Ammianus Marcellinus is the last great Roman historian, whose writings stand comparison with those of Livy and Tacitus.He was not a professional man of letters but an army office of Greek origin born at Antioch and contemporary with the events described in what remains of his work. He set himself the task of continuing the histories of Tacitus from A.D. 96 down to his own day. The first thirteen of his thirty-one books are lost; the remainder describe a period of only 25 years and the reigns of the emperors Constantius, Julian, Jovian, Valentinian and Valens, for which he is a prime authority. He was a pagan and an admirer of the apostate Julian, to whose career about the half the surviving books are devoted. Nevertheless, his treatment of Christianity is free from prejudice and his impartiality and good judgement have been generally acknowledged.
A Roman historian chronicles Rome on the brink of collapse
Ammianus Marcellinus was the last great Roman historian, and his writings rank alongside those of Livy and Tacitus. The Later Roman Empire chronicles a period of twenty-five years during Marcellinus' own lifetime, covering the reigns of Constantius, Julian, Jovian, Valentinian I, and Valens, and providing eyewitness accounts of significant military events including the Battle of Strasbourg and the Goth's Revolt. Portraying a time of rapid and dramatic change, Marcellinus describes an Empire exhausted by excessive taxation, corruption, the financial ruin of the middle classes and the progressive decline in the morale of the army. In this magisterial depiction of the closing decades of the Roman Empire, we can see the seeds of events that were to lead to the fall of the city, just twenty years after Marcellinus' death.
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Ammianus Marcellinus was the last great Roman historian, continuing the histories of Tacitus from AD 96 down to his own day. The first thirteen of his thirty-one books are lost: the remainder describe AD 354 - 378.
Walter Hamilton translated Plato's Symposium, the Gorgias, Phaedrus and Letters VII and VIII for Penguin Classics.
Andrew Wallace-Hadrill is Professor of Classics at Reading University. His books include Suetonius: the Scholar and his Caesars.
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