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Q. Aurelius Symmachus

A Political Biography

Cristiana Sogno

Publication Year: 2006

Symmachus was a brilliant orator, writer, and statesman, often flatly labeled as one of the last pagan senators. Cristiana Sogno offers a reconstruction of the political career of Symmachus through close analysis of his extensive writings, while also proposing a critical reevaluation of his historical importance. In contrast to traditional interpretation, Sogno's study demonstrates that Symmachus was primarily an influential politician, rather than a mere pagan zealot. By portraying the individual experience of Symmachus, the book sets forth a new approach for interpreting the political aspirations, mentality, and attitudes of Roman senators. The much-studied question of the Christianization of the Western aristocracy has created the illusion of a Christian and a pagan aristocracy rigidly separated from each other. Through her study of Symmachus, Sogno demonstrates the primary importance of politics over religion in the public activity of the late Roman aristocracy. Although the book is specifically addressed to scholars and students of Late Antiquity, it will also be of interest to classicists, ancient historians, and non-specialists who wish to know more about this pivotal period in Roman history. Cristiana Sogno received her Ph.D. in Classics and History from Yale University. Currently she is Townsend Assistant Professor of Classics at Cornell University. Visit Professor Sogno's website at: http://www.fordham.edu.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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1. Laying the Foundations of a Political Career: The Orationes

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pp. 1-30

The first phase of Symmachus’ career before he achieved the urban prefectureship in 384 is well documented by the Orationes. His appointment as senatorial ambassador in 368 marked a turning point in his life. It was at the court of Valentinian I that Symmachus established his reputation as orator and, for the first time, acted as mediator between senate and ...

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2. The Rise and Fall of an Urban Prefect: The Relationes

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pp. 31-57

In late spring of 384,1 Symmachus was appointed to the praefectura urbis, the highest offi ce in a senatorial career. 2 His term of office began under the best auspices: the new urban prefect could count on the support at court of the praetorian prefect, his good friend Vettius Agorius Praetextatus. But the tenure proved to be a very diffi cult one, and Praetextatus’ untimely death ...

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3. Maintaining Friendships, Building Alliances, and Protecting the Family: The Epistulae

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pp. 59-85

The correspondence of Symmachus covers the entire span of his career. It begins with a letter addressed to Nicomachus Flavianus at the time of Symmachus’ correctorship of Lucania and Bruttii and Flavianus’ governorship of Sicily (364–65) 1 and ends with a group of letters written upon Symmachus’ return from his last embassy to the imperial court in Milan (402).2 ...

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pp. 87-89

This book begins with Symmachus’ embassy to the imperial court in Trier in the winter of 369 and ends with his embassy to the besieged court in Milan in the winter of 402. These two embassies mark the beginning and end of Symmachus’ political career (and, presumably, of his life), and other ...


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pp. 91-130


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pp. 131-136


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pp. 137-140

E-ISBN-13: 9780472025626
E-ISBN-10: 0472025627
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472115297
Print-ISBN-10: 0472115294

Page Count: 154
Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 649914278
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Q. Aurelius Symmachus

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Subject Headings

  • Symmachus, Quintus Aurelius, d. 405.
  • Symmachus, Quintus Aurelius, d. 405 -- Correspondence.
  • Speeches, addresses, etc., Latin -- History and criticism.
  • Rome -- History -- Theodosians, 379-455 -- Biography.
  • Rome -- History -- Valentinian I, 364-375 -- Biography.
  • Orators -- Rome -- Biography.
  • Legislators -- Rome -- Biography.
  • Latin letters -- History and criticism.
  • Letter writing, Latin -- History -- To 1500.
  • Rome -- Politics and government -- 284-476.
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