Front Page Titles (by Subject) 19.: THE EGYPTIAN OF SYNESIUS — ( P. 304 ) - The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 5
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19.: THE “EGYPTIAN” OF SYNESIUS — ( P. 304 ) - Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 5 
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. J.B. Bury with an Introduction by W.E.H. Lecky (New York: Fred de Fau and Co., 1906), in 12 vols. Vol. 5.
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THE “EGYPTIAN” OF SYNESIUS — (P. 304)
The interpretation of the Egyptian allegory of Synesius has caused a good deal of trouble, owing to the fact that our other sources supply such meagre material as to the details of the political transactions at Constantinople in the reign of Arcadius. It had long been recognised that Egypt stood for the Empire, and Thebes for Constantinople; and the Praetorian Prefect Aurelian had been detected under the veil of Osiris. But no certainty had been attained as to the identity of Typhos, the wicked brother of Osiris. It was chiefly in consequence of this lacuna that the able attempt of Güldenpenning to reconstruct the history of the years 399 and 400 on the basis of the work of Synesius (cp. my Later Roman Empire, i. p. 79 sqq.) did not carry complete conviction. But O. Seeck has recently succeeded in proving the identity of Typhos and in interpreting the allegory more fully (Philologus, 52, p. 442 sqq., 1894). His results must be briefly noted.
1. Taurus. — Synesius states in the Preface that the name of the father of Osiris and Typhos was Taurus. There can be no question that he is the Taurus who appears in the Consular Fasti of 361. He was quaestor in 353, and became praetorian prefect in 355. He held this office (the μεγάλη ἀρχή of Synes. c. 2, p. 1213, ed. Migne) till 361. He was appointed to decide a theological disputation (Epiphanius, de Haer. 71, 1); and presided at the Council of Ariminum (359). He was an author as well as an official. The arguments of Borghesi and Seeck establish his identity with Palladius Rutilius Taurus Aemilianus, the author of 14 Books De re rustica. Taurus had a son named Harmonius who was killed by Arbogastes 392 (John Ant., fr. 187).
2. Aurelian. — He appears first about 383 as builder of a Church (Acta Sanctorum, 6th May, p. 610). In 393 we find him (C. Th. 2, 8, 23, &c.) Prefect of Constantinople before Rufinus held that office. Then after the fall of Eutropius, he appears as Praetorian Prefect of the East (399-400). In 400 the revolt of Gainas causes his fall (see above, p. 304-305). But he was to rise again and become Prefect a third time (402-404), as Seeck has shown from two letters of Synesius (31 and 38: cp. Cod. Th. 4, 2, 1, and 5, 1, 5, where the false dates have to be amended). He is therein described as τρισέπαρχον, “thrice Prefect,” in an epigram (Anth. Plan. 4, 73) on a gilt statue dedicated to him by the senate. His son’s name was Taurus (Synes. epist. 31), which confirms the identification.
Osiris (i. c. 3, p. 1217) held a post which is described as ἐπιστάτης δορυϕόρων γενόμενος καὶ ἀκοὰς πιστευθεὶς, explained by Seeck to be that of magister officiorum; he was then Prefect of the city (πολιαρχήσας, ib.); he was consul (ii. 4, p. 1272), and he twice held the μεγάλη ἀρχή or praetorian prefecture, — the second time μετὰ συνθήματος μείζονος (ib.), which means the Patriciate. What happened to Osiris on his fall corresponds even more strikingly to that which happened to Aurelian. The leader of the foreign mercenaries is on the other side of a stream (like Gainas), Aurelian crosses it (p. 1252) and is spared. His companions in misfortune (Saturninus and Johannes) are alluded to, p. 1268.
3. Arcadius. — The insignificance of Arcadius is reflected in the myth by the fact that he is never mentioned except in one passage (p. 1268), where he appears as the High Priest. The person who through his influence over the Emperor had the real power appears in the myth as holding the kingly office — e.g. Osiris while he was in power.
4. Caesarius. — In the allegory Typhos is in close alliance with the barbarian mercenaries, and instigates their attack on Thebes in order to overthrow his brother Osiris. When Osiris surrenders himself to the barbarian leader, Typhos urges that he should be put to death. Typhos then receives the kingdom and administers it tyrannically; nor is his position shaken by the fall of the barbarian leader. Before the first rise of Osiris to power1 he had filled a post which gave him patronage in distributing offices, the power of oppressing towns (p. 1217), and the duty of regulating measures in connection with the payment of taxes in kind (p. 1219). These hints taken along with the mention (ib.) of torch-bearing attendants show that the office was no less than that of Praetorian Prefect. It follows that Typhos was Praetorian Prefect before 399, and again in 400.
Eutropius had endeavoured to reduce the power of Praetorian Prefect of the East by making it a collegial office; and Eutychianus appears as holding that office (1) along with Caesarius while Eutropius was in power; (2) along with Aurelian, 399-400; (3) along with Aurelian when he was restored 402. It may be assumed that he also held it between 400 and 402.
It follows that Caesarius, whom we find Praetorian Prefect from 396-398, and again in 400 and 401, was the prototype of Typhos, the son of Taurus and the brother of Aurelian. Some other points confirm the conclusion. The tendency to Arianism, of which Typhos is accused, is illustrated by C. Th. 16, 5, 25, and the passion of Typhos for his wife by a notice in Sozomen, 9, 2.
The great political object of Aurelian was to break the power of the Germans in the army and at the court — the policy for which Synesius pleaded in his De Regno. The question arises: What was the attitude of the Empress Eudoxia to this policy? The fall of Eutropius which she brought about (Phil. 11, 6) led to the rise of Aurelian, and when Aurelian fell, her intimate friend — scandal said, her lover — Count John, fell with him.2 Further, Seeck makes it probable that the second Praetorian Prefecture of Aurelian ended, and Anthemius succeeded to that post, about end of 404; and it was on 6th October, 404, that the Empress died. We are thus led to infer a close political union between Eudoxia and Aurelian; and, if the inference is right, it is noteworthy that the Empress of German origin, the daughter of the Frank Bauto, should have allied herself with a statesman whose policy was anti-German.
[1 ]He also held a financial post: Seeck conjectures that of a rationalis of a diocese.
[2 ]Further, Castricia, wife of Saturninus, who was banished with Aurelian, had influence with Eudoxia, as we know from Palladius, Life of Chrysostom.