Front Page Titles (by Subject) 18.: PROCOPIAN LEGENDS — ( P. 354 , and vol. vi . p. 80 ) - The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 5
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18.: PROCOPIAN LEGENDS — ( P. 354 , and vol. vi . p. 80 ) - Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 5 
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. J.B. Bury with an Introduction by W.E.H. Lecky (New York: Fred de Fau and Co., 1906), in 12 vols. Vol. 5.
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PROCOPIAN LEGENDS — (P. 354, and vol. vi. p. 80)
(1) Boniface and Aetius; (2) Valentinian and Maximus
In his Italy and her Invaders, vol. ii. (p. 206 sqq., ed. 2) Mr. Hodgkin has discussed and rejected the romantic story connected with the death of Valentinian, the elevation of Maximus and his marriage with Eudoxia. The story is told by Procopius (de B. V. i. 4); and, in accordance with Gibbon’s criticism that “Procopius is a fabulous writer for the events which precede his own memory,” Mr. Hodgkin relegates it to “the fables of Procopius.”
In the English Historical Review for July, 1887 (p. 417-465), Mr. Freeman published a long criticism of the historical material for the careers of Aetius and Boniface. He held the account of Procopius (B. V. i. 3) to be “legend of the sixth century and not trustworthy history of the fifth,” and tried to “recover the true story as it may be put together from the annalists, the writings of St. Augustine, and other more trustworthy authorities.” In this case Mr. Hodgkin takes a completely different view and argues (ib., vol. i. p. 889 sqq., ed. 2) that the Procopian legend “has still a reasonable claim to be accepted as history,” while admitting that in some points it has been shaken by Mr. Freeman.
Now, while the two stories need not stand on the same footing so far as historical credibility is concerned, while it may be possible to follow Mr. Hodgkin in rejecting the one and accepting the main part of the other, there is a preliminary question which must be discussed before we attempt to decide the ultimate question of historical fact. Procopius is not the only authority for these stories. They are also found in the Salmasian Excerpts, which were first printed by Cramer in his Anecdota Parisina, ii. 383 sqq., and afterwards included among the fragments of John of Antioch by C. Müller, in the Fragmenta Hist. Græc., vol. iv. p. 535 sqq. The fragments in question are 196 and 200. It was a serious flaw in Mr. Freeman’s essay that he was not aware either of the Salmasian Excerpt 196, or of the Constantinian Excerpt 201, which also bears on the question of Aetius and Boniface. Mr. Hodgkin refers to fr. 196, which (with Müller) he ascribes to Joannes Antiochenus, and says: “Though a comparatively late author (he probably lived in the seventh century) and though he certainly used Procopius freely in his compilation, he had also some good contemporary authorities before him, especially Priscus, and there seems some probability, though I would not state it more strongly than this, that he may have found the story in one of them as well as in Procopius.”
But Mr. Hodgkin, while he takes account of fr. 196 in defending one “Procopian legend,” takes no account of fr. 200 in rejecting the other “Procopian legend,” though fr. 200 bears to the latter the same relation which fr. 196 bears to the former.
Now in the first place it must be clearly understood that the author of the work from which the Salmasian Excerpts are derived cannot have been the same as the author of the work from which the Constantinian Excerpts are derived. There is no question about this, and it could be proved merely by comparing the two (Salmasian) fragments under consideration (frags. 196 and 200) with (the Constantinian) fragment 201. If then we accept the Constantinian Excerpts under the name Joannes of Antioch, we must be careful not to ascribe the Salmasian Excerpts to that writer. Which is the true Joannes, is a question still sub judice. (See below, vol. vi. Appendix 2.)
The vital question then is whether Procopius was the source of S. (as we may designate the author of these Excerpts) for these fragments or not. For if he was, S. adds no weight to the authority of Procopius and may be disregarded; it he were not, his statements have to be reckoned with too. From a careful comparison of the passages, I find myself in complete agreement with C. de Boor (who has dealt with the question in Byz. Ztsch. ii. 204 sqq.) that Procopius was not the source of S. but that the accounts of both authors were derived from a common source.1 The proof in the case of fr. 200 is very complete; because we happen to have in Suidas sub voce θλαδιάς (see Müller ad loc.) a fragment of what was evidently that common source.
The inference, for historical purposes, is important. We cannot speak with Mr. Freeman of “Procopian legend” or “legend of the sixth century.” Procopius cannot be described in these cases as setting down “the received tale that he heard.” He was using a literary source; and there is not the slightest proof that this literary source belonged to the sixth century. It seems more probable that it was a fifth century source. It may have been Priscus or it may not.
These two episodes therefore depend on the authority of a writer (who has so far not been identified) earlier than Procopius and distinct from John of Antioch. They may for all we know have very early authority, and they cannot be waived away as “Procopian legend.” Each must be judged on its own merits.
It seems to me that there was probably a certain foundation of truth in both stories, but that they have been dressed out with fictitious details (like the story of the Empress Eudocia and Paulinus). I do not feel prepared to reject the main facts implied, that Aetius intrigued against Bonifacius and that Valentinian seduced the wife of Maximus.
The story of the single combat of Aetius and Boniface is derived from Marcellinus (like Procopius, a writer of the sixth century). But rightly interpreted it contains nothing improbable. It does not imply a duel; but a single combat in a battle. It is however important to observe that “John of Antioch” (fr. 201, Müller, p. 615) says nothing of Boniface’s wound but states that he was out-generalled by Aetius, and that he died of diseases due to depression and chagrin.
τὸν δὲ Βονιϕάτιον σὺν πολλῃ̑ διαβάντα χειρὶ ἀπὸ τη̂ς Λιβύης κατεστρατήγησεν, ὥστε ἐκεɩ̂νον μὲν ὺπὸ ϕροντίδων νόσῳ τελευτη̂σαι.
It remains to be added that the essay of Mr. Freeman throws great light on the career of Boniface in Africa and the doings of Castinus, Felix, and Sigisvult.
[1 ]Cp. further E. Gleye in Byz. Ztsch. v. 460 sqq., where some other of the Excerpts (esp. fr. 12) are treated in their relation to Procopius, with the same result.