Sextus Claudius Petronius Probus

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Sextus Claudius Petronius Probus (floruit 358 - 390) was a leading Roman aristocrat of the later 4th century, renowned for his wealth, power and social connections.

Family[edit]

A Christian and a scion of the powerful Anician family from Verona, he married Anicia Faltonia Proba, the daughter of his first cousin Quintus Clodius Hermogenianus Olybrius, by whom he had two sons, Anicius Probinus and Anicius Hermogenianus Olybrius. Through his sons, Probus was the paternal grandfather of two Emperors, Petronius Maximus and Olybrius.

According to a historical study by Drinkwater and Elton, Probus was a son of Petronius Probinus, Consul in 341, and "Claudia"/"Clodia", a sister of Clodius Celsinus Adelphus. Faltonia Betitia Proba, a Christian poet, was sister to this Probinus and wife of Adelphus. Hermogenianus was a son of Proba and Adelphus.[1] The elder Probinus and Proba were children of Petronius Probianus, Consul in 322. Drinkwater and Elton consider his wife to be an "Anicia", a sister to Amnius Anicius Julianus. Claudia and Adelphus were children of Clodius Celsinus and Demetrias.[1] The eldest Probianus was a son of Petronius Annianus, Consul in 314. Drinkwater and Elton consider his wife to be "Proba", a daughter of Probus.[1] Probus was married to her first cousin once removed on her father's side Anicia Faltonia Proba (ca 365 - 410-432), daughter of Quintus Clodius Hermogenianus Olybrius and wife Turrenia Anicia Juliana or Anicia Faltonia Proba, by whom he had three sons, Anicius Probinus, Anicius Hermogenianus Olybrius and Anicius Petronius Probus.

Career[edit]

Probus' career was one of the most noteworthy in his age. He was Proconsul of Africa in 358[2] and then Praetorian prefect four times: Praetorian prefect of Illyricum in 364, Praetorian prefect of Gaul in 366, Praetorian prefect of Italy in 368-375 and again in 383-384;[3] in the meantime, he held the consulship in 371, with Emperor Gratian as colleague.

In 372 he defended Sirmium against barbarian attack and in that same year he proclaimed Ambrose governor of Aemilia et Liguria. In 375 Probus was accused of corruption and repression in extorting taxes for Valentinian I. He served under Emperor Valentinian II, following him at the Eastern court when Magnus Maximus rebelled in the West.

His date of death is unknown, though he was still living in 390 when, according to the Vita Ambrosii of Paulinus of Milan, two Persian noblemen presented themselves before Theodosius I at Mediolanum but departed the next day for Rome in order to see for themselves Petronius Probus, the pride of the Roman aristocracy, a legend in his lifetime.

Fame[edit]

On various inscriptions, Probus is described as "the summit of the Anician house" (Aniciae domus culmen), "most learned in all subjects" (omnibus rebus eruditissimus) and "the acme of the nobility, the light of literature and eloquence" (nobilitatis culmen, litterarum et eloquentiae lumen). As these phrases suggest he was a patron of literature, including the poet Ausonius. His two sons Probinus and Olybrius continued the tradition by being the patrons of Claudian, who paints a flattering picture of Probus in his Panegyricus dictus Probino et Olybrio consulibus written to celebrate his sons' joint consulship in 395.

Ammianus Marcellinus portrays him as a vain and rapacious man who "owned estates in every part of the empire, but whether they were honestly come by or not is not for a man like me to say".[4] Ammianus says he was one who was benevolent to his friends and a pernicious schemer against his enemies, servile to those more powerful than him and pitiless to those weaker, who craved office and exercised enormous influence through his wealth, always insecure and petty even at the height of his power.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c John Drinkwater and Hugh Elton, Fifth-century Gaul: A Crisis of Identity? (1992), page 112.
  2. ^ Argued by Alan Cambron, "Polyonomy in the Late Roman Aristocracy: the Case of Petronius Probus", The Journal of Roman Studies, Volume LXXV (1985), pp. 178-182.
  3. ^ Analysis of evidence in Alan Cambron (1985), pp. 178-181.
  4. ^ Ammianus Marcellinus, History, Book 27, ch.11; The Later Roman Empire selected and translated by Walter Hamilton (Penguin, 1986), p.345).

Bibliography[edit]

  • Arnold Hugh Martin Jones, John Martindale, John Morris, Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, volume 1, Cambridge 1971, pp. 736–740.
  • Michele R. Salzman, The Making of a Christian Aristocracy. Social and religious change in the western Roman Empire, Cambridge, 2002.
  • Manfred Schmidt, "Ambrosii carmen de obitu Probi. Ein Gedicht des Mailänder Bischofs in epigraphischer Überlieferung", Hermes 127, 1999, pp. 99–116.
  • Wolfgang Seyfarth: Sextus Petronius Probus. Legende und Wirklichkeit. In: Klio 52, 1970, 411–425.
Political offices
Preceded by
Valentinian I III,
Valens III
Consul of the Roman Empire
371
with Gratian
Succeeded by
Domitius Modestus,
Flavius Arinthaeus