The Breviarium of Festus. A Critical Edition with Historical Commentary, by J. W. Eadie, London 1967.
Eight typos, noticed by Fele 2009, have been corrected: Chapter 2 XXXVII instead of XXXVIII; chapter 3 prouincias instead of prouinciae; chapter 7 Pannoniorum instead of Pannoniarum (twice); chapter 17 regiis instead of regis; chapter 19 adgressus Claudium instead of Claudium adgressus; chapter 26 quas instead of quae; chapter 29 crebris instead of crebis.
Manuscripts give different titles for this work: Breuiarium, Breuiarium rerum gestarum populi Romani, De breuiario rerum gestarum populi Romani, Breuiarium de Breuiario. Modern editors made different choices, supporting them with different arguments, none of which seems decisive. The dedicatee, addressed in the work itself by a number of periphrases (clementia tua, gloriosissime princeps, inclyte princeps, princeps inuicte) but never mentioned by name, is to be identified with the emperor Valens, as it is clear from the fact that chapter 10 makes a clear reference to the rule over the Eastern part of the Empire. Some later manuscripts report the name Valentinian in their heading of the work, but this is probably a wrong interpretation of an abbreviation. The last sentence of the work mentions an important victory of the Emperor against the Goths (ingens de Gothis palma); chapter two mentions the joint reign of the two brothers (fratrum imperium Roma sortita est). These statements imply that the work was written between December 369 and the death of Valentinian. In his very short prologue (just a few lines), Festus states that he undertook the task of writing the compendium by order of Valens, who exhorted him to be brief (Breuem fieri clementia tua praecepit. Parebo libens praecepto). The statement has been the object of a scholarly discussion, since it coincides with what Eutropius writes in the first few lines of his longer Breuiarium. Some scholars have suggested that the two contemporary court historians, Festus and Eutropius, were competing with each other: Eutropius was Valens’ Magister memoriae just before Festus, if we are to trust the information about this appointment. However, one should not imagine that Festus made Eutropius’ compendium even shorter: the two works are complementary and Festus’ Breuiarium is not the compendium of the other text. In organising his material, Festus gives pre-eminence to geographical interests and to geography as an organising principle. The first section of his work (chapters 1-14) is enumerative in character, very briefly outlining the expansion of the Roman state ab urbe condita. It divides Roman history into three phases (monarchy, republic, empire), with special emphasis on the conquest of new territories and the creation of provinces. The second section (chapters 15-30) focuses on the relationship between Rome and ‘Babylon’ until Jovian (364 AD). This section is less scanty than the first one, even if Festus is anxious to stress that he will be brief (chapter 15: breuiter euentus enumerabo bellorum): the emperor was especially keen on that topic, since he was about to start a military expedition against Persia (chapters 15 and 30).
Festus draws on Livy’s tradition for his discussion of the early history of Rome. The work of Florus is one of his main sources. Scholars are divided on whether he used Eutropius or the similarities between the two compendia should be explained by the influence of a common source. Festus is never mentioned in later ancient works, even if content and the use of similar phrases proves that other ancient authors, such as Ammianus, unquestionably used his work. [R. Tabacco; translation L. Battezzato]