Page images
PDF
EPUB

No sooner was Xylander's discovery made than the learned world divided into two opposing parties, one of which, led by Henry Stephen and Joseph Scaliger, held that Appian had committed a fraud, while the other adhered to the opinion of Xylander that he had been the victim of one. The controversy continued for two centuries, and we find participating in it Voss, Fabricius, Freinshem, Reimar, Baudoin and others, and finally Schweighäuser. At first the preponderance of authority was against Appian, but there was a gradual change culminating in the masterly array of evidence and argument advanced by Schweighäuser in defence of the integrity of the author whose text he had done so much to restore and purify. At present nobody sustains the charge advanced by Henry Stephen, that Appian had stolen a book from Plutarch. On the other hand Stephen has lost reputation as a critic by reason of his making the charge.

A discrepancy exists between Photius and the anonymous writer respecting the books of the Civil Wars, the former making them nine in number, the latter only five. Schweighäuser explained this discrepancy by showing that Photius included in the Civil Wars four books that Appian himself designated as Egyptian history, and that these four books had been lost between the time of Photius and that of the anonymous writer.” That there were four books of Egyptian history is proved by citations from them in fragments of Appian preserved in a MS. known as the Saint Germain Grammar and published in Bekker's Anecdota Græca. This explains the reason why the Civil Wars terminate so abruptly with the death of young Pompeius instead of going on to the battle of Actium, as Appian himself proposed. In Book I., Sec. 6, of the Civil Wars the author gives us his plan as follows:

1

1 Schweighäuser's Appian, Leipzig, 1785, vol. iii. p. 905 seq.
2 Ibid., p. 892 seq.

“On account of its magnitude I have divided the work, first taking up the events that occurred from the time of Sempronius Gracchus to that of Cornelius Sulla ; next, those that followed to the death of Cæsar. The remaining books of the Civil Wars treat of those waged by the triumvirs against each other and the Roman people, until the end of these conflicts, and the greatest achievement, the battle of Actium, fought by Octavius Cæsar against Antony and Cleopatra together, which will be the beginning of the Egyptian history."

Under this plan the book containing the battle of Actium and the death of Antony and Cleopatra might have been designated either as the last book of the Civil Wars or as the first book of the Egyptian history. Evidently it was classed with the latter and perished with the remainder of that history, to our infinite regret. The book makers of the Middle Ages were concerned to keep alive the history of the civil wars of Rome. There was a sufficient demand for that part of Appian to keep copyists at work on it. There was not a sufficient demand for the Egyptian history. If the book makers and their public at that time were as undiscriminating as we have seen that Suidas was, we can easily understand how they allowed that important book to perish, simply because it was under a wrong title.

How the MSS. of Appian have fared from the earliest periods to which we can trace them, and what is their present condition, is told by the late Professor Mendelssohn, of the University of Dorpat, Russia, in the preface to his (Teubner) edition of this author. I had thought at first to prepare a summary from this, and from Schweighäuser's preface, which would serve both for the student and the ordinary reader, but on reflection I concluded that the former would like to see the whole scope of Mendelssohn's work, which, while built upon that of Schweighäuser, is even more thorough. I have accordingly translated Mendelssohn's Latin preface, and added it to my own as a separate essay, so that students can see all of it, and the ordinary reader can omit all of it if he chooses.

1 Photius, it is true, says that the last book of the Civil Wars contains the defeat and death of Antony, and this would mean, in his enumeration, the ninth, i.e., the last Egyptian book; but, as Schweighäuser observes, it is evident from his wrong cataloguing that Photius himself had not read these Egyptian books.

The praise which Mendelssohn bestows upon the great scholar who preceded him makes it unnecessary for me to recount the labors of Schweighäuser on the text of Appian. Every one who speaks or thinks of that text thinks of Schweighäuser. Everything dates before or after him. A few facts not mentioned by Mendelssohn may be here recapitulated. Schweighäuser was professor of Greek in the University of Strassburg in the latter part of the eighteenth century. He was prompted to undertake the emendation of Appian by the English scholar, Samuel Musgrave, about the year 1780. He began to accumulate materials at first for the use of Musgrave, but the latter fell sick and was unable to use them. He urged Schweighäuser to continue and complete the work and promised to contribute the notes he had made on the printed text of the author. Musgrave died soon afterward, but by some mistake his notes did not reach Schweighäuser till two years later. Some additional notes of the German scholar Reiske came into his hands subsequently. The successive steps which he took to purify the text by the examination of the MSS., within his reach, and by the assistance of friends upon those not within his reach, are related by him in detail in his preface. Five years of incessant and well-directed labor were bestowed upon this revision, which was published in 1785 in three volumes containing 2851 octavo pages. No greater service was ever rendered by one man of letters to another.

[ocr errors]

Together with the Greek text Schweighäuser printed the Latin version of Appian made by Sigismund Geslen and published at Basle in 1554, with such corrections as his own emendation had made necessary or his own scholarship suggested. This Latin translation of Geslen was a truly remarkable production considering the state of the text and of Greek learning at that time. “He was a man,” says Schweighäuser, " thoroughly versed in both Greek and Latin, and no less skilled in criticism than profound in his knowledge of Roman history. It was not the task of a mere interpreter that he performed, but, applying a healing hand to the corrupted text, he frequently and dexterously, but for the most part cautiously, restored in the happiest manner a countless number of passages which had been miserably deformed in his Greek copy, and in many places where the previous translator (Candidus) had gone widely astray, he expressed the true meaning of the author in language clear and terse.” The translation of Geslen did not embrace the Spanish or the Illyrian history. The translation of the former which is found in Geslen's book was made by Cælius Secundus Curio and that of the latter by Candidus. I was so fortunate as to procure a reprint of this book at an auction sale in this city two years ago. Geslen's Latin version as amended by Schweighäuser, and still further by Dübner, is published in the Didot edition of Appian in parallel columns with the Greek text.

The table of contents of the present volumes shows what works of Appian have come down to us. The Excerpta are passages extracted from the lost books, and preserved in compilations made by others. They are of four or five different kinds, but are principally embraced in two compilations made by order of the Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus, about 950 A.D., one entitled “Concerning the Embassies" and the other “Concerning Virtues and

[ocr errors]

Vices.” Each of these books contains extracts from Appian and other ancient historians on the subjects named. Those of Appian from the former of the two compilations were first collected in a slovenly manner by Fulvio Orsini in Rome and published at Antwerp in 1580. Those from the latter were reproduced with great fidelity by Henry de Valois at Paris in 1634, from a MS. belonging to his friend Peiresc. Other excerpta have been preserved for us by Suidas. These, although numerous, are short and unimportant. A few have been collected by Cardinal Mai among his gleanings in the Vatican, but their authenticity is not established in all

cases.

Appian has been accused of unduly favoring the Romans in his treatment of their wars and diplomacy with other nations. The accusation is not warranted. Impartiality and the judicial temper are his striking characteristics. These are especially shown in his treatment of the Numantine war, the third Punic war and the Mithridatic wars, in all of which the blame of their inception is put upon the Romans.

Appian was, however, a narrator of events, not a philosophic historian. His style is as destitute of ornament as a lawyer's brief, and in the narrative parts almost as arid. In the rhetorical passages, however, which are numerous, it is animated, forcible and at times eloquent. It has been the translator's aim to put the whole into smooth, idiomatic English, even at the risk of offending the taste which requires a translation to reproduce the author's style as well as his meaning. Occasionally Appian rises to the dignity of the best writers of the classical period. The introduction to the history of the civil wars is an example of this kind. Here the events leading up to the tragedy of Tiberius Gracchus move forward with a dignified and measured tread, which has been followed and imitated by many later historians of that period, but has been surpassed by none. Occasionally

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »