Herodian 1.1

Herodian (late second, first half third century): Greek historian, author of a History of the Roman Empire since the Death of Marcus Aurelius in which he describes the reign of Commodus (180-192), the Year of the Five Emperors (193), the age of the Severan dynasty (211-235), and the Year of the Six Emperors (238).

The translation was made by Edward C. Echols (Herodian of Antioch's History of the Roman Empire, 1961 Berkeley and Los Angeles) and was put online for the first time by Roger Pearse (Tertullian.Org). The version offered on these pages is hyperlinked and contains notes by Jona Lendering.


[1.1.1] The majority of writers who have devoted themselves to compiling histories and to reviving the memory of past events, have had in mind the eternal glory of learning. They feared too that if they remained silent they might be numbered among the countless hordes of the obscure. Such writers are little concerned with truth in their narratives, however, but pay particular attention to phrasing and euphony, since they are confident that even if their writings have no basis in fact, they will still win a hearing, and the accuracy of their research will not be challenged.

[1.1.2] Indeed, some writers, because they abhor tyrants and wish to flatter or honor rulers, countries, and individuals, have lent sparkle to trivial and unimportant events by the brilliance of their words rather than by the clear light of truth.

[1.1.3] Unwilling to accept from others hearsay evidence and unsubstantiated information, I have collected, in my history, material that is still fresh in the minds of my intended readers; nor do I think that knowledge of the many important events that occurred in a brief span of time will fail to bring pleasure to future readers.

[1.1.4] If we were to compare this period with all the time that has elapsed since the Augustan Age, when the Roman Republic became an aristocracy, we would not find, in that span of almost two hundred years down to the time of Marcus Aurelius, imperial successions following so closely; the varied fortunes of war, both civil and foreign; the national uprisings and destructions of cities, both in the empire and in many barbarian lands. We would not find the earthquakes, the pollutions of the air, or the incredible careers of tyrants and emperors.

[1.1.5] Some of these rulers retained their power for a long time; others more briefly. There were even some who, having attained the imperial power and enjoyed the imperial honors for no more than a single day, were immediately killed. Since, in a period of sixty years, the Roman imperial power was held by more emperors than would seem possible in so short a time, many strange and wonderful events took place.

[1.1.6] The emperors who were advanced in years governed themselves and their subjects commendably, because of their greater practical experience, but the younger emperors lived recklessly and introduced many innovations. As might have been expected, the disparities in age and authority inevitably resulted in variations in imperial behavior. How each of these events occurred, I shall now relate in detail, in order of time and emperors.