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Historia Augusta

p. xxxiii The Manuscripts

The manuscripts of the Historia Augusta are divided into two main classes, each of which has such definite characteristics that the distinction between them is sharp and clear. Both classes are, indeed, derived from a common original, made after the loss of the vitae of the emperors from Philip to Valerian1 and of considerable portions of the vitae of the Valeriani and the Gallieni. On the other hand, there is a conspicuous difference between the two classes in the manner in which the text has been treated. In one class, usually designated as Class Π, the treatment has been most conservative. The text has been preserved free from all interpolations or additions, and especially the lacunae in the biographies of the Valeriani and the Gallieni have been carefully indicated by dots marking the missing letters. This class is also characterised by a confusion in the order of the biographies between Verus and Alexander and by the misplacement of two long passages from the Alexander and the Maximini (Alex., xliii.7‑lviii.1, and Max., v.3‑xviii.2), each of which corresponds to a quire of the original which became loose and was then inserted in a wrong place. A similar p. xxxivtransposition occurs in the Carus, where c. xiii.1‑xv.5 has been inserted in c. ii.

The manuscripts of the other class, designated as Class Σ, differ from those of Class Π in that the text has been treated with the utmost freedom. In many places, where the original was corrupt, drastic emendations have been made, and where none seemed possible, the corrupt parts have been omitted altogether. This is especially conspicuous in the lacunae in the vitae of the Valeriani and the Gallieni, where all trace of the loss has been covered up by the insertion of words and the formation of a continuous text. In all this the aim has been to construct a smooth and easily readable narrative. In other places, such as the end of the Caracalla and of the Maximus-Balbinus and the beginning of the Valeriani, additions have been made to the text; and in the case of the Marcus considerable sections have been shifted about and then connected in their new places by arbitrary changes in the context. It is also characteristic of this class that the vitae (with the single exception of the Avidius Cassius) are arranged in chronological order and that the sections transposed in Class Π are in their rightful places.

The manuscripts of Class Π were supposed by Peter to consist of three main groups, all derived from the same archetype, and represented respectively by the Codex Palatinus 899 (P); the Codex Bambergensis (B); and the Codex Vaticanus 5301 with others. Peter accordingly regarded the Palatinus and the Bambergensis as equally authoritative. More recent investigation, however, as carried on by Mommsen2 and Dessau,3 has shown that the Codex p. xxxvPalatinus is the parent manuscript, and that all the others of Class Π are only direct or indirect copies of it. All contain errors and omissions which can be due only to a transcription of the Palatinus, over faithful or unskilful, as the case may be. Accordingly, only the Palatinus can be regarded as authoritative in this class, and the others may be used only for the purpose of confirmation or supplement.

The tradition contained in the manuscripts of Class Σ, though regarded as untrustworthy by Peter, was admitted by him to be possibly independent of that of Class Π. This independence is more strongly maintained by Dr. Ernst Hohl.4 He points to the chronological order of the vitae and to the correct arrangement of the quires transposed in the manuscripts of Class Π as evidence for his conviction that the manuscripts of this class represent a tradition different from that of Class Π, although, as the various omissions show, derived from a common original. He has, furthermore, cited in proof of his theory various passages in the biographies of Alexander and Aurelian contained in the manuscripts of Class Σ but not in Codex Palatinus, and argues that these were excised from the original of the latter because of allusions to pagan deities. These considerations, together with a number of readings which are better than those of the Palatinus, have convinced him that the Σ manuscripts are derived ultimately from an original at least as old as the Palatinus and retaining more correctly many of the readings of their common archetype. On the other hand, p. xxxviMiss Susan H. Ballou,5 following the opinion expressed by Dessau, argues that these divergencies from the tradition of Class Π are of such a character that they can be merely the work of a clever, though unscrupulous, redactor. She holds that this man made his transcription from the Codex Palatinus, having before him all the corrections and additions that had been introduced by all the later correctors, and taking from all of them as many as suited his purpose. This transcription, she believes, was the original of the extant Σ manuscripts, which, accordingly, represent, not an independent tradition, but merely the work of an editor, who by means of intelligent and original treatment of the material contained in the Palatinus and by the unscrupulous use of interpolation and re-arrangement, created a readable but unsound version of the text.

With only the present evidence available the problem of the value of the manuscripts of Class Σ must be regarded as still unsolved. The arguments advanced by Dr. Hohl are not altogether convincing, and it has not yet been fully demonstrated that the tradition of the Σ manuscripts is independent of those of Class Π. For the present, therefore, any constitution of the text must be based on the readings of the Codex Palatinus.

p. xxxvii Editions and Translations

Editions —

Editio Princeps: edited by Bonus Accursius, Milan, 1475.

Venice Editions: printed by Bernadinus Ricius (Rizus), 1489, and J. Rubens de Vercellis, 1490.

Aldine Edition: edited by J. B. Egnatius, Venice, 1516; Florence, 1519.

Desiderius Erasmus: published by Froben, Basel, 1518.

Isaac Casaubon: Paris, 1603.

Janus Gruter: Hanover, 1611.

Claudius Salmasius; containing also Casaubon's notes: Paris, 1620; London, 1652.

C. Schrevel: Leyden, 1661.

Variorum Edition; containing the commentaries of Casaubon, Gruter, and Salmasius: published by Hack, Leyden, 1671.

Ulrich Obrecht: Strassburg, 1677.

J. P. Schmidt, with preface by J. L. E. Püttmann: Leipzig, 1774.

Bipontine Edition, 2 vols: Zweibrücken and Strassburg, 1787 and 1789.

Panckouke, 3 vols.: Paris, 1844‑1847.

Thomas Vallaurius: Turin, 1853.

H. Jordan and F. Eyssenhardt, 2 vols: Berlin, 1864.

Hermann Peter, 2 vols. (Teubner Text): Leipzig, 1st Edition, 1865; 2nd Edition, 1884.

Translations —

German —

J. P. Ostertag, 2 vols.: Frankfurt a. Main, 1790, 1793.

L. Storch; Hadrian, Aelius, and Antoninus Pius: Prenzlau, 1829.

C. A. Closs, 6 vols.: Stuttgart, 1856‑1857.

French —

G. de Moulines, 3 vols.: Berlin, 1783; 2nd Edition, Paris, 1806.

Th. Baudemont (collection Nisard): Paris, 1845.

Spanish —

F. Navarro y Calvo, 2 vols: Madrid, 1889‑1890.


The Author's Notes:

1 See Intro., p. xiv.

2 Herm., XXV (1890), pp281‑291 = Ges. Schr., VII, pp352‑362.

3 Herm., XXIX (1894), pp393‑416.

4 Klio, XIII (1913), pp258‑288, 387‑423; XV (1918), pp78‑98.

5 The Manuscript Tradition of the Historia Augusta, Leipzig, 1914.


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