Bryn Mawr Classical Review 97.4.12


F. L. Mueller, Herodian. Geschichte des Kaisertums nach Marc Aurel: Griechisch und Deutsch. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1996. ISBN 3-515-06862-7.


Reviewed by David Potter, Department of Classical Studies, The University of Michigan.

Herodian is an enigma. His history of Rome from 180-238 became a mini-classic in the third and fourth centuries. It was translated into Latin (probably), and the conclusion was taken as a starting point by at least one later author, Nicostratus of Trebizond (FGrH 98). Eunapius, Ammianus and Julian all appear to be amongst the readership. But who was this Greek? Internal evidence suggests an eastern origin, he seems to visualize his public as one that needed explanations of Roman customs, liked literary descriptions of frozen rivers (6.7.6-7), and could be told that there were no mountains in our part of the world that could compare with the height of the Alps (2.11.8). One passage suggests that he may have been an apparitor (1.2.5), another that this post may have been held under Maximinus Thrax (7.4.2). But there is little else that can be said with even remote conviction, save that this is one history that most definitely does not reflect a senatorial outlook.

The fact that Herodian was not a member of the class from which we hear so much should make his history interesting for its own sake. Herodian's method of collecting information (very well discussed by Mueller on pages 21-23 of his introduction) should likewise invite attention as a reflection of the way that a person not blessed with the highest status found out about things. The period about which he writes, marking the beginning of the breakdown of the style of government that had evolved from the principate of Augustus, is crucial. This said, Herodian has been much neglected. There has been almost no work on him in the anglophone world since Richard Whittaker's excellent Loeb (now over a quarter century old), a work that followed rapidly upon the eloquent English translation (the first in centuries) by Eduard Echols. More attention has been paid to Herodian in Europe, but this has just scratched the surface of what might be done. Mueller's text is the first since Whittaker's, and he is much concerned with sorting out the errors to be found in Stavenhagen's quite dreadful Teubner of 1922.

Mueller's own offering is scarcely an unmixed blessing. The introduction is solid, sensible and short, important issues are covered with clarity and efficiency. On the other hand, the commentary appended to the translation is too short, rarely attempts serious analysis, and may mislead rather than inform. Thus the note on the chronology of 238 where the undifferentiated list of work fails to warn readers that Peachin's article in Athenaeum (1989) takes advantage of a text published by Sartre in Syria (1984) (not mentioned), and omits mention of fundamental earlier discussions by Loriot (in ANRW ii/2, 657-787) and Dietz (Senatus contra principem (Munich, 1980), also invaluable for prosopography). The discussion of Elagabalus is hampered by failure to note Martin Frey's valuable Untersuchungen zur Religion und der Religionspolitik des Kaisers Elagabalus (Stuttgart, 1989) and no attention is paid to F. Millar's A Study of Cassius Dio (Oxford, 1964) anywhere, despite the numerous useful observations on Herodian.

As far as the text goes, Mueller does not offer a full apparatus criticus; rather he provides a list of passages where his readings differs from that of Stavenhagen. This may not have been his choice, and the omission of a full apparatus is unfortunate as his text diverges substantially from earlier efforts. There are some good points here. His text is certainly an improvement on Stavenhagen's, numerous typographical errors are corrected, and so are some odd editorial decisions.

There are other places where his decisions could have been better. At 1.6.1 he prints PAREISDU/NTES DE/ TINES TW=N E)PI\ TH=S AU)LH=S OI)KETW=N DIAFQEI/REIN E)PEIRW=NTO <TO\> NE/ON H)=QOS BASILE/WS, while observing that PAREISDU/NTES DE/ TINES TW=N E)PI\ TH=S AU)LH=S OI)KETW=N DIAFQEI/REIN E)PEIRW=NTO <TOU\> NE/OU H)=QOS BASILE/WS, is supported by iuvenis imperatoris of Politian's Latin translation (P), and surely correct here. At 1.9.2 he offers QEA/MATA/ TE <MOU/SHS> KAI\ I)SXU/OS PA/NTA A)QROI/ZETAI W(S E)S BASILI/DA PO/LIN PANHGURI/ZOUSAN for Stavenhagen's QEA/MATA/ TE <QUME/LHS> KAI\ I)SXU/OS PA/NTA A)QROI/ZETAI W(S E)S BASILI/DA PO/LIN PANHGURI/ZOUSAN. Stavenhagen was probably closer to the truth, but should have offered QEA/MATA/ TE <QUMELIKH=S>, the standard term for theatrical contests. At 7.1.8 Mueller prints: H( ME\N TH=S DIABOLH=S FH/MH TOIAU/TH E)GE/NETO instead of Reiske's H( ME\N TH=S E)PIBOULH=S FH/MH TOIAU/TH E)GE/NETO. E)PIBOULH=S is surely correct here. The subject is a conspiracy rather than a nasty rumor -- FH/MH is the story about the conspiracy (Herodian's usage should have been watched more closely, note 1.9.7; 2.5.7; 2.7.8; 4.4.2; 4.4.3; 4.5.6; 4.14.2; 5.8.4; 7.5.4 contra 2.6.12; 4.6.2 where DIABOLH/ refers to slander, though Faber's E)MPOLH/ might also be preferable at 2.6.12) The note on 7.3.1: H)\ LEI/AS <KAI\> AI)XMALW/TOUS A)PA/GEIN TW=N E)XQRW=N, GUMNOU=NTA KAI\ TA\S OU)SI/AS A)FAIROU/MENON TW=N OI)KEI/WN should observe that the addition of KAI/ is justified by aut in P (Stavenhagen printed: H)\ LEI/AS [AI)XMALW/TOUS] A)PA/GEIN TW=N E)XQRW=N, GUMNOU=NTA KAI\ TA\S OU)SI/AS A)FAIROU/MENON TW=N OI)KEI/WN). Mueller also has a tendency to insert the definite article before proper names (2.2.5; 6.9.3; 7.1.9; 7.5.7; 8.5.6), where the omission is within the bounds of the prose of the period.

Despite the limitations of the commentary and some questions as to the handling of the text, Mueller's work on Herodian is welcome. If it serves to inspire further work on both the text and content of Herodian, so much the better.