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Ammianus Marcellinus Revision Notes

History Notes > Augustine and the Last Days of Rome: 370-450 Notes

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Ammianus Marcellinus Revision?

Ammianus o Born in 330; in Antioch
? Detested the unified greed of the Jews, Syrians and Greeks in the metropolitan city o A military man
? Served in Ursicinus' army for 10 years (til 360).
? Roman Mesopotamia, north Italy, Gaul, Tigris frontier
? Under Julian
? Persian capital of Ctesiphon from where escaped to Roman territory. o After 378, went to Rome (no later than 383) o Became a member of an influential pagan circle
? The ilk of
? Symmachus, Praetextatus o Christianity
? Not a Christian; but tolerant towards it; conceived of God as deus in the way a pagan poet like Horace had. Res Gestae o Nervus (AD 96) - Death of Valens (378) o Style
? Imitation of Tacitus o Aims for truthfulness

Ammianus Marcellinus, The Later Roman Empire [Res Gestae] tr. J.C. Rolfe, Loeb Classical Library 3 vols. (Cambridge, MA, 1935). Book 14.6: The faults of the Roman Senate and the PeopleBook 27.11: Of the noble birth, wealth, honours, and character of Probus?Ancinius Petronius Probus o A man 'known for the distinction of his family, is influence and his great wealth'1 Acquired land 'justly or unjustly' Had good Fortune

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o But sometimes 'a cruel schemer' and timid when confronted. Moreover, o Needs to have prefectures, or else he just 'pines away'. (4) He had 'natural greatness of spirit' ? didn't order anything illegal On Justice o Patronage
? Clients and slaves will always be defended by him, even if Justice wails against them. (5) Suspicious; flatterer' he was 'merciless and unbending' if he wanted to hurt someone. He was always 'worried and anxious' despite being at the 'very height of riches and honours'.2

Book 28.1: Many people, even senators and women of senatorial families are accused at Rome of poisoning, fornication, and adultery, and executed.?????

Bellona raged through the Eternal city in 366 o A reference to the contest between Damasus and Ursinus?
(2) Tells the story of Phyrnichus o Put a play in Athens about tragedy, which he was severely penalised for it: it recounted the siege of Miletus by the Persians
? i.e. he doesn't want to slag off the Roman too much because he might get punished too!
(5) Maximinus o Vice-prefect of Rome
? Gets put in charge of grain supply (an important function of prefecture) o Acts with moderation - (Ammianus always ascribes virtue to those who at with moderation)
? Why?
? Father prophesised he would attain power but get executed
? Doesn't go for high office so no one has a reason to get rid of him. But he widens his sphere o Opportunity
? Chilo and Maxima complain to Olybrius (prefect)
? Declare someone tried to poison them.
? Olybrius, impatient of delay gets Maximinus to make a quick decision
? Maximinus shows the truth of 'his hard heart' Emperor, angry at Roman vices, gives judges arbitrary power to toruture (12) Maximinus gets appointed acting Prefect in Rome o The natural bent to 'cruel conduct' in Maximinus is displayed
? He executes people on tenuous grounds.
? There is a fear of "a suspension of legal proceedings" (16)

2 Page 77.

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Cethegius o Beheads a noble, Alypius, who was banished for a trifling fault (17) Hymetius o A proconsul in Africa who sold Roman grain to the Carthaginians
? After the empire divided, Africa supplied Rome with grain. o Condemned to death by the emperor.
? Incensed when the Senate decide he should be given a lighter sentence. (24) A group of senators go to the emperor to petition o They argued:
? 'The punishment must fit the crime'3
? Torture must be made illegal on senators
? A successful appeal, the cruel powers of judges is rescinded. (26) Lollianus o Convicted of having 'written a book on destructive magic arts' in his youth.
? For this crime, the man is executed!
o Not just anyone
? Lollianus was the son of the ex-prefect, Lampadius. (28) 'Not even women were more immune from similar calamities'4 o Many were charged of adultery and fornication ? put to death!
o Charitas, Flaviana
? Stripped naked and executed!
(29) Even the head of the mint is executed. (31) Aginatius o Tells Probus that Maximinus was weak and could be put down
? Maximinus had been puffed up by pride after all. o Maximinus gets wind of the letter, blazes against Aginatius. o Accuses Victorinus (a judge) of selling decisions to Maximinius
? He accused Victorinus' wife, Anepsia, too.
? The woman went to Maximinus for his protection o Pretended 3,000 silver pounds were waiting for him.
? Greedy Maximinus wants more - asks for half her inheritance. o Even married Anespia's child to his son (38) Through such means, the 'hands of the very many were bound in fetters, and men of noble birth were seen in mourning garb and in distress'. o What Ammianus is referring to here is an attack on those of high birth. (41) Maximinus o Gets promoted to praetorian prefecture of Gaul: 371-376.

3 Page 103 4 Page 105

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An omen that 'the most despised station would be raised to high rank in the offices of state'.5????

(43) After Maximinus, came Ursicinus o Inclined to 'milder measures' o Yet still, he is deposed
? Followed by Simplicius of Hemona (375)
? A former teacher of literature and later an adviser of Maximinus.
? Neither proud nor arrogant
? But 'plotted severity for many'.
? Put to death Rufina for adultery o Wants to outdo the bloody Maximinus
? Attacks distinguished families, Antaeus and Phalaris. (49) Maximinus o Hostile to Aginatius seeks a death warrant for him. o Finds a man named Doryphorianus
? Insane man
? Gives him the task to kill Aginatius.
? In 376
? Aginatius' maid-servant is tortured into giving a testimony against him (not properly scrutinised testimony) and executes him without a hearing!
(57) But Maximinus does fall o Under Gratian, his "intolerable arrogance" make shim "fall victim to the executioner's sword"6 o Simplicius was also beheaded in Illyricum "But let us return to the point from which we made this digression. This, if I may say so, was the state of affairs in Rome"7

28.4: Of the city-prefecture of Olybrius and Ampelius; and of the faults of the senate and people of RomeOlybrius (369-370) o Virtues
? Peaceful, mild
? Careful his decisions were not harsh
? Punished calumny
? Cut down profits of the privy-purse

5 Page 113. 6 Page 121 7 Page 121.

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? Just
? Lenient to the citizens of Rome o Vices
? Inclined to luxury
? His whole private life was 'spent in playhouses and love affairs, though the latter were neither unlawful nor incestuous.'8 Ampelius o Went from proconsul ? prefecture. o Virtues
? Popular among the people o Vices
? 'a man who lusted after pleasures'9
? Not steadfast enough
? He started off well o No wine shop should open before 4th hour o No one of the common people should heat water (mix with wine) o No cooked meat o Seeks to combat gluttony and appetite
? These were all laws passed by Tiberius, renewed by Claudius and Nero o Though in the end
? These 'shameful acts'10 were 'constantly overlooked'11. o In the end, such was the 'stain of incurable sins that had overwhelmed most people' that not even the 6th Century Cretan, Epimenides (who purified the city from crimes caused by Cylon) could have helped. (6) On the delinquency of nobles and 'On the delinquency of common people'. Nobles o Flavonii, Pagonii What is wrong with the nobles?
o Wear 'silken garments' as if they are leading an army o They ask, upon entering 'where on earth are our attendants?"12 o Flatterers
? When a prostitute walks past, the men fawn over her.
? In the old days, a senator would be punished to kiss his wife in the presence of their own daughter!
o Think they're doing you a favour by letting you kiss their knees.

8 Page 139. 9 Page 139. 10 Page 139 11 Page 139. 12 Page 141.

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o o o?????

Houses
? Filled by 'idle chatter boxes '
? They applaud 'every word of the man of loftier fortune', emulating 'the witty flatterires of the parasites in the comedies.' Banquets
? Excessive (14) Hate learning
? Read only Juvenal and Marius Maximus.
? Who are these 2 people?
o Juvenal
? Early 2nd Century poet who wrote Satires o Marius Maximus
? City prefect under Macrinus who wrote biographies of the Caesars
? They shun (pathetic considering their enormous nobility) better works:
? Socrates o When about to die asked a musician to teach him a song, so 'in order that I may know something more before I depart from life'.13 o Roman nobles must have this thirst for knowledge. Instead they are intellectually lazy.

(16) Harsh on slaves o Condemn him to suffer three hundred lashes (17) It is better for a stranger to kill any man's brother than to decline his invitation to dinner!
(18) Estates o On visit here (absenteeism!)
? While getting their slaves to hunt they think they are an Alexander or a Caesar!
? This is particularly irksome to Ammianus who, as a military man who knew winters in northern Gaul and the summers of Mesopotamia and Egypt, these Roman dandies were to be scoffed at!
(19) o A veteran of imperial service?
? A company of admirers come out to meet him. (20) o They are gamblers (27) o When they want a loan, they ask very humbly
? Yet when it is time to repay, 'they are so arrogant that you would think them Cresphontes and Temenus!
Ammianus then attacks the 'idle and slothful commons'.14

13 Page 147. 14 Page 157.

??(28) Despite ignominious backgrounds, they masquerade as nobles o Cites 'cultured names' likes Messores, Statarii, Semicupae
? Though actually, we know Ammianus is being satirical ? these are humble names. o Hang around the Circus Maximus
? In fact, they 'outstrip the very chariots' in their haste to get to the races. o Indolent, 'low haunts' (34) They are gluttonous. o They 'hang over the nauseous mass of half-raw meat, while it is cooking' like Democritus
? Democritus was a Greek physical philosopher from Abdera.

29.2 Many in the Orient, accused of magic and other crimes and condemned, are put to death, some justly, others unjustly.????

(1) 371-372 Palladius o Ready to bring 'grief and tears' upon the whole Roman Empire o He is an inquisitor
? Hunts people who 'having stained themselves with the knowledge of magic'15
? Immediately when put on trial, the owner's property would be investigated to find furniture with incantation 'for the ruin of innocent people'.16
? Really just an excuse
? Palladius robs these people without even giving them a fair trial. (4) In the East, thus o People burn their libraries, such 'was the terror seized upon all.'17 (5) Bassanius o Man of illustrious family was accused of trying to 'gain foreknowledge of higher power'
? He had tried to inquire as to the sex of his unborn child. o He was 'stripped of his patrimony'18 (but saved). (6) Heliodorus o An astrologer induced by court to reveal what he knows/ could invent.
? Pampered with food and presents for his concubines.
? Got to visit women's apartments

15 Page 215. 16 Page 217. 17 Page 217. 18 Page 217.

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