The Restoration of Public Subsidies

In May of 392 C.E., the twenty-year-old Valentinian II was hanged at his court in Gaul and Arbogast raised Flavius Eugenius to the throne. Eugenius immediately sought the support of Ambrose and Theodosius, who was by now back in his court in the east. Theodosius' response was to appoint his own son Honorius as his Augustus in the west and declare Eugenius a usurper; Ambrose's response was to leave Milan. Honorius was not recognized in the west, however, and Eugenius, by political necessity and by aristocratic disposition, allied himself with a willing Roman senate. Although he was himself a Christian, Eugenius was a rhetorician, trained in classical texts and educated in an aristocratic culture. Knowing that reconciliation with Theodosius was hopeless, he did not want to alienate either his Christian supporters or the pagan senators, so he attempted a compromise solution on the question of subsidies for pagan cults. He agreed to funnel funds from his own resources to individual senators so that they could finance traditional cult practices. Upon receiving the funds, Virius Nicomachus Flavianus, prefect of Italy, with his son Nicomachus Flavianus, prefect of Rome, immediately undertook the construction of numerous temples and shrines and the restoration of their priesthoods and cult practices. Other pagan practices were also resurrected: several festivals, including that of Attis and Cybele, and the grand Megalensian Games were celebrated in Rome in the spring of 394 C.E., despite the fact that Theodosius had removed all pagan festivals from the calendar during his visit to Rome in 389 C.E. (Codex Theodosianus 2.8.19). Symmachus himself in this exhilarating atmosphere of renewed pagan festivals sponsored public games in honor of his son's quaestorship.

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