 and 13.1–3 (as well as in the Lives of Gallienus and Aurelian), but in a different way than in Eutr. 9.22 and Zonaras 12.26. On the truthfulness of Constantine’s descent from Claudius II Gothicus, see Chausson 2007, 25–95; Aiello 2014,2 130. Like Constantine, Licinius also created an illustrious ancestry, resorting to Philip the Arab, who was also a non-persecuting ruler: SHA Gord. 34.5. 19 Zampolini Faustini 1997. 20 Liber Pont. I, 427. On the medieval building, see Ranucci 1997, 177–9. 21 Binazzi 1989, 27–55. 22 Coarelli and Sisani 2008; Angelelli 2008. 23 Ponzi 2006; Pagano 2012, 263 offers an updated summary of the finds in the area. 24 Angelelli, Scaia, and Zampolini Faustini, 2006. These excavations were coeval with those carried out in the area of the adjacent Roman amphitheater, on which see Angelelli and Faustini 2006; Ferrari 2012, 262. 25 Archaeologists now exclude that the proto-bishop of a city built the first church in the cemetery where he would then be buried: Ermini Pani 1995. When the wall of a city was of limited extent, it included the church and excluded buildings and neighborhoods that were previously central to the Roman-period city: Gauthier 1999; La Rocca 2003. 26 In 381 (CTh 9.17.6) and in 386 (CTh 9.17.7) the order to transfer urns and sarcophagi out of the city was reiterated. In Byzantium, the ban formally disappeared only between the ninth and tenth centuries, after Leo the Wise had allowed corpses to be buried both outside and inside the city (Nov. 53: sive extra muros sive intra civitatem). 27 Homobonus: CIL XI. 4340 = ICI VI.29; 47–8 = EDR104711; Ranucci 1997, 191, n. 12; Andreani and Fora 2002, 95–6; Angelelli 2008, 147, n. 14. 28 CIL XI. 4332 = ICI VI.20, 38 = EDR104669; Ranucci 1997, 179–80, fig. 2; Pirro 1997, 93–4. 29 La formula sanctae memoriae is usual for bishops: ICI VI.26, 44–45= EDR104673; Ranucci 1997, 190–1, n. 11; Pirro 1997, 94. An episcopa is mentioned in a funeral inscription of 526 (IMAI Umbria -Terni, n. 117 = EDR134776; D’Angelo 2015, 6, n. 24). Since this title was usually given to the wife of a bishop, we can think that during the reign of Athalaric, a few years before the beginning of the war between the Goths and the Byzantines (535–552), the bishopric of Interamna Nahars still existed. Later the diocese is no longer mentioned, and it is not represented in the Roman synods of 595 and 601. 30 ICI VI.18, 35–7 = EDR104665; 22, p. 40–41 = EDR104669; Angelelli 2008, 148, n. 149; p. 150, n. 152. 31 Dresken-Weiland 1998, 19, n° 59, taff. 18, 1–3, 19, 1; p. 31, n° 99, taf. 29, 5. 32 Angelelli, Scaia, and Zampolini Faustini 2006, 229–55. 33 Coarelli and Sisani 2008, 190, n. 210, and table 43. Pagano 2012, 263, suggested this hypothesis.

250 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53


55 56

57 58

59 60 61

Saint Valentine and the Symmachi Bisconti 2001, 355–6. Pagano 2012, 263. CIL XI.4328; ICI VI.17 = EDR104664. The Latin text of the Passio is now published in D’Angelo 2015, 226–42. Paoli 2001, 521; Paoli 2012, 177; D’Angelo 2012, 203–6; D’Angelo 2015, 137–9. The doctrinal problems referred to in the text are typical of the beginning of fifth century, in particular of the anti-Pelagian controversy, which opposed Augustine to Julian of Eclanum, and went on later: Mar Marcos 2019; Kahlos 2019. In the text of this Passion published by the Bollandists, Valentinus is killed iussu furiosi Placidi, an expression that Donnini 2001, 547, called “uno stupefacente ossimoro”. PLRE I, M. Maecius Memmius Furius Baburius Caecilianus Placidus 2, 705–6. D’Angelo 2012, 196–97; D’Angelo 2015, 125. For the possible identity of Leontius, see below. In different codes of BHL 8460 Leontius has Lucentius as an alternative form: D’Angelo 2015, 132. Canella 2006, 182. SHA Firmi 2.1, 181. D’Angelo 2015, 128. Passio s. Valentini 6–7 (D’Angelo 2015, 233–4). Ammianus (15.2.4) reports a phrase from this Ciceronian oration, when describing the customs of the Gauls. Ward 1967; Marinelli 2018. Svet. Galba 11; Tac. hist. 1.7.1. Callu 2002, xiv-lxxiii. See Ch. VIII, p. 92. Paschoud 2013, 197. Iordanes, De origine actibusque Getarum 15.83–88, MGH AA V.2. Mastandrea 2010, 228, formulated this conjecture, but see Festy 2014, 249–58: he showed that Quintus Aurelius Memmius Symmachus’s Roman History also dealt with the fifth century, while the Historia Augusta stops at the biographies of Carus, Carinus, and Numerianus. The Codex-Calendar’s text (Chronographus Anni CCCIIII) is in MGH AA IX, 39–76. A first fundamental study was Stern 1953, followed by Salzman 1990. Curran 2000, 221–230, studied this festival calendar as a testimony of the persistent presence of the deities worshipped in the city in the rhythms of Roman life during the fourth century (218–257). Machado 2010 focusses on the involvement of the senatorial aristocracy in the organization of some festivals. Ferrua 1939; ED, 21–5. About Filocalus, see Salzman 1990, 202–4. PLRE I, M. Aur. Val. Valentinus 12, 936: he was corrector Flaminiae et Piceni before 330, when became consularis Numidiae. Cameron 1999, 484, established that Valerius Valentinus was one of the Symmachi; cf. Salzman 1990, 201; Salzman and Roberts 2011, xviii-xix. He is the only brother of Avianius Symmachus attested in the stemma of the Symmachi (PLRE I, Stemma 27, 1146). PLRE I, Valentinus 7, 938: Arnheim 1972, 181, n. 14; Cameron 1999, 484; Salzman 1990, 201–2; Salzman and Roberts 2011, xix–xx. Salzman 1990, 21; 199–202. Very little is known about this man. No other offices are known besides the governorship of Campania, held during the reign of Valentinian I and documented by CIL X.1656 = ILS 764 = EDR116014 from Puteoli (Campania): PLRE I, Avianius Valentinus 7, 936. Avianius Valentinus died before 380, when Symmachus (Symm. Ep. III.6) remembered the death of his brother Celsinus Titianus as the third among his already deceased brothers. Symm. Rel. III.4–9: Vera 1981, 12–53; 352–4; 390–4. Cf. also ch. VII, infra. Symm. Rel. III.10. MGH AA IX, 76; cf. Duchesne 1886, 9.

Saint Valentine and the Symmachi 251 62 Liber Pont. I, 205: fecit basilicas II: una in urbe Roma iuxta forum et altera trans Tiberim, et cymiteria III: unum via Flamminea, alium via Aurelia et alium via Portuense. 63 There is no archaeological trace of the basilica Iulia iuxta forum Traiani. Several identifications have been proposed for it: S. Maria Antiqua, the titulus Apostolorum and SS. Philuppus et Iacobus, that is the church of SS. Apostoli. The second church was identified with the structure built on the titulus Calixti beneath S. Maria in Trastevere: Armellini and Cecchelli 1942, 415; Marcotulli 2012. 64 Verrando 1984; Verrando 1985. 65 Verrando 1988, 347–8; 358–60. 66 Fiocchi Nicolai 1991, 171–2. On the function of the Roman cemeterial basilicas, see Diefenbach 2007, 155–164. 67 Guidobaldi 2000; Iwaskziewicz-Wronikowska 2002. 68 Hillner 2007; Diefenbach 2007, 330–403. The coincidence between late antique domestic reception spaces and early Christian churches was not as direct as much historiography used to suggest: Sessa 2012, infra. 69 Amore 1966; Amore 1975, 13–6, thought that Valentinus of the basilica built by Pope Julius was a lay donor, but considered him different from the saint venerated on 14 February. 70 On the epigrammatic activity of Pope Damasus, see also Curran 2000, 148–157. 71 How Rome’s Christianity was marked by the collaboration/competition between the official structure of the church and its powerful patrons is well studied by Bowes 2008, ch. 2, especially 65– 103. 72 CIL X.1482 = EDR150941. PLRE I, (Iu?)nius Va(le)ntin(us) 11, 936. Salzman 1990, 201, n. 1, suggested that he was member of the Symmachi family. The dating of the epigraph is set after 325–326 in comparison with AE 1969/70, 108 = 1983, 194 = EDR78904. 73 PLRE II, […]ius Valentinus 5, 1140. A possible integration [Av]itus Iunius Valentinus, and not Vettius, has been recently suggested by Grossi 2017, 256–9. 74 SHA Firmi 2.1: scis enim, mi Basse, quanta nobis contentio proxime fuerit cum amatore historiarum Marco Fonteio, cum ille diceret Firmum, qui Aureliani temporibus Aegyptum occupaverat, latrunculum fuisse, non principem, contra ego mecumque Rufius Celsus et Ceionius Iulianus et Fabius Sossianus contenderent, dicentes illum et purpura usum et, percussa moneta, Augustum esse vocitatum, cum etiam nummos eius Severus Archontius protulit, de Graecis autem Aegyptiisque libris convicit illum autokratora in edictis suis esse vocatum. 75 This particular kind of usurpations intensified after Emperor Diocletian: Orlandi 2001. 76 Paschoud 2002b, 206. 77 PLRE I, P. Publilius Ceionius Iulianus 27, 476. The inscription from Narni is CIL XI.4118 = EDR122286. 78 PLRE I, M. Ceionius Iulianus signo Kamenius 26, 476. 79 In Lact. De Mort. Pers. 16.4, Sossianus is auctor et consiliarius ad faciendam persecutionem during his previous administration in Bithynia: PLRE I, Sossianus Hierocles 4, 432. 80 The troops of Constantine II fell into an ambush and the emperor himself, thrown from the saddle of his wounded horse, died and was thrown into the river Ausa: Aur. Vict. Caes. 41.22; Epit. 41.21, and Eutr. 10.9.2; Zos. 2.41.1, and Zonaras 13.5.7–15 have different details. Cons. Const. I, 236, and Hier. Chron. ad. a., 235, 5–6, give the date: Paschoud 2003, 266. 81 For the abolition of his name: Cahn 1987, 201–2. CTh 11.12.1 (April 29, 340) shows the rescissio actorum after Costantine II was defined publicus inimicus/hostis: Bleckmann 2003, 239. Several inscriptions in Asia (CIL III.474; 477; 7198), in Africa (CIL VIII.12272), in Noricum (CIL III.5207), in Italia (CIL V.8030 = EDR091179) show that his name was erased. 82 Moser 2017. 83 Santalucia 1998,2 256; Spagnuolo Vigorita 2005, 358–62.


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84 Cf. AE 1988, 217; EDR80759. The inscription, found in 1970 in the Byzantine Baths of Ostia where it was used again, has a re-incision at line 4. Contra Gasperini 1988, Cecconi 1996 shows that the event did not affect the career of Avianius Symmachus. 85 PLRE I, Fabius Titianus 6, 918–19; cf. Lizzi Testa 2004, 47. 86 Recent discussion of this topic in Lizzi Testa 2017, 34–42. 87 PLRE I, M. Maecius Memmius Furius Baburius Caecilianus Placidus 2, 705–6. 88 Passio s. Valentini 60–67, p. 241–2. 89 PLRE I, Fl. Domitius Leontius 20, 502–3. 90 In 351 he had tried Photinus in Sirmium (Epiph. adv. Haer.71; Socr. HE 2.30; Soz. HE 4.6; cf. Lizzi Testa 2013a, 279) and, as quaestor sacri Palatii, Leontius had prevented Gallus from carrying out his maneuvers against Constantius II (Amm. 14.11.14). 91 Amm. 15.7.1–5. 92 Amm. 15.7.6–10. On the relationship between Pope Julius and then Pope Liberius with Athanasius, see Lizzi Testa 2004, 120–122, and 126–7. 93 CTh 16.2.13. On Emperor Constantius II’s privileges to clerics, see Lizzi Testa 2001. 94 CIL VI.1160 = EDR121713 e 31397 = EDR135611. The dedicant (whose name is lost) of the base CIL VI.31396 = 40781 = EDR093143 is perhaps to be identified with Flavius Leontius. 95 The evidence does not exclude this hypothesis: in 340, Iunius Tertullus held the position of vicar of the urban prefect only in the short period from May to June (PLRE I, Iunius Tertullus 9, 884); in the Fasti of the governors of Tuscia and Umbria, between 337 and 342 there is a gap, and L. Turcius Secundus‘ s consularity of Flaminia et Picenum oscillates between 340 and 350 (PLRE I, L. Turcius Secundus signo Asterius 6, 817–8). 96 CIL X.1700 = ILS 1231 = EDR153006 (from Puteoli in Campania). 97 Passio s. Valentini, 60–2, p. 241. 98 On Cameron 2011, 33–92, see Lizzi Testa 2013b, and now Lizzi Testa 2021b. 99 Passio s. Valentini 11, p. 234: et Craton dixit ad eum: “Dimidiam partem substantiae meae tibi dare disposui, si istum ab hac infirmitate liberare potueris”. 100 The diffusion of Christianity and the bishop’s expanding authority within the city had also political and ethical implications for the senator’s own power and status within his household. They are well considered by Sessa 2007. 101 Paolinus, the future Bishop of Nola, was a member of a wealthy senatorial family from Bordeaux in Aquitaine: PLRE I, Meropius Pontius Paolinus 21, 681–3; PLRE I, Therasia, 909. 102 Ambr. Ep. 27 (58M.).1–3. The senators were worried about the economic consequences of the new conversions, which would reduce the number of members, among whom the taxes to which they were subject were distributed. On the opposition, which a very small group of noble ascetics aroused for their impact on senatorial life and attitudes towards property, Curran 2000, 260–320. 103 Lizzi Testa 2012; Lizzi Testa 2016. 104 Liber Pont. I, p. 205: […] et omnia monumenta in ecclesia per primicerium notariorum confectio celebraretur, sive cautiones vel instrumenta aut donationes vel conmutationes vel traditiones aut testamenta vel allegationes aut manomissiones clerici in ecclesia per scrinium sanctum celebrarentur. 105 See now Lizzi Testa 2018, 150–151, for the fiscal privileges and responsibilities of bishops since Constantine. 106 Hier. Ep. 127.5. 107 Studer 1997, 183. 108 PLRE I, Iul. Nepotianus 5, 624; PLRE I, Virius Nepotianus 7, 825; PLRE I, Eutropia 2, 316. 109 PLRE I, F. Magnus Magnentius, 532.: Szidat 2003a, 210–212; Szidat 2003b. Cf. chapter VI, p 121. 110 Cf. chapter VI, n. 30.

Saint Valentine and the Symmachi 253 111 112 113 114 115 116 117

118 119 120 121


123 124 125

126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133

134 135

Kunzle 1969. PLRE II, Aurelius Anicius Symmachus 6, 1043–4. For the works in the Roman Forum, see CIL VI.36963; for Ostia, see CIL XIV.4719. CIL VI.1193; cf. 1191. CIL VI.1719. Above, n. 39. PLRE II, Aurelius Anicius Symmachus 6, 1043–4. In 418–419, as urban prefect, he wrote to Honorius Coll. Avell. 14,16, 19, 29, 32, 34, and received Coll. Avell. 15, 18, 21, 30, 31, and 33: ed. Guenther, 59–63; 65–6; 68–9; 74–81. See Coll. Avell. 29, 30, and 32 for correspondence between Symmachus and Constantius. For the Christian inscriptions and other archeological remains, above p. 230; cf. also below, p. 243 for the identification of the Via Interamnana. Fiocchi Nicolai 1986 (ICI VII, IV. 6); Fiocchi Nicolai 1988, 329, n. 1478; D’Angelo 2015, p. 135–6. Bowes 2008, 125–158. Already Del Lungo 2009, 47, thought that Valentinus could be identified with a member of some ancient family, where this cognomen is attested, such as the gens Ulpia in Narni (CIL XI.4151 = EDR122306), or the gens Iunia in Todi (CIL XI.4655 = EDR175154). SHA Sev. 6.2, 418: qui ei occurrerunt Interamnae armatumque circumstantibus armatis salutarunt excussi, ne quid ferri haberent. Didius Iulianus ordered the Senate to declare Septimius Severus hostis publicus as soon as he learned of the rebellion of the armies of Pannonia (SHA Did. Iul. 5.3, 398–400; SHA Sev. 5.5, 416). SHA Sev. 5.4, 416. Barbieri 1952; Jacques 1986. Aur. Vict. 31: Igitur his (scl. Gallus Volusianusque) Romae morantibus, Aemilius Aemilianus summam potestatem corruptis militibus arripuit. Ad quem expugnandum profecti Interamnae ab suis caeduntur; anche Epit. de Caes. 31: sub his etiam Aemilianus in Moesia imperator effectus est; contra quem ambo profecti apud Interamnam ab exercitu suo caeduntur. The CodexCalendar of 354, where Forum Flaminii is mentioned, is an isolated testimony: MGH AA IX, 148: Gallus et Volusianus imperaverunt ann. ii m. iiii d. ix […] occisi in foro Flamini. On the latter place: Sensi 1994. Birley 1976; Paschoud 2002a, xxviii–xxix. On the Historia Augusta’s structure, see also Savino 2017, 79–103. Giardina 2007; Lo Cascio 2009, 19–70. For Northern Italy, see Guidanti 1995; Roda 1996. Vera 2006. On the forms of agrarian property in northern Italy in the Ambrosian age, see Porena 2017. Paschoud 2002a, 191 and 227. See above ch. VIII, pp. 192–3. SHA Tac. 10.3: Cornelium Tacitum, scriptorem historiae Augustae, quod parentem suum eundem diceret, in omnibus bibliothecis collocari iussit; ne lectorum incuria deperiret librum per annos singulos decies scribi publicitus in ƚ euicos archis ƚ iussit et in bibliothecis poni. SHA Tac. 7.5–6, 239; 274–5. Tacitus was probably a high-ranking equestrian officer, who reached senatorial rank after a successful military career, since epigraphic data confirms the version of the Byzantine chronographers and of Zonaras in particular: Syme 1971, 246–74; Johne 2008, 384; Migliorati 2013. Otranto 2001, 123, put forward the hypothesis that only one Valentine existed, thinking however that there had been a doubling of the cult by transmigration from the original site. PLRE II, Q. Aurelius Memmius Symmachus iunior 9, 1044–6; on his consulship of 485 cf. CLRE, 504 (he was consul without a colleague).


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136 See Porena 2019, 31–2 on the qualification and role that the senator called prior/caput senatus had in the West. 137 On the Laurentian schism, see Pietri 1966; Wirbelauer 1993; Sardella 1996; Sessa 2016, 435–7. 138 Boethius married Rusticiana, who was the daughter of Aurelius Memmius Symmachus: PLRE II, Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius iunior 5, 233–7. On the final, tragic events of Symmachus’ life, see Schä fer 1991, 108–10; Fauvinet-Ranson 2006, 467–8. His name was inscribed on a seat in the Flavian amphitheater (EDR 149612): Orlandi 2004, 314; 512. 139 The first two books of Symmachus’s Letters were published by his son, Quintus Fabius Memmius Symmachus (born in 382/384), after the death of his father in 402 c: PLRE II, Q. Aurelius Memmius Symmachus iunior 9, 1044–1046; Salzman and Roberts 2011, lxii, n. 234 (following Seeck’s hypothesis). An important biography of the man is Vitiello 2008. 140 Paschoud 2018, 25–32. 141 Boethius dedicated his De Trinitate and the Institutio arithmetica to him: Boeth. Cons. Phil. 1.4.40; 2.4.5; Institutio arithmetica, Praef. 1: cum tu utrarumque peritissimus litterarum possis Graiae orationis expertibus quantum de nobis iudicare audeant sola tantum pronuntatione praescribere. 142 Enn. Ep. 7.25, 258; Paraenesis Didascalica, 19 and 24, 314; 315. 143 Prisc. Gramm. Lat. III, 405, 2–5: Omni te, Symmache, nobilitatis splendore celebratum, […], studiis etiam optimarum artium disciplinarumque florentem […] fama quidem antea nobis absentem venerabilem faciebat. 144 He did it with the help of Macrobius Plotinus Eudoxius, perhaps a nephew of Macrobius himself: Cameron 2011, 238; cf. Enn. Ep. 8.28.2–3, 285. 145 The poem of 699 verses is closed by a Latin phrase: Explicit Parliamentum Auium in die sancti Valentini, tentum secundum Galfridum Chaucer. Deo gratias. The reference to birds is the key to the work: “For this was on seynt Valentynes day,/Whan euery foul cometh there to chese his make/Of euery kynde that men thynke may” (G. Chaucer, The Parlement of Fouyls, ed. Brewer, vv. 309–11). On this poem, see: Kelly 1986; for the presence of St. Valentine in other French and English authors, Torti 2012. 146 PLRE II, Fl. Symmachus 8, 1044. The paternal property was returned to the children (Fl. Symmachus e Fl. Boethius 3) after Theoderic’s death: Proc. Bell. Goth. 1.2.5. 147 Filippi, Palombi 2020, 182–184. 148 On the presence of the client-bishop in the early Christian apse mosaics, see Liverani 2016; Liverani 2019, 291–7. 149 Although the relationship between BHL 5543 and BHL 8460 is unclear, the latter seems chronologically later than the first: Verrando 1991, 107.

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Pagano, Mario. 2012. “Cimitero e chiesa di San Valentino.” In Aurea Umbria. Una regione dell’Impero nell’éra di Costantino. Catalogo, edited by Alessandra Bravi, 263. Viterbo: Beta Gamma Editrice. Palombi, Cinzia. 2009. “Nuovi studi sulla basilica di san Valentino sulla via Flaminia.” Rivista di Archeologia Cristiana 85: 469–540. Paoli, Emore. 2001. “L’agiografia umbra altomedievale.” In Umbria cristiana. Dalla diffusione del culto al culto dei santi (secc. IV–X), vol. 2, 479–529. Spoleto: Centro Italiano di Studi sull’Alto Medioevo. Paoli, Emore. 2012. “La «Passio Sancti Valentini» (BHL 8460).” In San Valentino e il suo culto tra Medioevo ed età contemporanea: uno status quaestionis, edited by Massimiliano Bassetti, and Enrico Menestò, 159–177. Spoleto: Centro Italiano di Studi sull’Alto Medioevo. Paschoud, François, ed. 2002a. Histoire Auguste. Tome V, 1° partie. Vies d’Aurélien et de Tacite. Paris: Les Belles Lettres. Paschoud, François, ed. 2002b. Histoire Auguste. Tome V, 2° partie. Vies de Probus, Firmus, Saturnin, Proculus et Bonose, Carus, Numérien et Carin. Paris: Les Belles Lettres. Paschoud, François, ed. 2003. Zosime. Histoire Nouvelle. Tome I (Livres I et II). Paris. Les Lelles Lettres. Paschoud, François, ed.. 2013. “La Storia Augusta.” In The Strange Death of Pagan Rome. Reflections on a Historiographical Controversy, edited by Rita Lizzi Testa, 189–198. Turnout: Brepols. Pietri, Charles. 1966. “Le Sé nat, le peuple chré tien et les partis du cirque à Rome sous le pape Symmaque (498–514).” Mé langes de l’É cole franç aise de Rome 78: 123–139 (reprinted in Charles Pietri. 1997. Christiana respublica. É lé ments d’une enquê te sur le christianisme antique, 771–87. Roma: É cole franç aise de Rome). Pietri, Charles. 1976. Roma Christiana. Recherches sur l’Eglise de Rome, son organization, sa politique, son idéologie de Miltiade à Sixte III (311–447) (BÉFAR, 224), 2 vols. Roma: É cole Française de Rome. Pirro, Vincenzo, ed. 1997. Interamna Nahartium. Materiali per il Museo archeologico di Terni. Terni: Edizioni Thyrus – Centro Studi Storici. Ponzi, Andrea. 2006. “Scavi nell’area di Piazza Buozzi e presso la basilica di San Valentino.” In Terni - Interamna Nahars. Nascita e sviluppo di una città alla luce delle più recenti ricerche archeologiche, edited by Claudia Angelelli, and Laura Bonomi Ponzi, 257–270. Roma: Ecole Française de Rome. Porena, Pierfrancesco. 2017. “Le dinamiche di formazione della rendita agraria nell’Italia settentrionale del IV secolo e la morale economica di Ambrogio.” In Ambrogio e la questione sociale, edited by Raffaele Passarella, 61–85. Milano: Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Bulzoni Editore. Porena, Pierfrancesco. 2019. “Il prior/caput senatus in Occidente: aspetti del primato dell’aristocrazia di Roma dopo il 476.” Latinitas s.n. 7 (2): 25– 25. Ranucci, Cristina.1997. “Interamna Nahars nella tarda antichità: l’avvento del Cristianesimo.” In Interamna Nahartium. Materiali per il Museo archeologico di Terni, edited by Vincenzo Pirro, 171–202. Terni: Edizioni Thyrus – Centro Studi Storici. Roda, Sergio. 1996. “Cisalpini in Lusitania: grandi famiglie senatorie norditaliche nell’Alto Impero romano.” In Italia sul Baetis. Studi di storia romana in memoria di Fernando Gascò, edited by Emilio Gabba, Paolo Desideri, and Sergio Roda, 32–50. Torino: Paravia/ Scriptorium.

Saint Valentine and the Symmachi 261 Salzman, Michele R. 1990. On Roman Time. The Codex-Calendar of 354 and the Rhythms of Urban Life in Late Antiquity. Berkeley-Los Angeles-Oxford: University of California Press. Salzman, Michele R. 2017. “Emperors and Elites in Rome after the Vandal Sack of 455.” Antiquité Tardive 25: 243–262. Salzman, Michele R., and Michael Roberts, eds. 2011. The Letters of Symmachus: Book 1. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. Santalucia, Bernardo. 19982. Diritto e processo penale nell’antica Roma. Milano: Giuffré Editore. Sardella, Teresa. 1996. Società , chiesa e stato nell’età di Teoderico. Papa Simmaco e lo scisma laurenziano. Soveria Mannelli: Rubbettino. Savino, Eliodoro. 2017. Ricerche sull’Historia Augusta. Napoli: Naus Editoria. Schä fer, Christoph. 1991. Der Weströ mische Senat als Trä ger antiker Kontinuitä t unter den Ostrogotenkö nigen (490-540 n. Chr.). St. Katharinen: Scripta Mercaturae Verlag. Scorza Barcellona, Francesco. 2009. “San Valentino di Roma e/o di Terni tra storia e agiografia.” In Il culto di San Valentino nel Veneto. Atti del Convegno di studi (Monselice, 25 ottobre 2008), edited by Flaviano Rossetto, 13–31. Padova: Il Poligrafo. Segatori, Roberto. 2012. “L’uso sociale di san Valentino: dal profano al sacro e ritorno.” In San Valentino e il suo culto tra Medioevo ed età contemporanea: uno status quaestionis, edited by Massimiliamo Bassetti, and Enrico Menestò, 343–354. Spoleto: Centro Italiano di Studi sull’Alto Medioevo. Sensi, Luigi. 1994. “Forum Flaminii.” In Enciclopedia dell’Arte Antica. Roma: Treccani online. Sessa, Kristina. 2007. “Domestic Conversions: Households and Bishops in the Late Antique ‘Papal Legends’.” In Religion, Dynasty, and Patronage in Early Christian Rome: 300–900, edited by Kate Cooper and Julia Hillner, 79–114. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sessa, Kristina. 2012. The Formation of Papal Authority in Late Antique Italy: Roman Bishops and the Domestic Sphere. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sessa, Kristina. 2016. “The Roman Church and its Bishops.” In A Companion to Ostrogothic Italy, edited by Jonathan J. Arnold, Shane M. Bjornlie, and Kristina Sessa, 425–450. Leiden, Boston: Brill. Severini, Paolo, ed.1983. Scrittori della Storia Augusta. Torino: UTET. Spagnuolo Vigorita, Tullio. 2005. “Konfiskation.” In Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum, vol. 21, 357–416. Stuttgart: Hiersemann. Stern, Henri. 1953. Le Calendrier de 354. Étude sur son texte et ses illustrations. Paris: Librairie Orientaliste Paul Geuthner. Studer, Basil. 1997. “Eusebio e i rapporti con la Chiesa di Roma.” In Eusebio di Vercelli e il suo tempo, edited by Enrico Dal Covolo, Renato Uglione, and Giovanni M. Vian, 181–189. Roma: LAS. Syme, Ronald. 1971. Emperors and Biography. Studies in the Historia Augusta. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Szidat, Joachim. 2003a. “Die Herrschaft der Söhne Konstantins und die Usurpation des comes rei militaris Magnentius. Ein Überblick über die Geschichte der Jahre 337–53.” In Der spätrömische Silberschatz von Kaiseraugst. Die neuen Funde, edited by Martin A. Guggisberg, 203–214. Augst: Römerstadt Augusta Raurica. Szidat, Joachim. 2003b. “Chronologische Übersicht der Jahre 337–353.” In Der spätrömische Silberschatz von Kaiseraugst. Die neuen Funde, edited by Martin A. Guggisberg, 323–332. Augst: Römerstadt Augusta Raurica.


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Torti, Anna. “L’immagine e il culto di san Valentino da Chaucer a Shakespeare.” In San Valentino e il suo culto tra Medioevo ed età contemporanea: uno status quaestionis, edited by Massimiliano Bassetti, and Enrico Menestò, 223–256. Spoleto: Centro Italiano di Studi sull’Alto Medioevo. Vera, Domenico. 1981. Commento storico alle Relationes di Quinto Aurelio Simmaco. Pisa: Giardini Editore Vera, Domenico. 2006. “Conclusioni.” In Le trasformazioni delle élites in età tardoantica, edited by Rita Lizzi Testa, 437–447. Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider. Verrando, Giovanni Nino. 1984. “La Passio Callisti e il santuario della via Aurelia.” MEFRA 96: 1039–1083. Verrando, Giovanni Nino. 1985. “L’attività edilizia di Giulio I e la basilica al III miglio della via Aurelia ad Callistum.” MEFRA 97: 1021–1061. Verrando, Giovanni Nino. 1988. “Il santuario di S. Felice sulla via Portuense.” MEFRA 100: 347–360. Verrando, Giovanni Nino. 1991. “Reciproche influenze tra Roma e il Martirologio e Passionario Umbri.” In L’Umbria meridionale fra tardo-antico e altomedioevo, edited by Gianfranco Binazzi, 99–110. Assisi: Tipolitografia Porziuncola. Vitiello, Massimiliano. 2008. “Last of the Catones. A Profile of Symmachus the Younger.” Antiquité tardive 16: 297–315. Vogel, Frederik, ed. 1885. Magni Felicis Ennodi Opera. Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Auctores Antiquissimi, vol. 7. Berlin: Weidmann. Ward, Allen M. 1967. “Cicero’s Support of Pompey in the Trials of Fonteius and Oppius.” Latomus 27: 802–809. Wienand, Johannes. 2012. Der Kaiser als Sieger. Metamorphosen triumphaler Herrschaft unter Constantin I. Berlin: Akademie Verlag. Wirbelauer, Eckhard. 1993. Zwei Pä pste in Rom. Der Konflikt zwischen Laurentius und Symmachus (498–514). Studien und Texte. Munich: Tudov. Zampolini Faustini, Serena. 1997. “L’area di S. Valentino nel quadro della topografia antica di Terni.” Memoria Storica – Rivista del Centro Studi Storici di Terni 10: 81–88.


Among the various debates that the fictitious characters of the Historia Augusta purport to conduct, the most futile is perhaps the “big dispute” that the amator historiarum Fonteius engages with Vopiscus, the self-proclaimed author of the Vita Firmi. They disagree as to whether the most correct term to define that usurper is latrunculus (diminutive of latro), or tyrannus.1 The discussion is completely idle, because already Cicero had designated Verres’s party as latrones (Verr. II.3.55) and, in the presence of Theodosius I, Pacatus referred to the defeated Magnus Maximus, repeatedly called tyrannus, also as latro or pirata.2 The appellative latro, in the sense of political adversary and enemy of the res publica, was in fact one of the meanings that the term tyrannus could take, since (after Diocletian) the phenomenon of senatorial usurpations increased.3 In this way, the author of the collection mimics some of his colleagues, who used to deal with similar issues in the Senate by displaying their philological or historical-literary culture, without openly saying what everyone agreed on. In the case of the usurpers, in particular, that “the great principes called them thieves, after having defeated them”. Many thieves, however, had been acclaimed emperors by them, the clarissimi viri of the ordo, and some of them came from their own ranks. Indeed, alternative leaders were often chosen from among the senators and elevated to the purple with the support of a large part of the Senate. Unlike what Zosimus believed, it was not the religious faith of the Christian princes that turned the Roman senators against them. No emperor could ignore them to govern the empire. Those nobles knew that very well. Re-launched in the political game thanks to Constantine’s institutional reforms, while the assembly was once again exercising ancient responsibilities and the emperor resided mostly far from Rome, the great nobility of Rome once again dominated political life, and not only in the city. With the mandate of the assembly, thanks to their family and patronage ties and proven diplomatic skills, the aristocrats sitting in the Senate were able to exert their influence on the members of the new imperial ruling elite: the ministers of the Court; the generals of the army. Even if they were not of Roman origin, these officials were terribly sensitive to the values of the superior civilitas embodied by the richest among the cultured and noble senators. And the latter, engaged just as DOI: 10.4324/b22863-10



their ancestors in the century-old debate on relations between the imperial regime and the Senate, could not do without a princeps, but were willing to support him only as long as he was able to guarantee their privileges, which they believed coincided with the safety of the empire. Thus, finding an alternative to the emperor, if he was too young, weak, or at the mercy of unreliable advisers, was considered by them a legitimate exercise of power. The story of Priscus Attalus, according to my interpretation, is exemplary. He was anything but a puppet in Alaric’s hands. During his embassies in Ravenna, this learned senator managed to get himself appointed comes sacrarum largitionum by Honorius and, while pushing the Roman assembly to send its legates to the enemy camp to keep up diplomatic relations with the Visigoth chief against Honorius’s and the Court’s will, he was raised by the emperor himself to the office of city prefect. Attalus was then able to take control of the whole Senate, have the emperor of Ravenna dismissed, and be appointed princeps of Roma Aeterna with the external support of Alaric. On the previous usurpers we have fewer and less varied testimonies than those recalling the sack of Rome. However, the endorsement Magnus Maximus received from men who were not easily inclined to expose themselves, such as Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, and the support of Nicomachus Flavianus Senior for Eugenius-Arbogastes should convince us that those senators did not carelessly designate them, nor were they the only ones in the Senate to do so. In both cases, many more men of the assembly had cooperated in spurring on events. The lack of cohesion of the family groups that from time to time dominated the assembly, a factor endemic to the contentious senatorial aristocracy, was certainly the main reason for the short-lived government of many usurpers. Indeed, during the fifth century, things did not change very much. In the power vacuum left by the death of Honorius, it was again the great nobility that proclaimed Johannes, a senator who was primicerius notariorum, emperor in Rome.4 And if it was a coalition between elements of the nobility and the high military commands that eliminated “Roman-Gallic usurpers” (Avitus) or emperors legitimated by Constantinople (such as Majorian and Anthemius5), we should assume that the same agreements were necessary to bring them to power. Moreover, it would be ungenerous to analyse the new season of political effervescence of the Roman Senate and its nobility in the last two centuries of the empire by considering only their responsibility in arousing or overthrowing usurpers. While various other aspects have been taken into consideration in this work, the involvement of the Senate and Roman aristocrats in the affairs of the church of Rome is only dealt with in the last chapters. In fact, the topic is so vast that it could be the subject of another book. Among these concluding remarks, however, I would like to address at least one aspect, which is of particular interest here: how emperors, the Senate, and senators intervened in the election of the bishop of Rome and what changed over the course of two centuries.

Conclusion 265

The Roman Senate’s functions did not include the choice of the bishop of the city. Until the first decades of the fifth century only the clergy elected the bishop, following a procedure based on disciplina and inspired by the mos.6 The aristocrats of Rome tried to influence the decision but until the end of the fifth century could only do so indirectly. In their pamphlet against Pope Damasus (Quae gesta sunt inter Liberium et Felicem episcopos), the Ursinians accused their adversary of using arenarii (gladiators, or circus staff) and quadrigarii (charioteers), well known for their violent actions. They alluded poisonously to the support that a part of the aristocracy, whose patronage of those groups was known, had given him.7 After the death of Pope Zosimus (417–418), whether the senators sided with one or the other candidate was no longer grounds for potential accusations against the competitors. Such participation now appeared as a matter of fact. It was only necessary to contain it so that the electoral competition would not degenerate into a brawl. The urban prefect Aurelius Anicius Symmachus summoned the people to admonish corporati and maiores regionum, so that they would not disturb the tranquility of the city by interfering in the current election.8 However, as the indecision of the clergy persisted, the supporters of both candidates sought the sustenance of the meliores civitatis and the competition turned into open conflict.9 The corporati and the maiores regionum, elsewhere in these documents also called priores regionum, proceres or primates, must be identified with the curatores regionum, mentioned in the administrative texts as those responsible for public order in the various districts of the urban regions.10 They were young elements of the senatorial aristocracy, which controlled urban spaces not only through the high imperial officials (city prefect, prefect of the annona, praetorian prefect), who usually came from the ordo of clarissimi, but also through the primores regionum, not by chance also called meliores civitatis. They were members of the most prominent noble families, in direct contact with the people through their corporati collegiati. What happened during 418 is paradigmatic also in a second respect. Despite the exhortations of the urban prefect, since the active participation of aristocrats in the electoral competition had exacerbated the clash, the prefect appealed to the emperor to choose among the candidates.11 Already in an earlier period, the various prefects of Rome, confronted with the long schism between Ursinus and Damasus, had turned to Valentinian I to resolve the dispute.12 For a long time, many elections of the bishop of Rome were decided through a subtle party game between the clergy and the faithful among the people, within which the powerful aristocratic clans with their armed retinues stood out. The emperors settled such disputes from afar, relying essentially on what the urban prefects, or other influential elements at Court made known to them. A change occurred in the last twenty years of the fifth century, when Odovacer’s praetorian prefect of Italy, Decius Maximus Basilius,13 decided that a mixed assembly of lay people and clergy, gathered “in the mausoleum near St. Peter’s”,14 would appoint the successor of Pope Simplicius (468–10



March 483).15 Since Basilius addressed the members of that assembly with the collective appellative amplitudini vestrae vel sanctitati, the assembly was thought to include all the clergy and the Roman Senate.16 Probably only a few delegates of the senatorial aristocracy had gathered together with the clerics. However, this is not the point. Basilius belonged to the Decii family. The chosen bishop, Felix III, was a member of the Anicii, since his wife, Petronia, was Anicia.17 The procedure introduced in 483 was probably conceived following the agreement of these two most important families.18 As a result, when the emperor of the West ceased to exist, the rex gentium Odovacer did not take on the burden of expressing a choice (iudicium) among the candidates fighting to become Bishop of Rome, and let his prefect resolve the matter, after consulting the Senate. The Roman assembly intervened in order not to leave the church at the mercy of a schism, and to have a pope whose position towards the East was shared by the Roman aristocrats. It was a time of grave uncertainty. The new emperor at Constantinople, Zenon, who had barely managed to impose himself on the throne, had immediately faced a sequence of revolts and usurpations. Moreover, shortly before the death of Pope Simplicius, Zenon had succeeded in prevailing over his rival Basilisk also thanks to the uprisings stirred up in Constantinople against the latter, who had issued an anti-Chalcedonian edict to obtain support for his regime from Egypt and Palestine. The formula of faith, which the Patriarch of Constantinople Acacius had suggested to Zenon, immediately known as the Henotikòn, or “formula of union”, was therefore addressed to Egypt, in the hope that it would reconcile Chalcedonians and Monophysites, obtaining their common support for his regime.19 It was not even communicated to the dying pope in Rome. In such a complex international situation, the Italian peninsula, without an emperor, was in a position of great fragility. Decii and Anicii, traditionally divided, agreed on the new procedure that Basilius devised to elect Pope Simplicius’s successor, thus protecting both the political autonomy of the peninsula and the doctrinal integrity of the church of Rome. This episode should remove any doubt, if there were any, about the political implications and geographical horizons of the election of the bishop of Rome. Although both the political and the geographical questions had been simmering since end of the fourth century, the absence of an emperor in the pars Occidentis made them manifest. In the following years, the bishops of Rome did not fail to support the diplomatic activity of the senatorial aristocracy under Odovacer and during the reign of Theoderic, with direct (as in the case of Felix III and Gelasius) or indirect (so Pope Symmachus) actions to find legal sanction for the new situation of the peninsula.20 Their importance on the international scene increased after the resolution of the Acacian schism (28 March 518), when they became the indispensable partners of the weak Ostrogothic kings in their relations with the East. The choice of a pope involved interests which, at times, coincided with the maintenance and survival of the Italic kingdom itself.21

Conclusion 267

The Roman aristocrats, who discussed their projects in the Senate and had them approved by it, were aware of this. The number of schisms during the fifth century, the violence and duration of some of them (such as the one between Symmachus and Laurentius), as well as the heightened intensity of those that occurred after Pope Symmachus had restored the tradition of having the pope elected solely by the customary electoral body of presbyters (as was the case after the death of Pope Felix IV and Pope Bonifatius II), can be read in the light of this awareness.22 Theoderic acted in a stabilizing capacity, allowing the procedure of the election of the bishop of Rome to be based on disciplina and inspired by the mos, even when the confessional clash re-emerged as a consequence of Justin’s short-sighted politics.23 Although part of the tradition upheld in the Liber Pontificalis portrayed Theoderic’s intervention in favour of Pope Felix IV as an arbitrary act,24 there is reason to believe that the Ostrogothic king – as had happened earlier during the Laurentian crisis – intervened because a schism had occurred and his iudicium had been requested.25 Surely Theoderic had chosen among the candidates the one who, in his opinion, would be able to maintain fruitful relations with him and his Court, while moderating Byzantine interference. His judgement was certainly incontrovertible. This does not mean, however, that it was an abuse of power, nor that the majority of the Senate had considered it as such. In fact, immediately after Theoderic’s death in 526, Athalaric congratulated the Senate for having accepted Theoderic’s judgment on who should be the bishop of Rome.26 The purpose of the letter was to consolidate good relations with a body, to which the utmost deference was to be shown at a time of serious diplomatic uncertainties: the election of the new bishop would not have been mentioned if it had been the subject of discord. Moreover, it was probably Cassiodorus, in his function as magister officiorum (from 523 to 527),27 who advised Theoderic how to behave, assuring that the king acted in a formally correct way, according to the tradition of imperial interventions. Athalaric, on the other hand, was not able to regulate quickly and with authority the crisis created by the disappearance of Felix IV (526–530) and then of Bonifatius II (530–532). The Senate, therefore, issued its own decree (senatusconsultum) against the electoral corruption of the clergy, before the Ostrogoth king asked his prefect to issue an edict.28 The text of the law, addressed to Pope John II, was sent to the city prefect Salventius so that, engraved on marble panels, it could be displayed in the atrium of the basilica Petri.29 The respect of the prefect Cassiodorus for the deliberative capacity of that body is proven by the fact that the edict punished ecclesiastical suffrage on the basis of canonical bans, the recent senatusconsultum and previous legislation issued against ecclesiastical ambitus.. It was reiterated, among other things, that when the papal election was disputed, the matter had to be brought to the imperial palace.30 Without evading the real problems associated with the election of the Roman bishop, Cassiodorus filled a gap in the previous conciliar and legislative provisions, and made recourse to the king “legal”, as it



once was to the emperor, before the struggle between several candidates for the episcopal throne degenerated. The ability to intervene in new areas, even if with competences formally readable as ancient (the maintenance of public order, the regulation of electoral corruption), is a strong sign of the vitality of the Roman Senate as well as the active presence of its aristocracy on the political scene still in the first decades of the sixth century. The city, however, was now Christian and Christianity had finally become the new civic religion of Rome. The aristocratic senators were therefore not only zealously involved in ecclesiastical affairs. Some of them (like Pope Vigilius) also fought to be elected to the papal throne. In this context, counting saints, preferably bishops and martyrs, among family members who had lived during the reign of the first Christian emperor, or in the decades immediately following, provided a new sign of distinction and nobility – nobility linked to Christian sanctity. Not all senatorial families still active in the sixth-century Senate, however, had sufficient documentation in private libraries to substantiate the Christian sanctity of any of their ancestors. Some, such as the Symmachi – strengthened by family ties and the private libraries of the Nicomachi and Anicii – had it, and used it to write, or have written, Passions as Lives. Because of their references to well-known personalities and hegemonic families in the public life of the fourth century, Lives of Saints such as that of St. Valentine were intended to distinguish themselves from the many apocryphal and blatantly forged texts that had been circulating in Rome since the last decades of the fifth century. The memory of the past, told in a Holy Life or a History of Rome, also fed the power of some great senatorial families.

Notes 1 SHA Firmi 2.2, 182. 2 Pacatus uses commonly tyrannus as an epithet of Magnus Maximus (Pan. Lat. XII (2).23.1 and 3; 24.4; 38.1; 40.3; 41.2; 42.3; 45.1–2; 4), but in 26.3 he defines him as latro, and in 26.4 as pirata. 3 See chapter IX, n. 75. 4 Motta 2020. 5 The end of Majorian was caused by the hostility of Ricimer, which was however shared by a large part of the Italic aristocracy and ecclesiastical hierarchies: Oppedisano 2013, 276–77. Anthemius was not imposed on the Senate, which had indeed urged him to be sent: Oppedisano 2020; Roberto 2020; Zecchini 2020. 6 Coll. Avell.17 (6 vel 7 Ian. 419).2. ll. 19–23: post abscessum sancti Zosimi papae ecclesiae catholicae urbis Romae, ut fieri mos volebat atque ipsa religionis disciplina dictabat, plures in unum convenimus sacerdotes, ut de constituendo successore communi iudicio tractaremus. 7 Coll. Avell. 1.5. ll. 25–26; 1.7. ll.11–12. 8 Coll. Avell. 14 (29 Dec. 418).3. ll.11–19: statim, ut convenerat, populum alloquendo commonui, ut cum quiete clericorum tractatu omnia finirentur nec se rebus disponendis misceret turbatio popularis, siquidem certum esset in eligendo episcopo dei omnipotentis expectantum esse iudicium […] admonui etiam corporatos, officio quoque interminatus sum ac maiores deterrui regionum, ne quis quietem urbis vestrae perturbare temptaret.

Conclusion 269 9 Coll. Avell. 17.3. ll. 4–8: «Bonifatium […] invitum, acclamatione totius populi et consensu meliorum civitatis ascivimus. 10 Chastagnol 1960, 256–62. 11 Coll. Avell. 14.7. ll. 9–13: quoniam pietatis vestrae est de hac parte ferre iudicium, statim pro competenti sollicitudine vestram maiestatem credidi consulendam, ut quid de hac parte pietas vestra decernat, praecepto vestri numinis evidenter informer. 12 According to the Ursinians, Damasus bribed the urban prefect Viventius and the prefect of the annona Iulianus. However, from the letters collected in Coll. Avell. 5–12 it is clear that the city prefects reported to the emperor the developments of the struggle and the emperor variously ordered to exile and recall Ursinus and his followers even after he decided in favour of Damasus (Coll. Avell. 6 to Praetextatus): Lizzi Testa 2004, 129–70. 13 PLRE II, Fl. Caecina Decius Maximus Basilius iunior 12, 217. 14 Acta synhod. a. LII, 445, ll. 1–10: Cum in mausoleo, quod est apud beatum Petrum apostolum […]. This mausoleum was the dynastic tomb that Honorius had had built just outside the end of the southern transept of St. Peter’s Basilica so that he could be buried there with his wife, Mary. Later on, all the members of the Theodosian branch that ruled the West were buried there: Liverani 2013, 31, n. 33. 15 The prefect said that he had written the text (scriptura) with these new indications at the request of the dying pope. That text was read during the synod convened by Pope Symmachus (Acta synhod. a. LII, 444–447), where it was abolished. The synod, placed by Mommsen in 502, actually took place in 501: Wirbelauer 1993, 21–5; Sardella 1996, 27–8. 16 Acta synhod. a. LII, 445, l. 19: Pietri 1981, 454–5. 17 Zecchini 1993, 157; PChBE 2, Felix 28, 777. 18 Zecchini 1981, 127–8. 19 Blaudeau 2012, 159–60. 20 Roberto 2010. On the political role of the Roman Senate as author of new institutional choices, Caliri 2017, 53–9; 113–21. 21 Lizzi Testa 2019. 22 Lizzi Testa in press. 23 Sardella 2019. 24 Liber Pontificalis 56, 279, l. 5; 280, n. 5. 25 Liber Pontificalis 55, 276, l. 8; 279, l. 2. 26 Cass. Var. VIII.15.1: Lizzi Testa 2016a, 36–7; 220–2. 27 On Cassiodorus’s career, Giardina 2006, 22–5. 28 Cass. Var. IX.15.3: Lizzi Testa 2016b, 94–5; 347–8. 29 Cass. Var. IX.16.3 Lizzi Testa 2016c, 96–7; 361–2. 30 Cass. Var. IX.15.6.

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Tantillo, and Fabrizio Oppedisano, 36–37 (trans.); 220–226 (comm.). Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2016b. “Il re Atalarico a papa Giovanni.” In Cassiodoro. Varie. vol. IV (Libri VIII–X), edited by Andrea Giardina, Giovanni A. Cecconi, Ignazio Tantillo, and Fabrizio Oppedisano, 92–97 (trans.); 339–357 (comm.). Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2016c. “Il re Atalarico all’illustre Salvenzio prefetto dell’Urbe.” In Cassiodoro. Varie. vol. IV (Libri VIII–X), edited by Andrea Giardina, Giovanni A. Cecconi, Ignazio Tantillo, and Fabrizio Oppedisano, 96–7 (trans.); 357–362 (comm.). Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider. Lizzi Testa, Rita. 2019. “The Bishop of Rome and the Ostrogothic Kings.” In The Past as Present. Essays on Roman History in Honour of Guido Clemente, edited by Giovanni A. Cecconi, Rita Lizzi Testa, and Arnaldo Marcone, 723–745. Turnhout: Brepols. Lizzi Testa, Rita. In press. “Rome Elects her Bishop: The Collectio Avellana and Cassiodorus’ Variae Compared.” In Religion, Power, and Politics in Late Antiquity: Bishops, Emperors, and Senators in the Collectio Avellana 367–553 AD, edited by Alexander Evers, Bernard Stolte. Motta, Daniela. 2020. “L’usurpazione di Giovanni: la ricerca della legittimazione, la vittoria sul tyrannus.” Occidente/Oriente I: 221–243. Oppedisano, Fabrizio. 2013. L’Impero d’Occidente negli anni di Maioriano. Roma: l’Erma di Bretschneider. Oppedisano, Fabrizio. 2020. “Sidonio, Antemio e il senato di Roma.” In Procopio Antemio Imperatore di Roma, edited by Fabrizio Oppedisano, 97–119. Bari: Edipuglia. Paschoud, François, ed. 2002. Histoire Auguste. Tome V, 2° partie. Vies de Probus, Firmus, Saturnin, Proculus et Bonose, Carus, Numérien et Carin. Paris: Les Belles Lettres. Pietri, Charles. 1981. “Aristocratie et société cléricale dans l’Italie chrétienne au temps d’Odoacre et de Théodoric.” MÉFRA 93: 417–467 (reprinted in Pietri, Charles. 1997. Christiana Respublica. Éléments d’une enquête sur le christianisme antique (CÉFR, 234), vol. 2, 1007–1057. Roma: École Française de Rome. Roberto, Umberto. 2010. “Unità e divisioni dell’impero (dalla morte di Valentiniano III all’età di Giustino I, 455-527).” In Storia d’Europa e del mediterraneo, edited by Alessandro Barbero, III, 199–238. Roma: Salerno Editrice. Roberto, Umberto. 2020. “La corte di Antemio e i rapporti con l’Oriente.” In Procopio Antemio Imperatore di Roma, edited by Fabrizio Oppedisano, 141–176. Bari: Edipuglia. Sardella, Teresa. 1996. Società Chiesa e Stato nell’età di Teoderico. Papa Simmaco e lo scisma laurenziano. Soveria Mannelli: Rubbettino. Sardella, Teresa. 2019. “Gli spazi dell’eresia in Italia ai tempi di Teoderico.” Studi e materiali di Storia delle Religioni 85 (1): 177–188. Wirbelauer, Eckhard. 1993. Zwei Päpste in Rom. Der Konflikt zwischen Laurentius und Symmachus (498–514). Studien und Texte. München: Tudov-Verl.-Ges. Zecchini, Giuseppe. 1981. “La politica degli Anicii nel V secolo.” In Atti del Congresso Internazionale di Studi Boeziani (Pavia, 5–8 ott. 1980), edited by Luca Orbetello, 123–138. Roma: Herder Zecchini, Giuseppe. 1993. Ricerche di storiografia latina tardoantica. Roma: L’Erma di Bretschneider. Zecchini, Giuseppe. 2020. “Conclusioni.” In Procopio Antemio Imperatore di Roma, edited by Fabrizio Oppedisano, 257–260. Bari: Edipuglia.


This is a list of Roman emperors, their officials with the main honores and chronological references, some women (wives, daughters, or Augustae), rhetors and poets, characters of the Historia Augusta and the Passiones, as they are mentioned in the volume. Persons are entered under their last name, according to the PLRE (I-III). Few places are registered, the most important in the narrative.

Ablabius (PPO 329–337, cos. 331) 103, 170 Abundius 231, 242 Acacius (Patriarch of Constantinople) 266 Septimius Acindynus (PPO Or. 338–40, cos. 340) 39, 42, 46 Actium 124 Adrianople/Adrianopolis (catastrophe of) 97, 110, 136 Aelianus 134 Aeneas 4, 12, 40 Africa xv, 2, 4, 7, 11, 30, 34–35, 37, 46, 58, 71, 94, 96, 129, 136, 144–145, 183, 192, 196, 198, 202–203, 208, 212, 214–215, 238, 251 Agamemnon 4, 12 Aginatius (vicarius Romae 368–370) 91–92, 109 Alaric xii, 180–189, 191–194, 196–197, 200–201, 203–213, 216, 264 Ceionius Rufius Albinus (cos. 335, PVR 335–7) xiv, xviii, 2, 11–12, 27, 56, 136, 236 Publilius Caeionius Caecina Albinus (consularis Numidiae 364/67) 109 Alcides 40 Alexander Severus (Roman Emperor 222–235) 82, 100, 103, 144 Alexandria 55, 72, 103 Amantius and Campensis (haruspices) 89, 91 Ambrose (consularis Aemiliae et Liguriae 374,

Bishop of Milan) xxi, 7, 13, 44, 54, 85, 96, 102, 108–110, 142–143, 146–163, 165–167, 171–172, 174, 197–199, 202, 208, 214–215, 217, 238, 240 Ammianus Marcellinus xi–xii, xxi, 21–29, 62, 64–68, 72, 74, 80–81, 83, 85–86, 88–97, 99–102, 104–105, 107, 109–110, 118–132, 135–136, 158–201, 250 Publius Ampelius (PVR 371–2, probably father of Priscus Attalus) 189, 190, 197, 211 Anastasia (sister of Constantine I, wife of Bassianus) 7 Ancyra (Council of) 104 Anicetus (PPO of Magnentius, 350) 121, 133 Anici/Anicia gens/Anici Probi xii, 7, 96, 109, 129, 130–131, 205, 213–214, 241, 266, 268 C. Annius Anullinus (cos. 295, PVR 306–307, PVR II 312) 2, 11–12 Anthemius (Augustus 467–472) 264, 268 Antioch 55, 72, 86, 89, 100, 107, 118, 126–127, 129, 131, 189, 217 Flavius Claudius Antonius (PPO Italiae 377–378, cos. 382) 35, 45, 58, 67 Gaius Sollius Apollinaris Sidonius (PVR 468, Bishop of Clermont) 4, 84 Apollodorus (proconsul Africae 399–400) 163, 174



Apollonius, Proculus and Efibus (Craton’s students in the Passio sancti Valentini) 231, 238, 242 L. Turcius Apronianus signo Asterius (PVR 362–364) 89, 104, 106 Aprunculus Gallus (haruspex) 83 Aquileia 107, 110, 135, 154, 197–199, 214–215, 227, 236 Arbogastes (Mag. Mil. 388–394) 142, 165, 183, 264 Arcadius (Augustus 383–408) 150, 182, 184, 193, 203–207 Arelate (Arles) 182 Aristophanes 135 Armorica 182 Arno River 102 Arnobius 103 Asia 82, 89, 189, 211, 251 Lucius Turcius Apronianus signo Asterius (PVR 362–363) 89, 104, 106 Asterius (official in the Passio of Maris and Martha) 228 Athalaric (King of the Ostrogoths 526–34) 99, 249, 267 Athanasius 239, 252 Athaulf (king of the Visigoths 410–415) 185–186, 189, 194, 209–210, 212 Athens 40, 122, 126, 190 Priscus Attalus (Augustus 409–10; 414–15) xii, 53, 165, 180, 185–186, 188–190, 207, 210–211, 213, 264 Audifax and Habakkuk (in the Passio of Maris and Martha) 228 Augustinus/Augustine xvi, 47, 196, 199, 200, 202, 208, 210, 214, 216–217, 250 Augustus (Roman Emperor 27 BC–14 AC) xiii, 5, 13, 52, 84, 86, 91, 101, 123–125, 128, 134, 168–169, 195, 201 Aulus Cremutius Cordus 124 Aurelianus (Roman Emperor 270–275) 212–213, 249 Aurelius Nerius Symmach(i)us (vir perfectissinus 312/337) 33, 44 Aurelius Victor 2, 3, 5, 23–25, 28, 57, 125, 128, 130, 243 Decimius Magnus Ausonius 35, 37, 40, 42, 45, 47, 58, 63–66, 68, 71, 73 Iulius Ausonius (PPO Illyrici 377, Ausonius’ father) 55, 58 Auxentius (Bishop of Milan 355–374) 72 Mercurinus Auxentius (Bishop of Durostorum, Ambrose’s Arian opponent) 199

Av(ianius?) Maximilianus (praefectus vigilibus in the early IV c.) 47 Avianius Valentinus (v.c., consularis Campaniae 364/375) 108, 234, 239, 241, 250 Avianius Vindicianus (v.c., consularis Campaniae 365/367) 108 Avienus (v.c., c. 370) 91–92, 109 Eparchius Avitus (Augustus 455–456) 236, 264 Basil (Bishop of Cesarea) 215 Basilius (PVR 395) 185, 208 Basilisk 266 Bassianus (brother-in-law of Costantine I. 7, 13 Iunius Bassus (PPO 318–331, cos. 331) 7 Tarracius Bassus (Camenius’ brother, PVR after 374) 92, 109 Anicius Auchenius Bassus (PVR Romae 382–383) xv, 96, 109, 171 Valerius Adelphius Bassus (v.c., consularis Venetiae et Histriae 383/392) xiv Bathanarius 192 Bauli/Bacoli xi, 35, 38, 40, 42, 47 Belisarius 111, 216 Benivolus (Bishop of Brescia) 72 Boethius 246–247, 254 Bonifacius and Eulalius (Bishops of Rome in conflict) 241 Bonifatius II (Bishop of Rome 530–532) 267 Bonosus (with Firmus, Saturninus and Proculus, usurpers in the Historia Augusta) 212 Britain /Britannia 3, 129, 136, 182, 236 Brutus 124, 134 Caesarius (PVC 365) 145, 166 Claudius Hermogenianus Caesarius (PVR 374, probably related with Q. Clodius Hermogenianus Olybrius) 58, 104 Aco Catullinus signo Philomathius (PPO 341, PVR 342–344, cos. 349) 13 Caecilian the bishop of Carthage 2, 169 Callimachus 47 Callixtus (Bishop of Rome 217/218–222) 228–229, 235 Camenius (v.c., c. 370, Tarracius Bassus’ brother) 92, 109 Campania xi, 35, 40, 46, 246, 250, 252 Cannae 97 Cantianilla, Cantianus, and Cantius (martyrs of Aquileia) 198 Canusium (Puglia) 92

Index 273 Capri 84 Capua 196 Carinus (Roman Emperor 283–285) 212, 250 Carpi 99 Carthage 143, 145, 163, 202 Carus (Roman Emperor 282–283) 57, 212, 250 Cassiodorus xiii, xxii, 72, 84, 101, 267, 269 Cassius Severus 123–124, 134 Cato 83 Ceionii/Ceionii Iuliani 4, 63, 96, 109, 129, 165 Aurelius Celsinus (PVR 341, 351) 122, 133 Clodius Celsinus signo Adelphius (PVR 351) 122, 133 Naeratius Cerealis (PVR 352–3, cos. 358) 69, 121, 133 Cerimon (Craton’s son in the Passio sancti Valentini) 231–232 Cethegus (v.c., c. 370) 91, 109 Chalcis 190, 211 Chariobaudes (MVM per Gallias 408) 208 Chilo (proconsul Africae 375) 89, 120, 132 Chrysaorius (Porphyry’s student) 44 Chrysopolis (battle of, 324) 170 Cicero 40, 232, 263 Claudius (Roman Emperor 41–54) 82, 124, 134, 161 Claudius II Gothicus (Roman Emperor 268–270) 227–229, 232, 249 Claudius Tacitus (Roman Emperor 275–6) 192, 212, 245, 246, 253 Commodus (Roman Emperor 180–192) 3 Fl. Iul. Constans (Augustus 337–350) 87, 104, 107, 132–133, 191–192, 238 Constantia (probably a third sister of Constantius II) 47, 102, 122 Constantina (sister of Constantius II) 47 Constantine I (Caesar and Augustus 306–337) x, xiv–xvii, 1–2, 4–13, 21–30, 33, 44, 52–53, 57, 59, 65, 67–68, 70, 74, 86–88, 92–93, 103, 107, 121–122, 152, 160, 166, 168–170, 180, 182, 184–185, 189, 204–205, 213, 217, 226, 229, 232, 235–236, 241, 249, 252, 263 Constantine II (Augustus 337–340) 26, 236, 238–239 Constantine III (Augustus 407–411) 184 Constantinople 1, 8, 11, 13, 53, 55, 57, 71, 88–89, 97, 110, 126–127, 135, 173, 184, 189, 191, 194, 203–204, 206, 212, 264, 266

Constantius II (Augustus 337–361) 2, 6, 8, 21, 23, 25–26, 28, 47, 57–58, 65, 67, 72, 74, 86–88, 92, 102–104, 107, 121–122, 125–126, 133, 145, 148, 152, 161–162, 195, 198–199, 239, 241, 252–253 Iulius Constantius (cos. 335, half-brother of Constantine I. 121 Cornelii Scipiones 109 Cornelius (v.c., c. 370) 91–92 Cornelius Tacitus (historian) 119–120, 123–124, 132, 134, 245 Craton (a teacher of Greek and Latin in the Passio sancti Valentini) 231–232, 240, 247 Cresconius 198, 215 Crete 124 Fl. Iulius Crispus (Caesar 317–326) 13, 87 Curtius (PPO Italiae et Africae 407–8) 146, 174, 202 Maternus Cynegius (PPO Or. 384–8, cos. 388) 111 Cyprian 103 Dacia 99, 206 Manlia Daedalia 217 Dagalaifus (Mag. Ped. 364–6, cos. 366) 58 Dalmatia 185–186, 209 Damasus (Bishop of Rome, 366–384) 29, 62, 69, 93–94, 107–108, 121, 155–157, 172, 190, 199, 228, 234–235, 239–240, 248, 251, 265–269 Danube xxii, 182, 209 Fl. Caecina Decius Maximus Basilius iunior (cos. 480, PPO Italiae 483) 265–266, 269 Demetrias Anicia xvi Didius Iulianus (Roman Emperor 193) 253 Diocletian (Roman Emperor 285–305) 2, 5, 11, 29, 59, 99, 104, 251, 263 Furius Dionysius Philocalus (Roman calligrapher and stone engraver, second half of IV c.) 234, 239, 248, 250 Domitian (Roman Emperor 81–96) 124 L. Domitius Alexander (Augustus in Africa, 308–310) 5 Domitius Modestus (PPO Or. 369–377, cos. 372) 89, 171 Doryphorianus (vicarius Urbis Romae 375/6) 80, 96, 99 Dracilianus (agens vicem PPO Or. 326) 170 Latinius Pacatus Drepanius (CRP 393, rhetor) xi, 136 Druma (a Gothic general) 191, 212 Egypt 82, 131, 190, 193, 266 Eleusis 89 Elias 44



Emona (Ljubljana) 80, 96, 182 Ennodius 148, 246 Epirus 182 Flavius Equitius (Mag. Mil. 365–375, cos. 374) 58 Etruria 101 Eucherius (Stilicho and Serena’s son, tribunus et notarius 396–408) 182, 184, 205, 208 Macrobius Plotinus Eudoxius (editor of Macrobius) 254 Eugenes (quaestor palatii 506, Mag. Off. 507) 84 Fl. Eugenius (Augustus 392–4) 45, 99, 142, 147, 158, 162, 165, 167, 174, 183, 196–198, 204, 212, 214, 218, 264 Eumenius (rhetor) xi Eumenius (senator c. 370) 92 Eunapius of Sardis 24–25, 89, 131, 143, 189 Flavius Eupraxius/Euphrasius (PVR 374) 64–67, 73–74, 91, 105 Eusafius (v.c. c. 370) 92 Eusebius of Caesarea 9, 12, 82, 103, 182 Eusebius (PPO Italiae 395–6) 198, 211, 215 Eusebius (Bishop of Vercelli) 240 Iulia Eustochium (daughter of Paula) 152 Eutropia (sister of Constantine I, mother of Iulius Nepotianus) 121, 132, 241, 252 Eutropius (historian) 24–25, 28, 59, 206, 213, 243 Exilaratus (bizantine duke) 230 Fabius Sossianus (interlocutor of Vopiscus and Fonteius in the Historia Augusta) 193, 236, 151 Fabius Titianus (cos. 337, PVR 339–41) 13, 47, 107, 122, 133, 238, 252 Faesulae (Fiesole, near Florence) 182, 205 Fl. Felix (cos. 511) 84 Felix (Antipope 355–65) 69, 239 Felix III (Bishop of Rome 483–492) 266, 269 Felix IV (Bishop of Rome 526–530) 267, 269 Festus (historian, proconsul Asiae 372–8) 89, 150 Postumius Rufius Festus signo Avienius (v. c., proconsul Africae and poet) 4 Firmus (usurper in the Historia Augusta) 193, 212, 236 Aelia Flavia Flaccilla (Augusta 379–386, first wife of Theodosius I. 205 Virius Nicomachus Flavianus (PVR 390–2, 393–4, cos. 394) xiv–xv, 13, 34, 43, 45,

47, 59, 70, 92, 99, 105, 108, 128, 136, 193, 199, 207, 212, 214, 264 Nicomachus Flavianus the Younger (PPO Italiae 431–2) 34, 45, 208 Florentinus (PVR 395–7, brother of Protadius and Minervius) 69, 92–93, 106 Lucius Annius Florianus (Roman Emperor, 275) 245 Foligno 243 Marcus Fonteius (interlocutor of Vopiscus in the Historia Augusta) 193, 213, 232, 236, 247, 263 Marcus Fonteius (governor of Gallia Narbonensis 76–74 BC) 232 Fonteius (tribunicius in the Passio sancti Valentini) 231–2 Frigidus 34, 47, 92, 165, 183, 206 Frilitus 230 Frontinus (consiliarius proconsulis Africae 366–8) 92 Galba (Roman Emperor, 69) 232 Galla (wife of Iulius Constantius, sister of Vulcavius Rufinus and Neratius Cerealis) 69, 121 Galla (daughter of Valentinian I and Iustina) 205 Aelia Galla Placidia (daughter of Galla and Theodosius I, wife of Athaulf and of Fl. Constantius) 189, 192, 205, 208, 210 Gallienus (Roman Emperor 253–68) 2–4, 12, 82–83, 100, 249 Gaius Vibius Afinius Trebonianus Gallus (Roman Emperor, 251–3) 243 Gallus (Caesar, 351–4) 121, 252 Gaul /Gallia 54, 58, 60, 62, 80, 93, 99, 121, 131–132, 133, 142, 158, 163, 182, 184–185, 208, 232, 236, 238, 241–242, 250 Gelasius (Bishop of Rome 492–6) 216, 266 Aulus Gellius 47 Generidus (comes Illyrici 409) 186, 209 Geryon 40 Gildo (MVM 386–98) 54, 69, 182–183, 190, 211, 217 Gortyna (Praetorium of) 30, 71, 109 Grado 198 Fl. Gratianus (Augustus 367–383) xi–xii, 8, 63–65, 73, 84, 96–98, 99, 110, 118, 129–131, 136, 142–143, 145–148, 150–156, 158, 160, 165–169, 173, 195, 202, 206, 208, 216 Greece 84, 89, 93, 190, 206 Gregory of Nazianzus 85

Index 275 Hadrian (Roman Emperor 117–38) 192, 232 Helena (Crispus’wife) 87 Heliocrates (CRP/CSL 408–9) 185, 209 Heraclianus (comes Africae 408–13) 191–192, 212 Hercules 42, 47, 93, 122 Herodotus 119, 122–123, 126, 132, 135 Hesperia 30 Decimius Hilarianus Hesperius (PPO Ital. et Gall. 378–9) 35, 45, 58 Sossianus Hierocles (praefectus Aegypti 307) 251 Hilary of Poitiers 62, 72 Himerius (rhetor) 190, 211 Honorius (Augustus 395–408) xii, 54, 143–146, 163, 180–193, 195, 200–205, 208–217, 241, 253, 264, 269 Honorius (Bishop of Rome 625–38) 228, 248 Horace 124 Hortensius 40 Hosius (Bishop of Cordoba) 9, 14 Iulius Festus Hymetius (proconsul Africae 366–8) 89, 92, 105, 109, 190 Fl. Hypatius (cos. 359, PPO Italiae 382–3) 152 Illyricum 30, 58, 71, 94, 96, 99, 133, 136, 144–145, 205 Innocentius (Bishop of Rome 401–417) 186–187, 200, 209, 216 Interamna Nahars (Terni) xii, xvi, 226–7, 229–232, 238–239, 242–246, 248–249 Iohannes (Mag. Off. 409, PPO Italiae 412–13) 185, 194, 197–198, 208, 213, 215–216 Ioannes, Laurentius, and Niceforus (spectabiles viri of a silver reliquary) 198 Fl. Iovinus (Augustus 363–4) 58 Iulius Caesar 6, 84, 124 Ischia 84 Italy xii–xiii, xvi, 4–5, 7, 10, 12, 30, 46, 58, 70–71, 94, 96, 99, 106–108, 111, 122, 135–136, 143–145, 152, 157, 161, 166, 182, 184–186, 190–192, 195, 199, 201, 206–209, 215, 231–232, 236, 238, 241, 243, 253, 265 Amnius Anicius Iulianus (cos. 322, PVR 326–329) 41 M. Ceionius Iulianus signo Camenius (PVR 333) 236 Iulianus (praefectus annonae 366) 269

Ceionius Iulianus (interlocutor of Vopiscus, with Rufius Celsus and Fabius Sossianus, in the Historia Augusta) 193, 236, 251 Iulianus (primicerius notarium, member of Honorius’embassy to Attalus with Iovius, Valens and Potamius) 212 Jerome/Hieronymus 4, 108–110, 129, 131, 152, 184, 227 John II (Bishop of Rome 533–5) 267 Jordanes 206, 233, 246 Jovian (Augustus 363–4) 88, 90, 104 Julian/Iulianus (Augustus 361–3)) x, 2, 5, 21–26, 28–29, 63, 65, 72, 83, 85–89, 92–93, 95, 97, 101, 104, 107, 122, 125, 131, 144, 146, 152, 162, 174, 202, 213 Julian of Eclanum 250 Julius Caesar 84 Julius I (Bishop of Rome 337–52) 172, 228, 232, 234–235, 240, 242, 251–252 Junius Valentinus (consularis Campaniae 325–6) 235–236, 238–242, 247 Jupiter 10, 84, 94, 101, 159 Justin (Augustus 518–27) 267 Justina (mother of Valentinian II) 128 Justinian (Roman Emperor 527–65) 111, 145 Justinian Code 14, 145 Juvenal 131 Labienus (historian) 123–124, 134 Lactantius 5, 103, 165, 236 Laeta (second wife of Gratian) 208 Postumius Lampadius (PVR 403/408, PPO 409) 194, 196, 199, 207, 213–214 Latinus (saint) 198 Latium 36, 46 Laurentius (bishop in conflict with Symmachus) 246, 267 Leo (Mag. Off. 371c. –75/76) 80, 95–96, 100, 110 Leo III (Byzantine Emperor 727–40) 230 Leontius (consularis in the Passio sancti Valentini) 231–232, 238, 250 Fl. Domitius Leontius (PPO Or. 340–44, cos. 344) 238, 252 Fl. Domitius Leontius (PVR 355–6) 238–9, 250, 252 Libanius 53, 97, 103, 127, 145 Liberius (Bishop of Rome 352–66) 47, 235, 239, 240, 248, 252 Libya 82, 215 Licinius (Roman Emperor 313–24) 13, 249 Limenius (PPO Galliarum 408) 208



Livy 97, 124, 134, 149 Lollianus (v.c. c. 370, Volusianus Lampadius’s son) 91, 109 Q. Flavius Maesius Egnatius Lollianus signo Mavortius (PVR 342, cos. 355, PPO 355–6) 13 Fl. Macrobius Longinianus (PPO Italiae 408) 204, 208 Lucceia 61–62 Lucillus (Symmachi’s painter) 43, 47 Lucrine Lake 35 Lugdunum (Lyon) 182 Macedonia 206 Macedonius (Mag. Off. 383) 158, 173 Fl. Magnus Magnentius (Augustus 350–3) 104, 121–122, 132–133, 241, 252 Majorian (Augustus 457–61) 163, 264, 268 Claudius Mamertinus (v.c. cos. 362, PPO Italiae Illyrici et Africae 364–5) xi, 5, 13, 25, 58, 107, 144, 166, 172 Marcellina (Ambrose’s sister) 171 Antonius Marcellinus (PPO Italiae 340–341, cos. 341) 13, 30 Marcianus (v.c. 368/ 370) 92 Marcianus (PVR 409 appointed by Attalus) 186, 194, 196–197, 199, 213–214 Maria (Stilicho and Serena’s daughter) 182, 205 Martyrologium Hieronymianum 227–228, 241, 247–248 Maris and Martha (Passio of) 227–228, 247 Firmicus Maternus (author on astrology) 87 M. Aur. Val. Maxentius (Augustus 306–12) 2, 4–6, 8, 9, 12, 213 Maxima (wife of Chilo) 89, 120 Maximian (Augustus 286–305) 182, 249 Tarrutenius Maximianus (senatorial envoy to Honorius) 186, 196, 209 Maximilla (virgo ancilla Dei) 61 Maximinus (praef. annonae 368/70, PPO Galliarum 371–6) 59, 66–67, 80, 83, 89–91, 95–97, 99, 102, 110, 120–121, 129–130, 132, 136, 201 Maximus (PVR 361, nephew of Vulcacius Rufinus, Naeratius Cerealis and Galla) 121, 133 Magnus Maximus (Augustus 383–88) 34, 98, 102, 110, 128, 135–136, 157, 174, 196, 214, 217, 263–265, 268 Megara 190 Melania Iunior 208 Merobaudes Fl 58

Milan xv, 27, 41, 34, 62, 72, 110, 135, 142, 147–148, 155, 166, 170, 180–181, 196–197, 207, 227, 239–240 Miletus 120, 122, 126, 132 Milvian Bridge 1–2, 8 Minervius (CSL 399, brother of Florentinus and Protadius) 66–67, 72, 92, 95, 106, 130 Mithras 93 Mogontiacum (Mainz) 182 Moses 101 Naemorius (Mag. Off. 408) 208 Naissus (Niš) 21, 23, 29, 88, 107, 166 Rutilius Namatianus (poet) 4, 201 Naples 111, 235 Narbonne 83, 210 Narnia 186, 200–201, 216 Narses 99, 111 Iulius Naucellius (senator and writer) 42–43, 47 Nazarius (rhetor) xi, 5 Iulius Nepotianus (Augustus 350) 120–121, 132–133, 241–252 Nerva (Roman Emperor 96–8) 135 Nervinia Heuresia 230 Nevatianus (saint) 241 Flavius Nevitta (Mag. Equ. 361–3, cos. 362) 25–26, 29 Nicaea (council) 100, 157 Nile River 54, 146 Numa 95, 108, 149 M. Aurelius Numerius Numerianus (Augustus 283–4) 192, 212, 232, 250 Gaia Nummia Ceionia (sacerdos publica) 4 Nunita 61 Odenathus 4 Odovacer (ruler of Italy 476–93) 265–266 Olybrius (consularis Tusciae 370) 96, 10 Q. Clodius Hermogenianus Olybrius (PVR 369–70, PPO Or. 378, cos. 379) xiv, 58, 66, 80, 96, 109, 120–121, 132 Olympiodorus of Thebes 183, 188–189, 191, 193, 200–201, 206–207, 210 Olympius (Mag. Off. 408–9; 409–10) 184–186, 190, 207, 209 Orosius 100, 155, 194–195, 210, 213, 216 Memmius Vitrasius Orfitus signo Honorius (PVR 353–5, 357–9) 37, 39, 40, 42, 47, 54, 85, 102, 121, 133 Orpheus 101 Ostia 29, 46, 103, 185, 213, 241, 252–253 Padua 174

Index 277 Palestine 72, 266 Palladius (Bishop of Ratiaria) 199 Palladius (PPO Italiae 416–21, cos. 416) 185, 208 Paphius (v.c., c. 370) 91–92, 109 Paris 21, 23, 125 Patroinus (CSL 401–408) 208 Paul the Deacon 195 Paula (friend of Jerome) 12 Fabia Aconia Paulina (daughter of Aco Catullinus, wife of Vettius Agorius Praetextatus) 150 Meropius Pontius Paulinus (governor of Campania 381) 40, 240, 252, 252 Paulinus of Milan (Ambrose’s biographer) 109, 148, 163, 197–198, 215 St. Peter (Basilica in Rome) 106, 269 Petronia (wife of Felix III) 266 Petrus Valvomeres 239 Pharsalus 84 Phidias 99 Philippi 124 Philostorgius (historian) 189, 194, 210 Photinus 133, 252 Asinius Pollio (historian) 124, 134 Trebellius Pollio (author of Triginta Tyranni in the Historia Augusta) 236 Gabinius Barbarus Pompeianus (PVR 408–9) 186, 200, 208–209, 216 L. Aradius Valerius Proculus signo Populonius, (Aradius Rufinus’s son, PVR 337–338, 351–2, cos 340) 2, 4, 11, 26, 41, 122, 133 Q. Aradius Rufinus Valerius Proculus signo Populonius (Aradius Rufinus’s son, v.c., praeses Byzacenae 321) 11, 26 Phrynichus (Athenian tragedian) 119–120, 122–123, 126–127, 130, 132–133, 135 Valerius Pinianus (v.c., husband of Melania the younger) 208 Pisa 186 Pistoia 86–86, 90, 95, 97 Maecius Memmius Furius Baburius Caecilianus Placidus (PPO Italiae 342–4, cos. 343, PVR 346–7) 69, 231–232, 238–239, 250, 252 Furiosus Placidus (urban prefect in the Passio sancti Valentini) 232, 238–9, 240, 242 Plato 101 Pliny the Elder 42, 47, 101 Pliny the Younger 13, 124

Pollentia 181 Pompey (curia and theater) 159, 241 Porphyry 22, 44–45 Porsenna 216 Praetextata (wife of Hymetius, perhaps a sister of Vettius Agorius Praetextatus) 109 Vettius Agorius Praetextatus (PVR 367–8, PPO 384) xi, 13, 35, 37, 45, 58–60, 63, 65–67, 70–71, 92–95, 97, 99, 101, 106–109, 159, 199 Preneste 46 Priscianus (Latin grammarian, author of the Institutiones) 135 Proba (poetess, wife of Clodius Celsinus Adelphius) 122 Petronius Probianus (cos. 322, PVR 329–31) 41 Petronius Probinus (cos. 341, PVR 345–6) xiv Probus (Roman Emperor 276–82) 212 Sextus Claudius Petronius Probus (PPO IV, cos. 371) xiv, 13, 35, 37, 45, 58–59, 73, 96, 109–110, 121, 165 Probus’ ivory diptych 205, 214 Procopius (historian) xi, 99, 111, 180, 191 Protadius (brother of Florentinus and Minervius, PVR 400/01) 45, 92, 106 Prudentius (Christian poet) 44, 106, 163 Aelia Pulcheria (Augusta 414–53, sister of Theodosius II) 192, 205, 207 Pythagoras 101 Quintillian 39 Quirinus (saint) 72, 198 Radagaisus (Gothic invader of Italy 405–6) 182, 204–205 Ravenna xii, xv, 180, 182, 184–188, 190–192, 194, 196, 201–204, 212, 214, 217 Remigius (Mag. Off. 367–c. 372) 80, 100, 110 Fl. Ricimer (MVM 456–72) 210, 268 Rome xi–xvii, 1–2, 4–5, 7, 8, 10, 12–13, 27, 33–34, 36, 40, 43–44, 46–47, 52, 55, 57–62, 65–66, 68–71, 80–82, 85, 89–91, 93–94, 96–100, 102–104, 106–110 Aradius Rufinus (PVR 304, 312, 312–313, cos. 311) 2, 4, 11, 26, 41 Vulcacius Rufinus (cos. 347, PPO Italiae 365–8, brother of Naeratius Cerealis and Galla) 13, 58, 69, 121, 133 Fl. Rufinus (PPO Or 392–5, cos. 392.) 206 Rufinus (historian) 99, 131



Rusticiana (daughter of Memmius Vitrasius Orfitus, wife of Q. Aurelius Symmachus) 102, 254 Sabinus (Bishop of Piacenza) 240 Sallustius (PVR 387) 69 Salventius (PVR 533) 267 Salvius (quaestor palatii 408) 208 Sardinia 54, 99 C. Caelius Saturninus signo Dogmatius (v.c., PPO 334–335) 7 Sarus (Gothic chieftain 406–12) 212 Ambrosius Uranius Satyrus (probably Ambrose’s father) 238 Uranius Satyrus (Ambrose’s brother) 7, 96, 109 Sciscia 198 Scythopolis 62, 72 L. Turcius Secundus signo Asterius (v.c., corrector Flaminiae et Piceni 340/350) 252 Seneca 101 Senecio (brother of Bassianus) 7, 13 Serena (wife of Stlicho) 182, 205, 208, 211 Septimius Severus (Roman Emperor 193–211) 82, 100, 103–104, 242, 253 Severus Alexander (Roman Emperor 222–35) 82, 100, 144 Severus (Mag. Ped. 367–72) 58 Sigesarius (Arian Gothic bishop) 198, 203 Flavius Simplicius (vicarius urbis Romae 374–5) 80, 96, 99 Simplicius (Bishop of Rome 468–83) 266 Sirmium xv, 23, 62, 109, 125, 133, 252 Socrates (historian) 131 Sopianae (Pécs) 80 Sozomen 9, 186–187, 189–191, 198–201, 210–216 Spain 54, 106, 163, 236 Sparta 190 Flavius Stilicho (Mag. Mil. 394–408, cos. 400, 405) 54, 69, 82, 180–186, 189–192, 198, 201–209, 211, 215, 217 Suetonius 124 Flavius Syagrius (PPO Italiae 380–2, cos. 381) 45 Symmachi xvi, 7, 33, 44–45, 47, 61, 96, 167, 226, 232, 234, 236, 238–239, 241–242, 246–247, 250–251 Aurelius Valerius Tullianus Symmachus (cos. 330) 33, 44 Avianius Symmachus (L. Aurelius Avianius Symmachus signo Posphorius, PVR 364–5) xv, 2, 4, 11, 26–27, 34–37, 40–44, 46–47, 54, 58–59, 60, 62–63,

69–72, 88, 92–94, 97, 104, 107–110, 120, 122, 226, 234, 236, 238, 247, 250, 252 Q. Aurelius Symmachus signo Eusebius (PVR 384–5, cos. 391) xi, xiv, 6, 44–45, 53, 55, 56, 59, 60–61, 63–67, 69–71, 73, 81, 84, 96–97, 102, 104, 109, 130, 136, 142–143, 146–155, 157–169, 171, 173–175, 189–190, 196–197, 199, 208, 210–211, 214, 216, 226, 234, 236, 241, 246, 253–254, 264 Q. Fabius Memmius Symmachus (son of Q. Aurelius Symmachus, praetor 401) 34–35, 45, 73, 254 Aurelius Anicius Symmachus (PVR 418–420) 241, 253, 265 Q. Aurelius Memmius Symmachus iunior (PVR 476/491, cos. 485) 233, 246–7, 250, 253–4 Symmachus (Bishop of Rome 498–514) 266–267, 269 Synesius (author, Bishop of Ptolemais) 123, 215 Syracuse 42 Syria 242 Tarquinia 101 Tarquitius Priscus (libri Etruscorum’s translator) 95, 101, 108 Flavius Eutolmius Tatianus (PPO Or. 388–392, cos. 391) 136 Terentius (corrector Tusciae 364–5) 85–86, 95, 101–102, 104 Tertullian 103, 165 Iunius Tertullus (vicarius of the PVR 340) 252 Tertullus (PVR 359–61) 26, 28–29, 103, 194–195, 197–213 Thebes 189, 201 Themistius 104, 128 Themistocles 126, 132–133 Fl. Theoderic (King of the Ostrogoths 471–526, ruler of Italy) xiii, 72, 84, 99, 111, 163, 204, 206, 229, 246, 254, 266–267 Theodore (Bishop of Rome 642–9) 228, 248 Flavius Mallius Theodorus (PPO Italiae 397–9, cos. 399) 59, 70, 184–185, 196, 207, 217 Flavius Theodosius I (Augustus 379–95) xii, xv, 8, 21, 44–45, 55, 58, 97, 99–100, 110–111, 118, 126–130, 135–136, 142–143, 152–154, 158, 162–163, 165,

Index 279 174, 183, 187, 193, 195, 197–199, 202, 206, 212, 215, 263 Theodosius II (Augustus 402–450) 184, 192, 201, 207, 209–210, 216 Theodosian Code xi, 14, 28, 56–57, 62, 67, 71–72, 88, 97, 104, 145–146, 150, 157, 161, 174, 186, 217 Flavius Theodosius senior (Mag. Equ. 369–75) 58, 70, 110 Macrobius Ambrosius Theodosius (author of the Saturnalia) 92–93, 95, 104, 106, 108–109, 245, 254 Therasia (wife of Meropius Pontius Paolinus) 240, 252 Aemilia Materna Thermantia (second wife of Honorius, daughter of Stilicho and Serena) 182, 205, 208 Thessalonika 46 Thrace 206 Tiberius (Roman emperor 14–37) 86, 119, 124–125, 134, 201 Ticinum (modern Pavia) 184, 207 (Medallion of) 12 Celsinus Titianus (vicarius Africae 380, Symmachus’ brother) 35, 45, 122, 250 Todi 242, 253 Toulouse 182 Trajan (Roman Emperor 98–117) 2 Forum Traiani 126, 135 Trasimeno Lake 97 Trier xi, xv, 1, 5, 34, 60–61, 63–66, 73, 93, 97, 109, 157 Umbria 102, 242–243, 246, 249 Ursatius (Mag. Off. 354–5) 62, 72 Ursicinus (vicarius urbis Romae 371/2) 80, 96 Ursinus (antipope 366) 62, 69, 72, 93, 107, 121, 199, 265, 269 Flavius Valens (Augustus 364–78) 24, 27, 62, 64–65, 72 Valentine (saint) xii, xvi, 227–243, 246–248, 253–254 Valentinian I (Augustus 364–75) xi–xii, 8, 26, 34, 43–44, 46, 52, 57–60, 62–67, 71–74, 80–81, 84, 86, 88–97, 99–100,

102, 104–106, 108–110, 118–119, 121, 123, 129–130, 136, 144–147, 153, 161–162, 166, 169, 171, 205, 215, 250, 265 Valentinian II (Augustus 375–92) 34, 44, 99, 106, 128, 131, 135, 142, 152, 154, 158–160, 164–165 Valentinian III (Augustus 425–55) 207, 210, 241 Valerian (Roman Emperor 253–60) 3, 12 M. Aur. Val. Valentinus (consularis Numidiae 330, brother of Lucius Aurelius Avianius Symmachus) 234, 250 Terentius Varro 41–42, 47, 101, 159, 173 Vegoia 101 Veneriosa 230, 242 Locrius Verinus (PVR 323–5) 41 Verona 181 Vestals 142–143, 148–155, 160, 164–165, 168–169, 171 Victoria (Altar of) 108, 148, 159 Viventius (PVR 365–6) 59, 61–63, 65–66, 71, 89, 190, 269 Volterra 102 C. Ceionius Rufius Volusianus (PVR 313–5, cos. 314) 2–3, 11–13 C. Ceionius Rufius Volusianus signo Lampadius (PVR 365) xiv, 58, 62, 69, 72, 91, 106, 109, 120 Lucius Ragonius Venustus (v.c. 390) 92, 106 Volusius Venustus (v.c. vicarius Hispaniarum 362–3) 66–67, 92, 95, 106, 108, 130 Flavius Vopiscus (one of the six pseudonyms assumed by the author of Historia Augusta) 192–193, 213, 236, 246–247, 263 Zacharias (Bishop of Rome 741–52) 229 Zeno (Bishop of Verona c. 362–71) 166 Fl. Zenon (Augustus 474–91) 266 Zosimus (Bishop of Rome 417–8) 265 Zosimus 1, 12, 24, 82, 89, 104, 143, 183–184, 186–192, 195, 200–201, 206–207, 210, 213, 216, 243, 263