BMCR 2005.09.61

Römische Kaisertabelle. Grundzüge einer römischen Kaiserchronologie. Unverändert Nachdruck der 2., durchgesehenen und erw. Auflage 1996

, Römische Kaisertabelle : Grundzüge einer römischen Kaiserchronologie. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2004. 399 pages : genealogical tables ; 22 cm. ISBN 3534182405 €29.90.

This is the third edition of a very well-known book which has become a classic in the chronology of emperors since its first edition in 1990. However, it should be stressed that it is only a paperback reprint of the 1996 revised second edition. As such, not much can be added to the many praises and few criticisms that came with its previous releases.1 This review is thus mainly intended for the (few) people that would not know this exceptional work of reference.

The book starts with a very dense 58-page introduction that deals with all kinds of evidence (literary works, inscriptions, papyri, coins, …) that are of use in order to build a chronology of emperors and is in itself a very useful guide to the question and to the huge amount of bibliography it has produced. The main body of the work (61-343) is then devoted to this chronology, for emperors from Augustus to Theodosius I, along with their families and opponents. The last pages of the book present a full-year calendar with all imperial events related to any specific day (345-374), a few stemmata, and two indices (one of concepts and the other of persons’ names).

The usefulness of such a book has proved over the years, and it is now an essential work of reference for papyrologists and epigraphists alike, and for historians of the Roman Empire in general. For every section, Kienast gives the emperor’s birth; name; full career, before and after elevation, with references to salient dates of his life and afterlife (posthumous treatment); then his consulships, tribunicia potestas, salutations as imperator; other titles (such as Germanicus, Dacicus, Parthicus, Optimus, for Trajan); main acts of euergetism. It is followed by reference to his family (wives, sons and daughters, …), and then by a bibliography with monographs and articles relevant to the study of each emperor.

The main criticism remains the same as pointed out by Barbara Levick’s review of the work years ago, and refers to a ‘problem of authority at the centre of the book’.2 Kienast has done a tremendous work gathering all the evidence, but sometimes, his choices are open to debate: even if he conveniently indicates his doubts by question marks, it is most of the time impossible for the reader to know if he can rely on him or if he has to embark on a quest of his own. For that reason, the book must be used with caution, and should serve as a most convenient starting point for anyone dealing with such problems of chronology.

Another complaint is directly related to this third edition, which has not been updated since 1996. This is regrettable in a field where new discoveries often call into question what was once taken for granted, or simply add new biographical information on secondary characters. The evidence from Spain can serve as an example: since the book’s second edition, the senatus consultum de Cnaeo Pisone patre ( AE, 1996, 292) has shed new light on the death of Germanicus and the domus Augusta under Tiberius,3 while the new and controversial edicts of Augustus discovered in El Bierzo ( AE, 2000, 760) present the princeps referring to himself as proconsul, a title which has not appeared on any other official document during his reign.4

However, these criticisms do not weigh much in comparison with all the services the book has offered and will continue to offer in the future. This new edition provides the opportunity for any library that would not own it to fill the gap and to make that unique research instrument available to its readers.


1. See for instance Erich Kettenhofen, Neue Kaisertabelle, in Chronique d’Égypte, 66 (131-132), 1991, p. 366-373, and his review of the second edition in Chronique d’Égypte, 72 (143), 1997, p. 176-181, or the reviews of Barbara Levick in Gnomon, 65, 1993, p. 460-462, and of Marie-Thérèse Raepsaet-Charlier in L’Antiquité Classique, 61, 1992, p. 599-600.

2. Barbara Levick, in Gnomon, 65, 1993, p. 461.

3. Werner Eck, Antonio Caballos, Fernando Fernández, Das senatus consultum de Cn. Pisone patre, Munich, 1996.

4. See for instance, with different points of view about this mention, Géza Alföldy, Das neue Edikt des Augustus aus El Bierzo in Hispanien, in ZPE, 131, 2000, p. 192-195; John S. Richardson, The new Augustan edicts from northwest Spain, in JRA, 15, 2002, p. 413 and 415; Patrick Le Roux, “L’edictum de Paemeiobrigensibus: un document fabriqué?”, dans Minima Epigraphica et Papyrologica, 4, 2001, p. 346-347.