Panegyric VII

<Panegyric of an Unknown Orator Spoken in Honour of Maximian and Constantine>

1. Although numerous individuals have acknowledged, and many more will acknowledge, the reasons for which all your achievements and the merits of your distinguished virtues are celebrated, Most Worshipful Rulers, Maximian, forever Augustus, whether you accept it or not, and Constantine, an emperor ascendant, I am determined to specifically include in this speech those aspects that pertain to the joy accompanying your elevation, Caesar, to imperial power, and the celebration of these divine nuptials.

Indeed, your various favors to the state can be celebrated on numerous occasions across different times. However, today calls for a speech that suits the occasion of this marriage, a union that, once sealed, will endure eternally.

Certainly, I am aware that the joy and affection from admirers worldwide have flourished immensely wherever the good news has reached. This celebration has spread with remarkable speed, surpassing its inherent qualities, and resonates with the voices of thousands, dedicating this marriage to the gratitude of all people.

What could be more noble for humanity to achieve its glory, or more certain to secure its salvation, than this pledge, which adds to your previous harmony and lifelong commitment? This pledge, sanctified by the deeply personal union of the most distinguished names, where an emperor has given his daughter in marriage to another emperor, is a testament to its venerability.

Nevertheless, we should exceed all others in joy, for those of us present here witness such a significant blessing for the state. Just by observing your faces, we recognize your profound harmony and unity, seeing that you have not only joined hands but also your thoughts and minds. It’s as if, if it were possible, you would desire to merge your very hearts together.

2. Indeed, what greater gift could there have been, either given or received, than this alliance between you? Maximian, through your son-in-law, you have found a renewal of your youth, and Constantine, through your father-in-law, you have ascended to the title of emperor.

Therefore, eternal rulers, on behalf of your subjects, I extend our profound gratitude. By raising children and seeking descendants, you ensure the continuity of your family line, preparing for the future of all generations. This act strengthens the Roman state, which has previously been shaken by the varying dispositions of its leaders and the uncertainties of their reigns. Through the enduring foundation of your house, the state’s authority is fortified, aiming to be as immortal as the lineage of its emperors is eternal.

This embodies true devotion and genuine joy in safeguarding humanity, setting a precedent that encourages people to embrace marriage and parenthood more fervently. By ensuring every individual has successors, the inevitability of mortality becomes less of a barrier. This is because the state’s immortality is secured through the continued lineage of its citizens, generation after generation.

Therefore, if the laws that penalize the unmarried and reward parenthood are rightfully considered the bedrock of the state, for they have consistently provided the Roman armies with a reservoir of youth and a wellspring of human vigor, what suitable accolade can we attribute to your contributions to the state?

You ensure the state’s endurance not with ordinary lineage, but with an imperial dynasty, so it may last forever as a lineage of Herculean emperors. We express our gratitude for this development, occurring a millennium after Rome’s foundation, ensuring that the stewardship of our common safety is not transferred like a commodity from one new family to another.

3. How should I proceed in praising and honouring each of you? Until now, my words have not differentiated between the desires that unite you both in this marriage. Indeed, you, elder Augustus, hold precedence, and you, younger Emperor, follow.

Yet, Constantine, given that your father-in-law had already established a divine reputation before you sought his beloved daughter, it is only fitting that in this congratulatory address, I first acknowledge those virtues that the revered architect of both your and your father’s influence recognized in you, thus endorsing your union.

Oh, the divine wisdom of Maximian, who desired for this man, already your grandson by adoption and your son in the imperial hierarchy, to also become your son-in-law—the son of the divine Constantius, to whom the finest of his youthful virtues were bequeathed.

Nature has etched his divine visage upon this man, who represents both, while we continue to grieve for the one who has ascended to the divine assembly. For not only do you bear your father’s likeness, Constantine, but you also embody his discipline, bravery, justice, and wisdom, answering the nations’ fervent pleas.

4. How could you have more closely mirrored your father’s restraint than by committing to marriage as soon as you transitioned from boyhood to manhood? This decision shaped your character for matrimonial life early on, keeping at bay whimsical desires and youthful indulgences—a rarity at the time, marking you as a young man devoted to his spouse. Indeed, with foresight, you immersed yourself in modesty, preparing for a union with a woman of such virtue.

Moreover, from the outset of your career, you emulated your father’s valor. He vanquished and expelled thousands of Franks who had invaded Batavia and regions near the Rhine; you began your reign by dealing with their kings, punishing their past offenses, and instilling a wary respect throughout their ranks. He liberated Britain from its chains; you further dignified it, marking the start of your illustrious path. He conquered and mercifully integrated numerous barbarian tribes; and while your readiness deters adversaries, providing no current chance for conquest, your vigilance maintains peace.

5. You truly emulate and adhere to the justice and responsibility exemplified by your father. To those seeking refuge and assistance from you, whether to address wrongs done to them or to further their own interests, you appear to fulfill your father’s mandate. Moreover, you delight in the acknowledgment that, in all your equitable and benevolent actions, you have unmistakably stood out as a son of Constantius.

Regarding your wisdom, which almost assures us you will exceed even your father’s legacy, what can be said? You embraced leadership at an early age, surpassing the famed forebears of the Roman Republic, such as the elder Africanus and Pompey the Great, whose virtues outshone their years. You are shouldering immense responsibilities at a time when your character is just beginning to unfold. Despite your youthful valor and insight during your initial military commands, it is crucial, young emperor, to acknowledge the signs of your destined greatness. Why should I focus on your youth rather than your profound maturity? Your prudence is so marked that, although your father left you his realm, being satisfied with the title of Caesar, you opted to await acknowledgment as Augustus from the one who had accorded your father the same honor. You rightly believed that the empire would be a more honorable reward if it were not merely inherited but bestowed upon you by the supreme emperor in recognition of your virtues.

6. It is indisputable that he had long been preparing the esteemed zenith of divine authority for you, having chosen you as his son-in-law well before you began seeking a partner. This is vividly illustrated by the painting in the palace of Aquileia, displayed prominently for all guests to see. It depicts a young woman, already dignified by her divine grace yet still nascent in her responsibilities, presenting to you, Constantine, then just a boy, a helmet adorned with gold, jewels, and the feathers of an exquisite bird. This betrothal gift was meant to complement your beauty, for no other adornment could suffice.

The artist, blessed in his craft, may well have rivaled Apelles and Parrhasius in skill, but it was the subject of his artwork that transcended his technical prowess. While artists often remark on the challenge of capturing extraordinary beauty, since the flaws of ugliness are easily identified and rendered, the essence of true beauty remains elusive and rare. Yet, this painter found his efforts to capture the divine aspects of your visage outweighed by the joy of observing you up close, of scrutinizing your calm and sincere expressions that youth bestowed upon you, and of depicting the silent expressions of your love. Thus, the painting vividly reveals the mutual modesty both of you sought to conceal.

7. Indeed, Maximian, your foresight had already envisioned this union with a vision akin to the divine; you desired this marriage to be proposed when she came of age. Within the comfort of your splendid home, you delighted in the prospect of this wedding, watching the young girl and man mature, savoring the anticipation of a union now realized.

What action could have been more fitting or reflective of your wisdom than to now, with the deepest affection, pass on the emblem of supreme authority to the son of the man whom you had previously united with in alliance, elevating him to share in your grandeur?

Among all emperors, Maximian, this generosity is uniquely yours. While others may distribute wealth, honors, or even sovereign power, you, with a heart more expansive than others, bestow both what you hold dearest and what stands as your most significant fortune.

Yet, your magnanimity comes as no surprise, for the immortal gods have blessed you not just with exceptional abilities but also with fortunes so grand that, even as you impart the greatest of gifts, everything seems to remain within your dominion as if you alone command it.

Just as Oceanus, who nourishes the sky and land with water, remains constant in his course, you, Maximian, have the capacity to grant empire but cannot divest yourself of it. On this matter, I will later speak in terms that may seem audacious to some, but let the earnestness of my respect for you be evident.

8. Following my accolades for your virtues, Constantine Augustus, it is fitting that you, though well aware, should hear how much your alliance with the emperor honors you. He has bestowed upon you a name inherited from the deity who initiated his lineage, proving himself a true descendant of Hercules not through flattering stories but by embodying Hercules’ valiant traits.

It was he who, at the onset of his divine reign, reclaimed the territories of Gaul, previously marred by turmoil due to past grievances, and realigned them with the Roman state, ultimately for their benefit. He was the first to lead Roman forces against barbarian tribes across the Rhine, challenging a misconception historically attributed to earlier emperors.

Through repeated campaigns conducted by him and his brother, Germany has been subdued, now either choosing peace as a wise strategy or rejoicing in its alliance with Rome, provided it remains compliant. You, in turn, have conquered and resettled the warrior-like peoples of Mauretania, who trusted in their remote mountain strongholds and natural defenses for protection.

During your inaugural visit, the Roman populace welcomed you with such fervor and assembly that, though they wished to escort you directly to the temple of Jupiter Capitoline, the crowd barely allowed you passage through the city’s gates. Later, in your twentieth year as emperor and eighth as consul, Rome’s desire to keep you close was so strong that it seemed to preemptively mourn the challenges ahead.

Indeed, there was an occasion, Eternal Emperor, where you nearly warranted the nation’s grievances.

9. Listen to the candid expression of our sorrows, for even the gods forgive us for lamenting their apparent oversight of human affairs. It seems they are preoccupied when calamities like hailstorms, earthquakes, and the engulfment of cities occur, not by divine intention but perhaps due to their diverted attention or our fate’s inexorable flow.

Such is the action, Emperor, that you intended for all of us, causing distress met with subdued sighs, motivated not by a disregard for the state, an aversion to effort, or a preference for comfort, but rather by adherence to a pre-agreed strategy and brotherly loyalty. This ensured you would not forsake Diocletian, your lifelong partner in governance, nor diminish the accolades he might receive, whatever they may be, now or in the future.

Indeed, each of you had distinct motivations for either stepping back or persevering in your duties. Yet, even if age or health could have justified a complete withdrawal from governance, it should not have led to abandoning state responsibilities. If the most experienced helmsman is deemed safest for the passengers, then surely the best emperor is one with substantial hands-on governance experience. But Constantine, will our descendants ever permit you, even in advanced age, to reduce your involvement in guiding the state, which you have steered so well from your youth?

Yet, while it might have been appropriate for that ruler to seek retirement when faced with the pressures of age or declining health, it astonishes us, Maximian, that you, still so full of strength and vitality, with undiminished vigor throughout your being and a commanding spark in your gaze, would contemplate early retirement. What justification for rest could there be for someone who, alongside you, wielded such power, unless it was to make room for dual sovereignty?

10. Indeed, the very essence of fortune, which remained unchanged as long as you jointly governed the empire, necessitated a pause in the continuous joy of those twenty years. Perhaps even the immortal gods sought to demonstrate that the state’s stability was due to your support, unable to persist without you.

While the regions under your watch, Maximian, retained their former vigor, they nearly succumbed to collapse where you had withdrawn your presence. Thus, the state was most stable under your protection and faltered greatly in your absence. Just as the earth, deeply eroded by wind and water, quakes when its foundations are undermined, so did all of Italy, and Rome herself, tremble and nearly collapse when your sustaining hand was abruptly removed.

I shall not dwell on these calamities, for why revisit such misfortunes when your return has mended all? Rome, in her majesty, demonstrated her authority even over emperors. She withdrew her legions only to return them upon your reappearance. With the authority of governance, yet not embroiled in the public sphere, you came back to a Rome that reached out with pleading hands, or rather, brimming with complaints, calling out to you.

11. “How long shall I tolerate this, Maximian, that I am engulfed in chaos while you are at ease; that my freedom is compromised as you indulge in an unwarranted retirement?” Or have you been granted so swiftly that which even the divine Augustus was denied after seventy years of life and fifty years as emperor? Was it for this purpose that Hercules, whom I revere at countless altars, temples, and names, bestowed you upon me, only for you to retreat to leisure in your country villa, neglecting the courage you pledged to me?

Return to my command, for although you’ve sought harbor in tranquil waters, navigate the storms once more, motivated by your devotion to me yet steadied by your magnificence. Yet, the responsibility is yours should I endure further detriment during my restoration. You previously embraced imperial authority at your brother’s behest; now, heed the call once more, this time at your mother’s bidding.

Oh, your sacred devotion, Eternal Emperor, has alone triumphed over your unconquerable spirit! Unable to ignore the directive of that revered parent, you reluctantly complied, recommitting yourself to the toils and worries you knew all too well for two decades.

How can Rome, sovereign of nations, sufficiently reward your emperor’s acquiescence? You, acquainted intimately with the rigors of rule, have set aside personal joys to shoulder once again the immense task of governance after a hiatus. Indeed, continuous rule would have been simpler, for custom lightens even the heaviest loads, but resuming after a pause demands renewed vigour.

12. What incredible foresight and authority you must have wielded, Eternal Emperor, to lift the state’s foundations from the ground, to revive them from lifelessness, and to reassemble what had crumbled? The transition from absolute ruler to private citizen astonished us; yet, it is far more astonishing that you have resumed your power after stepping down. This feat, according to legend, is only within the purview of that deity who bestows life and vision, capable of reclaiming control from a misguided steward and steadying a careening chariot. You, Emperor, have accomplished a similar feat, and you did so effortlessly.

It’s unsurprising, though, for the essence of imperial power never departed from you. Despite your desire for private life, your inherent sovereignty remained evident. Your armies and provinces, reflecting on your monumental achievements, accepted your retreat with calm, never doubting your continued dominance.

Maximian, how do you imagine Jupiter responded when you, with a noble spirit, implored, “Reclaim, Jupiter, what you have granted me”? Surely, he must have declared, “I bestowed this not as a loan but for eternity; I am not reclaiming it but safeguarding it for you.”

Thus, at the moment you steadied the faltering state and took helm of the drifting ship of state, hope for safety rekindled for all. The tempests calmed, the clouds dispersed, and the seas quieted. And though shadows might linger in distant corners, or the remnants of turmoil whisper, it is assured that at your behest, darkness would brighten and tumult would cease.

13. Most Worshipful Emperors, I have spoken in a manner befitting the occasion, highlighting the virtues that each of you should admire and cherish in the other, as you indeed do. As I conclude this address, appropriate to this marriage, it is fitting to amalgamate the praises I have individually bestowed upon your virtues.

Immortal gods! What remarkable rejuvenation you have bestowed upon the Roman state, which seemed to have succumbed to the ravages of time! Constantine, the new emperor, has evolved to be more than merely a son to Maximian, the eternal emperor. Maximian, in his benevolence, supports Constantine, who is rising in prominence, and in return, Constantine aids his elder. May your union flourish on the enduring foundation of your mutual affection, as such alliances have historically bound the state’s greatest figures in unity.

If the union of Gracchus and Cornelia could mend the rifts within their families, if Agrippa, nearly a son-in-law, secured victory at Actium for the divine Augustus, what greater outcomes can we anticipate from a marriage that cements the everlasting bond between a father and son? And if Publius Scipio, as a young man, embarked on the Carthaginian war, destined to defeat Hannibal, if Marius, in his advanced years, reclaimed Rome from the clutches of the Sullan faction—events separated by considerable time—how confidently can the Roman state now dismiss all apprehensions, protected under the joint governance of two men of distinct ages, harnessing both the valor of the younger leader and the wisdom of the elder?

14. For you, Father, it is indeed appropriate that from the summit of power you oversee the vast world, exercising your divine authority to shape the fate of humankind, deciding when to engage in war and when to establish peace. And for you, young Emperor, it is suitable that you tirelessly patrol the frontiers where the Roman empire confronts barbarian tribes, sending back to your father-in-law numerous victory dispatches adorned with laurel, seeking his guidance and reporting your triumphs.

In this way, it becomes evident that not only do you share a unified vision but also each of you possesses the vigor of two. Oh, your reign was marked by success, and even beyond your tenure, your accomplishments have continued to resonate! Divine Constantius, no doubt you perceive these developments, as Sol himself, during his descent, seemed to transport you in his splendid chariot, returning to the Eastern lands.

What immense joy and satisfaction are now yours, when he who is simultaneously a father, a father-in-law, and an Emperor, welcomes into the fold of your empire such a man as your son, who was the first to call you father. This represents a unique form of immortality, surpassing even that of the deities: a son who mirrors your image, shares your intellect, and equals your imperial stature. Although the Fates may envy us, they have not diminished your household; Maximian is not deprived of a son akin to you, nor is Constantine without a father. Indeed, to rejuvenate your bond in every aspect, this man stands once again as a father-in-law, and that man as a son-in-law, ensuring that our most fortunate emperor’s legacy continues through your lineage.