Ammianus Marcellinus and the Representation of Historical Reality
Much of what we know today of Rome in the fourth century has its
source in Res Gestae, the sole surviving work of the
historian Ammianus Marcellinus. The accuracy of Ammianus' reporting
has come under question over the past fifty years, however, and
Timothy D. Barnes here offers new grist for skepticism. This is the
first book on Ammianus to place equal emphasis on the literary and
historical aspects of his writing.
Barnes assesses Ammianus' depiction of historical reality by
investigating the Res Gestae's strengths and weaknesses,
as well as its literary qualities. He examines its structure and
arrangement, emphasizes its Greek and pagan features, and points
out the extent to which Ammianus drew on his imagination in shaping
the narrative. Ammianus, raised as a Christian, became an apostate
when Julian seemed to promise a return to traditional religion and
values. In Res Gestae, he expressed strongly held views,
often in vivid and extreme language.
Barnes explores the historian's biases and personal prejudices,
documenting seemingly intentional distortions and demonstrating
that Ammianus advanced a pessimistic and anti-Christian
interpretation of the Roman Empire.
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