Philological and Historical Commentary on Ammianus Marcellinus XXXI


The last book of Ammianus Marcellinus’ Res Gestae is the most important source for a momentous event in European history: the invasion of the Goths across the Danube border into the Roman Empire and the ensuing battle of Adrianople (378 CE), in which a Roman army was annihilated and the emperor Valens lost his life. Many contemporaries were of the opinion that this defeat heralded the decline of the Empire. Ammianus is sharply critical of the way Valens and his generals handled the military situation, but holds on to his belief in the permanence of Roma Aeterna, reminding his readers of earlier crises from which the Empire had recovered and pointing to the incompetence of the barbarians in siege craft.
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Biographical Note

Jan den Boeft, Ph.D. (1970) in Latin, Leiden University, is emeritus Professor of Latin at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam and of Hellenistic Religions at Utrecht University. He has published on i.a. Ambrose, Augustine and Erasmus.

Jan Willem Drijvers, Ph.D. (1989) in History, University of Groningen, is Senior Lecturer in Ancient History at the University of Groningen. He is the author of i.a. Cyril of Jerusalem: Bishop and City (Leiden 2004).

Daniël den Hengst, Ph.D. (1981) in Latin, University of Amsterdam, is emeritus Professor of Latin at the University of Amsterdam. An anthology of his articles on Late Antique Historiography is Burgersdijk, D.W.P. & Van Waarden, J.A. (eds.) Emperors and Historiography, Brill 2010.

Hans Teitler, Ph.D. (1983) in Ancient History, Utrecht University, was formerly Senior Lecturer in Ancient History at Utrecht University. He is the author of i.a. The Last Pagan Emperor : Julian the Apostate & the War against Christianity, New York 2017.

Review Quotes

"No-one can fail to learn something new about either Ammianus as a historian or the events which he describes as a result of reading this volume. Not only does it provide instant access to a huge range of modern scholarship on these topics from across all of the major European languages, but it sometimes adds its own new insights also. One could hardly expect more of any commentary, so that it brings one of the great projects in the study of Late Antiquity to a fitting end."
David Woods in BMCR 2018.09.50
"Der Kommentar soll und wird allen, die sich mit Ammian beschäftigen, ein wertvoller Begleiter sein und helfen, tiefer in die sprachlichen und historischen Einzelheiten einzudringen (...) der wissenschaftlichen Welt steht nunmehr ein für Fragen aller Art unentbehrliches Hilfsmittel zu Ammians Res Gestae vollständig zur Verfügung."
Ulrich Lambrecht in Plekos (20,2018)
"This review has focused on matters of historical detail and textual criticism; much more could have been said about points of language, geography, intertextuality and indeed the general mood of Ammianus (which they stand closer to Matthews’ optimism than Barnes’s pessimism) and his attitude to the history of his own times. Produced without fanfare or the support of large grants, and occupying the three original contributors long into retirement, this commentary is a model of learning and insight, and of selfless, collaborative scholarship, which will help Ammianus’ readers for centuries to come."
Gavin Kelly in Journal of Roman Studies (volume 108, November 2018)


All interested in the history and literature of Late Antiquity, Early Christianity, Late Latin, source criticism, literary aspects and the historiographical method of Ammianus Marcellinus.