Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

accuracy, of the very day of his landing—the 20th of September. One circumstance of the voyage homewards strongly speaks the feelings of an ignorant Byzantine, to whom his own capital and its immediate neighbourhood seemed far more important and extensive than all the rest of the world besides. He says that the fleet made a halt midway for the purpose of refreshment, and he places this midway station at the island of Mytilene, not one-twentieth part of the distance between England and Constantinople ! I may take this opportunity of also remarking, that amongst nearly all the Byzantine writers England is the subject of complete ignorance or absurd legends. Thus Tzetzes, though usually accurate and well informed, tells us that Cato the Censor received an embassy from the Kings of the British (Bpertavot), with a present of gold and a proposal of alliance!" Yet, at the period. when Tzetzes wrote, there was already a body-guard of Warangians at Constantinople. Procopius also, whose personal experience and powers of description place him very far at the head of all the Byzantine writers, no sooner touches British ground than the discerning historian becomes transformed into a credulous fabulist. His island of Brittia is divided by an ancient wall into two districts, one of them being the abode of departed spirits, who are ferried over from the continent by living boatmen!” The latter tale has been already noticed by Gibbon; but if the people of Constantinople could admit such

* Chil. x. v. 651. 2 Procop. Goth. lib. iv. c. 20.

strange accounts of England in a grave history, we need not be surprised at any in a legendary poem.

On the Number of the Lost Books of Tacitus.
Read March 24, 1836. Archaeologia, vol. xxvii.

THE historical works of Tacitus which remain to us are, as is well known, besides the Life of Agricola, the four first books of the Annals, part of the fifth, the sixth, the eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, and part of the sixteenth, the four first books of the History, and part of the fifth. It is asserted by Brotier, in his excellent edition, that the total number of books must have been sixteen of Annals and fourteen of History, and this assertion has never yet, so far as I know, been doubted or called in question. I think, however, that there are strong grounds for presuming that the real number of books was eighteen of Annals and twelve of History; and, though the point be of small importance, it may perhaps not be without some interest to the admirers of the greatest of Historians. We learn from Tacitus himself that, having first written his History from the last months of Galba to the end of Domitian, he afterwards composed his Annals from the death of Augustus to the period first mentionad." As to the number of books, the only passage to inform us is one from St. Jerome, where he mentions Tacitus as one qui post Augustum, usque ad mortem Domitiani, vitas Caesarum triginta voluminibus ea'aravit.' No mention is made how many of these books were books of Annals or books of History. Now, if we look to the progress of events, and to the number of important transactions that took place between the point where the sixteeenth book of Annals breaks off and the point where the first book of History commences, it will appear utterly incredible that, according to the supposition of Brotier, they should all have been comprised in the remainder of the sixteenth book. This period is one of four years, containing the extremely curious and now very imperfectly known proceedings of the insurrection in Spain and Gaul, the overthrow of Nero, and the end of the family of the Caesars; how Windex fell in the moment of the triumph of his cause; how Nymphidius hoped to profit by the vacancy, and how his projects were arrested; how Galba advanced to Rome, and by what acts he lost the popularity to which he owed his elevation. Over quiet and less interesting periods Tacitus glides quickly; but when it is observed how much attention he bestows on times of revolution, when the whole state seems heaving and convulsed, it is impossible to doubt that he very fully portrayed those events of which in other writers we see only a dim and imperfect outline. The five first books of his History, being devoted to such a period, fill a space of less than two years; and thus also I conceive, the four years preceding, being scarcely less important and eventful, were related in the

1 Tacit. Hist, lib. i., c. 1; Annal, lib. i., c. 2, &c.

St. Hieron. Comment. in cap. xiv. Zach.

remainder of the sixteenth and in the seventeenth and eighteenth books of his Annals. In confirmation of this view, it may be observed that the books of the Annals preserved to us are not of very unequal length. The number of chapters, though a modern and uncertain division, may afford us a rude approximation to this fact. The first book has 81 chapters, the second 88, the third 76, the fourth 75, and the sixth, of which some suppose the commencement to have perished, 51. Thus the average for each is 74. In the able Supplement of Brotier the want of sufficient materials renders of course his books much shorter, even although he has introduced some subjects, such as our Lord's Nativity and the Legation of Philo, which most certainly were not in the original Tacitus. The number of chapters in his seventh book is only 43, in his eighth 79, in his ninth 59, and in his tenth 35; the average being 56. Now, in his Supplement to the sixteenth book he treats of a period of which we have even less full details than that treated of in his Supplement between the sixth and eleventh books; yet in this his Supplement extends to 97 chapters! Can we believe, then, that Tacitus, with all his ample materials, and so wide a scope for his philosophic reflections, could have comprised this period in a single book, and extended this book to a still more disproportioned length? And is not my conjecture much more probable, that this period formed the theme of two books more? What, I think, tends further to confirm this conjecture, is the remarkable fondness among nearly all ancient nations for the number twelve, or some multiple or dividend of twelve. This is apparent among the Romans in their books of Epic poetry, their Tables of Laws, their Augurs, and a vast variety of other instances. Du Cange has shown that the same partiality existed amongst the early Scandinavians." Spelman has traced it amongst the Boiians and Burgundians,” and Mr. Hallam and several other writers amongst the Anglo-Saxons.” I need not investigate the causes of this custom or fancy. But as it undoubtedly existed and influenced many other Latin authors in their divisions of writing, I think it more probable that Tacitus should have written his Annals in eighteen books, and his History in twelve, than have divided the former into sixteen and the latter into fourteen.

I cannot conclude without a most earnest wish that some of the discoveries of the Italian Palimpsests may ere long restore to us these lost books of Tacitus, not with any view to the trifling point which I have been discussing, but to instruct and delight mankind by a work which even now, though incomplete, appears one of the noblest monuments ever raised by human genius.

* Du Cange, Diction, voc. Nembda. * Spelman's Gloss., voc. Jurata. * Hallam's Middle Ages, vol. ii., p. 401.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »