Base for posthumous statue of Virius Nicomachus Flavianus, consul and historian. Rome. Early fifth century


In nine lines on an epigraphic field 55 x 45 cm; letters 2.5-3 cm.

Virio Nicomacho Flaviano, v(iro) c(larissimo), / quaest(ori), praet(ori), pontif(ici) maiori, / consulari Siciliae, / vicario Africae, / quaestori intra palatium, / praef(ecto) praet(orio) iterum, co(n)s(uli) ord(inario), / historico disertissimo, / Q(uintus) Fab(ius) Memmius Symmachus, v(ir) c(larissimus), / prosocero optimo.

'To Virius Nicomachus Flavianus, of clarissimus rank, quaestor, praetor, higher pontiff, governor (consularis) of Sicily, vicar of Africa, quaestor in the palace, twice praetorian prefect, ordinary consul, most skillful historian, by Quintus Fabius Memmius Symmachus, to the most excellent grandfather of his wife.'

The inscription records the cursus honorum of Nicomachus Flavianus in ascending order, including his consulship in 394, when he was appointed by the usurper Eugenius - an appointment not accepted in the East, and not mentioned in the base of the posthumous statue dedicated to him in the Forum of Trajan (LSA-1247). Flavianus is identified as a 'most skillful historian', creating a symmetry with the 'most skilful orator' of the inscription on Quintus Aurelius Symmachus' base. The inscription also mentions Flavianus' term as ordinary consul, held during the usurpation of Eugenius in 394, in spite of the later imperial command that his name be removed from the fasti (Cod. Theod. 15.14.9, see Hedrick 2000, 94-98).

DESCRIPTION (based on personal inspection)
White marble base, well preserved. The base has mouldings top and bottom on three sides, damaged on upper right corner. Sides are smooth and well finsihed, the back is rough but could not be properly inspected. The top is rough and might have been damaged in post-Roman times. There is one dowel hole, that might have been used for fitting statue; it is possible, however, that it was made in later times, see Velestino in Ensoli and La Rocca 2000. The epigraphic field is framed by a moulding, worn in parts and damaged on upper right side; its surface is deep and irreguar, indicating erasure of previous inscription.

The base was found in 1615 in the gardens of Sertorio Teofilo (later villa Casali, modern day Ospedale Militare), on the Caelian hill (Lanciani 1897, 348-350). It was found with CIL VI, 1699 (LSA-270), another dedication to a relative by Quintus Fabius Memmius Symmachus. This, and the content and private character of the two dedications, indicate a domestic context, a hypothesis that was reinforced by the excavation of a large Roman domus with late antique phases in the same area, identified by the excavators as the house of the Symmachi (although this identification relies heavily on the presence of the bases: see Pavolini 1993). Symmachus' ownership of a house in this area is however attested by a number of letters: for the full evidence, see Guidobaldi 1995, 183-184.

Nicomachus Flavianus was an influential senator in the late 4th century, having performed important functions in the government of Theodosius I. He was praetorian prefect of Italy twice (390-392 and 393-394), and was appointed consul during the usurpation of Eugenius. He was a pagan, and his involvement in the usurpation of Eugenius is usually taken as evidence that this was a pagan rebellion. Flavianus was a friend and correspondent of Quintus Aurelius Symmachus. He killed himself in 394, after the defeat of his armies by Theodosius I (PLRE I, 347-349 Flavianus 15; see also Matthews 1975, for the political context).

Quintus Fabius Memmius Symmachus was son of Quintus Aurelius Symmachus. He married the granddaughter of Flavianus in 401, the same year he held the praetorship (PLRE II, 1046-1047 Symmachus 10). The date of his death is not known.

The dating of this dedication is based on the fact that Q. Fabius Memmius Symmachus married the granddaughter of Flavianus in 401, as well as on the probable date of his father Symmachus' death, 402. In any case, the terminus ante quem could be 431, when the memory of Flavianus senior was definitively revalued and a statue was dedicated to him in the Forum of Trajan (LSA-1247).

Carlos Machado

Main Reference

Ensoli, S. & E. La Rocca, Aurea Roma. Dalla città pagana alla città cristiana (Exhibition, Rome 2000), Rome 2000, p. 464-465 (D. Velestino)

Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum; , VI, 1782 (+p. 4760)

Discussion References

Hedrick, C. , History and silence: purge and rehabilitation of memory in late antiquity, Austin 2000, 94-98

Jones, A. H. M. et al., The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire. Vol. I 260-395, Cambridge et al. 1971 (1975), 347-349 (Flavianus 15)

Lanciani, R., The Ruins and Excavations of Ancient Rome, London 1897, 348-350

Martindale, J. R., The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire. Vol. II A.D. 395-527, Cambridge 1980, 1046-1047 (Symmachus 10)

Matthews, J., Western Aristocracies and Imperial Court, AD 364-425, Oxford 1975, 238-243

Pavolini, C. et alii, “La Topografia antica della sommità del Celio. Gli scavi nell’Ospedale Militare”, Römische Mitteilungen, 100, 1993, 483-502 (A. Carignani)