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Valerius Maximus

(fl. c. 27—31 ad)


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Wrote a handbook of ‘memorable deeds and sayings’. It is dedicated to Tiberius, to whom constant flattery is addressed; and the violent denunciation of a conspirator safely identified with Aelius Seianus suggests that it was published soon after his downfall in 31. The subject‐matter has no clearly defined plan, but is divided under headings mostly moral or philosophical in character (e.g. Omens, Moderation, Gratitude, Chastity, Cruelty), usually illustrated by Roman and foreign examples. The latter, chiefly Greek, are admittedly less important, and in keeping with the strongly national spirit of the compilation are outnumbered by former by two to one. Valerius' chief sources seem to have been Livy and Cicero, but there are indications of many others. His use of this material is almost entirely non‐critical, and varies greatly in extent and accuracy. The work has been condemned as shallow, sententious, and bombastic, full of the boldest metaphor and rhetorical artifices of the Silver Age, esp. forced antitheses and far‐fetched epigrams, only occasionally relieved by touches of poetic fancy or neat passages of narrative or dialogue; but its sources and alignment have begun to attract attention. The variety and convenience of the compilation ensured some measure of success in antiquity, and considerably more in the Middle Ages.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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