Symmachus, Quintus Aurelius

, a citizen and senator of ancient Rome, and consul in the year 391, has left us ten books of epistles; from which, as well as from other things, we collect, that he was a warm opposer of the Christian religion. This he shews particularly in the sixty-first epistle of the tenth book, addressed to the emperor Valentinian, whom he petitioned in favour of paganism. He was very unfortunate, after having enjoyed a high degree of favour at court. The emperor Theodosius thought proper to desire that he would pronounce his panegyric before him; but when he heard that Symmachus had been equally liberal in his praises of the tyrant Maximus, who reigned before him, and to whom Theodosius himself had submitted from political motives, he banished Symmachus, and persecuted him so even in his exile, that with all his prejudices in favour of paganism, he was obliged to take refuge in a Christian church to save his life. Ammianus Marcellinus speaks of him as a man of great learning and modesty; and his epistles shew him to have been a man of acute parts, and of eloquence, such as eloquence was in his time, that is, verbose and florid. Scioppius, Pareus, and other learned men, have written notes upon the epistles of Symmachus: 'but we know of no later edition of them than that of Leyden, 1653, 12mo. The first edition, which has no date, but probably was printed between 1503 and 1513, is very rare and valuable. Ambrose, bishop of Milan, wrote against Symmachus; and so did the Christian poet Prudentius. 2


Cave, vol. I.—Fabricii Bibl, Lat.—Blount’s Censura.—Saxii Onomast.