Historia Augusta

François Paschoud

in Classics

ISBN: 9780195389661
Published online June 2012 | | DOI:
Historia Augusta

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The Historia Augusta (HA) is a collection of thirty biographies of Roman emperors, co-emperors, and usurpers in chronological order from Hadrian to Carus and his sons, attributed in the manuscripts to six different authors: Aelius Spartianus (1 Hadrian, 2 Aelius, 9 Didius Iulianus, 10 Septimius Severus, 11 Pescennius Niger, 13 Caracalla, 15 Geta), Iulius Capitolinus (3 Antoninus Pius, 4 Marcus Aurelius, 5 Verus, 8 Pertinax, 12 Clodius Albinus, 15 Opilius Macrinus, 19 Maximini duo, 20 Gordiani tres, 21 Maximus et Balbinus), Vulcacius Gallicanus (6 Avidius Cassius), Aelius Lampridius (7 Commodus, 16 Diadumenus, 17 Heliogabalus, 18 Alexander Severus), Trebellius Pollio (22 Valerianus, 23 Gallienus, 24 Thirty Tyrants [viz. usurpers], 25 Claudius Gothicus), and Flavius Vopiscus Syracusanus (26 Aurelianus, 27 Tacitus, 28 Probus, 29 Four Tyrants, 30 Carus and his sons). None of these biographers, purporting to write in the years 300–325 ce, are attested outside the HA. Some biographies are collective (e.g., 2 Maximini, 30 Tyrants, Carus and his two sons). There is a lacuna of at least four emperors between Maximus et Balbinus and Valerianus. Spartianus and Vulcacius Gallicanus purport to intend to write complete sets of imperial biographies (cf. Aelius 7.5; Avidius Cassius 3.3), Lampridius announces his intention to write the biographies of the successors of Alexander Severus (64.1–2), but there is no evidence that all these biographies were ever written. The existing set is not expressly presented as a selection from a richer corpus, and accordingly no mention is made of possible criteria for having selected the existing biographies from such a corpus. The collection puts together two quite different types of biographies: Hadrian, Pius, Aurelius, Verus, Commodus, Pertinax, Didius Iulianus, Septimus Severus, and Caracalla are full of valuable historical information and written in a banal Suetonian style. All the rest, and a few insertions in the aforementioned lives, have very limited historical value, two-thirds at least being pure fiction, it is a sort of entertaining historical novel presenting many puzzling problems on the level of inventio and elocutio.

Article.  10368 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Art and Architecture ; Classical History ; Classical Literature ; Classical Philosophy

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