Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2004.11.16

M. D. Reeve (ed.), Vegetius. Epitoma Rei Militaris. Scriptorum Classicorum Bibliotheca Oxoniensis.   Oxford:  Clarendon Press, 2004.  Pp. lx, 180.  ISBN 0-19-926464-3.  $72.00.  

Reviewed by Michael B. Charles, University of Queensland (
Word count: 2236 words

Reeve's new Oxford Classical Texts (OCT) edition of Vegetius' Epitoma Rei Militaris should come as no surprise to those already familiar with his highly detailed work on the manuscript tradition of Vegetius.1 A critical edition of a Latin text, the book comes with 49 pages of highly useful introductory material (pp. v-liv) in addition to a key to symbols and scholars cited in the apparatus (pp. lv-lx). The text concludes with an "Index of Morphology and Orthography" (pp. 161-172) and an "Index of Names" (pp. 173-180). Although the volume is directed presumably at a Latin-reading audience, I was somewhat surprised to find the introduction written in English. Still, this has allowed R.'s detailed work on the manuscript tradition to be disseminated to an even wider audience. The hard-cover cloth-bound volume itself is small and compact, the presentation is excellent, and the text is easy to use. R. continues Önnerfors' innovation of dividing the chapters of the text into sections, to the extent of maintaining -- as far as possible -- the original divisions.

R.'s new edition of Vegetius was always intended as a direct replacement for Önnerfors' earlier (1995) Teubner volume.2 R. has expressed his reservations about this particular edition in the past, and it would appear that there is no love lost between the two men. Of some interest is R.'s statement, near the end of the introduction, that "Alf Önnerfors will be surprised to find himself thanked, but it was interest in his edition that aroused my interest in Vegetius, an interest that has shaped seven years of my life" (p. liv). I have used the Teubner text extensively in my own research and, admittedly, have had little cause for complaint. But R.'s edition, which he describes as a "successor" to the Teubner text (p. liv), is a step forward in many respects. The punctuation appears to be more logical (and frequent) and serves to aid the reader's enjoyment of the text, the apparatus is uncluttered with corrupt spelling variants that Vegetius himself surely would never have used (R. confines himself to listing possibilities that might have some antique authority behind them), and the more compact and less sprawling nature of the volume makes manipulation of the text easier than ever before. Indeed, the inclusion of an extensive "Index of Morphology and Orthography" at the end of the volume means that much of what would otherwise be found in the apparatus rests unobtrusively elsewhere. This makes much sense from the perspective of those who employ the text purely for the purpose of historical research. Moreover, after having read R.'s detailed and magisterial notes on the theme in other journals, one feels confident that he has chosen his text with great diligence.

One of the most important observations made by R. concerns the name of Vegetius, whom he rightly identifies as the same man who wrote the Mulomedicina -- in my opinion, a close examination of the Epitoma Rei Militaris and the Mulomedicina does not permit any alternative. R. points out that Vegetius' full name was not Flavius Vegetius Renatus, as the mediaeval manuscript tradition of the Epitoma suggests, but Flavius Publius Vegetius Renatus (Publius, as R. tells us, is provided by manuscripts of the Mulomedicina and a seventh-century witness to the Epitoma). R. correctly applies the conclusions of Salway and Cameron regarding the use of honorific titles to the problem at hand.3 Thus Vegetius was born P. Vegetius Renatus and later added the honorific Flavius to his name, which he could do so as a high-ranking member of the civil service (certain manuscripts tell us that he was a vir illustris and a comes). R. does not explain, however, why Publius went missing from the vast majority of the military manuscripts and why Flavius similarly went missing from the veterinarian manuscripts. Perhaps the appearance of Flavius in connection with the Epitoma and not with the Mulomedicina signifies that the former was written by Vegetius in an official capacity (which is also suggested by his claim that the emperor requested him to write on military matters), and that the latter was a) composed on his own private account and so did not warrant the inclusion of Flavius or b) was written before the author gained the right to use that particular title. It is difficult to tell. R. might well have noted another article by Cameron, in which we are reminded that praenomina were not always used in certain contexts, which partly explains how Fl. P. Vegetius Renatus could have become simply Fl. Vegetius Renatus.4 Cameron points out that one could write, for example, Fl. Symmachus, "but not Q. Fl. Aurelius Symmachus" (i.e. Symmachus was not a "genuine" Flavius like Q. Flavius Maesius Egnatius Lollianus cos. 355).5 The problem for us is that Cameron's conclusions do not completely solve the difficulty. Why does Vegetius remain when we might expect only Fl. Renatus? But Cameron does notes a series of consular men (albeit easterners) whose complete nomenclature reminds us in some small way of that of Vegetius, e.g. Fl. Anthemius Isidorus, cos. 436; Fl. Taurus Seleucus Cyrus cos. 441; Fl. Flor. Romanus Protogenes cos. 449; and Fl. Appalius Illus Trocundes cos 482.6 What is important here is that Fl. is being used with names other than the diacritical. Could it be that, in Vegetius' case, the praenomen was removed but, for some reason, the nomen was retained -- thus Fl. Vegetius Renatus, which could easily have been expanded to Flavius Vegetius Renatus? Whatever the case, we can hopefully now avoid the Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus of PLRE I and the 1995 Teubner edition, which implies that Flavius was the epitomator's nomen. This, as R. is quite right to point out, seems highly unlikely.

Not being an expert by any means on the textual tradition of Vegetius, I found R.'s treatment of such matters to be transparent and highly lucid. This is clearly to the editor's credit. In effect, R.'s introduction is a distillation of matter that he has already published in considerable detail elsewhere. While many readers would probably not want to be burdened with the entire array of complexities, I believe that anyone with a vague interest in the text should acquire some knowledge regarding its transmission. R. has succeeded admirably here. Of especial interest, in my view, is the section of the introduction entitled "The Composition and Articulation of the Work" (pp. xxxiv-xxxix), in which R. briefly reviews the possibilities surrounding the formulation of the complete Vegetian text as we know it from its constituent elements (it is quite clear that book 1 was written earlier than the other books and was joined to the rest at some indeterminate time). On the vexing question of whether the chapter summaries, tables and titles were composed by Vegetius himself or penned by another hand, R. concludes that "the answer ... remains non liquet" (p. xxxviii). One wonders if the enigmatic Flavius Eutropius, responsible for some kind of recension in 450 at Constantinople of the ancestor of ε, did not have some part to play. What Eutropius actually did has puzzled me for some time, and a more detailed treatment of the possibilities could have been enlightening, although R. is certainly correct when he states that "There is no way of telling what difference his intervention made" (p. xvii). Of special interest, too, is R.'s claim that it "seems unlikely" that Vegetius wrote any words in Greek characters (p. xliv). R. does admit, however, that "The most serious possibilities occur in 4.38.6-12, where some descendants of δ use Greek characters, and 4.40.3, where the Latin forms transmitted cannot be converted into any Greek characters that would rescue the syntax" (pp. xliv-xlv). Thus, while the 1995 Teubner edition uses Greek script at 4.40.3, R. disdains what he evidently believes to be a later hypercorrection and employs Latin script when rendering Greek words, i.e. "prochimazon", "chimazon" and "metachimazon". On p. liii, R. dismisses the possibility raised by some of a "book 5" that begins at chapter 31 of book 4 and deals with praecepta belli navalis. I have no firm opinion on this matter but would have been interested in a more detailed treatment, especially since Rubio, after consulting the manuscript Scorialensis L.III.33, made the startling conclusion that chapters 31-46 could have orginally been an independent naval treatise: "[existe] un buen argumento para sostener que el libro IV acaba en el capítulo XXX".7 According to Rubio, the index of book 4 of the manuscript in question gives 46 chapters, but its numeration from chapter 31 (the beginning of the naval praecepta) is double: "una numeración (en rojo) continúa: XXI, XXXII, XXXIII ..., LXVI; y otra numeración (en negro) de la misma mano vuelve a empezar marginalmente: I, II, II, ..., XVI". 8 I am not entirely certain of the significance of this view, which, R. reports, is supported by del Barrio Vega in an unpublished doctoral thesis that I have been unable to consult. 9 Strangely, R. does not mention Rubio's article, although I do not doubt that he has seen it. No recent modern edition, of course, preserves any firm distinction between chapters 30 and 31 of book 4.

Where R. does himself something of a disservice is in his treatment of the text's addressee (p. viii-x). Although R. does not really enunciate his views, he seems to lean slightly in favour of Theodosius I, or at least a late-fourth-century date. Still, he does not actually nominate his preferred candidate. I personally believe that Theodosius the Great, who reigned 379-395 in the East and 394-395 in the West (although he was highly influential in western affairs throughout most of his reign), is the most unlikely of all the possible contenders and that the text was more likely than not written after this emperor's death. I have argued along these lines elsewhere,10 and hope to publish more on this topic. R. cites manuscripts that carry the words ad Theodosium imperatorem (which of the Theodosii is not clear), although he adds that this could be due to "conjecture or contamination" (p. viii). He notes, quite rightly, that "only conjecture can have led some late and derivative manuscripts to their chronologically impossible identification of the emperor as Julian or Justinian" (p. viii-ix). With regard to those manuscripts that identify the honorand as an unspecified Valentinian, R. contends that this arises from "a misunderstanding of Fl. Eutropius' subscription", which gives the consular year as 450. I am not sure why R. bothers to cite Schöner's weak argument in favour of a Theodosian date: "one simple argument, if valid, is not recorded for Gratian, divus at 1.20.3 usque ad tempus divi Gratiani can only mean 'the late' and would not have applied to him beyond the next reign" (p. ix).11 R. himself then cites Cod. Theod. of 415, when Honorius and Theodosius II were emperors, secundum divi Gratiani constituta! R. also cites Cod. Theod. 14.6.5 of 419, which "awards the title even to Julian" (p. ix). Many similar references exist, e.g. Symmachus, writing during the Theodosian age, associates divus with the Christian emperors Constantine the Great (Rel. 40.2), Constans (Rel. 40.2) and Constantius II (Rel. 3.4, 3.6, 34.2, 34.4, 34.5 and 40.3). Theodosius I is himself called divus in a famous inscription recording the career of Flavianus Nicomachus sr. set up under Theodosius II and Valentinian III (CIL 6.1783 = ILS 2948). I find many other similar references, but space does not permit a more detailed survey. Furthermore, Theodosius I is not even Gratian's immediate successor in the West -- that honour falls to Valentinian II, the senior Augustus after his half-brother's death. R. then introduces the old chestnut of the text being a response to Rome's defeat at Adrianople in 378, which means that the Epitoma would have been addressed to either Theodosius I or Valentinian II (p. ix-x). I have found this less than convincing. Finally, Valentinian III is not listed as a possible recipient, although he should certainly be in contention and, in many ways, is a more likely recipient than Theodosius I.12 Given R.'s extremely brief survey of the question, I feel that he would have done better to give merely the two accepted termini of 378 (the death of Gratian) and 450 (the date of the Eutropian recension) (as he does at p. v) and provide some references that the interested reader might like to pursue. A critical edition of a Latin text is not really the most appropriate forum for such questions in any case.

Aside from the above criticism, I feel that R. has put together a thoroughly accessible edition of Vegetius' military treatise. It is currently my edition of choice and, I should imagine, will remain so for some time. Those who already own a 1995 Teubner text should not despair, for it remains a highly useful volume and, for most classicists and ancient historians, is entirely adequate. The most telling criticism of Önnerfors' text was always that it failed to represent a great improvement over K. Lang's final nineteenth-century Teubner edition (published in 1885), which, in any case, is still a relatively functional volume (although new witnesses have since been uncovered to supplement those earlier readings).13 But for those who intend to consult Vegetius on a regular basis, R. has provided a more user-friendly volume, mainly owing to its more compact size, lack of clutter, solid presentation and far more logical punctuation.


1.   M. D. Reeve, "Editorial Opportunities and Obligations", RFIC 123 (1995), 479-99; Id. "Notes on Vegetius", PCPhS 44 (1998), 182-218; Id. "Vegetius 4.41.4", PCPhS 45 (1999), 108; Id. "The Transmission of Vegetius' Epitoma Rei Militaris", Aevum 74 (2000), 243-354.
2.   A. Önnerfors (ed.), Vegetius. Epitoma Rei Militaris, Bibliotheca Teubneriana (Stuttgart/Leipzig, 1995).
3.   B. Salway, "What's in a Name? A Survey of Roman Onomastic Practice from c. 700 B.C. to A.D. 700", JRS 84(1994), 124-145, especially 137-140; A. Cameron, "The Antiquity of the Symmachi", Historia 48 (1999), 477-505, especially 484-486.
4.   A. Cameron, "Flavius: A Nicety of Protocol", Latomus 47 (1988), 26-33. Cameron (29) adds that a good deal of evidence suggests that Flavius "was correctly used with the diacritical name alone". His conclusion is that Fl. functioned very much in the same way as Mr.
5.   Cameron, "Flavius", 31. Cameron discusses Lollianus at 33, n. 20.
6.   Cameron, "Flavius", 31. On the consular men listed, see the respective entries in PLRE II.
7.   L. Rubio, "El ms. Scorialensis L.III.33: nuevos datos para una futura edición del Epitoma Rei Militaris de Vegetius", Emerita 41 (1973), 209-223.
8.   Rubio, "Nuevos datos", 216.
9.   M. F. del Barrio Vega, Edición crítica y traducción del 'Epitoma rei Militaris' de Vegetius, libros III y IV, a la luz de los manuscritos españoles y de los más antiguos testimonios europeos (diss., Universidad Complutense, Madrid, 1982).
10.   M. B. Charles, "Vegetius on Armour: The pedites nudati of the Epitoma Rei Militaris", AncSoc 30 (2003), 127-167; Id. "Mattiobarbuli in Vegetius' Epitoma Rei Militaris: The Iouiani and the Herculiani", AHB, forthcoming.
11.   C. Schöner, "Studien zu Vegetius", Programm der Königlichen bayerischen Studienanstalt zu Erlangen zum Schluss des Schuljahres 1887/88 (Erlangen, 1888), 36-39, and especially 37: "Es kann somit divus Gratianus in der epitoma ... nur heissen: 'der kürzlich verstorbene, der hochselige Gratianus'; und er kann nur so genannt werden unter der Regierung seiner unmittelbaren Nachfolger". See also Reeve, "Transmission", 91, where he states that Schöner's argument "has not been refuted". But W. Goffart, "The Date and Purpose of Vegetius' 'De Re Militari', Traditio 33 (1977), 75-76, has done precisely this.
12.   Some notable proponents of this addressee include O. Seeck, "Die Zeit des Vegetius", Hermes 11 (1876), 61-83; C. D. Gordon, "Vegetius and his Proposed Reforms of the Army", in J. A. S. Evans (ed.), Polis and Imperium: Studies in Honour of Edward Togo Salmon (Toronto, 1974), 35-55; Goffart, "Date", 65-100; E. Birley, "The Dating of Vegetius and the Historia Augusta", in The Roman Army: Papers 1929-1986 (Amsterdam, 1988), 58-68 = Bonner Historia-Augusta-Colloquium 1982/83 (Bonn, 1985), 57-67.
13.   Reeve, "Notes", 182, wrote that, with regard to the manuscript tradition, Önnerfors' preface "restores darkness to areas where Lang shed light".

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