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Quintus Aurelius Symmachus

Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, c.340-c.402, held the offices of proconsol of Africa in 373, urban Prefect of Rome in 384 and 385, and consul in 391.

A prominent pagan, Symmachus was an opponent of Ambrosius, archbishop of Milan. His Relationes against the removal of the altar of Victory from the Senate House survive, and he perhaps won its reinstatement very temporarily not long before his death. In an age when all religious communities credited the divine power with direct involvement in human affairs, Symmachus argues that the removal of the Altar had caused a famine and the its restoration would be beneficial in other ways. Subtly he pleads for tolerance for traditional cult practices and beliefs that Christianity was poised to suppress in the Theodosian edicts of 391.

He was also engaged in the preparation of an edition of Livy's Ab Urbe Condita. This edition is the source of a series of subscriptions with his name found in some of the surviving texts of the first Decade -- and is thought to be the ancestor of one tradition of texts.

After the model of the Younger Pliny, the letters he had written to his numerous, influential friends were collected in ten books, which form a valuable source of historical information for the Roman Empire in the later fourth century. This collection inspired Sidonius Apollinaris to create a similar collection.

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Last updated: 11-11-2004 00:04:25