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Marius Maximus and Ausonius' Caesares

  • R. P. H. Green (a1)

The disappearance of the imperial biographies written by Marius Maximus is one of the more frustrating losses of Latin literature, for various reasons: the well-known testimony of Ammianus, the interest (and frivolity) of Marius Maximus' attested contribution to the Historia Augusta, his importance, much in dispute, to the writer of that work, the lack of information on much of the period he covered, and, not least, the fascinating role assigned to him by modern scholars, remodelling a previous duality of sources, of bad biographer in contrast to the good Ignotus. It has recently become common practice for the evidence of Ausonius' (so-called) Caesares to be used in the search for this biographer. The suggestion goes back to a dissertation of F. della Corte in 1956/7, and was taken up in his edition of Ausonius' works by Pastorino, and discussed in the following year by Cazzaniga who, though uncertain about the dependence of Ausonius on Marius Maximus, does misleadingly assert (perhaps echoing Momigliano) ‘e certo che l'ultima epigramma tocca Elagabalo, che chiude la silloge’. More recently, della Corte has returned to the question and sketched a possible model for the growth of the whole extant collection of Ausonius' Caesares, on the basis of the manuscript tradition. The same volume contains a contribution to the question by S. d'Elia and includes, by a felicitous piece of editing, an extended footnote in which d'Elia is able to comment on the relevant part of della Corte's paper.

Meanwhile, outside Italy, there have been parallel and independent developments.

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1 Ammianus, 28.4.14: Quidam detestantes ut venena doctrinas, Iuvenalem et Marium Maximum curatiore studio legunt, nulla volumina praeter haec in profundo otio contrectantes.

2 Caesares is a title of convenience; it has not yet replaced the more antiquated title Ausonii de XII Caesaribus per Suetonium Tranquillum scriptis, originating ultimately with Aleander and standardized by editors from Scaliger to Prete.

3 Corte F. della, Ausonio (disp. univ. Genova 1956/1957), 133 ff.

4 Opere di D. M. Ausonio, a cura di Pastorino A. (Turin, 1971), 90.

5 Cazzaniga I., La Parola del Passato 27 (1972), 150.

6 Momigliano A., Atti della Accademia delle Scienze di Torino 103 (1968/1969), 435.

7 Corte F. della, in Gli Storiografi Latini Tramandati in Frammenti, edd. Boldrini S. et al. (Urbino, 1975), 483–91.

8 The possibility of mechanical corruption (perhaps caused by the repetition of tetrasticha?) in the family Z is dismissed in two lines; and that of deliberate omission, to which Ausonius' manuscripts seem highly prone, is not considered. The weakness of the chronological evidence for the idea of multiple editions (see Seeck O., Göttingische Gelehrte Anzeigen (1887), 513 ff.) was exposed by Jachmann G. in Concordia Decennalis. Festschrift der Universität Köln zum 10-jährigen Bestehen des Deutsch-Italienischen Kulturinstitut Petrarcahaus, 47 ff. (Köln, 1941), but the notion remains popular.

9 d'Elia S. in Gli Storiografi… (n. 7), 463, n. 12.

10 Barnes T. D., JRS 57 (1967), 66 n. 11.

11 SirSyme R., Ammianus and the Historia Augusta (Oxford, 1968), p. 90 n. 1. Cf. Hermes 96 (1968), 496.

12 idem., Emperors and Biography (Oxford, 1972), p. 57.

13 idem., Bonner Historia-Augusta-Colloquium 1970 (1972) (Antiquitas, Reihe 4, Band 10), 288; Emperors and Biography, 92.

14 Emperors and Biography, 94; Bonner HA-Colloquium 1970 (1972), 289.

15 Barnes T. D., The Sources of the Historia Augusta (Brussels, 1978), 103.

16 SirSyme R., Emperors and Biography, 83; Bonner HA-Colloquium 1968/9 (1970), 294.

17 But cf. Cameron A. D. E., JRS 62 (1972), 264 ff.; Barbieri G., Rivista di Filologia 82 (n.s. 32) (1954), 63/4.

18 S. d'Elia, loc. cit. (n. 9), 459–81.

19 Hesitation is expressed by (for example), Birley A., Septimius Severus (London, 1971), 318 ff.; J. Schwartz, op. cit. 262 (n. 20); A. D. E. Cameron, loc. cit. (n. 17).

20 Schwartz J., Bonner Historia-Augusta-Colloquium 1970 (1972), 266–7.

21 The following couplet is mentioned by Dousa: quo numquam neque turpe magis neque fedius ullum/monstrum Romano sedit in imperio, and as Schenkl, more clearly than any other editor, points out, is ascribed by him to v.c., which elsewhere signifies V; but the lines are not in V, and the second couplet will be the work of an interpolator unable to resist the obvious temptation.

22 I have followed for the most part the evidence given in the apparatus criticus in the new edition of Ausonius (Leipzig, 1978) by Sesto Prete; but although it is often the fullest available, it is also one of the least accurate, and sometimes unclear, and I have checked the manuscript readings of V, C, K, M, T, and Q, and made necessary corrections in three places. Prete 's article on the Caesares in Respublica Litterarum 1 (1978), 255–62 does not deal with the titles.

23 F. della Corte, op. cit. (n. 7), 485.

24 Weiss R. in Classical Influences on European Culture 500–1500 A.D., Bolgar R. R. (Cambridge, 1971), pp. 6772, and Reeve M. D., Prometheus 3 (1977), 112–20.

25 See Sabbadini R., Le Scoperte dei Codici Latini e Greci ne' Secoli XIV e XV (Florence, 1905), pp. 2/3.

26 Prof. 8. 12 (Peiper) describes his early efforts; his later poetry suggests considerable proficiency.

27 Schenkl and Prete are certainly right to print Vinet's vox for V's uxor.

28 Ausonius' use of this Kaisergeschichte was suggested, but without any attempt at corroboration, by its inventor, Enmann A., in Philologus, Supplementband IV (1884), 443.

29 Peiper (CV) followed by Syme, suggested 379, on the basis that such a season suits the similar Fasti also addressed to Hesperius. Cazzaniga and della Corte assume that Hesperius in his youth was the beneficiary, but Hesperius later had other children in his care: see Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 25 (1978), 24/5.

30 By Peiper at Tetrasticha 17 (Caligula, 9); 46 (Titus, 1); 47 (Titus, 10). Schenkl cites the first, Prete the first and third. There are occasional garbled mentions of Suetonii versus in late manuscripts, as Schenkl's apparatus (fuller on this point than Prete's) makes clear.

31 Ep. 23 Peiper, 19 Schenkl and Prete.

32 I. Cazzaniga, op. cit. (n. 5), 150.

33 There are only two fragments of Marius Maximus from his Lives of Nerva and Trajan, from schol. Juv. 4. 53 and HA, Alexander 65. 4 respectively; they offer nothing of use here.

34 SirSyme R., Bonner HA-Colloquium 1970 (1972), 293 ff.

35 The historical fact that Severus took the name Pertinax is not in doubt, but since some manuscripts do not include it here, this reading should be suspected of being due by dittography to Helvius Pertinax above.

36 Read nomen, assuming dittography of -ini?

37 T. D. Barnes, op. cit. (n. 15), p. 56; JRS 57 (1967), 70 n. 23, a note which collects possible similarities with Ausonius in the Lives of Hadrian and Macrinus, to which might be added Antoninus Pius 2. 3 (cf. Ep. 31 Peiper, 86/7, in fact from a letter of Paulinus) and Hadrian 14. 11 (cf. his elegies, passim).

38 SirSyme R., Bonner HA-Colloquium 1968/1969 (1970), 299; T. D. Barnes, ibid. 31; cf. JRS 62 (1972), 125.

39 idem., Emperors and Biography, 80.

40 ibid. 92.

41 S. d'Elia, op. cit. (n. 9), p. 463, n. 12.

42 Barbieri G., Rivista di Filologia 82 (1954), 61.

43 A reasonable reconstruction: Schenkl (not Scaliger as stated by Prete) created better sense with liberti for liberi et, and doceret, impossible in sense, is improved by deceret (Vinet).

44 The term ‘echo’ is perhaps the most apt; ‘self-quotation’ would be misleadingly explicit.

45 Hopkins M. K., CQ n.s. 11 (1961), esp. 248.

46 I am grateful to Professor R. M. Ogilvie, Mr M. D. Reeve, Professor J. IJsewijn and Professor D. A. Bullough for help of various kinds in preparing this article.

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