M. Iuniani Iustini Epitoma historiarum Philippicarum Pompei Trogi; accedunt Prologi in Pompeium Trogum, edidit Otto Seel, Stutgardiae 1972 (Bibliotheca Scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana).
Justin’s Epitoma historiarum Philippicarum is a late epitome of a longer work narrating universal history. The original work was written by Pompeius Trogus, probably in the age of Augustus or Tiberius. The Preface informs the readers about the content of Trogus’ work and Justin’s epitomising technique. Justin states that Pompeius Trogus ‘wrote a history of Greece and of the whole word in Latin so that one could read the history of Greece in our language, just as it is possible to read our history in the Greek language’; he adds that ‘from these events, I have chosen those that are most worthy to be known and, leaving left out what was not pleasurable to know nor necessary as an example, I have, as it were, made a small florilegium out of them’. It would be more correct to call Justin’s work an anthology of passages he considered worthy to be to be known rather than an epitome. Leonardo Ferrero argues that the Epitome is in fact ‘the most direct, complete and organic collection of Trogus’ fragments’. Scholars assume that the Epitome is one fifth of the original work.
The Historiae Philippicae were an absolute novelty in Roman literature: they were the first universal history that ever appeared in Latin, as Justin rightly stresses. The work was in 44 books, and comprised the story of each ruling people and the lands ruled by them, starting from the remotest age. The work focused, as indicated by its title, on the ascent and fall of the Macedonian Empire, which was emblematic of the translatio imperii, the theory that, in the eyes of Trogus, apparently rules historical development, stating that universal empires must inevitably succeed one to another. Trogus’ narrative starts with the Assyrian Empire, followed by the Empire of Medes, who are in turn replaced by Persians, who are finally forced to surrender their imperium to Macedonians. The Roman empire in turn rose from the ruins of the empire of Alexander the Great. Romans must now share world supremacy with the rising Parthian Empire. Trogus seems to imply that Rome will soon succumb to them. This implication fuelled the critical debate on whether Pompeius Trogus was or was not adverse to Romans. It is certainly true that, in the whole plan of his work, Rome occupies a marginal, secondary position. Justin’s intervention makes it difficult to judge Trogus’ merit as an historian. The epitomiser focuses on less generally known, anecdotic episodes. The clumsy cuts he makes in the original often make it difficult for the reader to understand the general development of events and the historiographical method of Pompeius Trogus. The resulting epitome is an inhomogeneous work, made of juxtaposed tales narrating (mostly) courtly intrigues and assassinations, and featuring bloodthirsty kings and fearsome queens. The compendium was very popular in the Middle Ages, probably because of the presence of so many curious anecdotes.
[A. Borgna; translation L. Battezzato]