8
THE POEM AGAINST THE PAGANS

1

The so-called Carmen contrapaganos (CCP for short) is an anonymous invective in 122 classicizing hexameters on the death of an unnamed pagan prefect. The sole surviving copy consists of three leaves in a late fifth- or early sixth-century hand attached to a contemporary codex of Prudentius (Par. lat. 8084). Some interpretations have been prepared to allow a considerable interval (as much as forty years) between the death of the prefect and the writing of the poem.1 It seems to me, as it seemed to its first commentators in the 1870s, more natural to assume that such a trivial piece of doggerel was written very soon after its subject’s death, within days rather than even weeks, let alone years.

The mention of a pagan Symmachus in line 114 establishes a late fourth-century date. More controversially, it was early inferred that lines 28–33 allude to a military uprising.2 Morel, De Rossi, and Mommsen at once identified this hypothesized uprising with Eugenius’s rebellion of 392–94, and the prefect with the elder Flavian, who took his own life when Theodosius won the day at the Frigidus (5 September 394).

Since the subject of the poem was both prefect and consul, as Flavian was in 394, the poem was assigned to this year and interpreted as an attack on Flavian written shortly after his death. The tirade against pagan cults it contains was read as a reflection of the pagan revival he supposedly directed. Schenkl went so far as to claim that, since there was no reference in the poem to the death of Eugenius, it must have been written in the brief interval between the suicide of Flavian and the execution of Eugenius.3

For almost a century this identification was thought so secure that the poem was regularly cited under the title Carmen adversus Flavianum. Yet there is no unmistakable reference to any specific date or event, much less to Flavian himself, and a number of other names have also been proposed. The only one to win the support of anyone but its proposer is Praetextatus, who died a month or two before reaching the consulship for which he had been designated late in 384. As early as 1867 Morel listed four names, and Mazzarino later added one more:

1. Grünewald 1992, 462–87.

2. Romano 1998 and Bartalucci 1998 give useful surveys of the various interpretations, and there are also bibliographies in Markschies 1994 and Adamik 1995.

3. Schenkl 1879, 73 (quoted with approval by Schanz-Hosius IV. 12 [1914], 222).

-273-

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The Last Pagans of Rome
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations xi
  • Introduction 3
  • 1- Pagans and Polytheists 14
  • 2- From Constantius to Theodosius 33
  • 3- The Frigidus 93
  • 4- Priests and Initiates 132
  • 5- Pagan Converts 173
  • 6- Pagan Writers 206
  • 7- Macrobius and the "Pagan" Culture of His Age 231
  • 8- The Poem against the Pagans 273
  • 9- Other Christian Verse Invectives 320
  • 10- The Real Circle of Symmachus 353
  • 11- He "Pagan" Literary Revival 399
  • 12- Correctors and Critics I 421
  • 13- Correctors and Critics II 457
  • 14- The Livian Revival 498
  • 15- Greek Texts and Latin Translation 527
  • 16- Pagan Scholarship Vergil and His Commentators 567
  • 17- The Annales of Nicomachus Flavianus 1 627
  • 18- The Annales of Nicomachus Flavianus II 659
  • 19- Classical Revivals and "Pagan" Art 691
  • 20- The Historia Augusta 743
  • Conclusion 783
  • Appendix- The Poem against the Pagans 802
  • Selected Bibliography 809
  • Index 855
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