Chapter

The Real Circle of Symmachus

Alan Cameron

in The Last Pagans of Rome

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780199747276
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199866212 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199747276.003.0011
The Real Circle of Symmachus

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Within the ranks of the aristocracy many scholars have identified an inner core of literary pagans, the so-called “Circle of Symmachus,” actively nurturing the classics and sponsoring pagan writers in the hope of recalling waverers to the fold. This chapter argues that it is the chance congruence of two factors—one ancient and one modern—that has saddled Symmachus with this unlikely role: Macrobius's Saturnalia, where he appears as one of the three hosts to a fictitious literary gathering; and Otto Seeck's wonderful edition of Symmachus's Letters (1883), with its massive introduction identifying every correspondent and his family. As a consequence, Symmachus has always been seen as the central figure in late 4th-century Roman society.

Keywords: Roman aristocracy; literary pagans; Macrobius; Saturnalia; Otto Seeck

Chapter.  25512 words. 

Subjects: Religion in the Ancient World

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