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Bill Thayer

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Liber Memorialis

The Author and the Work

Nothing at all is known about Ampelius beyond what he tells us in this little book, which in turn is the only work of his to have come down to us. The Liber Memorialis (an "aide-mémoire", or what we would call crib notes), filling only thirty-one regular-sized pages, is a summary of Greek and Roman history addressed to Macrinus, who must have been a bright young boy of about 10, who "wanted to know everything": the author, very likely his teacher or his father, obliges, writing in a suitably simple style. Now the boy's name didn't really become popular until the brief reign of the emperor of that name (although a Macrinus is mentioned in Dio Chrysostom, Or. 47.17, around 100 A.D.); it's thus very tempting to date the book to about A.D. 230. The latest date that can be extracted from it, though, is the end of Trajan's reign since that emperor is mentioned as triumphing over the Parthians.

The literary style of the work then is what we might expect from crib notes, but the Latin is not barbarous; as for the subject matter, the only bit of information that we don't have many times over from other sources is a brief description of the great Altar of Pergamum (8.14), for which Ampelius is on the contrary our sole literary source; the Altar itself was finally found and excavated in the late 19c and is the centerpiece of the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

The Text on LacusCurtius

The Latin text is that of the critical edition by Edward Wölfflin, published by B. G. Teubner, 1854 (in an 1873 reprint). It has been superseded by several more recent editions — those of Assmann (1935, Teubner, Leipzig), Terzaghi (1947, Chiantore, Torino), Arnaud-Lindet (1993, Belles-Lettres, Paris) — but the work is so slight that it really doesn't matter very much.

I don't think any English translation of the work has been published; as I mentioned, however, the Latin is very easy.

As almost always, I retyped the text rather than scanning it: not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise which I heartily recommend. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if success­ful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

At any rate, the Latin text has been thoroughly proofread, and I believe it to be errorfree (but if there are errors, please do report them).


Wölfflin's brief preface, dealing essentially with the manuscript collation and apparatus, is here, with his list of sigla. A comprehensive apparatus criticus then follows, which seemed to me a case of diminishing returns for today's Web: I omit it.

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Site updated: 12 Jan 08