Francis Cairns Publications

ARCA Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers and Monographs ISSN 0309-5541

Sextus Aurelius Victor: A Historiographical Study

H.W. Bird

ARCA 14. ISBN 978-0-905205-21-2. Cloth, x+175. Publ. 1984. 

Sextus Aurelius Victor was an imperial bureaucrat whose life spanned most of the fourth century AD. Harry Bird describes how Victor, a man of humble African origin, acquired by virtue of his education and personal qualities a consular governorship in Pannonia and the urban prefecture at Rome. Victor's short historical monograph, the De Caesaribus, reveals his attitudes towards education, culture, history and politics – attitudes which probably reflect those of a considerable segment of fourth-century society. We can therefore glimpse how the emperors, the senate, the army and the bureaucracy were perceived, how the changing role of Rome was regarded by many in the West, what was thought of certain provinces and their inhabitants and what was considered to be the raison d'être of the writing of history.

All these, together with other minor topics, are explored in Harry Bird's thorough investigation into Victor's life and work.

This book will interest students of late Latin literature and thought and those involved in late imperial and early medieval history. It should also appeal to scholars engaged in the study of the Historia Augusta, whether they agree with its findings or not.

H.W. BIRD, after service in the Royal Navy, studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, at McMaster University, and at the University of Toronto. He has taught in Finland, in England, and in various Canadian universities, and is currently Professor of Classics at the University of Windsor, Ontario.


Chronological Table

1. A Reconstruction of the Life and Career of Sextus Aurelius Victor
2. The Sources of the De Caesaribus
3. The Emperors and the Senate
4. The Army and the Bureaucracy
5. Rome and the Provinces
6. Education and Culture
7. Causation in the De Caesaribus
8. Style and Language

i Exempla in the De Caesaribus
ii Victor's Estimation of the Emperors
iii Victor, Eutropius and the Epitomator: some comparative terms denoting power
iv List of Provinces / Provincials cited by Victor
v Women, Eunuchs and Sexual Morality
vi The De Caesaribus and the Historia Augusta

Notes; Translations; Select Bibliography; Index Nominum


Joint Association of Classical Teachers Review (1985) 21-22 (Donald Earl): "Whatever the defects of the De Caesaribus as history, the book affords valuable insight into the attitudes of an imperial bureaucrat, whose life spanned most of the fourth century AD, to such matters as education, culture, history, politics and the proper standards to be observed by emperor, senate, bureaucracy and army. All this B. investigates and expounds in his pioneering study, providing fascinating illumination on a fascinating and important period of European history which, for all the recent revival of specialist interest, is still sadly neglected by the ordinary student of Rome."

Phoenix 39 (1985) 410-13 (C.E.V. Nixon)

Gnomon 58 (1986) 162-7 (Karl Strobel)

Eirene 23 (1986) 119-20 (Roland Gründel)

Quaderni Urbinati di Cultura Classica 25 (1987) 148-9 (Maria Cesa)

Revue des Etudes Latines 63 (1985) 340-41 (Jean-Claude Richard)

L'Antiquité Classique 55 (1986) 468-9 (Jules Wankenne)

Athenaeum 65 (1987) 266 (Arnaldo Marcone)

Latomus 48 (1989) 487 (P. Jal): "Un remarquable et très clair exposé qu'il est utile de savoir sur Aurelius Victor, en même temps qu'un instrument de travail particulièrement commode"

Classical World (1987-88) 455 (John C. Traupman): "Bird's well documented study, which can serve as an excellent introduction to a reading of the de Caesaribus, makes a worthwhile contribution to our understanding of life in the fourth century and should be of interest to students of later Imperial Rome and of early medieval times."

Gymnasium 94 (1987) 279-80 (Thomas Pekáry)

Anzeiger für die Altertumswissenschaft 3 (1990) 78-9 (Gerhard Winkler)