BMCR 1997.04.27

1997.04.27, From Constantine to Julian: Pagan and Byzantine Views, A Source History

, , From Constantine to Julian : pagan and Byzantine views ; a source history. London: Routledge, 1996. 1 online resource (xxii, 285 pages). ISBN 9780585453125

In compiling this work, Lieu and Montserrat have written a scholarly work which is delightfully English and quixotic; in a word, the book is a minor gem. Like earlier works on Julian and the wars between the Romans and the Persians, which he had a hand in putting together, 1 Lieu and his coauthor have produced another anthology of sources which deal with late Roman history. The authors’ target in this anthology is the Emperor Constantine I. The purpose of the anthology is clear. The authors argue that, since he was the first Christian emperor, ancient historians have relied too much on such writers as Eusebius of Caesarea and Lactantius at the expense of other contemporary, pagan sources when they write their narratives of this Neo-Flavian emperor’s reign. In order to “redress the balance” and to study the reign of Constantine as part of the total fabric of Roman history by “… applying the same technique of source collection, criticism and analysis standard in the study of earlier periods of Roman history …” ( p. 32), they compiled this anthology of late antique and Byzantine sources, some of which have never appeared before in English translation, on the emperor.

The texts included in the work include the text of Anonymus Valesianus (a.k.a. the Origio Constantini), Pan. Lat. 7(6), Guidi’s anonymous 11/12th century Vita Constantini, Or. 59 of Libanius, and the Passio Artemii, which is attributed to John of Rhodes. Additionally, the introduction of the work deals with fourth century Roman historiography and ecclesiastical material from this period and from the Byzantine era. This segment of their narrative is a thorough introduction to the ancient historiography on this emperor. Although the text of the work seems uneven because of disparate nature of the source materials, each selection has a detailed introduction and full set of notes. The bibliography is copious and thorough, though its style is more appropriate for the social sciences or sciences than the humanities.

The translations, based on the most recent edition of each source, maintain the feel and flavor of the original antique texts. The text of Oratio 59 of Libanius, for example, is as turgid and florid in the translation as it is in the original Greek. The simplicity of John of Rhodes’ Greek periods in the Passio Artemii is accurately mirrored in the translation of his text. To some degree, I was surprised by the inclusion of Pan. Lat. 7(6) and the Vita Constantini in the work. The VC, although of great interest to scholars of Byzantine hagiographical material or church history, would be of marginal importance to a scholar of Late Antiquity. Because of the recent, marvelous edition of the Panegyrici Latini by Nixon and Rodgers, 2 there was really no needed for another translation Pan. Lat. 7(6) unless our authors’ work was already in production when the text of Nixon and Rodgers was released. Additionally, this writer would like to have seen the text of the Historia Ecclesiatica of Philostorgius included with their translation of the Passio Artemii because the texts of both go hand in hand. The authors may well have not chosen to do so because Anna Nobbs is preparing a thorough edition of Philostorgius which will be appearing in the Liverpool series.

In the introduction of each of the readings, the authors are careful to put the selection in its proper literary and historical context; if any additional literary or historical information is needed, it is included in the notes. The introduction to the Passio Artemii (pp. 210ff), just to cite one example, not only treats the literary origins of the work, but also gives its user a full historical excursus on events from the revolt of Magnentius in 350 to the death of Julian in 363. The notes on the same selection (pp. 257ff) provide the user with parallel passages from the appropriate primary sources as well as references to the relevant secondary, scholarly literature on the subject matter under consideration. Much the same can be said about the notes that follow all the other selections. The commentary, however, that accompanies Or. 59 of Libanius seems to put more emphasis on the rhetorical structure of the speech than on its historical content which, at least to this reader, is of greater import. The authors’ knowledge of the primary evidence and the current scholarly literature on the period cannot be faulted.

It should be noted, however, that, in some cases, the authors did not always supply all the details on matters that are disputed. For example, in the commentary on the text of Anonymus Valesianus, Lieu starkly notes that the Battle of Cibalae was fought on 8 October 314 (pp. 56-57, n. 53); although I think Lieu is right, many scholars believe that the first civil war between Constantine and Licinius actually occurred in 316. 3 Similarly, in the introduction to the work (pp. 25ff) and in the commentary on the Passio Artemii of John of Rhodes (pp. 258ff, n. 31), the authors accept the hypothesis that portions of Zonaras’ account of the Neo-Flavian emperors has its roots in the roots in the work of John of Antioch, who seems to have used the text of Ammianus Marcellinus as his source, a theory advanced by Edwin Patzig 4 in the 19 th century and reintroduced by this writer under the name of the “Patzig Hypothesis” some two decades ago. 5 Recently B. Bleckmann has vigorously argued that this material, to a large degree, is from the lost history of Nicomachus Flavianus. 6 Although I am obviously in agreement with the position taken by Lieu and Monsterrat in this matter, they chose to ignore Bleckmann’s theories of which they must have been aware because they cite his work in the introduction of the book and in its bibliography (pp. 31, 264).

In conclusion, all carping aside, I found this work to be a thorough treatment of the subject and I recommend it highly for student and scholar alike.

1. E.g., Samuel N.C. Lieu, The Emperor Julian: Panegyric and Polemic (Liverpool, 1986); idem. and Michael H. Dodgeon, The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Roman Wars (A.D. 226-363) (London, 1991).

2. C. E. V. Nixon and Barbara S. Rodgers, eds., In Praise of Later Roman Emperors; the Panegyrici Latini (Berkeley, 1994).

3. The dating of Constantine’s civil wars against Licinius is a major source of debate among scholars which will probably never be resolved; this is due to the fact that the literary, numismatic, and legal evidence is so ambiguous. It has been traditional to date the civil wars between the two rulers to 314 and 324 respectively, following the magisterial arguments of Otto Seeck ( Regesten der Kaiser und Päpste für die Jahre 311 bis 476 n. Chr.: Vorarbeit zu einer Prosopographie der christlichen Kaiserzeit [Stuttgart, 1919] 162 ff.; idem., RE 13, s.v. “Licinius [31a],” col. 224.36 ff.). Based primarily on the numismatic evidence, Patrick Bruun has argued that the campaign of 314 actually occurred in 316 ( Constantinian Coinage of Arelate [Helsinki, 1953] 17 ff.; idem., Studies in Constantinian Chronology [New York, 1961] 10 ff.; idem., Roman Imperial Coinage 7: Constantine and Licinius A.D. 313-337 [London, 1966]), a position followed by Barnes (“Lactantius and Constantine,”JRS 63 [1973] 36 ff.; idem., Constantine and Eusebius, 65 ff., 318 ff., and idem., New Empire of Diocletian and Constantine [Cambridge, 1982] 71 ff., 81 ff.). Following the lead of R. Andreotti ( Dizinario epigrafico di antichità romane 4, s.v. “Licinius [Valerius Licinianus],” 1000 ff.), I and others have argued the evidence makes more sense if the first campaign was actually fought in 314 and 316 (Michael DiMaio, Jörn Zeuge, and Jane Bethune, “The Proelium Cibalense et Proelium Campi Ardiensis: The First Civil War of Constantine I and Licinius I,”AncW 21 [1990] 87ff). Pohlsander has challenged some of the conclusions of the afore-mentioned article (Hans A. Pohlsander, “The Date of the Bellum Cibalense: A Reexamination,”AncW 25 (1995) 89-101.

4. E. Patzig, “Über einige Quellen des Zonaras,”BZ 5 (1896) 25 ff., idem., “Über einige Quellen des Zonaras II,”BZ 6 (1897) 322 ff., idem., “ÜUeber einige Quellen des Anonymus Valesii,”BZ 7 (1898) 572 ff., idem., “Die römischen Quellen des salmasischen Johannes Antiochenus,”BZ 13 (1904) 13 ff.

5. E.g., Michael DiMaio, “The Antiochene Connection: Zonaras, Ammianus Marcellinus, and John of Antioch on the Reigns of the Emperors Constantius II and Julian,”Byzantion 50 [1980], 158 ff., idem., “Infaustis Ductoribus Praeviis: The Antiochene Connection, Part II,”Byzantion 51 (1981) 501-511; idem., “Smoke in the Wind: Zonaras’ Use of Philostorgius in his Account of the Late Neo-Flavian Emperors,”Byzantion 58 (1988) 230 ff.

6. E.g., B. Bleckmann, Die Reichskrise des III. Jahrhunderts in der spätantiken und byzantinischen Geschichtsschreibung: Untersuchungen zu den nachdionischen Quellen der Chronik des Johannes Zonaras (Munich 1992) 23, 32, 400 ff.; idem., “Die Chronik des Johannes Zonaras und eine pagane Quelle zur Geschichte Konstantins,”Historia 40 (1991) 343 ff.