the name prefixed to a fragment entitled De Prodigiis
or Prodigiorum Libellus,
containing a record for many years of those startling phenomena classed by the Romans under the general designation of Prodigia
which were universally believed to be miraculous manifestations of divine power, and to be intended as solemn warnings of coming events.
The series is arranged in regular chronological order, and extends from the consulship of Scipio and Laelius, B. C. 190, to the consulship of Fabius and Aelius, B. C. 11.
The materials are derived in a great measure from Livy, whose very words are frequently employed; and although we can in some places detect deviations from the narrative of the historian, these consist chiefly in repetitions, and in variations with regard to dates, discrepancies which may very probably have arisen from the interpolations or carelessness of transcribers.
With regard to the compiler we know absolutely nothing, not even the country to which he belonged, nor the age when he flourished.
He is mentioned by no ancient writer, and there is no internal evidence to guide us.
The style is upon the whole tolerably pure, but certainly does not belong to the Augustan age. Vossius supposes that the author lived before Orosius, and Scaliger believes that he was consulted by St. Jerome; but no substantial arguments have been adduced in support of these assertions.
No MS. of Obsequens is known to exist.
The first edition, printed by Aldus in 1508, was taken from a codex belonging to Jocundus of Verona, but this has disappeared, and no other has ever been discovered.
About the middle of the sixteenth century, Conrad Woolfhart, professor at Basle, who assumed the appellation of Conradus Lycosthenes, published a supplement, in which he collected from Livy, Dionysius, Entropius, and other authorities
, the prodigies which had been chronicled from the foundation of the city until the period when the fragment of Obsequens commences, making at the same time additions from the same sources to the text of Obsequens himself. From this time for-ward the original and the supplement have been usually printed toether, and care must be taken in every cast to keep the two portions perfectly distinct.
The Editio Princeps
of Obsequens was published. as we have already stated, by Aldus, 8vo. Vent. 1508 (reprinted 1518), in a volume containing also the epistles of the younger Pliny.
The second edition was that of Beatus Rhenanus, 8vo. Argentorat. 1514, in a volume containing also the epistles of Pliny, Aurelius Victor, De Viris Illustribus,
and Suetonius De Claris Grammaticis ef Rhetoribus
The third was from the press of Robert Stephens, 8vo. Paris, 1529, and, like the two former, combined with the epistles of Pliny.
The first edition. which contained the supplement of Lycosthenes, was that which appeared at Basle, 8vo. 1552.
The best are those of Scheffer, 8vo. Amst. 1679, and of Oudendorp, 8vo. Lug. Bat. 1720, especially the latter, to which we may add that of Hase, subjoined to the Valerius Maximus un Lemaire's edition of the Latin classics, 8vo. Paris, 1823, and containing the commentaries of both Scheffer and Oudendorp. No MS. having been employed since the time of Aldus, all the alterations introduced from time to time into the text are purely conjectural.
We have translations into French by George de la Bouthiere, 8vo. Lyons, 1555
, and by Victor Verger, 12mo. Paris, 1825
, and into Italian by Damiano Maraffi, 8vo. Lione, 1554
The first and last of the above contain also translations of the three books by Polydore Virgil on the same topic