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Ammianus Marcellinus (325/330–after 391) was a fourth-century Roman historian. His is the penultimate major historical account written during Antiquity (the last was written by Procopius). His work chronicled in Latin the history of Rome from 96 to 378, although only the sections covering the period 353–378 are extant.[1]

Contents

Biography

Ammianus was born between 325 and 330 in the Greek-speaking East,[2][1] possibly at Antioch.[3] The surviving books of his history, the 'Res Gestae', cover the years 353 to 378.[4] Ammianus served as a soldier in the army of Constantius II in Gaul and Persia.

He was "a former soldier and a Greek" (miles quondam et graecus),[5] he tells us, and his enrolment among the elite protectores domestici (household guards) shows that he was of noble birth. He entered the army at an early age, when Constantius II was emperor of the East, and was sent to serve under Ursicinus, governor of Nisibis in Mesopotamia, and magister militum.

He returned to Italy with Ursicinus, when he was recalled by Constantius, and accompanied him on the expedition against Claudius Silvanus, who had been forced by the allegedly unjust accusations of his enemies into proclaiming himself emperor in Gaul. With Ursicinus he went twice to the East. On one occasion he was separated from Ursicinus and took refuge in Amida, which was thereupon besieged by the Sassanid king Shapur II; he barely escaped with his life.[6] When Ursicinus lost his office and the favour of Constantius, Ammianus seems to have shared his downfall; but under Julian, Constantius's successor, he regained his position. He accompanied this emperor, for whom he expresses enthusiastic admiration, in his campaigns against the Alamanni and the Sassanids; after the death of Julian, he took part in the retreat of Jovian as far as Antioch, where he was residing when the conspiracy of Theodorus (371) was discovered and cruelly put down.

Work

At Rome, he wrote in Latin a history of the Roman empire from the accession of Nerva (96) to the death of Valens at the Battle of Adrianople (378),[7] in effect writing a continuation of the history of Tacitus. He presumably completed the work before 391, since at 22.16.12 he praises the Serapeum in Egypt as the glory of the empire, and the temple was destroyed by Christians at the end of that year. Res Gestae Libri XXXI was originally in thirty-one books, but the first thirteen are lost (Barnes argues that the original was actually thirty-six books, which would mean that nineteen books had been lost). The surviving eighteen books cover the period from 353 to 378. As a whole it has been considered extremely valuable, being a clear, comprehensive and in general impartial account of events by a contemporary. Like many ancient historians, Ammianus had a strong political and religious agenda to pursue, however, and he contrasted Constantius II with Julian to the former's constant disadvantage; like all ancient writers he was skilled in rhetoric, and this shows in his work.

Edward Gibbon judged Ammianus "an accurate and faithful guide, who composed the history of his own times without indulging the prejudices and passions which usually affect the mind of a contemporary."[8] But he also condemned Ammianus for lack of literary flair: "The coarse and undistinguishing pencil of Ammianus has delineated his bloody figures with tedious and disgusting accuracy."[9] Ernst Stein praised Ammianus as "the greatest literary genius that the world produced between Tacitus and Dante".[10]

According to Kimberly Kagan, his accounts of battles emphasize the experience of the soldiers but at the cost of ignoring the bigger picture. As a result it is difficult for the reader to understand why the battles he describes had the outcome they did.[11]

Scholars have often believed that Ammianus' work was intended for public recitation for two reasons: the overwhelming presence of accentual clausulae, which implies that it was intended to be read aloud; and epistle 1063 of Libanius to a Marcellinus of Rome which refers to public recitations. However, virtually all major works of Greek and Latin prose possessed such clausulae; and some scholars have rejected the identification of Libanius' Marcellinus with Ammianus, since Marcellinus was a very common name and the tone suggests Libanius was addressing a man much younger than himself (Ammianus was his contemporary). It is a striking fact that Ammianus, though a professional soldier, gives excellent pictures of social and economic problems, and in his attitude to the non-Roman peoples of the empire he is far more broad-minded than writers like Livy and Tacitus; his digressions on the various countries he had visited are particularly interesting.

Ammianus' work contains a detailed description of the tsunami in Alexandria which devastated the metropolis and the shores of the eastern Mediterranean on 21 July 365. His report describes accurately the characteristic sequence of earthquake, retreat of the sea and sudden giant wave.[12]

His work has suffered terribly from the manuscript transmission. Aside from the loss of the first thirteen books, the remaining eighteen are in many places corrupt and lacunose. The sole surviving manuscript from which almost every other is derived is a ninth-century Carolingian text, V, produced in Fulda from an insular exemplar. The only independent textual source for Ammianus lies in M, another ninth-century Frankish codex which was, unfortunately, unbound and placed in other codices during the fifteenth century. Only six leaves of M survive; however, the printed edition of Gelenius (G) is considered to be based on M, making it an important witness to the textual tradition of the Res Gestae.[13]

Notes

  1. ^ a b Encyclopædia Britannica Online - Ammianus Marcellinus
  2. ^ Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Classical World, Israel Shatzman, Michael Avi-Yonah, 1975 Harper and Row, p.37, ISBN 0060101784
    East and West Through Fifteen Centuries: Being a General History from B.C. 44 to A.D. 1453, George Frederick Young, 1916 Longmans, Green and Co, p.336
    University of California Publications in Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley, 1943 University of California Press, p.3
    Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, Cambridge University Press, p. lxvii
  3. ^ The possibility hinges on whether he was the recipient of a surviving letter to a Marcellinus from a contemporary, Libanius - Matthews 1989: 8.
  4. ^ The Eye of Command, Kimberly Kagan, p23
  5. ^ Amm. 31.16.9
  6. ^ The Eye of Command, Kimberly Kagan pp29-30
  7. ^ The Eye of Command, Kimberly Kagan, p22
  8. ^ Gibbon, Edward, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter 26.5
  9. ^ Gibbon, Chapter 25.
  10. ^ E. Stein, Geschichte des spätrömischen Reiches, Vienna 1928
  11. ^ The Eye of Command, Kimberly Kagan, p27-9
  12. ^ Kelly, Gavin (2004): “Ammianus and the Great Tsunami”, in: The Journal of Roman Studies, 94, 141-167 (141). Note that in the fifth century BC the Greek historian Thucydides had already connected these seismic events in his Peloponnesian War(see book I, 22).
  13. ^ Clark, Text Tradition.

References and further reading

  • Scholars of Ammianus use Wolfgang Seyfarth's critical edition, Rerum gestarum libri qui supersunt (in 2 vols). Leipzig: Teubner, 1978.
  • Students often use the poor English translation of J.C. Rolfe in the Loeb Classical Library, 1935–1940 with many reprintings.
  • Walter Hamilton (trans.) The Later Roman Empire (AD 354-378). Penguin Classics, 1986. An abridged, but superior, translation.
  • Barnes, Timothy D. Ammianus Marcellinus and the Representation of Historical Reality (Cornell Studies in Classical Philology). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998 (hardcover, ISBN 0-8014-3526-9).
  • Clark, Charles Upson. The Text Tradition of Ammianus Marcellinus. Ph.D. Diss. Yale: 1904.
  • Crump, Gary A. Ammianus Marcellinus as a military historian. Steiner, 1975, ISBN 3515019847.
  • Drijvers, Jan and David Hunt. Late Roman World and its Historian. Routledge, 1999, ISBN 041520271X.
  • Kelly, Gavin. Ammianus Marcellinus: The Allusive Historian. Cambridge University Press, 2008, ISBN 9780521842990.
  • Matthews, J. The Roman Empire of Ammianus. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989.
  • Rowell, Henry Thompson. Ammianus Marcellinus, soldier-historian of the late Roman Empire. University of Cincinnati, 1964.
  • Sabbah, Guy. La Méthode d'Ammien Marcellin. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1978.
  • Seager, Robin. Ammianus Marcellinus: Seven Studies in His Language and Thought. Univ of Missouri Pr, 1986, ISBN 0826204953.
  • Thompson, E.A. The Historical Work of Ammianus Marcellinus. London: Cambridge University Press, 1947.

External links

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Marcellinus Ammianus article)

From LoveToKnow 1911

AMMIANUS, MARCELLINUS, the last Roman historian of importance, was born about A.D. 3 2 5-33 0 at Antioch; the date of his death is unknown, but he must have lived till 391, as he mentions Aurelius Victor as the city prefect for that year. He was a Greek, and his enrolment among the protectores domestici (household guards) shows that he was of noble birth. He entered the army at an early age, when Constantius II was emperor of the East, and was sent to serve under Ursicinus, governor of Nisibis and magister militiae. He returned to Italy with Ursicinus, when he was recalled by Constantius, and accompanied him on the expedition against Silvanus the Frank, who had been forced by the unjust accusations of his enemies into proclaiming himself emperor in Gaul. With Ursicinus he went twice to the East, and barely escaped with his life from Amida or Amid (modern Diarbekr), when it was taken by the Persian king Shapur II (Sapor II). When Ursicinus lost his office and the favour of Constantius, Ammianus seems to have shared his downfall; but under Julian, Constantius's successor, he regained his position. He accompanied this emperor, for whom he expresses enthusiastic admiration, in his campaigns against the Alamanni and the Persians; after his death he took part in the retreat of Jovian as far as Antioch, where he was residing when the conspiracy of Theodorus (371) was discovered and cruelly put down. Eventually he settled in Rome, where, at an advanced age, he wrote (in Latin) a history of the Roman empire from the accession of Nerva to the death of Valens (96-378), thus forming a continuation of the work of Tacitus. This history (Rerum Gestarum Libri XXXI.) was originally in thirty-one books; of these the first thirteen are lost, the eighteen which remain cover the period from 353 to 378. As a whole it is extremely valuable, being a clear, comprehensive and impartial account of events by a contemporary of soldierly honesty, independent judgment and wide reading. "Ammianus is an accurate and faithful guide, who composed the history of his own times without indulging the prejudices and passions which usually affect the mind of a contemporary" (Gibbon). Although Ammianus was no doubt a heathen, his attitude towards Christianity is that of a man of the world, free from prejudices in favour of any form of belief. If anything he himself inclined to neo-Platonism.

His style is generally harsh, often pompous and extremely obscure, occasionally even journalistic in tone, but the author's foreign origin and his military life and training partially explain this. Further, the work being intended for public recitation, some rhetorical embellishment was necessary, even at the cost of simplicity. It is a striking fact that Ammianus, though a professional soldier, gives excellent pictures of social and economic problems, and in his attitude to the non-Roman peoples of the empire he is far more broad-minded than writers like Livy and Tacitus; his digressions on the various countries he had visited are peculiarly interesting. In his description of the empire - the exhaustion produced by excessive taxation, the financial ruin of the middle classes, the progressive decline in the morale of the army - we find the explanation of its fall before the Goths twenty years after his death.

The work was discovered by Poggio, who copied the original manuscript Editio princeps (books 14-26) by Sabinus, 1474; completed by Accursius, 1533; with variorum notes, by Wagner-Erfurdt, 1808; latest edition of text, Gardthausen, 1874-1815. English translations by P. Holland, 1609; Yonge (Bohn's Classical Library), 1862; also Max Budinger, Ammianus Marcellinus and die Eigenart seines Geschichtswerkes (1895); F. Liesenberg, Die Sprache des Ammianus Marcellinus (1888-1890); T. R. Glover, Life and Letters in the Fourth Century (1901); Abbe Gimazane, Ammianus Marcellinus, sa vie et son oeuvre (Toulouse, 1889), a work containing a number of very doubtful theories. For a criticism of his views on Roman society see S. Dill, Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire (London, 1898).


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Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

Roman historian; born at Antioch, Syria, about 320; died about 395. He wrote a history of Rome, from Nerva to Valens, in which the Jews are mentioned in Books XIV. ch. viii.; XXII. ch. v.; XXIII. ch. i.; XXIV. ch. iv. It is interesting to note that from the passage xxii. 5, §§ 4, 5, the legend of the "fœtor judaicus" or evil smell of the Jews which was so widely believed in during the Middle Ages, took its origin. Reinach does not share the view of Joel ("Blicke in die Religionsgeschichte," ii. 131) and Loeb ("Rev. Ét. Juives," xx. 52) that the word "fœtentium" is a mistake of a copyist for "petentium." In xxiii. 1, §§ 2, 3, we have the only pagan account of the unsuccessful attempt of the Jews under the emperor Julian to rebuild the Temple; all the other authorities being church fathers (M. Adler, in "Jew. Quart. Rev." v. 617).

Bibliography: Th. Reinach, Textes d'Auteurs Grecs et Romains Relatifs au Judaïsme, pp. 351-355, Paris, 1895.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.

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