a Roman historian who has been styled Flavius
Eutropius by Sigonius and some of the earlier scholars without the slightest authority from MSS. or any ancient source for such an addition. Considerable doubts are entertained with regard to the native country of this writer.
The only positive witness is Suidas, who terms him a learned Italian (Ἰταλὸς σοφιστής
); but these words have been interpreted to signify merely that he wrote in Latin.
The arguments of certain French writers, who have sought to prove from Symmachus that he was the countryman of Ausonius, and those of Vinetus, who endeavors from various considerations to demonstrate that he must have been a Greek, are singularly feeble and frivolous. We know from his own statements, taken in combination with various passages in the Byzantines, that he held the office of a secretary (EpistolarisἘπιστολογράφος
) under Constantine the Great, that he was patronised by Julian the Apostate, whom he accompanied in the Persian expedition, and that he was alive in the reign of Valentinian and Valens, to the latter of whom his book is dedicated. To these particulars our certain information is limited.
That he is the same individual with the Eutropius who, as we learn from Ammianus Marcellinus, was proconsul of Asia about A. D. 371, and who is spoken of by Libanius and Gregory Nazianzen, or with the Eutropius who, as we gather from the Codex Theodosianus, was praefectus praetorio in A. D. 380 and 381, are pure conjectures resting upon no base save the identity of name and embarrassed by chronological difficulties.
In no case must he be confounded with the ambitious eunuch, great chamberlain to the emperor Arcadius, so well known from the invective of Claudian; and still less could he have been the disciple of Augustin, as not a few persons have fancied, since, if not actually dead, he must have reached the extreme verge of old age at the epoch when the bishop of Hippo was rising into fame.
The only other point connected with the personal career of this author which admits of discussion, is his religion.
It has been confidently asserted that it can be proved from his own words that he was a Christian.
But how any one could, by any possible stretch of ingenuity, twist such a conclusion out of the passage in question (10.116, sub fin.), even if we retain the reading "Nimius
religionis Christianae insectator," it is very hard for an unprejudiced reader to imagine; and it is equally difficult to perceive upon what grounds we can reject or evade the testimony of Nicephorus Gregoras, who insists that the praises bestowed by Eutropius upon Constantine are peculiarly valuable, because they proceed from one who cherished hostile feelings towards that prince in consequence of differing from him in religion (διά τε τὸ τῆς θρησκείας ἀκοινώνητον
) and of being the contemporary and partizan (ἡλικιώτην καὶ αἱρεσιώτην
) of Julian; moreover, as if to leave no room for doubt, he declares that the observations of Eutropius, inasmuch as he was a gentile professing a different faith from Constantine (Ἕλλην δ̓ ὤν καὶ ἀλλοφύλου θρηοκείας τρόφιμος
), are tainted with heathen bitterness (ἀπόζουσιν Ἑλληνικῆς πικρίας
), and then goes on to adduce some examples of unfair representations.
Compendium of Roman History
The only work of Eutropius now extant is a brief compendium of Roman history in ten books, extending from the foundation of the city to the accession of Valens, by whose command it was composed, and to whom it is inscribed.
The au-thor, at the conclusion of the last chapter, promises a more detailed and elaborate narrative of the events in which his imperial protector was the chief agent, but we know not whether this pledge was ever redeemed. Suidas indeed records that Eutropius wrote "other things," but without specifying what these were; and Priscian quotes from some Eutropius as a grammatical authority upon the sound of the letter x, but drops no hint that this personage is the historian.
In drawing up the abridgment which has descended to us, the compiler appears to have consulted the best authorities, although not always with discrimination, and to have executed his task in general with care, although manifest errors may occasionally be detected in facts as well as in chronology, and all occurrences likely to reflect dishonour on the Roman name are sedulously glossed over or entirely omitted.
The style is in perfect good taste and keeping with the nature of the undertaking. We find a plain, clear, precise, simple, familiar narrative, in which the most important events are distinctly brought out without ostentation and without any pretensions to ornament or to rhythmical cadence in the structure of the periods.
The language is, for the most part, exceedingly pure, although, as might be expected, the critical eye of modern scholarship has detected several words and combinations not sanctioned by the usage of the purest models. Under these circumstances it is not surprising that this little work should have become exceedingly popular at a period when the taste for deep learning and original investigation was on the decline, and that for many ages it should have been extensively employed as a school-book. We find the substance of it copied into the chronicles of Hieronymus, Prosper, Cassiodorus, and many others: it is closely followed by Rufus, Orosius, and by a host of monkish annalists; while it is incorporated verbatim, with many additions, in the well-known Historia Miscella,
a sort of historical farrago, which is commonly, but erroneously, supposed to have been compounded by Paul, son of Warnefrid ud Theodolinda, at one time deacon of Aquileia, and hence usually designated Paulus Diaconus. Paul, however, did publish an edition of Eutropius, whom ne expanded at both extremities, affixing severa chapters to the commencement and bringing down the work to his own times, while by others it was continued as low as the year 813.
Thus at the revival of literature, the history of Eutropius existed under three forms: 1.
The genuine ten books as they proceeded from the author. 2.
The editions as extended by Paullus Diaconus and others. 3.
The entire but largely interpolated copy contained in the Historia Miscella.
The Editio Princeps, which was printed at Rome, 4to., 1471, together with all the other editions which appeared during the 15th century, belong to one or other of the last two denominations. The first attempt to restore the pure original text was by Egnatius, in his edition printed at Venice in 1516, along with Suetonius and Aurelius Victor. But the great restorer of Eutropius was Schonhovius, a canon of Bruges, who published an edition from the Codex Gandavensis at Basle, 8vo., 1546 and 1552
; further improvements were made by Vinetus (Pictav. 8vo. 1554), who made use of a Bourdeaux MS.
; by Sylburgius, in the third volume of his Script. histor. Rom. (fol. Franc. 1588), aided by a Fulda MS.
; and by Merula (Lug. Bat. Elz. 8vo. 1592).
Of the very numerous editions which have appeared since the close of the 16th century, the most notable are those of Hearne, Oxon. 8vo. 1703
; of Havercamp, with a copious collection of commentaries, Lug. Bat. 8vo. 1729
; of Gruner, Coburg. 8vo. 1752 and 1768
; of Verheyk, with voluminous notes, Lug. Bat. 8vo. 1762 and 1793
; of Tzschucke, containing a new revision of the text, an excellent dissertation, together with good critical and explanatory observations, 8vo. Lips. 1796
, and again improved in 1804
; and of Grosse, Hall. 8vo. 1813; Hanov. 1816; Lips. 1825.
On the whole, the most useful for the student are those of Tzschucke and Grosse.
Eutropius was twice translated into Greek. One of these versions, executed by (Capito Lycius before the time of Justinian, has perished; that by a certain Paeanius still exists, has been frequently published, and is contained in the editions of Hearne, Havercamp, and Verheyk.
Many translations are to be found into English, French, Italian, and German, none of them deserving any particular notice.
In illustration, the dictionaries of Grosse, Stendal, 1811 and 1819; and of Seebode, Hanov. 1818, 1825, and 1828; Moller, Disputatio de Eutropio,
4to., Altdorf. 1685; the excelient dissertation of Tzschucke premixed to this edition; the preface of Verheyk, and the proocmium of Grosse, may be consulted.
(Suidas, s. vv. Eu)tro/pios, *Kapi/twn
; Symmach. Epist.
3.47, 53; Auctor Anonym. de Antiq. Constantinopol.
lib. 1. c.5. p. 4 (vol. xvii. of the Venetian Corpus); Codinus Curopalates, Select. de Orig. Constantinopol.
pp. 4 and 7, ed. Veniet.; Jo. Maalla, Chronograph. in vit. Julian. apost.;
Nicephor. Gregor. Oratio encomiastica in Imp. Constant. Mag.
quoted by Fabricius land Tzschucke from Lambecius, Comment. de Bibliotthec. Caes.
viii. p. 131, ed. Kollar; Eutrop. Dedic. ad Val. Imp.
lib. 10.16 and 18; Amm. Marcell. 29.1.36, and note of Vales; Liban. in vit.
vol. i. p. 113, ed. Reiske, and Epist.
4.191, ad Themist.;
Greg. Naz. Epist.
137, 138; Cod. Theod. 1.1.2, 12.29.3. and Gothofred. Prosopogr. Cod. Theod. p. 52; Gennad. De Viris Ill.