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This webpage reproduces the
Panegyric on the Consulship
of Probinus and Olybrius


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.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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 p3  Claudian,
Panegyric on the Consuls Probinus and Olybrius


[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Sun, that encirclest the world with reins of flame and rollest in ceaseless motion the revolving centuries, scatter thy light with kindlier beams and let thy coursers, their manes combed and they breathing forth a rosy flame from their foaming bits, climb the heavens more jocund in their loftier drawn chariot. Now let the year bend its new steps for the consul brothers and the glad months take their beginning.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Thou wottest of the Auchenian​1 race nor are the power­ful Anniadae unknown to thee, for thou oft hast started thy yearly journey with them as consuls and hast given their name to thy revolution. For them Fortune neither hangs on uncertain favour nor changes, but honours, firmly fixed, pass to all their kin. Select what man thou wilt from their family, 'tis certain he is a consul's son. Their ancestors are  p5 counted by the fasces (for each has held them), the same recurring honours crowd them, and a like destiny awaits their children in unbroken succession. No noble, though he boast of the brazen statues of his ancestors, though Rome be thronged with senators, no noble, I say, dare boast himself their equal. Give the first place to the Auchenii and let who will contest the second. It is as when the moon queens it in the calm northern sky and her orb gleams with brightness equal to that of her brother whose light she reflects; for then the starry hosts give place, Arcturus' beam grows dim and tawny Leo loses his angry glint, far-spaced shine the Bear's stars in the Wain, wroth at their eclipse, Orion's shafts grow dark as he looks in feeble amaze at his strengthless arm.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Which shall I speak of first? Who has not heard of the deeds of Probinus of ancient lineage, who knows not the endless praise of Olybrius?

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] The far-flung fame of Probus​2 and his sire lives yet and fills all ears with widespread discourse: the years to come shall not silence it nor time o'ercloud or put an end to it. His great name carries him beyond the seas, beyond Ocean's distant windings and Atlas' mountain caverns. If any live beneath the frozen sky by Maeotis' banks, or any, near neighbours of the torrid zone, drink Nile's stripling stream, they, too, have heard. Fortune yielded to his virtues, but never was he puffed up with success that engenders pride. Though his life was surrounded with luxury he knew how to preserve his uprightness uncorrupted. He did not hide his wealth in dark cellars nor condemn his riches to the nether gloom, but in showers more abundant than rain would ever enrich countless numbers of  p7 men. The thick cloud of his generosity was ever big with gifts, full and overflowing with clients was his mansion, and thereinto there poured a stream of paupers to issue forth again rich men. His prodigal hand outdid Spain's rivers in scattering gifts of gold (scarce so much precious metal dazzles the gaze of the miner delving in the vexed bowels of the earth), exceeding all the gold dust carried down by Tagus' water trickling from unsmelted lodes, the glittering ore that enriches Hermus' banks, the golden sand that rich Pactolus in flood deposits over the plains of Lydia.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Could my words issue from a hundred mouths, could Phoebus' manifold inspiration breathe through a hundred breasts, even so I could not tell of Probus's deeds, of all the people his ordered governance ruled, of the many times he rose to the highest honours, when he held the reins of broad-acred Italy, the Illyrian coast, and Africa's lands. But his sons o'ershadowed their sire and they alone deserve to be called Probus' vanquishers. No such honour befell Probus in his youth: he was never consul with his brother. You ambition, ever o'ervaulting itself, pricks not; no anxious hopes afflict your minds or keep your hearts in long suspense. You have begun where most end: but few seniors have attained to your earliest office. You have finished your race e'er the full flower of youth has crowned your gentle cheeks or adolescence clothed your faces with its pleasant down. Do thou, my Muse, tell their ignorant poet what god it was granted such a boon to the twain.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] When the warlike emperor had with the thunderbolt of his might put his enemy to flight and freed  p9 the Alps from fear, Rome, anxious worthily to thank her Probus, hastened to beg the Emperor's favour for that hero's sons. Her slaves, Shock and horrid Fear, yoked her winged chariot; 'tis they who ever attend Rome with loud-voiced roar, setting wars afoot, whether she battle against the Parthians or vex Hydaspes' stream with her spear. The one fastens the wheels to the hubs, the other drives the horses beneath the iron yoke and makes them obey the stubborn bit. Rome herself in the guise of the virgin goddess Minerva soars aloft on the road by which she takes possession of the sky after triumphing over the realms of earth. She will not have her hair bound with a comb nor her neck made effeminate with a twisted necklace. Her right side is bare; her snowy shoulder exposed; her brooch fastens her flowing garments but loosely and boldly shows her breast: the belt that supports her sword throws a strip of scarlet across her fair skin. She looks as good as she is fair, chaste beauty armed with awe; her threatening helm of blood-red plumes casts a dark shadow and her shield challenges the sun in its fearful brilliance, that shield which Vulcan forged with all the subtlety of his skill. In it are depicted the children Romulus and Remus, and their loving father Mars, Tiber's reverent stream, and the wolf that was their nurse; Tiber is embossed in electrum, the children in pure gold, brazen is the wolf, and Mars fashioned of flashing steel.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] And now Rome, loosing both her steeds together, flies swifter than the fleet east wind; the Zephyrs shrill and the clouds, cleft with the track of the wheels, glow in separate furrows. What matchless speed! One pinion's stroke and they reach their  p11 goal: it is there where in their furthermost parts the Alps narrow their approaches into tortuous valleys and extend their adamantine bars of piled-up rocks. No other hand could unlock that gate, as, to their cost, those two tyrants​3 found; to the Emperor only they offer a way. The smoke of towers o'erthrown and of ruined fortresses ascends to heaven. Slaughtered men are piled up on a heap and bring the lowest valley equal with the hills; corpses welter in their blood; the very shades are confounded with the inrush of the slain.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Close at hand the victor, Theodosius, happy that his warfare is accomplished, sits upon the green sward, his shoulders leaning against a tree. Triumphant earth crowned her lord and flowers sprang up from prouder banks. The sweat is still warm upon his body, his breath comes panting, but calm shines his countenance beneath his helmet. Such is Mars, when with deadly slaughter he has devastated the Geloni and thereafter rests, a dread figure, in the Getic plain, while Bellona, goddess of war, lightens him of his armour and unyokes his dust-stained coursers; an outstretched spear, a huge cornel trunk, arms his hand and flashes its tremulous splendour over Hebrus' stream.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] When Rome had ended her airy journey and now stood before her lord, thrice thundered the conscious rocks and the black wood shuddered in awe. First to speak was the hero: "Goddess and friend, mother of laws, thou whose empire is conterminous with heaven, thou that art called the consort of the Thunderer, say what hath caused thy coming: why leavest thou the towns of Italy and thy native clime? Say, queen of the world. Were it thy  p13 wish I would not shrink from toiling neath a Libyan sun nor from the cold winds of a Russian midwinter. At thy behest I will traverse all lands and fearing no season of the year will hazard Meroë in summer and the Danube in winter."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Then the Queen answered: "Full well know I, far-famed ruler, that thy victorious armies toil for Italy, and that once again servitude and furious rebels have given way before thee, overthrown in one and the same battle. Yet I pray thee add to our late won liberty this further boon, if in very truth thou still reverest me. There are among my citizens two young brothers of noble lineage, the dearly loved sons of Probus, born on a festal day and reared in my own bosom. 'Twas I gave the little ones their cradles when the goddess of childbirth freed their mother's womb from its blessed burden and heaven brought to light her glorious offspring. To these I would not prefer the noble Decii nor the brave Metelli, no, nor the Scipios who overcame the warlike Carthaginians nor the Camilli, that family fraught with ruin for the Gauls. The Muses have endowed them with full measure of their skill; their eloquence knows no bounds. Theirs not to wanton in sloth and banquets spread; unbridled pleasure tempts them not, nor can the lure of youth undermine their characters. Gaining from weighty cares an old man's mind, their fiery youth is bridled by a greybeard's wisdom. That force to which their birth entitles them I beg thee assure them and appoint for them the path of the coming year. 'Tis no unreasonable request and will be no unheard-of boon. Their birth demands it should be so. Grant it; so may Scythian Araxes be our vassal  p15 and Rhine's either bank; so may the Mede be o'erthrown and the towers that Semiramis built yield to our standards, while amazèd Ganges flows between Roman cities."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] To this the king: "Goddess, thou biddest me do what I would fain do and askest a boon that I wish to grant: thy entreaties were not needed for this. Does forgetfulness so wholly cloud my mind that I will not remember Probus, beneath whose leader­ship I have seen all Italy and her war-weary peoples come again to prosperity? Winter shall cause Nile's rising, hinds shall make rivers their element, dark-flowing Indus shall be ice-bound, terror-stricken once again by the banquet of Thyestes the sun shall stay his course and fly for refuge back into the east, all this ere Probus can fade before my memory."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] He spake, and now the speedy messenger hies him to Rome. Straightway the choirs chant and the seven hills re-echo their tuneful applause. Joy is in the heart of that aged mother whose skilled fingers now make ready gold-embroidered vestment and garments agleam with the thread which the Seres comb out from their delicate plants, gathering the leafy fleece of the wool-bearing trees. These long threads she draws out to an equal length with the threads of gold and by intertwining them makes one golden cord; as fair Latona gave scarlet garments to her divine offspring when they returned to the now firm-fixèd shrine of Delos their foster-island, her unerring bow wearied with much hunting, and Phoebus bearing the sword still dripping with black venom from the slaughtered Python. Then their dear island laved the feet of its acknowledged  p17 deities, the Aegean smiled more gently on its nurslings, the Aegean whose soft ripples bore witness to its joy.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] So Proba​4 adorns her children with vestment rare, Proba, the world's glory, by whose increase the power of Rome, too, is increased. You would have thought her Modesty's self fallen from heaven or Juno, summoned by sacred incense, turning her eyes on the shrines of Argos. No page in ancient story tells of such a mother, no Latin Muse nor old Grecian tale. Worthy is she of Probus for a husband, for he surpassed all husbands as she all wives. 'Twas as though in rivalry either sex had done its utmost and so brought about this marriage. Let Pelion vaunt no more that Nereid bride.​5 Happy thou art the mother of consuls twain, blessed thy womb whose offspring have given the year their name for its own.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] So soon as their hands held the sceptres and the jewel-studded togas had enfolded their limbs the almighty Sire vouchsafes a sign with riven cloud and the shaken heavens, projecting a welcoming flash through the void, thundered with prosperous omen. Father Tiber, seated in that low valley, heard the sound in his labyrinthine cave. He stays with ears pricked up wondering whence this sudden popular clamour comes. Straightway he leaves his couch of green leaves, his mossy bed, and entrusts his urn to his attendant nymphs. Grey eyes flecked with blue shine out from his shaggy countenance, recalling his father Oceanus; thick curlèd grasses cover his neck and lush sedge crowns head.  p19 This the Zephyrs may not break nor the summer scorch to withering; it lives and burgeons around those brows immortal as itself. From his temples sprout horns like those of a bull; from these pour babbling streamlets; water drips upon his breast, showers pour down his hair-crowned forehead, flowing rivers from his parted beard. There clothes his massy shoulders a cloak woven by his wife Ilia, who threaded the crystalline loom beneath the flood.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] There lies in Roman Tiber's stream an island where the central flood washes as 'twere two cities parted by the sundering waters: with equal threatening height the tower-clad banks rise in lofty buildings. Here stood Tiber and from this eminence beheld his prayer of a sudden fulfilled, saw the twin-souled brothers enter the Forum amid the press of thronging senators, the bared axes gleam afar and both sets of fasces brought forth from one threshold. He stood amazed at the sight and for a long time incredulous joy held his voice in check. Yet soon he thus began:

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "Behold, Eurotas, river of Sparta, boastest thou that thy streams have ever nurtured such as these? Did that false swan​6 beget a child to rival them, though 'tis true his sons could fight with the heavy glove and save ships from cruel tempests? Behold new offspring outshining the stars to which Leda gave birth, men of my city for whose coming the Zodiac is now awatch, making ready his hollow tract of sky for a constellation that is to be. Henceforth let Olybrius rule the nightly sky, shedding his ruddy light where Pollux once shone, and where glinted Castor's fires there let glitter Probinus'  p21 flame. These shall direct men's sails and vouchsafe those breezes whereby the sailor shall guide his bark o'er the calm ocean. Let us now pour libation to the new gods and ease our hearts with copious draughts of nectar. Naiads, now spread your snowy bands, wreath every spring with violets. Let the woods bring forth honey and the drunken river roll, its waters changed to wine; let the watering streams that vein the fields give off the scent of balsam spice. Let one run and invite to the feast and banquet-board all the rivers of our land, even all that wander beneath the mountains of Italy and drink as their portion the Alpine snows, swift Vulturnus and Nar infected with ill-smelling sulphur, Ufens whose meanderings delay his course and Eridanus into whose waters Phaëthon fell headlong; Liris who laves Marica's golden oak groves and Galaesus who tempers the fields of Sparta's colony Tarentum. This day shall always be held in honour and observed by our rivers and its anniversary ever celebrated with rich feastings."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] So spake he, and the Nymphs, obeying their sire's behest, made ready the rooms for the banquet, and the watery palace, ablaze with gleaming purple, shone with jewelled tables.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] O happy months to bear these brothers' name! O year blessed to own such a pair as over­lords, begin thou to turn the laborious wheel of Phoebus' four-fold circle. First let thy winter course pursue its course, sans numbing cold, not clothed in white snow nor torn by rough blasts, but warmed with the south wind's breath: next, be thy spring calm from the outset and let the limpid west wind's gentler breeze flood thy meads with yellow flowers.  p23 May summer crown thee with harvest and autumn store thee with luscious grapes. An honour that no age has ever yet known, a privilege never yet heard of in times gone by, this has been thine and thine alone — to have had brothers as thy consuls. The whole world shall tell of thee, the Hours shall inscribe thy name in various flowers, and age-long annals hand thy fame down through the long centuries.

The Translator's Notes:

1 Probinus and Olybrius, the consuls for 395 (they were brothers), both belonged to the Anician gens, of which Auchenius became an alternative gentile name, Anicius becoming, in these cases, the praenomen. Many members of this family had been, and were to be, consuls: e.g. Anicius Auchenius Bassus in A.D. 408. The Annian gens was (p3)related by intermarriage to the Anician: e.g. Annius Bassus (cos. 331) who married the daughter of Annius Anicius Iulianus (cos. 322).

2 Probus was born about 332 and died about 390. He was (among many other things) proconsul of Africa and praefectus of Illyricum.

3 Maximus and Eugenius. See Introduction, p. ix.

4 Anicia Faltonia Proba. She was still alive in 410 and according to Procopius (Bell. Vand. I.2) opened the gates of Rome to Alaric.

5 Thetis, daughter of Nereus, was married to Peleus on Mount Pelion in Thessaly.

6 Jupiter, who courted Leda in the form of a swan, becoming by her the father of Helen, Clytemnestra, Castor and Pollux. These latter two were the patrons of the ring — hence "decernere caestu" (l. 238); and of sailors — hence "arcere procellas" (l. 239).

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