Quintus Aurelius Symmachus


Quintus Aurelius Symmachus

Quintus Aurelius Symmachus (c. 340 – c. 402), the cultured and prominent son of a prominent father, Lucius Aurelius Avianius Symmachus, in the patrician "gens Aurelia", held the offices of proconsul of Africa in 373, urban Prefect of Rome in 384 and 385, and consul in 391. A representative of the traditional "cursus honorum", Symmachus was a pagan at a time when the senatorial aristocracy was rapidly converting to Christianity.

In 382, the Emperor Gratian, a Christian, ordered the Altar of Victory removed from the Curia, the Roman Senate house in the Forum. Symmachus led a delegation of protest, which the emperor refused to receive. Two years later, Gratian was assassinated in Lugdunum, and Symmachus, now Prefect of Rome, renewed the appeal to Gratian's successor, Valentinian II, in a famous dispatch that was rebutted by Ambrose, the bishop of Milan. In an age when all religious communities credited the divine power with direct involvement in human affairs, Symmachus argues that the removal of the altar had caused a famine and its restoration would be beneficial in other ways. Subtly he pleads for tolerance for traditional cult practices and beliefs that Christianity was poised to suppress in the Theodosian edicts of 391.

Symmachus's career was temporarily derailed when he delivered a panegyric to the short-lived usurper Magnus Maximus, but he shortly recovered and was granted the consulship, the highest honor in the empire.

Writings

Much of his writing has survived: nine books of letters, a collection of "Relationes" or official dispatches dating from his term as Prefect of Rome, and fragments of various orations. His style was widely admired in his own time and into the early Middle Ages, but modern scholars have been frustrated by the lack of solid information about the events of his times to be found in these writings. As a consequence, little of his work has been translated into English.

He also engaged in the preparation of an edition of Livy's "Ab Urbe Condita". This edition is the source of a series of subscriptions with his name found in some of the surviving texts of the first Decade — and is thought to be the ancestor of one manuscript tradition of Livy's text.

Works

* "Q. Aurelii Symmachi quae supersunt", ed. by Otto Seeck (Berlin, 1883; reprinted Munich, 2001, ISBN 3-921575-19-2) All surviving writings of Symmachus: letters, speeches and official reports, in the original Latin. This volume is one of the series Monumenta Germaniae Historica.

ee also

*Symmachi–Nicomachi diptych

Further reading

* Samuel Dill, "Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire" (London, 1899)
* T. R. Glover, "Life and Letters in the Fourth Century" (London, 1901)
* J.F. Matthews, "The Letters of Symmachus" in "Latin Literature of the Fourth Century" (edited by J.W. Binns), pp. 58-99. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974.
* J.F. Matthews, "Western Aristocracies and Imperial Court, AD 364-425". Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990. ISBN 0-19-814499-7
* Cristiana Sogno, "Q. Aurelius Symmachus: A Political Biography". Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0-472-11529-7

External links

* [http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/ambrose-sym.html Medieval Sourcebook:] Symmachus' memorial on behalf the Senate, petitioning the three emperors
* [http://www.acs.ucalgary.ca/~vandersp/Courses/texts/sym-amb/ambrepf.html Ambrose, Epistle xvii and xviii]
* [http://www.fh-augsburg.de/~harsch/Chronologia/Lspost04/Symmachus/sym_re03.html Relatio III of Symmachus] , in Latin
* [http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Symmachus_(Family) "Encyclopaedia Britannica" 1911:] "Symmachus (Family)"


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