BMCR 2005.05.42

Iulius Valerius, Res gestae Alexandri Macedonis. Editio correctior cum addendis

, , , , Res gestae Alexandri Macedonis. Master and use copy. Digital master created according to Benchmark for Faithful Digital Reproductions of Monographs and Serials, Version 1. Digital Library Federation, December 2002.. Munich and Leipzig: K.G. Saur, 2004. 1 online resource (1, 222 pages) : illustrations.. ISBN 9783110956207. $90.00.

This superb edition of Julius Valerius’ fourth-century A.D. translation of the Greek Alexander Romance is a corrected and supplemented version of the edition which first appeared in 1993. Little, it seems, has been corrected as there was little to correct.1 At the very end of the volume, after the indices, two pages of addenda have been appended which contain two notes to the preface, five to the text, a paragraph on clausulae (in response to the reviews by Jocelyn and Reeve), and a half dozen additions to the Scripta ad textum pertinentia.

The detail and clarity of Rosellini’s apparatus criticus alone proves this a worthy successor to the 1888 Teubner edition by Bernard Kuebler. An additional value of this new edition rests on the exhaustive labor that Rosellini and her predecessor, Roberto Calderan,2 put into unearthing every speck of information about the oldest, now lost manuscript of Valerius, known as T, the eighth-century copy that resided until its destruction by fire in 1904 in the library of Turin. The text of Valerius in T was a palimpsest, and it was written over a sixth-century text of the Theodosian Code. In 1817 Angelo Mai, then librarian at Milan, was asked to examine T, as he had published Valerius for the first time earlier that year. Mai judged the text to be of little value, whereupon Amedeus Peyron, the librarian at Turin, made use of destructive chemicals to recover the underlying text of the Theodosian Code. For this part of the story, Kuebler’s preface is still of value, esp. p. xi where he asks: Quoniam autem ipse Iulii Valerii editor illum codicem vetustissimum adeo contempsit, quis accusaverit Peyronem, quod illius iudicio seductus scripturam superiorem chemicis medicamentis perdere non dubitavit, quo facilius scripturam inferiorem legere posset? and concludes, Crimini igitur dandum est cum Peyroni, tum Angelo Maio, ei ipsi, qui primus Iulium Valerium edidit, quod longe optimus huius scriptoris codex graviter corruptus est.3 Rosellini has left this old finger-pointing to the past,4 and has spent great energy on meticulously examining every source on the readings of T to reconstitute as much of the manuscript as possible.

Another advantage of Rosellini’s edition is that she uses the chapter numbering of Ps.-Kallisthenes’ Greek version of the Romance, as she says, “quo facilius Graeca cum Valerio conferri possent” (xxxiv). Note, however, that the chapter numbers of the Greek edition can cause some confusion in those places where Valerius has compressed or passed over not just a phrase or sentence but an entire chapter or chapters, e.g., when Valerius skips chapters 27 and 28 of Book 1 of the Greek version with the result that his chapter 26 is followed by chapter 29. She includes Kuebler’s chapter numbers in the margin as “(1 Kue.).”

Who should read this book? Those eager to read about Alexander in Latin could, of course, turn to other authors. Quintus Curtius Rufus provides scenes at which the modern historian may look askance but where else will you hear Alexander running Clitus through with the shout “I nunc ad Philippum et Parmenionem et Attalum” (Curt. 1.8.6)? New readers of Curtius, however, will be frustrated to find that the first two books of his history have been lost, and they must look elsewhere for an account in Latin of Alexander’s life from his birth up to 333 B.C. and his march through Asia Minor. It is true that we can send students to Justin’s epitome of Pompeius Trogus’ Philippic History, but why not send them off on a far different adventure? Valerius’ Res gestae offers such excitement when they can read how Alexander is fathered by a refugee Egyptian Pharaoh and how he is trapped by the clever but sweet Queen Candace. They will not, regrettably, be able to plumb the depths of the sea or soar into the stratosphere in Valerius’ text, as they can with more developed versions of the Romance, but such activities are most dangerous, as Alexander himself discovered. These absences aside, I would recommend Valerius’ text to anyone interested in a Latin version of the Romance. It is true that the epitome of Valerius’ text, generally known as the Zacher epitome after its editor,5 rather than Valerius’ fuller text, was used as a source in the teeming scriptoria of Medieval, romance-crazed Europe.6 It is even more true, however, that both Valerius’ text and his epitome are outstripped in spawning more offspring by the later, tenth-century Latin version of Leo of Naples.7 For those interested in studying the development of Latin and one medieval Italian’s understanding of the Greek he translated, Leo’s text can fill many hours with reading and head scratching.8 But for those interested in an often more coherent version and a text from an earlier phase in the history of the Latin language, Valerius’ version of the Alexander Romance repays reading.

It should, perhaps, be asked in closing whether such addenda, and what corrigenda there are, should not be made available at an appropriate fee to be tipped into previously purchased copies.9 Before anyone take this as a criticism of the publisher, let me praise Saur for maintaining such high standards in book production, not just real cloth, good paper, brilliantly crisp print, and something most rare in this day of “perfect” binding as well as of “glued signatures,” viz., the stitching of signatures, and thorough stitching at that; when the editing is good, as in this volume, the price is reasonable for such a well-made book.


1. Of the three longer reviews of the first edition, only that by Michael D. Reeve, Rivista di filologia e di istruzione classica 123 (1995) 368-372 cites any typographical errors: 1.33.1020, depositque rather than deposcitque; and 2.3.224, constant rather than constat; both these have been corrected in the new edition. The other two longer reviews are by Henry David Jocelyn, Res publica litterarum 18 (1995) 216-21 and by G. Haverling, Gnomon 70 (1998) 404-11; two brief reviews appeared by Michele R. Cataudella, Sileno 20 (1994) 461 and Heikki Solin, Arctos 30 (1996) 273-4. Of the corrections, Rosellini herself says, 222: Emendationes minimas errorum qui typographici dicuntur in ipso textu huius editionis inveniet lector.

2. Calderan was working on a new edition of Valerius and had published two articles on his research when he unexpectedly died.

3. Kuebler’s edition is still handy because it includes Latin texts of the fictional exchange of letters between Alexander and the Brahman Dindimus and the ubiquitous but also fictional letter of Alexander to Aristotle about India; these are available in newer editions: Marc Steinmann, ed. & trans., Die “Collatio Alexandri et Dindimi” (Göttingen: Duehrkohp und Radicke, 2000); W. Walther Boer, ed., Epistola Alexandri ad Aristotelem (Meisenheim am Glan: A. Hain, 1973); and, most usefully, an edition that prints the Greek text along with four Latin versions, Michael Feldbusch, ed., Der Brief Alexanders an Aristoteles über die Wunder Indiens. Synoptische Edition (Meisenheim am Glan: A. Hain, 1976).

4. David J.A. Ross, Alexander Historiatus: A Guide to Medieval Illustrated Alexander Literature, 2nd ed. (Frankfurt: Athenaeum, 1988) p. 86, n. 36 (page numbers are the same for the 1963 ed.), says that it was Mai who applied the chemicals.

5. Julius Zacher, ed., Iulii Valerii epitome (Halle: Waisenhaus, 1867); see Rosellini 2004, xxvi-xxvii.

6. See Ross (note 4, above) 9-27, especially the stemma on p. 26; see also George Cary, The Medieval Alexander (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1956) 24-37.

7. Usually known by the title Historia de Preliis Alexandri Magni ( preliis for the Classical proeliis). Ross put it famously: “No version of the Alexander-romance has had a wider influence nor produced more vernacular progeny than this wretched little book” (Ross 1988, 47); see the introduction to Leo’s text, its recensions, and influence by Dennis M. Krantz, The Romances of Alexander (New York: Garland, 1991) ix-xxxvii; which is followed by an English translation of Leo’s text as printed by Pfister, the J1 recension, along with translations of excerpts from the J2 and J3 recensions, of the (fictitious) letter of Alexander to Aristotle on the marvels of India, and of the text of Alexander’s trip to Paradise; see also Cary (note 6, above) 38-58.

8. Friedrich Pfister’s introduction to his edition of Leo, Der Alexanderroman des Archipresbyters Leo (Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1913), includes valuable sections on Leo’s text, his mistranslations, style, etc.

9. Of the eighty one libraries in the U.S. that purchased the first edition, eighteen have also acquired this supplemented edition, according to the OCLC’s WorldCat.