Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Quintus Aurelius Symmachus (c. 345-402 CE) was a Roman senator and orator, and a leading pagan critic of Christian emperors (see further in Wikipedia). He was also a noted letter writer, and after his death a collection of around 900 of his letters was edited by his son, Q. Fabius Memmius Symmachus, in nine books of private letters and a tenth book of imperial correspondence (following the pattern of Pliny).[1] Quite a few of Symmachus' letters are quite brief, very often the letter carrier would bring the real news:
Although written as private correspondence to specific individuals, each of Symmachus' letters, when received, was read aloud to the members of the household and to friends; typically, the confidential bits of information or controversial views on public affairs would be conveyed by the letter carrier in private, oral conversation.[2]

Salzman adds in a note: 'Symmachus mentions information being delivered orally by letter carriers often; see for example, Ep. 1.11, 1.46, 1.87.2, 1.90.1, 2.11, 2.21, 3.30, 4.44, 6.13, 8.31, 9.37. Ep. 6.18, notes that Symmachus gave oral information about a grain shortage to his letter carrier, so that the recipient of the letter will learn more by listening than by reading.' [3]

[1] J.F. Matthews, ‘The Letters of Symmachus’ in Latin Literature of the Fourth Century (ed. J.W. Binns; London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974), 58–99.
[2] M. R. Salzman, ‘Travel and Communication in The Letters of Symmachus’, in Travel, Communication and Geography in Late Antiquity: Sacred and Profane (eds: L. Ellis & F. L. Kidner; Aldershot & Burlington VT: Ashgate, 2004), 81-94 (citation from p. 81).
[3] Salzman, ‘Travel and Communication in The Letters of Symmachus’, n. 1, pp. 81-82.

1 comment:

Richard Fellows said...

Thanks, Peter. Keep posting.