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This webpage reproduces
On the Fourth Consulship
of the Emperor Honorius


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Panegyric on the Fourth Consulship
of the Emperor Honorius (A.D. 398)


[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Once more the year opens under royal auspices and enjoys in fuller pride its famous prince; not brooking to linger around private thresholds the returning fasces rejoice in Caesar's consul­ship. Seest thou how the armed chiefs and mighty judges don the raiment of senators? and the soldiers step forth in garb of peaceful hue worn Gabine​1 wise, and laying aside for a season the standards of war follow the banner of Quirinus. The eagles give way to the lictors, the smiling soldier wears the toga of peace and the senate-house casts its brilliance in the midst of the camp. Bellona herself, surrounded by a noble band of senators, put on the consul's gown and lays by her shield and helmet in order to harness the sacred curule chair to her shoulders. Think it no shame, Gradivus, to bear the laurel-crowned axes in a hand of peace and to exchange thy shining breastplate for the Latin toga while thine iron chariot remains unused and thy steeds disport them in the pastures of Eridanus.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Not unworthy of reverence nor but newly acquainted with war is the family of Trajan and that Spanish house which has showered diadems upon the world. No common stream was held worthy  p289 to water the homeland of so illustrious a race; Ocean laved their cradle, for it befitted the future lords of earth and sea to have their origin in the great father​2 of all things. Hence came Theodosius, grandfather of Honorius, for whom, exultant after his northern victories, Africa twined fresh laurels won from the Massylae. 'Twas he who pitched his camp amid the snows of Caledonia,​3 who never doffed his helmet for all the heat of a Libyan summer, who struck terror with the Moors, brought into subjection the coasts of Britain and with equal success laid waste the north and the south. What avail against him the eternal snows, the frozen air, the uncharted sea? The Orcades ran red with Saxon slaughter; Thule was warm with the blood of Picts; ice-bound Hibernia wept for the heaps of slain Scots. Could heat stay the advance of a courageous general? No; he overran the deserts of Ethiopia, invested Atlas with troops strange to him, drank of lake Triton where was born the virgin goddess Minerva, beheld the Gorgon's empoisoned lair, and laughed to see the common verdure of those gardens of the Hesperides which story had clothed with gold. Juba's fortress was burned down, the frenzied valour of the Moor yielded to the sword and the palace of ancient Bocchus was razed to the ground.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] But thy father's fame far surpassed that of thy grandsire: he subdued Ocean to his governance and set the sky for border to his kingdom, ruling from Gades to the Tigris, and all that lies 'twixt Tanais and Nile; yet all these lands won by countless triumphs of his own, he gained them not by gift  p291 of birth or from lust of power. It was his own merit secured his election. Unsought the purple begged his acceptance of itself; he alone when asked to rule was worthy to do so. For when unrest at home drove barbarian hordes over unhappy Rhodope the now deserted north had poured its tribes in wild confusion across our borders, when all the banks of Danube poured forth battles and broad Mysia rang beneath the chariots of the Getae, when flaxen-haired hordes covered the plains of Thrace and amid this universal ruin all was either prostrate or tottering to its fall, one man alone withstood the tide of disaster, quenched the flames, restored to the husbandmen their fields and snatched the cities from the very jaws of destruction. No shadow of Rome's name had survived had not thy sire borne up the tottering mass, succoured the storm-tossed bark and with sure hand averted universal shipwreck. As when the maddened coursers broke from their path and carried Phaëthon far astray, when day's heat grew fierce and the sun's rays, brought near to earth, dried up both land and sea, Phoebus checked his fierce horses with his wonted voice; for they knew once more their master's tones, and with a happier guide heaven's harmonious order was restored; for now the chariot again accepted government and its fires control.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Thus was the East entrusted to him and thus was its salvation assured; but the other half of the world was not so entrusted: twice was the West gained by valour, twice won by dangers. In those lands of the sunset by manifold crime there arose to power tyrants twain: wild Britain produced one (Maximus), the other (Eugenius) was chosen  p293 as a tool by a Frankish outlaw (Arbogast). Both dared monstrous guilt; both stained their hands with an innocent emperor's​4 blood. Sudden elevation inspired Maximus with audacity, his failure taught his successor caution. Maximus was quick to arm rebellion, Eugenius careful to attempt only what was safe. The one o'erran the country, spreading his forces in all directions, the other kept his troops together and himself secure behind a rampart. Different were they, but in their deaths alike. To neither was it granted to escape an ignominious end and to fall in the thick of night. Gone was their glory, their weapons were reft from them and they were reduced to their former state; their arms were bound behind their backs and they stretched forth their necks to the sword's imminent stroke, begging for pardon and for life. What a fall did pride there suffer! They who but lately had moved such countless cohorts with but a nod, into whose palm a wavering world had hung ready to drop, fall not as warriors at a victor's hand but as malefactors before a judge; he sentences with his voice as criminals those whom he assailed in war as tyrants. With both perished their lieutenants: Andragathius hurled himself from his ship into the waves, Arbogast took his life with his own sword; the Alps mark the tomb of the one, the sea of the other. This solace at least the avenger afforded to those murdered brothers that both the authors of their deaths themselves were slain; two victims went to appease those royal ghosts. Such was Theodosius' oblation at their tomb and with the blood of the guilty he appeased the shades of the two young emperors.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Those triumphs stablished Justice on her throne  p295 and taught that heaven gives help. From them let the ages learn that righteousness need fear no foe and guilt expect no safety. Himself his own messenger, outstripping the rumour of his approach, Theodosius traversed those long journeys undetected by his enemies. Suddenly he fell on both, passing over entrenched mountains as if they were a plain. Build up monstrous rocks, raise towers, surround yourselves with rivers, set limitless forests to protect you, put Garganus and the snowy Apennines upon the summits of the Alps that all form one vast mountain barrier, plant Haemus on the crags of Caucasus, roll Pelion on Ossa, yet will ye not gain security for guilt. The avenger will come; for the better cause all things shall sink to make a path.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Yet never did Theodosius forget that he and the vanquished were fellow-citizens, nor was his anger implacable against those who yielded. Not his the choice to exult over the fallen. His ears were open to prayers, his clemency unbounded, his vengeance restrained. His anger did not survive the war to darken the days of peace; the day that set an end to the combat set an end to his wrath. Capture by such a victor was a gain; and many a conquered foe did their chains commend to future fortune.​5 As liberal of money as of honours he was ever bent to redress the injuries of fate. Hence the love, the fortitude, the devotion of his troops; hence their abiding loyalty to his sons.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Child of so noble a sire, thy kingly state was coëval with thy birth nor ever knewest thou the soilure of a private lot. To thee all things came unsought; thee only​6 did a palace rear; thy happy growth was in ancestral purple, and thy limbs, never  p297 outraged by garb profane, were laid upon a hallowed lap. Spain with its rivers of gold gave birth to thy sire; Bosporus boasts thee among its children. The West is the cradle of thy race but the East was thine own nurse rivals are they for so dear a pledge, either hemisphere claims thee as its citizen. The fame of Hercules and Bacchus has immortalized Thebes; when Latona gave birth to Apollo in Delos that island stayed its errant course; it is Crete's boast that over its fields the infant Thunderer crawled. But the land that brought divine Honorius the birth is a greater than Delos, a more famous than Crete. Such narrow shores would not suffice our god. Nor did the bleak rocks of Cynthus hurt thy body with their rough bed; on couch of gold, clothed in jewelled raiment, thy mother gave birth to thee among Tyrian purples; a palace rang with joy at that royal deliverance. What presages were there not then of future prosperity? what songs of birds, what flights of good omen in the heavens? What was the hurrying to and from seers? Hornèd Ammon and Delphi so long dumb at length broke their silence; Persian magi prophesied thy triumphs; Tuscan augurs felt thine influence; seers of Babylon beheld the stars and trembled; amazement seized the Chaldaean priests; the rock of Cumae, shrine of raging Sibyl, thundered once again. Cybele's corybants surrounded not thy cradle with the clatter of their brazen shields; a shining host stood by thee on every side. Standards of war hedged in the royal babe who marked the bowed helmets of the worshipping soldiery while the trumpet's blare answered his warlike cries.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] The day that gave thee birth gave thee a kingdom;  p299 in thy cradle thou wast raised to the consul­ship.​7 With the name so recently bestowed upon thee thou dowerest the fasti and the year wherein thou wert born is consecrated to thee. Thy mother herself wrapped thy small form in the consular robe and directed thy first steps to the curule chair. Nourished at a goddess's breasts, honoured with the embraces of immortal arms thou grewest to maturity. Oft to grace thy boyish form Diana hung upon thy shoulders her Maenalian bow and huntress' quiver; oft thou didst sport with Minerva's shield and, crawling unharmed over her glittering aegis, didst caress its friendly serpents with fearless hand. Often even in those early days thy mother beneath thy sire's happy gaze crowned thy tender locks and, anticipating the answer to her prayers, gave thee the diadem that was to be thine hereafter; then raising thee in her gentle arms she held thee up to receive thy mighty father's kiss. Nor was that honour long in coming; thou, then Caesar, didst become emperor and wert straightway made equal with thy brother.8

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Never was the encouragement of the gods more sure, never did heaven attend with more favouring omens. Black tempest had shrouded the light in darkness and the south wind gathered thick rain-clouds, when of a sudden, so soon as the soldiers had borne thee aloft with customary shout, Phoebus scattered the clouds and at the same moment was given to thee the sceptre, to the world light. Bosporus, freed from clouds, permits a sight of Chalcedon on the farther shore; nor is it only the vicinity of Byzantium that is bathed in brightness; the clouds are driven back and all Thrace is cleared; Pangaeus shows afar and lake Maeotis makes quiver the rays he  p301 rarely sees. 'Tis not Boreas nor yet Phoebus' warmer breath that has put the mists to flight. That light was an emperor's star. A prophetic radiance was over all things, and with thy brightness Nature laughed. Even at midday did a wondering people gaze upon a bold star ('twas clear to behold) — no dulled nor stunted beams but bright as Boötes' nightly lamp. At a strange hour its brilliance lit up the sky and its fires could be clearly seen though the moon lay hid. May be it was the Queen mother's star or the return of thy grandsire's now become a god, or may be the generous sun agreed to share the heavens with all the stars that hasted to behold thee. The meaning of those signs is now unmistakable. Clear was the prophecy of Ascanius' coming power when an aureole crowned his locks, yet harmed them not, and when the fires of fate encircled his head and played about his temples.​9 Thy future the very fires of heaven foretell. So the young Jove, issuing from the caves of Ida, stood upon the summit of the conquered sky and received the homage of the gods whom Nature handed to his charge. The bloom of youth had not yet clothed his cheeks nor flowed there o'er his neck the curls whose stirrings were to shake the world. He was yet learning how to cleave the clouds and hurl the thunderbolt with unpractised hand.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Gladdened by that augury and proud of his now equal sons the sire returned, upstayed on the two princes and lovingly embracing his children in glittering car. Even so the Spartan twins, the sons of Leda, sit with highest Jove; in each his brother is mirrored, in each his sister; round each alike flows a golden dress, and star-crowned are the  p303 locks of both. The Thunderer rejoices in his very uncertainty, and to their hesitating mother her ignorance brings delight; Eurotas cannot make distinction between his own nurslings.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] When all had returned to the palace, Theodosius, anxious for the world's just governance, is said to have addressed thee in these terms:

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "Had fortune, my dear son, given thee the throne of Parthia, hadst thou been a descendant of the Arsacid house and did the tiara, adored by Eastern lands afar, tower upon thy forehead, thy long lineage would be enough, and thy birth alone would protect thee, though wantoning in idle luxury. Very different is the state of Rome's emperor. 'Tis merit, not blood, must be his support. Virtue hidden hath no value, united with power 'tis both more effective and more useful. Nay, o'erwhelmed in darkness it will no more advantage its obscure possessor than a vessel with no oars, a silent lyre, an unstrung bow.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "Yet virtue none shall find that has not first learned to know himself and stilled the uncertain waves of passion within him. Long and winding is the path that leads thereto. What each man learns in his own interests learn thou in the interests of the world. When Prometheus mixed earthly and heavenly elements and so formed human kind, he stole man's spirit pure from his own heavenly home, held it imprisoned and bound despite its outcries, and since humanity could be formed in no other way he added two more souls.​10 These fail and perish with the body; the first alone remains, survives the pyre and flies away. This soul he stationed in the lofty fastness of the brain to control and oversee the work and labours of the body. The other  p305 two he set below the neck in a place befitting their functions, where it is their part to obey the commands of the directing soul. Doubtless our creator, fearing to mix the heavenly with the mortal, placed the different souls in different parts and kept their dwelling-places distinct. Near to the heart whence springs our blood there is within the breast a place where fiery anger lurks, eager to hurt and uncontrolled. This cavity swells when heated by rage and contracts when cooled by fear. Then, since anger swept everything away with it and in its fury gave the limbs no rest, Prometheus invented the lungs to aid the body and applied their humidity to the raging of anger to soothe our wrath-swollen flesh. Lust, that asks for everything and gives nought, was driven down into the liver and of necessity occupied the lowest room. Like a beast, opening its capacious jaws, lust can never be full fed nor satisfied; it is a prey now to the cruel lash of sleepless avarice, now to the fiery goads of love; is swayed now by joy, now by misery, and is no sooner fed than fain to be fed again, returning with more insistence than the oft-beheaded hydra.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "Can any assuage this tumult he will assure an inviolable sanctuary for a spotless soul. Thou mayest hold sway o'er farthest India, be obeyed by Mede, unwarlike Arab or Chinese, yet, if thou fearest, hast evil desires, art swayed by anger, thou will bear the yoke of slavery; within thyself thou wilt be a slave to tyrannical rule. When thou canst be king over thyself then shalt thou hold rightful rule over the world. The easier way often trod leads to worse; liberty begets licence and, when uncontrolled, leads to vice. Then is a chaste  p307 life harder when love is at call; then it is a sterner task to govern anger when vengeance is to hand. Yet master thine emotions and ponder not what thou mightest do but what thou oughtest to do, and let regard for duty control thy mind.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "Of this too I cannot warn thee too often: remember that thou livest in the sight of the whole world, to all peoples are thy deeds known; the vices of monarchs cannot anywhere remain hid. The splendour of their lofty station allows nought to be concealed; fame penetrates every hiding-place and discovers the inmost secrets of the heart.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "Above all fail not in loving-kindness; for though we be surpassed in every virtue yet mercy alone makes us equal with the gods. Let thine actions be open and give no grounds for suspicion, be loyal to thy friends nor lend an ear to rumours. He who attends to such will quake at every idle whisper and know no moment's peace. Neither watch nor guard nor yet hedge of spears can secure thee safety; only thy people's love can do that. Love thou canst not extort; it is the gift of mutual faith and honest goodwill. Seest thou not how the fair frame of the very universe binds itself together by love, and how the elements, not united by violence, are for ever at harmony among themselves? Dost thou not mark how that Phoebus is content not to outstep the limits of his path, nor the sea those of his kingdom, and how the air, which in its eternal embrace encircles and upholds the world, presses not upon us with too heavy a weight nor yet yields to the burden which itself sustains? Whoso causes terror is himself more fearful; such doom befits tyrants. Let them be jealous of another's fame, murder the  p309 brave, live hedged about with swords and fenced with poisons, dwelling in a citadel that is ever exposed to danger, and threaten to conceal their fears. Do thou, my son, be at once a citizen and a father, consider not thyself but all men, nor let thine own desires stir thee but thy people's.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "If thou make any law or establish any custom for the general good, be the first to submit thyself thereto; then does a people show more regard for justice nor refuse submission when it has seen their author obedient to his own laws. The world shapes itself after its ruler's pattern, nor can edicts sway men's minds so much as their monarch's life; the unstable crowd ever changes along with the prince.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "Nor is this all: show no scorn of thine inferiors nor seek to overstep the limits established for mankind. Pride joined thereto defaces the fairest character. They are not submissive Sabaeans whom I have handed over to thy rule, nor have I made thee lord of Armenia; I give thee not Assyria, accustomed to a woman's rule. Thou must govern Romans who have long governed the world, Romans who brooked not Tarquin's pride nor Caesar's tyranny. History still tells of our ancestors' ill deeds; the stain will never be wiped away. So long as the world lasts the monstrous excesses of the Julian house will stand condemned. Will any not have heard of Nero's murders or how Capri's foul cliffs were owned by an agèd lecher?​11 The fame of Trajan will never die, not so much because, thanks to his victories on the Tigris, conquered Parthia became a Roman province, not because he brake the might of Dacia and led their chiefs in triumph up the slope of the Capitol, but because  p311 he was kindly to his country. Fail not to make such as he thine example, my son.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "Should war threaten, see first that thy soldiers are exercised in the practices of war and prepare them for the rigours of service. The ease of winter months spent in winter quarters must not weaken nor unnerve their hands. Establish thy camps in healthy places and see that watchful sentries guard the ramparts. Learn how to know when to mass your troops and when it is better to extend them or face them round; study the formations suitable for mountain warfare and those for fighting on the plain. Learn to recognize what valleys may conceal an ambush and what routes will prove difficult. If thine enemy trusts in his walls to defend him then let thy catapults hurl stones at his battlements; fling rocks thereat and let the swinging ram and shield-protected testudo​12 shake his gates. Your troops should undermine the walls and issuing from this tunnel should rush into the town. Should a long siege delay thee, then take care thou unbend not thy purpose in security or count thine enemy thy prisoner. Many ere this have found premature triumph their undoing, scattered or asleep they have been cut to pieces; indeed victory itself has not seldom been the ruin of careless troops. Not for thee let spacious tents o'erflow with princely delights nor luxury don arms and drag to the standards her unwarlike train. Though the storm winds blow and the rain descends yield not to them and use not cloth of gold to guard thee from the sun's fierce rays. Eat such food as thou canst find. It will be a solace to thy soldiers that thy toil is as heavy as theirs; be the first to mount the arduous hill and, should  p313 necessity demand the felling of a forest, be not ashamed to grasp the axe and hew down the oak. If a stagnant marsh must be crossed let thy horse be the first to test the depth of it. Boldly tread the frozen river; swim the flood. Mounted thyself, ride amid thy squadrons of horse or again stand foot to foot with the infantry. They will advance the bolder for thy presence, and with thee to witness glorious and glad shall be the fulfilment of their task."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] More would he have spoken but Honorius broke in and said: "All this will I do, so God favour my attempts. The peoples and kingdoms committed to my care shall find me not unworthy of thee nor of my brother. But why should I not experience in action what thou hastº taught in words? Thou goest to the wintry Alps: take me with thee. Let mine arrows pierce the tyrant's body, and the barbarians pale at my bow. Shall I allow Italy to become the prey of a ruthless bandit? Rome to serve one who is himself but a servant? Am I still such a child that neither power profaned nor just revenge for an uncle's blood shall move me? Fain would I ride through blood. Quick, give me arms. Why castest thou my youth in my teeth? Why thinkest me unequal to the combat? I am as old as was Pyrrhus when alone he o'erthrew Troy and proved himself no degenerate from his father Achilles. If I may not remain in thy camp as a prince I will come even as a soldier."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Theodosius kissed his son's sweet lips and answered him wondering: "Nought have I but praise for thy petition, but this love of glory has bloomed too early. Thy strength will increase with years; till then be patient. Though thou hast not yet completed ten summers thou wouldst hansel dangers that a man  p315 might fear: I mark the tokens of a noble nature. It is said that Alexander, conqueror of eastern Porus, wept at the constant news of Philip's fortune, telling his companions who rejoice thereat that his sire's valour left him nought to conquer. In thee I see like spirit. May a father be allowed this prophecy — "thou shalt be as great"! It is not to my goodwill thou owest the kingdom, for nature has already made it thine. So even from his birth bees reverence the king​13 who is to lead their buzzing swarms through the soft meadows, ask his public laws for the gathering of the honey and entrust to him their combs. So the spirited young bull-calf claims sovereignty over the grazing-grounds and, though as yet his horns are not grown strong, lords it over the herd. Nay: postpone thy campaigns till thou art a man and while I do battle patiently help thy brother to fulfil my office. Be you two the terror of untamed Araxes and of swift Euphrates; may Nile throughout all his length belong to you and all the lands upon which the morning sun lets fall his beam. Should I force a passage over the Alps, should success crown the juster cause, thou shalt come and govern the recovered provinces, whereby fierce Gaul shall obey thy laws and my native Spain be guided by thy just rule. Then, careless of doom and rejoicing in my labours, I shall quit this mortal life, while you, my sons, rule either hemisphere.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "Meanwhile cultivate the Muses whilst thou art yet young; read of deeds thou soon mayest rival; never may Greece's story, never may Rome's, cease to speak with thee. Study the lives of the heroes of old to accustom thee for wars that are to be.  p317 Go back to the Latin age. Admirest thou a fight for liberty? Thou wilt admire Brutus. Does treachery rouse thine indignation? The punishment of Mettius​14 will fill thee with satisfaction. Dost thou hate undue severity? Abominate Torquatus' savagery. Is it a virtue to die for one's country? Honour the self-devotion of the Decii. Horatius Cocles, facing the foe on the broken bridge, Mucius holding his arm in the flames,​15 these shall show thee what, single-handed,º brave men can do. Fabius will show thee what overthrow delay can cause; Camillus and his slaughter of the Gauls what in face of odds a leader can effect. From history thou mayest learn that no ill fortune can master worth; Punic savagery extends thy fame, Regulus, to eternity; the failure of Cato outdoes success. From history thou mayest learn the power of frugal poverty; Curius was a poor man when he conquered kings in battle; Fabricius was poor when he spurned the gold of Pyrrhus; Serranus, for all he was dictator, drove the muddy plough. In those days the lictors kept watch at a cottage door, the fasces were hung upon a gateway of wood; consuls helped to gather in the harvest, and for long years the fields were ploughed by husbandmen who wore the consular robe."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Such were the precepts of the sire. Even so an aged helmsman oft proved by winter's various storms, aweary now of the sea and his weight of years, commends to his son the rudder of his bark, tells him of dangers and devices — by what art the helmsman's hand is guided; what steerage may elude the wave; what is a sign of storms; what the treachery of a cloudless sky, the promise of the  p319 setting sun; what storm-wind frets the Moon so that discoloured she uplifts an angry face. Behold now, great father, in whatsoever part of heaven thou shinest, be it the southern arch or the cold constellation of the Plough that has won the honour of thy presence; see, thy prayer has been answered; thy son now equals thee in merit, nay, a consummation still more to be desired, he surpasseth thee, thanks to the support of thy dear Stilicho whom thou thyself at thy death didst leave to guard and defend the brothers twain. For us there is nought that Stilicho is not ready to suffer, no danger to himself he is not willing to face, neither hardships of the land nor hazards of the sea. His courage will carry him on foot across the deserts of Libya, at the setting of the rainy Pleiads his ship will penetrate the Gaetulian Syrtes.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] To him, however, thy first command is to calm fierce nations and bring peace to the Rhine. On wind-swift steed, no escort clinging to his side, he crosses the cloud-capped summits of the Raetian Alps, and, so great is his trust in himself, approaches the river unattended. Then mightest thou have seen from source to mouth come hastening up Rhine's princes, bending their heads in fearful submission. Before our general the Sygambri abased their flaxen locks and the Franks cast themselves upon the ground and sued with trembling voice for pardon. Germany swears allegiance to the absent Honorius and addresses her suppliant prayers to him. Fierce Bastarnae were there and the Bructeri who dwell in the Hercynian forest. The Cimbrians left their broad marsh-lands, the tall Cherusci came from the river Elbe. Stilicho listens  p321 to their various prayers, gives tardy assent to their entreaties and of his great bounty bestows upon them peace. A covenant with Germany gave glory to the Drusi of old, but purposed by what uncertain warfare, by how many disasters! Who can recall the Rhine conquered by terror alone? That which others were enabled to win by long wars — this, Honorius, Stilicho's mere march gives thee.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Thou biddest Stilicho after restoring peace in Gaul save Greece from ruin. Vessels cover the Ionian sea; scarce can the wind fill out so many sails. Neptune with favouring currents attends the fleet that is to save Corinth, and young Palaemon, so long an exile from the shores of his isthmus, returns in safety with his mother to the harbour. The blood of barbarians washes their wagons; the ranks of skin-clad warriors are mowed down, some by disease, some by the sword. The glades of Lycaeus, the dark and boundless forests of Erymanthus, are not enough to furnish such countless funeral pyres; Maenalus rejoices that the axe has stripped her of her woods to provide fuel for such a holocaust. Let Ephyre​16 rise from her ashes while Spartan and Arcadian, now safe, tread under foot the heaps of slain; let Greece's sufferings be made good and her weary land be allowed to breathe once more. That nation, wider spread than any that dwells in northern Scythia, that found Athos too small and Thrace too narrow when it crossed them, that nation, I say, was conquered by thee and thy captains, and now, in the persons of the few that survive, laments its own overthrow. One hill now shelters a people whose hordes scarce the whole world could once contain. Athirst and hemmed within their rampart they  p323 sought in vain for the stolen waters, that, once within our foemen's reach, Stilicho had turned aside in another course, and commanded the stream, that marvelled at its strange channel amid unknown ways, to shift its altered track.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] What wonder that the nations barring thy path should fall before thee, since the barbarian of his own choice now seeks to serve thee? The Sarmatae, ever a prey to internal strife, beg to swear allegiance to thee; you, O Alans, have adopted the customs of Latium. As thou choosest for war men that are brave and eager for the fray, so thou choosest for the offices of peace men that are just, and once chosen keepest them long in their charge, not ousting them by ever new successors. We know the magistrates who govern us, and we enjoy the blessings of peace while we reap the advantages of war, as though we lived at one and the same time in the reign of warlike Romulus and peace-loving Numa. A sword is no longer hung over our heads; there are no massacres of the great; gone is the mob of false accusers; no melancholy exiles are driven from their fatherland. Unholy increase of perpetual taxes is at an end; there are no accursed lists,​17 no auctions of plundered wealth; the voice of greed summons not the salesman, nor is thy treasury increased by private losses. Thou art liberal with thy money, yet not wasteful of it. The loyalty of thy soldiers is a lasting loyalty, for it is not bought, nor is it gifts that win their love; the army is anxious for the success of its own child and loves thee who wast its nursling.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] And how deep is thy devotion to Rome herself!  p325 How fixed abides thy reverence for the Senate! Old customs are preserved, law has recovered its ancient sanctity in the amendment of former statutes and by the addition of new ones. Such an one as thee Pandion's city​18 found in Solon; even so did warrior Lacedaemon disdain walls, for unyielding Lycurgus gave it defence. What case so petty, what judicial error so slight that it escapes thy notice? Who with truer justice put an end to dishonest suits and brought forth lurking truth from her hiding-place? What mercy, yet what firmness; thine is the quiet strength of a great soul, too firm to be stirred by fear, too stable to be swayed by the attraction of novelty. How stored with learning thy ready wit, how controlled thy speech; ambassadors are awe-stricken at thine answers, and thy grave manners make them forget thy years.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] How thy father's nobility shines in thy face! How awful is thy winning brow, how charming the majesty of a blushing emperor! Boy though thou art, thou canst wear thy sire's helmet and brandish thy grandsire's spear. These exercises of thy youth foreshadow vast strength in manhood and convince Rome that the ruler of her prayers is come. How fair art thou in shield and golden armour girt, with waving plumes and taller by the altitude of a helmet! So looked the youthful Mars when after the toil and sweat of his first battle he bathed him in Thracian Rhodope's mountain stream. With what vigour thou hurlest the javelin, and, when thou stretchest the Cretan bow, what success attends thy shaft! Sure is the wound it seeks; it knows not how to fail the appointed stroke. Thou knowest in what fashion the Cretan,  p327 with what skill the Armenian, directs his arrows; in what the retreating Parthian puts his trust. Thus was Alcides, graced with the sweat of the wrestling-ground at Thebes, wont to try his bow and Boeotian arrows on the beasts of the forest ere he turned them against the Giants and so secured peace for heaven. Stains of blood were ever upon him and proud was his mother Alcmena of the spoils he brought back home. Such was Apollo when he slew the livid serpent that enfolded and brake down forests in his dying coils.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] When mounted on thy horse thou playest the mimicry of war, who is quicker smoothly to wheel in flight, who to hurl the spear, or more skilled to sweep round in swift return? There the Massagetae are not thy peers nor the tribes of Thessaly, well versed though they be in riding, no, nor the very Centaurs themselves. Scarce can the squadrons and flying bands that accompany thee keep pace, while the wind behind thee bellies the fierce dragons on the flags. So soon as the touch of thy spur has fired thy steed, flames start from his swelling nostrils; his hoof scarce touches the ground and his mane is outspread over his shoulders. His harness rattles and the golden bit grows warm in his foam-flecked mouth. The jewels that stud his quivering bridle are red with blood. The signs of toil, the dust stains, the disorder of thy hair all do but increase thy beauty. Thy brilliant scarlet cloak drinks in the sunlight as the wind blows its gay surface into folds. Could horses choose their riders then surely would Arion, full fed in the stables of the Nereids, have prayed for the very whip of such a master, Cyllarus would have had none of Castor, but would have looked  p329 to thy reins for guidance and Xanthus have scorned to bear golden-haired Achilles. Pegasus himself had lent thee his subject wings and been glad to carry thee and, now that a mightier rider bestrode him, had turned in proud disdain from Bellerophon's bridle. Nay, Aethon, swift messenger of dawn, who routs the stars with his neigh and is driven by rosy Lucifer, seeing thee from heaven as thou ridest by, is filled with envy and would choose rather to hold thy bit in his foaming mouth.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] What raiment, too, have we not seen, what miracles of splendour, when, girt with the robe of Italy, thou didst go, still more glorious than thou art wont, through the peoples of Liguria, borne aloft amid thy troops clad in triumphal white and carried upon the shoulders of chosen warriors who so proudly upheld their godlike burden! 'Tis thus that Egypt brings forth her gods to the public gaze. The image issues from its shrine; small it is, indeed, yet many a linen-clad priest pants beneath the pole, and by his sweat testifies that he bears a god; Nile's banks resound to the holy rattles, and Egypt's pipe drones its native measure; Apis abases his horns and lows in reply. All the nobles, all whom Tiber and Latium rear, throng thy festival; gathered in one are all the great ones of the earth that owe their rank either to thee or to thy sire. Many a consular surrounds thee, the consul whose good pleasure it is to associate the senate in thy triumph. The nobles of Spain, the wise men of Gaul, and the senators of Rome all throng round thee. On young men's necks is borne thy golden throne, and new adorning adds weight to deity. Jewels of India stud thy vestment, rows of green emeralds enrich  p331 the seams; there gleams the amethyst and the glint of Spanish gold makes the dark-blue sapphire show duller with its hidden fires. Nor in the weaving of such a robe was unadorned beauty enough; the work of the needle increases its value, thread of sold and silver glows therefrom; many an agate adorns the embroidered robes, and pearls of Ocean breathe in varied pattern. What bold hand, what distaff had skill enough to make thus supple elements so hard? What loom so cunning as to weave jewels into close-textured cloth? Who, searching out the uncharted pools of hot Eastern skies, despoiled the bosom of Tethys? Who dared seek o'er burning sands rich growth of coral? Who could broider precious stones on scarlet and so mingle the shining glories of the Red Sea and of Phoenicia's waters? Tyre lent her dyes, China her silks, Hydaspes his jewels. Shouldst thou traverse Maeonian cities in such a garb, to thee would Lydia hand over her vine-wreathed thyrsus, to thee Nysa her dances; the revels of Bacchus would have doubted whence came their madness; tigers would pass fawning beneath thy yoke. Even such, his fawn-skin enwoven with orient gems, doth the Wine-god drive his car, guiding the necks of Hyrcanian tigers with ivory yoke; around him satyrs and wild-haired Maenads fetter Indians with triumphant ivy, while drunken Ganges twines his hair with the vine tendril.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Already shouts of joy and of good omen resound about the consul's throne to welcome this thy fourth opening of Rome's year. Liberty enacts her wonted ceremonies; Law observes the custom dating back to Vindex​19 whereby a slave freed from his master's service is introduced into thy presence and thence  p333 dismissed — a freeman thanks to that envied stroke.​20 A blow upon the brow and his base condition is gone; reddened cheeks have made him a citizen, and with the granting of his prayer a happy insult has given his back freedom from the lash.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Prosperity awaits our empire; thy name is earnest for the fulfilment of our hopes. The past guarantees the future; each time that thy sire made thee chief magistrate of the year the laurels of victory crowned his arms. Once the Gruthungi, hewing down a forest to make them boats, dared to pass beyond the Danube. Three thousand vessels, each crowded with a barbarous crew, made a dash across the river. Odothaeus was their leader. Thy youth, nay, the first year of thy life, crushed the attempt of that formidable fleet. Its boats filled and sank; never did the fish of that northern river feed more lavishly on the bodies of men. The island of Peuce was heaped high with corpses. Scarce even through five mouths could the river rid itself of barbarian blood, and thy sire, owning thine influence, gave thanks to thee for the spoils won in person from King Odothaeus. Consul a second time thou didst end civil war by thine auspices. Let the world thank thee for the overthrow of the Gruthungi and the defeat of their king; thou wast consul when the Danube ran red with their blood, thou wast consul, too, when thy sire crossed the Alps to victory.21

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] But thou, once author of thy father's successes, shalt now be author of thine own. Triumph has ever attended thy consul­ship and victory thy fasces.  p335 Heaven grant thou mayest be our perpetual consul and outnumber Marius​22 and old Augustus. Happy universe that shall see the first down creep over thy cheeks, and the wedding-night that shall lead forth for thee the festal torches. Who shall be consecrated to such a couch; who, glorious in purple, shall pass, a queen, to the embraces of such a husband? What bride shall come to be the daughter of so many gods, dowered with every land and the whole sea? How gloriously shall the nuptial song be borne at once to farthest East and West! O may it be mine to sing thy marriage-hymn, mine presently to hail thee father! The time will come when, thou victorious beyond the mouths of the Rhine, and thy brother Arcadius laden with the spoil of captured Babylon, ye shall endow the year with yet more glorious majesty; when the long-haired Suebian shall bear the arms of Rome and the distant Bactrian tremble beneath the rule of thyself and thy brother.

The Translator's Notes:

1 As marking a festival; see note on vii.3.

2 Claudian is thinking of such passages in Homer as e.g. Il. XIV.245‑246:


Ὀκεανοῦ, ὅς περ γένεσις πάντεσσι τέτυκται,

or perhaps Vergil's Oceanumque patrem rerum (Virg. Georg. IV.382).

3 Cf. note on xv.216.

4 Maximus was responsible for the murder of the Emperor Gratian, Eugenius for that of Valentinian II. See Introduction, p. viii.

5 i.e. by winning first the pity and then the favour of Theodosius.

6 "Only," because Arcadius was born before Theodosius became emperor.

7 Honorius, who was born Sept. 9, 384, was made consul for 386.

8 Arcadius was made Augustus Jan. 16 (? 19), 383: Honorius not till Nov. 20, 393. Both succeeded to the throne Jan. 17, 395.

9 Virgil mentions the portent (Aen. II.682).

10 Claudian here follows the Platonic psychology which divides the soul into τὸ ἐπιθυμητικόν, τὸ θυμοειδές, the two ("geminas") baser elements, and τὸ λογιστικόν (the "haec" of l. 234).

11 i.e. Tiberius.

12 A well-known Roman method of attack by which the troops advanced to the point of attack in close formation, each man holding his shield above his head. The protection thus afforded to the assaulting band was likened to the shell of the tortoise (testudo).

Thayer's Note: A picture is worth ten thousand words; so for the photograph — and further details and sources — see the article Testudo in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

13 As is well known, the ancients mistook the sex of the queen bee.

14 The story of the punishment of Mettius Fufetius, the Alban dictator, by the Roman king Tullus Hostilius for his treachery in the war against Fidenae is told by Livy (1.28.10) and referred to by Claudian (xv.254).

15 For Mucius (Scaevola) holding his arm in the flame to show Lars Porsenna how little he, a Roman, minded bodily pain see Livy II.12.

16 = Corinth.

17 i.e. lists of the proscribed and of their properties put up for sale.

18 i.e. Athens.

19 Vindex (or Vindicius) was the name of the slave who was granted his liberty by Brutus for giving information of the royalist plot in which Brutus' own sons were implicated. For the story (probably an aetiological myth to explain vindicta, another word for festuca) see Livy II.5.

20 A reference to the Roman method of manumitting a slave alapa et festuca, i.e. by giving him a slight blow (alapa) with a rod (festuca). See Gaius on vindicatio (IV.16) and on the whole question R. G. Nisbet in Journal of Roman Studies, VIII. Pt. 1.

21 The campaign of Theodosius against Odothaeus, King of the Gruthungi (Zosimus IV.35 calls him Ὀδόθεος) is thus (p333)dated as 386, the year of Honorius' first consul­ship (see note on viii.153). Honorius' second consul­ship (394) saw the defeat of Eugenius.

22 Marius was consul seven, Augustus thirteen, times.

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