The Augustan Succession: An Historical Commentary on Cassius Dio's Roman History, Books 55-56 (9 BC-AD 14)

The Augustan Succession: An Historical Commentary on Cassius Dio's Roman History, Books 55-56 (9 BC-AD 14)

The Augustan Succession: An Historical Commentary on Cassius Dio's Roman History, Books 55-56 (9 BC-AD 14)

The Augustan Succession: An Historical Commentary on Cassius Dio's Roman History, Books 55-56 (9 BC-AD 14)

Synopsis

Written in the author's maternal Greek, the Roman History of the third-century A. D. historian Cassius Dio is our fullest surviving historical source for the reign of the Emperor Augustus. In The Augustan Succession Peter Michael Swan provides an ample historical and historiographic commentary on Books 55-56 of the History. These books recount Augustus's last twenty-three years (9 B. C.-A. D. 14), during which the aging monarch, amid dynastic tragedies and military setbacks, orchestrated the continuation of the constitutional and imperial system developed under his leadership, which ended in his transmission of power to his son-in-law Tiberius. The Augustan Succession is the first commentary since the eighteenth century to offer full and fresh treatment of this segment of Dio's work. This commentary pays close critical attention to Dio's historical sources, methods, and assumptions as it also strives to present him as a figure in his own right. During a long life (ca. 164-after 229), Dio served as a Roman senator under seven emperors from Commodus to Severus Alexander, governed three Roman provinces, and was twice consul. An acute and interested contemporary observer of wide experience, positioned close to the seat of imperial power, he was a self-assured personality who embodied deeply conservative political and social views and prejudices. All these factors inform the pages of Dio's Augustan narrative, as does, above all, his doctrine that the best remedy for the troubles of his own age of "rust and iron" was rule on the model of Augustus. This is an historical commentary on Books 55-56 of Dio's Roman History. These books recount the last half of the reign of the Emperor Augustus, above all his orchestration of the first imperial succession. Addressed to both students and scholars, the new commentary is the first since the eighteenth century to offer full and fresh treatment of this segment of Dio's work.

Excerpt

It was in the nature of the cosmopolitan age of the Severan emperors that Cassius Dio, a Greek from Nicaea in Bithynia, should twice be consul in Rome; equally so that he should write, in Atticizing Greek yet mainly in the form of Roman annals and from the perspective of a Roman senator, a history of Rome from its beginnings down to A.D. 229, the year of his retirement. the eighty-book Roman History, though sadly reduced in the wreck of ancient literature, casts a vivid light on Dio’s own age “of rust and iron,” which ushered in a century of momentous change in the ancient world—and in human history. It is also an indispensable source of our knowledge of preceding periods of Roman history and a major document of Greco-Roman historiography.

Although some books of Dio have found commentators over the past century, for a commentary addressing the whole History one must resort to the admirable edition of Herrmann Samuel Reimar (1694–1768), published 1750–1752 in Hamburg. (The commentary on Dio to which F.W. Sturz devoted volumes 5–6 of his edition [Leipzig, 1824–1825] is essentially a reprint of Reimar, supplemented by Sturz with his own and other scholars’ notes.) Even in Reimar’s commentary a good deal is by the hands of predecessors. He took over notes of Fulvio Orsini (Ursinus) (1582), Joannes Löwenklau (Leunclavius) (1592), and Henri de Valois (Valesius) (1634) on the fragments of Books 1–35. Most of the notes on Books 36–60, the best-preserved part of the History, treating 69 B.C. to A.D. 46, are by Reimar’s father-in-law, Johann Albrecht Fabricius (1688–1736), author of the monumental Bibliotheca Graeca, and were completed by 1726. For Books 61– 80 we have Reimar himself as our chief guide.

1. Cassii Dionis Cocceiani Historiae Romanae Quae Supersunt (2 vols., splendidly printed). It is not as an editor of Dio, however, that Reimar is best known today, but as a rationalist critic of the Scriptures. On Reimar and the theological storm provoked by his Apologie oder Schutzschrift für die vernünftigen Verehrer Gottes, withheld during his lifetime but published in excerpt after his death by Lessing, see C.H. Talbert, ed., Reimarus: Fragments (Philadelphia, 1970), 1–27.

2. On Sturz see Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie 37.56–59. the edition of Dio by E. Gros and V. Boissée with French translation (Paris, 1840–1875) is liberally annotated as far as Book 42, but sparsely thereafter.

3. Reimar did not interleave the different sets of reliquiae so as to reproduce the original order of Dio’s account in Books 1–35. the first to do so was Gros. This configuration of Reimar’s edition is related to his skepticism, later shown to be excessive, about using Books 7–9 of Zonaras’ Epitome in reconstructing Books 1–21 of Dio’s History (to 146 B.C.).

4. See Reimar vol. 1, preface sec. 21.

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