For a general presentation of the group of speeches, known as the “Gallic corpus,” or the XII panegyrici latini, from which this text is extracted, see Latin Panegyric II (10).1.
The extract presented here comes from the panegyric of Flavius Valerius Constantius (also called Constantius Ist or Constantius Chlorus, the father of Constantine the Great), that may have been delivered in 297 CE (on the dating issue see later), at Trier, on behalf of the city of Augustodunum, modern Autun, in the presence of the emperor. The name of the orator is unknown. The information he gives in the panegyric about his career is that he was a Aeduan decurion, counted among the most preeminent members of the city, and that he was an experienced professor, perhaps a rhetor, who was retired when he pronounced this speech. He also mentions the fact that in the past he had been in imperial service, thanks to the support of Constantius (about the author see Hostein, La cité et l’empereur, p. 449).
The aim of this panegyric is dual. First, it celebrates Constantius’s recent military expedition in Britain to defeat the usurper Allectus, probably in 296 CE (on the dating, Seston, Dioclétien et la tétrarchie, p. 106-113; Barnes, New Empire, p. 60; Birley, The Roman Government, p. 385-386, n. 5; for a more detailed presentation of the context of this expedition, see Latin Panegyric IV (8).21.1). Its second aim is to ask the emperor to be generous concerning the reconstruction of the city of Autun. Concerning the dating of this panegyric, the 1st March 297 CE is commonly accepted (see Seston, Dioclétien et la tétrarchie, p. 31; Galletier’s edition in Les Belles Lettres, p. 73; Barnes, New Empire, p. 60; contra Nixon and Rodgers, In Praise, p. 105-107 who proposed after the celebration of Constantius’s dies imperii during the spring 297 CE). Various elements show that the 1st March 297 CE should be preferred: first, the fact that the panegyric has been pronounced after the operations in Britain, so after 296 CE; second, the fact that in this speech the panegyrist insists upon the importance of the Kalends of March and associates it with the nomination of the Caesars (see IV(8).3.1); third the fact that the panegyrist does not deal with the military campaigns led by the Tetrarchs in 297 CE (Hostein, La cité et l’empereur, p. 74).
Concerning the global structure of this panegyric, it consists of three main parts. In the first part, the orator exalts the prosperity and peace regained by the actions of the Tetrarchs (§ 3-5). In the second part, he mentions two victories of Constantius in Western regions, his taking of Gesoriacum, actual Boulogne, and the military operations he led in Batavia. In the third section, the orator narrates Constantius’s successful operations in Britain and the fact that this enabled him to re-establish peace in a Roman Empire that regained its former boundaries. The text presented here comes from the section of the speech in which the orator praises a final time the emperor’s actions that enabled the Gallic campaigns to succeed, especially thanks to his policy of settlements of various barbarians and Laeti inside the Gallic provinces (this passage is analysed in Latin Panegyric IV (8).21.1), but also the reconstruction of the city of Autun. Thus, in this peroration appears the dual role played by the orator who throughout the speech is a “court poet” following the usual codes of epideictic speech to praise the deeds of the emperor, and who at the end makes explicit his main aim, which is to act as the best possible representative of the interests of the city of Autun (see Hostein, La cité et l’empereur, p. 75-76).
The text presented here is related to the reconstruction of the city of Autun, a city that had been severely damaged during the troubles that occurred during the period of usurpations that affected the Gallic provinces between 260 and 274 CE. As many of the Aeduan élites did not support the usurper Victorinus in 268 CE, and had chosen the party of the “legitimate” emperor Claudius II, the city had been besieged over seven months by the armies of Victorinus and by Batavian mercenaries. This long siege caused the ruin of the city (Latin Panegyric V (9).4.1 and VIII (5).4.2-3). After these dramatic events, the city also went through various barbarian raids, but also had to support the supply and maintenance of the numerous imperial armies present in the region during the operations on the Rhine or in Britain (see Hostein, La cité et l’empereur, p. 153).
As we have said previously, the aim of this panegyric is not only to praise the emperor for his recent victory in Britain, but first and foremost to ask him to make the reconstruction of the city one of his priorities. This text shows that under Constantius Ist, the measures taken for the recovery of the city took various forms. These consisted of:
1/ Financial support from the imperial power through donations of money or funds for the reconstruction of ruined public and private monuments.
2/ The sending of a specialised labour force in order to proceed with these reconstructions (here the sending of craftsmen from Britain are mentioned, and in Latin Panegyric V (9).4.3 it is mentioned that some military engineers present at Autun took part in some hydraulic works).
3/ Repopulation policies within the agricultural labour force and the settlement of new populations made up of barbarians or of Laeti (on this point see Latin Panegyric IV (8).21.1), or within the civic assembly with the nomination of new curiales (this last point is mentioned in Latin Panegyric V (9).4.3) (all the measures for the recovery of Autun have been well studied in Hostein, La cité et l’empereur, p. 154-175).
It is interesting to note that the most recent archaeological surveys in the city of Autun led by Michel Kasprzyk have led him to the conclusions that there had been a withdrawal of various residential or artisanal areas in the last third of the third century CE, but that it was followed by a phase of monumentalisation, dated between the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth century CE. This second phase affected both public areas or monuments such as the cardo, the public baths or the aqueduct, but also private houses. For the moment, as most of the monumental public centre of the city remains largely unknown, we cannot conclude that there had been a total reconstruction of the city under the Tetrarchs. Yet, there is much evidence showing that the city underwent a considerable restructuring: it became a totally different city from what it was before the destruction of the 270s, and it benefitted from a new urban dynamism in the first half of the fourth century (Kasprzyk, Les cités des Éduens, p. 158-160).
The last interesting point of the text presented here is that the panegyrist ends his development by bringing one ideological justification to the fact that Constantius should continue to work for the restoration of the city. Actually, the orator could have recalled that the city had been destroyed in 269/270 CE precisely because most of his élites had chosen to remain faithful to the legitimate representative of the Roman power, but he chose to develop a much more de-contextualised motif, that of the particular and age-old relationship that united the Aedui with Rome. This relationship was materialised by the fact that the Aedui could boast about being the fratres populi Romani, “the brothers of the Roman people,” a title which is first attested in the works of authors of the second half of the first century BCE, such as Cicero and Caesar (on the questions of the prestige and origin of this title, see Tacitus, Annals XI.25.1). As rightly recalled by Antony Hostein, most of the Aeduan orators of the end of the third and beginning of the fourth century CE who composed imperial panegyrics continued to entertain the memory of this title (which appears also in Latin Panegyric V (9).4.1; VII (6), 22, 4; VIII (5).2.4; 3.1-2; 4.1; 4.3; Hostein, La cité, p. 347-377). Even if in these panegyrics it is always praised as an antique title which was probably not connected anymore to the institutional reality or practice of the fourth century CE, the fraternitas between the Aedui and Rome continued to play an important role in the definition of the Aeduan identity, as it justified the superiority of the Aedui’s identity and patriotism through exempla from the past. The goal of this oratorical strategy was of course to preserve a local pride, and above all, to obtain some favours and privileges from the imperial power; a strategy which is clearly used in this speech to the emperor Constantius Ist (see Hostein, La cité, p. 374-375).
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