Many sections of the Vita Aureliani are clearly based upon earlier sources of considerable historical value, which, unfortunately, are no longer extant. These sections lie embedded in large quantities of matter which do not possess the historical virtues to which they pretend but which, nevertheless, seem to have been written with a purpose. This article is an attempt to disentangle these two elements in the Vita; to reconstruct and discuss the sources followed by the historical parts; and to examine and determine the purpose of the others.
The writer of the Vita, as every one must admit, was not a good or original historian. He did nothing but copy or distort statements in the sources which he used. From this it follows that, in any attempt to separate his worthless additions from the passages which deserve consideration as sources for the history of Aurelian, we must adhere to one or other of two canons of criticism. These may be stated as follows:
(a) Passages which can, by comparison with relevant passages in other authorities, be traced to the sources used by the Vita and the other authorities, or which can be shown to give the kind of information which these sources may have contained, must be supposed to be derived from them.
(b) Statements which are intrinsically plausible, or which can be supported by inscriptional or other good evidence, must be accepted as being derived from these early lost sources, even though the connexion cannot be traced.