Monday, August 31, 2015

Proculus - Study in a Bad Governor

Looking at the translation of Oration X, On the Plethron, the theme of this piece was Libanius' objections to an expansion of this sporting facility by the Comes Orientes (Count of the East) at the time, one Proculus. 

This individual was someone with whom Libanius carried on a rather dangerous feud over the years. The main mention of this official in the past was in our listing of the Comes Orientes here

Looking through Paul Petit's prosography of Libanius's acquaintances here one of the longest references is to Proculus who seemed to have been the bane of Libanius' life. Indeed considering what foul deeds the Comes was supposedly guilty of it is lucky that Libanius had high connections at court in Constantinople or the Comes might have singled him out for elimination. 

Our listing of the Comes Orientes has Proculus ruling from AD 383 (8 March) to 384 (Summer). Paul Petit's summation of Proculus' career states that Proculus was the son of Flavius Eutolmius Tatianus who was Comes Orientes from September AD 370 to Feb 374.

The first significant position held by Proculus was Praeses or consul of Palestine, then consul of Phoenicia, before 383. Then he was Comes Orientes from 382 to 384, until just before the month of July. He was recalled, in ignominy (according to Libanius). 

Proculus then became the wonderfully named Comes sacrarum largitionum (Count of the Sacred Largesses) in AD386, a role his father had previously held, and left the position in the same year. There was no allusion to these positions in the texts of Libanius, who never had any interest in provincial government.

Proculus became the prefect of Constantinople, at the period when his father Tatianus was prefect of the prætorium, named in the middle of AD 388 at which moment he was in Antioch, for Libanius attended his departure. The fall of Proculus (and that of his father Tatianus)  was precipitated in September of AD 392 by the intrigues of Rufinus. 

Rufinus, consul in 392, feared the power of Tatianus and Proculus, as the two of them held both the Praetorian prefecture of the East and the urban prefecture. Such concentration of power in the hands of father and son caused the envy of Rufinus's faction. Rufinus took advantage of some mishaps of Tatianus in the administration of finances, to depose and arrest him, and succeed him as prefect (September AD 392).

Proculus went into hiding. Rufinus then coaxed Tatianus and Theodosius to pardon Proculus, who received a letter from his father asking him to return to court. Once Proculus turned up, he was captured and imprisoned. He was tried and sentenced, in a manouevre by Rufinus, and sent to be executed in Sykai, a suburb of Constantinople. The story goes that the Emperor sent a messenger to order the execution halted, but Rufinus ordered the messenger to move slowly (festina lente!), so that he arrived after the execution had been carried out.

Proculus was subject to damnatio memoriae and was erased from monuments, such as the Obelisk of Theodosius in the Hippodrome.

Tatianus was later sent into exile, probably in Lycia, and he was subjected to a damnatio memoriae also. Later, a nephew of Proculus that came to power under the Emperor Marcian (AD 450–457) had the "good" name of Proculus restored, re-carving it on the obelisk.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Who's Who of Antioch in the mid-Fourth Century

Libanius was extraordinarily well positioned in Antiochene society. He was a renowned rhetorician, well-connected to the imperial family in Constantinople and came from a powerful  local family with strong political connections in the Bouleterion. As a result he was connected with a veritable "Who's Who" of the city and the empire. Not shy at touting his connections and name-dropping he was constantly naming names in his letters and orations. 

Paul Petit, the French scholar who died in 1981, wrote a work which attempted to quantify the prosography of Libanius's milieu. This encyclopedic work:

Les fonctionnaires dans l'œuvre de Libanius : analyse prosopographique. Préface de André Chastagnol et de Jean Martin. Besançon : Université de Franche-Comté, 1994. 288 p. (Annales littéraires de l'Université de Besançon, 541) 

is now available online in its entirety at the site here .

I have not worked out how to download it but it can at least be read online for the moment. 

It would be interesting for someone to take the names dropped by Libanius and convert it into a network diagram. 

Listing of sources for translations of Libanius' Orations

A very thorough summary of the translations of the Orations by Libanius has been prepared by Christine Lund Koch Greenlee, a graduate student at St Andrews University.

The pdf is available here

Friday, August 21, 2015

English Translation of "On the Plethron"

After much searching I finally found one of the two translations of Libanius' Oration X, "On the Plethron". The two versions were a French translation by Jean Martin and the English translation was by Glanville Downey. The latter apparently dated from 1960 but I could not find it anywhere until I stumbled on a link to his work:

  1. A History of Antioch in Syria: From Seleucus to the Arab Conquest, by Glanville Downey, originally published: Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press, 1961.
And there as one of the appendices was the translation. 

I have written on this structure before so finally having the text in English is a great help. The Plethron was a form of wrestling arena and was probably located near (or in) the Forum of Valens and was used for the Olympic Games that were held in Antioch.

I pdfed it and uploaded it here .