Claudian,Panegyric on the Consulship of Fl. Manlius Theodorus​ (A.D. 399)



Wilt dare to sing, my Muse, when so great, so august an assembly shall be thy critic? Does not thine own renown forbid thee? ‘Tis greater now than thou deservest; how hard then to enhance, how disgraceful to diminish it! Or has thine assurance grown through ever dwelling in the camp, and does the soldier now wholly possess the poet’s breast? Behold the flower of the Roman senate, the majesty, the pride, the heroes of Gaul. The whole earth is my audience, my song shall sound in the ears of all the world. Alack! Love for our consul constrains too strongly. Jove, ’tis said, when he would fain learn its extent (for he knew not the bounds of his own empire) sent forth two eagles of equal flight from the East and from the West. On Parnassus, as they tell, their twin flights met; the Delphic heaven brought together the one bird and the other. Our Emperor needs no eagles to teach him the magnitude of his domains; yourselves are preceptors more convincing. ‘Tis this assembly that gives to me the measure of the universe; here I see gathered all the brilliance of the world.



Virtue is its own reward; alone with its far-flung splendour it mocks at Fortune; no honours raise it higher nor does it seek glory from the mob’s applause. External wealth cannot arouse its desires, it asks no praise but makes its boast of self-contained riches, and unmoved by all chances it looks down upon the world from a lofty citadel. Yet in its own despite importunate honours pursue it, and offer themselves unsought; that the lictor coming from the farm hath ofttimes proved and a consul were sought for even at the plough. Thou, too, who wert at leisure to study the mysteries of nature and the heavens, thou who hadst served thy time and retired from the law courts where thou hadst toiled so long, art once more enfolded by a like dignity, which, raising thee aloft, sets in thy returning hands the familiar rein. The consul­ship now is thine, Theodorus, nor is there now aught left to add to thy virtues or to the glory of thy name. Thou art now at the summit of both; from thine earliest years thy character was thus formed, the whole course of thy life was worthy of the curule chair; thy earliest youth outrivalled age. Even then thy mind was hoar, thy pleasant talk weighty, thy converse the admiration and delight of all that heard it. The wealth of thy triumphant eloquence soon overflowed the forum and brought safety to the accused. Yea, this most august assembly was astonied at thy pleading, as it was twice to applaud thy governance. Next, a part of Libya approved the administration which it now in its entirety enjoys; but thy brief stay won for thee a pledge of perpetual love, and public statues bear witness with enduring eloquence that thou wert a nation’s guardian. Macedonia was next committed to thy care and the walls of Pella, enriched once by conquered Hydaspes. The mildness of thy rule brought to the country entrusted to thee such joy as it once knew under warlike Philip or when the empire of Indian Porus fell to Alexander’s arms.

But Rome could not spare thy services longer to the provinces; she chose rather to have thee for her own; thou comest to give edicts to the world, to make reply to suppliants. A monarch’s utterance has won dignity from thine eloquence, never can the majesty of Rome recall when she spoke more worthily. After this the offerings and wealth of the world, the tribute of the empire, is entrusted to thy care; the gold washed down by the rivers and that dug out of deep Thracian mines by the skill of pale-faced Bessi who track the hidden seams — all is thine.

As a sailor skilled in wielding the oar is at first set in charge of but a side of the vessel, then, when he can manage the lofty prow and is able, thanks to his long experience of the sea, to know beforehand what storms and tempests the vessel is like to encounter, he has charge of the helm and is entrusted with the direction of the entire ship; so when thou hadst long given illustrious proofs of thy character, the empire of Rome summoned thee to govern not a part but the whole of itself, and set thee as ruler over all the rulers of the world. The seas of Spain, the German ocean obeyed thee and Britain, so far removed from our continent. Rivers of all lands observed thy statutes, slow-flowing Saône, swift Rhone, and Ebro rich in gold. How often did the Rhine, in those districts where the barbarians dwell, lament that the blessings of thy rule extended not to both banks! All the lands the setting sun bathes in its rays, all that its last brilliance illumines are entrusted to the charge of one man.

So swiftly did thy career fill office after office; a single period of life​ was enough for the round of dignities and gave to thy youthful years every step on fortune’s ladder.

When repose was earned and now, after reaching the highest place, glory, laying care aside, seeks refuge in a private life, genius again wins reward from other tasks. No part of life is lost: all that is withdrawn from the law courts is devoted to the study, and thy mind in turn either bestows its efforts on the State or its leisure on the Muses. Once more thou readest the secrets of ancient Athens, examining the discoveries with which each sage has enriched posterity and noting what hosts of disciples the varying schools produce.

For some hold that air​ is the first beginning of all things, others that water is, others again derive the sum of things from fire. Another, destined to fall self-immolated into Etna’s fiery crater, reduces God to principles of dispersion and re-collection and binds again in resumed friendship all that discord separates. This philosopher allows no authority to the senses and denies that the truth can be perceived. Another seeks to explain the suspension of the world in space by the rapid revolution of the sky (whence else the world would fall) and kindles day’s fires by the whirl of a rushing rock. That fearless spirit, not content with the covering of but one sky, flies through the limitless void and, scorning a limit, conceives in one small brain a thousand worlds. Others make wandering atoms clash with blind blows, while others again set up deities and banish chance.

Thou dost adorn the obscure learning of Greece with Roman flowers,​ skilled to shape speech in happy interchange and weave truth’s garland with alternate knots. All the lore of Socrates’ school, the learning that echoed in Cleanthes’ lecture-room, the thoughts of the stoic Chrysippus in his retreat, all the laughter of Democritus, all that Pythagoras spoke by silence — all the wisdom of the ancients is stored in that one brain whence it issues forth the stronger for its concentration. The ancients gain fresh lustre and, scorning Athens, the Academy migrates to Latium under a nobler master, the more exactly at last to learn by what end happiness guides its path, what is the rule of the good, the goal of the right; what division of virtue should be set to combat and overthrow each separate vice, and what part of virtue it is that curbs injustice, that causes reason to triumph over fear, that holds lust in check. How often hast thou taught us the nature of the elements and the causes of matter’s ceaseless change; what influence has given life to the stars, moving them in their courses; what quickens with movement the universal frame. Thou tellest why the seven planets strive backward towards the East, doing battle with the firmament; whether there is one lawgiver to different movements or two minds govern heaven’s revolution; whether colour is a property of matter or whether objects deceive our sight and owe their colours to reflected light; how the moon causes the ebb and flow of the tide; which wind brings about the thunder’s crash, which collects the rain clouds and by which the hail-stones are formed; what causes the coldness of snow and what is that flame that ploughs its shining furrow through the sky, hurls the swift thunderbolt, or sets in heaven’s dome the tail of the baleful comet.​

Already had the anchor stayed thy restful bark, already thou wert minded to go ashore; fruitful leisure charmed and books were being born for immortality, when, of a sudden, Justice looked down from the shining heaven and saw thee at thine ease, saw Law, too, deprived of her great interpreter. She stayed not but, wreathing her chaste forehead with a band, left the gates of Autumn where the Standard-bearer dips towards the south and the Scorpion makes good the losses of the night.​ Where’er she flies a peace fell upon the birds and howling beasts laid aside their rage. Earth rejoices in the return of a deity lost to her since the waning of the age of gold. Secretly Justice enters the walls of Milan, Liguria’s city, and penetrating with light step the holy palace finds Theodorus marking in the sand those heavenly movements which reverent Memphis discovered by anxious reckoning. He sought the forces that move the heavens, the fixed (though errant) path of the planets, the calculation which predicts the overshadowing of the sun and its surely-fixed eclipse, and the line that sentences the moon to be left in darkness by shutting out her brother. Soon as from afar he beheld the shining face of the Maiden​ and recognized the goddess, reverencing that dear countenance, he hurries to meet her, effacing from the sand the diagrams he had drawn.

The goddess was the first to speak. “Manlius, in whom are gathered all the virtues unalloyed, in whom I see traces of ancient justice and manners moulded of a purer metal, thou hast devoted time enough now to study; all these years have the Muses reft from me my pupil. Long has Law demanded thy return to her allegiance. Come, devote thyself once more to my service, and be not content with the glory of thy past. To the service of mankind what boundary ever set the limits? Wisdom accepts no ends for herself. Then, too, to many has this office fallen, as well it might, but only the worthy return thereto; reappointment to office is the best commendation of office well held, and virtue brings back him whom chance elects. Deemst thou it a better and a worthier aim to spend thy days in exploring Nature’s secret laws? Dost thou think it was thy Plato’s precepts raised his country to glory rather than he​ who, in obedience to the oracle, sank the Persian fleet, put his city on shipboard and saved from the Medes Athens destined from the flames? Lycurgus could dower the mothers of Sparta with a man’s courage and by his austere laws correct the weakness of their sex; by forbidding his fellow-citizens to put a coward’s trust in walls, he set Lacedemon to face wars more securely in her nakedness; but all the teaching of Pythagoras and his years of silence never crushed the infamous licentiousness of Sparta’s colony Tarentum.

“Besides, beneath such an emperor, who could refuse office? Was ever merit more richly rewarded? Who is so insensate as not to wish to meet Stilicho in council? Has ever any age produced his equal in prudence or in bravery? Now would Brutus love to live under a king; to such a court Fabricius would yield, the Catos themselves long to give service. Seest thou not how my sister Mercy blunts the cruel sword of war; how Piety rises to embrace the two noble brothers; how Treason laments her broken weapons and the snakes, writhing in death upon the Furies’ wounded heads, lick their chains with enfeebled venom? Peace and loyalty are triumphant. All the host of heaven leaves the stars and wanders from peaceful city to peaceful city. Return thou with us, Theodorus.”

Then Theodorus made answer: ‘From my long accustomed fields, goddess, thou urgest me to return, summoning to thy standard one grown rusty in the distant countryside. What else has been my care all these years but to break up the stubborn fallow-land into furrows, to know the nature of the soil, the rocky land suitable to the growth of trees, the country where the olive will flourish, the fields that will yield rich harvests of grain or the hills which my vineyards may clothe? I have served my time; am I to hearken once more to the dreadful trumpet? Is the old helmsman again to brave the seas whose lore he has forgotten? My fame has long been gathered in and where it is ’tis in safe custody; am I to suffer its being put to the hazard? Full well do I realize that habit is a stronger force than nature, nor am I ignorant of the rapidity with which we forget an art that we have ceased to exercise. The whip of an unpractised charioteer is powerless to urge on his horses; the hand that is unaccustomed thereto cannot bend the bow. And yet it were unjust, I admit, to refuse aught to Justice. Thou first didst draw man from his woodland cave and free the human race from its foul manner of life. Thanks to thee we practise law and have put off the temper of wild beasts. Whosoever has drunk of thee with pure heart will rush fearless through flames, will sail the wintry seas, and overcome unarmed the densest company of foemen. Justice is to the just as rain to temper even the heat of Ethiopia, a breath of spring to journey with him across the deserts of Scythia.”

So spake he and took from the goddess’ hand the four reins that lay stretched along the huge pole of Justice’s car. The first harnesses the rivers Po and Tiber and Italy with all her glittering towns; the second guides Numidia and Carthage; the third runs out across the land of Illyria; the last holds Sardinia, Corsica, three-cornered Sicily and the coasts beaten by the Tyrrhenian wave or that echo to the Ionian. The splendour and magnitude of the undertaking troubled thee not one whit; but as the lofty summit of Olympus, far removed from the winds and tempests of the lower air, its eternal bright serene untroubled by any cloud, is lifted above the rain storms and hears the hurricane rushing beneath its feet while it treads upon the thunder’s roar; so thy patient mind, unfettered by cares so manifold, rises high above them; thou art ever the same, no hatred can compel thee, no affection induce thee, to swerve from the path of justice. For why should any speak of riches scorned and a heart unallured by gain? These might perhaps be virtues in others: absence of vice is no praise to bestow on thee. The calm of a god banishes anger from thy voice; the spirit of moderation shines from thine eyes; passion never inflames that glance or fills with blood the angry veins; never is a tempest heralded on thy changed countenance. Nay, thou punishest the very criminals without show of anger and checkest their evil-doing with unruffled calm. Never dost thou gnash with thy teeth upon them nor shout orders for them to be chastised.

He is a savage who delights in punishment and seems to make the vengeance of the laws his own; when his heart is inflamed with the poison of wrath he is goaded by fury and rushes on knowing nothing of the cause and eager only to do hurt. But he whom reason, not anger, animates is a peer of the gods, he who, weighing the guilt, can with deliberation balance the punishment. Let others boast them of their bloody swords and wish to be feared for their ferocity, while they fill their treasuries with the goods of the condemned. Gently flows the Nile, yet it is more beneficent than all rivers for all that no sound reveals its power. More swiftly the broad Danube glides between its quiet banks. Huge Ganges flows down to its mouths with gently moving current. Let torrents roar horribly, threaten weary bridges, and sweep down forests in their foaming whirl; ’tis repose befits the greater; quiet authority accomplishes what violence cannot, and that mandate compels more which comes from a commanding calm.

“Thou art as deaf to the prayers of injustice as thou art generous and attentive where the demand is just. Pride, that ever accompanies office, has not so much as dared to touch thy mind. Thy look is a private citizen’s nor allows that it has deserved what it thinks to have but grown;​ but full of stately modesty shines forth a gravity that charms because pride is banished. What sedition, what madness of the crowd could see thee and not sink down appeased? What country so barbarous, so foreign in its customs, as not to bow in reverence before thy mediation? Who that desires the honied charm of polished eloquence would not desert the lyre-accompanied song of tuneful Olympus? In every activity we see thee as we see thee in thy books, describing the creation of the newly-fashioned earth or the parts of the soul; we recognize thy character in thy pages.

The Emperor has not been slow in rewarding thy merit. The robe that links Senate-house and palace, that unites nobles with their prince — the robe that he himself has four times worn, he hath at the year’s end handed on to thee, and left his own curule chair that thou mightest follow him. Grow, ye virtues; be this an age of prosperity! The path of glory lies open to the wise; merit is sure of its reward; industry dowered with the gifts it deserves. Arts, rise from the slumber into which depraved ambition had forced you! Envy cannot hold up her head while Stilicho and his godlike son-in‑law direct the state. Here is no pollution of the consul’s office, no shameful names disgrace Latin fasti; here the consul­ship is an honour reserved for the brave, given only to senators, never a source of scandal to Rome’s city.

Now had Fame, announcing our good fortune, winged her way to Aonia whose groves she stirred with the tidings of the new consul. Helicon raised a hymn of praise, Aganippe flowed with waters more abundant, the streams of song laughed with flowers. Then Urania, her hair wreath-crowned, Urania whose hand had oft directed Manlius’ compass in marking out the starry spheres, thus addressed the other Muses: “Sisters, can we bear to be absent this longed-for day? Shall we not visit our consul’s door and the house we have always loved? Better known to us is it than Helicon; gladly we draw the curule chair and bear the fasces. Bring marvels for the people’s delight and make known his name in the famed theatres.

“Do thou, Erato, go visit the palace of Neptune beneath the sea and beg for four swift coursers such that even Arion could not snatch the prize from them. Let the Circus be graced by every steed to whose proud neighing Baetis re-echoes, who drinks of Tagus’ shining pools and sprinkles his mane with its liquid gold.

“Calliope, ask thou of Alcides the oil of the wrestling-ground. Let all the company proved in the games at Elis follow thee and the athletes who have won fame with Olympian Jove.

“Fly, Clio, to Taygetus’ heights and leafy Maenalus and beg Diana not to spurn thy petition but help the amphitheatre’s pomp. Let the goddess herself choose out brave hunters cunningly to lasso the necks of wild animals and to drive home the hunting-spear with unfailing stroke. With her own hand let her lead forth from their caverns fierce beasts and captive monsters, laying aside her bloodthirsty bow. Let bears be gathered together, whereat, as they charge with mighty bulk, Helice may gaze in wonder from Lycaon’s stars.​ Let smitten lions roar till the people turn pale, lions such as Cybele would be fain to harness to her Mygdonian chariot or Hercules strangle in his mighty arms. May leopards, lightning-swift, hasten to meet the spear’s wound, beasts that are born of an adulterous union what time the spotted sire did violence to the nobler lion’s mate: of such beasts their markings recall the sire, their courage the dam. Whatsoever is nourished by the fields of Gaetulia rich in monsters, whatsoever lurks beneath Alpine snows or in Gallic woods, let it fall before the spear. Let large streams of blood enrich the arena and the spectacle leave whole mountains desolate.

“Nor let gentle games lack the delights we bring: let the clown be there to move the people’s laughter with his happy wit, the mime whose language is in his nod and in the movements of his hands, the musician whose breath rouses the flute and whose finger stirs the lyre, the slippered comedian to whose voice the theatre re-echoes, the tragedian towering on his loftier buskin; him too whose light touch can elicit loud music from those pipes of bronze that sound a thousand diverse notes beneath his wandering fingers and who by means of a lever stirs to song the labouring water.​ Let us see acrobats who hurl themselves through the air like birds and build pyramids that grow with swift entwinings of their bodies, to the summit of which pyramid rushes a boy fastened by a thong, a boy who, attached there by the foot or leg, executes a step-dance suspended in the air. Let the counterweights be removed and the mobile crane descend, lowering on to the lofty stage men who, wheeling chorus-wise, scatter flames; let Vulcan forge balls of fire to roll innocuously across the boards, let the flames appear to play about the sham beams of the scenery and a tame conflagration, never allowed to rest, wander among untouched towers. Let ships meet in mimic warfare on an improvised ocean and the flooded waters be lashed to foam by singing oarsmen.

“As consul at once and stateliest master, upborne by a twofold fame, let Manlius go forth among the peoples, read in his own books and in our calendars. May the sire’s example be followed by the son​ and handed on to a grandson, nor these first fasces ever lack succession. May his race pass on purple-clad, may the generations, each to each, hand on the axes, and obedient to the ordinance of fate, Manlius after Manlius add one more consul to the tale.