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Demougeot, and E. Gluschanin to treat all legislation issued during, say, the ascendancy of Eutropius as directly reflecting his personal policies. But no favorite, however influential, could treat the consistory as a rubber stamp. We have to reckon with the likelihood that on particular issues even a Eutropius would find it prudent to acquiesce in being outvoted rather than spend his personal credit on appealing to the emperor. It is anachronistic in any case to suppose that any late Roman politician even attempted to impose a consistent social and economic policy on his administration, and much legislation that he supported in the consistory would have been initiated by others.

Eutropius's real Achilles' heel was in the military sphere, and he took drastic measures to protect it. He also exiled Abundantius, magister militum of Illyricum. None of the three were replaced. From to Illyricum was abandoned to the depredations of the renegade Goth Alaric. In effect Eutropius took over the supreme command himself. In he led a successful expedition against the Huns. But ambitious officers denied advancement by this policy naturally were resentful. In Tribigild rebelled in Phrygia, and this time Eutropius decided against taking command himself.

He wrote to court saying that Tribigild was too strong for him and it would be better to come to terms, Tribigild's terms being that Eutropius be deposed. Arcadius finally gave way. Eutropius was deposed and sent in exile to Cyprus. No new magister officiorum is recorded, but the prefecture went to Aurelian, who had already held the prefecture of Constantinople in — A few weeks later he had Eutropius recalled from exile, and presided at a tribunal that condemned the eunuch to death. Aurelian's position in subsequent events confirms the obvious implication of Synesius's allegory in De providentia , that as praetorian prefect he was now the emperor's chief minister: thanks to its structural importance, the prefecture was able to recover its influence once Eutropius fell.

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In particular, he wanted to be consul, like so many of the great marshals of Theodosius before him. In April he marched to Chalcedon at the head of his army and demanded to see Arcadius there in person. The terrified emperor complied. Arcadius yielded again.

But the presence of his Goths about the city roused apprehension and resentment. Fear spread that he was planning to sack and burn the city. Panic erupted. In a wild riot, Roman civilians fell on the Goths still within the city walls, burning alive many thousands of Goths in a church where they had fled for asylum. After a few days of unsatisfactory negotiations, he withdrew to Thrace and was declared a public enemy. He retreated to Thrace again, where.


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Caesarius remained in the prefecture till , when he was succeeded briefly by Eutychian —5 before the long tenure of Anthemius, who held power till A dazzling series of poems by Stilicho's propagandist Claudian brilliantly illuminates the rivalry between the courts from the Western side. But it is possible to flesh out the bare bones of the narrative with the testimony of Synesius, a contemporary and participant in these events.

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Caesarius is believed to have led a party of barbarophiles, committed to Theodosius's policy of filling the empty Roman legions with barbarians. Opposing them it is held were Caesarius's brother Aurelian and the nationalists, who were anxious to reduce this dangerous dependence on unreliable foreigners. But the July massacre revealed the fiercely Roman sentiments of the populace. Thus vindicated, Aurelian was soon recalled to power, and a general purge of barbarians followed.

This picture rests entirely on a misinterpretation and misdating of Synesius's two works. It was A. In K. Zakrzewski broadened the scope of these parties.

Edward Gibbon, Esq.

For him it was not just the barbarian question that divided the court. He claimed that Aurelian was the leader of a nationalist movement that wanted to. He identified Synesius as the propagandist of this movement. He also argued that it had a religious, as well as a political, dimension.


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The nationalists' creed was Neoplatonism and, he believed, they were either actively pagan or nominally Christian, but in any case sympathetic to Hellenism and the old ways. These views have dominated later research, notably the important studies of Mazzarino and Demougeot Holum was skeptical about the pro- and anti-German parties but succumbed to the idea of a Hellenist party sympathetic to paganism. Albert was skeptical of both antibarbarian and propagan movements; Gluschanin, reexamining Theodosius's Gothic policy, has also questioned the antibarbarian thesis.

But since neither made any attempt to reexamine Seeck's chronology or to reconsider De regno or De providentia , neither has come any nearer a satisfactory interpretation of Synesius or of the political situation. This book attempts to show that Seeck's chronology and interpretation are alike mistaken. The only fixed point in the chronology of Synesius's life and works is the earthquake during which he ended his three-year stay in Constantinople. Seeck thought he could fix this date to , and so great is his authority in such matters that everyone acquiesced. But this is one of the rare occasions when Seeck erred.

Contemporary evidence he misunderstood shows that the relevant earthquake must in fact be dated to As a consequence, both De regno and De providentia must be dated two years earlier. Inevitably the events to which they allude have to be differently identified and assessed. Even on the later date, there is no evidence in De regno or elsewhere for pro- and antibarbarian parties. What De regno does document is hostility to Eutropius's handling of the problem of Alaric and Illyricum in De providentia does not describe a "victory of anti-Germanism," since no such victory was ever won, nor indeed was such a battle ever joined.

The barbarian crisis of these years took a different form.

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It is not that there was no antibarbarian sentiment; rather, since there was no pro -barbarian party, there was no antibarbarian party. There was no purge of barbarians. Chapters 5—7 provide the first attempt to analyze De providentia as a whole on its own terms, revealing it to be a far more subtle, complex, and deceitful work than has been appreciated hitherto. The self-consciously enigmatic complexities with which Synesius has wrought it have misled modern historians to mistake for facts the optimistic inter-. We have also included an annotated translation of De providentia in chapter 9.

We hope thus to facilitate study of a complex work written in extraordinarily difficult Greek. In chapter 4 we discuss De regno and its true significance.

Chapters 2—3 reassess the Hellenism of Synesius and Aurelian. For all Synesius's enthusiasm for Greek philosophy and culture, he was in fact an orthodox, if unconventional, Christian. Aurelian was the disciple of an ascetic monk and a stern persecutor of heretics. Synesius was born to an old and wealthy local family of Cyrene in the province of Pentapolis perhaps a year or two before A.

His letters show his lifelong active involvement in the local affairs of Cyrenaica. In particular, he interrupted his philosophical studies for three years to go on an embassy to Constantinople, attempting to secure a reduction of taxes for Pentapolis. While there he became embroiled in national politics—the subject of this book.

Christian Cameron

The two works he wrote during his embassy, the De regno , an essay on kingship cast into the form of an address to the emperor, and the De providentia , a political allegory in the form of the Egyptian myth of Typhos and Osiris, have long been regarded as our best evidence for the current politics of the Eastern capital.

This evidence has traditionally been interpreted on the assumption that Synesius was a pagan at the time of his embassy and only converted to Christianity several years later. Bregman's recent study, for example, rests on two axioms—that the Cyrenean local aristocracy was necessarily pagan and that Synesius's great intellectual quest and achievement lay in reconciling Neoplatonism and Christianity.

Yet while the aristocracies of Athens and Rome continued to be substantially pagan into the late fourth century, [3] we are not entitled to make the same assumption about Cyrene. Roques gives little indication of the extent to which his confident conclusions are based on the argument from silence—and usually the silence of the same writer, our only literary source for early fifth-century Cyrene: Synesius himself.

For example, while it is true enough that Synesius was apparently more worried as bishop by heretics than by pagans, [5] this was an attitude shared by countless other fourth- and fifth-century Christians. To quote only one example, after his spectacular conversion in mid-fourth-century Rome, the former pagan professor Marius Victorinus devoted the rest of his life to attacking Arianism.

The destruction of pagan temples in Cyrene vividly attested by their charred remains cannot Roques claims be dated as late as the Theodosian age because Synesius does not mention it.