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Wesleyan University

A Survey of the Popularity of Ancient Historians, 1450-1700 Author(s): Peter Burke Source: History and Theory, Vol. 5, No. 2 (1966), pp. 135-152 Published by: Blackwell Publishing for Wesleyan University Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2504511 Accessed: 22/05/2009 19:28
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It is a historical commonplace that Renaissance historians studied and modelled their works on the histories of the great historians of Greece and Rome. But these ancient historians were not equally popular in this period, nor with the same people, nor for the same reasons. It is with these variations that this survey is concerned. It attempts to chart the variations in their popularity, by counting their editions and classifying them by countries and phases; to work out the varying reasons for their popularity, by means of the analysis of their reputations; and to take some steps toward the discovery of the audience of these ancient historians. The period for which these attempts will be made is 1450 to 1700: between the invention of printing, when edition analysis becomes possible, and the victory of the "moderns" in the "Battle of the Books," when the ancients cease to be considered as greater than any modern historians. This study is, then, a small contribution to the study of the diffusion or "reception" of the classical historians, and also an attempt to find some quantitative evidence for statements about changing tastes in history in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Editions of twenty-one works of seventeen historians were analyzed (Sallust, Tacitus, Josephus, and Xenophon each being represented by two works, the others by one). The figures here, as elsewhere in this note, are taken from a single source: F. L. A. Schweiger, Handbuch der classischen Bibliographie, three volumes (Leipzig, 1830-4). This source is not complete; it can be shown to lack a considerable number of Spanish translations, for example. However, I have used it because it would take many years' work to produce a complete list, and because I hope that the relationships expressed in the figures I have drawn from it are generally valid, even if the precise figures are not. If it is biased in any way, it is likely to be in over-representing German editions and translations, as Schweiger gleaned most carefully in that field.



Here are the historians in order: TABLE 1 Sallust Sallust Valerius Caesar Curtius Tacitus Catiline Jugurtha Wordsand Deeds Commentaries Alexander Germany Decades Twelve Caesars Annals and Histories Epitome Antiquities Jewish War Parallel Lives Cyrus History Peloponnesian War Compendium Histories Expedition Historical Library Roman History 282 editions 271 198 189 179 164 160 155 152 147 73 68 62 54 44 41 40 36 30 25 25

Suetonius Tacitus Florus Josephus Josephus Plutarch Xenophon Herodotus Thucydides Eutropius Polybius Xenophon Diodorus Dio

It will be noted that arranged in order of popularity, as measured by the number of editions, almost all the Roman historians are ahead of all the Greeks; the only exception is Eutropius. They are so far ahead that (Eutropius apart) the least popular of the Romans, Florus, is just over twice as popular as the most popular Greek history, the Antiquities of Josephus. In other words, we have here an example of the general rule that the Renaissance was predominantly the rebirth of Roman antiquity, not of Greek. How many copies of these twenty works circulated in Europe during the period? The total number of editions is 2,355; but we cannot be sure of the size of editions in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. We happen to know the exact size of one edition of an ancient historian; Badius printed 1,225 copies of a French translation of Thucydides in 1527.1 Latin editions may well have been smaller; Greek editions smaller still. Before 1500, editions were rarely of more than five hundred copies. On the other hand, seventeenthcentury editions may have been larger. If we were to assume one thousand copies as an average size for editions and translations of the ancient historians over the whole period - guesswork but perhaps a reasonable guess - almost two and a half million copies of these works circulated in Europe between the invention of printing and 1700.
1. P. Renouard, Bibliographie de Josse Badius (Paris, 1908), I, 303; II, 155.




These edition statistics will tell us more if they are broken down chronologically, by dividing the period 1450-1699 into five phases of 50 years each as follows:
TABLE 2 1450-99 1500-49 1550-99 1600-49 1650-99 Sallust, Catiline Sallust, Jugurtha Valerius Caesar Curtius Tacitus, Germany Livy Suetonius Tacitus, Ann. and Hist. Florus Josephus, Antiq. Josephus, J.W. Plutarch Xenophon, Cyrus Herodotus Thucydides Polybius Xenophon, Exped. Diodorus Dio Total 46 43 29 16 10 9 23 16 4 9 7 7 8 1 2 0 2 0 3 0 235 1 103 2 99 3 89 5 59 7 31 8 21 4 50 5 49 13 13 8 23 11 11 11 15 10 14 17 18 8 15 11 15 10 11 7 14 7 649 1 2 3 4 7 9 5 6 13

Total 282 271 198 189 179 164 160 155 152 147 73 68 62 54 44 41 36 30 25 25 2355 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 19

14 11 12 10 18 14 17 14 19 19

52 52 33 59 26 31 45 21 32 24 24 25 27 20 16 19 11 15 10 14 566

2 2 5 1 9 7 4 13 6 11 11 10 8 14 16 15 19 17 20 18

39 38 25 23 33 65 25 30 67 39 17 11 6 5 6 4 7 3 4 4 451

3 42 5 39 8 22 10 32 6 79 2 38 8 17 7 39 1 36 3 52 11 14 12 10 7 14 16 10 2 14 7 17 6 13 20 1 1 17 0 17 454

3 4 9 8 1 6 10 4 7 2 11 12 14 12 17 14 16 18 18

The first figure in each column denotes the number of editions; the second, the rank.

From this breakdown certain trends become clear. They can be represented in a table of the three most popular historians for each phase.
1450-99 1500-49 1550-99 1600-49 1650-99 Sallust; Valerius; Livy. Sallust; Valerius; Caesar. Caesar; Sallust; Livy. Tacitus; Sallust; Florus. Curtius; Florus; Sallust.

During the period, then, Sallust and Livy declined in popularity; Tacitus, Curtius, and Florus rose. There were so few editions of the Greek historians that statements about trends are bound to be unreliable; but it is unlikely to be a coincidence that all the Greek historians reached their peaks in terms of editions in the period 1550-99.



What is the significance of these trends? To answer this question, it will be useful to ask two more: who read the ancient historians during this period? and why did they read them? The remainder of this survey will therefore be divided into two parts, concerned, respectively, with the readership (or audience) of the ancient historians and with their reputations.


It would be unwise to assume that all readers of the ancient historians had the same tastes. If Curtius and Tacitus rise in popularity at the same time, this does not necessarily mean that they rise in popularity with the same people. A preliminary hypothesis is that those who read the books in Latin or Greek (usually in Latin) will be found to have had different tastes from those who read the books in vernacular translations. So it turns out. Some ancient historians were more popular in the ancient languages (including Latin translations of the Greek) than they were in the vernacular; others were more popular in the vernacular. This is shown in Table 3.
TABLE 3 Total Sallust* 282 Ancient langs. 229 Vernacular 53

Caesar Curtius Tacitus, Germany Livy Suetonius Tacitus, Ann. and Hist. Florus Josephus, (Antiq.) Josephus, (J.W.) Plutarch Xenophon, (Cyrus) Herodotus Thucydides Polybius Xenophon, (Exped.)

189 179 164** 160 155 152** 147 73 68 62 54 44 41 36 30

113 82

76 97 56 77 37 80 33 59 55 35 16 13 23 18 7

83 118 75 114 14 13 27 38 31 18 18 23


25 2084

11 1295

14 793

Figures for Sallust's Jugurthaare omitted because the pattern is so close to Bilingualeditions of Tacitus were counted as one in the totals.

his Catiline.



It should be noted that there were more editions of the ancient historians in the ancient languages than in the vernaculars. They can be divided into two groups: a) the eleven histories most popular in ancient languages: Sallust, Suetonius, Livy, Caesar, Florus, Valerius, Xenophon (two books), Herodotus, Diodorus, and Tacitus, Germany: b) the seven histories most popular in the vernacular: Plutarch, Curtius, Thucydides, Tacitus, (Annals and Histories), Dio, Josephus (two books). The vernacular audience can be studied further by examining the languages into which the histories were translated most often. In a breakdown by languages, it may be useful to look at the top languages for each author, taking the first three in each case. The relevant languages are English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Dutch translations are much less numerous (although there were five Dutch editions of translations of Tacitus in the period, five of Curtius, and four of Livy). Translations into other languages may be quickly summarized: in the whole period, two Polish translations were made (Curtius, Florus); two Swedish (Curtius, Livy); one Hungarian (Curtius); one Czech (Josephus); and one Danish (Florus). The top languages for each author are as follows: TABLE 4 Sallust Valerius Caesar Curtius Livy Suetonius Tacitus** Florus Josephus Josephus Plutarch Xenophon, Cyrus** Herodotus Thucydides Polybius Diodorus Dio French (17) Italian (11) French (27) French (26) German (32) French (16) French (33) French (14) German (23) German (23) French (10) English (5) Italian (5) French (11) French (7) Italian (5) Italian (13) Italian (12) French (10) Italian (26) Italian (15) Italian (19) English (9) Italian (21) Italian (7) Italian (15) Italian (22) Italian (9) Italian (5) French (4) English (5) English (5) French (3) French (1) Spanish* (7) German (8) German (9) English (10) French (9) Italian (6) English (7) German (4) English (7) (Antiq.) Spanish (9) (J.W.) English (7) French (4) German (3) Italian (5) Italian (5) English (2) no others

* Figures from Schweiger are here amplifiedfrom A. Palau y Dulcet, Manual del libreroHispano-Americano(Oxford and Barcelona,1948- ). ** Tacitus' Germany and Xenophon's Expedition are omitted for lack of separate editions. The French and Italian dominance should be noted; also the great German




popularity of Livy. Italian translations were most frequent in the sixteenth century, French translations most frequent in the seventeenth century. It is also possible to say something (imprecise) about the social composition of the audience. I have made use of two sorts of clue. First, translators sometimes made references to the public they expect. Five referred to an expected audience of noblemen. Cope thought that his Livy would be of benefit to "all noblemen and gentlemen of the realm." Seyssel's Thucydides had a preface addressed to the princes and nobles of France, and the colophon to the book states that Francis I ordered its publication "to the profit and edification of the nobles and subjects of his realm." Maigret prefaced his Polybius with a letter to the nobility of France. Hobbes, who had been tutor to the Earl of Devonshire, recommended his translation of Thucydides as containing "profitable instruction for noblemen." And Edmund Bohun, translator of Degory Wheare's Method and Order (largely a commentary on the ancient historians) suggested in the preface that he was doing a service for "our English nobility and gentry."2 Second, there might be similarities between the backgrounds of translators and those of their readers. The high proportion of translations made by the clergy may illustrate only their greater literacy; but when military men take to translations, or when merchants do so, one might reasonably expect others of their occupation to be among the audience. Military men include Carlos Coloma (1567-1637), translator of Tacitus, who rose to be Spanish commander in the Milanese; Emanuel Sueyro (fl.c.1613) a captain in Flanders who also translated Tacitus; and Sir Henry Sheeres (d.1710) a military engineer who translated Polybius. Merchants include Hieronymus Boner (d.1555) from Colmar, translator of Plutarch; Bernardo Bostichi (15291606) from Florence, translator of Tacitus; and Thomas Nichols (fl.1550) London goldsmith, translator of Thucydides (from the French not the Greek). Provisional conclusions about the purchasers of vernacular translations of the ancient historians may be summarized as follows. They consist mainly of Englishmen, Frenchmen, Germans, Italians, and Spaniards; above all of sixteenth-century Italians and seventeenth-century Frenchmen; probably of noblemen and some merchants. The vernacular audience as a whole reads Curtius and Livy most; its taste for Curtius and Josephus distinguishes it most from the learned audience, to which we now turn.
2. A. Cope, The History of Two the Most Noble Captains . .. (London, 1544), the dedication; C. Seyssel, L'Histoire de Thucydide (Paris, 1545), preface; L. Maigret, Les cinq premiers livres des histoires de Polibe . . . (Paris, 1552), preface; T. Hobbes, Eight Books of the Peloponnesian War (London, 1629), dedication; D. Wheare, The Method and Order of Reading Both Civil and Ecclesiastical Histories . . . (London, 1694), preface.



It is difficult to come to conclusions about national variations in the taste for historians among the learned readers. The country of publication does not indicate national tastes. A few great printing cities - Paris, Lyons, Venice, Basel, Frankfort, Amsterdam - tended to supply Europe with the classics. If more of the classics are printed in Venice than in Amsterdam 1500-49, but more in Amsterdam than in Venice 1650-99, that shows the Dutch moving ahead in the printing trade - not necessarily that they were reading the classics more themselves. In one case, however, an argument from places of publication to national taste seems plausible: the case of Tacitus's Germany. Between 1500 and 1649 it went through twenty-six separate editions - not counting collections of all Tacitus' works - of which twentyone were published in German-speaking areas: Leipzig, Wittenberg, Vienna, and Basel. The reason seems obvious enough. It is likely that the most numerous part of the "learned" audience was a captive audience: the schoolboys and university students of the time. The ancient historians were extensively used in schools and universities. The evidence for this is commonplace and widespread. Here are a few samples of a kind which it would be easy to multiply. Pius II, Erasmus, and Sir Thomas Elyot, in their treatises on education, all suggest that schoolboys should read Livy. The curriculum of the College de Guyenne shows that he was read there. The pupils of Vittorino da Feltre learned whole books of Livy and Sallust by heart. Some selections from Sallust were intended, according to the title page, "for the use of schools"; so was a Greek edition of Xenophon's Cyrus. The Jesuit Method of Studies (Ratio Studiorum) of 1586 suggests that Livy, Sallust, Curtius, Justin, Caesar, and Tacitus be studied. There is also the truly learned public. Their tastes are better known, and statistics of editions will not tell more. In the late sixteenth century, for example, they were coming to admire Polybius more and more, as a reading of the correspondence among such men as Casaubon, de Thou, Camden, and Sarpi would show; but this increase in interest was not reflected in increased editions of Polybius - he remained an historian's historian. So much for a brief sketch of who was popular when and among whom; the rest of this survey will be concerned to answer the question why; to describe the complex of qualities for which these historians were admired. The method will be to arrange contemporary testimonies as if they were superimposed photographs, in order to produce a composite image of each historian. Plutarch, Polybius, Livy, and Tacitus have been chosen as case studies. It will be noted that the testimonies come predominantly, though not exclusively, from the learned audience.




A Profile of Plutarch Plutarch, who died in A.D. 120, was a teacher of philosophy, possibly tutor to the emperor Hadrian, and the author of essays on ethics and of twenty-two Parallel Lives of famous Greeks and Romans. His approach was primarily that of a moralist, and his forty-six characters are studies in virtues and vices. It was for his moral approach and his use of maxims that he was most appreciated throughout the period. Filippo Giunta (b.1450), the Florentine printer, claimed that whoever reads these lives of Plutarch will acquire an excellent moral education (optimumvitae . . . institutum) on account of the infinite examples of Greeks and Romans which are everywhereto be found in them.3 Jacques Amyot (1513-93), perhaps the most famous translator of Plutarch, tutor to the children of Henry II of France and Bishop of Auxerre, made a similar comment on the Parallel Lives: so many beautiful and serious discourses throughout, derived from the deepest and most hidden secrets of moral and naturalphilosophy, so many wise warnings, and fruitful advice.4 Francesco Sansovino (1521-83), the Venetian printer and translator, thought that Plutarch wrote in such a way that it is extremelydifficultto say whetherhe wishes to expound moral philosophy with historical examples, or decorate the narrationof important affairs . . . with philosophical arguments.5 Also David Chytraeus (1530-1600), professor at Rostock university, in his book on how to read history described Plutarch's Lives as "crowded with very wise maxims and rules of life."6 The same qualities moved Montaigne to recommend the reading of Plutarch in his essay "On the Education of Children" - provided that the tutor presents him in the right way "and does not place such emphasis on the date of the ruin of Carthage as on the morals of Hannibaland of Scipio."7 A hundredyears later, the emphasisof David Lloyd (1635-92), chaplain to the Bishop of St. Asaph's, who made an abridged translation of Plutarch, was much the same; he described the work as "the sum of Greek and Latin history made up of great maxims and greater instances, noble precepts and nobler examples, set off with . . . vigorous
3. Plutarch, Parallelum (Florence, 1517), dedication. 4. Plutarch, Les vies des hommes illustres (Paris, 1565 [second edition of Amyot's version]), 'aux lecteurs.' 5. Plutarch, Le vite de gli uomini illustri (Venice, 1564), dedication. 6. Printed in the anthology Artis Historicae Penus (Basel, 1579), II, 477. 7. Montaigne, Essais, I, 26.



eloquence."8 The one dissonant voice in the chorus was that of Bodin; not because he denied that Plutarch is a moralist - he characterized him as "not so much the historian as the judge of princes" - but because he went on to criticize Plutarch as an historian, praising his attention to the causes of war and blaming his bias in favor of his native city of Chaeronea.9 If we turn our attention from the kinds of things that were said about Plutarch to the kinds of people who said them, the popularity of Plutarch will appear to be related to his educational importance. Himself a teacher, Plutarch was especially appreciated by other teachers. The most obvious example is Amyot; but of the men whose views about Plutarch have been quoted, Chytraeus and Lloyd were also teachers; Lloyd was master of the free school at Northrop in Flintshire. It is possible too that the rise of Plutarch owed a good deal to that key figure in the history of education, Vittorino da Feltre. The evidence is indirect. First, Vittorino thought of education as concerned with character rather than with intellect. Second, one of his pupils, Carlo dei Gonzaga, translated Plutarch's life of Agesilaus into Latin. Third, a more famous pupil, the grammarian Theodore Gaza, is supposed to have said (in a sixteenth-century version of the book-on-a-desert-island problem) that if all the books but one were to be destroyed, he would like the one book saved to be Plutarch.10One last example of the educational importance of Plutarch lies well outside the period; in War and Peace, Nikolinka Bolkonsky studied Plutarch's Lives with his tutor - and in fact they were translated into Russian in 1814. A Profile of Polybius Polybius was a very different kind of man from Plutarch, and he wrote a very different kind of history. He was not an academic but a man of affairs, at one time vice-president of the Achaean league; and he was extremely critical of "book-learned" historians like Timaeus. He was also an opponent of the theory that the study of history teaches men to be virtuous, as his criticisms of Phylarchus show. He was anti-rhetorical, criticizing Timaeus for inventing speeches. To sum up: while Plutarch's kind of history was in sympathy with what might be called the "conventional wisdom" of sixteenthcentury historians, that of Polybius was antipathetic to it. He could not be appreciated while history-writing continued along conventional, moralistic lines. This makes the study of his reputation more interesting than that of Plutarch's, because it changed during the period. At first he was either ignored, or esteemed for curious reasons; when he was appreciated later, it was at a
8. D. Lloyd, The Worthiesof the World (London, 1665); the seventh page of the life of Plutarch prefixed to the abridgement.
9. J. Bodin, Methodus ad facilem historiarum cognitionem [1566] (Paris, 1583), 57.

10. Two versions of the story may be found in G. Voss, De historicis graecis (Leiden,
1650), 209; and D. Wheare, Relectiones Hyeniales (Oxford, 1637), 95.



time when a more "pragmatic" history (to use his own term) was being written, and he was valued by the men who were writing it. In the first phase, 1450-99, Polybius went into only two editions (both in Latin) to Plutarch's eight. In the second phase, 1500-49, he appeared in Greek, Italian, and French. But More, for example, did not value him; on the island of Utopia the Greek historians read are Thucydides, Herodotus, and Herodian. Those who did praise him did so for odd reasons. Vincent Obsopaeus (d. 1539), who edited Polybius in Greek and was rector of the gymnasium at Anspach, praised him for his erudition, elegance, truthfulness, and diligence, though elegance is hardly one of Polybius' virtues." His Italian translator, Lodovico Domenichi (d.1564), a printer's corrector and professional writer, called him "a great historian, a very great orator, and best of all as a philosopher."912 The emphasis on oratory may be found surprising; after all, in the anthology of speeches taken from the ancient historians published by Henri Estienne, Polybius only rates 17 pages (compared to 45 for Herodotus, 89 for Thucydides, and 112 for Xenophon).13 A third example of surprising praise is to be found in the prefatory verses to a sixteenthcentury translation of Polybius Book I, where it is recommended simply as a good story which will help cure depression: If famous facts Or worthy acts Rejoice thy dauntedmind: Polybius read, Where as in deed Good physic shalt thou find.'4 Aside from these anomalies, Polybius was appreciated in the sixteenth century, and still more in the seventeenth century, for two reasons: he wrote well about military affairs, and he was particularly interested in explanation. To take his military side first. The fragments of Book VI, which are most interesting from the military point of view, tend to appear separately; there are at least seven such editions in the sixteenth century. Casaubon lectured on him from the military point of view. Sir Henry Wotton called him "that great critic of war." Gerard Voss (1577-1649), professor of history at Amsterdam, called him second to none for his "scientia militaris." And Sir Henry Sheeres (d.1710), the military engineer who translated him into English, commented:
11. The increasing interest in Polybius in the late sixteenth century was pointed out by B. Reynolds in "Shifting Currents in Historical Criticism" in Journal of the History of Ideas XIV (1953), 417-92. The comment of Obsopaeus is in his introductory letter to his edition of Polybius (Hagenau, 1530). 12. L. Domenichi, Polibio Historico Greco (Venice, 1545), dedication. 13. H. Stephanus, Conciones . . . ex Graecis Latinisque historicis excerptae, 1570. 14. Verses by 'R.W.' in C. Watson, The Histories of ... Polybius (London, 1568).



When he talks of war, which is the favourite subject and darling of history, how like a general and perfect master in that trade does he acquit himself!l5 Polybius' interest in explanation was not much stressed in the sixteenth century, but in the seventeenth century it was stressed a great deal. An early example of such an emphasis is provided by Roger Ascham, who in the introduction to his Discourse of Germany (1552) praised Polybius for his "general lessons of wisdom and wariness." If his contemporaries did not do likewise, it was not because they were incapable of noticing Polybius' interest in explanation; more likely it was because they thought this interest was not a truly historical one. So Francesco Patrizzi (1529-98), himself a philosopher, in his dialogues On History (1560) argued that Polybius is not an historian but a philosopher, because it is philosophy which deals with causes, and history only deals with effects. It is likely that when in 1545 Domenichi called Polybius "best of all a philosopher," he was thinking along the same lines. Lipsius, in his Notes of 1589, seems to be voicing similar doubts when he says that Polybius "digresses, interrupts himself, is diffuse, and often explicitly teaches rather than tells a story. But his lessons are always worthwhile ones." The seventeenth century showed more enthusiasm. Casaubon, introducing his classic edition of Polybius (1609), praised his exquisitea explicatio" of both military and civil matters; the fact that he warns as well as narrates; and the fact that he never describes an event without giving its causes ("et antecedentes et coherentes causas cur ita sit factum"). Casaubon's friend Camden, in the preface to his Annals (1625), quoted with approval the famous passage in Book III on the importance of historical explanation. The Marchese Virgilio Malvezzi (1599-1654), soldier and diplomat in Spanish service as well as a writer, in his Discourses on Tacitus (1635) praised Polybius for his distinction (in Book XXII) between origins and causes. Voss, somewhat old-fashioned, in his book on Greek Historians (1650) commented that Polybius "is not content to narrate; he also instructs, fulfilling two functions, those of the historian and the philosopher." Finally Dryden, who thought Polybius the greatest Greek historian, admired him particularly because whensoeverhe gives us the account of any considerableaction, he never fails to tell us why it succeeded, or for what reason it miscarried;together with all the antecedent causes of its undertaking, and the manner of its performance, all which he accuratelyexplains.16
15. G. Voss, De Historicis graecis (Leiden, 1650), 124; H. Sheers, The History of Polybius (London, 1693), preface. 16. R. Ascham, A Report and Discourse . . . of Germany (London, 1552), preface; F. Patrizzi, Della Historia Dieci Dialoghi (Venice, 1560), 7-8; J. Lipsius, Ad libros politicorum notae, book 1, chapter 9. Consulted in Opera (Lyons, 1613); I. Casaubon, ed., Polybius (Paris, 1609), dedication; W. Camden, Annales (Leiden, 1625), preface; V. Malvezzi, Discorsi sopra Cornelio Tacito (Venice, 1635), 10; J. Dryden, A character of Polybius, prefixed to H. Sheers, The History of Polybius (London, 1693).

146 A Profile of Livy



Livy, like Plutarch but unlike Polybius and Tacitus, was a private citizen without personal experience of war or politics; he wrote as an orator and as a moralist. This is in fact the clue to his popularity in the sixteenth century, and to his decline in the seventeenth. Of his popularity in the earlier phases, the statistics given above are not the only witness. Louis XII asked Paolo Emilio to write his history of France in Livy's manner; Federigo de Montefeltro had Livy read to him daily; there was a story current in the sixteenth century that reading Livy cured Ferdinand the Catholic of illness. Alfonso of Naples received a relic of Livy (supposedly an arm-bone) with great pomp, so devotion did not even stop this side idolatry.'7 One important reason for the admiration of Livy in this period was his eloquence. Elyot, Vives, Holland, Casaubon, Voss, Colerus, and many others agree in this, often repeating Quintilian's phrase about Livy's 'milky' style. His prose and especially the speeches he put into the mouths of characters were highly esteemed. The speeches were even reprinted separately. In 1509 three speeches of Livy's were published; in 1532 Joachim Perion (d.1559), a Benedictine more famous as an adversary of Ramus, published Annotations on Livy's speeches, a collection of extracts indexed according to their rhetorical form (adhortatio, dehortatio, suasio, dissuasio . . .); in 1537 the speeches from Livy's books on the Second Punic War were published; in 1542, select Elocutiones (not only speeches but descriptions and pieces of narrative) appeared; and in 1554, Jean Hamelin's Harangues de Tite-Live. Besides these anthologies entirely devoted to him, there are collections of speeches taken from the ancient historians in which Livy makes a prominent appearance, like Henri Estienne's collection (Conciones . . . 1570) where he rates 122 pages, more than anyone else; Frangois de Belleforet's Harangues Militaires (1573) which printed 126 pages of Livy, more than of any other ancient; and a collection published at Amsterdam in 1649 which includes him with Sallust, Tacitus, and Curtius. On his vivid writing - besides the fact that descriptions were anthologized in the Elocutiones of 1542 - there is the testimony of two men who wrote well themselves, the humanists Giovanni Pontano and Roger Ascham. Pontano wrote that "there has been no one since Livy who has made the trumpet utter its terrible sound in military operations," and Ascham, that whatever the matter treated of, "a man shall not think to be reading but present in doing of the same." Secondly, Livy was admired as a moralist. Pedro de la Vega, the Hieronomite prior who translated Livy into Spanish (published 1520), suggested
17. The story about the cure is told in Bodin op. cit.; the story about the arm-bone in J. Burckhardt,Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy [1860] (London, 1944), 134.



in his preface that the "Christian reader, if he notes well the examples given in these histories, will know what to condemn in the life and manners of every social class of our time." Jacopo Nardi (1476-1563) translated Livy to propose to his fellow-Florentines "the imitation of every true virtue of the Roman people." The Elocutiones of 1542 emphasizes the moral importance of some extracts with titles like crudelitatis exemplum or Lucretiae pudicitia et mors. Z. Munzer, who translated Livy into German (1574), told his readers to look out for the rewarding of good men and the punishment of evil in the history. Casaubon summed Livy up in a Tacitean phrase as "loving of the virtues, a hater of the vices" (amans virtutum, osor vitiorum.) Lipsius, however, denied the moral value of Livy, whose readers, he asserts, using himself as example, always come away deeply moved "but not always either better or more equipped to deal with the problems of life." Thirdly, Livy was taken seriously as a counsellor of policy. This because the line between morals and politics appeared in this period difficult to draw as it had been in classical antiquity. Machiavelli wrote his Discourses in the form of a commentary on Livy's first decade, because Livy was the historian of the Roman Republic and of Republican virtues. He was followed by three more Italian commentators on Livy: Dini (1560), Ciccarelli (1598), and Manuzio (1601). In seventeenth-century Germany this tradition continued; there were Facius (1617), Reiffenberg (1629), Dorn (1651), and Thomasius (1661). What of political value was to be found in Livy? Principally the justification of republicanism and imperialism. Ciccarelli praised Livy especially because "he explained the organization (gli ordini) and described the methods of government of the Roman Republic better than anyone else," and Boccalini remarked that those who have specialized in the study of Livy "agree in this, that the purpose of that author in writing his History was to give the world an account of a republic which was very well ordered." As for imperialism, de la Vega suggests that he who reads Livy will realize what virtues enabled the Romans to become lords of the world (sefores del mundo): the lessons for the Spain of Charles V were obvious (and the dedication was actually addressed to the young Charles). In England Elyot recommended that children of gentlemen be given Livy early, partly so that by reading that author they may know how the most noble city of Rome of a small and poor beginning, by prowess and virtue little and little came to the empire and domination of all the world. Is it fanciful to see here the beginnings of certain facets of the British imperial idea, supported if not created by the reading of Livy? Fourthly and finally - in spite of the fact that Livy was a civilian who omitted the technical details from his descriptions of battles - some sixteenth-




century writers recommended him as a source of military counsel. Munzer thought one could learn from him about "Krieg und Schlachten"; de la Vega is more precise: "if captains want to know how to . . . draw up their armies . . . and place ambushes . . . let them read about it in these histories." Similarly, Sir Anthony Cope (d.1551) published his adaptation of Livy's account of Scipio and Hannibal in 1544 because, as he told Henry VIII in the dedication, thought that I should Well ponderingthe time of war to be now in hand . .. I. do, not only to your highness acceptable service, but also to all noblemen and gentlemen of the realm great pleasure and commodity . . . whereby, beside the pleasant bestowing of time, in the reading thereof men may learn both to do displeasureto their enemies and to avoid the crafty and dangerousbaits, which shall be laid for them.'8 A Profile of Tacitus Thanks to the work of Arnaldo Momigliano and others, the reputation of Tacitus is better known that that of the other three historians considered here. But for reasons of comparison and contrast, it is perhaps worth describing it again here. Like Polybius, Tacitus was a man of affairs - senator, consul, and proconsul. Unlike him, he was also a great literary artist. He wrote with great political insight, but also as a moralist. One might, then, have expected him to be popular throughout the period, for different reasons at different times. However, this is not the case. He was slow to become popular in this period, but then became very popular indeed. The numbers of editions tell their own story clearly enough although it is interesting to add to them Boccalini's description of the rise of Tacitus' reputation in Italy: He only began to be taken seriously (ad ascenderein catedra) in the time of Pope Leo X . . . his reputationincreasedgreatly in the time of Pope Clement VIII . in our age he is consideredto be in the first class of the most famous writers And in a Swedish dialogue of the four estates, published in 1650, the parson complains that since burgomastershave begun to speak French and Italian, and have a book or two under their arm when they come to the office, it is become vulgar to speak of salt and cloth, for they must be telling us what Tacitus says, and how things stand at Court.
18. G. Pontano, Actius, printed in Artis Historicae Penus (Basel, 1579), I, 569; R. Ascham, Discourse of Germany, preface; Livy, Las quatorze decadas (Saragossa, 1520), preface; Livy, Le deche delle historie romane (Venice, 1540), preface; Livy, (Strasburg, 1574); Tacitus, Opera, ed. Lipsius (Antwerp, 1585), dedication; A. Ciccarelli, Discorsi sopra Tito Livio (Rome, 1598), dedication; T. Boccalini, Commentarii . . . sopra Cornelio Tacito (Cosmopoli, 1677), 2; T. Elyot, The Book of the Governor [1531], ed. Lehmberg (London, 1962), 37; A. Cope, History of Two Noble Captains, dedication.



Besides editions, there is another index of interest in Tacitus, the number of commentaries on him that were produced. Nicholas D'Ablancourt (160664), one of his translators, put it rhetorically: "if one were to have collected all the books which have been written to praise him or to clarify him, one would have made a large library."'9 The same point could be made statistically. At least 110 different authors commented on Tacitus during the period, the bulk of the commentaries being published in the seventeenth century (forty-seven prior to 1650 and forty afterwards). It seems that commentaries on Tacitus were to the seventeenth century what commentaries on Aristotle were to the later Middle Ages. Why was Tacitus so admired? Partly for style, partly for content. He was not admired primarily for his speeches, although he is quoted in the Paris anthology of 1570, the Jena anthology of 1625, and the Amsterdam anthology of 1649. Some people liked his "characters"; Bacon, for example, praised especially those of Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero. But others thought them incredible; Casaubon criticized him for presenting the Roman emperors not as men but as monsters (humanae naturae prodigia). Tacitus was much more unanimously appreciated for his maxims. Several editions have indexes of maxims, or gnomologia, for example those published at Lyons in 1603, Paris in 1611, and Frankfort in 1612. Collections of the maxims were made. When Baltasar Alamos de Barrientos (1555-1643), councillor to Philip III, translated Tacitus into Spanish, he filled the margins with maxims which were either taken from Tacitus or thought by Alamos to arise out of what he was saying. Virtually anything in Tacitus that could be turned into a generalization was; as D'Ablancourt observed, "people have made maxims out of every line of him."20 The maxims take us from Tacitus the stylist to Tacitus the moralist and politician. His stature as a moralist was emphasized by Montaigne and by Bacon. Richard Grenewey, one of the translators of Tacitus into English, wrote of him that: "in judgment there is none sounder, for instruction of life, for all times . . . nothing yielding to the best philosophers." He was valued particularly as a guide to life at court, as several commentaries make clear. To take only one example, A. N. Amelot de la Houssaye (1634-1706), one of his French translators, also published a commentary called La Morale de Tacite, a collection of essays on flattery, each starting from a text of Tacitus
19. In general, see A. Momigliano, Contributo alla storia degli studi classic (Rome, 1955), 37-59, and F. SanmartiBoncompte, Tacito en Espaiia (Barcelona, 1951); T. Boccalini, Commentarii sopra Tacito, 1; dialogue by Schering Rosenhane, quoted by M. Roberts, "Queen Christina and the general crisis," Past and Present, 1962, 50; N. D'Ablancourt, Les Oeuvres de Tacite (Paris, 1665), dedication. 20. I. Casaubon, Polybius, dedication; N. D'Ablancourt, Oeuvres de Tacite, dedication.




and making much of his examples. It was translated into English as The Complete Courtier. As for the political lessons of Tacitus, Alamos suggested that he should be read for "the mysteries of political prudence, which are locked up (encerrados) in his narrative." The use of the word encerrados, with its implication that the maxims could be separated from their context without loss of value, says a great deal about the seventeenth-century approach to the lessons of history. The impression that Tacitus was valued above all for his political advice is confirmed from the very titles of some of the commentaries: Axiomata Politica (Pasquale), Avvertimenti Civili (Piccolomini), Rifiessioni Politiche (Pirogallo), Flores Politici (Steinmetz), among others. For obvious reasons, Tacitus was thought most useful to those living in monarchies, whether as rulers or as subjects; what perhaps does need emphasis in the twentieth century is the extent to which commentators thought of the lessons of Tacitus as relevant to the detail of their own problems. So D'Ablancourt, dedicating his Tacitus to Richelieu, could write that "it is he who has engendered all the policies of Spain and Italy . . . it is he whom the princes of the House of Austria still consult every day . . ." Lipsius could recommend Tacitus to his students at Jena on the grounds that the Duke of Alba was a tyrant like Tiberius; and the Dutchman Dorislaus could lose his position at Cambridge in the reign of Charles I for lecturing on Tacitus.21 The appreciation of Tacitus as a political writer is linked with appreciation of him as an historian who, like Polybius, is interested in explanation and above all in hidden causes and secret motives. This is, for example, why he is recommended by Caelio Secundo Curio (1503-69), a Piedmontese Protestant who became professor at Basel, in his essay How to read history: he was most diligent in explaining motives (in consiliis explicandis) and most penetratingin enquiring into causes; no one has seen more acutely or described more faithfully the arts of princes and of those around them. Lipsius, the key figure in the revival of Tacitus, described him as "skilled at revealing causes" (acutus in explicandis causis). Girolamo Canini (d.1626), who translated Tacitus (from Spanish) into Italian, praised him because "he represented to the life . . . not only outward actions . . . but also the most secret of thoughts" (i pin interni pensieri). Gabriel Naude (1600-53), who was librarian to Richelieu and Mazarin and author of a Political Bibliography, did not explicitly ascribe the same qualities to Tacitus; but he did recommend particularly those historians who give one not only events but also the "hidden causes" (latentes causas), and - two pages later - gives his highest praise
21. Tacitus, Annals (London, 1598), dedication; B. Alamos de Barrientos, Tacito Espafiol (Madrid, 1614), dedication; N. D'Ablancourt, Oeuvres de Tacite, dedication; J. Lipsius, Orationes (Darmstadt, 1607), 35.



to Tacitus. Trajano Boccalini (1556-1613) noted especially "the extent to which he penetrates the guts (viscere) of human nature," and it was Boccalini who made one of the characters in his News From Parnassus say that "the soul of history . .. is the explaining of the most hidden motives and the most secret thoughts of princes, and of all their artifices." Maiolino Bisaccioni (1582-1663), a nobleman turned professional writer, wrote that Tacitus "has a higher reputation than other more learned historians, because he not only narrates events, but, so to speak, writes a commentary on his own narrative." Even a hostile critic of Tacitus - and there were several - shows the same seventeenth-century emphasis: the Jesuit Famiano Strada (1572-1649), professor of rhetoric at the Collegio Romano, in a profusionn" on history, attacked Tacitus for the very qualities for which the others praised him. He censured Tacitus partly for being a bad citizen, making the task of governments more difficult by revealing their secrets to the public; and partly (compare Patrizzi on Polybius) for being a bad historian, in that he makes conjectures instead of simply telling a story, and is concerned more with the plausible than with the true (verisimilia rather than vera).22 These profiles of ancient historians should have made it possible to see why changes in their reputations occurred in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As views about the purpose and method of history and the nature of a good historian changed, so did the reputations of ancient historians. The principal change may be summed up in a few words: there was a shift from virtue to prudence, from eloquence to truth. Plutarch, the master-moralist, was in decline from the later sixteenth century. Tacitus was the master of prudence, and his popularity rose in the seventeenth century. Livy was a master of eloquence, and his popularity declined in the seventeenth century, when this quality was less in demand. Polybius, who attacked the pursuit of eloquence by historians, was increasingly valued by the intellectual elite in the seventeenth century, even if his work did not go into more editions. It is likely that other causes also affected the popularity of the ancient historians. The rise of absolute monarchs and their courts, the rise in frequency of civil wars and revolutions between 1550 and 1650, are all likely to have made Tacitus more popular because he wrote in similar conditions. Lipsius, who gave his inaugural lecture at Jena in 1572, the year of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew and of the capture of Brill by the Sea Beggars, argued that
22. C. S. Curio, De Historia legenda, in Artis Historicae Penus (Basel, 1579), II, 600;

Tacitus, Opera (Venice, 1628), the prefatory 'del modo di cavar profitto della lettura'; G. Naude, BibliographiaPolitica (Wittenberg, 1641), 132, 134; T. Boccalini, Commontarii sopra Tacito, 4; T. Boccalini, Ragguagli di Parnasso, part 2, letter 14; M. Bisaccioni, Historia della guerre civili (Bologna, 1653), 1; F. Strada, Prolusiones (Cologne, 1617),

49 ff.



Livy lacked contemporary relevance, while Tacitus, who dealt with revolutions (motus communes) did not. Montaigne argued that Tacitus was especially useful in "a sick and troubled state, like our present situation."23 Educational changes probably played their part; it is likely that the decline in the Latin editions of Sallust, Valerius, and Livy in the seventeenth century can be explained by the fact that "modern" subjects were taking up more of the curriculum at schools and universities. To sum up the provisional conclusions of this survey. Something like two and a half million copies of the ancient historians were printed in this period. There were shifts in popularity, with Sallust at the top from 1500 to 1549 and Tacitus in that position a century later. Curtius and Josephus appear to be the ancient historians most attractive to the readers of the vernacular languages. Curtius and Sallust are perhaps the most striking examples of historians highly esteemed during this period, but almost entirely unread today; and of course readers then appreciated qualities like eloquence and concern with moral judgments which are no longer respectable among professional historians. Finally, there was an increasing interest in historical explanation from the late sixteenth century onwards, which is expressed in the reasons given for reading Polybius and Tacitus, even if the number of editions of the former was actually declining. Einhard's imitation of Suetonius in his biography of Charlemagne, and Boccaccio's of Thucydides in his description of the plague in Florence should serve to remind us that the popularity of the ancient historians did not begin with the advent of printing. Still less is it the case that their influence ended with the seventeenth century, the other terminal date chosen for this study. Voltaire wrote a parallel between Charles XII and Peter the Great - like Plutarch. Gibbon paid Tacitus the compliment of calling him a "philosophical historian," and imitated his maxims and his "monstrous" portraits of the Roman emperors. Polybius is said to have had an influence on the American constitution. And Macaulay called Thucydides "the greatest historian that ever lived" and admitted that his own favorite "declamatory disquisitions" were substitutes for the orations of the ancient historians.24 University of Sussex
23. Lipsius, Orationes; Montaigne, Essais, III, 8. 24. E. Gibbon, Decline and Fall, chapter 9, opening; T. B. Macaulay, Journal for 1849, 1850, quoted in G. 0. Trevelyan, The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay (London, 1888), 516, 547.