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Ammianus and the Historia Augusta (Oxford University Press academic monograph reprints) Hardcover – 13 Jun 1968


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press Reprints distributed by Sa; 1st Edition edition (13 Jun. 1968)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198143443
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198143444
  • Product Dimensions: 24.6 x 16.4 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,171,399 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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viii + 237pp, cloth, jacket, 8vo

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Luc REYNAERT TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 10 Nov. 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For Sir Ronald Syme the Historia Augusta is a garden of delights.
Long time taken 'seriously' by historians, this work of six biographers of Roman emperors was unmasked by the German classical scholar H. Dessau as the fabrication of one impostor.

Sir Ronald Syme gives us a highly entertaining characterization of the author and his work, together with a sketch of the literary, social and religious context.
By comparing it with the Historiae of Ammianus Marcellinus he puts the probable publication date between 392 and 395.
This was a period of serious religious upheaval, because emperor Theodosius forbade all public exercises of pagan cults in 391, which provoked a demolition of pagan shrines (e.g. the Serapeum in Alexandria).

The author was a pagan traditionalist reflecting the beliefs and prejudices of the aristocracy, but he had no special political or social beliefs. He was certainly not an aggressive anti-Christian: 'Serapis or Christ, what did it matter? Money is the only god in Egypt.'
He can be characterized as cynical and subversive, perhaps a decayed aristocrat.
He preferred to use unpretentious Latin, the spoken word of his own time.

The content of his work is audacious in the tradition of Juvenal.
For Sir Ronald Syme, it is a historical fiction about gods and bad emperors. The author chose to pass himself off as six biographers. He invented a whole school of precursors as rivals to cite, to confute, to mock and to expose. His work became a parody of imperial biographies. He became a master of historical romance.
As Marguerite Yourcenar said: 'the emperors here became really human.
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By Torben Retboll TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 4 Jan. 2014
Format: Hardcover
Ronald Syme (1903-1989) was a classical scholar. Although born in New Zealand, he lived most of his adult life in England. He was Camden Professor of Ancient History at Brasenose College, Oxford University, from 1949 until he retired in 1970.

He is the author of several books. His main work The Roman Revolution was first published in 1939. Since then it has been reprinted several times. Among other works I can mention Tacitus (2 volumes, 1958), Sallust (1964), and History in Ovid (1978).

In the 1960s, Syme began to focus on the controversial Historia Augusta (HA). He wrote two books and several articles on this topic:

(1) "Ammianus and the Historia Augusta" (1968)

(2) Emperors and Biography: Studies in the Historia Augusta (1971)

(3) Historia Augusta Papers (1983; a collection of fifteen articles written since 1971).

"Ammianus and the Historia Augusta" (which is under review here) was reprinted by Sandpiper Books in 2001. It is still in print and not expensive. The main text is divided into 30 short chapters, including an introduction and an epilogue.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 0 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
A parody of imperial biographies 13 April 2005
By Luc REYNAERT - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
For Sir Ronald Syme the Historia Augusta is a garden of delights.

Long time taken 'seriously' by historians, this work of six biographers of Roman emperors was unmasked by the German classical scholar H. Dessau as the fabrication of one impostor.

Sir Ronald Syme gives us a highly entertaining characterization of the author and his work, together with a sketch of the literary, social and religious context.

By comparing it with the Historiae of Ammianus Marcellinus he puts the probable publication date between 392 and 395.

This was a period of serious religious upheaval, because emperor Theodosius forbade all public exercises of pagan cults in 391, which provoked a demolition of pagan shrines (e.g. the Serapeum in Alexandria).

The author was a pagan traditionalist reflecting the beliefs and prejudices of the aristocracy, but he had no special political or social beliefs. He was certainly not an aggressive anti-Christian: 'Serapis or Christ, what did it matter? Money is the only god in Egypt.'

He can be characterized as cynical and subversive, perhaps a decayed aristocrat.

He preferred to use unpretentious Latin, the spoken word of his own time.

The content of his work is audacious in the tradition of Juvenal.

For Sir Ronald Syme, it is a historical fiction about gods and bad emperors. The author chose to pass himself off as six biographers. He invented a whole school of precursors as rivals to cite, to confute, to mock and to expose. His work became a parody of imperial biographies. He became a master of historical romance.

As Marguerite Yourcenar said: 'the emperors here became really human.'

For Sir Ronald Syme, this work was considered in his time as a welcome strain of humour and irreverence against the coming grey new world of Christian dictatorship.

This from time to time scrappy text is indispensable for the comprehension of the Historia Augusta.

A basic knowledge of Latin is needed because not all excerpts are translated.

This book will only please Latin scholars and all those fascinated by the Historia Augusta.
I don't recommend this as he author doesn't really have an argument ... 10 Dec. 2014
By Martin Busch - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A curiosity, I don't recommend this as he author doesn't really have an argument other than saying that Ammianus was a fabricator not an historian. The terse format needed to be expanded ad re-edited present the argument in an orderly manner. Sir Syme appears to have put in a good deal of work, providing a list of characters he say did not exist and sections o th4e history he felt were most suspect.
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