Thursday, 3 July 2014

Ammianus’ chapter headings, again

I wrote a post a few years back about the chapter headings or capitula that are printed in texts of Ammianus’ history. These are not ancient, like some of those summaries of contents that are found in other texts of Roman antiquity, like Aulus Gellius’ Noctes Atticae or most works of Eusebius of Caesarea (by the authors themselves) or those transmitted in the manuscripts of Lucretius (the work of ancient readers); rather they are the work of the seventeenth-century editor Adrien de Valois (Hadrianus Valesius), in his 1681 revised edition of his brother Henri de Valois’ text of 1636. I published the only article that anybody has ever devoted to these chapter headings in Classical Philology 104 (2009), 233-242. Adrien did a pretty good job of summarizing the work, all told, but occasionally chapter headings report information which he had acquired from his own wider reading rather than necessarily representing what was reported in the text of Ammianus – in some cases leading scholars to think that something is found in the text when it is not, as I explained previously.

In that post I found another case where text and chapter heading are inconsistent, and now I have found a couple of further examples in books 27 and 28. Chapter 9 of book 27 actually contains a few short reports of events in different parts of the empire: north Africa, Isauria (in the mountains of southern Turkey), and Rome:
Mauricae gentes Africam populantur. Isaurorum latrocinia Valens compescit. De Praetextati urbana praefectura (‘Moorish tribes raid Africa. Valens quashes the brigandage of the Isaurians. On Praetextatus’ urban prefecture’).
The problem with this? Well, in the years that the Isaurians carried these raids, and in fact killed the Vicarius of Asiana (367-368), Valens was far away fighting the Goths on the Danube. It was in his part of the empire, to be sure, but he is never mentioned in the text and was wholly uninvolved.

In chapter 2 of book 28, after describing the western emperor Valentinian’s fortification works on the Rhine, and a Roman military defeat at Mons Pirus in Germany, he describes the Maratocupreni in Syria: a group of bandits within the Roman empire on the same lines as the Isaurians, though clearly a rather smaller group. Their most outrageous assault was to enter a city at nightfall disguised as a taxation official and his retinue, claiming that a wealthy citizen had been sentenced to death and his goods confiscated; they gained access to his house and after murders and looting left before daybreak. As has been remarked, the success of the gambit is a sobering reminder of what behaviour provincials thought was possible in imperial officials. Then the bandits are ambushed and massacred, including their children, and their village razed to the ground. The capitulum describes the events as follows:
Maratocupreni grassatores in Syria jussu Valentis Augusti cum liberis et vico suo deleti (‘The Maratocupreni, raiders in Syria, are destroyed along with their children and their village on the orders of Valens Augustus’).
Valens is not mentioned in this case, though he is perhaps referred to indirectly: as they returned home, intercepti imperiali motu oppressi sunt (‘they were surprised by an imperial manoeuvre and subdued’, 28.2.14: my text is slightly different from that printed by Valesius or indeed by the Teubner, but it makes no difference to the point at issue). The adjective imperialis implies an action involving the participation of the Commander-in-chief, and Valens was in fact in Syria in 370, the apparent date of these events. The massacre and extirpation did, therefore, presumably take place on Valens’ orders, and his involvement is attested in a passage of Libanius (Or. 48.36) quoted in Henri de Valois’ note—from a speech unpublished when Valesius quoted it! But Ammianus nowhere explicitly mentions the fact that Valens visited Syria in the summer of 370, and indeed he does not mention his name in this passage, even though the previous sections have been dealing with the doings of his brother Valentinian in the west. Adrien’s chapter heading, by contrast, emphasizes Valens’ agency.

What Adrien de Valois was seeking to do in these two cases was to clarify his author’s narrative: he liked to make clear details such as the precise rank held by officials, and in these two forays from accounts of western events into eastern affairs, he introduces to his capitula the name of the eastern emperor. But in the first case the eastern emperor had nothing to do with events, and in the second, the mention of him, though clarifying the text, is out of sympathy with the author’s intentions.

The difference also points out what Ammianus is doing in his account of with Valens. Narratives of western military affairs in the later books are full of Valentinian’s involvement and planning alongside the successes and failures of individual generals; Ammianus takes the western emperor’s military achievements seriously, as modern scholars don’t always, and admires him for them. By contrast, the account of Valens’ first Gothic war (27.5) is a derisively brief account of uneventful and pointless campaigns; when serious military action happens in the east during Valens’ reign it almost always involves his generals. The emperor himself is only ever tangentially involved—and when he does get seriously involved, at the battle of Adrianople in 378, calamity ensues. The absence of Valens’ name in the account of the Maratocupreni in 28.2 – when he seems to have taken brutal and effective action – is not an oversight, but an intentional omission.  

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