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Abridgement of Roman History.
translated, with notes, by the Rev. John Selby Watson.
London: Henry G. Bohn, York Street, Convent Garden (1853).


Table of contents


Notice of the Life and Writings of Eutropius.

     FROM Eutropius1 himself we learn that he served under Julian, and attended him in his expedition to the east. From Georgius Codinus, de Originibus Constantinopolitanis,2 we find that he had previously been secretary, e)pistologra/fos, to Constantine the Great. He was alive in the age of Valentinian and Valens; to the latter of whom he dedicates his book. This is all that is known of his personal history.

     When or where he was born, it is useless to attempt to discover. Suidas calls him I)talo\s sofisth/s, which we may translate, an Italian eminent writer ; but Suidas, as Fabricius and others have observed, may merely have called him so because he wrote in Latin. The authors of the Histoire Littéraire de la France3 wished to prove, from Symmachus, that he was the countryman of Ausonius, and born near Bourdeaux; and Vinetus, from his name and other suppositions, would make him a Greek; but none of the arguments in favour of either hypothesis deserve the least regard. Like Justin, he has but one name; for though he is called Flavius Eutropius by Sigonius and Boniface, the Flavius rests on no sufficient authority.4

     Some, as Vossius observes, have sought to demonstrate from Gennadius 5 that he was a disciple of Augustin. But Augustin did not flourish till the end of the fourth and beginning of the fifth century, at which period Eutropius must either have been dead or extremely old. Others have endeavoured to make him a Christian from what is said of Julian, nimius insectator religionis Christianae,6 but the word nimius is wanting in the best manuscripts, and, if it were found in all, would be of little weight

     It seems, indeed, tolerably evident, that Eutropius must have been, not a Christian, but a heathen. “He takes no notice,” says Vossius, “of the ten persecutions, and in his notice of Jovian7 plainly advocates dishonest dealings.” But direct evidence of his heathenism is given by Nicephorus Gregoras,8 one of the Byzantine historians, in an oration on the character of Constantine the Great, in which it is observed, that what Eutropius says in favour of Constantine is peculiarly deserving of attention, as proceeding from a writer who must have had some feeling against him in consequence of being of a different religion, dia/ te to\ th=s qrhskei/as a)koinw/nhton, and also of being a contemporary and partizan of Julian, dia\ to\ h(likiw/thn kai\ ai(resiw/thn I)oulia/nou ge/nesqai. Nicephorus also calls him a Greek or Gentile, E(/llhn kai\ a)llofu/lou qrhskei/as tro/fimos, and speaks in such a way as to leave no doubt that the historian Eutropius is meant.

     According to Suidas, he wrote other things besides his epitome, but what they were is unknown. A Eutropius is cited by Priscian as an authority for the sound of the letter x, but no intimation is given that he was the compiler of the history. Whether he executed the work in a loftier style, which he promises at the end of his epitome, is uncertain.

     As a historian, he is guilty of some errors as to facts and chronology, which are minutely particularized by Tzschucke,9 but is faithful on the whole, except that he omits, or colours too favourably, some of the transactions that are dishonourable to Rome.

     His style is correct and sufficiently polished, but exhibits some words, as medietas, dubietas, and some expressions, that are of the lower age of the Latin language. But when we consider how late he lived, we may rather commend him for having so few of such peculiarities, than blame him for those that occur.

     His text was in a very corrupt state, until Ignatius, in 1516, and Schonhovius, in 1546, exerted themselves to clear it from the foreign matter that had been attached to it by Paulus Diaconus and others. The best editions now are those of Havercamp, 1729; Verheyk, 1762, 1793; and Tzschucke, 1796, 1804. Grosse also has since published a useful edition.

     Eutropius was twice translated into Greek, by Capito Lycius,10 whose version is lost, and by Paeanius, whose performance survives in a nearly complete state, and is printed in the editions of Cellarius and Verheyk. Who Paeanius was, we do not know; Sylburgius first gave the translation to the press in 1590. It sometimes deviates from the sense, but is in general faithful.

     Eutropius has been translated into English by Nicolas Hayward, 1564; by Clarke, 1722, a version that has been several times reprinted, and by Thomas, 1760. None of these performances deserve any particular notice.


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1 Lib. x. c. 16.

2 Ed. Par. fol. p. 9; Test. Vet. apud Verheyk.

3 Tom. i. p. 220; Tzschucke, Prolegom. in Eutrop. p. iii, v.

4 Tzschucke, p. viii.

5 De Illustribus Ecclesiae Scriptoribus.

6 Eutrop. x. 16.

7 Eutrop. x. 17.

8 Test. Vet. apud Verheyk.

9 P. xxvi. seqq.

10 Suidas v. Kapi/twn.


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