Ammianus Marcellinus (b. c. 330, Antioch, Syria [now Antakya, Tur.]--d. 395, Rome [Italy])
Last major Roman historian, whose work continued the history of the later Roman Empire to 378.
Born of a noble Greek family, Ammianus served in the army of Constantius II in Gaul and Persia. He eventually settled in Rome, where he wrote his Latin history of the Roman Empire from the accession of Nerva to the death of Valens, thus continuing the work of Tacitus.
This history, Rerum gestarum libri ("The Chronicles of Events"), consisted of 31 books, of which only the last 18, covering the years 353-378, survive. It is a clear, comprehensive account of events by a writer of soldierly qualities, independent judgment, and wide reading. Drawing upon his own experience, Ammianus presents vivid pictures of the empire's economic and social problems. A pagan who was religiously tolerant, he took a detached view of the intellectual trends of the day. His judgment in political affairs was limited only by his own straightforward attitude. He used the regular techniques of later Roman historiography--rhetoric in his speeches, ethnographical digressions in descriptions and characterizations, along with literary allusion, overabundant metaphor, and much verbal ornament. In conscious imitation of Tacitus, he wrote with vivid and striking dramatic power.