The works of Ausonius, edited with Introduction and Commentary by R. P. H. Green, Oxford 1991.
Ausonius delivered his speech Gratiarum Actio in front of the Emperor Gratian, his former pupil and ward, to thank him for having been awarded the consulate. The speech was delivered in the city of Trier, then seat of the Imperial court, in the second half of 379 AD.
The work does not differ from previous panegyric orations, and adheres to the canon of the genre: readers will find the usual praise of the Emperor, slavish tone, abundance of witty remarks, fondness for antitheses and paradoxes, so that the most obvious things are presented as strange and extraordinary. The author is very unusual, however, in devoting a large space to self-praise, so much so that several scholars consider the speech a panegyric directed to the speaker rather than to the addressee that was supposed to be celebrated (Pichon 1906, p. 168). Ausonius, a professor at the Bordeaux school, was not of noble origins. On becoming consul, he reaches the peak of the Roman political career: the position makes him so proud that he gives special prominence to himself, rather than to the supposed object of the panegyric. Ausonius compares Gratian to ancient kings and Homeric speakers such as Menelaus, Ulysses and Nestor, adding that in fact the Emperor surpasses them for erudition, eloquence and wisdom. Ausonius, on the other hand, compares himself to tutors of Emperors such as Seneca, Fronto and Fabius Titianus; the comparison is of course in favour of the teacher of Bordeaux. The very praise of Gratian's virtues becomes a motive for pride for Ausonius, who fostered them. A typical instance of this attitude is the section in which Ausonius examines every minute detail of the letter of the Emperor appointing him to the consulship (45-54). He acts very much like the proud teacher examining the work of his best pupil; by praising the pupil he automatically implies praise for himself for a job well done. [A. Borgna; translation L. Battezzato]
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