Front Page Titles (by Subject) Latin Sources - The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 8
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Latin Sources - Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 8 
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. 8.
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The paucity of other sources renders the Liber Pontificalis of considerable importance for the Imperial history of the seventh and eighth centuries in Italy. M. Duchesne, in the Introduction to his great edition of the work, has shown with admirable acuteness and learning how it grew into its present form. The primitive Liber Pontificalis was compiled at Rome under the pontificates of Hormisdas, John I., Felix IV., and Boniface II., after 514, and came down to the death of Felix IV. in 530. “For the period between 496 and 530 the author may be regarded as a personal witness of the things he narrates.” The work was continued a few years later by a writer who witnessed the siege of Rome in 537-8, and who was hostile to Silverius. He recorded the Lives of Boniface II., John II., and Agapetus, and wrote the first part of the Life of Silverius ( 536-7). The latter part of this Life is written in quite a different spirit by one who sympathised with Silverius; and it was perhaps this second continuator who brought out a second edition of the whole work (Duchesne, p. ccxxxi.). The Lives of Vigilius and his three successors were probably added in the time of Pelagius II. ( 579-90). As for the next seven Popes, M. Duchesne thinks that, if their biographies were not added one by one, they were composed in two groups: (1) Pelagius II. and Gregory I.; (2) the five successors of Gregory. From Honorius ( 625-38) forward the Lives have been added one by one, and sometimes more than one are by the same hand. Very rarely are historical documents laid under contribution; the speech of Pope Martin before the Lateran Council in 649 forms an exception, being used in the Lives of Theodore and Martin. In the eighth century the important Lives of Gregory II., Gregory III., Zacharias, &c., were written successively during their lives. The biographer of Gregory II. seems to have consulted a lost (Constantinopolitan) chronicle which was also used by Theophanes and Nicephorus. (Cp. Duchesne, Lib. Pont. i. p. 411.) The Biography of Hadrian falls into two parts; the first, written in 774, contains the history of his first two years; the second, covering the remaining twenty-two years of his pontificate, is of a totally different nature, being made up of entries derived from vestry-registers, &c. M. Duchesne has shown that most of these biographers to whose successive co-operation the Liber Pontificalis is due belonged to the Vestiarium of the Lateran; and when they were too lazy or too discreet to relate historical events they used to fall back on the entries in the registers of their office. [L. Duchesne, Liber Pontificalis; Texte, Introduction et Commentaire, t. 1 (1886).]
The Letters of Pope Gregory the Great (for whose life and work see above, p. 42 sqq.) are the chief contemporary source for the state of Italy at the end of the sixth century. The Benedictines of St. Maur published in 1705 a complete collection of the Pope’s correspondence, which extends from 591 to 604. This edition, used and quoted by Gibbon, is reprinted in Migne’s Patr. Graeca, lxxvii. The arrangement of the letters in this collection was adopted without full intelligence as to the nature of the materials which were used. It depended mainly on a Vatican MS. containing a collection of the letters, put together in the fifteenth century by the order of an archbishop of Milan (John IV.). This collection was compiled from three distinct earlier collections, which had never been put together before to form a single collection. Of these (1) the most important is a selection of 681 letters, made under Pope Hadrian I. towards the end of the eighth century. The letters of Gregory range over fourteen indictions, and the “Hadrianic Register,” as it is called, falls into fourteen Books, according to the indictions. This is our basis of chronology. There is (2) a second collection of 200 letters without dates (except in one case), of which more than a quarter are common to the Hadrianic Register. It has been proved that all these letters belong to a single year ( 598-9); but in the text of the Benedictines they are scattered over all the years. (3) The third collection (Collectio Pauli) is smaller; it contained 53 letters, of which 21 are peculiar to itself. Here too, though the Benedictine edition distributes these letters over six years, it has been proved that they all belong to three particular years. These results were reached by very long and laborious research by Paul Ewald, whose article in the Neues Archiv of 1878 (iii. 433 sqq.) has revolutionised the study of Gregory’s correspondence and established the order of the letters. A new critical edition, based on Ewald’s researches, has appeared in the Monumenta Germ. Historica, in two vols. Only Bks. 1-4 are the work of Ewald; but on his premature death the work was continued by L. M. Hartmann. Ewald also threw new light on the biographies of Gregory, proving that the oldest was one preserved in a St. Gall MS. (and known to, but not used by, Canisius). See his article: Die älteste Biographie Gregors I. (in “Historische Aufsatze dem Andenken an G. Waitz gewidmet”), 1886. For the Life by Paulus Diac. cp. above, p. 42, note 73; for the Life by John Diac. cp. p. 42, note 74. [Monographs: G. T. Lau, Gregor I. der Grosse nach seinem Leben und seiner Lehre geschildert (1845); W. Wisbaum, Die wichtigsten Richtungen und Ziele der Thätigkeit des Papstes Gregor des Gr. (1884); C. Wolfsgruber, die Vorpäpstliche Lebensperiode Gregors des Gr., nach seinen Briefen dargestellt (1886) and Gregor der Grosse (1890); Th. Wollschack, Die erhältnisse Italiens, insbesondere des Langobardenreichs nach dem Briefwechsel Gregors I. (1888); F. W. Kellett, Pope Gregory the Great and his relations with Gaul (1889). There is a full account of Gregory’s life and work in Hodgkin’s Italy and her Invaders, vol. v. chap. 7; and a clear summary of Ewald’s arguments as to the correspondence.]
The earliest historian of the Lombards was a bishop of Trient named Secundus, who died in 612. He wrote a slight work (historiola) on the Gesta of the Lombards, coming down to his own time; unluckily it is lost. But it was used by our chief authority on the history of the Lombard kingdom, Paul the Deacon, son of Warnefrid; who did for the Lombards what Gregory of Tours did for the Merovingians, Bede for the Anglo-Saxons, Jordanes for the Goths. Paul was born about 725 in the duchy of Friuli. In the reign of King Ratchis ( 744-9) he was at Pavia, and in the palace-hall he saw in the king’s hand the bowl made of Cunimund’s skull. He followed King Ratchis into monastic retirement at Monte Cassino, and we find him there an intimate friend and adviser of Arichis, Duke of Beneventum, and his wife. He guided the historical studies of this lady, Adelperga, and it was her interest in history that stimulated him to edit the history of Eutropius and add to it a continuation of his own in six Books (the compilation known as the Historia Miscella, see above, vol. iv. p. 353-4). Paul’s family was involved in the ruin of the Lombard kingdom ( 774); his brother was carried into captivity, and Paul undertook a journey to the court of Charles the Great, in order to win the grace of the conqueror. He was certainly successful in his enterprise, and his literary accomplishments were valued by Charles, at whose court he remained several years. When he returned to Italy he resumed his abode at Monte Cassino. His last years were devoted to the Historia Langobardorum. Beginning with the remote period at which his nation lived by the wild shores of the Baltic, Paul should have ended with the year in which the Lombards ceased to be an independent nation; but the work breaks off in the year 744; and the interruption can have been due only to the author’s death. Paul’s Life of Gregory the Great has been mentioned above; another extant work is his Lives of the Bishops of Metz.
For the legendary “prehistoric” part of his work, Paul’s chief source (apart from oral traditions) was the Origo gentis Langobardorum. This little work has been preserved in a MS. of the Laws of King Rotharis, to which it is prefixed as an Introduction.27 It was probably composed c. 670. (There is also a Prologus to the Laws of Rotharis, containing a list of kings; it is important on account of its relative antiquity.) For the early history Paul drew upon Secundus (see above) and Gregory of Tours. When Secundus deserts him (Bk. iv. c. 41) he is lost, and for the greater part of the seventh century his history is very meagre. His chief sources for the period 612 to 744 are the Lives of the Popes in the Liber Pontificalis (from John III. to Gregory II.) and the Ecclesiastical History of Bede. The sources of Paul have been thoroughly investigated by R. Jacobi, Die Quellen der Langobardengeschichte des Paulus Diaconus (1877).28 [Best edition by Waitz in the M.G.H. (Scr. rer. Lang.), 1878; and small convenient edition by the same editor in the Scr. rer. Germ., 1878. German translation by O. Abel (in the Geschichtschreiber der deutschen Vorzeit), 1849 (second edition, 1878). Three important studies on Paul by L. Bethmann appeared in Pertz’s Archiv, vol. vii. p. 274 sqq.; vol. x. p. 247 sqq. and p. 335 sqq. The most recent edition of the Historia Romana (last six Books of the Hist. Miscella) is that of H. Droysen, 1879.]
The chronicle which goes under the name of Fredegarius, on which we have to fall back for Merovingian History when Gregory of Tours deserts us, has also notices which supplement the Lombard History of Paul the Deacon. The chronicle consists of four Books. Bk. 1 is the Liber Generationis of Hippolytus; Bk. 2 consists of excerpts from the chronicles of Jerome and Idatius; Bk. 3 is taken from the Historia Francorum of Gregory of Tours; Bk. 4, which is alone of importance, continues the history of Gregory (from Bk. vi.; 583) up to 642. Two compilers can be distinguished; to one is due Bk. 1, Bk. 2, Bk. 4, chaps. 1-39; to the other (= Fredegarius) Bk. 3 and Bk. 4, chaps. 40 to end ( 613-642). For the last thirty years the work is contemporary. The lack of other sources makes Fredegarius, such as it is, precious. But for this work we should never have known of the existence, during the reign of Heraclius, of the large Slavonic realm of Samo, which united for a decade or two Bohemia and the surrounding Slavonic countries. [Ed. B. Krusch, in the M.G.H. (Scr. Hist. Merov., ii.), 1888, along with the subsequent continuations of the work to 568. Articles by Krusch in Neues Archiv, vii., p. 249 sqq. and p. 423 sqq., 1882.]
[27 ]The text will be found in Pertz, Mon. Germ. Hist. Legg. iv. p. 641-7; and in Waitz, Mon. Germ. Hist., Scr. rerum Lang., p. 2-6. Cp. L. Schmidt, in Neues Archiv, xiii. p. 391 sqq. (1888); also his Aelteste Gesch. der Langobarden, 1884; A. Vogeler, Paulus Diaconus u. die Origo g. Lang. (1887).
[28 ]Cp. also Waitz, Neues Archiv, v. p. 416 sqq. (1880); Wattenbach, Deutschlands Geschichtsquellen, ed. 6, p. 169-71.