Latin Panegyric IV(8).21.1

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About the revival of Gallic campaigns thanks to Laeti and barbarian ploughmen
Name of the author: 
297 CE Mar 1st
Literary genre: 
Eulogy / Panegyric
Title of work: 
Latin Panegyric

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 below), 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 that he gives in the panegyric about his career states that he was an 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 served 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 to celebrate Constantius’s recent military expedition in Britain, but also to ask the emperor to be generous concerning the reconstruction of the city of Autun (this second aspect of the speech is analysed in Latin Panegyric IV(8).21.2). After Maximian’s failed attempt to crush definitively the usurper Carausius until 293 CE, Carausius remained in Britain and controlled the naval base of Boulogne. The 1st March 293 CE, Constantius Chlorus was appointed Caesar, and was thus in charge of the operations against the usurper. In this panegyric, we learn that Constantius recaptured Boulogne from the “piratical faction” (IV(8).6-7). The siege occurred before the end of 293 CE. Carausius was still leading the revolt at that time, but he was murdered and replaced by Allectus in 294 CE (Burnett, “The Coinage of Allectus,” p. 22). The panegyric presented here makes explicit the fact that most of Allectus’s troops in Britain were made of Frankish mercenaries (IV(8).16.4-17.1). Constantius prepared two powerful fleets to recover Britain. After having led a successful move to London and taken the city (his expedition is described in IV(8).14-17), Constantius defeated and killed Allectus, probably in 296 CE (on the dating, see Seston, Dioclétien et la tétrarchie, p. 106-113; Barnes, New Empire, p. 60; Birley, The Roman Government, p. 385-386, n. 5).
Concerning the dating of this panegyric, read at Trier, 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 to date it after the celebration of Constantius’s dies imperii during the spring of 297 CE). Various elements show that the 1st March 297 CE should be preferred: first, the fact that the panegyric was pronounced after the operations in Britain, and so after 296 CE; second, the fact that in this speech the panegyrist insists upon the importance of the Calends of March and associates it with the nomination of the Caesars (see IV(8).3.1); third the fact that he 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 is composed of three main parts. In the first, the orator exalts the prosperity and peace brought back by the actions of the Tetrarchs (§ 3-5). In the second, 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 part, the orator narrates Constantius’s successful operations in Britain and the fact that this enabled the re-establishment of 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 for his actions that enabled the Gallic campaigns to succeed, but also to start the reconstruction of the city of Autun (on this second aspect of the speech see Latin Panegyric IV(8).21.2). 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 main interest of this text is that it deals with the question of the policy of settlements of barbarian peoples inside the Empire at the end of the third century CE and presents these settlements as taking part in the restoration of the prosperity in north-eastern Gaul. First, it is important to remember that transfers of groups of individuals, or even of entire peoples, were processes that are attested at the very origin of the Empire. Actually, in the High Empire, the first attestation of barbarian peoples who had been brought inside the Empire is dated from 8 BCE, when, after victories in Germany, Tiberius ordered the transfer of 40 000 Suevi and Sicambri who surrendered to Rome in Gaul on the left bank of the Rhine. However, the novelty was that under the tetrarchs the settlements of barbarians inside the Empire became more frequent, especially in the Danubian and Rhenan regions, and new areas were also affected, such as Northern Italy, Northern Gaul, Asia Minor and Britain (Modéran, “L’établissement,” p. 348-352; 393-394; Mathisen, “Peregrini, Barbari,” p. 1023-1025). It is thus interesting to see that, in the passage presented here, the orator deals with various forms of settlements which seem to vary according to the legal status of the individuals or the groups of people settled.

The orator enumerates these various settlements or statuses according to the chronological order.
He thus starts his enumeration of the peoples settled inside the Empire by mentioning the transfer under Diocletian, of incolae from Asia to the lands of Thracia, a region deserted because of the devastations caused by the successive barbarian raids in the last decades. The meaning of the term incola is highly debated, precisely because it varies according to the context in which it is used (see the synthesis made in Hostein, La cité et l’empereur, p. 170, n. 85). According to a legal definition, the incola is a “foreign resident,” that is a person who lives in a city which is not that of his origo. It has to be noted that the term appears twice in the speech of the rhetor Eumenius about the restoration of the schools at Autun pronounced in 298 CE, and that each time it is connected to a situation in which a city is populated by new inhabitants. For instance in V(9).4.3, Eumenius deals with the fact that imperial power ordered the sending of new inhabitants (incolas novos), chosen among the best families of the provinces, probably to fill the civic assembly. Coming back to the text presented here, it seems that it is this same necessity of repopulation of a region that had been deserted which is at stake. Diocletian was in Thracia in October 286 CE and, the year after, he went to Syria in connection with his campaign against the Persians. So the reference to Asia might be related to these Syrian operations (Nixon, Rodgers, In Praise of Later, p. 141-142, n. 75). The fact that the orator does not deal more with the status of these individuals from Asia settled in Thracia, but also with the reasons of their transfer, prevents us from understanding precisely the issues at stake in this operation. Émilienne Demougeot rightly concludes that the incolae mentioned in the text presented here continued to enjoy Roman citizenship and this even if they lived far from their cities of origin (see Demougeot, “À propos des lètes,” p. 64). However, it remains difficult to answer to the question of the conditions of settlement of these incolae. We might hypothesise that these incolae from Asia were poor or impoverished citizens who may have received lands in the cities of Thracia and may have paid taxes later on, but we remain however unsure of whether they received a new local origo or not.

Next, concerning the policy of repopulation of the Gallic lands thanks to the settlements of defeated barbarians, or of Laeti – on this term see below –, the orator makes the distinction between operations that took place under Maximian’s reign, probably in the 280s CE, and which concerned the lands of the Nervii and Treverii, and second, operations that occurred when Constantius was Caesar, that is probably around the middle of the 290s. These last operations concerned the territory of the Ambiani (chief town Samarobriva, modern Amiens), Bellovaci (from modern Beauvais to the Oise River), Tricasses (chief town Augustobona, modern Troyes), and Lingones (chief town Andematunnum, modern Langres).

Concerning the operations that occurred under Maximian, the orator distinguishes two categories of people settled inside the Empire: the Laetus restitutus postliminium and the Frank receptus in leges.
This is the first occurrence of the term Laetus, which might be a latinised form of a word of Germanic origin. The questions associated with the status of the Laeti, such as that concerning their archaeological identification,have been intensely debated (see the good bibliographical synthesis in Hostein, La cité et l’empereur, p. 171-172, n. 90). Following sources composed after the panegyric presented here, especially extracts from Ammianus Marcellinus’s work (Res Gestae XVI.11.4; XX.8.13; XXI.13.16) and from the Theodosian Code (CTh XIII.11.10), it appears that during the second half of the fourth and during the fifth century, Laeti were groups of barbarians defeated by Rome, but who had negotiated to be collectively granted a portion of land inside the Empire in exchange for furnishing, when needed, recruits that could be enrolled in military units under Roman command. Their participation in special military units is confirmed by the Notitia Dignitatum, which lists various units of Laeti, characterised by their ethnic origin and commanded by a prefect. It is generally admitted that their conditions of settlement, and of course their status, were less favourable than that of the barbarian foederati. The latter were barbarians who had concluded a treaty, foedus, with Rome, who were allowed to settle inside Roman provinces in exchange for military cooperation and who were also granted the privilege of fighting under the command of their own chiefs or kings (for a general presentation of the Laeti, see Demougeot, “À propos des lètes”; Modéran, “L’établissement,” p. 375-379). However, if this definition of the Laeti seems to match what the sources of the fourth and fifth century narrate, it does not correspond to the situation described by the orator of the panegyric in 297 CE. Actually, he claims that, under Maximian, the Laetus had been postliminio restitutus. He thus associates the Laeti with a specific and old notion of Roman law, the ius postliminium, that Christopher Simpson defines as being “the right of a person captured or displaced by the enemy of return to his former home and status within the empire” (Simpson, “Laeti,” p. 169-170). Thus, it is possible to interpret the Laeti described by the orator as being provincials who lived in a border region of the Empire and who, even if they had been born inside the Empire and were thus Romans from a legal point of view, were “very little or badly Romanised” (Modéran, “L’établissement,” p. 376-377). These provincials from the frontier zones would have thus been captured by barbarians and brought outside the Empire. After the Roman armies had regained lost ground against / from the barbarians, these provincials were freed, but were placed under a collective status as Laeti. They were allowed to settle inside the Empire on “laetic lands” under certain conditions. One of these conditions may have been to be available to serve in special military units (see Demougeot, “À propos des lètes,” p. 103-105; Modéran, “L’établissement,” p. 375-377). The question of their individual legal status remains unclear. First, Yves Modéran has suggested that the visible shift in the sources between the Laeti, ex-provincials captured by barbarians and re-settled inside the Empire under a new status, and the barbarian Laeti depicted in sources of the second half of the fourth century onwards, could be explained by the fact that the first Laeti would have mixed together the barbarian peoples, especially the barbarian tenant farmers (coloni), living inside the Roman provinces (see Modéran, “L’établissement,” p. 376-377). The second important point is that a constitution of 399 CE (CTh XIII.11.10) shows that some Laeti tried, thanks to a fraudulent agreement with municipal authorities, to obtain larger laetic lands than that which they had received. The existence of this kind of practices shows that the Laeti were strongly blended into Roman provincial societies and networks (see Modéran, “L’établissement,” p. 379).

Concerning the Franks recepti in leges, “admitted in [our] laws,” the legal status of these barbarians remains unclear. For Yves Modéran, the legal condition of these Franks recepti in leges must have been better than that of peregrine dediticii – that is of foreigners who surrendered to Rome (Modéran, “L’établissement,” p. 372). The reference to the leges may indicate that these barbarians went under the authority of Roman ius civile. The fact that they were received in Roman laws shows that they may have shared fiscal or military obligations with the other provincials, but that they may also have had access to Roman ius civile regarding, for instance, the achievement of property transfers and of testamentary bequests (see the examples quoted in Mathisen, “Peregrini, Barbari,” p. 1033-1035). For Yves Modéran, one particularity of this kind of settlement of barbarians is that they may have been transplanted collectively but they may have received lands individually. Thus, it may be this kind of settlement that is represented on the famous Medallion from Lyon. On this medallion we see barbarian men, women, and children crossing the Rhine, entering the Roman Empire and receiving money individually from the Tetrarchs (Modéran, “L’établissement,” p. 372-374). For Yves Modéran, the scene of distribution of money by the emperors may give an idea of the status of the barbarians represented here. He rightly remarks that they do not correspond to the captive barbarians, depicted previously in this panegyric, who under Constantius were dispatched in properties of various Gallic provinces. Actually, on the medallion from Lyon, the barbarians beg to the emperors but they are not represented as prisoners. His second argument is related to the attitude of the emperors who are represented as carrying out an act of generosity towards each of these barbarians. This gesture shows that the personality of each of these individuals is admitted by the imperial power, a situation that may correspond to the condition of the barbarians which individually received lands after having been collectively transplanted inside the Empire. Even if no source is explicit about the legal condition of these migrant barbarians, Yves Modéran suggests that before Caracalla’s edict they may have received a status similar to that of simple peregrines, who could be mobilised in auxiliarii units, and who in some cases could be likely to receive Roman citizenship. However, during the third and fourth centuries, Yves Modéran thinks that their attaining of Roman citizenship became much more frequent (see Modéran, “L’établissement,” p. 373-374).

At the end of this part dealing with settlements of new populations inside the Gallic provinces, the orator deals with the settlements ordered by Constantius. In the passage presented here, it appears clearly that these settlements were connected with his military victories, and that the peoples settled were barbarians. It is thus possible to suggest that the orator may have alluded here to former barbarian war prisoners who had not been enslaved but who had been converted into farm workers or tenant farmers of rural properties, even in provinces which were far from the borders. This is confirmed by a previous passage of the same panegyric (IV(8).9.1-4). In this passage, the orator depicts the fact that under the porticoes of some cities – we can guess that he mainly deals with cities of north-eastern Gaul – sat “captive bands of barbarians,” formed by old and young men or women. These barbarians were Frankish war captives, as Constantius had just defeated them in the Rhine and Escaut delta. The orator then narrates that these barbarians were dispatched between provincials in order to cultivate their lands (it seems that the lands of the orator were also cultivated by a Chamavian and a Frisian), and they were also assigned deserted lands. Subsequently, it is added that they were also recruited to serve as soldiers. Following Yves Modéran’s interpretation of this passage, these various barbarians fit in with the category of gentiles dediticii, that is barbarians who surrendered to Rome (deditio) but who had not been enslaved, and who became farm workers (coloni) under the authority of a landowner. The dediticii thus did not have a collective status, as they evolved having been dispatched in various properties. They thus had to take care of the properties of rich Roman landowners like the other coloni, and they could be also enrolled to serve as soldiers in the army. These gentiles dediticii were thus free men, but they were devoid of both Roman citizenship and local origo, and therefore different from the other peregrines who had a local patria. According to Yves Modéran, this status of peregrine or gentiles dediticii remained valid at least for one generation, however, some of them could experience impressive social promotion. He thus quotes the illuminating example of Maximinus, whose grand-father was part of the Carpi and had been taken as a war captive under Diocletian, then transferred to Pannonia. The father of Maximinus then became an accountant in the office of the governor of Valeria. Maximinus himself became a senator and fulfilled an impressive career culminating in him being vicarius of Rome and praetorian prefect of Gaul between 371 and 376 CE (Ammianus Marcellinus, Res gestae XXVIII.1.5; Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire I, Maximinus 7, p. 577-578). Even if this example is somewhat extraordinary, it shows that social mobility was possible for some descendants of dediticii (Modéran, “L’établissement,” p. 363-368).

Of course, in this panegyric of 297 CE, the orator’s praise of the policy of settlement of barbarians and Laeti inside the Empire fits in with his global praise of the policy led by the Tetrarchs. However, the fact that he presents this policy as advantageous for the inhabitants of the cities of north-eastern Gaul, and especially the city of the Aedui, may echo the fact that this policy had actually been well accepted and experienced by many Gallic provincials. Antony Hostein has thus rightly recalled that these settlements must have had three positive concrete effects: first, they prevented the multiplication of abandoned lands (agri deserti) which caused important losses on both economical and fiscal levels; second, it offered solutions for the recruitment of soldiers; third, it ensured sufficient manpower for the landowners (Hostein, La cité et l’empereur, p. 173).

In conclusion, one direct consequence of this phenomenon of the multiplication of barbarian settlements during the three last decades of the third century is that it may have led to a substantial increase in the number of non-Roman peoples living inside the Western provinces. This assessment raises, of course, difficult questions. One of these is: did they have access to Roman ius civile? The case of the Franks recepti in leges, received in Roman laws, shows that some of them may have shared fiscal or military obligations with the other provincials, and that they may also have had access to Roman ius civile at least for some matters. Another question is related to the existence or not of official procedures that would have formalised the grant of Roman citizenship to barbarians? Ralph Mathisen has answered this last question in a pretty original way by defending the idea that “the Antonine Constitution was meant to be self-perpetuating”. He thus defends the idea that: “All free foreign peregrini who settled in the Roman Empire and took up the obligations and identity of the cives of a municipality or a province were potential Roman citizens”; “What counted was not ethnicity but distinctions among slaves, freedmen, and full citizens, who had different levels of access to ius civile.” So for Mathisen, after Caracalla’s edict there would not have been any process by which a foreigner could have become a Roman citizen, a situation that does not mean, however, that all the barbarians coming into the Empire were necessarily considered Roman citizens. For this scholar, Roman citizenship became “a matter of participation,” especially the ability of the barbarians to have full access to ius civile, and “self-identification” (see Mathisen, “Peregrini, Barbari,” p. 1036-1037). This interpretation of the sources proposed by Ralf Mathisen is based upon the assessment that no source provide “a single example of a barbarian who was expressly granted Roman citizenship,” and fits in with an entire concept in Late antique societies by which the legal statutes of the people who lived in the Roman provinces were rather defined by social status or even religion than by ethnicity – and thus by Roman citizenship (Mathisen, “Peregrini, Barbari,” p. 1022-1023 for the quotation; p. 1028-1032 about the interpretation of the ban on Romano-barbarian marriages). This reading of the source is however not accepted by all scholars and many of them continue to defend the idea that the distinction between Roman citizens and aliens must have remained important during Late Antiquity, and that there would have still existed procedures during the third and fourth centuries CE that made it possible to grant Roman citizenship to some peregrines who arrived inside the Roman Empire (in that perspective, see Garnsey, “A Roman Citizenship,” p. 143-144). The main contribution of this passage of the panegyric of Constantius I, delivered in 297 CE, is that it highlights the great variety of statuses for the barbarians who settled inside the Empire at the end of the third century CE. This variety can be explained by the circumstances in which they entered the Empire, by the question of whether they were free or not, by the individual or collective nature of their settlements, and finally by the contemporary economical and military needs of the Roman administration. Yves Modéran has questioned the common idea according to which the gentiles (that is, groups of barbarians settled collectively inside the Empire and who formed barbarian army units) or the barbarian coloni settled inside the Empire were necessarily and systematically excluded from Roman citizenship. Social mobility must have been possible for some of them, or more frequently for some of their descendants of the first or second generation. Thus, we should not exclude the fact that the Roman power may have sometimes recognised a peculiar legal status or even granted Roman citizenship to some barbarians or group of barbarians who fulfilled their military and fiscal obligations (see the few examples quoted in Modéran, “L’établissement,” p. 391-392).

Bibliographical references: 

“À propos des lètes gaulois du IVe s.”

Demougeot, Émiliennearticle-in-a-bookL’Empire romain et les barbares d’Occident, IVe et VIIe siècles. Scripta variaÉmilienne Demougeot61-74“À propos des lètes gaulois du IVe s.”ParisPublications de la Sorbonne1988

Roman Citizenship and Roman Law in the Late Empire

Garnsey, Peterarticle-in-a-bookApproaching Late Antiquity: the transformation from early to late empireS. Swain, M. Edwards133-155Roman Citizenship and Roman Law in the Late EmpireOxfordOxford University Press2004

“L’établissement de barbares sur le territoire romain”

Modéran, Yvesarticle-in-a-bookLa mobilité des personnes en Méditerranée de l’Antiquité à l'époque moderne: procédures de contrôle et documents d'identifications Claudia Moatti337-397“L’établissement de barbares sur le territoire romain”RomeÉcole française de Rome2004
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Latin Panegyric IV(8).21.1
Author(s) of this publication: Marie Roux
Publishing date: Wed, 09/05/2018 - 14:28
Visited: Wed, 04/17/2024 - 07:30

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