Reference edition: Daretis Phrigii, De excidio Troiae historia, recensuit Ferdinandus Meister, Lipsiae 1873.
De excidio Troiae historiais the title commonly used to refer to a short work attributed to Dares the Phrygian. In fact, the main manuscripts transmitting the work call it Historia de vastatione Troiae, Historia Troiani belli, Historia de excidio Troianorum, or Historia de Troiae excidio et bellis Troianorum. Chapter 44 in fact calls Dares' text acta diurna. The work dates to the sixth century AD; Schissel 1908 argues for a date between 510 and 530 AD. The text narrates the story of the Trojan War from a Trojan point of view and offers a rationalist version of mythical events: according to this text, the Trojan horse, for instance, was simply a sculpture located above the Scaean gates. The text is composted of a prefatory letter and forty-four chapters narrating the story of Troy from the expedition of the Argonauts to the fall of Troy and Aeneas' and Elenus' departure from Troy with Andromache. The prefatory chapter is a fictional letter written by Cornelius Nepos to Sallust. The fictionalNepos states that he found Dares' handwritten diary of the Trojan war, written in Greek; he discovered the text in Athens, by pure chance. He claims to have translated the text into Latin so that readers would know the true version of the Trojan War.
Meister's old edition of 1873 still offers the reference text. According to Meister's recensio, the text is transmitted by eleven manuscripts, dating to period from the tenth to the fifteenth century AD. In fact, later studies have shown that the constitutio textus of Dares' historia isa much more complicated task. Annamaria Pavano (1993) has demonstrated that the manuscript tradition is divided into several branches. In particular, it is possible to identify two versions of the historia. Some manuscripts present a longer version, called uberior, containing additional passages not found in Meister's text; the most important of them is the so-called additamentum de Amazonibus, a narrative passage on the involvement of the Amazons in the Trojan war. An analysis of the language of the longer version shows it to be more ancient than the shorter, more generally known one.
Scholars have long disputed whether the De excidio Troiae historia was a Latin translation of a lost Greek original or not. We have a few short papyrus texts of a Greek version of the similar work by Dictys the Cretan (see the notice on Dictys of Crete and the Ephemeris belli Troiani); on the contrary, we have no Greek text that can be assigned with certainty to a version of the De excidio Troiae historia by Dares the Phrygian. The ostrakon O. Claud. 412, found at Mons Claudianus, an Egyptian archaeological site, does not appear to be a witness of a lost Greek original of Dares' text: both content and form rule out that possibility (see Pavano 1998 and 2001 on this question; Stenger 2005 has recently discussed the lack of indications about the existence of a Greek original).
The content of Dares' work is noteworthy. This text attests a less known and otherwise uncommon version of Aeneas' myth: it states that Aeneas betrayed Troy with the help of Antenor, delivering the city to the Greeks.
In the Middle Ages, this short work was seen as an important source attesting the main facts about the Trojan War; it was often read and adapted until the nineteenth century (Bessi 2004). [G. Bessi; trad. L. Battezzato]