Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Three more letters of Symmachus to Ausonius

Two letters of recommendation and a thank you letter for a favour. This is the bread and butter of Symmachus' correspondence. Ausonius is at the peak of his power, Praetorian Prefect and either consul or consul elect.

Ep. 1.19
People who have been deserted by their self-confidence accept my letters to use their recommendations. It’s different in this case. I have given my letter to my brother Potitus on condition that he recommends it to you. He is, you see, no differently from me, among the highest of your friends. When he has brought you to share his presence, I fear that you will think my evasion not pardonable. But if through my experience I have properly become acquainted with your toleration towards me, I think it will turn out that you won’t attack me, who has stayed behind, in comparison with the other person who has come, but that you will welcome him all the more for the sake of us both. Farewell.

The letter is assumed to have been written at the end of 378 to excuse Symmachus for not coming to Trier for Ausonius' inauguration as consul on 1 January 379. Potitus was appointed Vicar of Rome later in 379.

Ep. 1.21
I rejoice that I’m worth more to you than the rest, when you are so energetic that on your own initiative you take care of my problem and don’t await entreaties, but follow the mere rumour of my wishes. I have received the four passports which will be incredibly convenient for my goings and comings. May the gods reward you for such kindness, and, since nothing can be added to blessings which are perfected and raised in a heap, may they keep safe with you and in your possession what they gave you. Farewell.

This letter is assumed to be from 379, when Ausonius holds both the senior consulate and the Praetorian Prefecture; he has sent Symmachus passes for use on the cursus publicus.

Ep. 1.26
I am making use with you of the confidence which you have given me. You have long been sparing of letters, but I shall not imitate your example, since I know that, for a man who’s placed at the pinnacle of honours and who therefore looks after varied and mighty concerns, it is not so much enthusiasm that is lacking as opportunity. It’s of course the way of the world that we consider things neglected despite all efforts as pardonable. But I, sure as always of your love, will not abstain from my customary sense of obligation, and will count it as the highest favour and honour, if profit in some form could fall to the good friend who will give you this letter, in proportion to his considerable attentions towards us. Farewell.

From around the same date, though it could be earlier on in Ausonius' period of power from 376-9.

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