Ammianus, Marcellinus

, a Roman historian of the fourth century, was a Greek by birth, as we may collect from several passages in his history; and from a letter which the sophist Libanius wrote to him, and which is still extant, he appears to have been born at Antioch. In his youth he followed the profession of arms, and was enrolled among the “protectores domestici” a species of guards consisting of young men of family. From the year 350 to 359, he served in the East, and in Gaul, under Urficinus, master of the horse to Constantius. In the year 363, he was with Julian in his Persian expedition, after which he seems to have continued in the East, and to have lived generally at Antioch. In the year 374, however, he left Antioch, and went to Rome, where he wrote his history of the Roman affairs from Nerva to the death of Valens in the year 378. This consisted of thirty-one books, but the last eighteen only remain, which begin at the seventeenth year of Constantius, A. D. 353. His style is rough, which is not perhaps extraordinary in a soldier and a Greek writing in Latin, but there are many splendid passages, and he is allowed to be faithful and impartial. From the candid manner in which he speaks of Christianity, some have thought him a Christian, but there being no other foundation for such a supposition, the question has been generally decided in the negative, especially in the preface to Valesius’s edition of his works, and in his life in the General Dictionary by Bayle. Lardner is of opinion, that as he wrote under Christian emperors, he might not judge it proper to profess his religion unseasonably, and might think fit to be somewhat cautious in his reflections upon Christianity. Mosheim thinks that Ammianus, and some other learned men of his time, were a sort of neuters, neither forsaking the religion of their ancestors, nor rejecting that of the Christians; but in this Dr. Lardner cannot coincide. It is evident that he defended idols and the worshippers of them, that he makes Julian the apostate his hero, and appears to be unfriendly to Constantius. It is generally allowed, however, that he deserves the character which he gives of himself at the conclusion of his work, that of a faithful | historian. Lardner has quoted some important passages from him, in his “Testimonies of Ancient Heathens.” His death is supposed to have taken place about the year 390.

There are many editions of Ammianus: the first, Rome, 1474, a rare book, was edited by Sabinus, with scrupulous fidelity to the manuscript; Castellus published one in 1517, at Bologna, and Frobenius another at Basil, 1518, all in folio, but comprising only thirteen books. The other five were added to Accursius’ edition, 1533, in which he boasts of having corrected five hundred errors. The best, perhaps, is that of Gronovius, Leyden, 1693, fol. and 4to. There are differences of opinion among bibliographers respecting the early editions, which we have not been able to reconcile, some making the princcps editio to. consist only of eleven books. 1


Moreri. Biog. Universelle. Lardner’s Works, vol. VIII. Cave, vol. I. —Saxii Onomasticon.