Justin, Epitome of Pompeius Trogus (1886). pp. v-viii. Notice of the life and writings of Justin


As Justin is not properly an author, but an abridger, we shall first give our attention to the writer whom he abridged.

All that is certainly known of the personal history of Trogus Pompeius is, that he was a Roman by birth;1 that his ancestors were of the Vocontii, a people of Italy; that his grandfather, Trogus Pompeius, was presented with the right of citizenship by Pompey during the war with Sertorius; that his uncle was an officer of cavalry under Pompey, in the war with Mithridates; and that his father served in the army under Julius Caesar, and was afterwards his private secretary.2 Trogus himself must, therefore, have flourished under Augustus. The last event that he appears to have recorded is the restoration of the Roman standards by the Parthians.

He wrote a history in forty-four books, which he entitled Historiae Philippicae, because, as is supposed, his chief design in writing it was to relate the origin, progress, decline, and extinction of the Macedonian monarchy, and especially the achievements of Philip and his son. But he allowed himself, like Herodotus and other historians, to indulge in such large digressions and excursions, that it was regarded by many as a Universal History, and is represented, in some manuscripts, |vi as containing totius mundi origines et terrae situs, a character to which it had no right.

The first six books comprised the period antecedent to Philip, in which an account was given of the Assyrians, Persians, Egyptians, Scythians, Athenians, and Lacedaemonians; the history of Macedonia was commenced in the seventh book, and continued, in combination with other matters, to the overthrow of Andriscus, the Pseudo-Philippus, in the thirty-third. The prologi, or arguments, which we have of all the books, similar to the epitomes of the lost books of Livy, were first published by Bongarsius.

He seems to have taken his materials from the Greek historians.3 His title appears to have been suggested by the Philippica of Theopompus, a voluminous work, of which Stephanus de Urbibus 4 cites the fifty-seventh book.

Whatever speeches he inserted were in the oblique form, for he blamed Livy and Sallust for giving long direct speeches in their histories. 5 He is praised by Justin for his eloquence; vir priscae eloquentiae;6 and Vopiscus 7 ranks his style with those of Sallust, Livy, and Tacitus.

A treatise of Trogus, de Animalibus, is mentioned by Charisius, 8 and Trogus is quoted as an authority by Pliny in several passages of his Natural History; and this Trogus is generally supposed to be the same as Trogus the historian.

A writer named Trogus is also twice cited by Priscian, in his fifth and sixth books, but whether he is the Trogus of Justin, is uncertain. |vii 

The epitome that Justin made of the large work of Trogus, has often been supposed the cause that the original was lost.

Who or what JUSTIN was, we are left in ignorance; we know not even what name he had besides Justinus, for though one manuscript entitles him Justinus Frontinus, and another M. Junianus Justinus, the other manuscripts give him only one name.

From the words Imperator Antonine, which occur in the preface in the editions of Aldus and others, he has been often said to have lived in the reign of that emperor; but those words are now generally thought to have been interpolated by some, who, like Isidore and Jornandes, confounded him with Justin Martyr.9 From an expression in the eighth book, where Greece is said to be etiam nunc et viribus et dignitate orbis terrarum princeps, it has been conjectured that he flourished under the Eastern emperors; but such conjecture is groundless, for the words merely refer to the period of which the author is writing, and may be, indeed, not Justin's, but Trogus's.

His style, however, in which occur the words adunare, impossibilis, praesumtio, opinio for "report," and other words and phrases of inferior Latinity, show that he must have lived some considerable time after the Augustan age. Such phraseology could not have been found in the pages of Trogus. But Justin could not have been later than the beginning of the fifth century, as he is mentioned by St. Jerome.10

That he was not a Christian, is proved, as Vossius remarks, by the ignorance which he manifests of the Jewish Scriptures;11 for he could not, assuredly, have copied Trogus's vagaries without bestowing some correction upon them. He has been censured for not making a more regular abridgment |viii of his author's work, but without justice; for he intended only to extract or abbreviate such portions as he thought more likely than others to please the general reader.

His composition is animated, and in general correct, but not of the highest order of merit. His peculiarities of phraseology are carefully specified by Wetzel in his prolegomena, though he has omitted to remark his constant use of the conjunction quasi in his narratives and descriptions.

It is observed by Dr. Robertson,12 that "we cannot rely on Justin's evidence, unless when it is confirmed by the testimony of other ancient authors." The remark ought rather to be transferred to Trogus, whom Justin seems faithfully to have followed, and who seems, indeed, to have been a writer of sufficient credulity, as his account of Habis, in his forty-fourth book, may serve to show. But there is no historian, as Vopiscus 13 says, that does not tell something false, and Livy, Sallust, Tacitus, and Trogus, alike exhibit passages not proof against strict examination.

The best editions of Justin are those of Bongarsius, Paris, 1581; of Graevius, Lugd. Bat., 1683, which has been several times reprinted; of Hearne, Oxon, 1703; of Gronovius, Lugd. Bat. 1719, 1760; of Fischer, Lips. 1757; and of Wetzel, Lipa. 1806, reprinted in Lemaire's Bibliothèque Classique, 1823.

The oldest English Version is that of Arthur Goldinge, 1564, and the next that of Robert Codrington, 1654, both of whom had but an imperfect knowledge of the language of their author. There have since appeared translations by Thomas Brown, 1712; by Nicolas Bayley, 1732; by Clarke, 1732; and by Turnbull, 1746, the last being the most readable performance, but not always faithful to the sense.

[Footnotes moved to end and numbered]

1. * Just. xliii. 1.

2. + Just. xliii. fin.

3. * See Heeren de Trog. Pomp. Fontibus et Auctoritate, prefixed to Frotscher's edition. 

4. + In Messape/ai

5. ++ Just. xxviii. 3. 

6. § Just. Pref. 

7. || Life of Probus. 

8. +++ I p. 79

9. * See the note on that passage of the Preface.

10. + Prooem. in Daniel.

11. ++ Just. xxxvi. 1, 2.

12. * Disquisition on Anc. India, note 12.

13. + Life of Aurelian, prope init.

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