Ammianus' Julian: Narrative and Genre in the Res Gestae (Oxford Classical Monographs)

June 13, 2021
Ammianus' Julian: Narrative and Genre in the Res Gestae (Oxford Classical Monographs)

Ammianus Marcellinus' Res Gestae holds a prominent position inmodern studies of the emperor Julian as the fullest extantnarrative of the reign of the last 'pagan' emperor. Ammianus'Julian: Narrative and Genre in the Res Gestae offers a majorreinterpretation of the work, which is one of the main narrativesources for the political history of the later Roman Empire, andargues for a re-examination of Ammianus' agenda and methods innarrating thereign of Julian.Building on recent developments in the application of literaryapproaches and critical theories to historical texts, Ammianus'presentation of Julian is evaluated by considering the Res Gestaewithin three interrelated contexts: as a work of Latinhistoriography, which consciously sets itself within a classicaland classicizing generic tradition; in a more immediate literaryand political context, as the final contribution by a member of an'eyewitness' generation to a quarter centuryof intense debate over Julian's legacy by several authors who hadlived through his reign and had been in varying degrees ofproximity to Julian himself; and as a narrative text, in whichnarratorial authority is closely associated with the persona of thenarrator, both as an external narrating agent and anoccasional participant in the events he relates. This iscomplemented by a literary survey and a re-analysis of Ammianus'depiction of several key moments in Julian's reign, such as hisappointment as Caesar, the battle of Strasbourg in 357AD, hisacclamation as Augustus, and the disastrous invasion of Persia in363AD. It suggests that the Res Gestae presents a Latin-speaking,western audience with an idiosyncratic and 'Romanized' depiction ofthe philhellene emperor and that,consciously exploiting his position as a Greek writing in Latin andas a contemporary of Julian, Ammianus wished his work to beconsidered a culminating and definitive account of the man and hislife.