Symmaque, Discours, texte établi, traduit et commenté par Jean-Pierre Callu, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 2009.
The fragmentary corpus of Symmachus’ orations, transmitted by the same Bobiensis rescriptus that contains the remnants of Cicero’s De re publica and the works of Fronto (the twenty-seven folios containing Symmachus are divided between Ambrosianus E 147 inf. and Vaticanus Latinus 5750), comprises three panegyrics and five occasional discourses given in the Senate. It consists of texts composed by Symmachus in his youth, at the start of his political career, before being appointed prefect of the city of Rome. Two of the panegyrics are dedicated to Valentinian I, the third to the young Gratian: the dating, on which the opinions of some scholars differ (Seeck supports the hypothesis, rejected by Del Chicca, of a double redaction), ought to be in the vicinity of 369-70 for all three. The three panegyrics, characterized by a certain stylistic exuberance that has its fundamental trait in abundantia sermonis, largely follow the dictates of the encomiastic tradition: praise of ancestry, celebration of the princeps’ physical and moral qualities (resistance to fatigue, martial prowess, humility, and clemency) in comparison to the great Greek and Roman leaders of the past, who are inevitably refashioned in respect to the emperor. If, in the laudatio prior of Valentinian, Symmachus focuses chiefly on the first experiences and on the hard apprenticeship to which the future sovereign has been subjected, without, in any event, neglecting his most important political acts, the laudatio altera distinguishes itself through a greater variety of style and contents, concerning itself primarily with the description of some fortification works along the course of the Rhine that had been promoted by Valentinian. The orator uses the occasion to establish a comparison between Roman and barbarian cultures, framed in mostly predictable schemes (roughness, rigidity, limited intelligence). The panegyric of Gratian, on the other hand, celebrates the future emperor in terms that recall Vergil’s fourth Eclogue, an undeniable point of reference for the traditionalist Symmachus. The remainder of the fragments remains decidedly less interesting: the discourse in honour of his father Lucius Aurelius Avianius Symmachus, who was awarded the office of consul in 377, stands out among these. The others provide us with bits of discourses in favor of Trygetius, Flavius Severus, Synesius, and Valerius Fortunatus, all political personages presumably involved in the senatorial milieu of which the two Symmachi were influential members. [V. del Core; tr. C. L. Caterine].