Historia Augusta: Constantinian scriptorium?

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Leucius Charinus
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Historia Augusta: Constantinian scriptorium?

Post by Leucius Charinus » Thu Jul 24, 2014 4:10 pm

The dating of the "Historia Augusta" remains controversial, but one possibility is that it was assembled by a team of educated scribes during the rule of Constantine.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustan_History
The Augustan History (Latin: Historia Augusta) is a late Roman collection of biographies, in Latin, of the Roman Emperors, their junior colleagues and usurpers of the period 117 to 284. It presents itself as a compilation of works by six different authors (collectively known as the Scriptores Historiae Augustae), written in the reigns of Diocletian and Constantine I, but the true authorship of the work, its actual date, and its purpose, have long been matters for controversy.

Major problems include the nature of the sources it used, and how much of the content is pure fiction. Despite these conundrums, it is the only continuous account for much of its period and is thus continually being re-evaluated, since modern historians are unwilling to abandon it as a unique source of possible information, despite its obvious untrustworthiness on many levels
A "cobbler of fables" [Augustine]; "Leucius is the disciple of the devil" [Decretum Gelasianum]; and his books "should be utterly swept away and burned" [Pope Leo I]; they are the "source and mother of all heresy" [Photius]

andrewcriddle
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Re: Historia Augusta: Constantinian scriptorium?

Post by andrewcriddle » Thu Jul 24, 2014 8:04 pm

Later than Constantine. Uses Ammianus Marcellina. See Ammianus and the HA

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Re: Historia Augusta: Constantinian scriptorium?

Post by Leucius Charinus » Sat Jul 26, 2014 6:26 pm

andrewcriddle wrote:Later than Constantine. Uses Ammianus Marcellina. See Ammianus and the HA
Thanks Andrew. Would you not agree that the consensus is that the HA is "probably" later than Ammianus.
That is to say, we need to deal in probabilities, not "certainties".

Momigliano provides a review of your citation here:
Ammianus and the Historia Augusta by Ronald Syme
Review by: Arnaldo Momigliano The English Historical Review, Vol. 84, No. 332 (Jul., 1969), pp. 566-569
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/562486 .

He concluded his review with the question ....
AM wrote:
I am, however, still waiting for an interpretation of the H.A. that tells me in simple words why a writer of about A.D. 395, if there was one, decided to split himself into six authors allegedly writing between c. 293 and 330.
I think this is a good question.

Another question which arises in my mind at the moment is what is there to prevent Ammianus from reading the HA and incorporating these perceived correspondences (by Syme and others) into his own work, the Res Gestae c.391 CE?
A "cobbler of fables" [Augustine]; "Leucius is the disciple of the devil" [Decretum Gelasianum]; and his books "should be utterly swept away and burned" [Pope Leo I]; they are the "source and mother of all heresy" [Photius]

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Re: Historia Augusta: Constantinian scriptorium?

Post by andrewcriddle » Sun Jul 27, 2014 7:34 pm

Leucius Charinus wrote: Another question which arises in my mind at the moment is what is there to prevent Ammianus from reading the HA and incorporating these perceived correspondences (by Syme and others) into his own work, the Res Gestae c.391 CE?
The fact that Ammianus is basically a good historian and the HA basically historical fiction may imdicate the probable direction of dependence.

For discussion of Dessau's arguments for a late 4th century date see Prosopography

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Re: Historia Augusta: Constantinian scriptorium?

Post by Leucius Charinus » Mon Jul 28, 2014 5:52 pm

andrewcriddle wrote:
Leucius Charinus wrote: Another question which arises in my mind at the moment is what is there to prevent Ammianus from reading the HA and incorporating these perceived correspondences (by Syme and others) into his own work, the Res Gestae c.391 CE?
The fact that Ammianus is basically a good historian and the HA basically historical fiction may imdicate the probable direction of dependence.
However what is more natural than to suppose that Constantine was a large scale publisher of books not only in Greek but in Latin? Greek codices seem to have been produced in Constantine's rule in large numbers if we consider what books were then published. The Bible, Eusebius's History and PE and all his other works, etc. The libraries throughout the empire for many centuries had their Greek and Latin "sections". The HA seems to have been Latin entertainment for the upper class audience. In any event we might easily expect that a young Ammianus searched out as many Latin histories as he could find before he commenced his own writing.

What indeed was literary fiction and published in the 4th century under Constantine other than the Latin HA?

I don't think Ammianus's reputation and integrity suffer a whit for his use of the HA in his own material if that is indeed what happened.

For discussion of Dessau's arguments for a late 4th century date see Prosopography.
Very interesting. Thanks again Andrew. This also makes reference to Mommsen's response to a late 4th century date. Namely that although the HA was reworked late in the 4th century, it is a reworking of an earlier text originally written as claimed in the age of Constantine.

Even a the consensus of scholars agree with the hypothesis that the HA was authored in the later 4th century, there still exists the hypothesis that it was a reworking of an original HA written as claimed, and in fact DEDICATED to Constantine. Which is the more probable hypothesis? We may allow ourselves to be swayed by the consensus. There is nothing wrong with this. It might even represent a default percentage but nevertheless a percentage it must remain.

We don't know. We only make hypotheses about the patterns of evidence.

Discussion of them with people who have an interest in them or an interest in the evidence underpinning them is useful.
A "cobbler of fables" [Augustine]; "Leucius is the disciple of the devil" [Decretum Gelasianum]; and his books "should be utterly swept away and burned" [Pope Leo I]; they are the "source and mother of all heresy" [Photius]

andrewcriddle
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Re: Historia Augusta: Constantinian scriptorium?

Post by andrewcriddle » Mon Jul 28, 2014 8:53 pm

Leucius Charinus wrote:
andrewcriddle wrote:Later than Constantine. Uses Ammianus Marcellina. See Ammianus and the HA
Thanks Andrew. Would you not agree that the consensus is that the HA is "probably" later than Ammianus.
That is to say, we need to deal in probabilities, not "certainties".

Momigliano provides a review of your citation here:
Ammianus and the Historia Augusta by Ronald Syme
Review by: Arnaldo Momigliano The English Historical Review, Vol. 84, No. 332 (Jul., 1969), pp. 566-569
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/562486 .

He concluded his review with the question ....
AM wrote:
I am, however, still waiting for an interpretation of the H.A. that tells me in simple words why a writer of about A.D. 395, if there was one, decided to split himself into six authors allegedly writing between c. 293 and 330.
I think this is a good question.
FWIW Syme wrote a polemical response to Momigliano's review The Historia Augusta : a call of clarity

Andrew Criddle

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Re: Historia Augusta: Constantinian scriptorium?

Post by Leucius Charinus » Sat Aug 09, 2014 6:44 pm

andrewcriddle wrote:FWIW Syme wrote a polemical response to Momigliano's review The Historia Augusta : a call of clarity
If this is on JSTOR anywhere I haven't been able to find it. Amazon has articles. Any pointers? Thanks Andrew.
A "cobbler of fables" [Augustine]; "Leucius is the disciple of the devil" [Decretum Gelasianum]; and his books "should be utterly swept away and burned" [Pope Leo I]; they are the "source and mother of all heresy" [Photius]

andrewcriddle
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Re: Historia Augusta: Constantinian scriptorium?

Post by andrewcriddle » Mon Aug 11, 2014 8:45 pm

Leucius Charinus wrote:
andrewcriddle wrote:FWIW Syme wrote a polemical response to Momigliano's review The Historia Augusta : a call of clarity
If this is on JSTOR anywhere I haven't been able to find it. Amazon has articles. Any pointers? Thanks Andrew.
It is a short book not a journal article.

It may be available on inter-library loans.

Andrew Criddle

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