Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2002.01.07

H. Brandt (ed.), Gedeutete Realität. Krisen, Wirklichkeiten, Interpretationen (3. - 6. Jh. n. Chr.) (Historia Einzelschriften 134).   Stuttgart:  Steiner, 1999.  Pp. 151.  ISBN 3-515-07519-4.  



Reviewed by Roderich Kirchner, Institut für Altertumswissenschaften der Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Germany (Roderich.Kirchner@uni-jena.de)
Word count: 1713 words

The 42nd German historians' day (Deutscher Historikertag, 1998) dealt with the general subject "Intentionen - Wirklichkeiten". Three sessions were devoted to questions of Ancient History. The contributions to the session "Gedeutete Realität. Krisen, Wirklichkeiten, Interpretationen (3. - 6. Jh. n. Chr.)" under the chairmanship of H. Brandt (B.) are published in the present volume. It contains four articles concerned with subjects of late antiquity from the third to the sixth century A.D. Both M. Zimmermann's article about Herodian and Brandt's article about several Latin lives of saints give a general survey of their respective topics, whereas H. Leppin and B. Bleckmann consider particular events and their results. Leppin deals with the battle of Mursa (A.D. 351) and Bleckmann with the riot of A.D. 387 in Antioch. In his preface (p. 7 - p. 11) B. gives a brief discussion of the role of fiction and reality in the writing of history. The book concludes with an epilogue and indices of names and passages discussed.

M. Zimmermann (Z.), Der Verlust und die Neuerfindung von Wirklichkeiten: Zur Geschichtsdeutung und Darstellung bei Herodian, p. 13 - p. 46. Z. deals with the reception of Herodian in early modern times, when his historical work was much esteemed as a behavioural guide for the ruler ("Fuerstenspiegel"). The Spanish court preacher and man of letters A. de Guevara, who passed off his own Libro áureo de Marco Aurelio emperador (1528) as a work written by the teachers of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, shared with Herodian his particular interest in the education of a ruler. Z. shows that Guevara's interpretation corresponds more with the intentions of Herodian than does the modern criticism established by F.A. Wolf (1792), whose main purpose was to detect Herodian's various distortions of history. Z. emphasizes that Herodian, judging the Roman emperors by a fixed canon of virtues and by the example of the ideal emperor Marcus Aurelius, writes an historical account that is nothing but an interpretation of events guided by ethical maxims. The focus on paideia serves to explain why the emperors under consideration turned into good rulers or tyrants. According to his requirements therefore, Herodian subordinates the historical truth to his pattern of explanation. Z's central thesis is that Herodian, insisting on objectivity and veracity as the traditional goals of historiography, refuses contemporary panegyric, but adopts its abstract methods and stereotypes. Z. is right in rejecting the assumption that Herodian as a Greek historian takes an anti-Roman point of view. Z.'s article is worth reading as an addition to his habilitation thesis (Kaiser und Ereignis, Studien zum Geschichtswerk Herodians, Munich 1999, Vestigia 52). There (p. 9 - p. 13) Z. also gives a detailed discussion of historical writing in general and comes to a well-balanced judgement on the theories of H. White.

B. Bleckmann (Bl.), Die Schlacht von Mursa und die zeitgenössische Deutung eines spätantiken Bürgerkrieges, p. 47 - p. 101. The most extensive and well-written article is that of Bl. about the contemporary assessment of the battle of Mursa, where Constantius II defeated the army of his rival Magnentius in autumn 351 A.D. The imperial view is represented by orations 1 and 3 of Julian the Apostate, who depicts the victory in the civil war as a great success of the emperor and an act of piety. The Christian view is split into two. On the one hand, the Arian party, represented by the so-called Anonymous Gwatkin (cf. the GCS-edition of Philostorgius, appendix VII), draws a parallel between the battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 and the battle of Mursa. A vision of the Holy Cross in 351 A.D. is associated with Constantius II and the battle of Mursa so that he appears as a loyal successor of his eminent father Constantinus. On the other hand, the orthodox position (to be found in Sulpicius Severus, chron. 2,38,5) tries to belittle Constantius II and establishes the legend that the emperor waited timidly in a chapel together with the local Bishop Valens of Mursa for the end of the battle. Bl.'s notes on the lost epos of Faltonia Betitia Proba on the civil war are very laudable, for he shows that this poem is likely to have adopted Lucan's attitude towards the civil war. This kind of war is condemned because it fails to expand the boundaries of the Roman Empire. Proba's poem should therefore not be understood as a panegyric on Constantius II; it is probably written only after his death (so Bl., disagreeing with the view of Herzog in HLL 5, SS 562). Bl. shows that the representations of the battle in Zosimus (2,45 - 53) and Joannes Zonaras (13,8,5 - 18) both stem from the same source, where Constantius has been depicted in a better light than his rival. Like Proba, this unknown historian comes from a senatorial milieu. His analysis of the civil war seems to have used a pattern of thought similar to Lucan's in exaggerating the importance of the battle. From my point of view, Bl.'s identification of this mysterious source with the Annales (ILS 2948) of Flavius Nicomachus remains hypothetical. Nevertheless, Bl. proves that Zonaras is based on that very source. This is something which scholars have only assumed for Zosimus until now. The favourable portrait must have been reversed by Eunapius before Zonaras picked it up and showed Constantius in the same negative light as Eunapius had. Bl. succeeds in analysing and explaining the different sources for the battle of Mursa for he detects their initial intentions and classifies their tendencies.

H. Leppin (L.), Steuern, Aufstand und Rhetoren: Der Antiochener Steueraufstand von 387 in christlicher und heidnischer Deutung, p. 103 - p. 123. L.'s article is concerned with the competing views on the Antiochene riot of 387 A.D., which broke out after the emperor had announced that the taxes would be increased. During the riot, the statues of the emperor's family were destroyed. On the one hand there is the famous course of sermons On the Statues, in which Saint John Chrysostom admonishes his hearers to have a state of mind suitable both to the Lenten season and to the dangerous situation of the city (Ad populum Antiochenum 1 - 21; PG 49, 15 - 222). L. shows in detail how Chrysostom interprets the events from a Christian point of view: the local Bishop Flavianus pleads with the Christian emperor Theodosius for the Christian city. Monks and preachers focus on restoring and solacing the citizens of Antioch. On the other hand, L. deals with orations 19 - 23 of Libanius, all of which, except for or. 23, were written after the riot. Though not denying the Christian reality surrounding him, Libanius nevertheless tries to ignore it as much as possible. Laying emphasis on his own role and the benevolence of the official commissioners Caesarius and Hellebichus, he underlines the importance of the established system of patronage for the survival of the city. L. states that both interpretations of the riot are one-sided, but not false, for the emperor's rage is likely to have been calmed by both the bishop (whose role is stressed by L. on p. 121) and the officials. L. is right in pointing out that the texts belong to different genres. Libanius delivers a petition (or. 19) and speeches of thanks to the emperor and his commissioners (or. 20 - 22) in a highly panegyric manner and condemns the wealthy Antiochenes, who had fled from the riot (or. 23). The sermons of Chrysostom warn the congregation not to abuse the name of the Lord; his main purpose is of a theological nature. Therefore, I think if one has recognized this fundamental difference, one understands the differing views on the riot that Libanius and Chrysostom took.

With reference to R. Goebel (De Ioannis Chrysostomi et Libanii orationibus quae sunt de seditione Antiochensium, Diss. Göttingen 1910) L. states (p. 113, n. 44) that Libanius was familiar with the sermons of Chrysostom; the philological question, whether Libanius also tries to surpass the preacher with regard to style and brilliance of expression, seems to deserve further consideration. Compare, for instance, Hom. stat. 49,217 with or. 20,41. Chrysostom makes Flavianus say to Theodosius that the citizens will be more grateful to him than to the founder of the city: οὐ γὰρ τοσαύτην εἴσεται χάριν τῷ παρὰ τὴν ἀρχὴν αὐτὴν οἰκίσαντι, ὅσην τῇ ψήφῳ τῇ σῇ. Libanius says that the emperor is the true founder of the city: καὶ γέγονας οἰκιστὴς διὰ τῆς σωτηρίας. Here Libanius seems to have outdone the phrase of Chrysostom.

H. Brandt (B.), Gedeutete Realität? Spätantike Heiligenviten, heidnische Wirklichkeit und klassische Tradition, p. 125 - p. 140. B. examines a series of lives of saints (SULP. SEV. Mart.; PAUL. MED. vita Ambr.; CONSTANTIUS vita Germ.; ENNOD. opusc. 4 [vita Antonii]; EUGIPP. Sev.; vita Fulg. Rusp.). Concerned specifically with the conflict of paganism and Christianity and its expression in the lives, B. finds that there are surprisingly few references to the pagan religion and the still extant cults. The pagan reality is concealed systematically, though figures like Ambrosius were involved in conflicts with the pagans.

To sum up, the present volume is worth reading for its detailed discussions of some important events in late antiquity. The choice of subjects and the arrangement of articles are sound. One could complain that the theoretical approach to the term "Gedeutete Realität" is less satisfying. Nevertheless, the value of the book is not diminished.

I noticed a small number of printing mistakes and minor failings: p. 13 read Geschichtswerk; p. 18 read kraSS; p. 19 read φρόνησις; p. 20 read einzelnen; p. 20, n. 27 read wurde; p. 25 read durchsetzen; p. 35 read Ereignisabläufe; p. 51 n. 15 read Adventus Christi; p. 65, n. 75 read kämpften; p. 65, n. 76 read contra Magnentium and basilica martyrum; p. 70, n. 94 read cognatasque; p. 75, n. 114 read erreichen; p. 89 sq., n. 172 I found six printing mistakes in the Greek; p. 95, n. 187 read ξψνθήκας; p. 109, n. 15 read eigenes; p. 111 read einem respektvollen; p. 113, n. 46 read Panegyrici; p. 115, n. 54 read τοὺς τοιούτους and εὐχαὶ; p. 121, n. 84 read Duells; p. 129 read ep. ad Eugipp. 2; p. 130, n. 25 read per totum orbem; p. 131 read responsurus.

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