Victoria Restored

In 394 C.E., Theodosius defeated Eugenius in what some have called the last great pagan battle. All along the battle line on the Frigidus River in northern Italy, Flavianus had set up statues to the Roman gods, especially Jupiter, and the army carried images of Hercules among its standards. If Eugenius had restored the altar of Victory when he restored the subsidies for pagan religious rites, Theodosius must have removed it again when he defeated Eugenius. Of this, however, we cannot be sure: in 404 c.e., the court poet Claudius Claudianus in his poem on the sixth consulship of Honorius (vv. 597-602) wrote of Honorius' triumphal entry into Rome. He described a statue of a winged victory, which he called Rome's guardian, in her temple (presumably the Curia) with her golden wings stretched out in protection.

Although Claudian may have been speaking here only of the statue of Victory, it is tempting to wonder whether he considered the two—the statue of Victory and her altar—as one and the same. When Claudian wrote of the statue of Victory he might have intended his readers also to understand the altar of Victory, whose vicissitudes under the late-fourth century Christian emperors we have tracked in this chapter. Whether or not the altar of Victory was in the Curia, Claudian had the Christian Honorius pay homage to her numen, "divinity." By this period, such homage transcended religious factions. The numina of the Roman gods and goddesses had moved into the realm of the shared cultural traditions of the late antique pagan senatorial aristocracy and their Christian rulers. Roma aeterna was no longer a viable political idea so much as a faded ideal.

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