Skip to main content
Latest Date stamped below
BUILDING USE ONLY.
Li61 — O-1096
Q. AURELI SYMMACHI
INTRODUCTION, TRANSLATION AND NOTES
KATHARINE RANDALL TENER
DEGREE OF BACHELOR OF ARTS
COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS AND SCIENCES
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
May .30 192.2.
THIS IS TO CERTIFY THAT THE THESIS PREPARED UNDER MY SUPERVISION BY
KAT.H. AB I M . . .RA.N EAL k . . .TMER
EN T I TLED . . . .0. AUREL I. . . S YMMA.C H I . . RE L AT 10 .11 1
IS APPROVED BY ME AS FULFILLING THIS PART OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
Instructor in Charge
HEAD OF DEPARTMENT OF ...<*£jJL£UuQ.LG*6.
Digitized by the Internet Archive
Table of Contents
I Q. Aureli Symmachi Relatio III 1
II Introduction 7
III Translation 13
IV Notes 20
Q. Aureli Symmachi
DDDHIIU • Ualentiniano Theodosio et Arcadio semper Aaggg.
Symmachus u. c. praefectus urbis.
1 Ubi primum senatus amplissimus semperque uester subiecta legi-
bus aitia Gognou.it et a prinoipibus piis uidit purgari famo.m tem-
porum proximorum, boni saeouli auctoritatem secutus euomuit diu
pressum dolorem atque iterum me querelarum suarum iussit esse lega -
turn. cui ideo diui prinoipis denegata est ab improbis audientia,
2 quia non erat iustitia defutura, dddnrm. imperatores. gemino
igitur functus officio et ut praefectus uester gesta publica per-
sequor et ut legatus ciuium mandata coramendo . nulla est hie
dissensio uoluntatum, quia iam credere homines desierunt aulico-
rum se studia praestare, si discrepent. amari coli diligi maius
imperio est. quis ferat obfuisse rei publicae priuata certa-
mina? merito illos senatus insequitur, qui potentiam suam famae
principis praetulerunt . noster autem labor pro dementia uestra
ducit excubias. cui enim magis commodat quod instituta maiorum
quod patriae iura et fata defendimus quam temporum gloriae?
quae tunc maior est, cum uobis contra morem parentum intellegitis
3 nil licere. repetimus igitur religionum statum qui rei publicae
diu profuit. certe dinumerentur principes utri usque sectae utri-
usque sententiae: pars eorum prior cerimonias patrum coluit,
recentior non remouit. si exemplum non facit religio ueterum,
faciat dissimulatio proximorum. quis igitur ita familiaris est
barbaris , ut aram Uictoriae non requirat? oauti in posterum
* ?gxt, Meyer, Leipzig,, 1672.
8umu8 et aliarum reruin ostenta uitmus. reddatur s..J.tern nomini
honor, qui numini denegatus est. multa Uictoriae debet aeter-
nitcs uestra et adhuc plura debebit. auersentur hana potestatem,
quibus nihil profuit. uos amicum triumphis patrooinium nolite
deserere. cunotis potentia uotiua est Iftta* nemo oolend.m ne-
4 get, quam profitetur optandam. quod si huius ominis non esset
iusta uit..tio, ornamentis saltern curiae decuit abstineri. prae-
state, oro uos, ut ea, quae pueri suscepimus , senes poster is re-
linquamus . consuetudinis amor magnus est. merito diui Con-
stantii factum diu non stetit. omnia uobis exempla uitc~nda sunt,
quae mox remota didicistis, aeternitatem ouramus famae et nominis
5 uestri, ne quid futura aetas inueniat corrigendum. ubi in leges
uestras et uerba iurabimus? qua religione mens falsa terrebi-
tur, ne in testimoniis raentiatur? omnia quidem deo plena sunt
nec ullus perfidis tutus est locus, sed plurimum ualet ad metum
delinquendi etiam praesentia numinis urgueri. ilia ara concor-
diam tenet omnium, ilia ara fidem conuenit singulorum, neque aliuc
magis auctoritatem facit sententiis, quam quod omnia quasi iuratus
ordo decernit. patebit ergo sedes profana periuris et hoc in-
6 clyti principes mei probabile iudicabunt, qui Sacramento publico
tuti sunt? sed diuus Constantius idem fecisse dicetur. cetera
potius illius principis aemulemur, qui nihil tale esset aggressus
si quis ante se alius deuiasset. corrigit enirn sequentem lap-
sus prioris et de reprehensione antecedentis exempli nascitur e-
mendatio. fas fuit, ut parens ille clementiae uestrae in re ad-
huc noua non caueret inuidiam. num potest etiam nobis eudem de-
f ensio conuenire , si imitemur quod meminimus improbatum? ac-
7 cipiat aeternitas uestra alia eiusdem principis facta, quae in
uaum dignius trt-hat. nihil illo decerpsit aacrarum uirginum
priuilegils, decreuit nobilibus sacerdotia, Romanis cerimoniia non
negauit inpensas et per omnea uias aeternae urbia laetum secutus
aenatum uidit placido ore delubra, uidit insoripta fastigiis deum
nomina, percontatua templorum originea eat, miratua est conditoree
8 oumque aliaa religionea sequeretur, haa seruauit imperio. a una
enim cuique mos , suua ritua eat. aarioa custodes urbibus cultua
mens diuina distribuit. ut animae nascentibua, ita populi8 fa-
talea genii diuiduntur. accedit utilitas, quae maxirae homini
deoa aaserit. nam cum ratio omnia in operto ait, unde rectiua
qu-.m de memoria at que documentia rerum secundarum cognitio uenit
numinum? iara ai longa aetas auctoritatem religionibua faciat,
aeruanda eat tot saeoulia fides, et sequendi sunt nobia parentea,
9 qui aecuti sunt feliciter suos. Romam nunc putemua aasiatere
atque hia uobiaoum agere aermonibua; Optimi prinoipum, patres
patriae, reueremini annoa meos , in quos me piua ritus adduxit;
utar oerimoniis auitis; neque enim penitet. uiuam meo more,
quia libera sum. hie cultus in leges meas orbem redegit , haec
s.iora Eannib^.lem a moenibua a Gapitolio Senonaa repulerunt. ad
10 hoo ergo aeruata aum, ut longaeua reprehendar? uidero, quale
ait, quod instituendum putatur. sera autem et contumelioaa eat
emendatio seneotutis. ergo diis patriis diis indigetibus pacem
rogamus . aequum eat, quioquid omnes oolunt, unum putari. eadeir
spectamus aatra, commune caelum eat, idem noa mundua inuoluit.
quid intereat, qua quisque prudentia uerum requirat? uno itinere
non protest perueniri ad tarn grande secretum. sed otiosorum dis-
11 putatio est haec. nunc precee non certamen afferimus. quanto
oommodo saori aerarii uestri Uestalium uirginum praerog;;tiua de-
traota est? sub largissimis imp era to rib us denegetur, quod par-
cissimi praestiterunt . honor solus est in illo ueluti stipendio
oastitatis . ut uittae earum capiti deous faoiunt, ita insigne
duoitur sacerdotii uacare muneribus. nudum quoddam nomen inmuni-
tatis requirunt , qoniam paupertate B dispendio tutae sunt. itaqu(
amplius laudi earum tribuunt , qui aliquid rei detrahunt . siqui-
12 dem saluti publioae dicata uirginitas oresoit merito , cum c^ret
praemio. absint ab aerarii uestri puritate ista compendia,
fiscus bonorum principum non sacerdotum dampnis, sed hostium spo-
liis augeatur. illud tenue lucrum conpensat inuidiam? at qui
auaritia in mores uestros non cadit. hoc miseriores sunt, quibus
subsidia uetera decerpta sunt. etenim sub imperatoribus , qui
alieno abstinent, quia resistunt cupiditati , ad solam detrahitur
13 amittentis iniuricim, quod desiderium non mouet auferentis. agros
etiam uirginibus et ministris deficientium uoluntate legatos fis-
cus retentat. oro uos, iustitiae sacerdotes, ut urbis uestrae
sacris reddatur priuata successio. dictent testamenta securi
et sciant sub principibus non auaris stabile esse, quod scripse-
rint. delectet uos ista felicitas generis humani. coepit
causae huius exemplum sollicitare morientes. ergo Romanae re-
14 ligiones ad Romana iura non pertinent? quod nomen accipiet ab-
latio facultatum, quas nulla lex nullus casus fecit caducas?
capiunt legata liberti , seruis testamentorum iusta commoda non
negantur. tantum nobiles uirgines et fatalium sacrarum ministri
excludentur praediis hereditate quaesitis? quid iuuat saluti
publioae castum corpus dicare et imperii aeternitatem caelestibus
fulcire praesidiis, armis uestris aquilis uestris arnicas applicare
uirtutes, pro omnibus effioaoia uota susoipere, et ius oum omni-
bus non habere? itane melior est seruitus , quae hominibus im-
15 penditur? rem publictim laedimus , cui numquam expediit, ut in-
grata sit. nemo me putet tueri solam oausam religionum. ex
huius modi facinoribus orta sunt cuncta Romani generis incommoda.
honorauerat lex parentum Uestales uirgines ao ministros deorum
uiotu modioo iustisque priuilegiis. stetit nnmeris huius inte-
gritas usque ad degeneres trapezitas , qui ad mercedem uilium
baiulorum sucrt. castitatis alimenta uerterunt, seouta est hoo
factum fames publica et spem prouinoiarum omnium messis aegra
16 decepit. non sunt haec uitia terrarum, nihil imputemus austris.
neo rubigo segetibus obfuit, neo auena fruges neoauit. sacrile-
gio annus exaruit. necesse enim fuit perire hominibus, quod re-
ligionibus negabatur. oerte si est huius mali aliquod exemplum,
imputemus tantam famem uicibus annorum. grauis hanc sterilita-
tem causa contraxit. siluestribus arbustis uita produoitur et
rursus ad Dodonaeas arbores plebis rustioae inopia conuolauit.
1 ? quid tale prouinciae pertulerunt, cum religionum ministros honor
publicus pasceret? quando in usum hominum concussa quercus, quan ■
do uulsae sunt herbarum radices, quando alternos regionum defec-
tus deseruit fecunditas mutua, cum populo et uiginibus sacris
communis esset annona? oommendabt.t enim terrarum prouentum uiotu j
antistitum et remedium magis quam largitas erat. an dubium est,
18 semper pro copia omnium datum, quod nunc inopia omnium uindicauit?
dicet aliquis sumptum publicum denegatum alienae religionis impen-
diis. absit a bonis principibus ista sententia, ut, quod olim
de oommuni quibusdam tributum est, in iure fisoi esse uideatur.
nam cum res publica de singulis constet, quod ab ea profiscitur,
fit rursu3 proprium singulorum. omnia regitie , sed suum ouiquo
seruatis , plusque apud uos iustitia quam lioentia u-let. oon-
sulite oerte munificentiem uestr^m, an adhuc publioa uelit exis-
timari quae in alios transtulistis . semel honori urbis delata
compendia desinunt esse tribuentium, et quod a principio benefi-
19 oium fuit usu atque aetate fit debitum. inanem igitur metum
diuino animo uestro temptat incutere, si quis asserit oonsoientiam
uos habere praebentium, nisidetrahentium subieritis inuidiam.
faueant clementiae uestrae sectarum omnium arcana praesidia et
haec maxime , quae maiores uestros i liqu.ndo iuuerunt , uos defen-
dant, a nobis colantur. eum religionum statum petimus, qui diuo
20 parenti numinis uestri seruauit imperium, qui fortunato prinoipi
legitimos suffeoit heredes. speotat senior ille diuas ex aroe
siderea laorimas saoerdotum et se culpatum putat more uiolato ,
quern libenter ipse seruauit, pr< estate etitim diuo fratri uestro
alieni oonsilii correctionem, tegite factum, quod senatui dis-
pliouisse nesciuit. siquidem constat ideo exclusam legationem,
ne ad eum iudicium publicum perueniret. pro existimatione est
temporum superiorum, ut non dubitetus abolere, qjiod probandum est
principis non fuisse.
Long-established institutions do not die without a strug-
gle and their last defenders are almost as noteworthy as their found
ers. Paganism held supremacy for mt.ny hundreds of years and when
Christianity arose to take its place, it yielded only after a fierce
struggle. It was during the fourth century of our era th-t the
last important contest was waged and the last and most ardent champ-
ion of paganism was Quintus Aurelius Symmachus. The life of Rome
in the fourth century is full of interest, and we must remember that
"Rome" did not exist merely in the time of Caesar and Cicero. The
centuries that follov/ed were outgrowths of that golden age and are
of vast significance for modern times. Foremost among the events
of that period is the growth of Christianity. Hand in hand with
this development went the decline of paganism, and its last brave
efforts to survive deserve our careful study.
Q. Aurelius Symmachus was a contemporary of Jerome and Am-
brose, of Ausonius , Prudentius , and Claudian. Although he was
one of the nobility, his family cannot be traced further back than
the time of Constantine. The first recorded instance of the name
is the mention of his grandfather, Aurelius Iulianus Symmachus who
was consul in 350. His son was Lucius Aurelius Avianius Symmachus
who married a woman of a noted family. One of their children was
Symmachus, the orator and statesman, Avianius, himself, was des-
cribed by Ammianus as one of the most conspicuous examples of learn-
ing and modesty. He was a praetor in Rome, pontifex maior, prefect
of the city, consul, and his opinion was asked first, in the senate.
Amm. Larc . ZX7II g,. Z.
2. C.I.L. VI 1698
Like his son, he was a firm believer in the ancient religion. An
interesting story is told of his private life. A plebian spread
the rumor that Avianius had s. id he v/ould slake lime with his wine
rather than sell at the price demanded. Aroused "by this report, the
populace burned his beautiful house, situated across the Tiber, and
Avianius withdrew to the country. To make amends, the senate be-
stowed an honor, never before given to a private person Avianius
was petitioned to return to the city. The occasion gave rise to an
•ration on the part of his son, and another was delivered when his
father was chosen consul.
Q. Aurelius Symmachus was born about 340 and received the
ordinary education of a Roman gentleman. In his library were the
Annals of Livy, Gallic Y/ar of Caes-r, Katural History of Pliny, sev-
eral works of Cicero, Varro , Talerius liaximus , Terence, Plautus,
Horace and Vergil. Pliny, the younger, was his especial favorite,
and kacrobius, in his Saturnalia, speaks of the two together as writ*
ing in a style, "pingue et floridum".
On the statue erected to Symmachus by his son, his many
public offices are enumerated. E^rly in his public career, he was
appointed by the senate to carry an offering of gold and deliver a
panegyric to Valentinian I at the time of his Quinquennalia in 369.
He was proconsul of Africa when the Moors were in revolt. In 383,
Symmachus became prefect of the city. It was while he held this
office that the third relatio was delivered and the Christian plot
agi inst him failed. Praetextatus , the friend of Symmachus , had
procured an imperial decree by which the prefect of the city was or-
dered to restore temple property. Elated by this success, the
1TI Seeck - De Symmachi Uita XIV.
2. Macrobius - Sat. V. 1, 7.
pagane tried to do more and sent Symmachus to the emperor to ask for
the restoration of the alt^r of Tictory and other pagan privileges
which Gratian had removed. He was unsuccessful , however. Then th*
Christians accused Symmachus of torturing Christian priests. This
called forth imperial censure, but Symmachus cleured himself, and he
and Praetextatus retained the favor of the emperor. Later that
yet.r, Symmachus lost a close friend and the pagans a valuable champ-
ion, in the death of Praetextatus. His enemies increased and Sym-
machus withdrev/ from office in 385, though he was still regarded as
the leading man of the senate. In 387, he delivered a panegyric in
praise of Liaximus , the ursurper, and as a result was accused of
treason. He fled to the church for protection and was pardoned by
Theodosius who made him consul in 391. He again sought to restore
the altar of Victory, and Theodosius, in a rage, banished him a hun-
dred miles from Milan. The account says he was forced to ride in a
oarriage without cushions. Symmachus was in danger again when ano-
ther rebellion occurred in Africa. War with the Moors would shut
off the corn supply from Home and c^use riots. In order to prevent
unpopularity falling upon the emperor, the senate was forced to
make the declaration of war. Symmachus had to bear the brunt of
ill-will but it soon disappeared and his closing days were spent
in peace. He died probably in 403.
In privr.te life, Symmachus was a representative of the
Roman nobility, a gentleman in the best sense of the word. His
letters are an important source for our knowledge of the life of
the times, and of his own character, although his son, who edited
and published his father's writings, carefully expurgated any com-
promising statements. These might, however, have been most en-
lightening. Symmachus was an extremely wealthy man for he held the
offices of quaestor and praetor whioh were a right of "birth. All
senators held them, if rich. The family property included a house
in Capua, three houses in the city, fifteen villas, :.nd three farms,
and others which are not mentioned in the letters. Symmachus
married Husticiana, the daughter of Llemmius Vitrasius Orfitus, and
she brought him a rich dowry. They had a son Fab i us Memmius Sym-
machus and a daughter whose name is unknown, but who married Yirius
Mchomachus Flavianus , the younger.
In the letters, we find affection for his father, but very
little mention made of his wife. There are many letters sent to
his daughter, urging her to be Careful of her health. He was even
more devoted to his son, and perso. nally looked after his health and
education. He was greatly interested in the games Fabius gave as
praetor, for Symmachus disapproved of the neglect of any ancient cus-
tom. Though he was opposed to lavish expenditure in these games, h<
was willing to overlook extravagance on the part of his son, for he
is said to have spent 80,000 pounds on Fabius's praetorian games,
purchasing Spanish horses, bears, antelopes, crocodiles, and silk
robes and ornaments. Symmachus was also greatly interested in the
marriage of his son to the granddaughter of Yirius llichomachus Flav-
ianus. Friendships were a large part of his life. One of his mos*
intimate friends, previously mentioned, was Vettius Agorius Prae-
textatus , a most eminent pagan, a scholar, philosopher, and mystic.
Others of his friends were Stilicho and Bauto , barbarian soldiers,
Ausonius, the poet, and Ambrosius, bishop of liilan, both Christians.
Seeck - De Symmachi Uit'a" - XLV--XLVI .
As to character, he seems to have had a narrow range of in-
terests, and no extraordinary mental ability. Rome had become a
provincial town, no longer the seat of government, and it lived on
its past history. He was even more conservative than his fellow-
citizens. In one of his own letters, he says there is nothing bet-
ter for him to follow than "sometimes patching up his health, often
avoiding disturbances and always loving literature". Although these
interests were not strenuous, he was honored and respected by both
Christian and pagan.
Symmachus was accounted in his own time a great orator and
writer. But his chief, direct influence on history was his recom-
mendation of Saint Augustine as a professor of rhetoric for the city
of Lilian. His reputation for eloquence was spread throughout all
Italy. Prosper Aquitanicus said Symmachus was skilled in excel-
lent eloquence and wisdom, although he was a pagan. Prudentius, th<
poet, called Symmachus — a fluent tongue, from the marvelous fount-
ain of words, an ornament of Roman eloquence! Emperors and fellow-
countrymen alike esteemed him. The people considered him the chief
man of the senate even when he had withdrawn from public life, and
he was popular because of his honesty and amiability. He is now
known as a champion of paganism rather than as an orator, but his
third relatio which is his pagan plea, delivered in 584, has been
ranked by Angelus Politianus in the list of long-enduring orations.
Symmachus is enjoyed by lovers of antiquity, for he gives us a pic-
ture of his times v;hich cannot be obtained elsewhere, and his loyal-
ly Liber IV. 44 - Quid enim magis adsectandum est mihi , sarcienti
nonnumquam valet udinem, declinanti saepe turbas , litterarum semper
2. Seeck - LTII.
3. De Promissionibus Dei, parte III.
4. lib. 1. contra Symmachum
s. : iene. .7. P» — Uita Symr.achi exantiquissirna Editions.
ty to paganism is admirable, even though his love of the past seeraa
txagga rated. Any Latin orator would find difficulty in living
through the centuries after Cicero's fame, hut Syraraachus was truly
an orator, a man who knew and utilized his art.
Divus Prosper Aquitanicus, de Promraissionibus Dei, parte III,
C, I. L. VI 1698.
Glover, T. R. , Life and Letters in the Fourth Century.
Amraianus Marcellinus, lib. XXVII.
Macrobius, Saturnalia, lib. V, cap. 1.
Migne, J. P., Patrologiae Latinae, Vita Symmachi ex Antiquissima
Edi ti one.
Aurelius Prudentius, Lib. 1. contra Symraachum.
Seeck, Otto, Symmachi Opera.
Autre li Symznachi
Symmachus u.o.p.u. to our most revered masters, Valentl nian , Theodo-
sius , and Arc-dius,
When first the most honorable senate, and ever devoted to
you, recognized that wrongs have been removed by lt.ws , and saw that
the evil reputation of reoent times was being cleared sway by right-
eous rulers, following the authority of a good age, and casting out
the grief long endured, for the second time, it ordered me to be the
ambassalor of their complaints, me, to whom, gracious rulers, a hear-
ing was denied by unprincipled men, because justice would h^ve been
done, had it been granted. Therefore, performing a twofold office,
both as your prefect, performing my public duties, and as an ambas-
sador, I commend to you the desires of my f ellow-citizens . Here
there is no disagreement of desires, because already men have ceased
to believe that they show zeal for the court, if they disagree. To
be loved, to be cherished, to be highly esteemed, is greater than
power. Who can endure the fact that private interests have injured
the state? The senate properly censures those who place their own
power before the reputation of the emperor, but in proportion to your
kindness, we keep watch over it. For whatis itffiore fitting that
we defend the institutions of our ancestors and the laws and destiny
of our fatherland than for the glory of our times? This then is
greater, since you know that you may do nothing contrary to the cus-
tom of our fathers.
We seek, therefore, the religious status which has for a
long time helped the state. Surely the chiefs favoring each sect
and each opinion ought to be considered. Those of an earlier day
cherished the rites of our fathers, the more recent did not reject
them. If the religion of the earlier ones does not furnish . n exam-
ple, the pretense of reoent rulers should. Who , then, is so like th
"barbarians that he does not seek the altar of Victory? We are or re-
fill for the future and we avoid a display of new things. Let honor
"be restored to the mme , at least, which is denied the goddess. You
immortality owes much to Viotory and in the future will owe yet more.
Let them reject this power for whom it avails nothing. Do not de-
sert the protection which is friendly to your triumphs. This is the
power desired by all. No one denies that that should be cherished
which it is acknowledged should be desired. But if the avoidance of
the effect of this omen is not proper, at least you should preserve
the ornaments of the senate house. I beg of you, see to it, that
those things which as boys we received, as old men, we she 11 leave to
Great is the force of custom. It was right that the de-
cree of the divine Constant! us did not long endure. All action
must be avoided which you have learned cannot be persisted in. We
are zealous for the immortality of your reputation and name lest fu-
ture time find something that is a blemish. Where shall we swear
fealty to you? By what religion will the false tongue be terrified
so it shall not commit perjury? To be sure, all places are full of
God, nor is any safe for perjurgrs, but the presence of the god is
of great value in restraining wrong doing. That altar represents
the agreement of all, that altar befits the faith of individuals,
nor does anything give more authority to our opinions than the fact
that the senatorial order determines everything as if on oath:
Shall, then, that place be open to perjury and will my illustrious
chiefs, who are safe by the public oath of the senate, judge this to
But the divine Const; ntius is said to h ve done the same.
Let us rather emulate other aots of that emperor, who would have set
out on no such undertaking, if any other "before him had gone astray.
For the mistake of one corrects another who is following, and improve
ment is horn from condemnation of the previous action. It was righl
that that parent of your kindness, in things yet new, had no care foi
unpopularity. The same defense cannot be ours, can it, if we imi-
tate what we remember has been disapproved? Let your enduring re-
putation rest on the other acts of that same chief, which he more
worthily rerformed. He detracted nothing from the privileges of
the Yestal virgins, he bestowed priesthoods on the nobles, he did no1
refuse the Romans the cost of the ceremonies, and following the joy-
ful senate through all the streets of the eternal city, he looked on
the shrines with a 61 :1m countenance, saw the names of the gods graver
on the pediments, inquired as to the origins of the temples, mar-
veled at the founders, and d though he had c.nother creed, preserved
these by his command. For each one has his own custom, his own re-
ligious rites. Various forms of religion, the divine mind has dis-
tributed as guards to the cities. As the breath of life to living
things, so to peoples are divided the "genii", decreed by fate. And
utility is a large factor in determining the gods men shall serve.
For when no conclusion can be reached by reason, from what better
source than from the memory and evidence of prosperity does the know,
ledge of the gods come? If a long time gives authority to religion
its reliability should be preserved because of its antiquity, and we
ought to follow our parents, who happily followed theirs.
How let us imagine Rome standing by and speaking to you i
in these words, "Gre.-t chiefs, fathers of our oountry , reverence
my years, to which a "blameless ritual has brought me; let me use the
ancestral rituals, nor am I ash med of them. Let me live in my own
way because I am free. This religion brought the whole world under
my sway. These scored rites drove Hannibal from our walls and the
Senr.ones from the capitol. Have I been preserved, then, for this,
that in my old age I should be restrained? I will see what sort
this is which some men say ought to be established. Yet change for
old age is slow and full of reproaches. Therefore we ask safety f c f
the gods of our fathers and our deified heroes." It is right, thai
whatever all cherish should be considered one. We see the same
stars, the sky is common, the same world is ours. that does it
matter, by what knowledge each one comes to the truth? By only
one path, we cannot arrive at so vast a secret.
But this discussion is for those who have leisure. Bow
we offer prayers, not ..rguments. How much gain is it to your sac-
red treasury to have taken away the rights of the Vestal virgins?
Should this be denied under the most liberal emperors which the
most penurious have established? The only honor is in that tri-
bute to purity, as it were. As the duplets mike an ornament for
their heads, it is thought to be an honor of priesthood to be free
from civil duties. They seek merely the bare name of immunity,
since they are free from taxes by virtue of their poverty ana so th
attribute more to their praise, who tJke away some of their proper-
ty, since virginity, dedicated to the public safety, deservedly in-
creases in reputation when it is free from reward. Let these
profits be absent from the purity of your treasury. Let the
private purse of good emperors not be augmented, by losses of the
priests but by the spoils of the enemy. Does that small gain com-
pensate for unpopularity? Avi.ri oe is not in keeping with your cha^
ter. For this reason they are no re wretched from whom their old
support has been taken, For under emperors who keep their h;nds of.
of another's property bee. use they resist greediness, attention is
prawn to the solt wrong of those losing, because tl e "esire of pos-
BBescing by force ..ioves none. The private purse reserves fields
for the virgins and their servants, bequeathed by the wish of those
dying. I ber: of you, priests of Justice, that the right of private
inheritance be returned to the scred institutions of your city.
Let them make their wills with a feeling of security and know that
what they shall have written is permanent under chiefs who are not
greedy. Let that h opiness of the human race delight you. In-
stances of this kind begin to trouble those dying. Do then Soman re
ligions not have the protection of Roman laws? Y/hat agpe will the
taking aWc.y of these privileges receive, privileges which no law and
no misfortune ever made inoper tive? Free dm en receive legacies;
just bequests in legacies are not denied to slaves* Only the noble
JTesfcal virgins and the servants of the appointed ritual are excluded
from the estates granted by will. How does it help to consecrate
a chaste body to the public safety and to protect the eternity of
your power with heavenly guards, to show character that assists your
arms and your eagles, to make vows effectual in behalf of all, ana
not to show justice to everyone? Is there a better servitude which
Is the lot of men? Vse injure the st^te, to whom it has never been
expedient to be ungrateful.
Let no one think that I defend this cause of religion,
alone. From deeds of this sort, all troubles of the Roman race
have arisen. The law of our parents honored the Veetul virgins and
the servants of the gods with a moderate living and Just privileges.
The integrity of this office stood even among the degenerate money-
changers who turned the food of sacred purity into hire of day labor-
ers. A public famine followed this act . nd a poor harvest deceived
the hope of all the provinces. These ^re not faults of the land,
let us attribute nothing to the south winds. Lildew did not harm
the corn, nor did the oats fell for this. The sacrilege of the year
w ~s the oause. For it was necess. ry that punishment come to all men
because religion was neglected. Surely, if there is any instance of
such a famine, we should attribute it to the changes of the years.
[A very serious cause has produced this sterility. Life is prolonged
'by the forests and ag..in the want of the country people flocks to
the Dodonean trees. Such suffering did the provinces endure when
public honor fed the servants of religion? When was the oak shaken
for the use of men, when were the roots pulled up, when did fertility
desert the alternating fallowness of these regions, when the yearly
crops were the property alike of the people and the sacred virgins?
For the living of the priests made the crops of the land more produc-
tive and was a help rather than c. gift. Is there a dcubt that men
always gave in proportion to the supply, because now excessive po-
verty claims all?
Someone will say that public money should be refused for
the expense of foreign religions. let that opinion be far from my
good emperors, that what at one time was given to certain ones by the
Btate might seem to belong to the emperor's purse, For since the
state is composed of individuals, what originates from it becomes
again the right of individuals. You rule all things, but preserve
N vie 3 9*10
for each his own. Justice has more weight with you than license.
Consider your generosity and whether it wishes those things to be
considered public property v/hich you have given to others. A
privilege once conferred for the honor of the city ceases to belong
to those contributing, and what was kindness at first becomes a debt
by custom and age. And so, an empty fear he tries to stir up in your
divine mind, if anyone should assert it, that you have the conscious-
ness of those causing unpopularity unless you have the consciousness
of those removing it.
Let the secret guards of all sects look with favor on your
kindness, and those, especially, which at one time aided your ances-
tors. Let them defend you, let us worship them, Yfe seek that
st. te of religion which preserved the empire for your divine parent,
and which furnished legitimate heirs to a fortunate prince. That
deified sire looks down from the starry arch upon the tears of the
priests and thinks himself blamed, when that custom is violated which
he e o gladly preserved. Prefer the correction of another's plan
rather than follow your deified brother, hide the deed which he did
not know had displeased the senate, since it is clear that the em-
bassy was excluded, lest it have public hearing. It is a thought
of former times, that it is the duty of an emperor not to hesitate
to abolish laws which never should have been made
D.K. i.e. dominus noster
KHEUH, i« e « domini nostri tres.
The rale of redoubling the consonant ending of a v;ord when
abbreviated, in order to represent the plural, possibly originated
among the engravers, but according to Llomrnsen was invented by Afri-
can grammarians c.nd carried into Italy. R. Cagnat , Cours
D'Epigraphie Lutine , pg. 401
Talentinian II was emperor of the west from 375-59 2. Theodosius
reigned in the eastern empire 379-39 5. Arcadius was the son of
Theodosius who succeeded his father in the east in 395, but he had
been created Augustus in 383 when only a boy of five.
Aug. is the abbreviation for Augustus, auggg for Augnsti
U.C. i.e. uir clarissimus
Sec. I 1. 1 amplissimus
There were several distinct classes of society in the
Roman State. The senatorial class was the "amplissimus ordo" •
Cicero always addressed the senate as "putres conscripti" .
Sec. I 1. 3. diu pres. um dolorem
The grief which had long been endured by the senate was
the action of the emperors against pagcii rites, culminating in the
removal of the altar of Victory from the Ouria in 382.
Sec. I 1. 4. iterum
In 38£, a deputation had been sent to Gratian who refused
audience. This had been intrusted to Symmachus who was banished
from Home for the offense. On three other occasions, delegations
from the senate were directed to visit the emperor of the west, one
on the occasion of this speech, one to Theodocius in Z88, and a
fourth to Valentinian in 392.
Sec. II. 5. divi
Divus was a frequent epithet for the deceased Roman emper-
Sec. I. 1. 5. improbis
Ambrosius of Llilan presented notes, alleged to be from
senators, declaring that they were not in favor of this embassy.
As the Christians formed the least numerous party in the senate,
they could only express by their absence their dissent from the
legal acts of a pagan majority. These notes of Ambrosius are gen-
er lly conceded to have been forged.
Sec. I. 1. 6, quia erat.
In golden Latin, quia takes the indicative only when the
reason is given on the authority of the writer or speaker, other-
wise it takes the subjunctive. It follows the rule here.
Seo. II 1. 1. gemino officio
Symmachus was prefect of the city in 384. He also re-
presented the emperor as Pontifex Lnximus and Princeps Senatus,
Sec. II 1. 3. nulla diseensio
Symmachus assumes complete unanimity of the senate which
is exceedingly improbable as the Christians would hot have agreed with
the pagans .
Sec. II 1. 5. ami ri ff .
An example of Symma onus's excellent flattering eloquence.
Compare Paul's introduction in his speech before Agrippa.
Sec. Ill 1. 3. pars eorurc prior coluit
Up to the time of Constant ine, Christianity was tolerated
but pagan rites were maintained by the emperors.
Sec. Ill 1. 6. ar; m Yictoriae
The altar and statue of Victory had been brought by August ij|s
from Tarentum and placed in the Curia, the new senate house, begun
by Julius Caesar and completed by Augustus. The building was dedi-
cated in B.C. 29 and presumably the altar was placed in it at that
time. Huelsen, Ch. The Roman Forum pg. 117.
Sec. Ill 1. 8. Victoriae debet aeternitas
This is a statement probably used only for rhetorical ef-
fect as it is doubtful whether Symmachus could have proved it.
But Lanciani says the statue was considered a personification of the
powers and destinies of imperial Rome. Lanciani, R. Ancient Rome
in the Light of Recent Excavations, pg. 163.
Sec. Ill 1. 11 colendam
In this one short relatio, there are eight instances of
the gerundive and one of the gerund.
Sec. IV I, 1. ominis vit tio
The Romans paid a greet deal of attention to omens, in-
terpreting all strange happenings as good or bad omens. The never
undertook any enterprise unless the omens were favorable, Sym-
maohus reg. .rded the removal of the altar of Victory as a bad omen,
for the statue and altar was a symbol of the Roman armies who were
at the time engaged in trying to check an invasion of the Ostro-
Sec. IV 1, 4. Constanti factum
In 355, Constantius II , by an edict which apparently was
never executed, ordered that the temples should be shut and guarded
and everyone should refrain from sacrifices. Violators would be
punished by death and confiscation, and governors of the provinces
would incur the s:-.me penalties if they neglected to punish offenders
"Placuit omnibus locis atque urbibus universis claudi protinus
templa, et access u vetitis omnibus licentiam delinquendi perditis
abnegari. Volumus etiam cunctos a sacrifiis abstinere. Quod
siquis alictuid forte huiusmodi perpetr; verit , gladio sternatur:
facilitates etiam perempti fisco decernimus vindicari: et similiter
adflgi rectores provinciarum si facinora vindicure neglexerint
Gibbon, Edward, Decline and Pall of the Roman Empire, edited by
Bury, J, B. Vol. II, pg. 393,
Sec. V 1. 1. in leges et verba iurabimus
"in legem iurare" was the form for swearing to observe
a law, "in verba iurare" was to t;Jce a prescribed form of oath.
The oath of allegiance to the emperor was similar to the soldier f s
oath, the "sacrament urn" , which entitled him to carry on legitimate
wnrf are ,
Seo. T li 3| omnia deo plena cunt
This use of deus in the singular by such an ardent pag .n
and polytheist is interesting to note. Seneca, in the first cen-
tury A.J), speaks of a single deity. In letter 47, he Bays, "Hoc
qui dixerit, obliviscetur, id dominis parura non esse q.uod deo
set est," and also in letter 53, "Tantum sapienti sua quantum deo
omnis ;.etas patet."
Seo VI. 7. iuratus ordo
The senators were sworn on the altar of Victory to observe
the lews of the emperor and of the empire. An offering of wine
and incense was the ordinary prelude to public deliberations.
Sec. VI 1. 2. idem
Constantius II had removed the g ltar in 357. It was re-
stored by Julian (360-363), tolerated by Valentinian I (364-375),
and agi in removed by Gratian in 562. Eugenius who ursurped the
power (392-394 ) restored the altar, and it was removed for all time
by Theodosius in g94*
Sec. VII 1. 1. ff.
Constantius made a visit to Rome in 357 to indulge his
pride and curiosity. His entry was like a triumphal procession.
He had a splendid train and rode in a chair, gleaming with gold
and gems. He was received by the magistrates and sen^teof Home, '
and the streets were lined with people, for a sovereign had not been
in the city for thirty-two ye..rs. Constantius st yed in the ancient
palace of Augustus, presided over the senate, assisted at the games
of the cirous, and accepted crowns and panegyrioe. Hie visit
last' d thirty d ys , during which he viewed all the temples and "mon-
uments of power" and Bald that rumor had been inadequate in her ac-
count of Rome, Ammianns 1. XVI a. 10
Sec. VII 1. 2. sacrarum virginum privilegiis
The sacred virgins were the priestesses of Vest: , goddess
of the hearth fire. They were chosen by lot and served for thirty
years. The Vestal virgins hadmany special privileges such as ex-
emption from taxes, precedence over the consul in public, exemption
from taking oaths, and burial in the Forum. A criminal 4 when being
led to punishment, was freed if he chanced to meet a virgin. 7/ills
and documents of stu.te were intrusted to their care.
The order of the Vestal virgins lasted eleven centuries.
Eugenius, the ursurper, was killed in 394; he was the last of the
pagan tolerators. The atrium of the Vestals was thrown open to
the public by Theodosius in 33 4.
This atrium was the house of the Vestal virgins, analo-
gous to a modern convent. Lanciani gives a detailed description
of it. The house was a large, rectangular building with only
one entrance. The cloisters, the atrium proper, was very large,
out of all proportion to the rest of the building. It was
surrounded by various compartments and there was a second story
containing the bed rooms. This house is the prototype of all
nunneries and convents.
Sec. VII 1. 3. saoerdotia
A priest's duty was to perform rites associated with the
relations between the st^te and the gods. All priestly offices
were held for life and special distinctions were aesoci ted with
them. They were organized into various colleges or Quits, Ori-
ginally, only patricians held these offices, hat pltblanfl gradually
Sec. VII 1. 4. inpensas
Roman sacrifices would be deprived of their force and en-
ergy if they were no longer celebr; ted at the expense of, and in
the name of the state. Gibbon, Edward, Decline and Fallot the
Roman Empire. Vol. Ill, pg. 192.
Sec. VII 1. 5. delubra
In the middle of the fourth century, guidebooks for the
city of Rome stated that there were 424 temples, 304 shrines, 80
statues of precious metals, of gods, 64 of ivory and 2785 miscel-
laneous bronze statues. Lanciani, R. , Pa^ji and Christian Rome,
Sec. VII 1. 6. templorum
Roman temples were used not only as places of worship, but
also as galleries and museums. The principal temples at Rome were
— The Pantheon, Temple of VEsta, of Castor, of Concord, of Faus-
tina, of Mars Ultor, of Vespasian, and of Divus Iulius.
Sec. VIII 1. 1. suus cuiq.ue mos
A peculiarly pagan idea is the one which ascribes
different goes for different places and different people. The
Pantheon at Rome was a house for all the gods. It was really a
liberal belief in spite of its lasting conservatism. Even in the
Old Testament the idea of other gods than Jehovah is accepted.
See the story of Elijah and the worshippers of Baal, I Kings, 17
3eo. VIII 1. 3. raens divina
In the 6th book of Vergil's Aeneid, line 727, Anchises,
Aneaa'a father says,
"mens agitat raolem et magnose corpore miscet."
Sec VIII 1, 4. genii
The Romans conceived of a genius or second self accompany-
ing every individual through life. It was regarded as a good and "ben-
eficent being. Families, societies, cities, and peoples had their
own genii, also.
Sec. VIII 1. 8. se<iusndi ff.
Symmachus was extremely conservative and yet we must have
sympathy for those last ardent pagans. In their minds, the old
"belief of many protecting deities was necessary for the welfare of the
state, and they clung to their beliefs through their patriotism.
Sec. 12 1. 6. Hannibal em a moenibus
The second Punic War was waged from 218 to 201 B.C. In
211, Hannibal attempted an attack on Rome, but was unsuccessful.
Sec. IX 1. 6. a 8apitolio Senones
In 290 B.C. occurred an uprising against Rome on the part
of the Italians to the north. The Senones, who had been allies,
furnished soldiers to the Etruscans. The Romans completely an-
hihilated the Senones in 283 B.C.
Sec. X 1. 3. indigetibus
Heroes were elevated to the rank of gods after their death
and regarded as patron deities of their country.
Sec. X 1. 6. uno itinere
Seneca in his thirty-third letter to Lucilius saya that
truth is open to everyone "patet omnibus Veritas".
Sec. XI 1. 2. praerogativa detracta est
By an aot of Gratian in 382, food allowances for the
Vestals and priests were converted to public use, legacies which were
left to them were treated as property without an heir, and the free-
dom from taxes, which they had previously enjoyed, was removed.
Sec. XI 1. 5. vittae capiti
The Vestal virgins wore a coronet -shaped head band, a special
indication of their office.
Sec. XI 1. 5. insigne
All priests had s ome external distinction.
Sec. XII 1. 3. fiscus
The emperor's private purse was instituted by Augustus
and was controlled exclusively by the emperor. It was replenished
from the revenues of the imperial provinces, unclaimed estates and
confiscations. The income was used for army and navy expenditures,
provision of com, and public buildings.
Sec. XII 1. 5. avaritia ff.
Symmachus employs every opportunity of inserting a bit of
Sec. XIII 1. 1. agros
The Vestals were exoeedi m*Ly wealthy, from the revenues of
the order which possessed a large amount of landed property, from be-
quests and allowances, and from gifts from the emperors. Lanciani,
R. : Ancient Rome in the Light of Recent Excavations pg. 138.
Sec. XIII 1. 3. privata successio
The Vestals could freely hold property and dispose of it.
TheVaconian Law, 169 B.C. abolished female inheritance but the Vestal
were not subject to the ooinmon law*
Sec. XIII 1. 3, testamenta
By the Twelve Tables, the code of laws compiled in 451 B.C.
a man could dispose of his property as he pleased even to the point o: '
using up the inheritance of his family. Later this was regulated so
that a man could not give more than three-fourths in legacies.
Harper's Classical Dictionary.
Sec. XV 1. 6. trapezitas
This word is formed from the Greek word for table, derived
from the table upon which the money -changers or bankers did their
Bankers existed in Rome as early as 309 B.C. They ex-
changed foreign money for Roman coin, kept money belonging to others,
lent money, acted as agents in sales or auctions. They seem to have
had a modern system of book-keeping. Wealthy bankers who carried cjja
business on a large scale were respectable persons, but those who
degraded their occupation by becoming usurers were held in contempt.
Harper's Classical Dictionary.
Seo. XV 1. 8. fames
In 38?, after the murder of Gratian, the harvest in the pro
vineea was so small that it did not suffice even for the country peo-
ple themselves, to say nothing of the people of Rome. SymmachuB ciai
that this was the gods' revenge for the violation of their rites.
Sec. X¥I 1. 6. silvestribus arbustis
At the time of a famine, the country people would flock to
the forest where there was still some vegetation, and eat roots and
Sec. XVI 1. 7. Dodonaeas arbores
Dodona was a city and oracle of Jupiter in 5pirus. The
oracle was situated in an oak or birch tree, the priestesses inter-
preting the god's message through the rustling of the leaves.
Sec. XVIII 1. 2. alienae religionis
Since the state religion was Christianity, paganism would
be considered a foreign religion.
Sec. XX 1. 1. divo parenti
Valentinian II was the son of Valentinian I who had toler-
ated pagan worship.
Sec. XX 1. 2. legitimos heredes
Gratian, the violator of paganism, had no children.
Sec XX 1. 4. divo fratri vestro
Gratian and Valentinian II were brothers. Gratian had re-
moved the altar in 382.
Note the successful endeavor to secure rhetorical effect in
tnis closing section.
Arainianus Marcel linus.
Cagnat , R. Cours D'Epigraphie Latine.
Encycolpedia Britannica •
Gibbon, Edward, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, edited by Bury
Harper's Dictionary of Classical Literature and Roman Antiquities.
Huelsen, ch. The Roman Forum.
Lancinai, Rudolfo, Pagan and Christian Rome.
Lancinai, Rudolfo, Ancient Rome in the Light of Recent Excavations.
Pauly's Real — Sncyclopadie
Seeck, Otto, Syramachi Opera.