Spring 2010 Lecture Series
How Did Symmachus Become the ‘Last Great Pagan’?
A Lecture by
Dr. Christiana Sogno
Wednesday, January 27th, 12:00 p.m.
O’Hare Collections, 4th Floor, Walsh Library, Rose Hill Campus
The lecture is free and open to the public. A Reception will follow the talk.
In the Fall of 384 CE, Q. Aurelius Symmachus wrote an impassioned speech in the form of a letter in order to defend the traditional religion of Rome, thus engaging in the so-called “Battle of the Altar” with the fierce bishop of Milan, Ambrose. Even though Symmachus lost the battle, that impassioned relatio eventually became his most famous and celebrated piece of writing, and there can be little doubt that it greatly contributed to Symmachus’ “modern” reputation as one of the last great “pagans.” But how deserved is this reputation? Not entirely deserved, one might argue, given the fact that a careful and recent analysis of his letters shows that a great many correspondents of Symmachus were in fact Christians. Leaving aside the (vexed) problem of Symmachus’ commitment to the “pagan cause,” this paper will focus on the issue of Symmachus’ reputation: Was Symmachus always regarded as the “last great pagan”? If not, when and how did he become one? Such questions are not mere curiosities, but might be helpful for understanding how scholarly prejudices are born, and how they influence the research and study of history.
For more information, contact:
Center for Medieval Studies