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    STUDIA HISTORIA - Issue no. 1 / 2018  

Trajan and the Antonini in Themistius’ Political Discourses. Half a century ago already, in a substantial study that has remained a standard reference to this day, the well-known Byzantinist Gilbert Dagron took pains to examine the philosophical and ethical issues tackled, in the truest Hellenistic tradition, in the political discourses of Themistius (c. 317 – c. 388), court panegyrist and chief representative of the Second Sophistic – the good sovereign, the nature of royalty, the typology of legal acts, the intellectuals, the power and the freedom of speech, the religious tolerance, and so forth. At the same time, the French scholar, as well as the subsequent students of the works of the Constantinopolitan rhetorician, have noted the peculiar manner in which this “heretic” of late Hellenism (Lellia Cracco Ruggini) used and altered the import of the classical literary tradition, by taking the liberty to select, manipulate, reelaborate and even invent formulas, expressions or examples taken over, directly or via intermediaries, from classical sources. This fact can be grasped as well from the references to the Antonini emperors (or the Ulpia-Aelia dynasty), i.e. to Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius (there is no mention of Nerva and Com•modus). Of all the historical figures, these are the most frequently referred to in his orations, next to Alexander of Macedon. Trajan‟s name was being mentioned consistently in the late antique literature and historiography whenever the Trajanian and Antonine origin of Theodosius, a defining element of Theodosian legitimizing propaganda, was to be asserted (implicating also the name of the celebrated general Lusius Quietus). This false (?) genealogy created by Themistius is of no consequence to our present study; much ink has already been spilled over this matter in modern historiography, even during the last decades. As for the rest, the name of the Antonini, as well as of other prominent figures of the Greco-Roman or Oriental history which he refers to are a little more than an enumeration of names extracted from a pile of names employed in the argument for the philosophical, ethical or political ideas debated in the orations. For Themistius, more significant than the political events or the military deeds, the administrative matters are a defining trait of character, a quality or a flaw of a historical figure, namely, of a Roman emperor, which, mentioned in the absence of evocative details, but changed semantically to match the political context, the audience, the topic, or the evolution of the argument, can become referential to the conduct of the holders of sovereign power to whom his orations were addressed to. There is talk of an equitable justice, guided by clemency, and of magnanimity towards one‟s enemies (Trajan, Marcus Aurelius), of philanthropy (on the grounds of the famous episode of the “miracle of rain”, dated, however, under Antoninus Pius, rather than under Marcus Aurelius), and lastly, of the relationship between philosophy and power (according to Themistius, under the Antonini all the noble principles of political philosophy of the “illustrious Plato” and the “divine Aristotle”, inherent to the collaboration between the political power and philosophy, were put in practice, as demonstrated by the collaboration between the “great Trajan” and Dio Chrysostom, between the two Antonini (Marcus Aurelius and Antoninus Pius) and Epictetus, between Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius and Sextus and Rusticus).

Keywords: Themistius, political discourses, Trajan, the dynasty of the Antonini, equitable justice, imperial magnanimity and philanthropy, “the miracle of rain”, philosophy and politics.
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