Praetextatus – A Senatorial Life (Chapter 1.2)


Maijastina Kahlos, Vettius Agorius Praetextatus – Senatorial Life in Between. Acta Instituti Romani Finlandiae no. 26, Roma 2002.


The senatorial aristocracy in the fourth century

A senator or a man of senatorial rank was called a vir clarissimus. Sons of senators belonged to the ordo senatorius by birth and the traditional way for them to enter the senate was to hold quaestorhip, praetorship or suffect consulate. By the time of the tetrarchs the senatorial aristocracy had to recede from the political and military life but during Constantine’s reign they acquired some important administrative offices, for Constantine favoured nobles, appointing them to high posts. All high magistracies became senatorial during the fourth century when either senators by birth were appointed to them or homines novi appointed to them became senators. The senatorial order expanded, particularly in the Eastern part of the Empire, when the senate of Constantinople was founded and when new senators rose from the equestrian class, the provincial and municipal aristocracy and the army. The senatorial order that had before Constantine’s reforms been quite a homogeneous group became a very mixed ‘class’ and the number of senators increased to two thousand during the fourth century.[1]

In the Western part of the Empire the senatorial aristocracy acquired and succeeded in maintaining considerable political and economic power in the fourth century. The influence of Western senators was based on their landed properties that they connected with their high posts in the imperial administration, usually controlling as governors the same provinces where their family estates were situated. Senators enjoyed much prestige as an order though the senate no longer had real significance as a political assembly but rather was only the old symbol of res publica. The traditions of senatorial conduct, self-awareness and forms of representation, that had been taken directly from the Roman pagan past, still lived on since the new members who entered the order soon adopted the traditions.[2]


Birth and family

The date of birth. There is no certain information about Praetextatus’ date of birth, and therefore all various dates proposed by scholars remain hypothetical. The only thing we know for certain is that he was one generation senior to Q. Aurelius Symmachus (c.340-402) and Virius Nicomachus Flavianus (334-394)[3], as Symmachus’ letters and Macrobius’ Saturnalia imply.

If Praetextatus was born in Rome around 324, as it has sometimes been suggested, he would have been about 60 years old at the point of his death, in 384.[4] It has also been proposed that he may have been born between 310 and 320. If this hypothesis is correct, he was about 64-74 years old in 384.[5] According to CIL VI 1779, Praetextatus and his wife Paulina lived together for forty years,[6] that is, they were married around 344. If we presume that Paulina was Praetextatus’ first and only wife (which we do not know for certain) and that he was twenty to twenty-five years old when married, as Roman senators usually were in their first marriage,[7] he must have been born between 314 and 319.

Was Praetextatus the hierophant mentioned by John Lydus? Vettius Agorius Praetextatus has sometimes been identified with Praetextatus the hierophant mentioned by sixth-century antiquarian John Lydus.[8] John Lydus informs us that a Praetextatus took part in the foundation rites, polismós of Constantinople, perhaps in 330, as a hierophantes with Emperor Constantine and with the Neoplatonist philosopher Sopater of Apamea who acted as a telestés in the ceremonies.[9] John Lydus writes about the month of January and the god Janus, introducing theories of various authors, Varro, Marcus Messalla, Gavius Bassus and Lutatius Catulus. In the middle of this discussion he refers to Praetextatus’ opinion of the divine nature and role of Janus, mentioning parenthetically that Praetextatus the hierophant took part in the polismós of Constantinople.

The passage in John Lydus causes a number of chronological and other problems. First, to which phase of the foundation ceremony does John Lydus refer in his passage, to the inauguration, consecration or dedication? In other words, when did Praetextatus the hierophant take part in the ritual described by John Lydus? Second, was Praetextatus the hierophant Vettius Agorius Praetextatus? Is it chronologically possible for Praetextatus the senator to have participated in the foundation rituals, being old enough to act as a hierophant, i.e. as a pontifex?

If we follow the date of birth around 310, Praetextatus must have been 20 years old in 330, while with the later date of birth suggested – around 330 – he would have been far too young to participate as a hierophant in the foundation rites. Cracco Ruggini has proposed a date of birth in 320 which would make Praetextatus very young, practically a boy, as he participated in the foundation rites, which is quite possible, since many senators started their careers as minors in the fourth century. Symmachus’ son, for example, was nine to ten years old as a quaestor and 17-18 years old as a praetor. Constantine’s legislation allowed the sons of designate and prematurely deceased praetors to become praetors, thus preferring the noble origin to minor age, and children of the greatest noble families were appointed very young, especially to the representative offices. Praetextatus’ office as a pontifex in Constantinople could have been such an office.[10]

According John Lydus, Praetextatus the hierophant and Sopatros the telestés took part in the polismós of Constantinople, the traditional foundation ceremonies of a city that contained the pagan foundation rites of inauguratio, consecratio and dedicatio. Both Cracco Ruggini and Mazzarino suggest that Praetextatus and Sopater participated both in the inauguration and consecration of Constantinople. Cracco Ruggini believes that the expression polismós used by John Lydus is quite general since polismós usually refers only to the material construction of the city but Calderone insists that the polismós refers specifically to the inauguration, the first act of the foundation.[11] Constantine followed the Roman traditions of foundation rites where Constantine acted as a magistrate with imperium, Praetextatus as a pontifex (pontifex Vestae or pontifex maior) and Sopater as an augur, all three being necessary for the inauguration ceremony according to Roman pontifical law. The inauguratio must have preceded the consecratio; the consecratio and the dedicatio, though distinct from each other, formed two closely connected moments of one juridical act.[12] The presence of a Roman pontifex at the foundation rites was necessary because of the ritual transportation of the palladium from Rome to Constantinople.[13] According to Cracco Ruggini, there was nothing exceptional in the foundation rites of Constantinople and in a Roman pagan priest participating in them because the rites were not manifestly pagan but rather ’merely’ traditional ceremonies.

Vettius Agorius Praetextatus is not the only Praetextatus known from the fourth century:[14] therefore, Praetextatus the hierophant is not necessarily Praetextatus the senator. Vettius Agorius Praetextatus might have been connected with the hierophant because he was a priest of the Roman civic religion, pontifex Vestae as inscriptions CIL VI 1778 and 1779 demonstrate. Another connection between the senator and the hierophant is the resemblance between the passus of John Lydus and Praetextatus’ discourse in Macrobius’ Saturnalia. John Lydus discusses the month of January and the god Janus, referring to Praetextatus the hierophant’s view of Janus while Macrobius in his Saturnalia lets Praetextatus discuss the nature and origin of Janus as well, also mentioning Marcus Messalla and Gavius Bassus. The resemblance of the images of Praetextatus in Macrobius and in Lydus is striking, for in both texts Praetextatus is an authority on religious matters, dealing with the nature of a god, Janus. P. Mastandrea suggests that John Lydus and Macrobius used the same source, Cornelius Labeo in their treatises of Janus.[15] According to Averil Cameron, John Lydus tries afterwards to invest the foundation of Constantinople with the glamour and authority of Rome.[16] At least the memory of Praetextatus had survived until the sixth century, perhaps due to Macrobius. It is probable that John Lydus adopted Praetextatus the hierophant from Macrobius’ Saturnalia, even though the account on the polismós is not authentic. Aware of Praetextatus’ antiquarian interests and religious activities as a priest, John Lydus intended his passus to refer to Vettius Agorius Praetextatus.

The name Vettius Agorius Praetextatus. The whole name Vettius Agorius Praetextatus appears in inscriptions CIL VI 1777, 1778, 1779 and 2145, and various combinations of his three names appear in inscriptions and literature.[17] The cognomen Praetextatus is used frequently by Symmachus, Ammianus, Zosimus, Jerome and Macrobius, in Codex Theodosianus, Collectio Avellana and in Photius’ list of Himerius’ speeches.[18] People in late antiquity were known by different names in domestic and literary contexts (letters, private inscriptions, literary works) and in official documents (public inscriptions, legal texts).[19] This explains the variety of the use of Praetextatus’ names for he was called Vettius, Agorius and Praetextatus in various contexts.

Speculations about Praetextatus’ father and grandfather. Sources do not provide any information about Praetextatus’ parents or grandparents.[20] His nomen Vettius and cognomen Praetextatus may derive from his father’s family but also from his mother’s family since during the Empire it was usual to draw names from both paternal and maternal sides of the family.[21] C. Vettius Cossinius Rufinus (PVR 315-316)[22] has been regarded as his father since Otto Seeck[23] though the identification is highly hypothetical. C. Vettius Cossinius Rufinus is suitable for Praetextatus’ father because he is Vettius and because, according to CIL X 5061, some of his administrative offices and priesthoods, corrector Tusciae et Umbriae, proconsul Achaiae, pontifex Solis and augur, are same as those of Praetextatus. In senatorial circles, according to the old Roman custom, a son often inherited his father’s sacral offices, e.g. Q. Aurelius Symmachus and his father L. Aurelius Avianius Symmachus were both pontifices maiores. In the same way a son held governorships in the same provinces as his father, e.g. Virius Nicomachus Flavianus and his supposed father Volusius Venustus both were governors of Sicily.[24]

A horoscope in Firmicus Maternus’ Mathesis refers to an unnamed senator and his father who have sometimes been recognized as Praetextatus’ father and grandfather. The senator mentioned by Firmicus Maternus was exiled because of adultery but was pardoned and appointed to the correctura Campaniae and later to the proconsulates of Achaea and Asia. The senator’s father had also been exiled.[25] E. Groag identified C. Vettius Cossinius Rufinus (PVR 315-316) with the senator and Vettius Rufinus (cos. 323) with the senator’s father[26] but this identification remains unproven.

The identification of C. Vettius Cossinius Rufinus as Praetextatus’ father is problematic because the interval between the generations is too long. There are over fifty years between the city prefectures of Vettius Cossinius Rufinus in 315-316 and of Praetextatus in 367. F. Jacques proposes Vettius Rufinus, the consul of 323 to be placed between them.[27] Thus, C. Vettius Cossinius Rufinus (PVR 315-316) could be Praetextatus’ grandfather and Vettius Rufinus (cos. 323) Praetextatus’ father.

Suberbo qui creatus germine. Vettius Agorius Praetextatus belonged to a branch of the Vettii that included several gentes that had entered the senate in the first and second centuries. The Vettii appear from the end of the second century until the beginning of the fourth century and may have originated from Africa proconsularis but this is not certain.[28]

A noble birth and ancestry was highly valued in the fourth century and aristocratic families boasted of descending from the old republican gentes or from the mythical heroes, though most of the noble families of the fourth century had risen to the senatorial rank quite recently, only two to three generations earlier, during the third century.[29] In Praetextatus’ and Paulina’s funerary poem (CIL VI 1779), Paulina refers to Praetextatus’ noble origin with words Agori, suberbo qui creatus germine (v.4).

If Praetextatus descended from a noble family, how old was his family’s nobility? The hypothetical relatives Vettius Cossinius Rufinus and Vettius Rufinus had already held high offices in the imperial administration. Praetextatus’ marriage to Fabia Aconia Paulina, a member of the family of the Aconii could indicate that he belonged to an influential aristocratic family because noble families often married within the same social group. However, many new senators often allied with old families in bonds of marriage as L. Aurelius Avianius Symmachus probably married a daughter of Fabius Titianus and his son Q. Aurelius Symmachus was married to a daughter of Memmius Vitrasius Orfitus.[30]

The network of noble families. The close-knit network of inter-related noble families even increased the influence of the senatorial order as senators married within the same aristocratic circles and were more or less related to each other.[31] Symmachus’ letters reveal how the recommendations of influential friends and relatives were a common practice e.g. in the legal cases of senators. Though a diverse and faction-ridden body, the senatorial aristocracy in the fourth century shared many mutual interests and a feeling of solidarity, and thus, even religion could not always divide the senatorial aristocracy.[32]

We do not know much of Praetextatus’ network of amicitiae. The correspondence of Symmachus reveals that they were close friends and that Praetextatus was also connected with bonds of amicitia to Symmachus’ father, Avianius Symmachus.[33] Praetextatus appears with the senators Volusius Venustus and Minervius in the delegation sent by the senate to Emperor Valentinian I in 374.[34] Praetextatus was also a friend of Virius Nicomachus Flavianus as shown by Symmachus’ letter to Flavianus concerning the dispute over Praetextatus’ statues after Praetextatus’ death in 384.[35]

Fabia Aconia Paulina. Praetextatus was married to Fabia Aconia Paulina[36] for 40 years as CIL VI 1779 states (hi coniuncti simul vixerunt ann(is) XL); thus, Praetextatus married her around 344. We do not know when Paulina was born or when she died.[37] The marriage seems to have been a union between two senatorial families from the same social group. Fabia Aconia Paulina was the daughter of Aco Catullinus Philomathius, the city prefect of 342-344 and the consul of 349.[38] Paulina refers to her own noble origin[39] in the funerary poem of CIL VI 1779: [Sple]ndor parentum nil mihi maius dedit / [quam] quod marito digna iam tum visa sum (v.1-2).

Paulina is one of the rare women mentioned by name in Symmachus’ correspondence which does not often even take notice of his own wife, Rusticiana. Symmachus mentions Paulina in his letter to Praetextatus where he worries about her state of health. Fortunately she had recovered her health – thanks to pax deorum: Paulina ergo cura communis extremum salutis accesserat. An vester pro illa tantus est metus, ut omne eius incommodum periculi instar habeatur? … Nunc habitum laetiorem mentibus suadeamus, quando Paulinae nostrae valetudinem rursus locavit in solido pax deorum. The Paulina mentioned here might also be identified as Praetextatus’ daughter, though we know nothing of his daughter.[40]

The children. Praetextatus and Paulina seem to have had at least one child to whom the funerary poem refers: subolemque pulchram, si tuae similis, putant (v.35). Praetextatus’ child dedicated CIL VI 1777 (see Appendix) to him in the family house on the Aventine soon after his death: parenti publice privatim(que) reverendo ut etiam statuae ipsius domus honoraret insignia constitui locari curavit. The name of the dedicator at the bottom of the inscription is not mentioned but most scholars suppose that CIL VI 1779 was erected by a son of Praetextatus[41] though the dedicator could also be a daughter.

In one of his letters Jerome mentions a Praetextata, the wife of a Hymetius who was the paternal uncle of Eustochium, Paula’s third daughter. Eustochium belonged to the circle of those Christian aristocratic women that surrounded Jerome in Rome in the 380s and were fascinated by Christian asceticism. Jerome accuses Praetextata and Hymetius of trying to dissuade the virgin Eustochium from devoting herself to the ascetic life. At Hymetius’ bidding Praetextata dressed the young girl elegantly and had her hair waved: Praetextata, nobilissima quondam femina, iubente viro Hymetio, qui patruus Eustochiae virginis fuit, habitum eius cultumque mutavit et neglectum crinem undanti gradu texuit vincere cupiens et virginis propositum et matris desiderium. Praetextata and her husband, who both were pagans, died soon after this and Jerome regards their death as a punishment of the Christian god. The name Praetextata is very rare and this makes some scholars think that this Praetextata was related to Vettius Agorius Praetextatus – which seems quite  likely. R. Herzog regarded her as Praetextatus’ daughter, and in the PLRE she is considered as his sister.[42] A possible descendant of Praetextatus appears in the sixth century: a Vettius Agorius Basilius Mavortius (cos. 527), whom Nicolaas identified with Praetextatus’ great-grandson, is known to have emended texts of Horace and Prudentius.[43]

Properties. Praetextatus and Paulina are known to have owned houses, at least on the Esquiline and Aventine hills. The Esquiline house was probably situated northeast of the Porta Esquilina, between Via Rattazzi, Via Filippo Turati, Via Alfredo Cappellini and Via Principe Amedeo, in Villa Gaetani (near the arch of Gallienus) where some remains of a house, two inscriptions (CIL VI 1781 and 2145) and two inscribed water-pipes of the same duct, with the names Vettius Praetextatus and Paulina, were found in 1874 (CIL XV 7563a-b).[44] CIL VI 1781 is a fragment of an epigram in which Vettii Agorii refers to Praetextatus or someone else of the same family.[45] Another house of Praetextatus and Paulina may have been situated on the Aventine where CIL VI 1777 was found; the text of the inscription refers to the domus of the family, ut etiam statuae ipsius domus honoraret insignia. The Aventine district had once been a plebeian area but long before the fourth century it had become a fashionable residential area for both pagan and Christian aristocrats: e.g. Jerome’s aristocratic friends Marcella, Paula, Blesilla and Eustochium lived there.[46]

Symmachus mentions in his letters that Praetextatus stayed at Baiae and in Etruria,[47] probably on his own estates; therefore, he seems to have owned at least one villa at Baiae and estates in Etruria but we do not know how large his landed properties there were. Baiae in Campania was a popular district for senatorial villas in late antiquity as it had also been in earlier centuries.[48] Because Praetextatus governed Etruria as corrector Tuscia et Umbriae as did also his supposed father Vettius Cossinius Rufinus, his family probably had estates there: senators often controlled as governors the same provinces where their families had landed property.[49] As an important senator he must have also had landed properties elsewhere in Italy and in the Western provinces; he might, for example, have had properties in Crete where Oecumenius Dositheus Asclepiodotus (Oikomenios Dositheos Asklepiodotos) erected an inscription to him.[50] Praetextatus is known to have been in Constantinople on private business in 361 but we do not know if his family had landed properties there.[51]

There were senators of different means within the same order. The richest Western senators were great landowners whose enormous latifundia were like small kingdoms and whom Cassiodorus compares to emperors. According to Olympiodorus the senatorial mansions included the same buildings as an ordinary town, a hippodrome, fora, shrines, fountains and baths; some of these luxurious senatorial villas have been excavated in Gaul, Sicily and Africa.[52] We do not know if Praetextatus belonged to the richest senators or to the senators with average wealth. Symmachus’ possessions are  known from his letters: he owned at least three houses in Rome, one house in Capua, fifteen country villas in the environs of Rome and in southern Italy, landed properties in Samnium, Apulia, Sicily and Mauretania. However, Symmachus was a senator of moderate wealth as Olympiodorus claims.[53] Symmachus’ example shows that the landed property of senators was often scattered throughout the provinces and even the wealthiest senatorial landowners like the younger Melania and Petronius Probus had their estates scattered in the West.[54] Because most senators were landowners, the tax levied on them from Constantine’s reign onwards was a land-tax paid in gold, the follis senatorius, collatio glebalis or glebatio; besides, senators had to also make a ‘voluntary’ offering, the aurum oblaticum to the emperor.[55]

The latifundia had been increasing in size throughout the whole Imperial Period and had often become self-contained economic and social units. In late antiquity the luxurious villas were meant as residences for the senatorial landlords because they began to live permanently on their estates and no longer stayed in Rome, avoiding the duties and burdens of city life. Since few senators were resident in Rome, the quorum for the meetings of the senate had to be fixed at only fifty senators in 356, and later senators were allowed to reside wherever they pleased.[56] Praetextatus, who still held Roman offices, often preferred to retreat into the country to enjoy philosophical otium in his estates in Etruria, at Baiae and (perhaps) elsewhere, as Symmachus complains in his letters.[57]

The senatorial career in the fourth century

Senators had been displaced from all military and some civil offices during the reign of Diocletian but they continued as quaestors, praetors, suffect consuls, curators in Rome, legates in proconsular provinces, governors in some provinces, proconsuls in Africa and Asia, city prefects and ordinary consuls. During Constantine’s reign they also acquired some governorships in provinces, vicariates, praetorian prefecture and the praefectura annonae in Rome. Later, under the reigns of Valentinian I and Theodosius I, the senatorial career was fixed with a regular hierarchy of clarissimi, spectabiles and illustres. Virius Nicomachus Flavianus is the first known urban Roman senator who acquired an office at the court; later a career at court became more common in the Roman senatorial aristocracy.[58]

Thus, the senatorial aristocracy maintained some of the important posts in the administration for it still held provincial governorships in the West, the city prefecture and the praetorian prefectures. The senatorial career in the fourth century usually began with the traditional quaestorship, praetorship or suffect consulate: Praetextatus also began as quaestor and praetor. Then sons of noble families became consulares, correctores or praesides, governors usually of Italian provinces. Members of influential families could often be appointed directly vicarii of dioceses or proconsuls of Africa or Asia; some of them, like Praetextatus, held the proconsulate of Achaea. Finally at the height of the senatorial hierarchy there was city prefecture and/or praetorian prefecture: Praetextatus held both offices. The city prefecture could serve as a stepping stone for senators like Praetextatus in their career towards the praetorian prefecture and finally towards the ordinary consulate that was regarded as the supreme honour in the senatorial career.[59] Praetextatus’ inscriptions give information on his career: CIL VI 1779 gives us the fullest account of his cursus honorum while CIL VI 1778 mentions other offices except legatus and CIL VI 1780 mentions only praefectus and consul designatus. The fragmentary CIL VI 1779a begins with corrector – quaestor and praetor are not mentioned – and ends with praefectus praetorio. In CIL VI 1777 other offices are mentioned except quaestor and praetor; legatus is mentioned last.

Early career

The quaestorship and praetorship. Praetextatus’ quaestura and praetura are mentioned in CIL VI 1778, 1779 and 1779a. Quaestorships and praetorships were normally mentioned rarely in inscriptions since they were of secondary importance.[60] In the fourth century the traditional urban magistracies, quaestura and praetura had lost their earlier significance and function and had become honorary titles without any greater significance. The only concern of a quaestor or a praetor was to provide public spectacles at their own expense or to pay for public works, but these duties turned out to be onerous obligations, munera patrimonii.[61] Staging the games was an important factor for maintaining the prestige and the political significance of the senatorial class, and praetors were designated ten years in advance so that they would have enough time to finance these costly spectacles.[62]

We do not know exactly when Praetextatus was appointed a quaestor and a praetor. When appointed quaestors were usually 16 years old but some were even younger, etiam minores aetate patrimoniorum muneribus subiugari solent. E.g. Symmachus’ son Memmius Symmachus was eight or nine years when he became a quaestor, and eight years later he was appointed a praetor.[63] A senator’s son usually became a praetor when he was between 20 and 25 or sometimes even earlier, under 20.[64] Praetextatus is titled quaestor candidatus which during the early Empire had indicated that quaestores candidati principis were chosen by the emperor. The title still appears in the fourth and fifth centuries though it was the senate that mostly appointed quaestors and praetors, and the office no longer had special connection with the emperor.[65] A man of senatorial birth had to become a praetor before he could enter the senate and rise to the highest posts in the Empire. Praetors were designated by the emperor before 356, and after 356 by the senate. The praetorian games were the most important privately financed celebrations in fourth-century Rome, perhaps because the emperors and consuls normally were absent from Rome and did not arrange their spectacles there.[66] Praetors appear in inscriptions in Rome until the fifth century and are still recorded in the sixth century.[67]

The connection between office and landholding in the fourth century – Corrector Tusciae et Umbriae and consularis Lusitaniae. After having been a quaestor and a praetor Praetextatus entered the senate and became a governor, first corrector Tusciae et Umbriae and then consularis Lusitaniae. Men of senatorial birth were usually appointed governors of provinces after quaestorship, praetorship or suffect consulate, normally at a very young age. The governorship of a province was the first office with some political power and was an important stage on the way to the higher posts in the senatorial career. The members of the great senatorial families usually held only one consular governorship; Praetextatus and Volusius Venustus, however, are known to have held both a correctura and a consular governorship.[68]

The same provinces that were governed by aristocrats also happened to be the provinces where these nobles had their family estates. The provinces in Italy, Sicily, Africa and Spain were noted for aristocratic possessions and simultaneously regularly governed by senators; the most important provinces for senators were Numidia, Venetia-Histria, Campania, and Aemilia-Liguria since their landed possessions were concentrated there. As governors, senators could protect and further the interests of their families in their provinces where the families had landed possessions and as patrons and protectors of towns and as landowners in the provinces they accumulated local influence. There were more senators appointed to offices in the West than in the East, probably because the large estates of the senatorial aristocracy were concentrated in the West.[69]

Many offices and ties of patronage in these provinces were almost hereditary because the same offices were held repeatedly by members of the same family and they even seem to have been handed down from father to son.[70] Praetextatus’ governorships might have been ‘hereditary’ as well since Vettius Cossinius Rufinus, his supposed grandfather, had been one of the governors of Tuscia-Umbria. His family probably had landed property in Tuscia-Umbria since Symmachus mentions that he stayed in Etruria.[71]

Tuscia and Umbria belonged to the diocese of Italia suburbicaria. From the beginning of the fourth century every province in Italy was headed by a corrector but around the mid-century nearly every province was governed by a consularis, except Apulia-Calabria and Lucania-Bruttium where there was still a corrector. Praetextatus must have been corrector Tusciae et Umbriae before the mid-century because later he would have been called a consularis.[72]

The governors of Lusitania, which belonged to the diocese of Hispania, had been equestrian praesides since Diocletian; the first senatorial governor is known from 336. Though Rufius Festus states that the province was headed by consulares before Valentinian I, Praetextatus is the only consularis to appear in the sources. It remains uncertain whether Praetextatus had anything to do with the change of the provincial status of Lusitania but Praetextatus did not remain as the only consularis because Notitia Dignitatum in the beginning of the fifth century calls the governors of Lusitania consulares. Senators of the Roman high nobility held fewer governorships in other provinces than in Italian and African provinces; therefore, Praetextatus as consularis Lusitaniae is exceptional.[73] There were serious religious troubles in Spain in the mid-fourth century but there is no evidence of Praetextatus’ activities during his governorship of Lusitania.

The proconsulate of Achaea. Ammianus Marcellinus reports that Emperor Julian appointed Praetextatus the governor of Achaea with proconsular authority at the end of 361 or at the beginning of 362, when the latter happened to be on private business in Constantinople: Aderat his omnibus Praetextatus, praeclarae indolis gravitatisque priscae senator, ex negotio proprio forte repertus apud Constantinopolim, quem arbitrio suo Achaiae proconsulari praefecerat potestate.[74] Praetextatus had been living in retirement when Julian brought him back to public life. Ammianus emphasizes with the words arbitrio suo, at his own will, that the appointment was Julian’s personal decision, that is, not proposed by his advisors.

The appointment of Praetextatus has often been interpreted as a part of Julian’s religious programme of reinforcing paganism of which the administration of Achaea was one of the most important parts. It has also been suggested that Praetextatus was appointed because of his paganism and that his appointment was not just a usual rise in the hierarchy but it was a special appreciation because Julian admired his paganism personally.[75] I think that the importance of Praetextatus’ appointment has been overestimated by previous scholars and that Julian did not appoint Praetextatus only because he was pagan but that there were other reasons. There had been pagan governors under Christian emperors, too.[76] Furthermore, the proconsulate of Achaea was not politically as significant as the proconsulates of Africa and Asia; therefore, the appointment to the proconsulate of Achaea was not such a distinction as Nicolaas and Bloch believed but rather it was a traditional phase on the way to the city prefecture in the senatorial career. The proconsulate also lies in its traditional place between inferior governorships and the city prefecture in the career of Praetextatus who might well have become proconsul of Africa which would have been more appropriate for him because of his senatorial descent and perhaps because of the family tradition. Praetextatus’ career shows that the proconsulate of Achaea could also lead to the city prefecture.[77]

It was Praetextatus’ senatorial descent, the intensity of his paganism and Julian’s personal respect for him that together influenced Julian to appoint him. He might also have continued the tradition of his family as proconsul Achaeae, for his hypothetical father C. Vettius Cossinius Rufinus (PVR 315-316) had been proconsul of Achaea. The appointment of Praetextatus was one of Julian’s first acts as an emperor and was a part of the changes at court and in provincial administration. R. Browning points out that, though Julian favoured pagans, his appointments of professionals and intellectuals to high offices were serious and there were no incompetent persons owing their place to wealth or family influence.[78]

After Emperor Constantius died on Nov. 3, 361, Julian arrived in Constantinople on Dec. 11, 361 and stayed there until mid-March of 362. Ammianus reports on Julian’s activities on the first of January, 362, the entrance of consuls to their offices, his visit to the curia, etc., and mentions that aderat his omnibus Praetextatus, thus indicating that Praetextatus took part in Julian’s activities at the beginning of the year. The words his omnibus might also refer to Julian’s arrival in Constantinople, the New Year festivities and the reception of the philosopher Maximus whereas the pluperfect praefecerat indicates that Praetextatus had already been nominated as proconsul Achaeae by the first of January. As a matter in fact, in his gratiarum actio to Julian, Claudius Mamertinus who was elected consul for the year 362 alludes to the new, already appointed, governors of provinces. Moreover, the words forte repertus apud Constantinopolim could suggest that Julian had met Praetextatus before arriving in Constantinople but this is not certain.[79]

Most scholars date the beginning of Praetextatus’ proconsulate either to the end of 361 or to the beginning of 362.[80] J. Nistler believed that Praetextatus’ entrance to the proconsulate in 362 is confirmed by the speech that the famous rhetor Himerius gave in Athens in honour of the new proconsul just before Himerius himself left Athens for Constantinople. Himerius’ speech is not extant but is mentioned in Photius’ list of Himerius’ speeches in honour of proconsuls of Achaea and titled Heis tòn anthúpaton tês Helládos Praitékstaton kaì toùs hetaírous. Himerius is known to have left Athens for Constantinople in March in 362; thus, the speech in honour of Praetextatus was given before this date and Praetextatus must have arrived in Achaea as proconsul at the beginning of 362.[81]

It was probably Constantine who promoted the governorship of Achaea to a proconsulate; the earliest known proconsul of Achaea is C. Vettius Cossinius Rufinus, Praetextatus’ hypothetical grandfather, before 315. During the reign of Constantine’s sons the proconsulate of Achaea belonged to Emperor Constans’ (337-350) dominions and fell within the authority of the praefectura praetorio Italiae, Illyrici et Africae but in 357 Emperor Constantius II transferred the proconsulate of Achaea to the prefecture of Oriens. When Valentinian I and Valens divided the imperial government in 364, the proconsulate of Achaea was annexed to the prefecture of Illyricum; thus, it again came under the control of the Western emperors. As long as Achaea was governed by the Western emperors, the proconsuls of Achaea came from the Latin West, among them Praetextatus.[82]

We do not have exact information on Praetextatus’ activities as proconsul Achaeae. The honorary inscription from Thespiae that mentions his proconsulate does not give any specific information.[83] In his panegyric to Julian, Mamertinus writes that walls of cities and wells were repaired and festivals and games were revived in Greece during Julian’s reign.[84] It seems that a document concerning Argos included previously in the corpus of Julian’s letters and thought to be addressed to Praetextatus,[85] was neither sent by Julian nor addressed to Praetextatus but is to be dated to a later period.[86]

The end of Praetextatus’ proconsulate cannot be exactly dated but it is possible that Julian’s successors Jovian and Valentinian I let him continue as proconsul, though inscriptions mention his proconsulate without any iteration.[87] He could have remained in the office at least until Sept. 9, 364 when Valentinian I and Valens passed a law against nocturnal sacrifices and prayers. Zosimus writes that Praetextatus successfully opposed this prohibition and succeeded in getting the exemption of Achaea from the law (see ch. 2.3).[88] Praetextatus certainly was no longer proconsul on Aug. 18, 367 when he was already city prefect but it remains open whether he stayed in the proconsulate until his city prefecture or left the proconsulate earlier.[89]


The city prefecture of Rome

Praetextatus was appointed praefectus urbi between May 5 and Aug. 18, 367 following the Pannonian, Viventius of Siscia.[90] His prefecture ended between Sept. 20, 368 and Jan. 28, 369 and he was succeeded by Q. Clodius Hermogenianus Olybrius.[91] Six laws in the Theodosian Code are addressed to him during this period: CTh 8.14.1 (Aug. 18, 367) concerning ungrateful children who insult their parents; CTh 9.40.10 (Oct. 8, 367) concerning the penalties for senators; CTh 14.4.4 (Oct. 8, 367) including regulations for swine collectors, cattle collectors and other members of guilds that supplied meat to the city of Rome;[92] CTh 6.35.7 (Nov. 18, 367) concerning the privileges of officials who have served at the imperial court; CTh 13.3.8 (Jan. 30, 368) regulating the salaries of the physicians; CTh 1.6.6 (Sept. 20, 368) concerning the surveillance of public administrators in Rome.[93]

The praefectus urbi was one of the mightiest administrators in the Western Empire, for the prefect of Rome ranks immediately after the praetorian prefect of Italy and the pretorian prefect of Gaul in Notitia Dignitatum. Moreover, as the emperor’s deputy in Rome he had become the most important and powerful man in the city since the emperor no longer dwelt in Rome. As the head of the senate, the urban prefect presided over the senate and was regarded as the leader and the spokesman of the senatorial order although he did not stay very long in office – the term was usually less than a year.[94]

The city prefect and the officium urbanum under him controlled every branch of urban administration, commerce and public works as well as games, theatres, schools and annona.[95] The laws addressed to Praetextatus, for example, show that as city prefect he oversaw public administrators, physicians and the supply of meat to the people of Rome.[96] The success and popularity of the city prefect depended on the annona. If the distribution of grain was successful, there was nothing to worry about since the populace of Rome remained satisfied and erected statues to the prefect. If there were problems with the supply, the disturbances began to rise. The senators responsible for the grain supply were especially afraid of riots because the rage of the populace fell first on them: their houses were burned and their statues were turned over, as in Symmachus’ father’s case.[97] Ammianus does not mention any disturbances because of food shortage during Praetextatus’ prefecture. According to H.P. Kohns, an imperial letter addressed to Praetextatus’ successor Olybrius implies that there was a food shortage during Praetextatus’ urban prefecture but no riots are mentioned. Praetextatus seems to have succeeded in keeping peace and order during the food shortage. If there were any riots, both Ammianus and the imperial letter in the Collectio Avellana fail to mention them.[98]

The urban prefect was responsible for keeping public order in the city and the urban cohorts and the cohorts of vigiles were subordinate to him.[99] According to Ammianus, Praetextatus managed disturbances and riots well during his urban prefecture as he succeeded in restoring order in the middle of severe difficulties when Damasus and Ursinus disputed over the bishopric of Rome and their adherents rioted in the city. He solved the problem by giving his support to Damasus and banishing Ursinus from Rome.[100] Ammianus praises his activities as prefect and writes that he acted with high distinction, showing integrity and uprightness, and was therefore both feared and loved by the people of Rome. His authority was based on justice and truth, Ammianus claims: Haec inter Praetextatus praefecturam urbis sublimius curans, per integritatis multiplices actus et probitatis, quibus ab adulescentiae rudimentis inclaruit, adeptus est id quod raro contigit, ut cum timeretur, amorem non perderet civium, minus firmari solitum erga iudices formidatos. Cuius auctoritate iustisque veritatis suffragiis …[101]

In addition, the city prefect was the supreme judge whose jurisdiction extended 100 miles from Rome and who judged senators alone in civil cases and with a board of senators chosen by lot in criminal matters.[102] Ammianus describes Praetextatus’ activities as a judge and compares him with M. Iunius Brutus, the Roman symbol of virtus for, though he did not do anything to gain favour, everything he did was regarded with favour: In examinandis vero litibus ante alios id impetravit quod laudando Brutum Tullius refert, ut cum nihil ad gratiam faceret, omnia tamen grata viderentur esse, quae factitabat.[103]

Because it was the city prefect’s duty to control weights, measures, money and prices, Praetextatus established standard weights in every regio of the city in order to prevent malpractice by greedy persons, ponderaque per regiones instituit universas, cum aviditati multorum, ex libidine trutinas componentium, occurri nequiret.[104] As city prefect he also controlled public works, construction and restoration of public buildings and therefore, he had the so-called Maeniana demolished and removed the walls of private buildings that had illegally been joined to pagan temples.[105]


The trials under Valentinian I

During the reign of Valens and Valentinian I, both in the Eastern and Western parts of the Empire, several senators and women of senatorial rank were accused of magic, adultery and high treason and consequently were either sentenced to death or exiled.[106] Much of the information on the period, often termed as ‘the age of terror’ by modern scholars, is based on Ammianus’ account and many of the circumstances remain unclear and difficult to reconstruct. Ammianus’ attitudes are highly biased against the imperial appointees who led the inquisition and trials, especially Maximinus vicarius urbi, whom he depicts as a virtual monster.[107]

The age of trials has been under lively discussion in modern scholarship: on the one hand, Valentinian’s agents Maximinus, Leo and others have been cast as the villains of the piece; on the other hand, the selfishness of the Roman senators has been condemned.[108] It has sometimes been suggested that there really was a senatorial conspiracy against Emperor Valentinian discovered by Maximinus but e.g.  J. Matthews and P. Hamblenne do not find the conspiracy theory probable though the appointments of imperial associates to the city prefecture and the vicariate of Rome may have raised bitterness against the emperor and thus made the mutual relations even worse.[109] Moreover, despite tensions between the emperor and his appointees and the senatorial aristocracy, it seems that there was neither a deliberate imperial campaign against the senatorial order nor a systematic search for criminals.[110] Neither is there any trace of religious motives since there were both pagans and Christians among the accused senators.[111] Ammianus’ account rather implies both competition between the imperial appointees and Roman senators and internal struggle for power within the Roman senatorial aristocracy.

The period of trials lasted until 375, reaching its height in 373. A series of trials were conducted under Valentinian’s imperial associates, vicarius urbi Maximinus, notarius Leo and their successors, Ursicinus and Simplicius. Some members of even the mightiest Roman noble families, the Caeionii and the Anicii, were among the convicted.[112] Men and women of senatorial rank were normally exempted from torture during inquisition but these trials for high treason, crimen maiestatis, invalidated this senatorial privilege.[113] The accusations seem to have been targeted mainly against senators and women of senatorial rank but senators were not the only ones to be accused and convicted; Ammianus remarks that he does not tell us of everything because of their variety and great number and that the trials that took place among the lowest class are not worth reporting.[114]

Ammianus’ account of the trials in Rome under Valentinian I is chronologically problematic. He hints that the troubles began in 366/367[115] but he begins his narrative of the trials from 368/369, the city prefecture of Q. Clodius Hermogenianus Olybrius from the family of the Anicii whose own brother Alypius was also charged and the case was transferred to Maximinus, then praefectus annonae.[116] It is obvious that Ammianus did not want to connect the city prefects in 366-367, Praetextatus among them, with the notorious trials for he starts his narrative after their prefectures.[117] However, an edict addressed to Praetextatus as city prefect declares that the emperor should be consulted if punishments of exceeding severity must be inflicted on senators so that he could inspect the circumstances and the evidence in each case.[118] We do not know for certain what were the circumstances under which this edict was sent to Praetextatus but it must have been connected with the trials in Rome, as Matthews rightly proposes. Praetextatus’ role in these trials is unclear but CTh 9.40.10 affirms that the troubles had already begun during his prefecture and as the supreme judge in Rome the city prefect must have been involved with the trials. Nevertheless, Ammianus keeps completely silent about Praetextatus’ actions – whatever they might have been – and distances one of the few senators he esteems from the inconvenient troubles, thus releasing him from any responsibility in the eyes of the posterity.

In Ammianus’ account, Praetextatus appears in connection with the notorious trials as late as 371 when he is sent as a legate of the senate to Valentinian I. The Roman senate decided to send a deputation of three distinguished senators to the imperial court in Trier to arbitrate in the dispute between the emperor and the senators, to protest against the acts of Maximinus and to defend the judicial privileges of senators. The envoys, Praetextatus, the ex-vicarius Volusius Venustus and the consularis Minervius, pleaded that punishments should not be too severe for the offences and that no senator should be submitted to torture.[119] The senatorial embassy protested against the extreme severity of the punishments before the imperial consistorium and pleaded for the restoration of senatorial immunity from torture. First, Valentinian pretended to be the victim of calumny but, when he claimed that he had given no such instructions, the quaestor Sacri Palatii Flavius Eupraxius mildly contradicted the emperor, thus moderating the emperor’s anger, and senatorial immunity from torture was restored.[120] Emperor Valentinian seems to have backed down. As an answer to the petition of the senatorial embassy, he issued several laws concerning magic. In the law of Dec. 6, 371 he specified that those senators who were charged with performing magic were to be heard by the city prefect and if the city prefect could not settle the case, he had to hand them over to the emperor.[121] In another law he distinguished legitimate divination haruspicina from illegal magic and in yet a third one he pardoned one or two accused persons.[122]

In taking part in the senatorial embassy to Trier, Praetextatus participated in the senatorial campaign against the hated Maximinus who was recalled from Rome to court and appointed PPO of Gaul in 371. However, the trials continued until Valentinian’s death on Nov. 17, 375. After Emperor Gratian succeeded to the throne, Maximinus – but not immediately[123] – fell into disfavour, was dismissed and was finally sentenced to death. The judicial privileges of senators were secured in Gratian’s legislation and the relations between the Roman senate and the imperial court were reconciled.[124] P. Bruggisser suggests that  Symmachus’ father was recalled from his voluntary exile back to Rome by the senate as a result of the change of government and that Symmachus immediately informed Praetextatus of the recall because as the most distinguished member of the senatorial order, Praetextatus must have influenced Avianius Symmachus’ rehabilitation.[125]

The inscriptions also mention Praetextatus as a legatus, in CIL VI 1777 he is called legatus amplissimi ordinis septies et ad impetrandum reb(us) arduis semper opposito where the words rebus arduis, implying difficulties, probably refer to the senatorial embassy sent to Valentinian I in 371. Praetextatus is mentioned as having been a legate of the senate either five or seven times but the inscriptions do not indicate when these missions took place. In CIL VI 1779 legatus is placed between the city prefecture and the praetorian prefecture while in CIL VI 1777 legatus appears at the end of his career.[126]  Nistler held it possible that Praetextatus took part in the delegations sent by the senate to the court in Milan concerning either the title pontifex maximus or the altar of Victory after Gratian had abandoned the title of pontifex maximus and had the altar of Victory removed from the curia.[127] Klein believes that Praetextatus promoted the first delegation concerning the altar of Victory headed by Symmachus in 382. After Gratian’s death in 384, another delegation was sent to the court of Valentinian II and Symmachus wrote his famous third relatio as an appeal for religious tolerance and the restoration of the altar of Victory.[128] Praetextatus might have taken part in both delegations but there is no evidence of his role in the dispute over the altar of Victory or in other incidents.

Praetextatus had obviously an important role as the legate of the senate and as the defender of the accused senators in front of the emperor Valentinian. He seems to have had special influence on the emperor, his fellow senators and even the populace of Rome but where did Praetextatus’ authority come from and on what was it based? Other Roman aristocrats did not have similar authority; the house of Avianus Symmachus, for instance, was burned by the Roman plebs in a riot. Praetextatus’ prestige is also emphasized by Ammianus, who otherwise criticizes Roman senators,  reprimanding e.g. the mighty and powerful Sex. Claudius Petronius Probus severely,[129] but praises Praetextatus excessively.


Otium cum dignitate

After his urban prefecture Praetextatus seems not to have held any political office for fifteen-sixteen years. We do not know whether he withdrew from public life because he fell into disfavour in the imperial court or retreated into private life voluntarily in order to devote himself to philosophy and literature. D. Vera believes that Praetextatus, as well as Symmachus and other pagan senators, were the targets of a certain kind of political ostracism during Gratian’s pro-Christian reign. Symmachus’ political career also came to a standstill for ten years for in 373-374 he was a proconsul of Africa and became a city prefect as late as in 384. According to Vera, these intervals are too long to be regarded as voluntary otia.[130]

I am inclined to think that Vera is wrong in claiming that Praetextatus retired because of political ostracism. Long periods of otium out of office belonged to the rhythm of the traditional aristocratic cursus and it was not unusual that the senatorial career in late antiquity was often interrupted by a voluntary otium in which senators lived as private citizens.  As a matter of fact, most of Praetextatus’ or Symmachus’ periods in office lasted less than a year which was a normal practice in a senatorial career. Many aristocrats retired from public careers with pleasure and relief.[131] Symmachus’ letters show clearly that Praetextatus spent his time in otium litteratum,[132] and like another learned senator, Manlius Theodorus, retreated voluntarily into private life in order to devote his time to philosophy.[133]

In the late antique code of the aristocratic life, otium cum dignitate was valued more than negotium since the duties of administrative offices restrained an aristocrat from enjoying the peace and pleasures of otium. As Symmachus’ letters show, senators accepted, refused and quitted their offices following rhetoric and etiquette that valued refusal of power.[134] Still, senators were expected to hold some offices between periods of otium because it was more honourable to fulfil civic duties, as Symmachus says in a grandiose way, since from the personal point of view they were much more satisfactory than mere otium. Thus, both elements were necessary in the senatorial way of life and the model of senatorial virtus was the republican hero Cincinnatus, a colonus trabeatus who, though staying on his estates, was always ready to take part in public life.[135]

The Expositio totius mundi states that among the aristocrats there were those who chose the civic career and those who escaped from the obligations of public life to enjoy their own wealth in the otium more or less litteratum.[136] Forlin Patrucco and Roda point out that the contradiction between otium and negotium was an ancient topos; in reality there was not such a sharp division because the number of the posts reserved for the senatorial class was limited. Furthermore, a Roman aristocrat who chose otium was busy enough controlling his landed properties and patronizing his clients. Another reason to escape from administrative offices was to avoid the burdensome munera of the republican offices, the inauguration ceremonies and games that were a heavy economic burden even for a wealthy senator and which were sometimes felt to be more onerous than prestigious.[137]

The praetorian prefecture and the consulate

The praetorian prefecture. In 384, after the death of Gratian, Emperor Valentinian II appointed Praetextatus to the most important administrative post of the Western part of the Empire, to the praetorian prefecture of Italy, Africa and Illyricum. The year 384 has often been regarded as a turning point in the political situation in the West because the relations between the court and the Roman senatorial aristocracy clearly seem to have changed. The new tendency seems to have favoured pagans since the highest posts in the West were held by pagans in 384.

During Gratian’s reign Christian aristocrats had occupied the highest offices of the Western Empire while no pagan aristocrat had entered the prefecture or consulate. Now at the beginning of Valentinian II’s government, the aristocratic families that had dominated under Gratian were removed from high offices: e.g. the praetorian prefect Sex. Claudius Petronius Probus – from the Christian Anicii – who had been appointed by Gratian, was replaced by Nonius Atticus Maximus, also a Christian who soon was succeeded by Praetextatus. D. Vera calls Nonius Atticus Maximus’ prefecture an interregnum before the actual change of government.[138]

The imperial court was forced to change political course during Magnus Maximus’ usurpation in 383 because in that difficult situation it had to get the political support of Roman senators, Christian as well as pagan. The imperial court wanted obviously to maintain an ‘Italian front’ against Magnus Maximus’ usurpation in Gaul: all three praetorian prefects, Petronius Probus, Nonius Atticus Maximus and Praetextatus were members of Roman senatorial aristocracy. Moreover, Emperor Theodosius I who ascended the Eastern throne in 379 also needed support. In my opinion many scholars have over-interpreted this situation as a temporary victory for ‘the pagan party’: Vera, for example, suggests that pagan senators got high offices in return and a certain hope of getting some acceptance of the Roman religion.[139] I am inclined to think that the Realpolitik of the imperial court was far more complex than policies merely influenced by the pagan-Christian dichotomy.

Emperor Valentinian II, who was only twelve years old upon Gratian’s death, was guided by several different advisors, by his Arian mother Justina as well as by Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan, and moreover, by Bauto and Rumoridus, comites of the army, both of whom were probably pagan or pagan-minded. Justina seems to have dominated her son’s imperial politics and thus, Cracco Ruggini and Vera believe that she could have been behind the political change for the benefit of pagan aristocrats though she never appears in this context. According to Bloch and von Haehling, it was Bauto, as the most powerful man at the imperial court, who influenced the emperor to appoint Praetextatus praetorian prefect and Symmachus city prefect.[140]

Soon after Praetextatus had entered the praetorian prefecture, Symmachus was appointed city prefect of Rome. It cannot, according to many scholars, be a coincidence that Symmachus and Praetextatus held their high offices simultaneously.[141] It is possible that it was Praetextatus who influenced the appointment of Symmachus to the city prefecture but there is no evidence of this. Other pagan or pagan-minded men occupied important posts: Bauto and Rumoridus were magistri militum, Marcianus vicarius (of a Western diocese) and other pagans were appointed to offices in the East.[142] However, Valentinian II’s policy of appointments was not necessarily systematically planned but rather was caused by different circumstances. Besides, the appointments during his reign were not a consistent reversal of Gratian’s appointments since both Gratian and Valentinian II followed pro-Christian policies.[143]

Praetextatus was appointed praetorian prefect between March 13 and May 21 in 384[144] and his prefecture lasted until at least Sept. 9, 384 but it must have ended before the end of 384 because he died as consul designatus for the next year.[145] The laws CTh 6.5.2 (May 21, 384) concerning the order of dignities and CIust 1.54.5 (Sept. 9, 384) concerning fines by Valentinian II were addressed to him. CIL VI 1777 mentions Praetextatus as praef(ectus) praetorii Illyrici Italiae et Africae while CIL VI 1778 and CIL VI 1779 mention him as praefectus praetorio II Italiae et Illyrici. In order to explain the form praefectus praetorio II in CIL VI 1779 J.R. Palanque proposed in 1933 that Praetextatus was praetorian prefect twice – for first time between 368 and 384, perhaps in 376, and for the second time in 384,[146] but in 1934 he renounced his own hypothesis and admitted that Praetextatus had been praetorian prefect only once, in 384, proposing that a mistake in CIL VI 1779 by a stonecutter.[147] In a Greek inscription from Gortyn, Crete, Praetextatus is only a city prefect. Thus, if he had already been praetorian prefect before 382, this office would have been mentioned as it is mentioned in similar inscriptions of Petronius Probus and Hypatius erected by the consularis Oecumenius Dositheus Asclepiodotus (Oikomenios Dositheos Asklepiodotos) in Gortyn between 382 and 384.[148]

The praetorian prefecture that Praetextatus held was from 365 onwards called praefectura praetorio Italiae Illyrici et Africae or in a shorter form Italiae et Illyrici or Illyrici et Italiae and was the supreme administrative office in the West. During the Principate the office of praetorian prefect had developed into the office of the highest judge, the imperial juridical advisor and the high army commander. However, later in the fourth century praetorian prefects became regional administrators who were responsible for the government of a certain area and represented the imperial power there.[149]

As praetorian prefect Praetextatus acquired from Valentinian II an imperial order that authorized Symmachus, the city prefect, to investigate the pillage and plunder of public buildings. Praetextatus and Symmachus obviously intended to protect pagan temples from the spoliation of Christians.[150]

The consulate. Praetextatus was appointed consul designatus for 385 but he died at the end of 384, just before taking office for he does not appear in the consular fasti.[151] Avianius Symmachus had also died as consul designatus in 376, obviously also only shortly before entering the consulate in the next year. Bauto, the magister militum was appointed consul in Praetextatus’ place as the colleague to Emperor Theodosius’ son Arcadius but because Praetextatus died late, at the end of the year, there was probably no time to consult with Theodosius who was staying in Constantinople.[152] Vera identifies the unnamed victor of the Sarmatian expedition praised by Symmachus in relatio 47 with Bauto. Since Symmachus does not mention Bauto’s consulate, Praetextatus was still alive then because, if Bauto had already been designated consul, Symmachus would have listed it among his honours. In the same relatio Symmachus refers to the ludi organized in Rome which must have been the games held on the second of December onwards in 384; therefore, Praetextatus must have been still alive during the ludi but he probably died soon after them and Bauto became consul in Milan on the first of January in 385.[153]

In the autumn of 384 the city prefect Symmachus met many political difficulties as his relationes show and this causes Vera to suggest that the alliance between the Roman senators and the faction led by Bauto and Empress Justina was becoming less influential or breaking down. Praetextatus’ appointment as consul designatus indicates that this alliance still had some influence at the end of 384. Symmachus’ misfortunes continued after Praetextatus’ death and he resigned from the urban prefecture in 385, probably because he had lost the support of his influential friend.[154]

The consulate had always been the supreme distinction in the Roman administrative system but in late antiquity the ordinary consulate had become even more prestigious – summum bonum primumque in mundo decus[155] – being the supreme mark of imperial favour and the culmination of the senatorial career. An ‘ordinary’ senator or magistrate seldom became consul because the consulate was reserved mainly for emperors, their co-emperors and their sons. The consul ordinarius entered the office at the beginning of the year and ended his consulate on the 21st of April when the suffect consul entered the consulate.[156]


[1] Jones 1963, 26-27; Chastagnol 1982, 4; Demandt 1989, 277-281; Heather 1998, 184-185. For the rise of the imperial elite in the East, see Heather 1994a, 11-33.

[2] The prestige of senators: Symm. epist. 1.52; 3.87; or. 6.1. For the senatorial order and the senate in the late antique period, see Matthews 1975, Chastagnol 1960, Chastagnol 1970, Chastagnol 1976, Malcus 1971, Arnheim 1972, Demandt 1989, Roda 1993, 643-674, Heather 1998, 197-204. For senatorial traditions and self-consciousness, see Näf 277-278 and Brown 1998b, 651.

[3] PLRE I, Flavianus 15, 347-349.

[4] Seeck 1887, lxxxvii; Nicolaas 4.

[5] Nistler 462; Chastagnol 1962, 172; Flamant 26-36; Matacotta 137: about 310; Ensslin 1576: in 320; Kuhoff 1983, 26: 310 is possible but not proven.

[6] CIL VI 1779: simul vixerunt annis XL.

[7] Saller 36-41.

[8] Cracco Ruggini 1979c; Mazzarino 1974, 443; Calderone 1993, 73, n.36; Herzog 1937, 127.

[9] Ioh. Lydus, de mens. 4.2. Sopater was a Neoplatonic philosopher who became an adviser of Emperor Constantine but was later executed. PLRE I, Sopater 1, 846. According to Herzog 1937, 127 Praetextatus took part into the foundation rites as pontifex Vestae and pontifex Solis.

[10] Cracco Ruggini 1979c, 595-596; Mazzarino 1974, 443. Calderone1993, 73 n.36 also believes that Praetextatus could have been a hierophant as a child in Constantinople as early as before 326.

[11] Cracco Ruggini 1979c, 595, 610; Mazzarino 1974, 127; Calderone 1993, 730-731 with examples from literature.

[12] Calderone 1993, 732-735, 745 dates the inauguration to the beginning of 325, the reconstruction of the walls of Byzantium to 328, and the consecratio, registered as the birthday of the city to March 11, 330; according to Cracco Ruggini 1979c, 601-610, the dedicatio was performed in 330 after the rites of inauguratio and consecratio that must have taken place between Nov. 26, 328 and March 11, 330; Mazzarino 1974, 127 dates the inauguratio to the end of 324 and the consecratio, where Praetextatus and Sopatros were present, to Nov. 26, 328 and the dedicatio to 330. For the discussion, see Cracco Ruggini 1979c, 600-602 with a vast bibliography on the foundation of Constantinople.

[13] Cracco Ruggini 1979c, 607-608.

[14] PLRE I, Brittius Praetextatus 2, 724; PLRE I, Vitrasius Praetextatus 3, 724.

[15] Macr. Sat. 1.7.18-24; 1.9.1-18. Mastandrea 21-43; Cracco Ruggini 1979c, 599-600.

[16] Averil Cameron 1993, 171.

[17] The combination Agorius Praetextatus appears in Symmachus’ letters and in IC IV 316, and the combination Vettius Praetextatus in CIL VI 102, CIL VI 1780, CIL XV 7563, in Symmachus’ relationes, in Boethius, and passim in Macrobius’ Saturnalia. The nomen Vettius is used passim by Macrobius. The name Agorius alone is used in the funerary poem in CIL VI 1779 when Paulina addresses Praetextatus (v. 4), in CIL VI 1778 and in SEG XV 322 (= AE 1928, 13 nr.48 = Plassart 444-446 nr.85).

[18] Symm. rel. 11; 12; Boeth. in herm. comm. sec. 1.3-4 (Meiser p.289); Zos. 4.3.2; Hier. c. Ioh. 8; CTh 1.6.6; 6.5.2; 6.35.7; 8.14.1; 9.40.10; 13.3.8; 14.4.4; CIust 1.54.5; Avell. 5-7.

[19] Alan Cameron 1985, 171.

[20] Coen 1887, 505 identified the hierophant Praetextatus who participated the foundation ceremonies of Constantinople with Vettius Agorius Praetextatus’ grandfather. Other forefathers have also been suggested for Praetextatus: e.g. M. Vettius Bolanus (cos. 111) and Vettius Crispinus to whom Statius dedicated a poem (Stat. silv. 5.2) have been proposed as Praetextatus’ ancestors. This Vettius Crispinus came from Etruria while Praetextatus’ family probably had estates in Etruria: Symm. epist. 1.51. Coen 1887, 502; Sattman 1858.

[21] Salomies 61-82; Salway 132.

[22] C. Vettius Cossinius Rufinus in CIL X 5061 (=ILS 1217) and CIL VI 32040. PLRE I, Rufinus 15, 777. CIL X 5061: C. Vettio Cossinio Rufino, c.v., praefecto urbi, comiti Augg. nn. corr. Camp., corr. [T]usciae et Umbriae, corr. Venitiae (sic) et Histriae, cur. alvei Tiberis et cloacarum sacrae urbis, cur. viae Flaminiae, proconsuli provinciae Achaiae sortito, pontifici dei Solis, auguri, salio palatino…; CIL VI 32040: —- Rufinus v.c. praef. urbi augur pontifex dei Solis … Mommsen (CIL X 5061) identified the Rufini mentioned in CIL VI 32040 and in CIL X 5061 as the same person. C. Vettius Cossinius Rufinus in CIL X 5061has usually been identified with Vettius Rufinus PVR in 315-316 (e.g. Groag 15) and with the Cossinius Rufinus in IGR IV 1162 (Chastagnol 1962, 63-68 nr.26).

[23] Seeck 1883, lxxxvi, followed by Nicolaas 5-7; Groag 15, 20; Chastagnol 1962, 63-68 nr.26, 172; Matthews 1975, 16, 26; Nistler 473; Jacques 178 nr.6; Kuhoff 1983, 271 n.37, 275 n.53.

[24] The inherited priesthoods: Wissowa 484; Seeck 1883, lxxxvi. Serv. in Aen. 11.768: aut cuius etiam maiores sacerdotes fuissent, quibus apud veteres in sacra quoque succedebatur. Tac. hist. 1.77: nobiles adulescentulos avitis ac paternis sacerdotiis … recoluit. The inherited magistracies: Seeck 1883, lxxxvi; Nicolaas 6. L. Aurelius Avianius Symmachus: PLRE I, Symmachus 3, 863-865.

[25] Firm. math. 2.29.10: Is, in cuius genitura Sol fuit in Piscibus, Luna in Cancro, Saturnus in Virgine, Iuppiter in Piscibus in eadem parte in qua Sol, Mars in Aquario, Venus in Tauro, Mercurius in Aquario isdem cum Marte partibus, horoscopus in Scorpione, eius geniturae pater post geminum ordinarium consulatum in exilium datus est, sed et ipse ob adulterii crimen in exilium datus et de exilio raptus in administrationem Campaniae primum destinatus est, deinde Achaiae proconsulatum, post vero ad Asiae proconsulatum et praefecturam urbi Romae. 2.29.12: … paternum genus ostendit ignobile…

[26] Groag 16-20: this identification  could explain why Praetextatus’ early career was retarded. Vettius Rufinus’ disgrace and exile would have had negative influence on the future prospects of the career of even the second generation. Also Seeck 1920, 1186-1187, Chastagnol 1962, 174; Cracco Ruggini 1979c, 597-598, 603, 605. The two senators in Firmicus Maternus’ horoscope post eventum have also been identified as Caeionius Rufius Albinus and his father C. Caeionius Rufius Volusianus by Mommsen in 1894 and supported by Barnes 1975, 40-49.

[27] Jacques 178; PLRE I, Vettius Rufinus 24, 781-782; Groag 16-20 had identified Vettius Rufinus (cos. 323) with C. Vettius Cossinius Rufinus’ father.

[28] For the Vettii, see Jacques 94-95, 101-102, 115, 123, 134, 178, 218-221. Arnheim 62 connects Praetextatus with the Vettii Sabini who descended from P. Vettius Sabinus, a Ravennate equestrian probably of the early principate (CIL XI 863) but this remains hypothetical.

[29] Näf 279-280; Demandt 1989, 279-280. Senatorial ancestry was valued by e.g. Symm. epist. 1.1; Auson. epicedion in patrem; Sidon. epist. 1.6.2. Jerome was not an exception for he took pride in the noble ancestry of his female friends: Hier. epist. 127.1; 77.2; Paula’s family claimed descent from the Scipiones, the Gracchi and Agamemnon: Hier. epist. 108.1-3. Amm. 28.4.7 ridicules these genealogies.

[30] The Symmachi were not very old as a senatorial family: Jacques 134 n.196; Chastagnol 1962, 159-163 nr.66; PLRE I, Symmachus 3, 863-865, Stemmata 27, 1146. However, Alan Cameron 1977, 17-18 argues that the Symmachi were a senatorial family as early as in the third century.

[31] E.g. the Nicomachi and the Symmachi were related by marriages.

[32] Demandt 1989, 280; Roda 1993, 648; Clemente 1982, 63; Lippold 1983, 8; Heather 1998, 200. Wormald  218, on the solidarity: “The fourth-century senators were sometimes more aware of what they had in common than of what divided them”. The privileged status of senators in judicial issues, e.g. Symm. epist. 1.30; 9.40.

[33] Symm. epist. 1.44-1.55. For Symmachus’ correspondence with Praetextatus, see ch. 3.1.

[34] Amm. 28.1.24. Volusius Venustus has been identified as the father of Nicomachus Flavianus. PLRE I, Venustus 5, 949; PLRE I, Minervius 1, 603, Minervius 4, 603-604.

[35] Symm. epist. 2.36. PLRE I, Flavianus 15, 347-349. See ch. 4.1.

[36] PLRE I, Paulina 4, 675; Jacques 156 nr.6. She is called Aconia Fabia Paulina (in CIL VI 1779), Fabia Aconia Paulina (in CIL VI 1780), Fabia Paulina (in CIL VI 2145) or Paulina (in CIL VI 1779 and in Symm. epist. 1.48).

[37] Jacques 156 nr.6 dates her birth between 320 and 330 and her death to 384 but these dates are merely hypothetical.

[38] Fabius Aco Catullinus Philomathius, cos. 349, PVR 324-325; PPO 341, vicarius Africae 338-339. Seeck 1899, 1795-1796; Jacques 156 nr.5; Chastagnol 1962, 121-123 nr. 46; PLRE I, Catullinus 3, 187-188. Aco Catullinus, vir clarissimus, praeses provinciae Callaeciae before 338 mentioned in CIL II 2635 (from Astorga) could be either Paulina’s father or her grandfather. Chastagnol 1965, 282 nr. 2.

[39] The family of the Aconii had become a senatorial family in the middle of the third century and the Acones of the fourth century probably descended from the Aconii. Fabia Aconia Paulina was related to the noble family of the Fabii as her name Fabia indicates, perhaps on her mother side; the cognomina Paulus, Paulinus and Paulina were also favoured by the Fabii. Jacques 104, 111, 155-156; PLRE I, Callistus 2, 176.

[40] Symm. epist. 1.48. Nicolaas 7 n.36 remarked that this Paulina mentioned by Symmachus could also be Praetextatus’ daughter but Ensslin 576 is sceptical.

[41] Nicolaas 11; Seeck 1883, lxxxvi; Chastagnol 1962, 172. Nistler 474 and Ensslin 1576 believe that CIL VI 1779 could also have been erected by Praetextatus’ son.

[42] Hier. epist. 107.5, written in 403 twenty years after the incident. PLRE I, Praetextata, 721; Arnheim 179-180, Appendix nr.12 Iulius Festus Hymetius; Herzog 1938, 114. Amm. 28.1.17.

[43] CIL VI 32163, an inscription on a seat in the Flavian amphitheatre in Rome around 483, names a Vettius Agorius who is probably Vettius Agorius Basilius Mavortius or his father or another relative. PLRE II, Praetextatus 3, 903. Felix, a rhetor, perhaps the same Securus Memor Felix who emended Martianus Capella in Rome in 534, emended Horace’s epodes together with Vettius Agorius Mavortius. Prudentius (Par. Lat. 8084) was produced in the same circle and was emended by order of Vettius Agorius Basilius Mavortius. Petrucci 174-178; Momigliano 1960, 198.

[44] Platner – Ashby  197-198; Jordan 367-368; Lugli 1957, 108 nr.81; Merriman 308 nr.22.

[45] Vettii /Agorii / simplex SV[—] / casto[—] / atqve FA[—] /NVS[—]; see Appendix. Ensslin 1575; Nistler 474.

[46] Andreussi 150; Wardman 140, 198 n.7; Février 1993, 48; PLRE I, Praetextatus 1, 724.

[47] Symm. epist. 1.47: te Baiani otii neglegentia; 1.48: Certe levandi animi causa Baias concesseratis; 1.51: Vos Etruria quousque retinebit?

[48] For senatorial villas in Campania in late antiquity, see Camodeca 95-99; Cracco Ruggini 1986, 105.

[49] Matthews 1975, 23-30 with illustrative examples. For the connection between office and landholding, see p. 30.

[50] IC IV 316 = Guarducci 1929, 165 nr.14. Barnes 1987, 225 suggests that Asclepiodotus needed the patronage of the Roman senators who may have had properties in Crete.

[51] Amm. 22.7.6. Coen 1887, 503, 505 believed that Praetextatus’ family owned some estates near Constantinople that Praetextatus’ father the hierophant had received from Constantine as a reward for his participation in the foundation of Constantinople.

[52] Cassiod. var. 10.11.2: Anicios quidem paene principis pares aetas prisca progenuit. Olympiod. fr. 1.43 Müller-Dindorf =41.1 Blockley. For Olympiodorus, see Matthews 1975, 384; Matthews 1970, 79-97. Luxurious villas: Piazza Armerina, Patti Marina and Tellaro in Sicily, Montamaurin and Valentine in France, Milreau in Portugal, Desenzano in northern Italy. Carandini – Ricci – deVos 47-48; Wilson 170-171. Wes 1987, 187 estimates that the average senator in fourth-century Rome was five times wealthier than the average senator in the second century.

[53] Symm. epist. 7.66. According to Olympiod. fr. 44 Müller – Dindorf = 41.2 Blockley, Symmachus spent 2,000 Roman pounds of gold on his son’s praetorian games and being synkettikós òn tôn metríon, he was not even among the wealthiest senators. Matthews 1975, 384; Matacotta 122; McGeachy 57-58.

[54] Vita Melaniae Iun. 11; Pallad. hist. Laus. 61.5; Amm. 27.11.1.

[55] Demandt 1989, 284.

[56] CTh 6.4.9 (April 11, 356); CTh 6.2.13 (Jan. 10, 383); CIust 12.1.15. Carandini – Ricci – deVos 17-18; Heather 1998, 199; Wilson 176-177.

[57] Symm. epist. 1.47; 1.49; 1.51.

[58] Chastagnol 1982, 1-4, 8-9; Malcus 234. For the senatorial career in the fourth century, see Matthews 1975, 12-17; Heather 1998, 191-197.

[59] Chastagnol 1982, 8-9; Chastagnol 1960, 432-433; Kuhoff 1982, 6; Forlin Patrucco – Roda 262.

[60] Roda 1977, 78-79; Forlin Patrucco – Roda 270. The quaestorship is mentioned only in a dozen inscriptions though most of the senators who rose to the high posts in the Empire had begun their career as quaestors. Quaestors are recorded in inscriptions well into the fifth century. It is unclear whether senators held these offices any longer at all or if these offices were no longer prestigious enough to be mentioned in the senatorial cursus.

[61] Boeth. cons. 3.4.11: atqui praetura, magna olim potestas, nunc inane nomen est et senatorii census gravis sarcina. Chastagnol 1982, 4; Forlin Patrucco – Roda 270-271. Public spectacles were organized and financed personally, in January by praetors and in December by quaestors.

[62] CTh; 6.4.21; 6.4.22. The old republican offices as status symbols still had a semisacral value. Roda 1977, 110; Roda 1993, 664.

[63] CIust 10.42.7. CTh 6.4.1 (March 9, 329) refers to quaestors younger than 16 years. E.g. Symm. epist. 4.7; 4.58-60; 5.82-83. Roda 1977, 77; Chastagnol 1982, 4.

[64] CTh 6.4.2 in 327. Carandini – Ricci – deVos 51; Roda 1977, 77; Chastagnol 1982, 6.

[65] CTh 6.4.14-15; CTh 6.4.12-13. Roda 1977, 76-79; Beard – North – Price 1998b, 213. According to Chastagnol 1960, 38, 74-75, 278-281, from Constantine onwards, the right to appoint quaestors and suffect consuls was left to the senate while the emperors still had the right to appoint praetors until 359 in Rome and until 362 in Constantinople.

[66] Chastagnol 1982, 6; Février 1993, 44. According to Chastagnol 1970, 312 and Mazzarino 1974, 188-189 it was the praetorship, not quaestorship, that was the way to the senate. For opposite views, see A.H.M. Jones 1964, 530. For the discussion, see Roda 1981, 267-270; Vera 1981, 63.

[67] Boeth. cons. 3.4.

[68] E.g. Symmachus started his career as corrector Lucaniae et Brittii CIL VI 1699; Petronius Probus as proconsul Africae CIL V 3344, VI 1751-1753, VIII 1783; the elder Nicomachus Flavianus as consularis Siciliae CIL VI 1782-1783; the younger Nicomachus Flavianus as consularis Campaniae CIL VI 1783; the younger Caecina Decius Albinus as consularis Numidiae CIL VIII 7034-7035. PLRE I, Venustus 5, 949.

[69] Carandini – Ricci – deVos 27; Roda 1981, 202-203. For numerous examples of aristocratic possessions and influence in provinces, see Matthews 1975, 23-30. Amm. 27.11 about Petronius Probus.

[70] Matthews 1975, 26-27; Carandini – Ricci – deVos 27. Clearly hereditary posts are the governorships of Catullinus Philomathius, Vitrasius Orfitus, Caeionius Iulianus Kamenius, Symmachus, the elder Nicomachus Flavianus and the younger Nicomachus Flavianus.

[71] Symm. epist. 1.51.

[72] The governors of Italy were called praesides, correctores and consulares, and a corrector was more significant than a praeses. Von Premerstein, RE, ‘corrector’, col.1653.

[73] Ruf. Fest. 5; Notit. dign. Occ. 1.66. For the dating of Notitia Dignitatum, see Mann 8. According to Chastagnol 1965, 281 consularis replaced the status of praeses during the period between 338 and 360.

[74] Amm. 22.7.6; CIL VI 1777, 1778, 1779. From the year 361, certainly until Sept. 9, 364. Chastagnol 1962, 174.

[75] Nistler 463; Coen 1887, 523; Groag 45; Arnheim 93 n.1. According to Kuhoff 1983, 183 Praetextatus as a senator from Rome interrupted the line of Eastern homines novi. For Julian’s appointments of pagans, see von Haehling 538-547.

[76] For the appointments by Christian emperors, see von Haehling 160-163.

[77] Von Haehling 166; Nicolaas 21-22; Bloch 1945, 204.

[78] Browning 127.

[79] Amm. 22.7.6. Paneg. 3.25.4: Quicumque in administratione rei publicae innocentem se unquam et strenuum praebuit, in consortium numerum receptatur. Regendis provinciis non familiarissimum quemque, sed innocentissimum legis. Nicolaas 23.

[80] Schenkl 1624: in 362. Groag 45-48: in 361/362.

[81] Him. or. 55 (Phot. Bibl. Cod. 165.3). Nistler 463. According to Nicolaas 22-23 the dating of Himerius’ journey to Constantinople is not certain though Schenkl 1624 dated the journey to the end of 362 or the beginning of 363. According to Schenkl 1624 Himerius could have given his speech to Praetextatus either before or after his journey. If he gave his speech before his journey, as the location of the speech in Photius’ list could indicate, it must have happened immediately after Praetextatus entered the proconsulate. Barnes 1987, 220 proposes that Himerius delivered his speech in Constantinople in the spring of 362.

[82] Zos. 4.3.1. Notit. dign. Or. 3.8. Chastagnol 1962, 65; von Haehling 16; Groag 15-20, 30, 48.

[83] Plassart 444 nr. 85 = Robert, Hellenica IV, p.24 = SEG XV 322 = AE 1928, 13, nr.48.

[84] Paneg. 3.9.4.

[85] Iul. epist. 35 Hertlein = 198 Bidez-Cumont = 51 Weis = 28 Wright. The letter is anonymous in most manuscripts, only in one is the letter given the title Joulianòs Argeíois. This letter to a proconsul of Achaea is a document concerning a dispute between the Corinthians and the Argives about the division of expenses of the Isthmian games. The Corinthians claimed that Argos, like other Greek towns, should pay the expenses of the Isthmian games held in Corinth while the Argives wanted to be exempted from this burden because they were responsible for the expenses of the Nemean games. The emperor favours Argos but submits the matter for the proconsul’s decision since Argos and Corinth belonged to the proconsulate of Achaea. The decision is not known.

[86] In 1913 Asmus regarded the anonymous document as Julian’s letter while in 1913 Keil dated the letter to the first century and Bidez – Cumont 267 and Bidez 219-221 leave the question unsolved. For the discussion, see Weis 313-314; von Borries 82; Wright, xxii-xxiii.

[87] Groag 22-23, 47. Seeck, Geschichte des Untergangs der antiken Welt V, Berlin 1913, 432 (referred by Nicolaas 25) claimed that Praetextatus was proconsul of Achaea only under Julian and that he was no longer proconsul when CTh 9.16.7 was decreed but Aristophanes, Libanius’ friend governed Greece from 362 onwards (Liban. or. 14; epist. 1402 Foerster). Nicolaas 26 and Groag 47-48 set against Seeck, arguing that Libanius epist. 1154.3 Foerster states clearly that Aristophanes was not a proconsul but held another, not so important, post in Greece, ### , and that Libanius would have named the office if it had been the proconsulate.

[88] It is widely held that CTh 9.16.7 (Sept. 9, 364) is identical with the prohibition mentioned by Zos. 4.3.2-3: Barnes 1987, 220; Groag 45, 47; Chastagnol 1962, 174; Nicolaas 23; Coen 1888, 16; Vera 1978, 57 n.56. Von Haehling 165-166, however, insists that the end of Praetextatus’ proconsulate cannot be dated by CTh 9.16.7, claiming that because the decree was addressed to the PPO of Oriens, it came into force only in the Eastern part of the Empire governed by Valens while Achaea belonged to Valentinian’s dominions.

[89] CTh 8.14.1 addressed to Praetextatus as city prefect.

[90] Viventius as city prefect in 366-367: Amm. 27.3.11; CTh 9.38.3 (May 5, 367). Matthews 1975, 38

[91] CTh 14.8.2 (Jan. 28, 369). Seeck 1883, lxxxvii-lxxxviii; von Haehling 378. PLRE 1, Olybrius 3, 640-642.

[92] Mazzarino 1951b, 230-231; Chastagnol 1960, 328; Cracco Ruggini 1979b, 91-92.

[93] Chastagnol 1962, 175-176; Nicolaas 30-32; Seeck 1883, lxxxvii. The dating of the laws causes problems: CTh 9.38.4 (June 6, 368) is addressed to Olybrius but then, CTh 1.6.6 (Sept. 20, 368) could not be addressed to Praetextatus who was no longer city prefect at that date. Nistler 465 n.4 proposed Sept. 20, 367 for the correct date of CTh 1.6.6; thus, the last law addressed to Praetextatus would have been CTh 13.3.8 (Jan. 30, 368) and Praetextatus’ city prefecture would have lasted from the summer of 367 until the first months of 368. Another solution is to correct the date of CTh 9.38.4 to 369 or 370.

[94] Notit. dign. Occ. 1.4. Chastagnol 1960, 66, 68, 182, 459; Sinnigen 1957, 6.

[95] Praefectus annonae, praefectus vigilum, comes riparum et alvei Tiberis et cloacarum, comes portus, magister census etc. worked under the city prefect, sub dispositione viri illustris praefecti urbis. Notit. dign. Occ. 4.2-33. Chastagnol 1960, 43-51, 66-68, 280-283; Palanque 1965b, 572; Sinnigen 1957, 70, 88, 95, 111.

[96] CTh 1.6.6; 13.3.8; 14.4.4, see above.

[97] Riots: Amm. 14.6.1; 15.7.2-3; 19.10.1-4; 27.3.8-9; Symmachus’ father: Amm. 27.3.4; Symm. epist. 1.44. Symmachus about the fear of riots: Symm. epist. 2.6; 4.54.3; 5.12; 6.18; 6.66.1; rel. 6; 9; 18; 35. Kneppe 63, 94-95; Chastagnol 1960, 43, 265, 296.

[98] Avell. 10: Cum nihil possit esse iocundius vel abundantia vel quiete ac summa felicitas sit, quotiens duo ista iunguntur, procul dubio sublimitas tua perscipit, quam gratae nobis litterae tuae fuerint, cum et eos esse compressos, qui sanctissimam legem tumultu et seditione miscuerant, et annonam communis omnium patriae paulatim in statum pristinum redire coepisse testatae sunt … The words tumultu et seditione do not refer to food riots but to other disturbances during Olybrius’ prefecture. Kohns 140.

[99] Chastagnol 1960, 84-85, 120.

[100] Amm. 27.9.8-9. See ch. 2.6.

[101] Amm. 27.9.8-9. Cf. Claud. epithal. 331-333 on Stilicho: diligimus pariter pariterque timemus. / Ipse metus te noster amat, iustissime legum / arbiter… Praetextatus and Avianius Symmachus (Amm. 27.3.3) are the only city prefects whom Ammianus characterizes entirely positively.

[102] Chastagnol 1960, 84-85, 120; Sinnigen 1957, 6-7.

[103] Amm. 27.9.10. Ammianus refers to M. Iunius Brutus (85-42 B.C.E.) mentioned in Cic. orat. 10.34: Quid tam difficile quam plurimorum controversiis diiudicandis ab omnibus diligi? … Itaque efficis ut, cum gratia causa nihil facias, omnia tamen sit grata quae facis.

[104] Amm. 27.9.10. For the control of measures and weights in the fourth century, see also CTh 14.4.4 addressed to Praetextatus and CIL VI 1770. Chastagnol 1960, 330-332.

[105] Amm. 27.9.10. See ch. 2.4.

[106] Amm. 28.1 on the trials in Rome and Amm. 29.1 on the trials in Antioch. Matthews 1975, 56-66, Matthews 1989, 209-217, Blockley 108-122 and Barnes 1998, 241-246 survey the age of trials.

[107] Ammianus’ description of Maximinus: Amm. 28.1.5-7: tamquam subterraneus serpens; 28.1.10: Maximinus effudit genuinam ferociam, pectori crudo affixam, ut saepe faciunt amphitheatrales ferae …;  28.1.36: homo cum gemitu nominandus.

[108] Chastagnol 1960, 124 speaks of persecutions by Valentinian I whereas Alföldi 1952 defends the emperor and his appointees, condemning the egoism of the Roman senators.

[109] Conspiracy suggested e.g. by Chastagnol 1960, 430-431 and Thompson 104 (“a dangerous conspiracy … organized by the cream of the Roman aristocracy”) and rejected by Matthews 1975, 59-63, Demandt 1969, 609 and Hamblenne 198-225.

[110] Matthews 1975, 59-63, Hamblenne 224-225, Blockley 117.

[111] Clemente 1982, 61; Chastagnol 1960, 430; Funke 165-175.

[112] Amm. 28.1.16; 28.1.26-29.

[113] CTh 9.5.1 (between 320-323); Amm. 28.1.11. In CTh 9.35.1 (July 8, 369) addressed to PVR Olybrius, Valentinian defined that members of senatorial families could also be tortured but only when accused of high treason, in qua sola omnibus aequa condicio est. The accusations of magic and crimen maiestatis had also been used in previous centuries.

[114] Amm. 28.1.14: praeter multa cruda et immita quorum nec diversitas comprehendi, nec numerus potest; 28.1.15: hactenus faciendum est satis, quod non omnia narratu sunt digna, quae per squalidas transiere personas. Matthews 1975, 63; Hamblenne 202-206, 224-225.

[115] Amm. 28.1.1: anno sexto decimo et eo diutius post Nepotiani exitium.

[116] Amm. 28.1.8; 28.1.16. For the chronological and structural problems in Ammianus’ account, see Matthews 1989, 209-212. Cf. Barnes 1998, 241-243 who argues that Ammianus’ chronology is free of inconsistencies and that chronological imprecision is merely modern confusion.

[117] Matthews 1989, 209-210 points out the obvious hesitancy and embarrassment in Amm. 28.1.2.

[118] CTh 9.40.10 (Oct. 8,  367): Quotiens senatorii ordinis viro pro qualitate peccati austerior fuerit ultio proferenda, nostra potissimum explorentur arbitria, quo rerum atque gestorum tenore comperto eam formam statuere possimus, quam modus facti contemplatione dictaverit.

[119] Amm. 28.1.24: Et ne tot malis dissimulatis, paulatimque serpentibus, acervi crescerent aerumnarum, nobilitatis decreto legati mittuntur Praetextatus ex urbi praefecto et ex vicario Venustus et ex consulari Minervius oraturi, ne delictis supplicia sint grandiora neve senator quisquam inusitato et inlicito more tormentis exponeretur. Volusius Venustus: PLRE I, Venustus 5, 949; Minervius the consularis is possibly the rhetorician Ti. Victor Minervius mentioned in Auson. commem. 1; PLRE I, Minervius 1, 603, Minervius 4, 603-604. PLRE I, Praetextatus 1, 723 dates the delegation to 370.

[120] Amm. 28.1.25: Qui cum intromissi in consistorium haec referrent, negantem Valentinianum se id statuisse, et calumnias perpeti clamitantem, moderate redarguit quaestor Eupraxius, hacque libertate emendatum est crudele praeceptum, supergressum omnia diritatis exempla. Flavius Eupraxius PVR 374: PLRE I, Eupraxius, 299-300. Alföldi 1952, 77-78 considers the pitiful picture of Valentinian drawn by Ammianus as incredible: “Such behaviour will not fit in with that manly character”. Matthews 1989, 212-213 holds it possible that Valentinian himself was unaware of the instruction for the torture of senators and Eupraxius who as quaestor palatii was responsible for the drafting of laws and imperial rulings was forced to tell him that he had indeed sanctioned it under the heading of maiestas.

[121] CTh 9.16.10 (Dec. 10, 371): Quia nonnulli ex ordine senatorio maleficiorum insimulatione adque invidia stringebantur, idcirco huiusmodi negotia urbanae praefecturae discutienda permisimus. Quod si quando huius modi inciderit quaestio, quae iudicio memoratae sedis dirimi vel terminari posse non creditur, eos, quos negotii textus amplectitur, una cum gestis omnibus praesentibus adque praeteritis ad comitatum mansuetudinis nostrae sollemni observationi transmitti praecipimus.

[122] CTh 9.16.9 (May 29/19, 371) and CTh 9.38.5 (May 19, 371). For the laws, see Hamblenne 217-220.

[123] Demandt 1969, 621-622.

[124] Amm. 28.1.57; Symm. or. 4.11-12. CTh 9.1.13 (Feb. 11, 376) affirmed the judicial privileges of senators because senatorial cases had to be transmitted to the emperor himself; CTh 9.35.3 (Jan. 4, 377) exempted senators from torture.

[125] Symm. epist. 1.44. Symmachus praises Gratian in or. 4 Pro patre and or. 5 Pro Trygetio. Bruggisser 1993, 210, 358-359, 377. Bruggisser 1993, 431 believes that Praetextatus must have met Ausonius, Gratian’s teacher and later the most influential man at the imperial court, when he led the senatorial embassy in Trier in 371, which sounds possible to me.

[126] CIL VI 1779: legatus a senatu missus V(II). Bruggisser 1993, 358 supposes that Praetextatus’ talents as a negotiator and legate were well-known and this is why the senate wanted to erect statues of him after his death (Symm. rel. 12.2). Groag 47 and Nicolaas 28 suggested that the words ad impetrandum rebus arduis semper opposito in CIL VI 1777 could also refer to Praetextatus’ defence of the nocturnal rites as proconsul Achaeae.

[127] Nistler 470-471; also Nicolaas 59. The abandonment of the title of pontifex maximus has been dated by various scholars between 375 and 383: for the discussion, see ch. 2.1.

[128] Symm. rel. 3.1-2. Klein 1972, 13-14; Pohlsander 594. For the dispute over the altar of Victory, see Klein 1972, Klein 1971, Malunowicz, Pohlsander and Wytzes.

[129] Amm. 27.11.2-6: aliquotiens insidiatorem dirum et per cruentas noxium simultates; timidus ad audaces, contra timidos celsior; id autem perspicuum est in eius modi moribus malum, tum maxime cum celari posse existimatur; ita implacabilis et directus …; cf. Amm. 28.1.33. PLRE I, Probus, 736-740.

[130] Vera 1981, xli, xlix-l; also von Haehling 572 and Lambrechts 18.

[131] E.g. Symmachus spent only three years of his life in civic offices. For the senatorial otium, Matthews 1975, 1-12; Demandt 1989, 286; Heather 1998, 192.

[132] Symm. epist. 1.46.1; 1.53. See ch. 3.1.

[133] Claud. paneg. cons. Manl. Theod. 61-66. Symmachus’ father Avianius Symmachus who had to escape from Rome after his house had been burned by the Roman plebs was among the few who were forced to retire from public life because of political difficulties (Amm. 27.3.4; Symm. epist. 1.44).

[134] Roda 1985, 96-98; MacPherson 41. Symmachus and his friends enjoying otium: Symm. epist. 1.42; 1.46; 1.53; 1.58; 1.59; 2.17; 2.27; 3.50; 4.18; 4.28; 6.59; 8.18. Rhetoric of refusal of power: Symm. rel. 1.1; Auson. grat. 3.15.

[135] Symm. epist. 1.58: quod fascibus aratra mutavit et in medio sementis opere anhelos boves statuit rusticus magistratus; cf. also Symm. epist. 1.42; epist. 2.17. Forlin Patrucco – Roda 267-268; Roda 1985, 101; Näf 49, 66-67.

[136] Expos. mundi 55: Habet autem [scil. Roma] et senatum maximum virorum divitum: quos si per singulos probare volueris, invenies omnes iudices aut factos aut futuros esse, aut potentes quidem, nolentes autem propter suorum frui cum securitate velle.

[137] Forlin Patrucco – Roda 268-270; Roda 1985, 95, 107; Demandt 1989, 286-287.

[138] Vera 1981, xlv, l-liii; Vera 1979, 390-391; Matthews 1975, 179; von Haehling 569-574; PLRE I, Maximus 34, 586-587. The appointments of the city prefecture were similar: Anicius Auchenius Bassus (PLRE I, Bassus 11, 152-154) was replaced by Aventius who was succeeded by Symmachus between March and June in 384.

[139] Vera 1979, 386-390; Chastagnol 1960, 440; McGeachy 143; Bloch 1945, 214; Bloch 1971, 148. For Maximus’ usurpation, see Matthews 1975, 173-182; Palanque 1965a, 255-267.

[140] Vera 1981, xlii-xliii; Cracco Ruggini 1974, 435. Bloch 1945, 214; Bloch 1971, 148; von Haehling 577-578.

[141] Matthews 1975, 205; Vera 1981, xl, xlix, lxii; Cracco Ruggini 1979b, 8-12; Bloch 1945, 214. For the dating of Symmachus’ city prefecture after Praetextatus’ praetorian prefecture, see Vera 1978, 69-70, 80-81.

[142] PLRE I, Bauto, 159-160; PLRE I, Rumoridus, 786; PLRE I, Marcianus 14, 555; Vera 1981, 19. For the appointments, see Cracco Ruggini 1974, 436.

[143] Salzman 1992, 466.

[144] CTh 13.1.12 (March 19, 384) is the last attested law addressed to Nonius Atticus Maximus and CTh 6.5.2 on May 21, 384 the first known edict addressed to Praetextatus.

[145] CIust 1.54.5 (Sept. 9, 384).

[146] Palanque 1933a, 48-50, 68-69, 128 tried to find a suitable period when Praetextatus could have been PPO for the first time and proposed the year 376, between Petronius Probus’ first PPO and Antonius’ PPO, during the first years of Gratian’s government dominated by Ausonius, the friend of the Roman aristocrats, of Symmachus and probably also of Praetextatus. Palanque’s hypothesis of the PPO of 368 was critized by Stein 1934, 334 who argued that a person often was appointed praetorian prefect twice without any interval (e.g. Arvandus PPO Galliae in 464-468, Sidon. epist.; PLRE II, Arvandus, 157-158). In Praetextatus’ case the iteration is not mentioned in CIL VI 1777 because this inscription could date from the summer of 384 when he might already be consul designatus but not yet PPO for the second time. Nistler 466-467 proposed that the stonecutter had made the error in CIL VI 1777 and that the text of CIL VI 1779 was correct and that Praetextatus was PPO twice, for the first time in 383 and for the second time before his death in 384 (when he was also consul ordinarius designatus).

[147] The stonecutter of CIL VI 1779 had made a mistake, cutting legatus a senatu missus V, praefectus praetorio II instead of legatus a senatu missus VII, praefectus praetorio. Thus, CIL VI 1777 quite correctly mentions only one praetorian prefecture and the number of his legations in letters SEPTIES. Palanque believes that in CIL VI 1779 the two extra II have fallen from the upper line MISSVS V to the word PRAETORIO in the lower line which sounds quite plausible to me. The error in CIL VI 1779 was repeated later in CIL VI 1778 which was erected in 387, three years after Praetextatus’ death and that was copied from CIL VI 1779 since the same expressions and the same errors appear on both epitaphs. Palanque 1934, 355-359.

[148] IC IV 316 = Guarducci 1929, 165 nr.14. CIG 2593 to Petronius Probus mentioned as PPO, CIG 2595 to Hypatius, also mentioned as PPO. The reason for Asclepiodotus’ dedications is unclear but he probably wanted to honour influential Roman senators, especially the Anicii (Petronius Probus, Anicius Auchenius Bassus, Anicius Paulinus). Chastagnol 1962, 177; Stein 1934, 334. Barnes 1987, 225 proposes that Asclepiodotus and the leading men of Crete needed the patronage of the Roman senators who may have had properties in Crete, perhaps even support on religious issues because in 384 Cynegius, the Eastern praetorian prefect, turned against pagan shrines.

[149] Notit. dign. Occ. 1.2. Palanque 1933a, 1-3, 14, 107. The number of praetorian prefects varied from three to four and the prefecture was collegiate, at least in theory. Palanque 1933a, 48-67; Groag 53.

[150] Symm. rel. 21.

[151] Symm. rel. 10-12. For the dating of Praetextatus’ death, see ch. 4.1.

[152] Bagnall – Cameron – Schwarz – Worp 19, Vera 1981, 341 and Cracco Ruggini 1974, 435 believe that it was Bauto who replaced Praetextatus and that the young emperor Arcadius was originally designated as Praetextatus’ colleague. Seeck 1883, xliii-xliv claimed that Praetextatus was replaced by Arcadius because no one else but an emperor could have taken the consulate at such short notice.

[153] Symm. rel. 47.2. Vera 1981, 341-342; Vera 1983, 140. According to Vera 1981, xlii the appointment of Bauto in Praetextatus’ place shows the influence and prestige Praetextatus enjoyed at the end of his life.

[154] Symm. rel. 37.2-3; 21.2-4. Vera 1981, lv- lvii; Vera 1978, 69, 87 dates Symmachus’ resignation to January or February 385.

[155] Iord. Get. 289.

[156] The consulate was a honos sine labore: Paneg. 3.2.2. Both consuls for the year were proclaimed jointly as a pair until the beginning of the fifth century. Bagnall – Cameron – Schwarz – Worp 13-16; Demandt 1989, 283.



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