BMCR 2013.04.08

Justin. Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus, Volume II: Books 13-15: The Successors to Alexander the Great. Clarendon ancient history series

, , , Justin. Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus, Volume II: Books 13-15: The Successors to Alexander the Great. Clarendon ancient history series. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. xxx, 343. ISBN 9780199277605 $99.00 (pb).


This book is the second part of Justin’s abridgement of Pompeius Trogus published in a well-known series of commented Classical texts in translation in the Clarendon Ancient History Series. The editors of Justin for the series never intended to give us the whole epitome, and decided to provide us with commentaries on the central books of Trogus’ original project, i.e., on the Macedonian books or rather on the third pentad of Historiae Philippicae. 1 The choice of the commentary’s starting point with the accession of Alexander the Great, and not with the first Macedonian book (VII), seems to be Heckel’s primary interest in and great expertise at Alexander the Great.

The series does not offer original texts, thus the quality of each volume depends greatly on the quality of the translation. In this case it has not been designed for this project particularly, but was taken from John Yardley’s Justin of 1994. Yardley’s translation is this volume’s great value. It is careful and generally true. On the one hand, however, it is sometimes more sophisticated than Justin’s Latin. On the other hand sometimes it does not render the original’s variatio stili.2 Yardley’s other valuable contribution to this volume is the five useful appendices. Two give the readers other relevant ancient texts in translation, as e.g., entries from the Suda, Arrian’s fragments, the Heidelberg epitome and extant fragments of Trogus. Another appendix is a study of Livian and Trogan features in Justin’s original; the examples nicely gathered by Yardley give readers knowing Latin some understanding of Justin’s style and literary background.

Despite the importance of translation for the series, the main body of the book is formed by the introduction and the commentary. Nineteen pages of translation (which includes also Prologues by Trogus) are preceded by 22 pages of introduction and followed by 260 pages of learned commentary. Already the introduction shows that the chronology is one of the most most crucial problems of the early Hellenistic period. In this volume Wheatley and Heckel follow cautiously the eclectic chronology proposed by Tom Boiy, but never avoid a discussion of chronological matters when chronology is debated in the scholarship.

The commentary provides, too, a lot of prosopographical guidance (it cannot be a surprise, since Heckel is the most important recent prosopographer of Alexander the Great), and numerous glosses on the geography and topography of the early Hellenistic period. Given the nature of the Successors’ rivalries, a lot of space was given to military and institutional problems (e.g., an excellent note on Argyraspids, pp. 176-178, that might also be a good encyclopaedia entry).

It must be stressed that the authors of the commentary have mastered the enormous bibliography of Alexander’ reign and of his successors. They invariably provide a good and balanced choice of the most important works and views, usually to summarise them with reasonable conclusions or questions (a rare virtue of historians expert in their field). When they have to write a comment on an issue a bit further from their exact field of specialisation, they are still able to provide useful data, but perhaps without the unique and confident understanding of what should be said that is visible in their Makedonika. Thus, e.g., Hyperides is characterised (p. 130) as an author of whom “only a few fragmentary speeches survive;” he reviewer thinks that a mention of Hyperides’ palimpsest would be valuable for most readers of the commentary.

The volume is provided with a general index but, unfortunately, not with a general bibliography. The list of abbreviations that contains the most often cited works cannot replace it, and thematic bibliographies in the beginning of each section are difficult to use. Otherwise, the volume is nicely edited, with sense and care.

Yet the above criticisms are not important. As a matter of fact, Yardley, Wheatley and Heckel have given us an excellent research and study tool, which may also serve as an example of how to write a commentary to a classical text in translation.


1. The first volume, covering books 11 and 12, was published by W. Heckel in 1997.

2. An illustration of both remarks may be found already in the third sentence of the translation. Thus, Latin quotiens and quam saepe are rendered in the same way (as “how often”), although they might be well rendered differently (as “how many times” and “how often”). In the same sentence simple Latin phrase praesenti morte ereptus esset has been translated with a more decorative idiom “he had been snatched from the jaws of death.”