Due to the fragmentary state of many historiographical works of the 5th and 6th century, we seriously lack abundant sources about Flavius Aëtius, magister militum of emperor Valentinian III. The most circumstantial accounts among the few remaining texts can be found in the panegyrics of Flavius Merobaudes, in a fragment of Renatus Frigeridus quoted by Gregor of Tours, in the Getica of Jordanes, and in the honorary inscription CIL VI 41389. Traditionally, these portrayals have been taken as mostly independent and thus contributing to a balanced historical picture of Flavius Aëtius. In my paper, I will reconsider the matter in the light of panegyric tradition (especially Stilicho and Claudian). As a result, it will become clear that all of our sources regarding the character and biography of Aëtius, even the historiographical ones, are firmly rooted in his own court propaganda and that no opposing view has survived.
Recent scholarship has convincingly shown that the presentation of Theoderic the Great’s rule in Italy (493-526) was consciously formulated in line with imperial models of political symbolism and as a renewal of the Western Roman Empire. This paper will argue that, additionally, the visual spectacle of Theoderic’s monuments in the city gave new expression to Ravenna’s long association with the sea, maritime travel, and naval warfare through her port, Classe. These statements formed part of a discourse of association with, and distinction from, the poles of imperial potestas, Rome and Constantinople, with the aim of elevating Ravenna’s status as a locus of authority in the Mediterranean sphere.
This paper explores episcopal leadership in wartime, focusing primarily on Maximus of Turin and Leo the Great, whose approaches to the ongoing barbarian presence in Italy differed greatly. Maximus of Turin’s sermons provide valuable insight to the breakdown of civic order, including blackmail, plundering, and kidnapping. He argued that the swords of the barbarians should be matched with ‘weapons of righteousness’ – prayer, abstinence, fasting, and chastity – but this rhetoric did not produce the desired result of barbarian defeat. His sermons are compared with those of Leo the Great, whose actions are starkly different to Maximus’s, indicating a change in episcopal approaches to warfare between 400 and 450. It is argued that communal trauma changed pastoral discourses on daily life as the role of the bishop became increasingly politicised during the first half of the 5th century.