those who watch him no less than a flute or harmony could do'.10 These iconic qualities made the virtues of the emperor the most significant factor in political analysis, and speeches in praise of emperors a means of engaging in political dialogue.11 The content of these virtues varied little over the centuries: just as a golden shield was dedicated by the senate to the first emperor, Augustus, virtutis clementiaeque iustitiae et pietatis causa, so orators three centuries later continued to praise imperial bravery, clemency, justice and piety, as well as such other desirable virtues as benevolence, magnanimity and foresight. But while a bland similarity prevailed on the surface of these orations, a skilful orator could juggle the virtues or flesh them out in ways that sent important signals about a given ruler's abilities and policies.12
Thus, although the emperor might have been in heaven, the devil (as is often so) lay in the details.
One key to a proper understanding of the rhetoric of Eusebius and Agapetus is to realise that the ancient state was always a religious institution. Another is to learn how to give advice and warning in an autocracy. Though the modern ear is inclined to hear no more than vain adulation in their speeches, those wise in the ways of autocracy know that such praise can be as much a means of control as can criticism, and is frequently more effective. Being reminded of the standard criteria for a good king just might lead an erring monarch to mend his ways; even if not, the ceremonial act of listening to such advice had the effect of publicly committing him to acknowledge those criteria. That is one reason for reading these speeches, despite their jejune appearance, as records of power being negotiated. Another is because of the way Christian
10 From a tract attributed to the Hellenistic thinker Diotogenes, quoted in Stobaeus, Anthologium 4.7.62 (eds. Wachsmuth andHense, iv: 265-70); trans. E. Barker, From Alexander to Constantine, 366. See also G. F. Chesnut, The first Christian histories, ch. 7. Dated, but still useful, is E. R. Goodenough, 'The political philosophy of Hellenistic kingship'. On authenticity, see H. Thesleff, 'On the problem of the Doric Pseudopythagorica'; L. Delatte, Les traités de la royauté.
11 Averil Cameron, Christianity and the rhetoric of empire, 129.
12 For a handbook from late antiquity, see D. A. Russell and N. G. Wilson, eds. and trans., Menander Rhetor. For recent studies, see R. M. Errington, 'Themistius and his emperors'; M. Whitby, ed., The propaganda of power; D. Felton, 'Advice to tyrants'. Still useful are Lester K. Born, 'The perfect prince according to the Latin panegyrists' and M. P. Charlesworth, 'The virtues of a Roman emperor'. On the questionable existence of a 'canon' of virtues, see A. Wallace-Hadrill, 'The emperor and his virtues'. For the wording on Augustus's shield, see Robert S. Rogers et al., eds., Caesaris Augusti Res gestae et Fragmenta, cap. 34.
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