Praetextatus – Introduction


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




Vettius Agorius Praetextatus was an erudite Roman senator who lived in the fourth century in the crucial period of external and internal changes and contradictions in the Graeco-Roman world, before the ‘final triumph’ of Christianity. He was never converted to Christianity though the Christianization of the Roman aristocracy was already in process during his lifetime, and until the end of the century, in the years after his death, the Roman aristocracy became, at least nominally, Christian. In this work I intend to illuminate the political, cultural and religious atmosphere of the fourth century through the personality of Praetextatus and to survey the coexistence of pagans and Christians in Rome during the period of the transformation through his life.

Praetextatus was highly esteemed and admired by his contemporaries and even by succeeding generations. He is known to have promoted pagan cults, participating in several of them as both priest and initiate, and also to have devoted himself to the study of philosophy and literature. Through Praetextatus’ life and action, I survey the religious and intellectual activities of the Roman senators: his religious adherences, intellectual interests and even his death and ‘afterlife’ are observed in the context of fourth-century life and culture. Praetextatus is connected with other pagan senators and his religious and intellectual activities are compared with other pagan aristocrats. He and pagan aristocrats are placed in a larger context and compared with their Christian peers since I suggest that pagan and Christian senators shared a common aristocratic code of life and similar values and ideas, e.g. of the immortality of the soul, although there were certainly also many differences.

First of all, it must be emphasized that this work is not a biography of a ‘great man’ but it is rather his image that is considered on several levels. The reconstruction of Praetextatus’ life, personality and thoughts is based on contemporary authors and epigraphical material. Each writer introduces his own Praetextatus: Jerome, as a Christian writer, describes one Praetextatus; Symmachus, as a friend, another Praetextatus; Ammianus, as a historian, a third Praetextatus. The image that the representative of the next generation, Macrobius in his Saturnalia, creates of him differs from the picture that the contemporary sources give us of him. In my opinion, these images of the ‘historical’ Praetextatus by his contemporaries and the literary Praetextatus of Macrobius’ Saturnalia should be distinguished clearly from each other.

I have chosen Praetextatus as an example of the pagan Roman senatorial aristocracy in order to analyze the aristocratic way of life in Roman fourth-century society. He may or may not have been a ‘typical’ pagan Roman aristocrat of his time but in a microhistorical study it is not crucial to find representative or universal truths. A limited case – one individual – may help to understand a group in the society in either a negative or positive way. An anomaly may reveal not only something of itself but also something of the norm in society. A microhistorical approach may combine both telescopic and microscopic attitudes.[1] A person does not need to be exceptional, a ‘great man’, to be a valuable objective for microhistorical research in which the interaction between an individual and a culture is illuminated through a single case.

This work is divided into three parts: in the introductory part, I survey Praetextatus as a representative of the Roman senatorial aristocracy, his family, properties, connections and worldly career while in the following part, Religion and Culture, the aristocratic way of life of Roman senators is approached through Praetextatus’ religious and intellectual pursuits. Finally, the last part of this work, A senatorial afterlife, treats Praetextatus’ fate post mortem, that is, the contemporary conceptions of his death and afterlife and the ‘making’ of his memory[2] by the next generation in Macrobius’ Saturnalia.


Pagans and Christians

In the abundant modern scholarship concerning pagans, Christians and the religious circumstances of the fourth century, there has been a tendency to interpret pagans and Christians in late antiquity in terms of a sharp dichotomy.[3] Our modern preunderstanding of ancient paganism and ancient Christianity has been influenced by the Judeo-Christian culture and tradition and thus, we perceive and label people of late antiquity through our own culture, in the Christian-centred way, dividing them into Christians, i.e. us, and non-Christians, i.e. others. Reflection on our prejudices could, however, help us at least to become aware of our dualistic simplifications.

The deconstruction of binary oppositions has been a theme much discussed and elaborated in theoretical discourse.[4] As a matter in fact, in late antique studies, P. Barcelò, P. Brown, J.J. O’Donnell, M.R. Salzman and K. Shelton – to mention only a few scholars – have reflected on the pagan-Christian dichotomy and tried to break away from this binary model.[5] O’Donnell suggests that the traditional division of pagans and Christians should be replaced with a division between tolerant and intolerant attitudes toward religious issues, and defines paganism not as a religion but as an attitude toward religion and tolerance of religious plurality. According to this division, Emperor Julian was ‘unpagan’ in his fanaticism and many Christians were ‘pagan’ in their tolerant attitude toward religion.[6] However, after all, what O’Donnell achieves here, is only to replace the pagan-Christian antithesis with another binary model, tolerant vs. intolerant.

R. Markus also points out that simplistic distinctions between ‘Christians’ and ‘semi-Christians’ are based on modern assumptions about what kind of a culture should be defined as ‘Christian’. In late antiquity there was ‘a wide no-man’s land’ and ample room for uncertainty between explicit pagans and uncompromising Christians[7] where Christians could hold traditional civic priesthoods; for instance, Astius Vindicianus, a Christian functioned as a flamen perpetuus of the traditional civic religion.[8] I am also inclined to think that people in the fourth century did not always make such sharp divisions as we modern Western scholars tend to do, except, of course, Christian apologists who because of their polemical goals sharpened the division and labelled the large variety of polytheistic religions as ‘paganism’ which was never a homogeneous religion but rather a wide range of cults, practices and attitudes.[9] In the same way, instead of speaking of Christianity or the Christian church, we should speak of Christianities and churches since Christians also comprised a vast collection of various beliefs and rituals. Naming and classifying ‘pagans’ as well as of ‘Christians’ negates the manifold diversity of human experiences.

The word ‘pagan’ has innumerable connotations, mainly derogatory, because ‘pagan’ represents the otherness in a Western culture dominated by Christianity. The history of the term ‘pagan’ illustrates the growing Christian self-consciousness, awareness of being separate and different from other religions. Christian apologists needed to label their rivals as one recognizable group, pagans: thus, in the Latin West they usually referred to non-Christians as gentes or gentiles (translated from the Greek ethne or ethnikoi). The word paganus (originally ‘country-dweller, peasant’ as opposed to sophisticated urban-dwellers) was used of a non-Christian for the first time in legislation in 370[10] but it did not become common until the fifth century. In the East ‘pagans’ were defined as adherents of old cults often without any hint of provinciality while in the Western part of Empire ‘pagans’ were a group outside Christian society, with a nuance of barbarism.[11]

In spite of its pejorative connotations, I have decided to use the term ‘pagan’ in this study because, even if we replaced a ‘pagan’ with a ‘polytheist’, we would still be stuck in our Christian – non-Christian categories. We cannot help beginning from our own vocabulary and terminology because cultures, especially religions, of the past are always perceived through the lens of one’s own particular religious culture.[12] I try to avoid the word ‘pagan’ as much as possible and to replace it with other more accurate terms such as adherent of a cult, participant in a cult or initiate of a mystery, though it is not always possible. I use the words ‘pagan’ or ‘paganism’ in this work in order to refer to adherents of polytheistic cults as a group when it is necessary.

The antagonism and conflict in the relations between pagans and Christians has been emphasized in the modern scholarly literature of late antiquity, e.g. in explaining political alliances, events and appointments. E.g. for R. von Haehling, the alternation of pagans and Christians in appointments to high administrative posts during the fourth century shows that religious adherence had become an important criterion in the administration of the Empire.[13] I rather wonder if religious adherence as the criterion was of crucial importance since it may be our modern construction of what we regard as important. Prosopographical research has shown that pagans and Christians were appointed alike to high posts during the fourth century (for my discussion, see ch. 2.2). Religious adherence has also been over-emphasized in explaining networks of aristocratic amicitiae eventhough Symmachus’ vast correspondence, for example, shows that he had established relations with Christians as well as with pagans. Loyalty to the senatorial class and culture often came before religious adherence.

The conflictual aspect in the relations between pagans and Christians was stressed particularly during World War II and the Cold War, e.g. by A. Alföldi in his interpretation of contorniates as pagan reaction against the Christian emperors and H. Bloch in his article on the pagan revival.[14] M.R. Salzman connects the conflictual aspect in the scholarly literature with the atmosphere of World War II but fails to see the connection between modern détente and the late antique ambience of compromise and tolerance. However, it is obvious that the later atmosphere of détente and peaceful coexistence broadened the conceptions of the relationship between pagans and Christians. The fourth century has nowadays been seen as a period of the gradual transformation of pagan culture into a respectable aristocratic Christianity. In this research, Praetextatus’ lifetime appears as a period of both polemic and peaceful coexistence but I have wanted to stress accommodation and assimilation because enough attention has so far been paid to conflicts.

The simplified pagan-Christian antagonism has also appeared in the scholarly literature concerning the modern constructions of ‘pagan revival’ and ‘pagan reaction’ of the late fourth century that were based on Symmachus’ writings and senatorial cult inscriptions. ‘Pagan revival’ was established by D.N. Robinson and advanced by H. Bloch who maintained that the ‘party’ of conservative pagan senators defended more or less consciously and later even aggressively the old religion against Christianity. The concept of the pagan ‘movement’ against Christianity led by either Praetextatus, Symmachus or Nicomachus Flavianus has fixed surprisingly tightly in modern scholarly literature.[15] Pagan motifs in art and literature and cult inscriptions cannot be automatically interpreted as pagan propaganda or pagan reaction against Christianity. Pagan reaction is a modern teleological interpretation influenced by the obvious outcome of the ‘triumph’ of Christianity and ‘suppression’ of paganism.


The sources

The surviving source material for the late fourth century is so rich and varied that the late fourth century can be regarded as one of the best documented periods in Roman history. Unfortunately, we are not as lucky with the sources concerning Praetextatus who is mentioned here and there, once or twice by late Roman and Byzantine historians and antiquarians. The main information on Praetextatus comes from Q. Aurelius Symmachus, Ammianus Marcellinus and epigraphic sources.

The most important group of contemporary sources is Symmachus’ letters to Praetextatus and his relationes, administrative reports sent to the emperors. Q. Aurelius Symmachus, a Roman senator and the most distinguished orator of his time, left 600 letters, several speeches and 21 relationes.[16] From his twelve letters addressed to Praetextatus we get the impression that he was related with close ties of amicitia with Praetextatus. Symmachus’ works have not always been regarded as very informative by scholars because the conventions in manner and style in late antique letter writing limit the information and interpretation. J. Matthews and recently Ph. Bruggisser have shown more understanding towards his letters than earlier scholarship. Symmachus’ letters, as well as late antique correspondence in general, functioned as a long series of visiting cards within the complicated social network of amicitiae, the relationships between aristocrats, and therefore they were not intended to give information but to maintain social relations.[17] However, his letters to Praetextatus and his relationes concerning Praetextatus’ death reveal a great deal of important information about Praetextatus.

Praetextatus is mentioned only three times by the historian Ammianus Marcellinus in the Res Gestae, written in Rome probably in the early 390s but he praises Praetextatus exceedingly in all these passages while he usually bitterly condemns Roman aristocrats and their way of life.[18] Matthews suggests that Ammianus might have met Praetextatus personally in Rome in the 380s and might have used him as a source for some of his accounts. When reporting on Emperor Julian’s action in Constantinople in 361, Ammianus remarks that Praetextatus took part in all these events, aderat his omnibus Praetextatus, that is, Praetextatus witnessed all these events.[19]

Another contemporary writer is Jerome who in his letters describes the Roman aristocratic circles that he knew well because he associated with Christian aristocratic women in Rome in the 380s. Jerome criticizes Roman society so strongly probably because of his irascible personality and partly because the same society had disappointed his ambitious expectations.[20] Jerome mentions Praetextatus in two letters (epist. 23 and 39) and in a pamphlet Contra Ioannem Hierosolymitanum written to Pammachius, criticizing Bishop John of Jerusalem in 397, and attacks him violently in each case. E.D. Hunt and G. Grützmacher remark how rarely Jerome attacks Roman pagans, for example, he never mentions Symmachus who appealed for the restoration of subsidies for the Roman state cults. “Only Praetextatus was judged too big for Jerome to ignore”, Hunt points out; Praetextatus’ death caused so great an out-pouring of grief that Jerome had to react to it.[21]

Some edicts in the Theodosian Code were addressed to Praetextatus as he was praefectus urbi and praefectus praetorio. Furthermore, some official letters addressed to him by Emperor Valentinian, concerning the dispute between the Roman bishops Damasus and Ursinus, have survived in the Collectio Avellana, a collection of ecclesiastical documents, letters and edicts of Roman emperors, magistrates and bishops between 367 and 553.[22] The Greek rhetorician Himerius is known to have given an oration to Praetextatus but unfortunately this speech is no longer extant.[23]

There are eleven surviving inscriptions[24] of Praetextatus and his wife Paulina of which the most important document is CIL VI 1779, Praetextatus’ and Paulina’s long funerary poem in iambic senarii.[25] This funerary poem is an informative source for many aspects of Praetextatus’ life and an interesting starting point for the comparison of ideas of the afterlife and immortality in late antiquity. CIL VI 1779 and other inscriptions are introduced in Appendix.

The information on Praetextatus that we find in later literary and historiographical sources is problematic since the image of Praetextatus has become even more idealized and legendary than in contemporary sources. Praetextatus appears as one of the interlocutors in Macrobius’ Saturnalia, which was apparently written in the 430s, i.e., fifty years after Praetextatus’ death.[26] In this description of an imaginary symposium, Macrobius draws a strongly romanticized picture of the learned aristocratic circle around Praetextatus and depicts him as the leading authority of this circle. Praetextatus gives a long speech where he manifests syncretistic ideas of one supreme divinity and minor gods, emanations of this supreme divinity. I am inclined to think that Macrobius can be used as a source of the fifth-century image of Praetextatus rather than of fourth-century Praetextatus and I insist that these two images should be separated from each other, which has not always been done; R. Klein, for example, discussing Praetextatus briefly in his monographs on Symmachus, connects the Praetextatus of the contemporary sources and the Praetextatus described by Macrobius too closely, I think, with each other.[27] The problems concerning Macrobius’ Saturnalia will be discussed further in ch. 5.1.

In his New History written in the late fifth century, the Byzantine historian Zosimus reports on Praetextatus, a supporter of Hellenic cults in Greece. Zosimus derived much of his material from the historians Eunapius and Olympiodorus but in general he is not regarded as a very reliable source for the fourth-century Empire.[28] A hierophant called Praetextatus is mentioned by John Lydus, a Byzantine antiquarian writer (died 557/561), in De Mensibus, a treatise on the Roman calendar tradition and antique festivals,[29] but it is not certain whether this Praetextatus is Vettius Agorius Praetextatus (for further discussion, see ch. 1.2).

Since my research on Praetextatus, a Roman senator, pagan and learned man, is a case study of the Roman senatorial aristocracy in the fourth century, I use comparative source material on Roman senators in general. The life of the Roman senatorial aristocracy is well documented thanks to copious epigraphic material, Symmachus’ and Jerome’s letters and Ammianus Marcellinus’ Res Gestae.

The picture the sources draw of Praetextatus is not entirely consistent or harmonious. If some opinions are contradictory, they at least inform us of Praetextatus’ significance in his time for it cannot be denied that at least he inspired emotions in his contemporaries and even in the next generation. Praetextatus’ personality is highly praised by his contemporaries Symmachus and Ammianus Marcellinus and by the later writers Macrobius and Zosimus whereas Jerome disapproves of him, calling him miserabilis Praetextatus and homo sacrilegus et idolorum cultor.[30] Symmachus shows great respect for his friend, describing Praetextatus as a virtuous man and an excellent magistrate of the res publica.[31] For Ammianus Praetextatus is praeclarae indolis gravitatisque priscae senator who acts with honesty and probity for which he was famous since his early youth, per integritatis multiplices actus et probitatis, quibus ab adulescentiae rudimentis inclaruit.[32] The Praetextatus depicted in Macrobius’ Saturnalia is almost superhuman in his tranquillity, clemency and gravity.[33] He is the intellectual leader of the Roman pagan senators and his indisputable authority on religious matters is emphasized when he is called princeps religiosorum, sacrorum omnium praesul and sacrorum omnium unice conscius.[34] Zosimus praises Praetextatus a man excelling in every virtue, .[35]


Praetextatus in late antique studies

Building on the work of earlier scholarship, I am aware of the heavy burden of the previous late antique studies and the danger of over-familiarity with well-known sources but I believe that critical reflection on this immense scholarly tradition helps us to become partly freed from it. Though we can never be totally released from the influence of earlier research, reflection on preunderstandings, Vorverständnisse, created by previous scholarship brings before one something that otherwise would take place behind one’s back, as the German philosopher H.-G. Gadamer points out.[36] The continuous endeavour to reach awareness of the sometimes even subconscious effect of the scholarly tradition on us seems to be the best possible situation that we can reach in historical research.

Vettius Agorius Praetextatus was already treated in articles by A. Coen in 1887-1888, by J. Nistler in 1910 and later by W. Ensslin.[37] Th.W.J. Nicolaas’ monograph Praetextatus in Dutch in 1940 is a careful study of the dates of Praetextatus’ life and career but the intellectual and religious aspects that I want to stress have not received much attention in his work. For example, Nicolaas regards the funerary poem (CIL VI 1779) composed for Praetextatus and his wife Paulina only as an outgrowth of the exaggeration of Praetextatus’ time and overwhelming wordmongering: thus, he does not show much understanding of the genre of epitaphs and funerary poems since he asks whether the funerary poem was necessary at all![38] The funerary poem has been analyzed in articles by P. Lambrechts in 1955, G. Polara in 1967 and L. Storoni Mazzolani in 1972.[39] L. Cracco Ruggini has treated Praetextatus among other Roman senators in several articles[40] and Praetextatus is often mentioned in general surveys on late antique culture and the end of paganism in the fourth century.[41]

In setting Praetextatus the senator within the group of Roman senators I have used the research on the late Roman aristocracy, mainly Matthews’ already classic Western Aristocracies and Imperial Court A.D. 364-425 but also works of A. Chastagnol, W. Kuhoff and additionally B. Näf, who has studied the mentality of the senatorial aristocracy in late antiquity.[42] The Christianization of the Roman senatorial aristocracy has also recently been under lively discussion, e.g. by M.R. Salzman and T.D. Barnes.[43]

The laudations by ancient authors seem to have influenced modern scholars who often praise Praetextatus in quite a similar way and usually regard Praetextatus as the undisputed spiritual leader of the Roman pagans.[44] E.g. Bloch, Klein and Cracco Ruggini thus imply that there was a pagan ‘movement’ or a pagan ‘party’ in the late fourth century.[45] For Alan Cameron, Praetextatus was the only intellectual and philosopher among the Roman senators in the late fourth century and for J. Matthews ‘the leading light’ and ‘intellectual glory’ of the pagan aristocracy.[46]

Modern scholars have often wanted to connect Praetextatus with all possible types of historical incidents and to identify a great number of anonymous fourth-century individuals with him, though many of these identifications remain unproved.[47] R. Herzog, for example, surmised that Praetextatus was the hierophant of Eleusis who introduced Emperor Julian to the mysteries[48] while F. Paschoud proposed that it was Praetextatus who led the embassy of Roman senators when Emperor Gratian refused the title of pontifex maximus.[49] According to Klein and Cracco Ruggini, he might have organized the embassies of Roman senators to ask for the restoration of the altar of Victory at the imperial court and influenced Symmachus’ famous appeal for religious tolerance in the third relatio.[50] Furthermore, it is possible – but still highly hypothetical – that Praetextatus is one of the gentiles antiquarii mentioned by the Arian Dissertatio Maximini contra Ambrosium,[51] as well as the ‘man of monstrous vanity’ who introduced to Augustine a number of ‘Platonic books’.[52] It is quite uncertain whether a pagan priest whom Firmicus Maternus attacks in De errore profanarum religionum (written between 343 and 350) is Praetextatus, for we do not know if he was such a well-known and controversial figure as early as the 340s and 350s as he was later in the 380s.[53] Furthermore, it seems that the Praetextatus mentioned by the medical writer Caelius Aurelianus in Passiones celeres sive acutae probably is not Vettius Agorius Praetextatus.[54] The identifications of the senator under attack in the so-called Carmen contra paganos and the deified person in the apotheosis diptych of the Symmachi will be discussed further in chapters 4.2 and 6.2.


[1] For microhistorical research see Levi 1326-1335; Ginzburg 10-35; Bourdieu 69-72.

[2] Cf. ‘la production de la mémoire royale’ in J. LeGoff, Saint Louis, Paris 1996.

[3] Examples of the pagan-Christian dichotomy in late antique studies: Bloch 1945; Bloch 1963. E.g. Palanque 1933a, 69, does not hold it probable that the Christian Emperor Gratian could have appointed ‘fanatic’ pagans such as Praetextatus and Virius Nicomachus Flavianus to high posts in the imperial administration.

[4] E.g. J. Derrida, Positions, Paris 1972, 56-57 and J. Derrida, Marges de la philosophie, 1972, 75.

[5] O’Donnell 1979, 45-88; Salzman 1990; Barcelò 151-189, Shelton 1981, esp. 63-67.

[6] O’Donnell 1979, 51-57. Cf. Ambr. epist. 17.8.

[7] Markus 1990, 33; also Fowden 1998, 542.

[8] E.g. Astius Vindicianus in CIL VIII 450; PLRE I, Vindicianus 3, 968, Chastagnol – Duval 95-97 no.2; Astius Mustelus in CIL VIII 10516 and 11528; Chastagnol – Duval 97-100 no.3. Other examples: Chastagnol – Duval 87-118. Christians holding traditional civic priesthoods, CTh 12.1.112 (June 16, 386).

[9] The variety of polytheistic cults, stressed by O’Donnell 1979, 48, Kaegi 270, Averil Cameron 1998, 667 and Salzman 1990, 223.

[10] CTh 16.2.18 (Feb. 17, 370).

[11] For the development of the term paganus, see Grégoire – Orgels 363-400; Demougeot 1956, 337-350; Demougeot 1961, 354-365; Cracco Ruggini 1973, 161-167; O’Donnell 1977, 163-169; O’Donnell 1979, 48-49; Brown 1998b, 639.

[12] Cf. Pakkanen 19, 96; Hick 8.

[13] Von Haehling 532 n.95.

[14] Alföldi 1943; Bloch 1945. Salzman 1990, 194-195.

[15] Robinson 87-101; Bloch 1945, 203-204: “the pagan party was suddenly confronted with the task of defending its rights against attack …“; Klein 1971; Klein 1972; Wytzes; Nicolaas 60, 109; Lambrechts 42; Vermaseren 1977, 47; Merkelbach 1984, 246-247; Thrams 61; Heyob 35. Alföldi 1943 saw contorniates of the fourth century as a part of pagan reaction and political conflict, Straub 1963 interpreted the Historia Augusta as a history adversus Christianos. The pagan revival and reaction are criticized as over-interpretation by Shelton 1989, 107; Alan Cameron 1977 and 1984; Averil Cameron 1993, 157-161; Salzman 1990, 194-195, 213-218, 228-230; Salzman 1992, 471-472. The antagonism between pagans and Christians has been seen alternatively as a social struggle between the pagan upper class and Christian middle class rather than a religious issue (by Paschoud 1967, 101) or as rivalries within the late Hellenistic currents (by Forlin Patrucco 1993, 762-763).

[16] PLRE I, Symmachus 4, 865-870.

[17] Matthews 1974, 58-99; Matthews 1973, 191, 194; Bruggisser 1993. Matthews 1974, 60-61 surveys the scholarly discussion on Symmachus’ letters.

[18] Amm. 22.7.6; 27.9.8-10; 28.1.24. Ammianus was interpreted as being a friend of Roman senators in the previous scholarly literature, e.g. by Alfölfi 39-41 but it seems probable that Ammianus did not have (friendly) relations with the senators as Alan Cameron 1964, 15-28 has shown. For further discussion, see ch. 5.2.

[19] Amm. 22.7.6. Matthews 1989, 23, 424; Näf 247; also Selem 14-15 who maintains that Ammianus also had friendly relations with Praetextatus (as well as with Avianius Symmachus, the father of Q. Aurelius Symmachus) while Alan Cameron 1964, 22 insists that Amm. 22.7.6 does not necessarily indicate that Praetextatus was Ammianus’ source or his friend.

[20] Cf. Pallad. hist. Laus. 36.6-7 on Jerome’s bad temper and intolerant personality. Averil Cameron 1993, 184; Wiesen 62-63.

[21] Hunt 1977, 170; Grützmacher 275-276.

[22] For the Collectio Avellana, see Schanz 1914, 276-277; Lippold 1965b, 106-107; Künzle 14 n.25.

[23] The title of Himerius’ or. 51 is included in Photius’ list of Himerius’ speeches, in Bibl. Cod. 165.

[24] CIL VI 102, 1777-1781, 2145; CIL XV 7563; IC IV 316 = Guarducci 1929, 165 nr.14; SEG XV 322 = AE 1928, 48.

[25] CIL VI 1779 = ILS 1259 = CLE 111. The epitaph was found on the clivus Capitolinus in Rome, was first published in 1750 and is now in the Capitoline Museum in Rome.

[26] Macrobius’ Saturnalia was dated to the 430s by Alan Cameron 1966, 25-38. For the discussion of the date of the Saturnalia, see ch. 5.1.

[27] E.g. Klein 1971, 49-50, 67, 85.

[28] For the value of Zosimus as a source and for Zosimus’ sources, see Paschoud 1975b; Alan Cameron 1968, 96.

[29] Maas 1-2, 9-10.

[30] Hier. c. Ioh. 8. Cf. Hier. epist. 23.3. Matthews 1975, 210 believes that Jerome’s opinion represents that of a minority.

[31] Symm. rel. 11: Vettium Praetextatum veteribus parem virtutum omnium virum; summo patriae gemitu, cui decus insigne praestabat; Symm. rel. 10.1: Praetextatus bonorum, antiquae probitatis adsertor; vir omnium domi forisque virtutum; Symm. rel. 12: virum nostra aetate mirabilem; Symm. rel. 21.5: viri excellentis et de re publica bene meriti Praetextati; Symm. rel. 24: praecelsae et inlustris memoriae Praetextatus; de virtute atque innocentia eius; Symm. epist. 1.49: civis ad bonum commune genitus.

[32] Amm. 22.7.6; 27.9.8-10.

[33] E.g. Macr. Sat. 1.7.2: Sed Praetextatus ut erat in omnes aeque placidus ac mitis …

[34] Macr. Sat. 1.11.1: quia princeps religiosorum putatur; 1.17.1: quia sacrorum omnium praesulem esse te, Vetti Praetextate, divina voluerunt; 1.7.17: sacrorum tamen omnium Vettius unice conscius.

[35] Zos. 4.3.3.

[36] H.-G. Gadamer, ‘Rhetorik, Hermeneutik und Ideologiekritik, Metakritische Erörterungen zu “Wahrheit und Methode” (1967), Gesammelte Werke 2: Hermeneutik II, Tübingen 1986, 247: “Die Reflexion eines gegebenen Vorverständnisses bringt etwas vor mich, was sonst hinter meinem Rücken geschieht. Etwas – nicht alles. Denn wirkungsgeschichtliches Bewusstsein ist auf eine unaufhebbare Weise mehr Sein als Bewusstsein.” Matthews 1973, 175 warns of over-familiarity in interpreting well-known evidence.

[37] Coen 1887, 481-523; Coen 1888, 1-37, 209-249; Nistler 1910, 462-475; Ensslin, RE XXII.2, 1575-1579; PLRE I, Praetextatus 1, 722-724.

[38] Nicolaas 8, 10: “een uitwas van de overdrijvning van zijn tid”; “overdreven woordenpraal”.

[39] Lambrechts 5-56; Polara 264-289; Storoni Mazzolani 1989 (1972).

[40] Cracco Ruggini’s articles 1972, 1977, 1979a, 1979b, 1979c, 1985a, 1985b, 1993.

[41] Bloch 1945; Alan Cameron 1977; Alan Cameron 1984; Matthews 1975; Klein 1971; Klein 1972; Roda 1973, Roda 1981; Vera 1981, Vera 1983.

[42] Matthews 1975; Chastagnol 1970; Kuhoff 1982; Kuhoff 1983; Näf 297-302 with a survey on senatorial studies.

[43] Brown 1961; Clemente 1982; Barnes 1995; Salzman 1989a, Salzman 1992, Salzman 1993.

[44] E.g. Coen 1887, 492: “cittadino nobile, ricco, istruito, di animo mite e temperato, … la sua rettitudine e la sua saggezza”; Chastagnol 1962, 172: “une belle figure d’intellectuel. Doté d’une fidèle mémoire et armé d’une érudition sans égale”; Alan Cameron 1977, 17: “a man of enormous authority and determination”; Matthews 1975, 6: “the great pagan senator … an intellectual of impressive achievement”; “in so combining great erudition with a profound religious sense, Praetextatus was a characteristic – though outstanding – product of late Roman paganism”; Cracco Ruggini 1974, 443: “la grossa personalità etica, politica e culturale di Pretestato”; Fauth 163: “eine veritable historische Grösse”; Storoni Mazzolani praises him all the time, e.g. 119: “la sostanza profonda e unicamente umana”; Matacotta 143: “tutte le qualità di cultura, di intelligenza, di fermezza di carattere, di applicazione al lavoro, e infine di carisma”.

[45] Bloch 1945, 203-204: “the undisputed leader of the pagan part”; Schanz 1914, 139; Klein 1971, 47-50, 91: “ihre Seele und ihr anerkanntes Haupt war … Praetextatus”; Vidman 158; Cracco Ruggini 1974, 423: “sotto la guida fermissima dell’omnium sacrorum praesul Pretestato”; Cracco Ruggini 1979, 48: “il grande campione del paganesimo”; Cracco Ruggini 1979, 47: “la linea già promossa da Pretestato” Vera 1981, xli-xlii; Matacotta 292: “un leader carismatico”. Boissier 1909, 265 was an exception since he thought that Praetextatus ”ne fut guère qu’une dècoration pour les païens de Rome”.

[46] Cameron 1977, 16-17; Matthews 1973, 181.

[47] There are also clear errors: Demandt 1989, 353 confuses Praetextatus with Nicomachus Flavianus as the translator of Philostratus’ biography of Apollonius of Tyana.

[48] Herzog 1937, 127-129. For Julian and the Roman aristocracy, see ch. 2.5.

[49] Zos. 4.36.5. Paschoud 1979, 419-422 n.174; Paschoud 1975, 70-94. See ch. 2.1.

[50] Klein 1972, 13-14; Cracco Ruggini 1979b, 24. Symmachus’ third relatio: Vera 1981, lxxvii-lxxviii, 37, 40; also O’Donnell 1979, 73-74. See ch. 2.5.

[51] Maximin. c. Ambr. 139. Cracco Ruggini 1979b, 37-39; Cracco Ruggini 1979a, 143.

[52] Aug. conf. 7.9.13: per quendam hominem inmanissimo tyfo turgidum quosdam Platonicorum libros ex graeca lingua in latinam versos. Rist 1991, 138-143, Rist 1994, 3 identified Praetextatus as this ‘man of monstrous vanity’. Other identifications have been proposed, Manlius Theodorus by Courcelle 1943, 119-129, Courcelle 1975, 245 and Celsinus Titianus, Symmachus’ brother by Solignac 103.

[53] Firm. err. 18.6: Qui sic in templo praetextatus incedis, qui fulgis purpura, cuius caput aut auro premitur aut lauro, errorem tuum turpis egestas insequitur, et cervicibus tuis onerosum paupertatis imminet pondus where praetextatus could be interpreted as an allusion to Praetextatus. R. Ellis in 1868 and later Cracco Ruggini 1979a, 128 n.24; Cracco Ruggini 1979b, 18 n.40, 78 proposed that the passage might allude to either Praetextatus or his father.

[54] When discussing fomentations Caelius mentions that he has written letters in Greek concerning medicine to a Praetextatus, Cael. Aur. tard. 2.60: Probant praeterea iuges clysteres atque purgativa medicamina, quae catartica vocaverunt, et magis hieram, cuius usum Graeco libro Epistolarum ad Praetextatum damnavimus scribentes. Caelius Aurelianus from Africa, Sicca Veneria, probably from the fifth century, was one of the most important figures of late antique medical literature. Schanz – Hosius – Krüger 1920, 285-286; Drabkin, xi; PLRE II, Caelius Aurelianus 10, 201. There are several persons called Praetextatus in the fifth century, in the PLRE I three Praetextati, in the PLRE II four persons named Praetextatus.


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