BMCR 2005.09.47

Saint Jérôme Chronique. Continuation de la Chronique d’Eusèbe années 326-378. Suivie de quatre études sur les chroniques et chronographies dans l’Antiquité tardive (IVe-VIe siècles). Actes de la table ronde

, , , Saint Jérôme, chronique : Continuation de la chronique d'Eusèbe, années 326-378. Suivie de quatre études sur les chroniques et chonographies dans l'antiquité tardive (IVe-VIe siècles). Histoire. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2004. 1 online resource.. ISBN 9782753525832 €19.00 (pb).

[Reviewer’s disclosure: I am, with Michael Kulikowski, completing a translation and commentary of Jerome’s chronicle from the third century as part of a study of the Latin chronicle from the first to the sixth centuries.]

By most historians of the ancient world who are used to reading Herodotus, Thucydides, Livy, Tacitus, or Ammianus Marcellinus, Jerome is considered little more than dark-age Christian half-wit. His ‘jejune’ chronicle, a translation, expansion, and continuation of the early-fourth-century Greek Chronici canones of Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, is hardly even considered worthy of the name ‘history’, and Jerome’s frequently cited mistakes of translation and chronology are often used as sticks with which to beat him and his chronicle.1 Yet for all its failings the chronicle has exerted a greater influence on the modern view of the classical world than all the ‘great’ historians combined; for Jerome (or rather Eusebius, but his original Greek chronicle is long lost) provided Renaissance and later historians with the necessary framework to begin their study of the chronology of the ancient world going back to 2000 BC. Everything else that we now use to reconstruct the past — the great literary narrative historians, archaeology, inscriptions, coins, papyri, and so on — all came later, and were used to provide the detail for and corrections to the original basic outline of the past that Eusebius constructed from his Hellenistic predecessors and Jerome passed on to us. And in the meantime Jerome’s chronicle gave birth to the mediaeval chronicle genre in Latin, the dominant form of historical writing for almost 1,000 years.

Given the importance of the chronicle, then, it is strange that there is no recent study of the work. It rates but a few pages in the standard biographies of Jerome. There is a translation and commentary by Malcolm Drew Donalson, but it is a middling-quality thesis reprinted by the Edwin Mellen Press.2 Even among those few and strange creatures who study chronicles, Jerome’s ‘chronicon maior’ remains comparatively ignored, while the authors, known and unknown, of the ‘chronica minora’ (as Mommsen called them), such as Prosper, Hydatius, Marcellinus comes, and the author of the Gallic Chronicle of 452, have all had recent book-length studies devoted to them and their works.3 As a result, it is welcome to see Jerome’s chronicle receiving the book-length treatment under scrutiny here.

Unfortunately, Jeanjean and Lançon (hereafter J and L) have not presented all of Jerome’s version of Eusebius’ original Greek chronicle nor even the Roman or late Roman sections, but just Jerome’s continuation from 326. Nowhere is this choice justified. Jerome added or altered about 500 entries in his translation and continuation with an increase in quantity from 106 BC and then another from about 285. Why ignore these earlier additions and alterations? The year 326 is where Donalson began his translation as well, though J and L include Eusebius’ last entry and Jerome’s extension of it as their first entry, just before Jerome’s note about the conclusion of Eusebius’ text. No explanation for the appearance of this entry is given nor any indication of Eusebius’ authorship. I can see no valid reason for starting at this point, especially since so much of the previous forty years is the work of Jerome as well.

That being said, J and L offer Rudolf Helm’s 1956 Latin text (without any apparatus), a French translation, a running commentary, and an introduction to the chronicle. The problem with Jerome’s continuation, however, is that it is not very long, so the text and translation (taking up the top half of each double-page spread) and the commentary (filling up the bottom half) add up to only thirty-four pages. Adding Jerome’s introduction and his translation of Eusebius’ introduction with French translations, an unnecessary pictorial representation of the chronology of Eusebius’ introduction with multiple arrows pointing the way up and down through history, and another title page add only another nineteen pages. The inclusion of a thirty-nine page introduction; indices dignitatum et prof. (sic), locorum, nationum, and nominum; a bibliography divided into three parts; and a deceptive page-numbering system that counts the flyleaf as page one still only gets the authors to page 120. Hence the necessary expedient of adding four papers from a round table in 2002 as a ‘free bonus’, as it were, to take the page total to 206. I’ll deal with the chronicle material first and offer my comments on the ‘bonus’ papers at the end.

The introduction begins with a few general comments and then proceeds to treat at varying length a variety of topics, both important and unimportant (pp. 16-19). In slightly more than a page Christian chronography is surveyed, then a page on the three types of chronological systems used by Eusebius and Jerome (years from the birth of Abraham, olympiads, and regnal years) and their use, and a little more than a page on Jerome’s life before he wrote the chronicle. Brief indeed, and hardly of equal import. There then follows a long drawn out analysis of the date of the composition of the chronicle (pp. 19-26) and an outline of the types of events and information recorded within it (pp. 26-30). This is followed by the longest section of all concerning Jerome and Arianism, which includes a diagram of the major players in the theological controversies of the fourth century with names listed beneath labelled columns for theological beliefs and arrows indicating movement and influence from one shade of belief to another (pp. 30-41). The arrows are annoying but the chart is helpful in sorting out the key players and where their theological allegiances lay. Next appears a strange section about Jerome’s often stereotypical style and how he uses subject placement to ‘index’ his subjects or ostracize them (pp. 41-46). The introduction closes with a discussion of Jerome’s sources (pp. 47-53).

The shorter sections of this introduction are too brief or too general to be of any great value. The long section on the date of composition (the only portion written by L) reminds me of a thesis as every little bit of cited evidence is wrung dry at length for possible clues, while important evidence is missed and cited evidence is over-interpreted or misinterpreted. The range of dates for the chronicle can be narrowed down without such over-analysis. References to Gratian and Theodosius as emperors and to ravaging barbarians indicate a date between 379 and 382. We know that an important source for the chronicle, the Descriptio consulum, could have been obtained only in Constantinople. Jerome later stated that a small treatise on Isaiah, which contains the earliest reference to the chronicle ( Ep. 18A.1.4), was completed while he was studying in Constantinople under Gregory of Nazianzus ( Comm. on Isaiah 6.1), who was in Constantinople between early 379 and June of 381, and bishop there from 24 November 380. The treatise therefore probably dates to the end of 380 or the first half of 381. We know from the autobiographical entry in Jerome’s De uiris illustribus that the chronicle was written just before another work that we know was written in Constantinople, Origen’s Homilies on Ezekiel, which was, like the chronicle, dedicated to Vincentius, who was at the time in Constantinople himself. Although it has usually been assumed in the past that Jerome left Antioch for Constantinople in 379 or early 380, Stephan Rebenich has shown that the date must be later 380 and this makes good sense in the context.4 It is clear from references in the chronicle to Arianism in general and the bishops of Antioch in particular (especially Paulinus, who had ordained Jerome priest, and Meletius) that the chronicle was completed in the lead up to the Council of Constantinople, which met between May and July of 381. Jerome obviously worked very quickly and for long hours, as is revealed by his comments in the preface to the chronicle (‘uelocissime dictauerim’ and ‘tumultuarium opus’), but also by those in the preface to his Origen translation, where he complains about his lack of funds for secretaries and a painful condition of the eyes that made reading difficult, probably caused by too many long nights of intense reading by lamplight. The above facts put the composition of the chronicle in late 380 and early 381. The other dates and events analysed by L that lead him to suggest an earlier date are not probative, not least because he forgets about the importance of the Council of Constantinople and assumes that Theodosius’ legislation, in and of itself, instantly solved the ecclesiastical problems facing the East and Antioch.

The section on Jerome’s sources is, to be blunt, dangerous, in that it may give unwary readers the impression that it represents the latest scholarship on the question, whereas it is in fact a giant step backwards to a one-hundred-and-fifty-year-old article by Theodor Mommsen. After briefly canvassing evidence for the Kaisergeschichte, Aurelius Victor, the Annales of Nicomachus Flavianus, Eutropius, Festus, and an Antiochene continuation of Eusebius’ chronicle in Greek, J simply throws up his hands and leaves the reader with a wishy-washy conclusion that Jerome definitely used Eutropius and Festus and probably some other sources (especially for his ecclesiastical material), but he can’t be sure what they were. It is clear that J has no direct experience himself of Quellenforschung in relation to the chronicle and has simply relied upon Mommsen and a variety of recent articles Stéphane Ratti (though he does not even adopt all their conclusions). For anyone who cares to spend the considerable time necessary to determine Jerome’s sources from first principles and with an open mind the results are clear and demonstrable. For this final section of the chronicle his non-ecclesiastical literary sources are as follows: the imperial section of what he calls the Latina historia, which is generally referred to as the Kaisergeschichte (326-378), a source also used by Victor, Eutropius, Festus, Ammianus, and the authors of the Historia Augusta and the Epitome de caesaribus; a version of the Descriptio consulum (326-375; which survives in another recension and can still be compared to the chronicle); the Greek continuation of Eusebius that I have called the Continuatio Antiochiensis (327-347/350); and some sort of Christian De uiris illustribus (317-337).5 For the ecclesiastical information he had episcopal lists and his own knowledge of events, as well as a great variety of primary documentation such as acta, letters, and treatises. It seems unlikely that he had any single narrative account from which he drew his ecclesiastical information.

The section that provides the religious background to the chronicle, though too long with respect to the rest of the introduction, does serve as a good introduction to the ecclesiastical and theological situation in the second and third quarters of the fourth century. It stands out primarily because this is J’s own field and he knows his material.

As is also the case with respect to the commentary (see below), the introduction as a whole suffers from a serious lack of knowledge of the relevant literature, especially in languages other than French. If it can be believed, Le Nain de Tillemont (1693-1712), Cavallera (1922), and an article in the Kleine Pauly (1964) are cited for Jerome’s life, and nothing more recent, not even Stephan Rebenich or J. N. D. Kelly’s large and important biographies.6 R. P. C. Hanson’s magisterial study of the ecclesiastical politics and theology of the period is nowhere cited, nor is Noel Lenski’s recent tome on Valens.7 Meanwhile, minor articles in French by Y.-M. Duval and Stéphane Ratti are cited in abundance and make up 20% of the bibliography, which is surprisingly short.

The text presented is that of Helm’s edition and is accurately reproduced, right down to a typographical error (‘multo’ for ‘multi’ in 234c).

The translation is very good, and I noted only a few problems: ‘Vicennalia Constantini Nicomediae acta et sequenti anno Romae edita’ is translated as ‘Les Vicennalia de Constantin sont célébrées à Nicomédie et annoncées officiellement à Rome l’année suivante’ (p. 77). Here a knowledge of Jerome’s sources would have shown that ‘acta’, which is Jerome’s translation of Eusebius’ ἤχθη, has the same meaning as ‘edita’, which Jerome took from his version of the Descriptio consulum, the source for this addition (‘edidit uicennalia Constantinus Aug. Romae’, s.a. 326.2). ‘Dominicum’, which is correctly identified in the notes as simply another word for ‘church’, is overtranslated as ‘l’église du Seigneur’ (pp. 77, 85). ‘Tractus’ is translated literally as ‘est traîné’ rather than ‘est lynché’, which is necessary for the context (p. 85). And, strangely for two French scholars, the locatives ‘Ambianis’ and ‘apud Atrabatas’ are translated as ‘chez les Ambiens’ and ‘[c]hez les Atrébates’ instead of ‘à Amiens’ and ‘à Arras’ (p. 101). But these are quibbles; the translation is much better than the English one by Donalson and I would recommend it.

The commentary is a very mixed bag. The theological and ecclesiastical material by J is, as it is in the introduction, quite good and covers a lot of ground in a short space, though I admit I am no expert in the complicated aspects of the personalities and their beliefs. I found that it helped explain the great parade of bishops and their differing beliefs, which is so necessary for making sense of Jerome’s narrative.

Unfortunately, the usefulness of the remaining material in the commentary is impaired by a number of factors. First, a general lack of familiarity with the events; second, an ignorance of the sources and their relationships to one another and to Jerome; third, insufficient use of modern scholarship; and fourth, some careless inaccuracies.

Where to start? Let’s pick an example from number four. Twenty-six out of thirty-one references to Ammianus (84%) are incorrect or incomplete (cited in the form lemma letter and commentary page number): b88, 15.7.1-10 for 15.7.6-10; c90, 14.11 for 14.11.6-23; a92, Ammianus 15.8.17 and Socrates, Historia ecclesiastica 2.34 are cited for facts that neither relates; i94, 16.20 for 16.10; a94, 17.7.1-9 for 17.7.1-8; b96, 20.9 for 20.9.1-5, 11.1-32; b97, 21.15.2 for 21.15.2-3; b98, 25.3.9 for 25.3.6-10, 23, and 25.5.1; e99, 25.10.4 for 25.10.1-13, 26.1.5 for 25.10.13, and 26.1.7 for Zosimus 3.36.1-2; a100, 30.8 for 30.8.8; c100, 26.10 for 26.10.15-19; d100, 26.5.8 for Descriptio consulum s.a. 365.2; e101, 27.3.5 ( bis) for 27.3.12-13; b101, 27.6.16 for 27.6.1-15; i102, 27.5.5 for 27.5.6-10; c103, 28.3.4 for 28.3.4-6; f103, 30.5 for 30.5.8-10; a104, 28.5.12 for 28.5.8-11; h106, 30.10.5 for 30.10.4-5; f107, 31.10.2-5 for 31.10.5, and 31.10.7-10 for 31.10.6-17; h107, 31.4.5 sq. for 31.4.5-11 and 31.4.10-11 for 31.5.5-7 (I think); and c109, 31.12.10 for 31.12.10-13.19. This list does not include a large number of other instances where Ammianus is clearly the source of the description but has not been cited (esp. b102, Ammianus 28.1.5-57). A large number of references to other authors are also incomplete (especially the Chronicon Paschale and Socrates), but none is as consistently inaccurate. In at least two cases to follow up a single detail the reader is simply referred to an entire work with no chapter or section references (the correct references are Libanius, Or. 59.127-35 [e84] and Eusebius, Triac. 3.4 [i80]).

Two obvious instances will highlight the lack of care in consulting the ancient sources and the lack of consultation of basic modern scholarship. In e99 L claims that Secundus Salutius (mistakenly called Salustius) was offered the purple a second time, after the death of Jovian, and he attributes that fact to Ammianus (26.1.7, actually a reference to the accession of Valentinian). It is Zosimus who places the offering of the purple to Salutius after the death of Jovian (probably correctly), whereas Ammianus places it after the death of Julian (25.5.3; mentioned without reference to Ammianus in b98). L has combined the two sources and created a doublet. In b102 L claims that the vicar Aginatius was the son of the former urban prefect Lampadius, but it was Lollianus who was the son (Ammianus 28.1.26). These mistakes (and many others) could have been rectified by a careful reading of the sources or even a quick check of PLRE, but that work is only cited three times. Also useful could have been Dietmar Kienast’s Römische Kaisertabelle, and either work would have served as a better basis for L’s simple relating of facts than Seeck’s Regesten, which seems to have been the principal secondary source that was consulted.8 Even worse, Seeck is often given as the source for dates and facts instead of the appropriate ancient source. Nothing of the enormous and detailed output of T. D. Barnes has had any influence here either (as is obvious from a number of mistakes).9 Also ignored is pretty much everything I have ever written about Jerome (see n. 5) including Eusebian and Post Eusebian Chronography, which is mentioned in the introduction only so that I can be accused of bias10 and the book be dismissed with second-hand criticism from Ratti. In this work I set forth important material about Jerome’s treatment of the end of Eusebius’ chronicle and about an Antiochene continuation of it that Jerome used as a source. Even if J were justified in his criticisms of my reconstruction, I provide a lengthy (some say too lengthy) and detailed commentary that is applicable to a large number of the events narrated in Jerome’s chronicle between 326 and 350, one that would have saved L from many errors and enhanced his own commentary.

One text completely ignored in the introduction is the Descriptio consulum, an important source for Jerome between 285 and 375, and, since we still have a version very much like that used by Jerome, we can determine his use of it empirically. In the commentary it is cited only eight times (under Mommsen’s title, the Consularia Constantinopolitana); the last time in 358 (a94). Most of the rest of the time either Socrates (who also used the Descriptio as a source) or Seeck are cited instead, or no reference is made to the source of the date or fact at all (e.g. c79, f80, b81, c84, e89, h91, a92, d93, i94, ef95, k96, b97, b98, cd100, bcf101, l102, h106, b108). Two items from the Descriptio, hm102, do not even receive a commentary. If L had paid a little more attention to the Descriptio, instead of just copying numbers from Seeck, he might have seen the obvious parallels between the two works and realized the importance of the Descriptio for Jerome. There are many other places (e.g. e76, a77, c84, k86, i94, and b98) where a better understanding of Jerome’s sources would have helped with the commentary.

Here are a few other easily-cited mistakes, errors, and omissions in order of their appearance. L cites Sozomen, instead of modern scholarship, to explain what the imperial decennial celebrations were (e76). He gives the wrong age for Fausta at the time of her marriage (not having checked Barnes) (a77). Eusebius is said to have written the entry on the deaths of Crispus and Licinius II, when it is the work of Jerome (a77). The biography of Publilius Optatianus Porphyrius is incorrect, again as a result of not having consulted Barnes (e78). There is no commentary for e80. L twice confuses Dalmatius the Caesar with his homonymous father, attributing the actions of the father to the son (gi80). The date of Dalmatius’ promotion to Caesar (incorrectly given as 17 Sept. instead of 18 Sept.) is said to have been chosen because it was the date of Galerius’ recognition of Constantine as Caesar (17 Sept.), preserved in the state archives (i80), but the exact date of Constantine’s recognition is unknown and it definitely was not something Constantine would have been interested in commemorating thirty years later. Because he rejects the existence of the Antiochene continuation of Eusebius L is ignorant of Jerome’s error in attributing the building of the martyrium of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem to Eustathius, whom Jerome has confused with Zenobius, the true architect (n81). Jerome misdates to 347 an eclipse that was dated to 346 by the Antiochene continuation. It was total in Antioch on 6 June 346. L assumes that the date of 347 is correct and offers all three eclipses of 347 as the potential subject of this entry, those of 27 April, 26 May, and 20 October (k86), without realizing that the first two were visible only in Antarctica and Siberia. The latter, being total over Scandinavia, was only a minor partial eclipse in the early evening in, say, Constantinople, so it would not have been noticed or recorded. The capture of Bizabde in 360 is dated to 359 (l87). Gallus was killed in Flanona in October, not Fianona in mid-November (c90). Helena was Constantius’ sister, not his daughter, as Ammianus says right after the passage cited by L (15.8.17) (a92). Zosimus (3.3[.1]) is cited to support the claim that Julian ‘aurait reçu en 356 le pouvoir de commander les armées des Gaules’ (g93). Not only does Zosimus not say this but Julian obtained military power over Gaul when he was proclaimed Caesar by Constantius in November 355 and that was in fact the sole reason he was appointed.11 With respect to Jerome’s statement that Jovian had been a primicerius domesticorum, L states that ‘Le terme de ” primicerius” est ici impropre: il s’appliquait au chef du corps des notarii‘ (b98). A quick check of even such a basic work as A. H. M. Jones’ Later Roman Empire (not cited in the bibliography) shows that there were primicerii domesticorum, notariorum, defensorum, and sacri cubiculi, as well as plain primicerii in the offices of the largitiones and res priuata and in the army (an n.c.o. grade).12 L states that Jovian died between 16 and 19 February (citing Ammianus 25.10.4, which is irrelevant, but even where Ammianus does discuss Jovian’s death [25.10.12-13] he does not mention the day), when he in fact died on 17 February (a date L would have found if he had been checking the Descriptio, PLRE, or Kienast). He says that Valentinian was a ‘ tribounos arithmou de la 2 e schola des Scutaires’ but gives no hint why he uses a Greek term or where it comes from. He also claims that Valentinian proclaimed his brother Valens emperor ‘à la demande pressante des troupes’ citing Ammianus (26.4.3, a correct reference), who on the contrary says that Valentinian ‘considering that he was already unequal to the amount of pressing business (magnitudine urgentium negotiorum) and believing that there was no room for delay … proclaimed [Valens] Augustus’ (all e99). There is strange doublet with regard to the attacks on the followers of Ursinus launched by the followers of Damasus in Rome in 366. Ammianus’ account, mentioning 137 dead, and the account in the Collectio Avellana, mentioning 160 dead, are taken as descriptions of two separate events and Ammianus’ is attributed to the earlier siege of the Julian basilica before Damasus’ consecration on 1 October and the latter is attributed to the attack of 26 October on the Liberian basilica (the basilica of the Sicininum). This entire narrative is incorrectly attributed to Ammianus with incorrect references. Jerome is then blamed for condensing his narrative (e101).

The primary source bibliography presents a few surprises as well. J and L claim that Michael and Mary Whitby edited the text of the Chronicon paschale and that Brian Croke edited the text of Marcellinus comes, when they just translated these works. As a result no Greek text is cited for the Chron. pasch. (obviously one was not consulted) and Mommsen’s text (which Croke reprints) is left misattributed. Marcellinus is further hidden in the alphabetical list between the Consularia Constantinopolitana and the Epitome de caesaribus. Socrates, Theodoret’s Religious History, and Theophanes are cited from the outdated editions of the Patrologia graeca instead of the most recent editions (this no doubt explains the incomplete references to Socrates). This is surprising for Theodoret since this work appears in the Sources chrétiens series, J and L’s first choice for all their editions, but they probably missed it because the editors call it Histoire des moines de Syrie.

The four ‘bonus’ papers don’t really have anything to do with the translation and commentary; they are just here to pad the book out (though J does make reference to his paper in the introduction: p. 24 n. 37). They are placed after the indices of the first part and have no bibliography or index of their own. One presents a short overview of the historiographical background to Christian chronicles in general, including Jerome, while the next offers a random look at the early Nachleben of Jerome’s chronicle; the next analyses each appearance of signs and portents throughout the entire imperial section from Julius Caesar, though nothing said here appears in the commentary and the commentary makes no reference to this paper; and the last discusses the appearance of hagiographic elements in Jerome, Prosper, Hydatius, and Marcellinus comes (the Gallic chronicles are explicitly omitted, though no explanation is given). These papers had obviously been sitting around gathering dust when the decision was taken to add them to this volume and no one brought them up to date: Ratti refers to a conference paper he gave in 2000 as ‘à paraître’ (p. 186 n. 74), yet the work appears with its full citation (published in 2001) in the bibliography of the first part of the volume.

The only paper of any real value is that by Hervé Inglebert (‘Les chrétiens et l’histoire universelle dans l’Antiquité tardive’), which discusses the Hellenistic, Jewish, and Roman background to Christian chronicles and the development of a distinct ‘Christian’ view of history. The subject matter is not really related to Jerome directly but the paper provides a good start for those wishing to understand the background and lineage of late Roman chronicles, especially the all important debt to Hellenistic and Jewish historiography.13

Jeanjean’s long contribution, ‘Saint Jérôme, patron des chroniqueurs en langue latine’, is a ramble through various writers who mentioned or utilized Jerome’s chronicle, starting with Jerome himself and ending with Robert de Thorigny in the twelfth century. For unexplained reasons the two Gallic chronicles are omitted, probably because Jerome is not named or discussed in either, though no one could doubt his influence on the authors and their works. This paper is useful chiefly for the references to the chronicle and its use from Jerome, Rufinus, and Augustine. Its major failing, like that of the entire volume to a greater or lesser degree, including the other three papers, is that it appears for the most part to have been written in a scholarly vacuum.

Stéphane Ratti’s contribution, ‘Signes divins et histoire politique dans la Chronique de Jérôme’, assumes without proof or defence that every description of natural or unnatural phenomena in Eusebius/Jerome from the start of the Roman empire to the end of the chronicle was considered by Jerome to be a portent or sign and that each of these portents was followed by a record of the disturbance (political, military, or ecclesiastical) that it portended. The paper concludes with a long table indicating all forty-nine signs and the event(s) they foretold. A careful perusal of this table, however, shows that the entire exercise is completely arbitrary: Ratti does nothing more than list the first negative event that follows each supposed portent (mostly earthquakes). A few appear in the immediately following entry, but most follow at least a year and often up to four years later (an eclipse in AD 14 is said to portend the death of Christ in 32). And there is no sensible, consistent, or obvious connection between the type of disaster or its location and the event it supposedly portended: a deadly hail storm in Constantinople can be a portent of the death of Hilary of Poitiers in Gaul, while earthquakes can portend just about anything from the abdication of Messalla Corvinus as prefect of the city, Julia’s exile, various Jewish revolts, and heresy, to the condemnation of the Nicaean creed at the council of Seleucia, persecution, and the usurpation of Procopius, even though the earthquakes happened nowhere near these events. In only five places does Jerome himself actually use the words ‘signa’ or ‘portenta’ or make any explicit or obvious connection between such portents and events. In 157f he reports the well-known parhelion of 44/45BC in which the three contesting suns obviously represent the triumvirate. Such a clear and unusual portent needs no explicit comment. In 157g and 192f he claims there were ‘cetera portenta / multa signa atque portenta … toto orbe facta’. Only one of these is actually described, a talking cow warning of a future dearth of men, but at least it shows the sort of truly unusual event that Jerome really meant by ‘signa atque portenta’. In 158h he explicitly explains a small stream of oil from the ground as signifying Christ’s grace (‘significans Christi gratiam ex gentibus’). And in 171d a solar eclipse and the death of Augustus are placed together in the same entry, making the connection between the two of them clear. At no other place does he give any hint that he considers earthquakes or any other natural disasters as portents or signs of anything.

Nowhere does Ratti make any allowance for the fact that the chronicle is filled with accounts of heresy, revolts, war, death, and disaster, so the chance that any plague, famine, parhelion, earthquake, or solar eclipse will be followed by some ‘evil’ within four years (or more) is almost 100%. I say ‘almost’ because two earthquakes are not followed by bad news (except other earthquakes): 164b and 236c. Not surprisingly, Ratti does not list these. Obviously not portents. And some of these ‘evils’ are not even what Ratti claims they are: a ‘révolte [des] Germains’ foretold by earthquakes in Cyprus is in fact a notice of a Roman victory (‘Germanos in arma uersos M. Lollius superat’, 166d) and the ‘pillage de la Libye par les Juifs’ in AD 121, presaged by earthquakes in Nicomedia and Nicaea in 120, is a notice about Hadrian’s founding colonies in Africa following a Jewish revolt that Jerome records in 114 and 115 (‘Hadrianus in Libyam, quae a Iudaeis uastata fuerat, colonias deducit’, 198g; cf. 196d). Ratti mistakes a reference to Christ’s ‘signs and miracles’ as a portent of his death (173e) and completely misunderstands the reason for Eusebius’ reference to the eclipse mentioned by Flegon at the time of the crucifixion (174d; see Matthew 27:45). Four citations aren’t even claimed to be portents: one is a miracle, one an example of Marcus Aurelius’ benevolence, one a warning from heaven against Aurelian when he tried to start a persecution, and the last Carus’ death by lightning (206i, 208c, 223c, 224g). Furthermore, Ratti misses an eruption of Vesuvius (198b) and many fires (172d, 186i, 189f, 194c, 208g, 209f, 217e, 218f), though he otherwise does mention fires that are said to have been started by lightning (195e and 209a).

The final paper by Lançon, ‘Chronique et hagiographie: Les traces de l’émergence des saints dans les chroniques latines des IV e -VI e siècles’, is interesting as far as it goes, but it says nothing that would surprise anyone who has read these chronicles and is too short and too limited in its scope to tell us anything about the development of ‘hagiography’, even at its most basic level. The most embarrassing part of the paper is the invention of a pseudo-semiotic term, ‘hagiosème’, to which are attached six categories of hagiographic ‘meaning’: suffering and martyrdom, writings and preaching, the ascetic life and monasticism, miracles, relics, and fame and death. Perhaps my distaste for useless theory has gotten the better of me, but I cannot see that this approach gets us anywhere we couldn’t go without the fancy terminology. The main problem here is that there is not really much that would be considered hagiographic in any normal sense of the term in the entries he discusses.

So what are we left with in the end? This is the part of the review where one usually says that in spite of the earlier criticisms the book under review is still a jolly good read, quite important, deserves a wide readership, and so on. Unfortunately, I cannot make these kinds of blanket comments here. A great opportunity has been squandered in making Jerome, his chronicle, and later chronicles more accessible and understandable to the general range of scholars, young and old, who are not familiar with the genre, the work, or the author. The problem simply is that the authors fail to get beneath the skin of the chronicle, and what they have to say has the appearance of being hastily retrieved from very few secondary sources rather than their own analysis or research. To avoid a negative conclusion, however, I can say that I can recommend the introduction, apart from the sections on dating and sources; the translation; and even to a certain extent the commentary, with the warning that it is only the thinnest of guides to the events narrated and that any non-ecclesiastical detail obtained from it will have to be checked and confirmed. Those new to chronicles and Jerome will find something of interest in Inglebert and Jeanjean’s bonus papers, and I would recommend those as well. But beyond that, caueat lector.


1. For some examples of positive and negatives judgements of Jerome’s achievements, see R. W. Burgess, ‘Jerome Explained: An Introduction to his Chronicle and a Guide to its Use’, Ancient History Bulletin 15 (2002), 1, 6-7.

2. Malcolm Drew Donalson, A Translation of Jerome’s Chronicon with Historical Commentary (Lewiston/Queenston/Lampeter, 1996).

3. Steven Muhlberger, The Fifth-Century Chroniclers: Prosper, Hydatius, and the Gallic Chronicler of 452 (ARCA 27; Leeds, 1990); Brian Croke, The Chronicle of Marcellinus (Sydney, 1995); and idem, Count Marcellinus and his Chronicle (Oxford, 2001).

4. Stephan Rebenich, Jerome (London/New York, 2002), p. 116 n. 4.

5. R. Helm, ‘Hieronymus und Eutrop’, RhM 76 (1927), 138-70 and 254-306; R. W. Burgess, The Chronicle of Hydatius and the Consularia Constantinopolitana (Oxford, 1993), pp. 195-7; idem, ‘Jerome and the Kaisergeschichte‘, Historia 44 (1995), 349-69; idem, Studies in Eusebian and Post-Eusebian Chronography (Historia Einzelschrift 135; Stuttgart, 1999), esp. 90-8, 114-22, 134-43, 178-283; idem, ‘Jerome Explained’ (seen. 1), 1-29, esp. 27-8, with corrections to be found in: idem, ‘A Common Source for Jerome, Eutropius, Festus, Ammianus, and the Epitome de Caesaribus between 358 and 378, along with Further Thoughts on the Date and Nature of the Kaisergeschichte‘, CPh 100 (2005), 166-92.

6. Rebenich, Jerome (see n. 4) and J. N. D. Kelly, Jerome. His Life, Writings, and Controversies (London, 1975).

7. R. P. C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God. The Arian Controversy, 318-381 (Edinburgh, 1988) and Noel Lenski, Failure of Empire. Valens and the Roman State in the Fourth Century A.D. (Berkeley/Los Angeles/London, 2002).

8. A. H. M. Jones, J. R. Martindale, and J. Morris, The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire 1 (Cambridge, 1971); Dietmar Kienast, Römische Kaisertabelle. Grundzüge einer römischen Kaiserchronologie, 2nd edition (Darmstadt, 1996); Otto Seeck, Regesten der Kaiser und Päpste, Stuttgart, 1919.

9. These will provide a start: T. D. Barnes, ‘The Lost Kaisergeschichte and the Latin Historical Tradition’, in Bonner Historia-Augusta-Colloquium 1968/1969 (Antiquitas Reihe 4: Beiträge zur Historia-Augusta-Forschung 7; Bonn, 1970), 13-43 = Early Christianity and the Roman Empire (London, 1984), Paper IV; idem, ‘Publilius Optatianus Porfyrius’ AJP 96 (1975), 173-86 = Early Christianity and the Roman Empire (London, 1984), Paper X; idem, Constantine and Eusebius (Cambridge, Mass., 1981); idem, The New Empire of Diocletian and Constantine (Cambridge, Mass., 1982); idem, Athanasius and Constantius. Theology and Politics in the Constantian Empire (Cambridge, Mass./London, 1993); idem, Ammianus Marcellinus and the Representation of Historical Reality (Ithaca/London, 1998).

10. The footnote that prompts J’s criticism on p. 50 (cited in full in n. 130) has prompted similar criticism before and I suspect this is the source of his complaint: see François Paschoud, Histoire Auguste 5.2. Vies de Probus, Firmus, Saturnin, Procluset Bonose, Carus, Numérien et Carin (Paris, 2001), xii-xix, and T. D. Barnes’ response to this ad hominem attack on me, him, and Alan Cameron in CR 54 (2002), 120-124.

11. See, e.g., G. W. Bowersock, Julian the Apostate (Cambridge, Mass., 1978), pp. 33-6.

12. A. H. M. Jones, The Later Roman Empire 284-602. A Social, Economic, and Administrative Survey (Oxford, 1964 [repr. 1986]), p. 1509.

13. See now the papers by me and Umberto Roberto in the forthcoming ‘Iulius Africanus und die christliche Weltchronistik’ (Texte und Untersuchungen zur altchristlichen Literatur; Berlin).