Ritual Experience

Honorius was only nineteen when he paraded through Rome.  The procession took on the appearance of a victory march that honored Honorius for military achievements in which he did not play a direct role:  Stilicho had overseen the suppression of the usurper, Gildo, and the successful containment of Alaric by imperial forces.  In the rectangular paved area of the Forum and along the major routes through the city, the populace of Rome gathered to demonstrate their support for the emperor in 404.  The processional path, which Claudian indicates as extending from the city walls at the far north border of the city toward the city center, was “filled by a crowd that wore a single face.”[1] Moving from the periphery toward the center of town, Honorius proceeded along the traditional path of a triumphant emperor.  A plausible reconstruction of the route has the emperor entering the city from the north to travel down the Via Lata on a long progression through the city so that the Roman Forum served as ritual’s climax.[2] But the events in the Forum preceded stops at the palace on the Palatine and the games in the Circus Maximus.[3]

  1. [1] Claudian, VI Cons. 543-545: “omne Palatino quod pons a colle recedit / Muluius . . . . / una replet turbae facies.”  Trans. M. Dewar (1996) 37.
  2. [2] Details of the ritual path are inferred from the route taken by Stilicho during a procession staged for his consular celebrations in 399-400, Claudian, De consulatu Stilichonis II.397-405.  See also, Jacqueline Long, “Claudian and the City:  Poetry and Pride of Place,” in Aetas Claudianea:  Eine Tagung an der Freien Universität Berlin vom 28. bis 30. Juni 2002, Wolfgang Ehlers et al. eds. (Munich:  K.G. Saur, 2004), 1-15.
  3. [3] Claudian, VI. Cons. 611-639.