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The Linguistic Unity of the Historia Augusta

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 May 2015

J.N. Adams*
University of Manchester


It may well be that the much-debated question whether the HA is the work of one or more authors can be settled finally on linguistic grounds. Elsewhere I have produced some linguistic evidence which points to unity of authorship, and in this article I discuss some more evidence of the same kind which suggests the same conclusion.

Dessau drew attention to certain expressions which occur in all or most of the Scriptores and which he regarded as inconsistent with multiple authorship. His remarks are interesting but inconclusive, for most of the expressions could be cliches in use in literary varieties of Latin or borrowed by one Scriptor from another. Conflictum habere (= proelium committere), for example, which he had found nowhere else (op. cit. 387), occurs not only in Augustine (Civ. xix 4) and Hegesippus (i 30.7), but also in Vegetius’ Epitoma rei militaris (i 16). It may have been current in military Latin in the fourth century. To be decisive linguistic evidence must consist of unobtrusive mannerisms common to most of the Scriptores which were not general in literary Latin.

Research Article
Copyright © Australasian Society for Classical Studies 1977

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1 ‘On the authorship of the Historia Augusta’, CQ 22 (1972), 186–94. Cf. PCPhS 17 (1971), 14 ff.

2 Dessau, H.Hermes 24 (1889), 386 ff.Google Scholar

3 Paucker, C., De latinitate Scriptorum Historiae Augustae meletemata ad apparatum vocabulorum spectantia (Dorpat, 1870), pp. 88, 136 ff.;Google ScholarTidner, E., De particulis copulativis apud Scriptores Historiae Augustae quaestiones selectae (Uppsala, 1922), pp. 10 f., 20, 63, 70, 104, 110 ff.Google Scholar (careless use of correlatives), 117 ff. (pleonastic use of particles); Hallén, M., In Scriptores Historiae Augustae studia (Uppsala, 1941), pp. 45 ff.Google Scholar (on structures of the type fertur + nom.c.infin., followed by an illogical acc.c.infin). Woldt, A.De Scriptorum Historiae Augustae copia verborum et facultate dicendi (Greifswald, 1914), pp. 45 ff.Google Scholar also lists some odd words shared by more than one Scriptor, but his evidence is suggestive without being decisive.

4 See, e.g. Hofmann, J.B. and Szantyr, A., Lateinische Grammatik und Stilistik (Munich, 1965), pp. 321 f.;Google ScholarVäänänen, V., Introduction au latin vulgaire2 (Paris, 1967), pp. 137 f.Google Scholar

5 I can offer no explanation of this distinction between indicative and subjunctive.

6 For Vegetius, see Lang’s, C.Index, p. 193 (Teubner).Google Scholar

7 Hofmann and Szantyr, op. cit. p. 242.

8 It is worth noting that the reinforcement of postea by a particle when it stood in correlation with primo or primum was by no means obligatory at this period. Cf., e.g. Origo Gent. Rom. 5.3 ‘quem primo turn illi a Pallante Pallanteum, postea nos Palatium diximus’.

9 When in correlation with primo, post need not at this period be reinforced by autem: Origo Gent.Rom. 4.2 ‘alii volunt eos… primo Aberrigines, post mutata una littera altera adempia Aborigines cognominatos’ (cf. 5.2); Epit. de Caes. 10.10 ‘monuerit primo, post deductos in spectaculum se utrimque assidere iusserit’.

10 Post vero is not restricted to such structures at this period: see, e.g. Origo Gent. Rom. 8.3 ‘eosque alio vocabulo prius appellato s nonnulli volunt, post vero Pinarios dietos’.

11 See, e.g. Oros, iii 14.1, iv 7.11, 19.4, 20.5, 20.39, v 15.7, Exc. Val. 10, 28, Macr. Sat. i 18.10, Eutrop. i 3, ii 12, iii 6, iv 20, v 6.

12 For postea + O + V in another writer, see Veg. Mil. iii 10.

13 For the numerous examples of quod + subjunctive, see Lessing, C.Scriptorum historiae Augustae Lexicon (Leipzig, 1901–06), pp. 535 f.Google Scholar There are only two instances of quia + subjunctive (Spait.Ael. 2.4, Vop. Tac. 15.4), and in the first passage it has probably been used for variation.

14 This restriction is most familiar in object clauses dependent on verba dicendi and the like (see, e.g. Salonius, A.H., Vitae Patrum: kritische Untersuchungen über Text, Syntax und Wortschatz der spätlateinischen Vitae Patrum (B. III, V, VI, VII) [Lund, 1920], pp. 300 ff.),Google Scholar but there are also writers who prefer quod in causal clauses which have a subjunctive verb (Aurelius Victor, Origo Gent. Rom., Macrobius). It must be stressed that even in object clauses dependent on verba dicendi there is no more than a tendency for quia to be used when the mood of the verb is indicative rather than subjunctive. Exceptions can be found at all periods: see Herman, J., La formation du système roman des conjonctions de subordination (Berlin, 1963), p. 42.Google Scholar

15 On the use of the subjunctive in causal quia-clauses in general in late Latin, see Hofmann and Szantyr, op. cit. pp. 575, 586. For examples in the Scholia to Juvenal, see P., Wessner’sIndex, p. 326 (Teubner).Google Scholar Cf. Eutrop. i 11, iv 3,Epit. de Caes. 12.8, Jerome Epist. i 1 (twice), xviii A 15.9, Oros, iii 1.25, iv praef. 7, vi 10.13.

16 See Hofmann and Szantyr, op. cit. p. 223.

17 Cf. Spart. Did.Jul. 9.1 antea numquam.

18 In Augustine, Civ., for example, igitur occurs 300 times, itaque 214; and in the Vulgate igitur occurs 330 times, itaque 318. Itaque is very frequent in Orosius.

19 There is no similar example of itaque.

20 Gall.Av.Cass. 9.8, ib. 11.8, Lampr. Diad. 2.1, ib. 9.1, Lampr. Sev.Alex. 11.5, ib. 53.10, cap.Max. et Balb. 1.5, Poll.Val. 2.2, ib. 2.3, Poll.Trig.Tyr. 12.6, ib. 12.10, Vop.Aurel. 13.3, ib. 14.7, Vop.Tac. 19.2, Vop.Car. 4.7.

21 Cf. Cic.Phil. v 37 habeat ergo.

22 On the disappearance of tum from ordinary use under the Empire, see, e.g. Hofmann and Szantyr, op. cit. pp. 519 f. Vegetius, for example, has perhaps only one example of tum (iii 9), compared with numerous of tunc.

23 Cap.Marc.Aurel. 8.6, Lampr.Comm. 14.1, Cap.Pert. 5.7, Spart.Sev. 4.6, Cap. Clod.Alb. 13.8, Spart.Carac. 3.8, Lampr.Diad. 5.2, Lampr.Hel. 29.6, Lampr. Sev.Alex. 15.6, Cap.Gord. 15.2, Cap.Max. et Balb. 17.9, Poll. Val. 5.4, Poll.Gall. 8.3, Poll.Trig.Tyr. 9.1, Vop Prob. 12.1, Vop.Firm. 13.3.

24 For qui tum in another writer at this period, see Origo Gent. Rom. 20.3.

25 Lampr.Comm. 14.1, Cap.Pert. 5.7, Lampr.Diad. 5.2, Spart.Sev. 4.6, Cap.Gord. 15.2, Cap Max. et Balb. 17.9, Poll.Gall. 8.3, Vop.Firm. 13.3.

26 The text at Lampr.Sev.Alex. 55.3, where tumque may occur, is doubtful. E. Hohl (Teubner) prints tuncque. For tumque elsewhere, see Origo Gent. Rom. 19.7, 23.2.

27 For the other examples of tuncque, see Spait.Did.Jul. 7.11, Cap.Opell.Macr. 3.1, Lampr.Sev.Alex. 54.5, Poll.Trig.Tyr. 12.2.

28 We may leave aside Lampr.Sev.Alex. 55.3 (see above, n.26).

29 See the remarks above on the use of post and postea at the head of main clauses. So ineo and ingredior are complements. Ergo and igitur occupy complementary positions in relation to both habeo and cum.

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