Ritual Experience

The statues of Honorius and Stilicho in the Forum reiterated the messages of the procession, demonstrating that the emperor together with the general brokered attempts in Rome to secure a legacy for the dynasty to which the emperor belonged.  In addition, the statues prepared to commemorate Honorius’ visit also offered unprecedented honors to Stilicho, the chief military officer of the west whom the Constantinopolitan senate had earlier proclaimed a traitor (at least in the eastern half of the Roman empire).[1] A silver statue of Stilicho was installed on top of the rostra at the west end of the Forum square to complement a nearby statue of Honorius.[2] The speakers’ platform and the space surrounding it had previously been dominated by the portraits of emperors; thus, Honorius must have agreed to installing Stilicho’s statue next to his.  Insulated in the closed world of the Milanese court, Honorius ruled under the sway of his military advisor, Stilicho.[3] Indeed, the installations in Rome positioned Stilicho, whose father was a Vandal, as one also who inherited an esteemed lineage by marrying into the imperial family.  Stilicho eventually fell from grace in 408 when Roman senators saw to his brutal execution; Honorius’ own rule endured.[4]

  1. [1] By 400 CE Arcadius, at the request of Eutropius, had declared Stilicho a public enemy of the eastern court in Constantinople, but this had no consequences to his official status in the west.  See Zosimus, New History 5.11.1-2 and Claudian, Panegyricus, Michael Dewar ed., 135.
  2. [2] CIL.VI.1731 was dedicated to Stilicho by the urban prefect Flavius Pisidius Romulus; Stilicho’s name was erased after his condemnation in 408.  The inscription preserves the title, magister utriusque militiae, indicating clearly that the statue represented Stilicho.  The Honorius statue was supported by a base with an inscription, CIL.VI.1195.
  3. [3] Stilicho claimed to have been appointed by Theodosius I to be the regent of Honorius, see Claudian, Panegyricus de tertio consulatu Honorii Augusti, 142-162, esp. 151-153; Alan Cameron,  Claudian, 37-45.
  4. [4] Stilicho’s fate and ultimate condemnation in 408 is explored in John Matthews, Western Aristocracies and the Imperial Court A.D. 364-425 (Oxford:  Clarendon Press, 1972), 278-283.