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Symmachus, Quintus Aurelius


Roman statesman, orator, and champion of paganism; b. c. 345; d. c. 402. He was educated at Bordeaux, where he met and became a close friend of Ausonius. A man of marked ability as an administrator and as an orator, he was made prefect of the city of Rome in 384, and he attained the consulship in 391, although several years earlier he had supported the pagan usurper Maximus. As an enthusiastic adherent of paganism and an active participant in various pagan cults, he was regarded as the leader of the pagan party. He tried repeatedly to have the Altar of Victory restored to the Senate house, but was successfully opposed by Ambrose, the great bishop of Milan (see ambrose, st.). Symmachus was a man of high character and, despite his support of paganism, was on friendly terms with many prominent Christians. His writings are valuable historical sources, but are composed in the highly rhetorical and bombastic style of his age.

Bibliography: Q. Aurelii Symmachi quae supersunt, ed. o. seeck, Monumenta Germaniae Historica Auctores antiquissimi, (Berlin 1826) 6.1. f. h. dudden, The Life and Times of St. Ambrose, 2 vol. (Oxford 1935). o. seeck, Paulys Realenzyklopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, ed. g. wissowa et al. (Stuttgart 1893) 4.A1: 114658.

[m. r. p. mcguire]

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