CJ Online Review: Yardley-Wheatley-Heckel, Justin Epitome v. 2

posted with permission:

Justin: Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompieus Trogus. Volume II: Books 13–15: The Successors to Alexander the Great. Translation and Appendices by J. C. Yardley, Commentary by Pat Wheatley and Waldemar Heckel. Clarendon Ancient History Series. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp. xxx + 342. Hardcover, £75.00/$135.00. ISBN 978-0-19-927759-9; Paper, £29.99/$99.00. ISBN 978-0-19-927760-5.

Reviewed by Charles E. Muntz, University of Arkansas

This excellent book is a follow-up to Heckel’s commentary on Books 11–12 of Justin’s epitome of Pompeius Trogus. Books 13–15 cover the tumultuous period following the death of Alexander down to the Battle of Ipsos (301) and the death of Kassander (297). The translation is excerpted from Yardley’s 1994 translation of the entire Epitome of the Philippic History (Atlanta, 1994), along the with the so-called prologues (actually, tables of contents for individual books of Trogus) that have been preserved separately. This is a clear, straightforward translation. This edition also includes fragments of these books preserved by other sources, and translations of several texts relevant to the period that are not otherwise widely available, including entries from the Suda and the Heidelberg Epitome. No Latin text is included, but there is an appendix on the language of Trogus and Justin identifying particular word usage by each author.

The commentary is extensive—over 250 pages of notes on a mere 20 pages of text—and very well organized. The authors break it down into topical sections, which are further subdivided as needed. Individual sections are prefaced with a list of parallel ancient sources and modern bibliographies. Additional sources for tangential topics are frequently given in the notes. A unified bibliography at the end of the book would have been useful, given the sheer number of references made throughout the commentary. The commentary is detailed and thorough, a model of what an historical commentary should be. Obviously, it is impossible to highlight every outstanding feature, but I would note the level of detail about even some smaller issues in the text. For example, when Justin remarks that the successors were all good looking (13.1.11), Wheatley and Heckel note the importance of good looks in Hellenistic royal ideology, and then give an extensive list of ancient references to Leonnatos for comparison, along with citations of modern scholarship on Alexander’s own image.

I especially appreciated Wheatley and Yardley’s discussion of the knotty problems of chronology for the period. This is refreshingly undogmatic, and includes helpful lists of the major chronological events around which scholars try to date the period. The overview of the various types of evidence besides literary sources is admirably clear and accessible to a non-specialist, with extensive bibliography and suggestions of areas for future research. Ultimately, Wheatley and Heckel adopt a mixture of high and low dating, based largely on T. Boiy’s Between High and Low: A Chronology of the Early Hellenistic Period (Frankfurt am Main, 2007), but in both the introduction and the commentary they make clear the uncertainties and difficulties that remain and provide references to the various schools of thought.

In regards to the source issues, Wheatley and Heckel identify the main sources of Trogus as Hieronymus and Duris, and discuss in some detail the reasoning for the presence of Duris. However, they also suggest several times (pp. 2, 8, 255) that Trogus was relying extensively on Timagenes of Alexandria (FGrHist 88) rather than necessarily using the original historians. This hypothesis was argued in more detail in the volume on Books 11–12 (30–4, with detailed references), but Timagenes is so poorly attested (15 fragments in Jacoby) that this is somewhat speculative. All this is traditional Quellenforschung, but it does tend to downplay the creativity and ability of secondary historians like Trogus and epitomators like Justin to reinterpret their material in accordance with their own interests and concerns (see Bosworth, ClAnt 22 (2003) 167–97).

In this vein I was disappointed that Wheatley and Heckel do not discuss how the context of the late Republican/early Augustan period may have impacted Trogus’ presentation of history in more detail. For example, they note the similarity between Trogus’ remark that “one might have taken each of [the Diadochoi] for a king (13.1.10)” to the sentiment that “Rome was a city of kings” found in Plutarch, Appian, and Trogus himself (18.2.10). But nothing is made of this connection, or why Trogus might be making it. More and more I think it is important to consider an historian’s own context when interpreting his work rather than just to consult him for historical facts.

Ultimately, this are minor quibbles that should not distract from the high quality of this commentary. It both informs and stimulates further thought on the Diadochoi, while being accessible enough for advanced undergraduates to consult. Now can the authors perhaps tackle the next few books of Justin/Trogus?

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