Symmaque, Lettres, texte établi, traduit et commenté par Jean-Pierre Callu, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, voll. I-IV, 1972-2002.
The epistolary corpus of Symmachus, consisting of c. 900 letters, has been handed down in ten books that are chiefly organized on the basis of addressees; the author’s son, Q. Fabius Memmius, probably published them between 402 and 403, shortly after his father’s death. Of the available manuscripts, only Parisinus 8623 (9th c.) preserves the letters intact together with their division into books: among the others, two are noteworthy: Vaticanus Palatinus 1576 (11th c.), which Seeck called deteriorum optimus, and Luciliburgensis 27 (12th c.). Other sources also contribute to the textual transmission: these include a substantial number of florilegia, excerpta, and various codices of Ausonius (the poet from Bordeaux, who was a very close friend of Symmachus, is one of his most frequent interlocutors). The letters are generally brief, with diverse contents ranging from strictly personal questions (e.g. trips, the marriage of his sons) to political concerns that arise from his duties as a prestigious member of the senatorial aristocracy (e.g. recommendations, requests addressed to those of equal status). Symmachus’ letters are of greatest interest to historians, as they decidedly help to refine our picture of social relationships and political forces in the final decades of the Empire. To speak of their specifically literary qualities, however, one may note that they are characterized by great formal care. This can be seen in how the author keeps them fully functional to his political role: even in the simplest salutatio, Symmachus does not give up the chance to “vestirsi in abito impeccabile da cerimonia” (La Penna). Also noteworthy are a striving for brevitas interwoven with metaphor, learned references, sententiae, and unusual diction that reveals above all the influence of Fronto and – naturally - the younger Pliny. [V. Del Core; tr. C. L. Caterine].