1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Eumenius

EUMENIUS (c. A.D. 260–311), one of the Roman panegyrists, was born at Augustodunum (Autun) in Gallia Lugdunensis. He was of Greek descent; his grandfather, who had migrated from Athens to Rome, finally settled at Autun as a teacher of rhetoric. Eumenius probably took his place, for it was from Autun that he went to be magister memoriae (private secretary) to Constantius Chlorus, whom he accompanied on several of his campaigns. In 296 Chlorus determined to restore the famous schools (scholae Maenianae) of Autun, which had been greatly damaged by the inroads of the Bagaudae (peasant banditti), and appointed Eumenius to the management of them, allowing him to retain his offices at court and doubling his salary. Eumenius generously gave up a considerable portion of his emoluments to the improvement of the schools. There is no doubt that Eumenius was a heathen, not even a nominal follower of Christianity, like Ausonius and other writers from Gaul. Nothing is known of his later years; but he must have lived at least till 311, if the Gratiarum Actio to Constantine is by him. Of the twelve discourses included in the collection of Panegyrici Latini (ed. E. Bährens, 1874), the following are probably by Eumenius. (1) Pro restaurandis (or instaurandis) scholis, delivered (297) in the forum at Autun before the governor of the province. Its chief object is to set forth the steps necessary to restore the schools to their former state of efficiency, and the author lays stress upon the fact that he intends to assist the good work out of his own pocket. (2) An address (297) to the Caesar Constantius Chlorus, congratulating him on his victories over Allectus and Carausius in Britain, and containing information of some value as to the British methods of fighting. (3) A panegyric on Constantine (310). (4) An address of thanks (311) from the inhabitants of Autun (whose name had been changed from Augustodunum to Flavia) to Constantine for the remission of taxes and other benefits. (5) A festal address (307) on the marriage of Constantine and Fausta, the daughter of Maximian. All these speeches, with the exception of (1), were delivered at Augusta Trevirorum (Trèves), whose birthday is celebrated in (3). Eumenius is far the best of the orators of his time, and superior to the majority of the writers of imperial panegyrics. He shows greater self-restraint and moderation in his language, which is simple and pure, and on the whole is free from the gross flattery which characterizes such productions. This fault is most conspicuous in (3), which led Heyne (Opuscula, vi. 80) to deny the authorship of Eumenius on the ground that it was unworthy of him.

There are treatises on Eumenius by B. Kilian (Würzburg, 1869), S. Brandt (Freiburg im Breisgau, 1882), and H. Sachs (Halle, 1885); see also Gaston Boissier, “Les Rhéteurs gaulois du IVe siècle,” in Journal des savants (1884).