Ammianus Marcellinus (born c. 330, died c. 391 – 400) was a Roman soldier and historian who wrote the penultimate major historical account surviving from antiquity (preceding Procopius). His work, known as the Res Gestae, chronicled in Latin the history of Rome from the accession of the Emperor Nerva in 96 to the death of Valens at the Battle of Adrianople in 378, although only the sections covering the period 353–378 survive.
Greek-speaking East, possibly Antioch
|Died||391–400 (aged 61–70)|
|Allegiance||Western Roman Empire|
|Other work||Res Gestae|
Ammianus was born in the Greek-speaking East, possibly in Syria or Phoenicia[a] in 330. His native language was most likely Greek; he learned Latin as a second language, and was probably familiar with Syriac as well. The surviving books of his history cover the years 353 to 378.
Ammianus served as a soldier in the army of Constantius II and Julian in Gaul and in the Roman–Persian Wars. He professes to have been "a former soldier and a Greek" (miles quondam et graecus), and his enrollment among the elite protectores domestici (household guards) shows that he was of middle class or higher birth. Consensus is that Ammianus probably came from a curial family, but it is also possible that he was the son of a comes Orientis of the same family name. He entered the army at an early age, when Constantius II was emperor of the East, and was sent to serve under Ursicinus, governor of Nisibis in Mesopotamia, and magister militum.
He returned with Ursicinus to Italy when Ursicinus was recalled by Constantius to begin an expedition against Claudius Silvanus. Silvanus had been forced by the allegedly false accusations of his enemies into proclaiming himself emperor in Gaul. Ammianus campaigned in the East twice under Ursicinus. On one occasion, he became separated from the officer's entourage and took refuge in Amida during the siege of the city by the Sassanids under King Shapur II; he barely escaped with his life.
When Ursicinus was dismissed from his military post by Constantius, Ammianus too seems to have retired from the military; however, reevaluation of his participation in Julian's Persian campaigns has led modern scholarship to suggest that he continued his service but did not for some reason include the period in his history. He accompanied Julian, for whom he expresses enthusiastic admiration, in his campaigns against the Alamanni and the Sassanids. After Julian's death, Ammianus accompanied the retreat of the new emperor, Jovian, as far as Antioch. He was residing in Antioch in 372 when a certain Theodorus was thought to have been identified the successor to the emperor Valens by divination. Speaking as an alleged eyewitness, Marcellinus recounts how Theodorus and several others were made to confess their deceit through the use of torture, and cruelly punished.
Modern scholarship generally describes Ammianus as a pagan who was tolerant of Christianity. Marcellinus writes of Christianity as being a pure and simple religion that demands only what is just and mild, and when he condemns the actions of Christians, he does not do so on the basis of their Christianity as such. His lifetime was marked by lengthy outbreaks of sectarian and dogmatic strife within the new state-backed faith, often with violent consequences (especially the Arian controversy) and these conflicts sometimes appeared unworthy to him, though it was territory where he could not risk going very far in criticism, due to the growing and volatile political connections between the church and imperial power.
He was not blind to the faults of Christians or of pagans; he observed in his Res Gestae that "no wild beasts are so deadly to humans as most Christians are to each other." and he condemns his hero Julian for excessive attachment to (pagan) sacrifice, and for his edict effectively barring Christians from teaching posts.
While living in Rome in the 380s, Ammianus wrote a Latin history of the Roman empire from the accession of Nerva (96) to the death of Valens at the Battle of Adrianople (378), in effect writing a continuation of the history of Tacitus. He presumably completed the work before 391, as at 22.16.12 he praises the Serapeum in Egypt as the glory of the empire; it was in that same year the Emperor granted the temple grounds to a Christian bishop, provoking pagans into barricading themselves in the temple, plundering its contents, and torturing Christians, ultimately destroying the temple. The Res Gestae (Rerum gestarum Libri XXXI) was originally composed of thirty-one books, but the first thirteen have been lost.[b] The surviving eighteen books cover the period from 353 to 378. It constitutes the foundation of modern understanding of the history of the fourth century Roman Empire. It is lauded as a clear, comprehensive, and generally impartial account of events by a contemporary; like many ancient historians, however, Ammianus was in fact not impartial, although he expresses an intention to be so, and had strong moral and religious prejudices. Although criticised as lacking literary merit by his early biographers, he was in fact quite skilled in rhetoric, which significantly has brought the veracity of some of the Res Gestae into question.
His work has suffered substantially from manuscript transmission. Aside from the loss of the first thirteen books, the remaining eighteen are in many places corrupt and lacunose. The sole surviving manuscript from which almost every other is derived is a ninth-century Carolingian text, Vatican lat. 1873 (V), produced in Fulda from an insular exemplar. The only independent textual source for Ammianus lies in Fragmenta Marbugensia (M), another ninth-century Frankish codex which was taken apart to provide covers for account-books during the fifteenth century. Only six leaves of M survive; however, before this manuscript was dismantled the Abbot of Hersfeld lent the manuscript to Sigismund Gelenius, who used it in preparing the text of the second Froben edition (G). The dates and relationship of V and M were long disputed until 1936 when R. P. Robinson demonstrated persuasively that V was copied from M. As L.D. Reynolds summarizes, "M is thus a fragment of the archetype; symptoms of an insular pre-archetype are evident."
His handling from his earliest printers was little better. The editio princeps was printed in 1474 in Rome by Georg Sachsel and Bartholomaeus Golsch, which broke off at the end of Book 26. The next edition (Bologna, 1517) suffered from its editor's conjectures upon the poor text of the 1474 edition; the 1474 edition was pirated for the first Froben edition (Basle, 1518). It was not until 1533 that the last five books of Ammianus' history were put into print by Silvanus Otmar and edited by Mariangelus Accursius. The first modern edition was produced by C.U. Clark (Berlin, 1910–1913). The first English translations were by Philemon Holland in 1609, and later by C.D. Yonge in 1862.
Edward Gibbon judged Ammianus "an accurate and faithful guide, who composed the history of his own times without indulging the prejudices and passions which usually affect the mind of a contemporary." But he also condemned Ammianus for lack of literary flair: "The coarse and undistinguishing pencil of Ammianus has delineated his bloody figures with tedious and disgusting accuracy." Austrian historian Ernst Stein praised Ammianus as "the greatest literary genius that the world produced between Tacitus and Dante".
According to Kimberly Kagan, his accounts of battles emphasize the experience of the soldiers but at the cost of ignoring the bigger picture. As a result, it is difficult for the reader to understand why the battles he describes had the outcome they did.
Ammianus' work contains a detailed description of the tsunami in Alexandria which devastated the metropolis and the shores of the eastern Mediterranean on 21 July 365. His report describes accurately the characteristic sequence of earthquake, retreat of the sea and sudden giant wave.
Count Aelianus (Ancient Greek: Κόμης Αιλιανός; Latin: Aelianus Comes) (died 359 AD) was the chief Roman officer in charge of the defense of Amida during the siege of 359 by Shah Shapur II.Very little is known about his life, except that he was noted by Ammianus Marcellinus as having led new recruits into an attack on the Sassanids who were laying siege to the Roman city of Singara. After the capture and sack of Amida, he was gibbeted by the victorious Sassanians along with his tribunes.He was mentioned in the earlier books of Ammianus Marcellinus (books 1-13), but these are lost.Amida (Mesopotamia)
Amida (Greek: Ἄμιδα, Syriac: ܐܡܝܕ, Kurdish: Amed) was an ancient city in Mesopotamia located where modern Diyarbakır, Turkey now stands. The Roman writers Ammianus Marcellinus and Procopius consider it a city of Mesopotamia.
The city was located on the right bank of the Tigris. The walls are lofty and substantial, and constructed of the recycled stones from older buildings.Apodemius
Apodemius (died 361) was an officer of the Roman Empire, a courtier of Emperor Constantius II, involved in the deaths of Constantius Gallus and Claudius Silvanus.Arbitio
Arbitio (fl. 354–366) was a Roman general (magister militum) and Consul who lived in the middle of the 4th century.Battle of Adrianople
The Battle of Adrianople (9 August 378), sometimes known as the Battle of Hadrianopolis, was fought between an Eastern Roman army led by the Eastern Roman Emperor Valens and Gothic rebels (largely Thervings as well as Greutungs, non-Gothic Alans, and various local rebels) led by Fritigern. The battle took place in the vicinity of Adrianople, in the Roman province of Thracia (modern Edirne in European Turkey). It ended with an overwhelming victory for the Goths and the death of Emperor Valens.Part of the Gothic War (376–382), the battle is often considered the start of the process which led to the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century.
A detailed account for the leadup to the battle from the Roman perspective is from Ammianus Marcellinus and forms the culminating point at the end of his history.Constantius II
Constantius II (Latin: Flavius Julius Constantius Augustus; Greek: Κωνστάντιος; 7 August 317 – 3 November 361) was Roman Emperor from 337 to 361. His reign saw constant warfare on the borders against the Sasanian Empire and Germanic peoples, while internally the Roman Empire went through repeated civil wars and usurpations, culminating in Constantius' overthrow as emperor by his cousin Julian. His religious policies inflamed domestic conflicts that would continue after his death.
The second son of Constantine I and Fausta, Constantius was made Caesar by his father in 324. He led the Roman army in war against the Sasanian Empire in 336. A year later, Constantine I died, and Constantius became Augustus with his brothers Constantine II and Constans. He promptly oversaw the massacre of eight of his relatives, consolidating his hold on power. The brothers divided the empire among themselves, with Constantius receiving the eastern provinces. In 340, his brothers Constantine and Constans clashed over the western provinces of the empire. The resulting conflict left Constantine dead and Constans as ruler of the west. The war against the Sasanians continued, with Constantius losing a major battle at Singara in 344. In 350, Constans was overthrown and assassinated in 350 by the usurper Magnentius.
Unwilling to accept Magnentius as co-ruler, Constantius waged a civil war against the usurper, defeating him at the battles of Mursa Major in 351 and Mons Seleucus in 353. Magnentius committed suicide after the latter battle, leaving Constantius as sole ruler of the empire. In 351, Constantius elevated his cousin Constantius Gallus to the subordinate rank of Caesar to rule in the east, but had him executed three years later after receiving scathing reports of his violent and corrupt nature. Shortly thereafter, in 355, Constantius promoted his last surviving cousin, Gallus' younger half-brother Julian, to the rank of Caesar.
As emperor, Constantius promoted Arian Christianity, persecuted pagans by banning sacrifices and closing pagan temples and issued laws discriminating against Jews. His military campaigns against Germanic tribes were successful: he defeated the Alamanni in 354 and campaigned across the Danube against the Quadi and Sarmatians in 357. The war against the Sasanians, which had been in a lull since 350, erupted with renewed intensity in 359 and Constantius traveled to the east in 360 to restore stability after the loss of several border fortresses to the Sasanians. However, Julian claimed the rank of Augustus in 360, leading to war between the two after Constantius' attempts to convince Julian to back down failed. No battle was fought, as Constantius became ill and died of fever on 3 November 361 in Mopsuestia, naming Julian as his rightful successor before his death.Florentius (consul 361)
Florentius was a Roman praetorian prefect under the Caesar Julian and later a consul, before falling from grace when Julian became emperor.Gothic War (376–382)
Between about 376 and 382 the Gothic War against the Eastern Roman Empire, and in particular the Battle of Adrianople, is commonly seen as a major turning point in the history of the Roman Empire, the first of a series of events over the next century that would see the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, although its ultimate importance to the Empire's eventual fall is still debated.Hystaspes (father of Darius I)
Hystaspes (Greek: Ὑστάσπης), Vishtaspa (Old Persian:𐎻𐏁𐎫𐎠𐎿𐎱 Vištāspa) or Gustasp (modern Persian) (fl. 550 BC), was a Persian satrap of Bactria and Persis. He was the father of Darius I, king of the Achaemenid Empire, and Artabanus, who was a trusted advisor to both his brother Darius as well as Darius's son and successor, Xerxes I.
The son of Arsames, Hystaspes was a member of the Persian royal house of the Achaemenids. He was satrap of Persis under Cambyses, and probably under Cyrus the Great also. He accompanied Cyrus on his expedition against the Massagetae. However, he was sent back to Persis to keep watch over his eldest son, Darius, whom Cyrus, after a dream, suspected of considering treason.
Besides Darius, Hystaspes had three sons: Artabanus, Artaphernes, and Artanes.Ammianus Marcellinus makes him a chief of the Magians, and tells a story of his studying in India under the Brahmins, an event that would correspond to the Achaemenid conquest of the Indus Valley:
"Hystaspes, a very wise monarch, the father of Darius. Who while boldly penetrating into the remoter districts of upper India, came to a certain woody retreat, of which with its tranquil silence the Brahmans, men of sublime genius, were the possessors. From their teaching he learnt the principles of the motion of the world and of the stars, and the pure rites of sacrifice, as far as he could; and of what he learnt he infused some portion into the minds of the Magi, which they have handed down by tradition to later ages, each instructing his own children, and adding to it their own system of divination".
In ancient sources, Hystaspes is sometimes considered as identical with Vishtaspa (the Avestan name for Hystapes), an early patron of Zoroaster.The name of Hystaspes occurs in the inscriptions at Persepolis and in the Behistun Inscription, where the full lineage of Darius the Great is given:
King Darius says: My father is Hystaspes [Vištâspa]; the father of Hystaspes was Arsames [Aršâma]; the father of Arsames was Ariaramnes [Ariyâramna]; the father of Ariaramnes was Teispes [Cišpiš]; the father of Teispes was Achaemenes [Haxâmaniš].
King Darius says: That is why we are called Achaemenids; from antiquity we have been noble; from antiquity has our dynasty been royal.
King Darius says: Eight of my dynasty were kings before me; I am the ninth. Nine in succession we have been kings.
King Darius says: By the grace of Ahuramazda am I king; Ahuramazda has granted me the kingdom.Juthungi
The Juthungi (Greek: Iouthungoi, Latin: Iuthungi) were a Germanic tribe in the region north of the rivers Danube and Altmühl in the modern German state of Bavaria.
The tribe was mentioned by the Roman historians Publius Herennius Dexippus and Ammianus Marcellinus. The meaning of their name is “descendants”, and refers to the ancient Suebian tribe of the Semnoni.
The Juthungi invaded Italy in 259–260, but on their way back they were defeated near Augsburg on 24–25 April 260 by Marcus Simplicinius Genialis (this is recorded on a Roman victory altar found in 1992). At this time the Roman Empire lost control of this part of the limes. Between 356 and 358 the Juthungi and the Alamanni invaded the province of Raetia, and destroyed Castra Regina (the Roman capital of the province, and one of the biggest Roman military camps in south Germany, with massive stone walls and a village). A second invasion of Raetia in 383 was repelled by an army of Alans and Huns. Between 429 and 431 the Roman general Aëtius also fought against the Juthungi in Raetia.Legio II Armeniaca
Legio II Armeniaca (from Armenia) was a legion of the late Roman Empire.
Its name could mean it was garrisoned in the Roman province of Armenia, but later, together with its twin, I Armeniaca, it was moved into the field army as a pseudocomitatensis legion. The legion is reported to have built a camp in Satala (CIL II 13630, through Ritterling's Legio). According to Ammianus Marcellinus (Res Gestae xx 7), in 360. II Armeniaca was stationed in Bezabde with II Flavia Virtutis and II Parthica, when Shapur II besieged and conquered the city, killing many of the inhabitants. The II Armeniaca however, survived, since it is cited in the Notitia Dignitatum as being under the command of the Dux Mesopotamiae.Legio II Flavia Virtutis
Legio II Flavia Virtutis ("brave Flavian") was a comitatensis Roman legion, levied by Emperor Constantius II (337–361), together with I Flavia Pacis and III Flavia Salutis.
According to Ammianus Marcellinus (Res Gestae xx.7.1), in 360 II Flavia Virtutis was stationed in Bezabde with II Armeniaca and II Parthica, when the King of Persia Shapur II besieged and conquered the city, killing many of the inhabitants.
According to Notitia Dignitatum (in partibus Occidentis, vii), at the beginning of the 5th century, the comitatensis legion Secundani (very probably II Flavia Virtutis) were under the command of the comes Africae.Limigantes
The Limigantes is a name applied to a population that lived by the Tisza river, in Banat, in the 4th century. They are attested by Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus (c. 390) in connection to Sarmatians.
Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus (c. 390) described the Limigantes as Sarmatae servi ("Sarmatian slaves/serfs"), as opposed to the Arcaragantes, Sarmatae liberi ("free Sarmatians"). It is unclear whether the Limigantes were simply an under-class of ethnic Sarmatians or a non-Sarmatian subject people.Marcellus (usurper)
Marcellus (died 366) was an officer of the Roman Empire, supporter of usurper Procopius and usurper himself for a short time.
There are two versions of the history of his usurpation, the first told by Ammianus Marcellinus, a contemporary historian, the second exposed by Zosimus, an historian of the beginning of the 6th century.Onager (weapon)
The onager (British /ˈɒnədʒə/, /ˈɒnəɡə/, U.S. /ˈɑnədʒər/) was an imperial-era Roman torsion powered siege engine; in other words, a small catapult. The onager was first mentioned in 353 AD by Ammianus Marcellinus, who described onagers as the same as a scorpion.Scorpio (weapon)
The scorpio or scorpion was a type of Roman torsion siege engine and field artillery piece. It was described in detail by the early-imperial Roman architect and engineer Vitruvius in the 1st century BC and by the 4th century AD officer and historian Ammianus Marcellinus.Siege of Amida
The Siege of Amida took place when the Sassanians under Shapur II besieged the Roman city of Amida (modern Diyarbakır, Turkey) in 359 CE.
In this battle Ammianus Marcellinus, a historian of Greek origin from Antioch, was a Roman army officer; he described the siege in his work (Res Gestae).Ursicinus (Roman general)
Ursicinus was a Roman senior military officer, holding the rank of "master of cavalry" (magister equitum) in the later Roman Empire c. 349–359. He was a citizen of Antioch and was well connected in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire.Valentinian I
Valentinian I (Latin: Flavius Valentinianus Augustus; Greek: Οὐαλεντινιανός; 3 July 321 – 17 November 375), also known as Valentinian the Great, was Roman emperor from 364 to 375. Upon becoming emperor he made his brother Valens his co-emperor, giving him rule of the eastern provinces while Valentinian retained the west.
During his reign, Valentinian fought successfully against the Alamanni, Quadi, and Sarmatians. Most notable was his victory over the Alamanni in 367 at the Battle of Solicinium. His brilliant general Count Theodosius defeated a revolt in Africa and the Great Conspiracy, a coordinated assault on Roman Britain by Picts, Scots, and Saxons. Valentinian was also the last emperor to conduct campaigns across both the Rhine and Danube rivers. Valentinian rebuilt and improved the fortifications along the frontiers, even building fortresses in enemy territory.
Due to the successful nature of his reign and the rapid decline of the empire after his death, he is often considered to be the "last great western emperor". He founded the Valentinian Dynasty, with his sons Gratian and Valentinian II succeeding him in the western half of the empire.