Florus, Oeuvres, texte établi et traduit par Paul Jal, Paris 1967, tome I et tome II (Collection des Universités de France).
The Epitoma de Tito Liuio is a compendium in two books, narrating the history of Rome from the foundation of the city to the age of Augustus. In the praefatio, the author explains that his work aims at arousing admiration for the deeds of the Roman people. He compares the history of Rome to the stages of human life: the period of monarchy corresponds to infancy; the phase ending with the first Punic war corresponds to adolescence; youth covers the time to the age of Augustus; after this, old age comes, except for a short period of 'rejuvenation' under Trajan.
The best manuscript is the codex Bambergensis E III 22 (B, dating to the beginning of the ninth century AD). All other manuscripts belong to a different family, called C. The most ancient manuscript of the C family is the codex Palatinus Latinus 894 (N, also from the ninth century AD, but later than B). Manuscripts from the C family divide the work into four sections: the second begins with the first Punic war; the third with the War with Jugurtha; the fourth with the Conspiracy of Catiline. All modern editions accepted this division until the beginning of the nineteenth century, when manuscript B was discovered; manuscript B divides the work into two books. From that moment onwards, editions adopted the division into two books as more suited to the plan of the work. The division into four books may have been influenced by the comparison between Roman history and the stages of human life.
The composition of the Epitoma can be dated either at the end of Hadrian's reign (emperor in the period 117-138 AD) or under Marcus Aurelius (161-180 AD); this date depends on the interpretation of some clues present in the praefatio [see the notice on Florus].
In spite of the title, the work is not a summary of Livy. Many sections of the works are arranged by a geographical, logical, or ethical order, rather than by the simple chronological order of events (Jal 1967). The narrative aims at extolling the deeds of the Roman people, and achieves that end by omitting, deforming, simplifying or giving undue emphasis to real events. Scholars often speak of geographical, historical, arithmetical 'errors' of Florus; in fact his cavalier attitude to facts and lack of accuracy is in keeping with the nature of the work, which is essentially of a rhetorical type.
The style of the author is rich in poetical images, striking phrases, rhetorical artifices; he also aims at brevity, often producing a feeling of stylistic obscurity. One can note the influence of Seneca the Elder (who is the source of the metaphor about the stages of human life), Sallust, Caesar, Tacitus, as well as reminiscences of Virgil and Lucan.
The Epitoma was used as a schoolbook until the end of the eighteenth century (Forster 1929) and was relatively popular, perhaps thanks to its rhetorical character, even if it was not probably planned as a teaching text (Jal 1967): the omission of some essential facts and an excess of synthesis in narrating seven centuries of Roman history do not make this work a suitable textbook. The work was probably written for history lovers and for people interested in the genre of declamations. [M. Naso; trad. L. Battezzato]