We possess a summary of Roman history, divided into four books, extending from the foundation of the city to the establishment of the empire under Augustus (A. D. 20), entitled Rerum Romanarum Libri IV.,
or Epitome de Gestis Romanorum
, and composed, as we learn from the prooemium, in the reign of Trajan or of Hadrian.
This compendium, which must by no means be regarded as an abridgment of Livy, but as a compilation from various authorities, presents within a very moderate compass a striking view of all the leading events comprehended by the above limits.
A few mistakes in chronology and geography have been detected here and there ; but the narrative is, for the most part, philosophic in arrangement and accurate in detail, although it has too much the air of a panegyric upon the Roman people.
The style is by no means worthy of commendation.
The general tone is far too poetical and declamatory, while the sentiments frequently assume the form of tumid conceits expressed in violent metaphors.
With regard to the author all is doubt and uncertainty.
In many MSS. he is designated as L. Annaeus Florus,
in others as L. Julius Florus,
in others as L. Annaeus Seneca,
and in one, perhaps the oldest of all, simply as L. Annaeus.
Hence some critics have sought to identify him with Julius Florus Secundus, whose eloquence is praised by Quintilian (10.13); Vossius and Salmasius, with a greater show of probability, recognize him as the poet Florus (see below), the composer of certain verses to Hadrian, preserved by Spartianus, while Vinetus and Schottus believe him to be no other than Seneca, the preceptor of Nero, resting their opinion chiefly upon a passage in Lactantius (Instit.
7.15), where we are told that the philosopher in question divided the history of Rome into a succession of ages,--infancy under Romulus, boyhood under the kings immediately following, youth from the sway of Tarquin to the downfal of the Carthaginian power, manly vigour up to the commencement of the civil wars, which undermined its strength, until, as if in second childhood, it was forced to submit to the control of a single ruler ;--a fancy which has been adopted by the author of the Epitome, who, however, arranges the epochs differently, and might evidently have borrowed the general idea. Moreover, if we were to adopt this last hypothesis, we should be compelled arbitrarily to reject the prooemium as spurious. Finally, Titze imagines that he can detect the work of two hands,--one a writer of the purest epoch, whom he supposes to have been the Julius Florus twice addressed by Horace (Hor. Ep. 1.3
), the other an unknown and inferior interpolator, belonging to the decline of literature. To the former, according to this theory, all that is praiseworthy, both in matter and manner, must be ascribed, while to the share of the latter fill all the blunders, both in facts and taste, which disfigure the production as it now exists.
But all these opinions rest upon nothing but mere conjectures.
It would be a waste of time to discuss the native country and personal history of a person whose very name we cannot ascertain with certainty, and therefore we shall refrain from examining the arguments by which scholars have sought to demonstrate that he was an Italian, or a Gaul, or a Spaniard.
What is usually esteemed the Editio Princeps of Florus was printed at the Sorbonne about 1471, in 4to., by Gering, Friburg, and Crantz, under the inspection of Gaguinus, with the title " Lucii Annaei Flori de tota Hystoria Titi Livii Epithoma ;"
but two others, without date and without the name of place or printer, one in Gothic and one in Roman characters, are believed by many bibliographers to be entitled to take precedence.
In addition to these, at least six impressions were published before the close of the fifteenth century, revised by the elder Beroaldus, Antonius Sabellicus, Thannerus, and Barynthus (or Barynus).
Since that period numberless editions have appeared ; but those who desire to study the gradual progress of the text, which, as might be expected in a work which was extensively employed in the middle ages as a school-book, is found in most MSS. under a very corrupt form, will be able to trace its gradual development in the labours of the following scholars :--Jo. Camers, 4to. Vienn. Pannon. 1518, fol. Basil. 1532, accompanied by elaborate historical notes
; El. Vinetus, 4to. Pictav. 1553. 1563. Paris, 1576
; J. Stadius, 8vo. Antv. 1567. 1584. 1594
; Gruterus, 8vo. Heidel. 1597
; Gruterus and Salmasius, Heidel. 8vo. 1609
; Freinshemius, 8vo. Argentorat. 1632. 1636. 1655
; Graevius, 8vo. Traj. ad Rhen. 1680, with numerous illustrations from coins and ancient monuments
; Dukerus, 8vo. Lug. Bat. 1722. 1744. Lips, 1832.
This last must be considered as the standard, since it exhibits a very pure text and a copious selection of the best commentaries. We may also consult with advantage the recent editions by Titze, 8vo, Prag. 1819
, and Seebode, 8vo. Lips. 1821
The work has been frequently translated into almost all European languages.