Valerius Maximus’ Facta et Dicta Memorabilia and the Roman Biographical Tradition
Leiden : Brill
Historiography of Rome and Its Empire ; 11
InMurray, J.; Wardle, D. (ed.), Reading by Example: Valerius Maximus and the Historiography of Exempla, pp. 287-315
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Murray, J.; Wardle, D. (ed.), Reading by Example: Valerius Maximus and the Historiography of Exempla
SubjectHistoriography of Rome and Its Empire; Europe in a Changing World; The Ancient World
The Facta et dicta memorabilia contains, as the title suggests, the “Memorable Deeds and Sayings” of famous men both Roman and foreign, penned by its author Valerius Maximus about whom little is known apart from his time of writing somewhere in the middle of the emperor Tiberius’ reign. The work offers to the reader, ancient and modern alike, a treasure trove of anecdotes that can comfortably be used by authors to illustrate behaviour or to add spice to a description. Indeed, the exempla, as the anecdotes are normally categorised in a rhetorical sense, are most likely to have been used by authors from the fields of declamation, historiography, or biography. What, however, does this practice – the mining of a text rich in exempla – tell us about the original goal of the work from which the exempla were taken? I will examine closely the authorial comments that Valerius makes, most conspicuous in the preface to the Facta et dicta memorabilia, but also noticeable throughout the work. From this I will show that Valerius uses key language that enables us to perceive a connection with the genre of works entitled De viris illustribus, a branch of Latin literature akin to biography, and which permits us to posit that the Facta may be a sub-species of biography.
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