historical book latin writer collection
VALERIUS FLACCUS. See FLACCUS.
VALERIUS MAXIM✓S, Latin writer, author of a collection of historical anecdotes, published his work in the reign of Tiberius. Prefixed to many MSS. of the collection is a life of the author, but it is a late and worthless compilation, and the only trustworthy information concerning Ins career is drawn from a few passing allusions in the book itself. The family of Valerius was poor and undistinguished ; for the great Valerii Maximi who are conspicuous in the annals of the early Roman republic cannot be traced lower than the Punic -Wars. Valerius himself professes to have owed everything to Sextus Pompeius, who was descended from a paternal uncle of the great Pompey. This Pompeius was a kind of minor Mmcenas, and the centre of a literary circle to which Ovid belonged ; he was also the intimate of the most literary prince of the imperial family, Germanicus. He took Valerius with him when he went to Asia as proconsul. Although Valerius does not state that his profession was that of a teacher of rhetoric, the fact is betrayed by every page of his writings. In his procemium he plainly intimates that he is putting forth a kind of commonplace book of historical anecdotes for use in the schools of rhetoric, where the pupils were severely trained in the art of embellishing speeches by references to history. The title for the work in the MSS. is "Books of Memorable Deeds and Utterances." No ancient reader would have expected accuracy in such a book, and the indignation expressed by many modern scholars at its glaring historical errors has been much misplaced. The stories are very loosely and irregularly arranged in nine books, each book being divided into sections, and each section bearing as its title the topic, most commonly some virtue or vice, or some merit or demerit, which the stories in the section are intended to illustrate. Most of the tales' are from Roman history, but each section has an appendix consisting of extracts from the annals of other peoples, principally the Greeks. The exposition exhibits strongly the two currents of feeling which are intermingled by almost every Roman writer of the empire, - the feeling that the Romans of the writer's own day are degenerate creatures when confronted with their own republican predecessors, and the feeling that, however degenerate, the latter-day Romans still tower above the other peoples of the world, and in particular may take much comfort to themselves from their moral superiority to the Greeks.
The range of authorities from whom the collection is drawn is Undoubtedly narrow. It has even been maintained that Valerius used four authors only, - Cicero, Livy, Sallust, and Pompeius Trogus ; there are, however, clear traces of others, as of Varro, Asinius Pollio, and Herodotus. By far the largest part of the material conies from Cicero and Livy, though each is only mentioned once by name. Valerius was neither a well-read nor an able man. His treatment of his material was careless and unintelligent in the extreme ; but for all that he did not miss his aim. Even though in one tale Tanaquil be made the wife of Ancus Martins, and in another 2lischyIns be mistaken for Pericles, though the Scipios and the Gatos be mingled in confusion, though conflicting versions of the same occurrence be given, and the most startling anachronisms presented, yet the excerpts are none the less apt illustrations, from the rhetorician's point of view, of the circumstance or quality they were meant to illustrate. Scholars have long since ceased to corrupt the text of Valerius, as Pighius did, to save his character for historical accuracy, nor do they now, with Perizonius, distort his meaning for the pleasure of adding to the list of his sins. What, then, are his claims to the attention of modern students ? In the first place, the existing literary remains of the time in which he wrote are extremely scanty, and mere scarcity confers value on many articles which are in themselves poor. And even on the historical side we owe something to Valerius. He often used sources now lost to us, and where he touches on his own time he affords us some glimpses of the much debated and very imperfectly recorded reign of Tiberius. His attitude towards the imperial household has often been lids-understood, and he has been represented as a mean flatterer of the same type with Martial. But, if the references to the imperial administration be carefully scanned, they will be seen to be extravagant neither in kind nor in number. Few will now grudge to Tiberius, when his whole action as a ruler is taken into account, such a title as "salutaris princeps," which seemed to a former generation a specimen of shameless adulation. The few allusions to Caesar's murderers and to Augustus hardly pass beyond the conventional style of the writer's day. The only passage which can fairly be called fulsome is a rhetorical pecan over the death of Sejanus. But it is as a chapter in the history of the Latin language that the work of Valerius chiefly deserves study. Without it onr view of the transition of classical into silver Latin would be much inure imperfect than it is. Erasmus declared that Valerius is no more like Cicero than a mule is like a man, which is only another way of saying that he had in excess the faults of his age. The entire life, thought, and literature of the first century and a half of the empire were steeped in the influences of rhetoric, enthroned in the seat of education. In Valerius are presented to us, in a rude and palpable form, all the rhetorical tendencies of the age, unsobered by the sanity of Quintilian and unrefined by the taste and subtlety of Tacitus. Here we have the loathing for direct and simple statement and the pursuit of novelty at any price. Every device which can put a gloss of newness on the language is eagerly adopted. The barrier between the diction of poetry and that of prose is broken down ; the uses of words are strained ; monstrous metaphors are invented ; there arc startling contrasts, dark innuendoes, and highly coloured epithets ; the most unnatural variations arc played upon the artificial scale of grammatical and rhetorical figures of speech. It is a most instructive lesson in the history of Latin to set side by side and compare minutely with each other a passage of Valerius and its counterpart in Cicero or Livy.
In the MSS. of Valerius a tenth book is given, which consists of the so-called "liber de preenominibus," the work of some grammarian of a much later date. The collection of Valerius was much used for school purposes, and its popularity in the Middle Ages is attested by the large number of MSS. in which it has been preserved. Like other school books it was epitomated. One complete epitome, probably of the 4th or 5th century, bearing the name of Julius Paris, has come down to us ; also a portion of another by Januarius Nepotianus. The best edition of Valerius with explanatory matter is that by C. Kempf (Berlin, 854); the best text is that by C. Halm (Leipsic, 1865).