Ammianus Marcellinus

Ammianus Marcellinus a Latin historian, "the last subject of Rome who composed a profane history in the Latin language," was a native of Antioch, born in the fourth century, and, in his youth, served with distinction in Germany, Gaul, and Persia. Retiring from a military life, he went to reside at Rome, where he wrote a valuable history of the Roman emperors, from Nerva, A.D. 91, where the Annals of Tacitus end, to Valens, A.D. 378. It consisted of thirty-one books, of which the first thirteen are lost. He died A.D. 390 or 410. The value of his writings for general history are fully acknowledged by Gibbon (ch. 26), and they are important to Church history for their details as to Julian and the state of Christianity in his time. There has been much controversy as to the question whether Ammianus himself was a Christian or not. Chifflet (De Ammiani Marcellini vita et libris rerum gestarum monobiblion, Lovan. 1627) advocated the opinion that Ammianus was a Christian; while Moller (Dissertat. de Ammiano Marcellimo. Altdorf. 1685, 4to), Ditki (De Ammiano Marcell. Comment. Rossel, 1841), and Heyne (Censura Ingenii et Historiar. Ammian. Marcell. p. 3 sq.) combated it. It is now generally admitted that he was not a member of the Christian Church. His work contains many caustic remarks on the doctrines of Christianity. When speaking of the martyrs, of synods and other points of the Christian system, he frequently adds remarks which clearly point to a non-Christian author. It is, however, on the other hand, equally certain that he was not addicted to the then common belief of paganism. He recognised a supreme numen which curbs human arrogance and avenges human crime, and, in general, professes views which we find in Herodotus, Sophocles, and others of the best Greek writers, and which approach a monotheistic stand-point. It seems probable that he believed primitive, unadulterated Christianity to have been, as well as the philosophy of enlightened pagans, a form of deism. From this point of view Ammianus could consistently speak favorably of many things he found among the Christians. He censures Constantine's interference in the Arian controversy, and calls it a confusion of the absolute and plain Christian religion with obsolete superstition (Christianam religionem

absolutam et simplicem anili superstitione confundens). By this obsolete superstition, as the connection shows, he meant in particular the controversy concerning the Trinity and Divinity of Christ. He censured Julian the Apostate for forbidding the Christians to receive instruction in liberal studies, while he did not blame the restoration of pagan sacrifices. He was not opposed to the paganism of Julian, but to the violation of religious toleration. — See Rettberg, in Herzog, Real Encyklopadie, 1, 279 sq.. The best edition of his history is that of Wagner (Leipz. 1808, 3 vols. 8vo). An English translation was published by Philemon Holland (Lond. 1609). Bahr, Gesch. der rom. Literatur (Carlsruhe, 1845), 2, 194.

 
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