After this incident there appears to have been some coldness in the relations between Theodosius and Ambrose. It was, perhaps, partly to remove himself from the neighbourhood of the overbearing Bishop that the Emperor, in the summer of the following year, A.D. 389, made a prolonged stay in Rome. On the 13th of June he entered the city in state, accompanied by his five-year-old son, Honorius. Soon after his arrival he listened complacently in the Senate-House to the fulsome outpouring of the sycophantic rhetorician, Latinus Pacatus Drepanius, who had come from Gaul to congratulate him on his victory over Maximus. With the lack of reserve and good taste which marked this period of decadence, the orator laid on his flatteries superabundantly--launching out into an interminable eulogy of his illustrious auditor, first as a man, and then as a monarch, and not shrinking even from characterizing him as 'the visible God'. After portraying in lurid colours the desperate condition of affairs under Maximus, and sketching the course of the campaign which terminated in the usurper's death, he went on to describe the visit of the conqueror to Rome--his triumphal entry into the venerable city, his charming affability in the Forum and the Senate-House, his condescension in honouring private dwellings with his 'divine' presence, and the fearless confidence with which, unattended by imperial guards, he used to stroll on foot about the streets. The orator could hardly find words wherewith to express his own felicity in having been an eye-witness of such marvels. He pictured himself, on his return to Gaul, surrounded by a multitude of envious fellow countrymen, to whom it would be his privilege to say, 'I have seen Rome; I have seen Theodosius; I have seen the father of Honorius; I have seen the avenger of Gratian; I have seen the restorer of Valentinian.' 'Distant cities', he cried in conclusion, 'will flock to me; men of letters will take down from my lips the story of all that Theodosius has done; poets will receive from me a grand subject for their verses; historians will compose their narratives, using me as their authority. Fear not, Sir, that I shall be unequal to your fame; even if I myself have uttered concerning you nothing worthy of being studied by posterity, I shall at least supply material to others whose writings will be read.
On the 1st of September the Emperor left Rome, and, after visiting various cities in Northern Italy, took up his residence again at Milan. Here he experienced another instance of Ambrose's importunity. At the end of this year, or early in A.D. 390, the Senate, encouraged by the Emperor's amiability when in Rome, sent a deputation to request--for the third time--the repeal of Gratian's anti-pagan legislation. Being informed of this, Ambrose went in person to the palace, and exhorted the Emperor to dismiss the petition. Theodosius was irritated by this unsolicited intervention. He appears to have administered a rebuff to the Bishop, who, in consequence, absented himself from the presence for several days., But the Emperor, though annoyed by Ambrose's officiousness, had no intention whatsoever of assenting to the petition, which was unacceptable both on religious grounds and by reason of the expense which it would have entailed on the Treasury. When, therefore, after an interval, Symmachus appeared in the Consistory and with insinuating eloquence ventured to urge the Senate's prayer, Theodosius not only ordered him to leave the audience-chamber but even directed that the discomfited orator should be placed forthwith in a peasant's cart and carried away beyond the hundredth milestone from the city. Yet he continued to resent Ambrose's interference on this occasion, and even issued a stern injunction to the members of the Consistory, forbidding them on pain of death to communicate to the Bishop the secret deliberations of that body. Ambrose, on his side, acquiesced in the decision to exclude him from inner knowledge of imperial affairs, and for a while ceased to appear at Court. Such was the situation when the second direct conflict between the Emperor and the Bishop occurred.
F. Homes Dudden, The Life and Times of St. Ambrose (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1935), p. 379-81.




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