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In one of his latest papers, published the year before his death, Sir Ronald Syme surveyed the modern scholarly literature on `The date of Justin and the discovery of Trogus' and argued that Justin's abbreviated version of the Historiae Philippicae of the Augustan historian Pompeius Trogus (not an epitome in the strict sense of that word) was composed in the later fourth century, specifically in `the vicinity of 390'--not in the Antonine or Severan period, as so many have contended.(1) Syme's central argument was lexicographical: he drew attention to a number of words in Justin's vocabulary which point to a date in the fourth century rather than the second or third.

Syme has, so far at least, failed to persuade students of Latin literature that Justin is so late a writer. The recent English version of Conte's history of Latin literature asserts roundly that Justin must `almost certainly' be placed in the second century as an approximate contemporary of Apuleius.(2) Alonso-Nunez has detected in what is said about Cyrene (13.7) an indication that Justin was writing in the reign of the African emperor Septimius Severus, i.e. between 193 and 211.(3) And, most recently, Yardley's introduction to an English translation of and commentary on Books 11 and 12, which narrate the reign of Alexander the Great, confidently places him at the beginning of the third century.(4) The two latter verdicts are in substantial agreement with opinions expressed long ago by Norden and Kroll. The former explicitly rejected the then prevailing communis opinio that Justin wrote in the Antonine age, and located him in the third century as an approximate contemporary of the scholar Sex. Pompeius Festus, the abbreviator and excerptor of Verrius Flaccus, who is conventionally dated to the late second century.(5) while the latter pronounced that nothing at all in Justin's text points to the fourth century and that his language has an altogether earlier character.(6)


Somewhat surprisingly, neither Syme nor those who have subsequently reasserted an early date for Justin discuss what has been judged to be a decisive item of evidence in favour of a date some decades after the end of the Severan dynasty. According to Justin, when Ptolemy IV Philopator became ensared by the charms of the aggressively beautiful courtesan Agathoclia, she usurped his power together with her brother Agathocles and her mother Oenanthe (30.1.7-2.5). Not only were the three seen in public and feted together, but also (30.2.5)

Agathocles regis lateri iunctus civitatem regebat, tribunatus et praefecturas et ducatus mulieres ordinabant.

Hey, the author of the entry for ducatus in the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, compared this passage of Justin with a very similar one in the Historia Augusta (Aurel. 10.2)(7): militaribus ... praeposituris et tribunatibus et legationibus et ducatibus venditis.

Now these passages occur in a section of the entry which begins by quoting Seeck for the proposition that the word dux `ist erst durch Diocletian zum Titel eines dauernden Amtes geworden'. Since Seeck had expressly asserted that before Diocletian the word dux did not have a technical meaning, but designated a commander of troops in a quite general sense,(8) Hey must have intended the implication that this passage of Justin cannot have been written before the reign of Diocletian. Seeck's contention about the title dux has never been seriously controverted; on the contrary, it has been widely accepted and applied, for example in de Jonge's commentary on Ammianus,(9) and the essential validity of his observation has been reinforced with a slight modification by subsequent epigraphical discoveries: they attest duces before 284--but only after Gallienus' exclusion of senators from military commands in the 260s.(10)

If Justin is not likely to have used ducatus in combination with tribunatus and praefecturae in the sense of `appointments to the post of tribune, prefect, and general' before the word dux was in common use to designate a military commander of a specific sort, it must be asked whether the passage quoted does in fact use these three words in a precise technical sense. The recent translation by Yardley assumes otherwise and renders as follows:

Agathocles stayed close to the king's side and governed the state, while the women dispensed tribunates, governorships and military commands.(11)

If that translation is correct, then the chronological inference suggested here is invalid. But is it correct? Yardley appears to blunt the point and rhetorical force of the passage. Justin's civitatem presumably reflects an original [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in the Greek source of Trogus, and his words imply a contrast between the civil and military administration of Egypt: he surely intended to say that Agathocles ran the city of Alexandria, while military appointments were controlled by the two women (with the subject mulieres standing after the object of ordinabant for emphasis). The passage ought, therefore, to be translated:

Agathocles stayed close to the king and governed the city (sc. of Alexandria), while the women regulated the appointment of tribunes, prefects and generals.

If this is indeed what Justin meant, then it follows that he was writing after c. 260.


Whether Justin belongs to the fourth century or the early third, one phrase in the passage which has convinced many scholars that he must have been writing before the Sassanian Persian Empire supplanted the Arsacid Parthian Empire in the 220s(12) deserves a closer examination than it has received from most of those who have written about Justin. It reads as follows (41.5.8):

omnes reges suos hoc nomine [sc. Arsaces], sicuti Romani Caesares Augustosque, cognominavere.

In this passage Justin cannot be faithfully repeating the exact words of Pompeius Trogus. For Trogus, who wrote shortly after 10 B.C.,(13) was unaware that all subsequent Roman emperors would be called Augustus like the founder of the Roman Empire. On the other hand, the wording is not likely to be entirely Justin's own. The composite nature of the clause has two corollaries. First, the inference that Justin was writing no later than the 220s, while rulers with the name or title Arsaces still occupied the Parthian throne, simply lapses. Secondly, it may be presumed that Justin has added the reference to Augusti because in his day Caesar was the title of a junior emperor subordinate in rank and privileges to an Augustus. The fact that the lower rank precedes the higher, in defiance of normal Roman convention, indicates that Justin has added Augustosque to an original which had only Caesares. Yet it does not automatically follow from this that he must be writing after Diocletian appointed two Caesars in 293: the first Caesar appointed as an Augustus designate was Hadrian's ill-fated heir L. Aelius Caesar in 136, to be followed very soon by the future Antoninus Pius and then Marcus Aurelius and, after longer intervals, by the infant Commodus and his brother C. Annius Verus in 166, Caracalla and Geta, the two sons of Septimius Severus in 195 and 198, Diadumenianus, the young son of Macrinus in 217, and Severus Alexander, the cousin of Elagabalus in 221.(14)

Trogus' original comment that all Roman rulers bore the surname Caesar requires a more careful analysis than it has usually received. On purely logical grounds, it seems unlikely that Trogus' observation that the Romans called `all their kings' Caesar can have referred merely to Julius Caesar and his heir, whose official name was Imperator Caesar Divi filius Augustus. Trogus' choice of the word `all' ought to provoke reflection--and rational speculation.

Trogus concluded his account of non-Roman history in Book 42 with Phraates' sending of his sons and grandsons to Augustus as hostages (42.5.11/12): hence he was writing shortly after 10 B.C.(15) At this date, any reference to Caesars would have been construed as including the two boys called Caesar whom Augustus had adopted in 17 B.C.--his grandsons Caius and Lucius Caesar. Hence Trogus' remark conveyed, and was intended to convey, both a compliment to Augustus and good wishes for the future by expressing the hope that these two youthful Caesars would some day succeed their adoptive father as rulers of the Roman world.(16)

(1) R. Syme, Historia 37 (1988), 358-71 = Roman Papers 6 (Oxford, 1991), 358-71, reiterated in `Trogus and the H.A., some consequences,' Institutions, societe et vie politique dans l'Empire romain au [IV.sup.e] siecle ap. J.-C. Actes de la table ronde autour de l'oeuvre d'Andre Chastagnol (Paris, 20-21 janvier 1989) (Rome, 1992), pp. 11-20. There is also a survey of modern opinions in L. Santi-Amantini, Giustino, Storie Filippiche: Epitoma da Pompeo Trogo (Milan, 1981), pp. 9-11.

Syme firmly discounted the arguments of C. Edson, in his review of O. Seel, Pompei Trogi fragmenta (Leipzig, 1956), that the panegyric delivered in Rome on 1 March 321 takes material from Justin rather than from Trogus (CP 56 [1956], 198-204, esp. 203, comparing Pan. Lat. 4 [10].20 with Justin 7.1.5-12).

(2) G. B. Conte, Latin Literature: A History, translated by J. B. Solodow, revised by D. Fowler and G. W. Most (Baltimore and London, 1994), pp. 551-2.

(3) J. M. Alonso-Nunez, Latomus 54 (1995), 356.

(4) J. C. Yardley and W. Heckel, Justin, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus, Books 11-12: Alexander the Great (Oxford, 1997), pp. 1, 8-13. The specific argument for a date earlier than 230 advanced by R. Develin, in his introduction to Yardley's earlier complete translation, Justin: Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus (Atlanta, 1994), p. 4, is fallacious.

(5) E. Norden, Antike [Kunstprosa.sup.2] (Leipzig, 1909), p. 300 n. 3; cf. W. S. Teuffel, Geschichte der romischen Literatur [2.sup.7] (Leipzig, 1920), p. 441 [sections] 261.5; J. F. Matthews, [OCD.sup.3] (1996), 1215.

(6) W. Kroll, RE 10 (1919), 957: `Auf das 4. Jhdt. weist nichts, und die Sprache wurde dann einen anderen Charakter tragen.'

(7) TLL 5.1 (1909-1934), 2130. Unfortunately, Hey spoils a good case by also citing as an example of the post-Diocletianic use of the word Julius Victor, Ars Rhetorica 3.2: `de re tantum quaestio est, ut in illa controversia: "pater et filius ducatum petierunt; filius praevaluit, aciem commisit, captus est et patibulo affixus, inventus est pater cum auro ab hostibus veniens, reus est proditionis"' (C. Halm, Rhetores Latini Minores [Leipzig, 1863], 376.38-377.2). Here the material is traditional and ducatus has its old non-technical sense of `position as leader/commander': it is the combination with praefecturae and tribunatus which provides the decisive indication that Justin is using the word to designate a specific rank or post.

(8) O. Seeck, RE 5 (1905), 1869.

(9) P. de Jonge, Sprachlicher und historischer Kommentar zu Ammianus Marcellinus XIV 1-7 (Groningen, 1935), pp. 23-4 (on 14.7.7).

(10) See the list of `Military commanders, 260-284' at PLRE 1 (1971), 1116; cf. A. H. M. Jones, Later Roman Empire 1 (Oxford, 1964), pp. 44, 48/49.

(11) J. C. Yardley, Justin (1994), p. 208.

(12) See R. B. Steele, `Pompeius Trogus and Justin,' AJP 38 (1917), 19-41, esp. 24-5.

(13) J.M. Alonso-Nunez, Latomus 54 (1995), 352-4, argues that Trogus wrote significantly later on the strength of supposed references to (1) the death of the Parthian king Phraates IV in 2 B.C. (42.4.16), (2) the consecration of the temple of Mars Ultor in the same year (42.5.12), and (3) events in Afghanistan which occurred in A.D. 6 (41.6.3). None of these alleged allusions is at all persuasive.

(14) See, respectively, [PIR.sup.2] C 605; A 1513; A697; A 1482 + 698; A. R. Birley, The African Emperor Septimius [Severus.sup.2] (London, 1988), pp. 117-20, 130; [PIR.sup.2] O 107; A 1610.

(15) Augustus boasts of the hostages in Res Gestae 32.2: although Velleius Paterculus 2.94.4 connects their surrender with Tiberius' mission to Armenia in 20, Strabo reports that they were received by Titius as governor of Syria (16.1.28, 748C)--which fixes the date as c. 10 B.C., cf. F. Millar, in E. Schurer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175 B.C.-A.D. 135), revised by G. Vermes and F. Millar, 1 (Edinburgh, 1973), p. 257.

(16) I am most grateful to my colleague Michael Dewar for sympathetic comments on my arguments--though I must leave to another the full study of Justin's language which he has urged me to undertake.

T.D. BARNES University of Toronto
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Author:BARNES, T.D.
Publication:The Classical Quarterly
Date:Jul 1, 1998

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