Wednesday, November 14, 2018


Alice Borgna, Ripensare la storia universale Giustino e l'Epitome delle Storie Filippiche di Pompeo Trogo. Spudasmata, Band 176. Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 2018. Pp. 294. ISBN 9783487156606. €54.00.

Reviewed by Claudio Biagetti, Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum, Pontificia Università Lateranense​ (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

The long tradition of studies devoted to the Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus is now enriched by the book of Alice Borgna, which incorporates the results of her doctoral research.1 Through a detailed examination of Justin's text, Borgna collects and reconsiders all available evidence for the lives of Trogus and Justin, outlining at the same time the main characteristics of their histories. This sort of 'return to the sources' allows the author to re-analyse earlier theories of the genesis, content, and goals of both the Historiae Philippicae and the later Epitome.

After a concise foreword Borgna gives a brief account of the transmission of the Epitome, while also discussing modern editions and textual families as well as offering some new readings for the text. In the introduction she dwells on methodological problems involving the study of Justin's work and proposes to approach the Epitome from the point of view that it is possible to establish its date of composition and, as a direct consequence, the chronology of its author by singling out certain features and aims of his abridgement. With respect to the life and work of Pompeius Trogus most of the evidence is found only in the Epitome itself and in the independent summaries of the history known as the Prologi, which are found in some manuscripts with the Epitome. This evidence, which is presented in the second chapter, demonstrates that Trogus was a descendant of a prominent Gallic family and he probably had access to a rhetorical education, cultivating also naturalistic interests. The historiographic activity of Trogus is the focus of the third chapter, where Borgna stresses the originality of the Historiae Philippicae as a nearly unique example of 'universal history' in Latin literature.2

The meagre evidence for Justin's biography and his reworking of the text of Trogus is collected in chapters IV-VII, which represent the core of Borgna's book. Although nothing certain is known about his origins or other literary works, modern critics have nevertheless tried to recreate a suitable chronological framework by relying on the few clues that are preserved in the Epitome, a topic discussed in the fourth chapter. In the fifth chapter, Borgna turns her attention to the technique of abridgement that Justin employed, establishing a close comparison between the contents of the Epitome and those of the Prologi. A detailed analysis of these works supports the hypothesis that the Epitome was not intended as a complete historical work, but as a collection of exempla and other anecdotal materials. Accordingly, as Borgna points out in the sixth chapter, Justin's compendium often lacks precise spatio-temporal details and a historical perspective, because it was addressed to a much wider audience than just those interested in history. After shedding light on the working method of Justin and the features of his abridgement, Borgna draws conclusions on both his personality and activity in the seventh chapter. The epitomator (working probably before 321) intended to provide a useful florilegium for students of rhetoric who had to compose declamations that required edifying exempla and historical anecdotes. A very brief chapter follows where Borgna assumes that the reworking of Justin greatly distorted the Historiae Philippicae of Trogus, which impedes any attempt to grasp either the structure or the contents of the original. In the second half of the book, Borgna goes back to Pompeius Trogus and his history, tackling some of the most controversial questions about his sources and ideological background. The ninth chapter focuses, on the one hand, on the previous results of Quellenforschung (with special reference to the historical work of Timagenes of Alexandria) and, on the other hand, on the thus far neglected naturalistic interests of Trogus, which would account for his rationalist approach and his attention to ethnography. In the tenth chapter (by far the longest one in the volume), Borgna rejects the widespread assumption of an anti-Roman sentiment harboured by Trogus, whose programmatic choices—in particular, the writing of a 'universal' history that says little about Rome or Roman history, the polemical title of Historiae Philippicae, 3 and the acknowledgment of Parthian power—have often been misinterpreted by modern scholarship. In the eleventh chapter, Borgna reviews some passages from the forty-third book of the Epitome, which point to the Gallic Lokalpatriotismus of Trogus. In the short twelfth chapter, Borgna discusses again the idea of the alleged anti-Roman sentiment of Trogus, arguing that Livy's history can in fact be interpreted as a Romanocentric counterpart to the Historiae Philippicae. In other words, both histories would have conveyed the virtues of Rome, glorifying the benefits that derived from the Pax Romana.

The results of this long analysis are collected in a final chapter. The book concludes with a rich bibliography,4 three different indices (places, names, sources), and an English summary.

Borgna offers a new and thorough reading of the Epitome in an attempt to provide an answer to some of the oldest and most disputed questions around Justin, Trogus, and their respective works. Of particular interest is the author's attempt to define the chronology of the Epitome by means of the epitomising criteria used by Justin. The bulk of her arguments on this subject is well grounded and convincing, as are the conclusions deriving from them. Borgna's attempts to go beyond the communes opiniones—with special reference to the modern speculations concerning the relationships with the Histories of Timagenes and the anti-Roman sentiment of Trogus—are significant and ultimately successful. Lesser oversights and inaccuracies emerge here and there, but they do not compromise the general value of the work.5

Table of Contents

I. Introduzione: pp. 15-24
II. Pompeo Trogo: pp. 25-30
III. Le Historiae Philippicae: pp. 31-36
IV. Giustino: pp. 37-45
V. La tecnica epitomatoria: pp. 47-72
VI. Giustino e la storia: pp. 73-105
VII. La datazione e l'identità: nuove proposte: pp. 107-27
VIII. Forma di Giustino, sostanza di Trogo: pp. 129-30
IX. L'originalità di Pompeo Trogo: pp. 131-55
X. Il senso della storia di Trogo e il suo presunto antiromanesimo: pp. 157-202
XI. L'orgoglio gallico e l'importanza del libro XLIII: pp. 203-10
XII. Trogo e Livio: una storia per Roma ?: pp. 211-14
XIII. Conclusioni: pp. 215-20


1.   Among the major and most recent works dealing with the Epitome, see especially B. Mineo and G. Zecchini, Justin. Abrégé des Histoires Philippiques de Trogue Pompée. Tome I: Livres I-X, Paris 2016 and Justin. Abrégé des Histoires Philippiques de Trogue Pompée. Tome II: Livres XI-XXIII, Paris 2018; L. Santi Amantini, Giustino. Storie Filippiche. Epitome da Pompeo Trogo I-II, Tivoli 2017; P. Emberger, Iustin. Römische Weltgeschichte I, Darmstadt 2015 and G. Laser, Iustin. Römische Weltgeschichte II, Darmstadt 2016; C. Bearzot and F. Landucci (eds), Studi sull'Epitome di Giustino, I-II, Milano 2014-2015 and A. Galimberti-G. Zecchini (eds), Studi sull'Epitome di Giustino III, Milano 2016; and L. Ballesteros Pastor,Pompeyo Trogo, Justino y Mitrídates: comentario al «Epítome de las Historias Filípicas» (37,1,6-38,8,1), Hildesheim-Zürich-New York 2013.
2.   On the notion of 'universal' history, see, for example, R. Vattuone, 'Koinai praxeis. Le dimensioni universali della storiografia greca fra Erodoto e Teopompo', in L. Aigner Foresti, A. Barzanò, C. Bearzot, L. Prandi, and G. Zecchini (eds), L'ecumenismo politico nella coscienza dell'Occidente: Bergamo, 18-21 settembre 1995, Rome 1998, pp. 57-96 and J. Tully, 'Ephorus, Polybius, and τὰ καθόλου γράφειν: Why and How to Read Ephorus and his Role in Greek Historiography without Reference to 'Universal History"', in G. Parmeggiani (ed.), Between Thucydides and Polybius: The Golden Age of Greek Historiography, Washington DC 2014, pp. 153-95.
3.   The many questions concerning the title Historiae Philippicae are not of particular interest to Borgna, but they deserve greater scrutiny: see, for example, F. Landucci, 'Filippo II e le Storie Filippiche: un protagonist storico e storiografico', in C. Bearzot and F. Landucci (eds), Studi sull'Epitome di Giustino I, Milano 2014, pp. 233-60.
4.   Borgna could not take into account the most recent work on the text of Justin, such as that of P. Emberger, G. Laser, and especially L. Santi Amantini cited in n. 1, above. More general studies on ancient epitomes and the technique of abridgement in antiquity do not appear in the bibliography, such as I. Opelt, 'Epitome', in RAC 5, coll. 944-73; P. A. Brunt, 'On Historical Fragments and Epitomes', CQ 30 (1980), pp. 477-94; and G. Schepens and S. Schorn, 'Verkürzungen in und von Historiographie in klassischer und hellenistischer Zeit', in M. Horster-Chr. Reitz (eds), Condensing Texts – Condensed Texts, Stuttgart 2010, pp. 395-433.
5.   Alongside relatively unimportant flaws, such as an acute accent instead of a grave (p. 102: παρακλητικός λόγος for παρακλητικὸς λόγος) or words that should begin with capital letters (e.g. 'senato' instead of 'Senato', pp. 57 and 208 and 'catanesi' instead of 'Catanesi', p. 67), cases of more serious mistakes certainly deserve to be amended. In Iust. IX 2, 1-2 Istros is not the name of a person (p. 49, note 7), but the Milesian colony by the mouth of the Danube (see p. 57, where Istros is correctly identified). Sometimes Borgna uses (and confuses with each other) 'Focei' and 'Focesi' (pp. 151 and 169). Although the English term 'Phocaean' designates both the inhabitant of Phocaea in Asia Minor and the people who lived in the Greek region of Phocis, in Italian these names are in fact not interchangeable: 'Focei' are the natives of Phocaea, whereas 'Focesi' are the people coming from Phocis. Accordingly, the two references on p. 151 are to the citizens of Phocaea, while the occurrence on p. 169 concerns the ethnos of Phocis (and not the 'Focei'). In some passages of Justin that Borgna translates into Italian, the author does not pay attention to the distinction between 'Galli' and 'Galati' (especially on pp. 53-59): in Italian, 'Galli' ('Gauls') are the Gallic people living in the western part of the Mediterranean, while 'Galati' ('Galatians') are generally identified with the tribes of Celtic origin who moved into the Balkans in 281/0 BCE, seizing Delphi in 279 BCE and crossing finally in Asia Minor in 278 BCE. Borgna states that 'universal' histories developed in Hellenistic times (p. 213), but historians such as Ephorus, Theopompus, and Anaximenes had already composed such works well before the age of Alexander. Finally, there are a single inconsistency in citing papyrological sources—a papyrus cited as P. Adl. Gr. on p. 81, note 21 is cited as POxy on p. 108, note 6—and the use of obsolete Italian words such as 'breviatore' (passim, = 'epitomator') and 'gobboso' (p. 143, = 'snub nosed').

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