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This webpage reproduces
On the Sixth Consulship
of the Emperor Honorius


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Panegyric on the Sixth Consulship
of the Emperor Honorius (A.D. 404)


[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] All things that with waking sense desire ponders kindly repose brings back to the slumbering mind. The huntsman stretches his weary limbs upon the couch, yet his mind ever returns to the woods where his quarry lurks. The judge dreams of law-suits, the charioteer of his chariot the nightly steeds of which he guides past a shadowy turning-point. The lover repeats love's mysteries, the merchant makes exchange of goods, the miser still watchfully grasps at elusive riches, and to thirsty sufferers all-pervading sleep offers from a cooling spring idly alluring draughts.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] I am a lover of the Muses and in the silent night I too am haunted by that my accustomed task. For meseemed I stood upon the very summit of the starry sky and laid my songs at Jove's feet, and, in the flattery of sleep, the gods and all the sacred band gathered around Jove's throne gave applause to my words. I sang of Enceladus and conquered Typhoeus, the first a prisoner beneath Inarime, the second oppressed by the weight of Etna. How  p73 joyous was that Jove whom, after the war with the giants, heaven welcomed, enriched with the spoils from Phlegra's field!

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] My dream has come true; 'twas no vain imagining; nor did the false ivory gate​1 send forth an unaccomplished dream. Behold our lord, behold earth towering to heaven's height! Here before me are gods such as I then saw, gods worthy of all reverence. Nought greater could dreams have fancied; this noble assembly offers the poet an audience like to that of heaven.  p75 


[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] If our ancestors vowed temples to "Home-bringing Fortune"​a in honour of the return of their generals, never would this god more worthily claim for her services a noble temple than when their proper majesty is restored alike to the consul­ship and to Rome. The annual election in the Campus Martius is not the accustomed farce, nor see we a consul of other race than his electors nor a foreigner claiming pretended rights.​2 The palace now our own wears a native dress, and while Quirinus associates the people with the armies of Italy, Mars gives back to his own Field its imperial suffrage. What will the year be like for mortals that is ushered in by omens on the Palatine Hill so favourable to true sons of Rome and inaugurated on the banks of the Tiber? 'Tis true that years marked by thy name have ever been rich in omens of success and that victory has always accompanied thy consul­ship, yet by its wondrous dawn is this year set before all years, blessed by the twofold deity of Rome and of her Emperor. For as Babylonian lore gives assurance that propitious stars do then promise the best fortune to mortals when they hold the summit of the sky and their course is at the zenith, not dimming their  p77 light by a low position in the sky; so the Standard-bearer of the Latin palace​3 at his zenith gives hope of a brighter future for Italy in placing the star of our empire in its true position. Omens that have their origin in Rome's victorious soil are the more sure of fulfilment.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] When fair Apollo leaves Delphi's shrine and visits the altars of the north, Castalia's waters differ in no wise from those of any common stream, nor the laurel from any common tree; sad and silent is the cave and the shrine without a worshipper. But if Phoebus is there, Phoebus returned from Scythian climes to his Delphic tripod, guiding thither his yoked griffins, the woods, the caves regain their voice, the streams their life; the sacred ripple revisits the face of the waters, a clearer echo resounds from the shrine and the now inspired rocks tremble to the voice of prophecy. Now the Palatine Mount is exalted with honour and rejoices in the return of its native deity;​b far and wide among the suppliant peoples it spreads oracles surer even than those of Delphi and bids its laurels grow green again to deck the standards of Rome.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Of a truth no other city could fitly be the home of the world's rulers; on this hill is majesty most herself, and knows the height of her supreme sway; the palace, raising its head above the forum that lies at its feet, sees around it so many temples and is surrounded by so many protecting deities. See below the Thunderer's temple the Giants suspended from the Tarpeian rock, behold the sculptured doors, the cloud-capped statues, the sky-towering temples, the brazen prows of many a vessel welded on to lofty columns, the temples built on massy crags where the  p79 hand of man has added to the work of nature, the countless triumphal arches glittering with spoils. The eyes are dazed by the blaze of metal and blink outwearied by the surrounding gold.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Adored Prince, dost thou recognize thy house? 'Tis the same that thy loving sire showed to thy wondering eyes while yet thou wert a boy of tender years. Never in all his life did Theodosius, best of all the gods, better deserve our love than when, triumphant over all his foes, he came with thee to Rome to sojourn within its walls, and there, following the example of the noblest emperors, lived as a simple citizen, not seeking to inspire terror by his name but condescending to exchange banter and harmless raillery with the people and as ready to lay aside his rank and visit the homes of the poor as to enter the palaces of the noble. 'Tis thus the public love is kindled when with just humanity modesty bids royal state stoop to the people. And thee, while still but a boy, though the crown had not yet encircled thy head, thy father took to share his honours,​4 cherishing thee in his royal bosom, giving thy youth its first taste of triumphs and teaching it the prelude of its mighty destiny. Peoples of every tongue and Persian chiefs sent to solicit alliance in Rome​5 once saw thee seated with thy father in this very palace and bowing the knee laid their crowns at thy feet. Thou wert at his side when he summoned the tribes to receive a bounteous largess: with thee he entered the hallowed portals of the assembled senate clad in the consul's robe, right glad to introduce his son to the good-will of the Roman Fathers, that so his youthful heir might grow familiar with empire.

 p81  [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Hence taking firmer root the love of Rome clung to thee more closely and grew strong, deep-planted in all thy heart. As thou grewest the affection which thou hadst found in childhood for the city grew too; nor was Bosporus, whose cherished town was thy nurse, able on thy return to seduce thee from that love. Every time that thy sire in sport gave thee thy choice of whatsoever cities thou didst prefer to govern as thy share of empire, thou didst leave to thy brother Arcadius the throne and riches of the East and the lands which by inheritance should be his. "Let him rule over the servile Assyrians," thou saidst, "let Nile, the river of Egypt, and the Tigris be his; let me have my beloved Rome." Thy wishes have been fulfilled. Fortune set up a new tyrant only to ensure for thee the governance of Latium. So soon as ever the war was brought to a success­ful conclusion thou wert summoned from the court of Byzantium to undertake the rule of Italy twice conquered by thy father's arms. Serena herself left the East and accompanied thee in thy journey across Illyria: fearless in face of danger she bestowed a mother's care on thee who wert to be lord of Latium and her own son-in‑law after Theodosius' translation to the sky. She kept careful guard over the child entrusted to her protection through the dangers of that critical time and brought thee safe to her uncle's throne and her husband's army. Stilicho and Serena vied in love toward thee and what Serena's care had brought safe home Stilicho's affection welcomed there.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Happy father to enter heaven with no fears for the future; he knew that thou wert to succeed him. With what joy he looks down from above and sees his glory enhanced by thine exploits! Europe and  p83 Africa were alike threatened by foes: from Mount Atlas came fierce Gildo; Alaric from Peuce's savage isle. Often had both with impious daring set at nought the commands of thy sire. When he came from the lands of Thrace Alaric closed against him the waters of the Danube; Gildo scorned his command and, refusing assistance for a neighbouring war, had seized on the fields of Libya he had long forsworn. Theodosius recalls the anger he then justly felt and rejoices to witness their discomfiture, proud to have his son for his avenger. Orestes' sword took vengeance on the son of Thyestes;​6 but guilt was blent with piety, and the sword-stroke brings doubtful glory when honour is balanced by a mother's murder; Augustus sated the shade of Caesar with his enemies' blood, but he made a false advertisement of piety when, to the grief of his fatherland, he offered the blood of citizens to his father's ghost. But for thee thy sire's cause, linked as it is with the general safety, doubles thy warlike fame; the same victory that has avenged thy sire has restored peace to the world.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] My lyre inspired by the Muses of Pieria has long since sung of the defeat and capture of the Moor; but of late, too, in Stilicho's presence I have celebrated in verse the wars against the Getae. To‑day I would fain sing the glories of thy home-coming and, ceasing to tell of wars, would prelude a theme of thankfulness.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Alaric, his hopes ruined by his bloody defeat at Pollentia, though policy dictated that his life should be spared, was nevertheless deserted by all his allies and bereft of all his resources. He was forced to leave Latium and to retrace his steps in ruin and  p85 disgrace; such was the complete reversal of his fortune.​7 As when a pirate ship, the terror of every sea, laden with the spoils of violence and the booty taken from many a captured merchantman, falls in with a great man-of‑war and hopes to secure it for its prey as vessels heretofore, then indeed crippled by the slaughter of its oarsmen and the rending of its sails, deprived of its rudder and all but destroyed by the breaking of its yard-arms, it is driven this way and that at the mercy of wind and wave and at last pays the penalty for its piracy; even so Alaric turned backwards his vain threatenings, fleeing from Italy that, once so easy for his advance, was now so difficult for his retreat. His fear makes him believe every road barred, and rivers, erstwhile left behind in scorn, fill him with alarm on his return.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Meanwhile, as it fell out, father Eridanus in his watery home beneath the crystal caverns, ignorant as yet of what had happened, was pondering weighty cares. What, he wondered, would be the outcome of the war: would Jove approve empire and law and Rome's days of peace, or would he, abhorring order, condemn future ages to the primal ways of brute beasts? As he anxiously ponders such things one of the Naiads with hair unbound came and embraced her sire and said, "Alaric is other now than once we saw him in his hour of triumph: thou wilt wonder at the pallor of his countenance. Joy it will be to reckon up his army and number the remains of so great a host. Frown no more nor complain; let my sister nymphs once more enjoy their dances."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] So spake she and he lifted his gracious head above the gliding stream and on his dripping forehead  p87 gleamed the golden horns that cast their brilliance along the banks. No common crowd of reeds adorned his oozy locks. The green branches of the daughters of the sun​8 shadowed his head and amber dripped from all his hair. A cloak was flung over his broad shoulders, a cloak whose grey texture was set aflame with an embroidery of Phaëthon and his father's chariot. Resting beneath his breast an urn glorious with engraved stars makes clear its heaven-sent beauty. For there Phoebus had set in the sky all the sad stories of his woe: Cycnus changed into a swan, Phaëthon's sisters transformed into trees, and the river that washed the wounds of his dying son; the charioteer is there in his icy zone, the Hyades follow on their brother's traces, while the Milky Way sprinkles the outstretched wings of Cycnus who bears him company; the constellation of Eridanus​9 himself wets the clear southern sky in its tortuous course and with starry stream flows beneath Orion's dread sword.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Glorious in such guise the god looked forth and saw the Getae advancing with bowed necks. Then he spake: "What, Alaric, hast thou then changed thy plans? Why hastenest thou back? Art wearied so soon of the coasts of Italy? Feedest thou not thy horses on Tiber's grassy bank as though thoughtest to do? Drivest not the plough on Etruria's hills? Fit object of all the punishments of Hell, thinkest thou to attack the city of the gods with a Giant's rage? If none other, was not my Phaëthon a warning to thee, Phaëthon fall'n from heaven to quench his flames in my waters, what time he  p89 sought with mortal hand to hold the fiery reins of the sky and hoped to spread the day's brilliance from a mortal countenance? 'Tis the same mad crime, I tell thee, whosoever aspires to spoil Rome or drive the sun's chariot."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] So spake he, and rising yet farther out of the stream he loudly summoned the rivers of Liguria and Venetia. These raise their dripping heads from among their leafy banks, fair Ticinus, blue Addua, swift Athesis, slow Mincius, and Timavus with his nine mouths. All mock at the fugitive and recall the happy flocks to the now peaceful meadows; Lycaean Pan is bidden to return and the Dryads and Fauns, gods of the countryside.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Thou too, Verona,​10 didst add no small makeweight to Rome's victory over the Getae; not even Pollentia nor the walls of avenging Hasta did more for the salvation of Italy. Here, as once again he breaks his bond, and driven by his losses risks all in the attempt to change his present fortune, Alaric learned that his mad treachery availed him nothing and that change of place changes not destiny. The vultures fed on the countless bodies of his slainº and Athesis, carrying down the corpses of Rome's enemies in its stream, turned the waters of the Ionian sea into blood.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] The treaty violated, Stilicho with all eagerness grasped at the conflict proffered where Rome was now far away from danger and Padus flowed between witnessing the strife. He rejoices that now opportune treachery has broken out in rebellious risings and, setting an example of endurance, he shirks neither fiery sun nor scorching dust. Himself he is everywhere with dreadful arm; he stations troops  p91 at every point, even where the enemy little expected them, and hastens in any and every direction to the succour of him who needs it. If the soldiers flag with wearied ranks he throws the auxiliaries into the line heedless of their loss; thus he cunningly weakens the savage tribes of the Danube by opposing one tribe to another and with twofold gain joins battle that turns barbarians against themselves to perish in either army for our sake. Thee too, Alaric, he had captured and delivered over to death had not the hasty zeal of the rash Alan chief upset his carefully laid scheme. All but a prisoner thou dost lash thy panting steed, nor do we regret that escape. Rather get thee gone, thou last remnant of thy race, sole survivor of so many Danubian tribes; get thee gone, the living witness of Rome's triumph.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Yet was his​11 fierce spirit not cast down by these great reverses; he still attempted to discover an unknown path across the mountains, hoping that over their rocky summits he might fall suddenly on the peoples of Raetia and Gaul. But Stilicho's more soldierly vigilance put a stop to his projects. Who indeed could hope to deceive that unsleeping brain, those godlike eyes that watched o'er Italy? Never did an enemy succeed in discovering Stilicho's plans or had power to conceal his own. Before they knew them themselves the secrets of the Getae were known to Stilicho, whose general­ship was quick to meet their every ruse.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Baulked in every attempt Alaric camped panic-stricken on a single hill. Though the horses, feeding on bitter leaves, gnawed even the tree-bark, though pestilence raged, brought on by foul food and  p93 aggravated by the season's heat, though the soldiers arrogantly heaped abuse on their beleaguered leader and reminded him of their captured children; yet neither the ravages of disease nor famine that teaches men to face all dangers, nor grief for spoils lost, nor the voice of shame nor anger at bitter gibes could tempt him to brave the perils of a hand-to‑hand fight, tried so often before and with such ill success. What triumph more complete than that of extorting from a conquered foe the admission that he is conquered? And now numbers of deserters began to weaken his already reduced strength and day by day his forces were diminished. Surrender was not now the hidden work of a few but meant the open defection of whole sections and squadrons. Their general rides after them and with angry curses and vain clamour seeks to hold them back, waging war now on his own troops. He weeps, calls the men by name, recalls them with prayers and supplications; he reminds them of past campaigns and all to no purpose offers his throat to their reluctant hands. His mind a prey to melancholy he sees his forces desert him, his army melt away, even as an old bee-master of Hybla, beating Cybele's gong, tries, by means of that noise, to recall his scattered bees who have wantonly left their combs and fled the hive, till, himself wearied of the useless sound, he weeps the loss of his store of honey and cries out upon the faithless swarm that has forgotten its accustomed home and left its cells empty.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] And so when grief loosed the string of his tongue that had long been mute he looked with tear-dimmed eyes upon the well-known Alps and pondered upon his present retreat, attended by a fate so different  p95 from that which had prospered his advance. Then with a single whisper he made war, with an outstretched spear lightly overthrew walls, making a mock of precipices; now deserted and in despair he offered a just spectacle to the mountains he had so scornfully crossed. Then looking up at the sky of Italy he said: [Legamen ad paginam Latinam]"Land of death for the Getae, trod by me with such omens of disaster, let thy wrath be now appeased by the sacrifice of so many of the guilty; let my sufferings at last excite thy compassion. Behold me, once lord of the world, the friend of fortune till I invaded thee; now, like an exile or an adjudged criminal, I feel upon my back the nearer breath of my pursuers. Alas! which of my disasters shall I lament first, which last? Not thou, Pollentia, nor ye, my captured treasures, have thus tortured me; be that destiny's harsh lot or the chance of war. I had not then lost all my forces; with troops still at my back, with my cavalry intact, I retire with the remnant of my army to the hills they call the Apennines. Its inhabitants told me that this mountain stretched from the confines of Liguria as far as the promontory of Pelorus in Sicily and embraced all the peoples of Italy, dividing with its unbroken chain the two seas that wash their country's two coasts. If I had pursued the plan that anger first dictated to me and had in my desperation continued my march along its crest, what lay beyond? Giving everything to the flames I might have died with loftier fame. Ay, and my dying eyes had beheld thee, Rome, from not so far away, and my very death would have cost the victor dear as he pursued me over the well-tilled cornfields.º But Rome held my  p97 children captive, my wives, my wealth — yet, freed from such hindrances, my advance had been the more rapid.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "With what cunning, with what skill, did Stilicho, that ever fatal enemy, ensnare me! His pretended mercy did but blunt my warlike spirit, and availed him to shift the war backwards across the Po. A curse on that armistice, more damaging than the yoke of slavery. 'Twas then the cause of the Getae was undone, then that I signed my own death-warrant. More rudely than any weapon did mercy destroy our people, beneath that semblance of peace lay the deadliest form of war, and I myself fell into the snare I had laid for others. I am weary of it all; where shall I find comfort or counsel? I fear my friends more than my foes.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "Would God I had lost them all on that field. He is ever mine that has fallen in hard conflict. Better all had perished by the sword; less bitter had been my grief for losses inflicted by a victorious foe than for those brought upon me by treachery. Is there not left one faithful follower? My comrades have turned against me, my friends hate me. My life is a burden; why prolong it? Where hide the remnants of my shipwrecked fortunes? To what land shall I flee where the names of Stilicho and all too power­ful Italy shall not sound for ever in mine ears?"

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] So spake he, and with Stilicho pressing hard upon him fled in terror before our eagles. With him goes Pallor, black Hunger, Despair with bloodless, wounded countenance and a hellish company of shrieking Diseases. Then the learnèd priest whirls around the sick body​12 the torch of purification  p99 with its smoky, odorous flame of blue sulphur and black bitumen; he sprinkles the limbs with holy water and with herbs that banish evil influences and, praying to Jove the Purifier and to Diana, with back-turned hands throws over his head towards the South the torches which are to carry off with them the spells cast over the sick.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Meanwhile the ardent desire of both senate and people to behold their emperor demands his often denied return. Not with such consent, our grandsires report, were public vows eagerly offered throughout the city when warlike Trajan had broken the power of Dacia and reduced the indignant north once more to subjection, what time the Scythian river Hypanis beheld the Roman axes and Lake Maeotis looked in amaze on a Roman court administering Roman law. It was a lesser enthusiasm which recalled the gentle Marcus Aurelius to give thanks in Rome's temples for Fortune's deliverance of Italy from a similar pressure of surrounding nations. Then 'twas no thanks to the generals; for a fiery shower fell on the enemy; one man his scorched courser bore trembling on its smoking back; another sank down beneath his fire-wasted helmet; spears glowed molten by lightning and swords vanished suddenly into smoke. Heaven it was that fought that battle with no mortal weapons, whether it was that Chaldean seers​13 had by their magic spells won over the gods to our side or, as I rather think, that Marcus' blameless life had power to win the Thunderer's homage. To‑day, also, assuredly Heaven's favour would not be wanting to Latium should our own hand fail, but a beneficent  p101 providence has shown itself unwilling to rob human endeavour of its honour or to let the lightning win the well merited crown of laurel which the efforts of thy father-in‑law, Stilicho, have secured for thy brows.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Full often had the nobles, sent to urge thy return, brought back the answer that as yet thou couldst not come, until Rome herself, unable to bear any longer the frustration of her citizens' common prayer, came forth from the depths of her sanctuary and, openly displaying her radiant face, urged the hesitating emperor with complaints of her own. "Too long, my emperor, have I, thy mother, borne in silence the hurt thy refusal to return hath done me. How long shall favoured Liguria possess that for which I desire? How long shall the Rubicon, separating me from the object of my prayers by so narrow a space, torture the Tiber by the all-but‑presence of that divine being whose nearer sojourn it is not allowed to enjoy? Was it not enough to have scorned me once when Africa, again at war, mocked the city with hopes of its emperor's coming, nor could we move thine obstinate ears with all our prayers? Yet did I harness for thee two steeds whiter than snow to draw the chariot wherein thou shouldst ride; already had I builded in thy name a triumphal arch through the which thou shouldst pass clad in the garb of victory, and I was dedicating it as a memorial of the war with an inscription to be the undying witness of the salvation of Libya. Even then were being prepared for Jove to see from the Tarpeian rock models for the coming triumph: a fleet of ships was cast in metal, ships whose oar-blades smote the golden sea; the cities of Africa were made to go before thy chariot and  p103 Triton, with his conquered waters and his head crowned with Minerva's sacred reeds; crowds of slaves with upgirt dresses bore a figure of trembling Atlas cast in bronze; Gildo himself, destined to undergo in prison the punishment once meted out to Jugurtha, offered his stubborn neck to the yoke, Gildo fallen a captive to the arms of Rome, not to the treachery of a Bocchus and a Sulla.14

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "But I pass over what has been. Can the present triumph, too, of the Getic war escape me? Does any spot give ampler room to so great renown? The very blessings thou hast bestowed beg thee not to delay, and thy generosity, constrained by its own fair deeds, must needs love those whom it has saved. Now for a hundred summers the reaper's sickle has gathered the yellow harvest of Gargarus;​c already the consul has introduced the games that occur but once in a century and upon which no man looks twice. During these years which number twice ten lustres, I have but thrice​15 seen an emperor enter my walls in triumph; all at different times but for the same reason — civil war. Did they come in their pride that I should see their chariots stained with Italy's blood? Can any think a mother finds joy in the tears of her offspring? The tyrants were slain, but even they were my children. Caesar boasted him of his victories over the Gauls; he said nothing about Pharsalia. Where the two sides bear the same standards and are of one blood, as defeat is ever shameful so victory brings no honour. See thou to it that now a truer glory crown our arms; give me back the joy, long a stranger to me, of honest  p105 fame won from the enemy, and make good guilty triumphs by the lawful spoils of foreign madness.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "How long shall our emperor's rule be a stranger to its true home and his governance stray from its rightful seat? Why does my palace which has given its name to all palaces mourn in neglected decay? Cannot the world be ruled therefrom? Phoebus never deserts his centre path though his beams are shed upon all. Was the hand of those old emperors who made their home any lighter laid upon the tribes of Danube and Rhine? Was the awe felt by those of Tigris and Euphrates any less real when Mede and Indian came to this my capital of Rome to beg for alliance or sue for peace? Here dwelt those emperors whom merit chose for merit, and so, adopting them as consuls for the Roman state, made judgement not blood continue a noble line. Here lived the Aelian family that traced its descent from Nerva, the peaceful Antonines, the warlike Severi. Thou art a citizen; disdain not such a band; give us back the countenance we beheld long since, that Father Tiber, remembering the glory that was, may with thy father-in‑law welcome thee as a man whom as a boy he saw leave my city at his father's side."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] While yet she entreated the emperor reassured her with these words: "Never shalt thou complain that I have been deaf to thine entreaties; I could not thwart thee, goddess, who art the mother of our laws. Bring no railing accusation against thy sons. Did I disregard my country's call after the African war? Nay, I sent Stilicho to sit in the curule chair to take my place, a consul instead of an emperor, a father- instead of a son-in‑law. In him thy  p107 citizens saw also myself; so my love believes, for it has found that not blood alone but rather glorious deeds can show a parent. Had I a hundred tongues I could not touch on all the benefits he has bestowed upon me and upon the empire; one deed alone of them all will I recount to thee, goddess, if so be it is as yet unknown to thee, a deed of which I was the spectator or the cause.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "Alaric had laid waste Greece and the coasts of Thrace and in the mad pride of his many victories and the arrogance inspired by his crossing of the Alps had laid siege to the trembling cities of Liguria with winter as his ally — a season that favours a race accustomed to inclement skies; he then threatened to break down my defences and to lay strait siege to me also, bolstering up his hopes with the thought that, at the terror of his name and in fear of having none to aid me, I should come to terms with him on any conditions he chose. But I felt no fear, for I relied on the advance of Stilicho, and was mindful, O goddess, of those thy leaders who, even in face of death, never through base love of life made terms at the cost of honour. It was night; where'er I looked I saw the watchfires of the enemy shining like stars. The bugle had already summoned the soldiers to the first watch when glorious Stilicho arrived from the frozen north. But the enemy held the road between my father-in‑law and myself, and the bridge whose obstructing piers churn turbid Addua to yet fuller foam. What was Stilicho to do? Halt? My danger forbade the least delay. Break through the enemy's line? His force was too small. In hastening to my aid he had left behind him many auxiliaries and legionary troops. Placed in this dilemma he  p109 thought it long and tedious to wait for reinforcements and, putting aside his own peril, was eager only to deliver me from mine; inspired by the courage that is born of love, heedless of his own danger, he broke through the enemy's midst and, sword in hand, cutting down all who sought to bar his passage, he passed like lightning through the barbarians' camp.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "Now let poets' songs praise me the son of Tydeus because, relying on Odysseus' help when the way was opened by Dolon's wiles and all was sunk in feasting and slumber, he broke into the Thracian camp of Rhesus and brought back to the Greek lines his captured steeds, which — if we may trust the too generous Muses — surpassed the winds in speed, the snows in whiteness. Here was a man who, with no treachery 'mid silent slumber, clave a path for himself with his sword in the open light of day and arrived within our lines covered with blood, thus surpassing the brave deeds of Diomede by as much as day surpasses night and open battle ambush. Alaric's position, moreover, on the river bank was a stronger one, and he himself a warrior with whom Rhesus, even when awake, could not be compared. Rhesus was king, Alaric the conqueror, of Thrace. Neither weapons nor the river's bar could stop Stilicho. So Horatius, standing on the falling bridge, drave back the threatening hosts of Etruria and then swam the Tiber, still carrying the shield wherewith to the amazement of Tarquin he had defended Rome, and from mid stream looked back with scornful gaze upon Porsenna. 'Twas the swift Addua my father breasted; but, as he swam the flood, Horatius turned his back upon the Etruscans, Stilicho faced the barbarian foe.

 p111  [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "Now, O Rome, lead forth the chorus that shall hymn a contest of such high renown and let thy best genius with all its eloquence voice the well-merited praises of my foster parent."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] So spake he and, issuing from the walls of old Ravenna, advanced his standards.d He crossed the mouths of the Po and left behind him that river harbour​16 where, in fixed succession, in flows the foaming main and bears up the vessels that ride there at anchor on forward and backward flowing stream, and again deserts the waveless shore, like moon-led tides upon the marge of Ocean. Next he comes to the old city of Fortune's Temple that bids him glad welcome and from its height looks down upon Metaurus threading its rocky valley where an arch, tunnelled through the living rock, affords a path through the mountain's very heart, rising above the temple of Jove and dizzy altars set up by the shepherds of the Apennines. 'Twas thy good pleasure, too, to visit Clitumnus' wave,​17 beloved of them that triumph, for thence do victors get them white-coated animals for sacrifice at Rome. Thou markest well also the stream's strange property, flowing gently on when one approaches with silent step, but swirling and eddying should one hasten with louder utterance; and while it is the common nature of water to mirror the exact image of the body it alone boasts the strange power that it mimics not human form but human character. Next thy royal charger treads the streets of Narnia, looking out from its eminence upon the plain below: not far therefrom flows the strange-coloured stream which give the town its name, its sulphureous waters  p113 flowing in tortuous course between opposed mountains through dense forests of holm-oak. Then when in greeting to Father Tiber thou hast poured a libation of his waters thou art welcomed by Rome's arches and all the magnificent buildings which line the roads of that noble city's suburbs.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] And as a careful mother at the approach of her daughter's lover does all that trembling hand can do to enhance the charms that are to win a husband, oft readjusts dress and girdle, confines her breast with bands of green jasper, gathers up her hair with jewels, sets a necklace about her neck, and hangs glistening pearls from her ears, so Rome, in order to be pleasing in thy sight, offers herself to thy admiring gaze more glorious and with hills made higher and herself greater than thou hadst known her. Still fairer than of old she seemed by reason of those new walls that the rumour of the Getae's approach had just caused to be built;​e fear was the architect of that beauteous work and, by a strange freak of fortune, war put an end to the decay that peace had brought. For fear it was that caused the sudden upspringing of all those towers and renewed the youth of Rome's seven hills by enclosing them all within one long wall. Even the weather listened favourably to our prayers and was finer than its wont, although continuous rain had spoiled the preceding night; but the clouds melted away before the glory of the sun and the emperor. All the days before had the south wind troubled with rain and dimmed the moon's young disc that heaven might know it was for thee that the sunshine waited.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] One huge crowd filled all the slope between the Palatine hill and the Mulvian bridge​f and as far up  p115 as it was possible to go on the house roofs; the ground seethed with men, the lofty buildings were aglow with women. Those who are young rejoice in an emperor of their own age, the old cease to belaud the past and count their destiny happy that they have lived to see such a day, blessing the kindly times when a prince so easy of access, so singular in courtesy, forbade the senators of Rome to march before his chariot, even though Eucherius, in whose veins ran regal blood on father's and on mother's side, and his own sister did honour to his triumph like simple soldiers. Such has been the teaching of that stern but loving parent who showed no more favour to his children than to himself, and refused a son honours he granted to nobles. Bent age and upstanding youth alike are loud in his praises and, comparing the new with the ancient rule, recognize in Honorius a true citizen, in his predecessors tyrants.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] The women of Rome never tire of gazing at those blooming cheeks, those crownèd locks, those limbs clothed in the consul's jasper-studded robes, those mighty shoulders, and that neck, beauteous as Bacchus' own, with its necklace of Red Sea emeralds. Many an innocent maid, while simple modesty blushes in her cheek, would bend her gaze o'er all and inquire of her aged nurse the meaning of the dragons on the colours. "Do they," she would ask, "but wave in the air or is theirs a veritable hiss, uttered as they are about to seize an enemy in their jaws?" When she sees the mail-clad knights and brazen-armoured horses she would fain know whence that iron race of men is sprung and what land it is gives birth to steeds of bronze. "Has the god of Lemnos,"  p117 she would ask, "bestowed on metal the power to neigh, and forged living statues for the fight?" Joy and fear fill her mind; she points with her finger how Juno's bird decks the gay crests upon their helmets, or how, beneath the golden armour on their horses' backs, the red silk waves and ripples over the strong shoulders.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Then it was, Stilicho, that Fortune repaid thee for the labour of so many years when, mounted in the same chariot, thou sawest thy son-in‑law in his prime pass in triumph through the streets of Rome, and didst recall that day when in troubled terror mid uncertain fortune the dying father entrusted his son to thy care. Now thy many virtues have found their meet reward: loyalty that has kept safe that which was confided to it, singleness of purpose that have made a boy the master of the world, affection that has bestowed such loving care on an adopted son. This is the boy who to‑day summons Rome's citizens to the place of meeting and from his father's ivory throne tells to the fathers the causes and the issues of his acts, and, following ancient precedent, directs the deeds of empire at the judgement-seat of the Senate. He piles up no words, for confidence has nothing to conceal; his mind, conscious of true worth, refuses the aid of artificial speech. The senators learn to know him; their chief wears the Gabine​18 garb, and thronged with generals in the rôle of peace the Senate-house prepares for service under the auspices of the warlike court. Winged victory herself, Rome's faithful guardian, was in her temple;​19 her golden pinions stretched in protection over the holy sanctuary where the fathers meet together, and she herself, a tireless  p119 attendant on thine armies, now at last has had her wish granted and is able to promise that for all time to come thou shalt be Rome's guardian and she thine.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Hence the Sacred Way (now truly named) brings thee back to thy home. Eagerly breaks out the world's one-hearted welcome, that thou dost not woo with lure of scattered gold; nor for thee does the treasury, seeking to corrupt good faith, court venal applause; to worth unpurchased love is offered by a pure heart. For life that is dearer than any gift makes all thy debtors. Away with wooing of applause! He can ask no payment who owes his life to love.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Oh what mysterious power over the people does the Empire's guardian-genius bring! What majesty bows to majesty as the prince, clad in imperial scarlet, returns the salutations of the people that crowd the tiers of the Circus! The shouts of the adoring populace rising from that immense circle thunder to the sky, while the echoes of Rome's seven hills repeat as with one voice the name of Honorius. Nor does the Circus display only horse-races; its floor, whereon chariots were wont to drive, is surrounded by a palisade, and in this new amphitheatre, so far, so different, from their native valleys, Libyan lions shed their blood. This is the scene, too, of a military display; here we often see armed bands advancing and retiring in mazèd movements that are nevertheless executed according to a fixed plan; we watch them wheel in perfect order, extend with disciplined precision, affording us the pleasing spectacle of mimic warfare. The leader cracks his whip and a thousand bodies execute in unison  p121 their new movements; now they clap their bucklers to their sides, now they brandish them above their heads; deeply sound the clashing shields, sharply ring the engaging swords, and, to the rhythm of beaten targes, the echoing song of steel is punctuated by the interclash of weapons. Suddenly the whole phalanx falls on its knees before thee and a thousand helmets bow down in reverence. Then the companies separate, wheeling and counter-wheeling with ordered skill, following a course more tortuous than the corridors of the Minotaur's Cretan palace or the reaches of Meander's wandering stream. Then wheeling apart they form with circular masses, and Janus,​20 emprisoning war behind his every unopening doors, after a happy mimicry of battle bestows on peace the innocent rewards of combat.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] And now, his double head crowned with laurel, Janus opens the new year with auspicious calendar; now Tiber sees united in Honorius Brutus's consular robe and Romulus' kingly sceptre. The Palatine hill rejoices after many generations again to look upon a consul; the rostra learn to know the curule chair famed of old among our forefathers, and royal lictors, a long unwonted sight, encircle with their golden fasces the Forum of Trajan; while Honorius, wreathing with Getic laurels the axes borne for the sixth time before him, places a conqueror's foot upon the neck of subdued Danube. Let this year springing from its true source go forth among the nations more glorious than any — a year the consul inaugurated, not a stranger in a strange land, whose cradle the Senate-house guarded, that Roman citizens first beheld, that Victory, all wars o'ercome, auspiciously  p123 brought to birth. Years in which mere commoners held the consul­ship, and ye years when Theodosius and his predecessors graced that office in Rome or elsewhere, count your honours as nought and worship this present year. Ay, you five previous consul­ships of Honorius, even you that our emperor shall hold in Rome in the days to come, give place to this one. Wert thou, Honorius, to be consul every year, yet is this thy sixth to be magnified above all thy consul­ships, excelling all that are past and model of all that are to come.

The Translator's Notes:

1 A reference to the famous epilogue of Verg. Aen. VI (ll. 893‑96). Dreams which come through the ivory gate are false, those which issue from the gate of horn, true.

2 Claudian means that this year there is a real election (cf. Lucan, V.392 for a similar passage) and that the new consul is a true Roman.

3 i.e. the Emperor. Signifer also means the zodiac. Claudian puns on the ambiguity.

Thayer's Note: Prof. Platnauer was apparently no astrologer; the translation is confused.

Claudian does not mention the "zenith" — the point directly over the head of the observer, which does not enter into the astrological chart — but is referring to the highest point of the ecliptic, the midheaven, i.e., the uppermost of the four cardinal points (summo cardine) that are considered more important in a chart. Of those four points, the midheaven rules public affairs.

Caelicolae, "the inhabitants of heaven", i.e., the planets, has been left untranslated, subsumed under the stellas salubres, which, however, are stars (or constellations, or planets) that are in themselves benefic, as opposed to planets that have acquired accidental fortune or dignity by their position: the idea is that benefics are strengthened by a chart that is otherwise good, or to pick up Claudian's intended metaphor, that when the emperor is consul in his proper place, the beneficent influence of good civil servants is increased. There is probably also a double meaning in caelicolae, "those that honor Heaven".

"The zodiac at its zenith" (or even, with my fix: "at its midheaven") is meaningless, since the zodiac, a continuous band in a fixed position around the heavens, always bears and defines the midheaven, although by its sliding circular movement it constantly brings the individual planets in it to their places (sidus cum locavit): Claudian's ambiguous use of signifer is thus forced and not quite success­ful.

Finally, a couple of points to which it is exceedingly difficult to give their proper weight in translation:

The planet that rules the midheaven (and the tenth house, the part of the sky that immediately follows it) is Saturn, who is thus "in his proper place" (propria sede), a position that strengthens the planet involved. Saturn was the ruler of Latium during the Age of Gold: this accounts for the reference to the "halls of Latium".

Sublimis, "exalted", properly means "at the threshold", and surely refers both to Saturn returning to the threshold of the tenth house and thus to a new Age of Gold; and to the emperor returning to the threshold of his house on the Palatine, high over­looking the city. If, by the way, you stand in the Roman Forum and look south to the midheaven, it is directly over the Palatine.

Retranslating then — still by no means perfect:

For as the Babylonian science assures us that benefic stars result in the best fortune to mortals when at the same time the planets occupy the high places of the sky and are borne by the midheaven, their rays unobscured by a low position in the sky; in just the same way, when on his lofty threshold the Standard-bearer of the halls of Latium brings the star of our empire to its proper place, he increases the hopes of Italy.

4 Honorius was made Augustus Nov. 20, 393, shortly after his ninth birthday.

5 The Persians seem to have sent embassies to Rome both in 387 and 389 (Themistius, Orat. XIX p227).

6 Aegisthus.

7 Claudian did not live to see the next "reversal of fortune," Alaric's capture of Rome six years later.

8 The poplar.

9 Eridanus was a mythical river of the far West, generally identified with the Latin Padus (modern. Po) Phaëthon is said to have fallen into it when he attempted to drive the horses of his father, the sun. After this Eridanus, the river (p87)god, became a constellation — hence Eridanus is said to "wet" the southern sky.

10 The chroniclers do not mention this battle. It is probably to be attributed to the summer of 403.

Thayer's Note: Another way of phrasing it is that Claudian is the sole source for any battle here. Bury (Vol. I p162) interprets rursus dum pacta movet ("once again he breaks his bond") as meaning that Alaric had retreated out of Italy, then returned to be beaten back at Verona.

11 i.e. Alaric's.

12 i.e. the sick body of Italy which has to be purified after the polluting presence of Alaric. With "rore pio spargens" cf. Verg. Aen. VI.230, and for the throwing over the head of the purificatory instrument see Verg. Ec. VIII.102.

13 Claudian refers to the famous legend of the "Thundering" legion, saved from dying of lack of water by a miraculous rain-storm. This miracle occurred during M. Aurelius' war against the Marcomanni (circ. A.D. 175) and is attributed (1) to the prayers of the Christians; (2) to an Egyptian magician on Marcus' staff (Dio Cassius LXXI.8-10); (3) to the emperor's own prayers.

14 Bocchus, king of Mauretania, treacherously delivered up his kinsman Jugurtha to Marius. Sulla acted as the agent of the Roman general in this matter.

Thayer's Note: Sallust, Jug. 105 ff.

15 In a century so replete with civil war as the fourth it is hard to say which particular three instances Claudian has in mind. One is no doubt Constantine's defeat of Maxentius, after which we know that he entered Rome in triumph; the (p103)other two may refer to Theodosius' victories over Eugenius and Maximus.

16 Classis Portus, a harbour formed by means of the Fossa Augusta which led the southern arm of the Po to Ravenna. It was in existence in 38 B.C. (App. B.C. V.78, 80) and held 250 ships (Jordanes, Get. 150; cf. Plin. H. N. III.119; Sid. Apol. Epp. I.5.5).

17 For a description of the Clitumnus see Pliny, Epp. VIII.8.

Thayer's Note: The waters of the springs are still crystal-clear and wonderfully reflective; the Fonti del Clitunno remain among the great beauty spots of Italy. To the ancient planting of poplars 19c romanticism added weeping willows; for a photograph, a curious painting, and more links, see my diary, Sept. 12, 1998.

18 See note on VII.3.

19 A reference to the statue of Victory in the Senate House. Ambrose had persuaded Gratian to turn it out (A.D. 384) but Honorius had had it replaced (cf. XXIII.19 and Paulinus, Vita S. Ambr. VIII. § 26).

20 Mentioned, no doubt, as symbolical of the New Year.

Thayer's Notes:

a Fortuna Redux, for whose temple see the article in Platner and Ashby's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome.

b In addition to the obvious metaphorical flattery, this may also mean that the waterworks, chief among them the artificial stream and waterfall that flow mostly under­ground thru the Palatine palace down to the Forum, were turned on again now that the Emperor was in residence.

c By Claudian's time already the location of Gargara (to give the place the spelling in the Latin text) was no longer known; for a discussion by another Latin author only some thirty years later, see Macrob. Sat. V.20.

d "From Ravenna to Narnia, then to Rome": the equivalent of taking the interstate. From Ravenna to the Temple of Fortune (Fanum Fortunae, now Fano), flat going by the main road along the Adriatic; from there, as straight a shot as possible to Rome, following the Via Flaminia.

"[Fano] from its height looks down upon Metaurus" is a mistranslation, or, just maybe, Claudian's error; it's clear that the poet or our translator, at least one of them, never visited the town, since Fano is totally flat and at sea level, with no height anywhere from which Honorius could look down on the Metauro river. (This is an example of just how difficult it is to translate the convoluted word orders of Latin poetry: to translate it well, you have to know the subject matter in the first place.) The heights from which we can see the Metauro are inland: as the Via Flaminia starts its southwestward progress to Rome, it steadily rises; the river bends away from the road as soon as they leave the coast, and it is at least 13 km before one can be seen from the other.

The arch tunnelled through live rock is this one, pierced by Vespasian at the narrowest neck of the gorges of the Metauro, replacing an earlier one:

[image ALT: The mouth of a small road tunnel carved in the rock of a mountain. It is the famous Roman road tunnel of the Gola del Furlo (Marche, central Italy).]

The N side of the road tunnel: thus, the view Honorius had of it. Built by Vespasian (late 1c A.D.), it replaced an earlier tunnel, offscreen left and completely unphotographable due to a sharp dropoff to the river and modern fences. No dynamite or jackhammers in Antiquity: both tunnels were cut entirely by hand. The modern asphalt of Italian highway SS 3 directly overlies the ancient Flaminia.

The temple of Apennine Jove has not been located yet, but seems to have been somewhere very near where the Flaminia debouches on the upper valley of the Chiáscio, near Scheggia in modern Umbria: for a photograph of a surviving inscription to Apennine Jove, found in the area, see this page; see also N&Q 217:153‑154 and my note there.

Narnia is the modern Narni, famous for its great Roman bridge that marks the boundary between Umbria and Latium: like the other places in this passage, it is mentioned because it delimits a section of Honorius' route. The Nar river that gave its name to the town, now the Nera, is crystal clear near its sources, but does indeed pick up sulphur, and at the bridge, looks like this:

[image ALT: missingALT]
The Nera river at Narni: natural, not artificial pollution.

e Honorius had the Aurelian Wall restored. See Platner and Ashby's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome s.v. Muri Aureliani.

f The distance is about 3.5 km. A fairly dense crowd would be about 20 people per meter on either side of the route — up to the Forum this is the continuation of Honorius' straight shot down the Via Flaminia, by the way — or 140,000 people on the street alone. I think Claudian is exaggerating, if maybe not by very much.

Also, the translation is inaccurate: the route is flat as a board until the foot of the Capitoline, which the emperor's procession probably skirted, entering the Forum by the downward slope of the Clivus Argentarius, passing by the Senate-house and thru the Roman Forum also on the flat, following the Via Sacra (V. 603) and only the last 300 meters or so, up to the Arch of Titus then turning right onto the Palatine, slope upward. A literal translation of Omne Palatino quod pons a colle recedit Mulvius: "All that separates the Mulvian Bridge from the Palatine Hill".

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Page updated: 13 Dec 07