Symmachus Siburio.

Fortunae tuae gaudia in meo aere duco atque huius sententiae te nobis iudicem capio, qui animum meum spectatum habes, cum tuum consulis. debebatur hoc teneris temporum bonis, ut consilio publico vir laudatus accederes. ergo quia res sese ex voto omnium dedit, perage operam iudicio tanti principis congruentem. urguet te expectatio bonis semper onerosa. nam etsi dignos respicit, periculo tamen proxima est, dum sibi amplius pollicetur. habes saeculum virtuti amicum, quo nisi optimus quisque gloriam parat, hominis est culpa, non temporis. vides certe: ut ille ipse qui Romanis rebus antistat, ad bonum publicum natus est, non tibi adverso nunc amne nitendum est, secundo, ut ita dicam, cursu probae artes et virtutes feruntur. sed haec tibi plenius tuus animus quam stilus noster expediet. ego amici functus officium admonentis potius quam docentis personam recepi et spero actutum fore, ut expectatione quae de te magna est, maior habearis. nec ego istius modi scriptum recepissem, nisi apud me liqueret, quod emendato pectori bona verba mandarem. quod restat, memento salute referenda et tuum munus exsequi et mei officii diligentiam provocare. vale.
(Symmachus, Ep. 3.43)

Symmachus to Siburius.

I sense the joy of your good fortune as if it were my own and I make you the judge of this sentiment of mine: when you consult your own heart, you will have examined my own. To the happy beginnings of the current reign should be added that a man of good reputation such as yourself has joined the senate. So, since things have turned out in accordance with everyone’s wishes, it’s up to you to comport yourself in a manner suited to the judgement of such a great emperor. The expectation that always weighs heavy on honourable people presses upon you now; and even though it looks only upon men of worth, it is nevertheless close to danger, as it always promises more of itself. Yours is an age that is friendly to virtue, and if not every outstanding man acquires glory in it, it is the fault of the individual, not of the age. Surely you can see that, as he who leads the Roman state is born for the benefit of the people, you do not have to make your way counter to the current: good qualities and virtues are borne on a favorable stream, so to speak. But you will be able to understand all this more fully through your own intellect than by my pen. In fulfilling my duty of friendship, I have taken on the role of adviser rather than instructor. I hope that soon you will prove to be even greater than the expectation people have of you, however big that is. I would not have proceeded to write to you like this, if it were not clear to me that I was entrusting these lofty words to a noble soul. In closing, please remember to practice your usual courtesy in writing back to me and to urge me likewise to diligence in this obligation. Be well. (tr. David Bauwens)



Suus enim cuique mos, suus cuique ritus est. varios custodes urbibus cultus mens divina distribuit. ut animae nascentibus, ita populis fatales genii dividuntur. accedit utilitas, quae maxime homini deos adserit. nam cum ratio omnis in operto sit, unde rectius quam de memoria atque documentis rerum secundarum cognitio venit numinum? iam si longa aetas auctoritatem religionibus faciat, servanda est tot saeculis fides et sequendi sunt nobis parentes, qui secuti sunt feliciter suos. Romam nunc putemus adsistere atque his vobiscum agere sermonibus: “optimi principum, patres patriae, reveremini annos meos, in quos me pius ritus adduxit! Utar caerimoniis avitis; neque enim paenitet. vivam meo more, quia libera sum! hic cultus in leges meas orbem redegit, haec sacra Hannibalem a moenibus, a Capitolio Senonas reppulerunt. ad hoc ergo servata sum, ut longaeva reprehendar? videro, quale sit, quod instituendum putatur; sera tamen et contumeliosa emendatio senectutis.” ergo diis patriis, diis indigetibus pacem rogamus. aequum est, quidquid omnes colunt, unum putari. eadem spectamus astra, commune caelum est, idem nos mundus involvit. quid interest, qua quisque prudentia verum requirat? uno itinere non potest perveniri ad tam grande secretum. sed haec otiosorum disputatio est. nunc preces, non certamina offerimus.
(Symmachus, Rel. 3.8-10)

…for everyone has his own customs, everyone his own rites. The divine Mind has distributed different guardians and different cults to different cities. As souls are separately given to infants as they are born, so to peoples the genius of their destiny. Here comes in the proof from advantage, which most of all vouches to man for the gods. For, since our reason is wholly clouded, whence does the knowledge of the gods more rightly come to us, than from the memory and evidence of prosperity? Now if a long period gives authority to religious customs, we ought to keep faith with so many centuries, and to follow our ancestors, as they happily followed theirs. Let us now suppose that Rome is present and addresses you in these words: “Excellent princes, fathers of your country, respect my years to which pious rites have brought me. Let me use the ancestral ceremonies, for I do not repent of them. Let me live after my own fashion, for I am free. This worship subdued the world to my laws, these sacred rites repelled Hannibal from the walls, and the Senones from the capitol. Have I been reserved for this, that in my old age I should be blamed? I will consider what it is thought should be set in order, but tardy and discreditable is the reformation of old age.” We ask, then, for peace for the gods of our fathers and of our country. It is just that all worship should be considered as one. We look on the same stars, the sky is common, the same world surrounds us. What difference does it make by what pains each seeks the truth? We cannot attain to so great a secret by one road; but this discussion is rather for persons at ease, we offer now prayers, not conflict. (tr. Philip Shaff?)