Thursday, January 19, 2012


R. W. Burgess, Chronicles, Consuls, and Coins: Historiography and History in the Later Roman Empire. Variorum collected studies series, CS984. Farnham; Burlington, VT: Ashgate Variorum, 2011. Pp. 364. ISBN 9781409428206. $149.95.

Reviewed by Richard Flower, University of Sheffield (

Version at BMCR home site

[Table of Contents is listed below.]

This volume spans almost twenty-five years of scholarship by Richard Burgess, who will be familiar to any late- antique historians who have needed to consult chronicles or consularia, most notably the works of Eusebius, Jerome, Hydatius and the so-called Consularia Constantinopolitana. Like other books in the Variorum series, Chronicles, Consuls, and Coins is a collection of reprinted pieces, and thus represents a challenge to the reviewer, since all fifteen chapters have already appeared in print and many are well known and frequently cited. I shall not, therefore, provide an account of every chapter's argument, but shall instead largely restrict my comments to the impact of the pieces, and the contribution and utility of this volume in its own right. A full table of contents is given at the end of the review, including details of the original publication of each chapter.

The volume is divided into two sections, entitled 'Historiography' and 'History'. The first concerns the reconstruction and use of a number of texts important for our understanding of the history of the later Roman empire, while the second is a collection of 'historical studies' ranging from the early-fourth to the early-sixth centuries. This division, however, is not rigid. The chapters that make up the second section rely heavily on detailed analysis of ancient literary, numismatic and epigraphic evidence, as well as the same type of methodical Quellenforschung that lies at the heart of the pieces in the first section. Conversely, even when his focus is on the origins or dating of a particular text, Burgess still often broadens his scope to consider the wider historical impact of his research. For example, in chapter I, the re-dating of the Chronici canones and Historia ecclesiastica of Eusebius of Caesarea to the final period of the Great Persecution in 311 allows him to argue, contra T. D. Barnes, that Eusebius was 'an apologist first and a scholar second' (I 497).1

The first three chapters concern the Chronici canones of Eusebius and their emendation, translation and continuation by Jerome, a subject which Burgess also explored in his 1999 work Studies in Eusebian and Post- Eusebian Chronography.2 In particular, chapter II, dating from 2006, contains reflections on this attempt to reconstruct the Greek text of Eusebius' original, as well as presenting some possible new approaches to this task, even though Burgess admits the impossibility of ever achieving it with any great degree of accuracy (II 37). This piece is therefore a useful addendum to Burgess' earlier treatment of this topic. Its inclusion in this volume should also make it more readily accessible to many late-antique historians, since its original place of publication (the Journal of the Canadian Society for Syriac Studies), is probably a periodical with which few are acquainted (and which, for instance, is certainly taken by only a small number of university libraries in the U.K.). The same might also be said of chapter III, which originally appeared in the marginally better known Ancient History Bulletin. It is, however, probably the piece in this volume which deserves the broadest readership. Described by Burgess in his introduction as the 'Dummy's guide to Jerome' (vii), it incorporates some of the conclusions of chapters I and II and presents them for a non-specialist readership of classicists and ancient historians, whose acquaintance with Jerome's Chronicle is likely to involve little more than mining it for 'facts'. Burgess begins by outlining the use and abuse of this text by generations of scholars in search of the birth and death dates of Catullus and Sallust, before moving on from this illustration to provide an extensive user guide to the Chronicle and its best critical edition, describing for the unwary traveller the many pitfalls and false tracks that lie along their way.3 This piece therefore serves as a salutary warning of the dangers of either dipping into complex late-antique texts or relying too heavily on other people's footnotes.

Chapters IV–VII concern the lost work of Roman history known as the Kaisergeschichte (KG), which is believed to lie behind a number of surviving texts.4 The first two essays in this section follow the same method of presenting parallel passages from a range of late-antique historians in order to determine the degree to which they represent witnesses to a lost common source. Proceeding in this fashion, Burgess argues firstly that Jerome employed the KG, rather than Eutropius, and secondly that the terminus of the lost work should be placed in 357, rather than 337. Chapter VI is a brief discussion of the direct use of the KG by the fifth-century author Polemius Silvius, together with a tentative suggestion that its author was the obscure figure Eusebius Nanneticus. However, in the supplementary notes Burgess steps back from both these positions, as well as taking the opportunity to respond to some criticisms of the article by Roger Green.5

Chapter VII employs the same method as IV–V to explore similarities and differences between accounts of the period 357–78, coming to the conclusion that the KG went through a number of versions, dated tentatively to 358, 364 and 378. As Burgess himself acknowledges, this is an awkward reconstruction, but one which seeks to provide an explanation for the confusing evidence. The piece also contains a forceful criticism of those who seek to identify the lost Annales of Nicomachus Flavianus as the source behind a number of surviving texts.6 The reprint of this chapter is, however, incomplete. As Burgess states in his supplementary note, this article originally contained his 'biggest mistake', namely the view that the chapter titles in Ammianus Marcellinus were the work of a late Roman writer, rather than the seventeenth-century editor Adrien de Valois, as has been explored by Gavin Kelly.7 In order to deal with this error, pages 186 and 187 have been omitted from this reprint, while the final paragraph of 185 now presents a rewritten version of the end of the original 187, in order to provide a smooth link to the start of 188. While the reasons behind this excision and emendation are perfectly reasonable, these changes do compromise the utility of a Variorum volume as a set of verbatim reprints (including original pagination), especially since other revisions are supplied through supplementary notes, rather than interventions in the text.

Chapter IX signals the move from the 'historiographical' to the 'historical' articles, the first four of which are united by their methodology. Each seeks to challenge an accepted or suggested description of a sequence of events by offering a detailed analysis of the surviving accounts, thereby attempting to trace the relationships between them and the development of different versions of the story. Of particular note are chapters X and XII: the first of these is the most recent of the articles in this volume, exploring the circumstances of the accession of Constantine's sons in 337 and the associated massacre of their male relatives. This piece is especially innovative in its close analysis of the numismatic evidence, which is used both to demonstrate the imperial brothers' hostility towards their fellow-caesar Dalmatius during the final years of Constantine's reign and also to attempt to provide a more accurate chronology for the events of this tumultuous period. Despite having been published relatively recently, this piece has already influenced more general accounts of Constantine's reign, including the recent treatment by T. D. Barnes.8 Chapter XII also deals with an imperial accession, this time that of Marcian in 450, which has often been presented as having been orchestrated by Pulcheria, sister of the deceased Theodosius II. By tracing the evolution of 'official' and anti- Chalcedonian explanations, as well as their later elaborations, Burgess seeks to replace the traditional account by making the military commander Aspar the key figure, as he was in Leo's accession seven years later. While this, like the reconstructions of events in the other chapters in this section, is necessarily speculative and thus open to challenge by alternative accounts, it demonstrates clearly the problems posed by over-reliance on certain received 'sources'.9

The reprints of two other pieces in the volume are also particularly useful because the supplementary notes provide important additions or correctives to the original pieces. Chapter XIII, which formed a response to a piece by Ralph Mathisen on the ephemeral emperor Avitus, was the subject of a response in turn from Mathisen.10 The supplementary notes here present a response to the response to the response, as well as an attempt to clarify the problematic regnal years preserved in Hydatius. Extensive addenda and corrigenda are also provided for the discussion of quinquennial vota in chapter XIV, mostly as a result of the material published in volume X of Roman Imperial Coinage.11 While the overall thesis of the piece remains the same, those who wish to consult (and reference) this article should be directed to this revised version.

Overall, in gathering together these fifteen chapters, this book provides a clear illustration of Richard Burgess' contribution to late Roman history. Unlike some Variorum volumes, it does not reprint any articles originally published in hard-to-find edited collections, although it should serve to bring some more obscure pieces to a wider audience. In addition, the supplementary notes are particularly useful in updating the arguments and conclusions of some of the earlier pieces in the light of more recent scholarship, both by Burgess himself and by others. Many of the papers are in conversation with Burgess' earlier monographs on chronicles and chronography, as well as the forthcoming Mosaics of Time, jointly authored with Michael Kulikowski, and this volume deserves to take its place – and to be read – alongside them.12

Table of contents

I. The dates and editions of Eusebius' Chronici canones and Historia ecclesiastica from Journal of Theological Studies n.s. 48 (1997), 471–504
II. A chronological prolegomenon to reconstructing Eusebius' Chronici canones: the evidence of Ps- Dionysius (the Zuqnin Chronicle) from Journal of the Canadian Society for Syriac Studies 6 (2006), 29– 38
III. Jerome explained: an introduction to his Chronicle and a guide to its use from Ancient History Bulletin 16 (2002), 1–32
IV. Jerome and the Kaisergeschichte from Historia 44 (1995), 349–69
V. On the date of the Kaisergeschichte from Classical Philology 90 (1995), 111–28
VI. Principes cum tyrannis: two studies on the Kaisergeschichte and its tradition from Classical Quarterly 43 (1993), 491–500
VII. A common source for Jerome, Eutropius, Festus, Ammianus, and the Epitome de Caesaribus between 358 and 378, along with further thoughts on the date and nature of the Kaisergeschichte from Classical Philology 100 (2005), 166–92
VIII. Eutropius v.c. magister memoriae? from Classical Philology 96 (2001), 76–81
IX. Ἀχυρών or Προάστειον? The location and circumstances of Constantine's death from Journal of Theological Studies n.s. 50 (1999), 153–61
X. The summer of blood: the 'great massacre' of 337 and the promotion of the sons of Constantine from Dumbarton Oaks Papers 62 (2008), 5–51
XI. The Passio S. Artemii, Philostorgius, and the dates of the invention and translations of the relics of Sts Andrew and Luke from Analecta Bollandiana 121 (2003), 5–36
XII. The accession of Marcian in the light of Chalcedonian apologetic and monophysite polemic from Byzantinische Zeitschrift 86/87 (1993/1994), 47–68
XIII. The third regnal year of Eparchius Avitus: a reply from Classical Philology 82 (1987), 335–45
XIV. Quinquennial vota and the imperial consulship in the fourth and fifth centuries, 337–511 from Numismatic Chronicle 148 (1988), 77–96 + 6 plates
XV. 'Non duo Antonini sed duo Augusti': the consuls of 161 and the origins and traditions of the Latin consular fasti of the Roman Empire from Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 132 (2000), 259–90
Supplementary Notes 1–10
Index 1–5


1.   For the contrary view, see T. D. Barnes, 'The editions of Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History', Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 21 (1980), 191–201; id. Constantine and Eusebius, Cambridge, MA, 1981.
2.   R. W. Burgess, Studies in Eusebian and Post-Eusebian Chronography, Historia Einzelschriften 135, Stuttgart.
3.   Burgess' recommended edition is R. Helm (ed.), Eusebius Caesariensis, Werke: Band 7: Die Chronik des Hieronymus. Hieronymi Chronicon, 2nd edn, GCS 47, Berlin, 1956 (reprinted with an extra preface in 1984).
4.   See also Alan Cameron, The Last Pagans of Rome, Oxford, 2011, 665–8 for a recent consideration of the KG, with approving comments about Burgess' work in this area.
5.   See R. P. C. Green, 'Ausonius' Fasti and Caesares revisited', Classical Quarterly n.s. 49 (1999), 573–8.
6.   Burgess' conclusions have recently been reinforced by the detailed exploration of this issue in Alan Cameron, The Last Pagans of Rome, Oxford, 2011, 627–90.
7.   G. A. J. Kelly, 'Adrien de Valois and the chapter headings in Ammianus Marcellinus', Classical Philology 104 (2009), 233–42.
8.   T. D. Barnes, Constantine: Dynasty, religion and power in the later Roman empire, Chichester, 2011, 17–18.
9.   For example, C. Zuckerman, 'L'empire d'Orient et les Huns: notes sur Priscus', Travaux et memoirs 12 (1994), 159–82 argues (at 169–76) that the accession was the result of an alliance between Aspar and Flavius Zeno. A. D. Lee, in his piece in the Cambridge Ancient History volume XIV, remains agnostic between these two accounts, but shares their scepticism regarding the claim that Pulcheria played a leading role.
10.   R. W. Mathisen, 'The third regnal year of Eparchius Avitus', Classical Philology 80 (1985), 326–35; id. 'The third regnal year of Eparchius Avitus: the interpretation of the evidence', in id. Studies in the history, literature and society of late antiquity, Amsterdam, 1991, 163–6.
11.   J. P. C. Kent, The Roman Imperial Coinage, volume X: the Divided Empire and the Fall of the Western Parts, 395–491, London, 1994.
12.   R. W. Burgess, The Chronicle of Hydatius and the Consularia Constantinopolitana: two contemporary accounts of the final years of the Roman Empire, Oxford, 1993; id. Studies in Eusebian and Post-Eusebian Chronography, Historia Einzelschriften 135, Stuttgart; R. W. Burgess and M. Kulikowski, Mosaics of Time: The Latin chronicle traditions from the first century BC to the sixth century AD, Turnhout (first volume due for publication in 2012).

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