- Hardcover: 544 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press (January 1, 1921)
- Language: English, Latin
- ISBN-10: 0674991540
- ISBN-13: 978-0674991545
- Product Dimensions: 4 x 1 x 6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,149,457 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Historia Augusta, Volume I (Loeb Classical Library No. 139)
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The Loeb series date back to the turn of the last century. They are designed for people with at least some knowledge of Greek or Latin. They are a sort of compromise between a straight English translation and an annotated copy of the original text. On the left page is printed the text in Greek or Latin depending on the language of the writer and on the right side is the text in English. For somebody who knows even a little Greek or Latin these texts are invaluable. You can try to read the text in the original language knowing that you can correct yourself by looking on the next page or you can read the text in translation and check the translation with the original for more detail. While some of the translations are excellent mostly they are merely serviceable since they are designed more as an aid to translation rather than a translation in themselves. Most of them follow the Greek or Latin very closely. These books are also very small, maybe just over a quarter the size of your average hardcover book. This means that you'll need to buy more than just one book to read a complete work. They are also somewhat pricey considering their size. The Loeb Collection is very large but most of the more famous works can be found in better (and cheaper) translations elsewhere. If you want to read a rarer book or read one in the original language then you can't do better than the Loeb Editions.
The Historia Augusta takes up 3 volumes in the Loeb Series. It is a very controversial and confusing source. First off it isn't a history but a series of Lives covering all the 2nd and 3rd Century Emperors (and more). It was written sometime in the late 4th Century, probably by a single author despite its claims to be written by multiple authors. And therein lies the problem. The author is a complete liar. The last century saw a marked increase in our knowledge of its tricks. It has been conclusively demonstrated for example that the Lives were not written for the Emperors Diocletian and Constantine as the author claims but later in the century. His Lives are similarly inaccurate. He includes a few basic facts to construct an outline for the reign and then makes up whatever he wants with great pretense of diligent scholarship. Several Emperors are in fact made up either to make an even number or through ignorance. The reason for this and his false attributions of authorship is still a complete mystery. The only explanation that I can see is that he was either the laziest historian ever or the entire thing was written as a joke. It seems rather too long to be a joke to me, but then you'd think that an author of such incompetence wouldn't have time to finish his book either. While it's hard to judge another culture's standards it seems to me to be a very childish work, and who better to write a childish work than a child? A young and bored student mocking the erudition and learning of his elders seems just the character to write such a work. Or perhaps a group of students using ridiculous aliases and competing to invent more and more patently ridiculous tales. That would explain the intimate knowledge of some authors and the complete ignorance of others. This all just goes to show how little is known. Needless to say don't use this as a source unless you have a great deal of other information to back it up. One good aspect of these Lives is that they're written using very easy Latin which makes these documents very good for beginners to Latin. And while the Lives may be bull they are at least interesting bull. While the translation isn't as good as the Penguin one it does include all the Lives instead of merely a few.
This volume contains all the Emperors from Hadrian to Clodius Albinus. While the earlier Lives seem to attempt accuracy by the end he is descending into the lazy fictions that are to take over the rest of his books. Strangely he is the only author to attribute Britain's famous wall to the Emperor Hadrian instead of Septimius Severus. Better sources on this period include Cassius Dio and Herodian.