« Amling, Wolfgang Ammianus Marcellinus Ammon, Christoph Friedrich von »

Ammianus Marcellinus

AMMIANUS MARCELLINUS, am´´mî-ɑ̄´nus mɑ̄r´´sel-lî´nus: Author of a Roman history (Rerum gestarum libri xxxi.) extending from Nerva to the death of Valens (96-378). He was a native of Antioch, and is said to have died about 400. He devoted himself to philosophical studies, entered the army under Constantius, accompanied Julian in the war against the Persians, and took part under Julian’s successors in the wars both of the Orient and the Occident. He afterward retired to Rome and resumed his studies. The first thirteen books of his history are lost; the remaining eighteen, beginning with the year 353, give much valuable information concerning the general State of the Church and many important particulars—the character of Julian, his proceedings, views held by the educated concerning Christianity, etc.

The question whether Ammianus was a Christian has often been raised. At present the generally accepted view is that he was not. His work contains many caustic remarks on the doctrines of Christianity. He speaks of the martyrs, of synods, 155 and of other details of the Christian system, in a way which points to a non-Christian author. It is, however, equally certain that he was not an adherent of the common paganism. He recognized a supreme numen, which curbs human arrogance and avenges human crime, and, in general, his views are those of the best Greek writers, approaching a monotheistic standpoint. It seems probable that he believed that primitive pure Christianity and the philosophy of enlightened pagans were the same. From this point of view Ammianus could consistently speak with favor 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 old-womanish superstition,” meaning by “superstition,” as the connection shows, the controversy concerning the Trinity and the divinity of Christ. He censured the emperor Julian for forbidding to the Christians instruction in liberal studies, while he did not blame the restoration of pagan sacrifices at the beginning of Jovian’s reign. He was not opposed to the paganism of Julian, but to the violation of religious toleration.

(E. von Wölfflin).

Bibliography: The editio princeps (books xiv.-xxvi. only), ed. Angelus Sabinus, was published in Rome, 1874; a better edition (books xvi.-xxx.) is S. Gelenius, Basil, 1533; the latest is by V. Gardthausen, Leipsic, 1874. Consult Teuffel-Schwabe, Geschichte der römischen Litteratur, p. 1092, Leipsic, 1890.

« Amling, Wolfgang Ammianus Marcellinus Ammon, Christoph Friedrich von »
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