Wednesday, January 04, 2006

J.J. O'Donnell, "The Career of Virius Nicomachus Flavianus"

J.J. O'Donnell, "The Career of Virius Nicomachus Flavianus":

Was the "last pagan revival" more than late Roman politics?

"First, the only persons recorded to have acted openly on behalf of the 'pagan' cause in 392-394 are Arbogast and Flavianus. No other name occurs anywhere in our sources.

Second, the only support given 'paganism' by Eugenius according to our sources was the money which he tried to 'launder' by channelling through private hands.

Third, the only other 'pagan' behavior reported under Eugenius' reign was connected with Flavianus: his haruspicial activities. Rufinus' text may indicate that sacrifices were offered at Rome, but if so his text still associates those activities closely with haruspicy and with the name of Flavianus. This point will be discussed again in connection with the Carmen below.

Fourth, upon leaving Milan for battle, Argobast and Flavianus were reported to have made an indiscreet remark about what they would do with Ambrose's basilica when they came back victorious.

Fifth, the troops of Eugenius set up objects at the field of battle which hostile eyes read as images of the ancient gods.

Sixth, historians who wrote from a strictly eastern point of view (i. e., Socrates for the Christians, Zosimus -- that is, Eunapius -- for the opposition) said nothing of the religious overtones read into the events by western Christians closer to the scene.

I submit, therefore, that on the basis of this evidence, the 'last pagan revival' is reduced to a half-hearted attempt by Eugenius to buy support in Italy, some indiscreet actions of Flavianus, and an angry, overblown, propagandizing reaction by Christians, taking their lead from the influential patriarch of Milan, Ambrose.[[48]]"
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