Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2010.02.20

Pia Carolla (ed.), Priscus Panita, Excerpta et fragmenta. Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana, 2000.   Berlin/New York:  Walter de Gruyter, 2008.  Pp. xlviii, 140.  ISBN 9783110201383.  $81.00.  

Reviewed by Jan Prostko-Prostynski, Adam Mickiewicz University Poznan (

[A Table of Contents is provided at the end of the review.]

Priscus of Panion (Thrace) was an Eastern Roman diplomat, lawyer and historian. He has been characterized by modern scholars as an archaizing Atticist. He was most likely born in the first quarter of the fifth century (more precise dates for his birth have been suggested: ca. 405/410, 415, 410/420 and others, but are not based on any solid argumentation). He died sometime after 472. Manuscripts of epitomators of his historical work and other historical sources define him as an 'orator' or a 'sophist,' which may indicate that he received a sound classical education. At the end of the reign of Theodosius II (408 - 450), Priscus accompanied Maximinus, a high official of the emperor on a diplomatic mission to the court of Attila (ca. 448/449), though the text does not reveal whether Priscus travelled in the capacity of Maximinus' secretary, as is generally assumed. The historical work of Priscus--The History of Byzantium and the Period of Attila (the title is provided only in the Suda)--is preserved in fragments, mainly through Constantine Porphyrogenetus' Excerpta de legationibus. It was originally composed of eight books and possibly covered the years up to 472.

Priscus' History was published for the first time in 1603 by David Hoeschel, in Augusta Vindelicorum (Augsburg), who used only a partial manuscript tradition (i.e. Excerpta de legationibus Romanos ad gentes, hereafter cited as ELR and Excerpta de legationibus gentes ad Romanos, hereafter cited as ELG). In later editions clear progress was represented by the work of C. Mueller,1 who was able to collect and to edit a number of fragments from the indirect textual tradition as well. Here, then, one can find passages of Priscus' work that were preserved in Jordanes, Theophanes, the Chronicon Paschale and the Suda. Subsequently, L. Dindorf2 undertook a new collation of the manuscripts (M1 and M2), and also carefully reviewed the text, making numerous emendations. However, only C. de Boor3 prepared an entirely fresh critical edition based on nearly all of the manuscripts of Excerpta de legationibus (hereafter cited as EL). Only manuscript C (Cantabrigiensis O.3.23) is unaccounted for in de Boor, since it was discovered only in 1913 by M. N. Kraseninnikov.4

After many years Fritz Bornmann5 collated the all available manuscripts and prepared a new edition with an Italian translation. The latest edition of Priscus's text was prepared by Roger C. Blockley, with his translation into English.6 He did not personally collate the EL manuscripts, but he found and added into his edition a large amount of material from other Byzantine authors.

As to de Boor's edition one can object that the editor did not produce his own cognatio codicum (p. VII, and note 3), and neither did Kraseninnikow, Bornnman or Blockley, although Bornmann, did intend 'to revise' (renovare) his 1979 edition. This revision was prevented by his premature death in 1997. The task of improving Priscus's text was undertaken by one of Bornmann's students, Pia Carolla, who now brings forward a new critical edition after ten years of work.

Carolla collated again very carefully all the manuscripts of EL and, not surprisingly De obsidionibus. She established many new readings and eventually developed a much surer text of Priscus, not always, however, emending it. For instance, she believes that certain grammatical defects of the text may originate with Priscus himself (p. xxxii). Many erroneous readings are also treated in apparatibus. In her opinion, all manuscripts ofPriscus are derived from one archetype, which is called 'π', after the name of Juan Páez de Castro, who was its first owner. This does not differ from the results achieved by students of the activity of the well-known scribe Andrea Darmarios (on him, see below).

After Páez de Castro's death, the manuscript was transferred to the Real Biblioteca de El Escorial, which subsequently burned down during the fire of 1571. Still, the library possessed codex 'α', now lost, but no doubt one of the first copies of 'π'. Currently the oldest extant manuscript of the EL is a copy made by Andrea Darmarios in the year 1574, from which, according to Carolla, all other copies originate (Stemma codicum, p. XVII ). Pages VII-XXVIII offer a very accurate description and classification of the manuscripts of Priscus.

Textual fragments which she believes do not originate with Priscus are always marked litteris inclinatis. Some fragments of the text are identified by the editor as "fragmenta dubia" (pp. 83-111)--i. e. as non-Priscan text. But her identifications may be occasionally debatable, or even doubtful.

Carolla's edition retains the numbering of Priscus's fragments in excerptis found in Mueller. But next to Mueller's numerations she also supplies a numbering system for the fragments (her first apparatus) according to other publishers, 'ad maiorem studiorum utilitatem'. This will greatly facilitate the work of researchers. The fact that there has not been a discussion of the order of all surviving fragments is understandable, but not obvious. Her edition is accompanied by: a section of testimonia, lists of sigla and abbreviations, a full bibliography, indices and tabulae (on these tabulae, see pp. XIX-XX).

Carolla's opus is the best ever edition of Priscus's text, and, considering the current state of manuscripts, probably the best that could be achieved. Individual readings or emendations adopted into the text can and will of course be discussed, but this does not change this reviewer's opinion that her Priscus stands at the highest level of philological Kunst. Everywhere her Akribie is visible, as well as the immensity of her labors. Misprints, such as 'greichischen' (p. XXIII, n. 53), appear to be extremely rare.

Praefatio VII
De Prisci traditione VII
Stemma codicum XVII
De Prisci manuscriptorum descriptione
III. Excerpta de obsidionibus codicis Parisini suppl. Gr. 607 XXVII
IV. Athous Batopediou 407 XXVII
De editionibus XXVIII
De huius editionis ratione XXXI

Librorum conspectus XXXV
Sigla atque breviata XLVI
Testimonia de Prisco XLVIII

Excerpta de legationibus 1
Excerpta de obsidionibus 4
Excerpta de legationibus (sequuntur) 5
Excerpta incertae sedis 81
Fragmenta dubia 83

Index nominum 112
Index locorum 126
Index fontium fragmentorum dubiorum 132

Tabulae 139


1.   Fragmenta historicorum Graecorum, edd. C. et. Th. Mueller, IV-V, Parisiis, vol. IV (1851), pp. 69-110; vol. V (1870), pp. 24-26.
2.   Historici Graeci minores, ed. L. Dindorf, 1, Lipsiae 1870, pp. 276-349.
3.   Excerpta de legationibus, ed. C. de Boor, Pars I. Excerpta de legationibus Romanorum ad gentes. Pars II. Excerpta de legationibus gentes ad Romanos (= Excerpta historica iussu imp. Constantini Porphyrogeniti confecta, edd. U. Ph. Boissevain, C. de Boor, Th. Buettner-Wobst, vol. I), Berolini 1903, pp. 121-155 (ELR); pp. 575-591 (ELG).
4.   Vizantijski Vremennik 21 (1914), pp. 45-170.
5.   Prisci Panitae fragmenta, a cura di F. Bornmann, Firenze 1979.
6.   R. C. Blockley, The Fragmentary Classicising Historians of the Later Roman Empire. Eunapius, Olympiodorus, Priscus and Malchus. II. Text, Translation and Historiographical Notes, Liverpool 1983, pp. 223-376.

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