Symmachus, Quintus Aurelius
SYMMACHUS, QUINTUS AURELIUS, consul in 391, and one of the most brilliant representatives in public life and in literature of the old pagan party at Rome, was educated in Gaul, and, having discharged the functions of praetor and qustor, rose to higher offices, and in 373 was proconsul of Africa. His public dignities, which included that of pontiff, his great wealth and high character, added to his reputation for eloquence, marked him out as the champion of the pagan senate against the measures which the Christian emperors directed against the old state religion of Rome. In 382 he was banished from Rome by Gratian for his protest against the removal of the statue and altar of Victory from the senate-house, and in 384, when he was prefect of the city, he addressed to Valentinian a letter praying for the restoration of these symbols. This is the most interesting of his literary remains, and called forth two replies from St Ambrose, as well as a poetical refutation from Prudentius. After this Symmachus was involved in the rebellion of Maximus, but obtained his pardon from Theodosius, and appears to have continued in public life up to his death.
Of the writings of Symmachus we possess (1) ten books of Epistles, published after his death by his son. The model followed by the writer is Pliny the Younger, and from a reference in the Santrnalia of Macrobius (bk. v., i. § 7), in which Symmachus is introduced as one of the interlocutors, it appears that his contemporaries deemed him second to none of the ancients in the " rich and florid " style. The first edition of the Epistles by Bart. Cynischus (s. 1. et a., but published under Pope Julius II.) is very incomplete, and the collection was only gradually completed by subsequent editors. (2) Fragments of nine Complimentary Orations from a palimpsest, of which part is at Milan and part in the Vatican, were discovered by Mai, who published the Milan fragments in 1815, the Roman ones in his Seriptorum Veterum Nova Collectio, vol. i. (1825), and the whole in 1846. The work was not well done, and many corrections are given in a new collation by 0. Seeck (Commentationes in Honorem Th. Mommseni, Berlin, 1877, p. 595 sq.), which has been followed by an edition of the works of Symmachus in the Monumenta Germanim Histories, Berlin, 1883.