Scholia Reviews ns 11 (2002) 10.
Brian W. Jones (ed.), Suetonius: Vespasian. Bristol Classical Press and Duckworth, London 2000. Pp. xviii + 142. ISBN1-85399-584-3. UKú11.99.
Richard J. Evans
Department of Classics, University of South Africa, Pretoria.
Vespasian ushered in a new beginning for the Principate. When he achieved sole rule in December AD 69, a brief but vicious civil war, which had affected many parts of the empire, came to an end. For the restoration of peace and harmony alone his rule is important, but the constitutional developments, which occurred during his ten years as princeps, his foundation of the second imperial dynasty, even if short-lived, all make this time of particular interest to students and scholars of Roman history. Although we possess fairly abundant literary evidence for his principate in the works of Josephus, Tacitus and Dio, the Life of Vespasian by Suetonius is essential reading since it is both complete and was composed close in time to the subject. In this edition of Suetonius' biography of Vespasian, with introduction and commentary, Jones states that his 'aim has been to examine the political, social and, to a lesser extent, the literary, textual and grammatical questions posed by the Life' and that 'it will be of value to students of Latin but also to those historians interested in the Flavian period' (p. vi). It is with Jones's objective in mind that the following notes have been compiled.
The volume itself is divided into the 'Introduction' (pp. viii-xvii), the 'Text' (pp. 1-9), the 'Commentary' (pp. 10-129), and finally an extensive bibliography (pp. 130-42). There is no index.
In the introduction, Jones deals cursorily with Suetonius' career (pp. viii-xii), his sources (pp. xii-xiii), his other works (p. xiv), 'his place in the biographical tradition' (pp. xivf.), and the Vespasian (pp. xv-xvii). For a more comprehensive treatment of these topics readers should consult either B. Baldwin, Suetonius (Amsterdam 1983), or A. Wallace-Hadrill, Suetonius, The Scholar and His Caesars (London 1983).
M. Ihm's Teubner edition of 1908 provides the text, and where Jones has departed from this he notes the textual variants (p. xviii). Surprisingly, there is not a more recent edition of Suetonius' Lives other than the Loeb edition of 1914. Moreover, Jones's text sadly avoids the use of an apparatus criticus, which would have been useful at certain points, such as 15, <......>, and 16.3, negata[m] sibi gratuita[m] libertate[m], (cf. the Loeb edition pp. 306, 310 for explanatory notes), where students, in particular, might be perplexed by the elaborate use of various kinds of parentheses without explanation. Italics are employed where direct and indirect speech occurs, although there are one or two places where it is also used for items of hearsay (5.1).
The commentary, naturally enough, occupies the major slice of the volume. Commentaries are idiosyncratic, being highly dependent on the interests of the author. This work is no exception. There is much detail about the Flavian administration in matters such as taxation and finance all indicative of the strong fiscal policy which dominated Vespasian's rule (pp. 92f., 94-96, 97f., 119) and the physical reconstruction of the city following the shambles accompanying the fall of Vitellius (pp. 69-72, new buildings, p. 102, statuary, p. 104, theatre of Marcellus). Jones also shows well how the Flavian propaganda sought to distance the new regime from the Julio-Claudians under whom Vespasian had done rather well and had been close to the centre of power (pp. 34f.). Most of these points are thoroughly explained, but elsewhere the reader might be stumped by the reference to Vespasian's mother as 'a Junian Latin' (p. 22), to the discussion of 'mango (p. 31), or the bland reference to garlic (p. 60). There are also a number of places where information is repetitive: Vespasian's freedom of choice in selecting his legionary commanders for the war in Judaea (pp. 35, 38, 55), the Flavian propaganda regarding Vespasian's supposed breach with Nero in the mid-60's (pp. 35, 41, 43), the exact whereabouts of Bedriacum (pp. 46, 54). Some errors have crept in (pp. 55, 74 and 129), which result in confusion in the sense, while (p. 60) it should be noted that Puteoli lies due west not north of Naples. Inconsistency occurs when the cities of Vanacini (pp. 94, 124) and Sabora (pp. 92, 124) are noted in connection with taxation and embassies, but only the former is geographically sited 'north Corsica'. Sabora, meanwhile, was in the province of Baetica. Finally, the rebel Julius Sabinus is mentioned twice (pp. 90f., 126) with his wife, named first as Peponila, but later as Epponina, both, it seems, based on Dio (66.16.1), though only the former is vouched for.
For those studying the language, other and more detailed works with that particular focus will need to be consulted. Moreover, a translation could have been accommodated without any difficulty. Still the commentary is a handy repository of facts about the first Flavian emperor of Rome, and will be easily accessible when used as a companion to the text. It may be less easily accessed for random use. This volume could be fruitfully employed with Jones's commentary to the Domitian. However, what about the Titus? One might imagine that a Titus should surely follow, although, given its diminutive size, at just eleven sections (on a par with the Otho, seven less than the Vitellius), it seems hardly to warrant full- scale treatment. Vespasian's successor should surely have been included in this single volume? As it is, Titus alone lacks a commentary in this Bristol Classical Press series, and perhaps always will.