Thursday, 3 October 2019

A New Bibliography of Ammianus Marcellinus

The following review will appear in next year's Classical Review. I hope it will be obvious to readers that I think Jenkins' work a remarkable achievement. In the hope of being useful to readers of his book and to students of Ammianus, In another post, I shall add a tentative list of addenda and corrigenda, which I plan to update as I make further use of the book.

JENKINS (F.W.) Ammianus Marcellinus. An Annotated Bibliography, 1474 to the Present. Pp. xviii + 665. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2017. Cased, €199, US$217. ISBN: 978-90-04-32029-1.

In 1947 E.A. Thompson mused in the introduction of The Historical Work of Ammianus Marcellinus that for every reader of his author, there were probably a thousand readers of Sallust, Livy or Tacitus. That was an exaggeration even then, and Ammianus has attracted a great deal of attention in the intervening period, especially in the last 30 years. The author has been seen both as a great prose-artist and as a writer whose clunkiness guaranteed his sincerity; as an accurate and faithful guide to the history of the later fourth century and as a nostalgic pagan who wilfully misrepresented or shut his eyes to the reality of the age he lived in. His poor transmission and extravagant style have elicited thousands of conjectural emendations and hundreds of studies of spiky Late Latin vocabulary and syntax; his thematic and geographical range, both in digressions and narrative, has attracted the antiquarians.

The weighty bibliography under review was published by Brill a year before the completion of the remarkable commentary by J. den Boeft, J.W. Drijvers, D. den Hengst and H.C. Teitler appeared with the same press. (Brill’s website refers to an initial [partial, online?] publication on 14 November 2015, but the text as we have it was clearly finalised in 2016 for publication in 2017.) Professor and Associate Dean for Collections at the University of Dayton, Ohio, Jenkins has performed a monumental service. Like the commentary, this book will provoke the reader’s respect and admiration as well as the gratitude for achieving something most scholars would never attempt.

The chapters cover the following topics: (1) ‘Bibliographies’; (2) ‘Editions’, (3) ‘Translations’; (4) ‘Commentaries’; (5) ‘Concordances, Indexes and Lexica’; (6) ‘Websites’ (only two of these); (7) ‘Secondary Studies before 1800’; (8) ‘Secondary Studies, 1800–1899’; (9) ‘Secondary Studies, 1900–1999’; and (10) ‘Secondary Studies, 2000–2016’. The volume closes with an index of authors and an index of subjects. Each chapter is organised chronologically by year and then alphabetically by author (except that translations are organised first by the 17 languages into which Ammianus has been translated). Entries are distinguished by date and number, with the letters B, E, T, C, L, W preceding the date in items from the first six chapters. Entries have a brief abstract, occasionally with illustrative quotations, written in a well-informed and generous-spirited manner. These are sometimes supplemented by cross-references to closely related works and, occasionally, in the case of works before 1950, by biographical or bibliographical information on the author. The abstracts of textual articles generally include a complete list of passages discussed: so, although there is no index locorum, scholars will be able to turn up a high proportion of relevant scholarship on particular passages of Ammianus by searching the electronic edition (though not, perhaps, discussions that occur in longer monographs, in reviews or in passing in articles on other topics). Reviews are consistently cited for works specifically on Ammianus and selectively for general works in which Ammianus is featured. Online availability is also announced, selectively in the case of articles. For older books out of copyright in particular Google Books, the Internet Archive, the Münchner Digitalisierungszentrum and other organisations now make accessible works that would previously have been relatively inaccessible to many scholars.

The bulk of the work is taken up by the four chapters on secondary studies stretching from 1529 to 2016. As mentioned above, scholarship on Ammianus has multiplied notably faster than the rate of classical scholarship as a whole, and a nice illustration comes in the fact that Jenkins’ own 1985 doctorate is less than halfway through these chapters of secondary studies. My own first ‘publication’ in 2002 (a doctoral thesis: indeed
Jenkins even includes some Master’s theses) comes when there are still 150 pages of entries to go.

Gaps are few. The books and articles identified before 1800 are, as Jenkins acknowledges, not completely comprehensive, but this terra incognita may be where the contribution will be greatest. To give two examples: an editor using the first secondary work listed, Beatus Rhenanus’ Res Germanicae (1531), will find a number of generally accepted emendations normally attributed to later scholars and, as I shall show elsewhere, the work can also solve some problems related to the sources of Gelenius’ edition of 1533. (Jenkins does not include Mundt’s edition of Rhenanus’ work with translation and studies.) Secondly, while I asserted confidently ten years ago (CP 104 [2009]) that the chapter divisions and headings created by Adrien de Valois for his edition of 1681 had been preceded by a different set of divisions and capitula in the Le Preux edition of 1591, I learned to my own embarrassment of a third set of chapter divisions and headings in the 1611 edition of Gruter.

Works that are not specifically about Ammianus are the other area where selectivity might be expected, but here too Jenkins is catholic in his approach. The inclusion of historical works that discuss Ammianus’ period is commendably broad. I can point to two general works on Latin textual criticism containing significant discussion of Ammianus’ transmission that are omitted: G. Pasquali, Storia della tradizione e critica del testo (1934, with many reprints) and J. Češka, Textová kritika ve filologické praxi (1973). Having pedantically pointed out the latter omission, it is only fair to emphasise that, as far as I can judge, Jenkins seems to have done an outstanding job at identifying and including material in Slavic languages. 

I could at this point list other arguable omissions and typos and offer corrections on points of detail but such a list would be strikingly short and trivial for a work of 650 pages, and it would risk misrepresenting Jenkins' admirable diligence and dedication and real success. Speaking as somebody who has been working on this author from a literary, historical, and textual approach for more than 20 years, I was introduced to a daunting number of works unknown to me by this book. For those working consistently on Ammianus or those dipping in to check for a detail, this is a remarkably useful resource.

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