01. Ancient Alexandrographs + Comments, 1.5 Justin, Alexander - Non Fiction Book, Reviews

Review: “Ripensare la storia universale. Giustino e l’Epitome delle Storie Filippiche di Pompeo Trogo” by Alice Borgna (Collaboration)

RECENSIONE IN ITALIANO: QUI.

Hello everyone, I’m Elena Ragazzoni and thank you for being on Alessandro III di Macedonia: blog about Alexander the Great and Hellenism. After some time I went back to reading about Alexander and I’m really really happy. Ok, this reading is not strictly linked to Alexander but is part of the in-depth analysis to be done to better understand him and I thank the publisher Georg Olms Verlag for sending me the copy of the book!

Ripensare la storia universale.

Giustino e l’Epitome delle Storie Filippiche di Pompeo Trogo

by Alice Borgna

Georg Olms Verlag, 2021

ISBN: 978-3487312163, 294 pages

In un’epoca imprecisata, a Roma un certo Giustino si imbatte in un raro esempio di storia universale scritta in latino, le Storie Filippiche di Pompeo Trogo: affascinato, ne compone quel che definisce breve florum corpusculum. Oggi, perduto Trogo, questa epitome potrebbe almeno preservarne il dato storico, ma non è così: gli errori, i fraintendimenti e i tagli infelici che la percorrono hanno distorto l’originale, di cui non resta che un’idea confusa. Possiamo dare la colpa allo scarso acume di Giustino, tanto limitato da non essersi accorto dell’inadeguatezza del suo riassunto? Se, fino ad ora, gran parte della critica ha risposto in maniera affermativa alla questione, questo lavoro la riapre a partire dall’unica traccia certa che Giustino ha lasciato di sé: il materiale che dell’originale ha scelto di conservare e le modalità con cui lo ha cucito insieme. Lungi dall’essere stati raccolti senza criterio, i flores che compongono l’Epitoma si rivelano connessi da un robusto filo rosso, dipanando il quale anche i più dibattuti problemi non solo su Giustino, ma anche su Pompeo Trogo conosceranno nuove risposte.

The only known instance of universal history in Latin before the Christian Orosius, the “Historiae Philippicae” by Pompeius Trogus, is lost in the original and only survives in the form of a clumsy abridgment by a certain Justin, an otherwise unknown author of very dubious chronology. Unfortunately, the apparently inexplicable omissions, inaccuracies, and ineffective editing that mark Justin’s abridgment have so far hindered the “Historiae Philippicae” from being used as a reliable historical source.
The present book reconsiders the unfavorable judgements on the quality of Justin’s work that are often repeated in scholarship and takes the peculiar features of the Epitome as precious historical indicators of its setting, its audience, and its chronology. This first systematic analysis of the editing and abridging process shows that Justin’s selection was the product of a conscious and coherent modus operandi; as a result, it will become possible also to reassess some of the most discussed debates on Pompeius Trogus.

ENGLISH SUMMARY

The only known instance of Latin universal history before the Christian Orosius, the Historiae Philippicae by Pompeus Trogus are unfortunately lost in their original and survive only in the form of a clumsy abridgment by a certain Justin, an otherwise unknown author of very dubious chronology. As Otto Steel expressed so aptly, our complete lack of information about Justin and his text can generate a sense of horror vacui in the minds of scholars; but this consideration is equally true for those who face the challenge of studying Trogus – so much about his life and work is disputed, not least his attitude to Rome.
At the origin of the problem stands the very nature of Justin’s Epitoma, which is notoriously marred by historiographical inaccuracies, inexplicable omissions, and an apparently ineffective editing. Some have even questioned Justin’s own aptitude for the task, for, if he indeed intended to compose a historical abridgement, he did not seem to realize that his rewriting seriously compromised the historical value of the information that he transmitted.
The present book proposes a radically new understanding of Justin’s Epitoma, and intends to make justice to the type of textual reception that the work represents. A systematic analysis of Justin’s modus operandi shows that the selection of the material from Trogus was not indiscriminate as is often suggested; rather, Justin carefully selected passages according to a set of identifiable criteria. Even though the connection and correlation of the anecdotes do not respond to strictly historiographical criteria, their arrangement is nonetheless coherently articulated according to a common structure beginning-development-conclusion. Justin was not so much concerned about history as he was about selected scenes and events which he reported in detail and with gusto, and he did so for a like-minded audience – a consideration that will also contribute to the establishment of a firmer chronology for his work.
Only once we have discerned, in their own right, the concerns that guided Justin, it becomes possible to turn to Trogus. Justin removed the chronological and geographical framework of the Historiae Philippicae, effectively rewriting the text as series of anecdotes that nonetheless preserved the interest in natural history by its author, his rationality, his solid moral, and his devotion to pax and concordia. In his view, these two qualities had to be the necessary underpinnings of a polycentric empire in which the cultural traditions and needs of new citizens can be accommodated.
Some of the most disputed aspects of Trogus’ work should therefore be understood in terms of teaching and admonition rather than in terms of opposition to Rome. By means of his naturalist outlook, Trogus saw the origin of evil in that savage aspect of the human character that desperately strives for cupiditas of power and ultimately causes political unrest and instability. Concordia and discordia, in lieu of virtus and fortuna, are the two oppositional forces that move human history forward according to Trogus’ understanding of it.
Rather than celebrating an enemy, the account of the history of Macedon, so emblematic to give the work its title, was indeed to be taken as an admonition for Rome. Not far in space or in time, the dynasty of Macedon stood as a clear example of the raise and fall of a kingdom: while virtue, and so also fate, can help rise to power, political acumen is necessary to maintain it, but as long as this is united to the appreciation of peace and order, and the capability to keep oneself within human and territorial limits. This was the message that Trogus, not unlike Livy, intended to send his readers.

SUMMARY

PREMESSA …………………………………………………………………………… 7
NOTA AL TESTO ………………………………………………………………. 9
I. INTRODUZIONE ………………………………………………………….. 15
1.1. I dati noti………………………………………………………………………. 16
1.2. Un esito ambiguo……………………………………………………………. 18
1.3. Giustino o Trogo? …………………………………………………………… 19
1.4. Un nuovo approccio………………………………………………………… 22
II. POMPEO TROGO ……………………………………………………………… 25
2.1. L’autore ……………………………………………………………………….. 25
III. LE HISTORIAE PHILIPPICAE …………………………………………. 31
3.1. La data di composizione ………………………………………………….. 31
3.2. Il titolo …………………………………………………………………………. 33
IV. GIUSTINO ………………………………………………………………………. 37
4.1. L’identità ……………………………………………………………………… 37
4.2. Il dibattito sulla datazione ………………………………………………… 39
V. LA TECNICA EPITOMATORIA …………………………………………………. 47
5.1. Il rapporto tra Prologi e contenuto……………………………………… 47
5.1.1. Prologi lunghi, libri brevi………………………………………………. 48
5.1.2. Prologi brevi, libri lunghi………………………………………………. 65
5.2. Una pagina che sa di uomo (e di donna) ……………………………… 70
VI. GIUSTINO E LA STORIA ……………………………………………………. 73
6.1. Una storia senza spazio né tempo ………………………………………. 73
6.2. Condensare e manipolare …………………………………………………. 82
6.3. Dalla storia alla scena ……………………………………………………… 104
VII. LA DATAZIONE E L’IDENTITÀ: NUOVE PROPOSTE …………….. 107
7.1. Giustino e il IV secolo …………………………………………………….. 107
7.2. Il filtro della scuola …………………………………………………………. 110
7.2.1. Il tiranno e il conflitto familiare …………………………. 112
7.3. Giustino: chi è? ……………………………………………………………… 121
7.4. Un indizio cronologico? …………………………………………………… 123
VIII. FORMA DI GIUSTINO, SOSTANZA DI TROGO ……………………… 129
IX. L’ORIGINALITÀ DI POMPEO TROGO ………………………………. 131
9.1. Il problema delle fonti……………………………………………………… 131
9.2. Pompeo Trogo naturalista e osservatore ………………………………. 134
9.3. L’attenzione per l’etnografia e l’elemento locale …………………… 147
X. IL SENSO DELLA STORIA DI TROGO E IL SUO PRESUNTO ANTIROMANESIMO ……. 157
10.1. Scrivere una storia universale a Roma: una scelta ostile? ………. 159
10.2. Il senso del divenire storico di Pompeo Trogo …………………….. 163
10.3. Philippicae: le ragioni di una scelta ………………………………….. 170
10.3.1. Filippo o Alessandro?…………………………………….. 171
10.3.2. I Diadochi ……………………………………………………. 180
10.3.3. Dalla virtus alla concordia ………………………………. 184
10.4. Molti Parti, pochi Romani? …………………………………………….. 186
10.4.1. I Parti e Carre……………………………………………….. 186
10.5. L’amor pacis e Roma…………………………………………………….. 196
XI. L’ORGOGLIO GALLICO E L’IMPORTANZA DEL LIBRO XLIII ……………. 203
XII. TROGO E LIVIO: UNA STORIA PER ROMA? …………………………… 211
XIII. CONCLUSIONI …………………………………………………….. 215
XIV. BIBLIOGRAFIA …………………………………………………………. 221
XV. INDICI …………………………………………………………………….. 263
Indice dei luoghi ………………………………………………………………….. 263
Indice dei nomi ……………………………………………………………………. 267
Indice dei passi citati …………………………………………………………….. 279
XVI. ENGLISH SUMMARY ……………………………………….. 293

Classificazione: 5 su 5.

Reading time: from 13th to 19th September 2022.

The Storie Filippiche. Florilegio da Pompeo Trogo aren’t an easy text to read but the beautiful edition published by Rusconi Libri, translated and edited by Dr. Borgna, offers us an excellent help in understanding this text. Ripensare la storia universale. Giustino e l’Epitome delle Storie Filippiche di Pompeo Trogo is the development of Borgna’s doctoral thesis and I thank the editor Georg Olms Verlag for sending me a review copy of the text because it’s a fundamental reading to better understand Justin’s and Trogu’s works.

The text that Dr. Borgna offers us is a pleasant and smooth reading even for non-experts and examines all aspects related to the Trogus’ Storie Filippiche and Justin’s Epitoma. After a brief Introduzione, the author first presents Pompeus Trogus, then his Storie Filippiche, then Justin and then his Tecnica epitomatoria. Borgna further analyzes Justin’s work in chapter VI and in VII she proposes a solution to the problems of dating and identity. In chapter VIII she distinguishes between what remains of Trogus, his substance, and what we have of Justin or the form, while in the remaining chapters she studies in detail Trogus’ work and his origins.

In the Middle Ages, Justin’s text enjoyed considerable success and here we are explained the differences between the various families of manuscripts have come down to us.

In the Introduzione Borgna wonders if Justin left any trace of himself in the Epitoma and points out that if we know little about Justin, we know even less about Pompeus Trogus and starts from three known premises: Justin’s Epitoma; the Prologi added by Justin; the direct quotations reported by Justin. Many scholars have investigated the Epitoma and I was surprised to read that according to Forni Justin would have preserved 1/5 of the Trogus’ text, while for Seel it would be only 1/10. Knowing such a thing is sad because the case of Trogus is yet another example of how Time and History have devoured many works that are now lost forever. To know that perhaps Trogus’ text would have been ten times longer, as well as historically more accurate, is really a shame.

Apparently Justin’s work contains unfortunate cuts of the Trojan text and separating the two hands and understanding what goes back to the original and what is the fruit of Justin, isn’t at all simple, indeed:

Il discredito di cui Giustino è stato oggetto ha trovato riflesso anche su un piano stilistico, di conseguenza in molti casi la critica non ha resistito alla tentazione di dar soluzione al problema semplicemente attribuendo a Trogo tutto quanto nel testo è stilisticamente pregevole e, per converso, ritenere del poco brillante Giustino le soluzioni meno efficaci.

page 22

For Borgna the question isn’s as simple as for others and this book gives us proof and also a probable solution. The author studies the Epitoma starting from Justin’s criterion and methods of selecting the material because he really worked according to the taste of the moment or is there something else? Are the linking formulas used by Justin dictated by his scarce lexical wealth or do they omit certain categories of information? What kind of intent or audience and era do these cuts correspond to? Borgna asks himself many initial questions to which he slowly gives the answers.

About Pomeus Trogus we only know what Justin told us but Borgna investigates the origin of his family from the military tradition and Trogus, passionate about history and nature, deviating from the family’s military career, would have inherited from Caesar the propensity to use indirect speech:

Pompeo Trogo potrebbe avere appreso dal padre, membro dello staff della cancelleria di Cesare, un’idea di storiografia asciutta e imitatrice dei resoconti ufficiali.

page 27

The Storie Filippiche would have been published between the last decade B.C. and the first decade A.D. and the title gives importance to Macedonia as the central nucleus of the story, also because 31 out of 44 books are attributable to the Macedonian context.

Borgna then analyzes the figure of Justin, who is also evanescent and the dating for his work goes between the 2nd and 3rd century AD. but some scholars trace it back to the end of the 4th century AD. His epitomic technique is seen in the cuts of Roman history and geo-ethnographic digressions. Justin isn’t interested in explaining everything written by Pomeus Trogus but he wanted to entertain his audience by upsetting the balance of the original and paying attention to the structure of the episodes. Justin thus modified the structure and balances of the Storie Filippiche with his own structural independence and an anthological approach to the Epitoma. Borgna points out that Justin doesn’t care to follow a character in detail but happens to make him reappear only to talk about a family intrigue without explaining the reasons behind it, as in the case of Prusias.

Ai libri politematici di Trogo non corrisponde dunque una riduzione da parte di Giustino volta a seguire i fili delle varie vicende e attenta a mantenere ossatura ed equilibri dell’originale, seppur in una forma compendiata. Rispetto alla struttura trogiana Giustino si muove con notevole autonomia e con uno spiccato interesse per l’elemento aneddotico, i botta e risposta arguti e i fatti insoliti (espedienti curiosi, incontri bizzarri…), un taglio che spesso avviene a spese della concatenazione logica dei fatti.

page 65

Dr. Borgna’s work is excellent because thanks to the use of examples and sources, she shows us and explains her deductions. On page 68, for example, she says:

Anche negli altri due casi di prologhi ridottissimi si conferma come la tecnica epitomatoria sia volta non a dar conto dell’originale, ma a selezionare una serie di brani non per forza significativi nell’ottica di una historia universalis, quanto piuttosto rispondenti ad un gusto e ad intenti diversi e, di conseguenza, distanti dalla storiografia.

The author notes how Justin is looking for the unusual element or the human component to narrate and women were also important to him:

Vi è però una categoria in particolare ad attirare costantemente l’attenzione del breviatore: le donne. Nelle pagine dell’Epitoma, infatti, l’universo femminile si mostra in azione nelle sue mille sfaccettature, una preponderanza tematica che non trova medesimo riflesso nei Prologi, segno questo del fatto che a portarla in primo piano è stata, ancora una volta, la selezione di Giustino.

page 71

Il fatto che tutti i flores spiccati da Giustino possano essere suddivisi in categorie definite indica pertanto che il compendio rappresenta l’esito di un progetto coerente, dotato di una struttura perspicua (l’aneddoto chiuso in se stesso) e costruito lungo linee di interesse ben individuabili: l’exemplum, la curiositas, il dialogo e la componente umana, con particolare attenzione all’elemento femminile.

page 72

In Justin’s text, however, the space-time coordinates are missing, the geography is compromised, the important topographical references in the battles are eliminated, the onomastics is imprecise and the cutting of epithets in the Hellenistic rulers generates confusion. Justin also often eliminates the political aspect, thus reducing the historiographical depth of the narrative to focus on the domestic conflict but I still find it important because

L’interesse di Giustino per il conflitto familiare lo induce a conservare dettagli che non conoscono paralleli nelle altre fonti e della cui autenticità la critica ha ampiamente discusso, come l’allontanamento di Selene e la presenza di due figli.

page 80

Borgna, however, underlines how Justin in some cases condenses and manipulates the sources because for him Cassander kills Heracles (and Barsine) and Alexander IV (and Roxane) and the author rightly states:

Giustino non si preoccupa mai di verificare la coerenza strutturale del suo testo o di dare reale spessore storiografico ai personaggi.

page 87

Justin intervenes only four times with a direct speech (Trogus preferred the indirect one such as the Caesarian style) and each episode he narrates is developed in a beginning, a development and an end but

Le Historiae Philippicae, infatti, dalla riduzione di Giustino escono completamente sfigurate, del tutto mutate in struttura, equilibri e, soprattutto, profondamente compromesse nel loro valore storico.

page 107

Borgna shows how Justin’s text has a declamatory imprint through the figures of the tyrant and in the family conflict, almost going so far as to create types of rhetorical characters and de-contextualizing them so that they are valid in every era.

The next step of Dr. Borgna is to establish the terminus ante quem for the existence of the Epitoma which according to her would be 321 A.D. because there are similarities in the Macedonians’ affair with Ammianus Marcellinus and Nazarius. The Epitoma isn’t a summary of the Trogian work and by Justin we can see the brushstrokes to make it suitable for oration.

As stated above, Trogus was a naturalist, an observer, a rational and original writer, he gave importance to direct observation and was able to enhance his historiographical personality by mixing and reworking many sources. But, Borgna wonders, was Trogus perhaps hostile to the Romans with a sense of historical becoming? For Trogus it was important that there was a stability of the empire that comes with internal concordia and a foreign policy that isn’t sterile aggressive. The case of Macedonia first with Philip, then with Alexander and then with the various Diadochi is to be seen as a case study to see the factors that led to the collapse of the kingdom. In this passage there is the only statement that I don’t agree with and is on page 171:

Ereditato il regno dal padre, l’esordio al potere di Alessandro è positivo, soprattutto in virtù di un atteggiamento clemente, grazie al quale, dice il testo, riuscì ad accattivarsi la simpatia di molti, perfino degli Ateniesi (11, 3, 3). Al pari di Nino, però, Alessandro non seppe trattenersi entro i confini del suo dominio e quella campagna persiana, intrapresa come ultor della Grecia, scatena la solita bramosia: avvistata l’Asia dalle navi, incredibili ardore mentis accensus, Alessandro divide tra gli amici tutto quel che possiede in Europa, quasi a sbarazzarsene in quanto – è la tracotante dichiarazione – a lui basterà quel che sta per conquistare (11, 5, 5). Come si è già detto, non di rado nel testo il male si diffonde biologicamente come germe: la medesima smania dilaga, infatti, anche tra i soldati che, improvvisamente dimentichi delle famiglie e di quanto hanno lasciato in patria, pensano solo alle ricchezze che li attendono (11, 5, 8-9).

I don’t read negatively the fact that Alexander got rid of his possessions in Europe, and precisely for this reason also the verb “sbarazzarsi” seems to me wrong, at the same time, however, the text negatively denotes it, underlining how the same attitude was also taken by the soldiers. By this I don’t mean that it’s Borgna’s thought, but that I don’t agree with the interpretation proposed by the original text.

For Trogus, in fact, new conquests are enough to start the degeneratio Alexandri and he speaks well of Darius. Borgna also notesTrogus is the only source that speaks of Alexander with an immutable realism and transmits political background that elsewhere is missing or more nuanced. For Trogus it is the discord aroused by despotic attitudes that kills Alexander, not fate. Trogus has a fairly muted tone about Alexander, but the review and the parallel between Philip and Alexander at Philip’s death is by Justin and the Macedonian interest of the author is visible with the story of his successors. Trogus considers the Diadochi as a group of absolute excellences, of loyalists who compete for the kingdom and the instability of their kingdoms does not derive from their inability but is because of the discordia that makes them decay and always fight each other.

In Pompeus Trogus the work of Augustus is the opposite pole to the dark and violent atmosphere that one had with Alexander, in fact the author hands down episodes of honest and incorruptible Romans and the empire of Augustus is because it is prudent in foreign policy and governed in moderation. Like Augustus Trogus, he leaves no laws to follow but examples to follow.

Borgna still analyzes Trogus’ origins which was a Gaul and in the text we see the ancient friendship and fidelity between Rome and Gaul. For the breadth of his work that gives a sense of historical becoming Trogus isn’t hostile to Rome, but is complementary to Livy not antagonist, therefore Trogus’ history is yes without Rome but it was written for Rome, therefore the Storie Filippiche are to be considered with a pedagogical value. It is pax and concordia that determine the meaning of Trogus’ historical development and with Philip, Alexander and the Diadochi we see how power is not satisfied with its limits.

Borgna notes how Justin took sketches, curious stories from the Trogus’ text, examples for the school of rhetoric. From Trogus we have the rationality of the naturalist, with a solid morality and the cult for the pax and concordia, from Justin we have the reference environment and the recipients of him.

As I have already told you I have read the Storie Filippiche. Florilegio da Pompeo Trogo in the edition edited by Borgna herself and I admit that her rich apparatus of notes and precise clarifications are a huge help in understanding the gaps in the text but, if the notes fill those gaps, here they are highlighted and we understand why Justin doesn’t have the same historical importance as the other authors. Ripensare la storia universale is an excellent text that examines the two people behind the Florilegio delle Storie Filippiche we have today and their works as well: the original author Pompeo Trogo and the epitomator Justin. It’s a fluent and easy to understand text because although the author reports many quotations in Latin, they are all translated into Italian; the text has a rich set of footnotes for further explanations and historiographical references; the 42-page bibliography can be used extensively to search for additional reading and study insights. The subdivision of the text into the chapters and the order of the same allow you to jump from one author to another without creating confusion but rather giving a logical sense to the narrative. From reading the text you can see the author’s philological training but it’s not pedantic or even incomprehensible to non-experts. At the same time, however, this text is an in-depth study that will only be read by those who are interested in learning more about the authors, their intentions and the texts, it is a reading that those who want to do will be happy to have done but it’s not aimed at the general public.

I couldn’t wait to be able to read Ripensare la storia universale because I wanted to know more and is really excellent in this sense: I have better framed those who were the people of Pompeus Trogus and Justin; I understood how Trogus had thought the Storie Filippiche; now I no longer consider it to be Justin’s work as casual as before; I have known the debate among researchers about it. Thanks again to the publisher Georg Olms Verlag because I don’t know if I would have been able to buy it otherwise given the slightly high price but I would have waited hoping to find it sooner or later discounted. I knew this book would be an important piece in unraveling the skein on the Florilegio delle Storie Filippiche and it fully met my expectations.

To conclude, I report a quote I read in the very first pages, that is the final paragraph of the Premessa, because it moved me to read it:

Con la medesima speranza lo avrei offerto anche a mio nonno Mario, grande narratore del passato, ma per una manciata di giorni – di ore, quasi – non ho fatto in tempo, e questa è una di quelle postille che si aggiungono con le dita che sembrano pestare non tanto sulla tastiera quanto sul cuore.

page 8

If you want to read the researcher reviews I was able to find, check THIS LINK where I created an insider reviews page. Reading the reviews I saw that some criticize Borgna for such a negative reading of the Macedonian events in Trogo and other elements, but I don’t have the knowledge to contradict a researcher and I’m happy to have the opportunity to learn from them with such readings. I take this opportunity to apologize for any errors or superficiality in the review: if there were any, it’s my fault and not Dr. Borgna’s and if they are reported to me I will correct them! I hope with this review as a layman that I have honored this important book!

Thank you all, have a good day,

#copiaomaggio #prodottooffertoda Georg Olms Verlag

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