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The controversial Augustan History is a strange combination of both the fantastical and the real.



The Augustan History (Latin: Historia Augusta) is a late Roman collection of biographies, written in Latin, of the Roman Emperors, their junior colleagues, designated heirs and usurpers of the period 117 to 284. Supposedly modeled on the similar work of Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, it presents itself as a compilation of works by six different authors (collectively known as the Scriptores Historiae Augustae), written during the reigns of Diocletian and Constantine I and addressed to those emperors or other important personages in Rome. The collection, as extant, comprises thirty biographies, most of which contain the life of a single emperor, while some include a group of two or more, grouped together merely because these emperors were either similar or contemporaneous.

The true authorship of the work, its actual date, its reliability, and its purpose, have long been matters for controversy amongst historians and scholars, ever since Hermann Dessau in 1889 rejected both the date and the authorship as stated within the manuscript. Major problems include the nature of the sources it used, and how much of the content is pure fiction. For instance, the collection contains in all about 150 alleged documents, including 68 letters, 60 speeches and proposals to the people or the senate, and 20 senatorial decrees and acclamations. Virtually all of these are now considered to be fraudulent.

The true nature and even the author (or authors) of this book have long been debated.

This dissertation by Kathryn A. Langenfeld on this book is both well-written and informative:



Opening paragraph:



Summary paragraph:





guy also known as gaius 

Edited by guy

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Is that situation so unusual? When the Romans came to write the histories of their earliest times, they filled in the details themselves. Since their earliest history was unknown to them except the remembrance of major events, they constructed the past in the image of the world they knew. And if you care to notice, Roman writings are full of speeches credited to one historical individual or another but written by the book's author. Roman writers were keen to record the rise of their civilisation and lives of the famous, much as we would today, but they also wanted to write entertaining works that people wanted to read and praise the writer for. How much of Roman history can we be sure of? Truth is, we don't have much to corroborate it. We really are forced to take their word for things by and large.

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Whilst most of the Augustan works are pure fabrication it's important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are indeed at least some nuggets of genuine historical knowledge contained in the works. The Augustan History states that before Hadrian built his walls in northern Britain, the Emperor Antoninus had already built another wall further north. This was ignored for centuries until archaeology proved the claim correct. Apart from the well known and obvious do any members know of any other 'hidden gems' in the works?

Edited by Denny
Bad grammar.

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