By Barbara Sidwell
Iris: Journal of the Classical Association of Victoria, Vol.21 (2008)
Introduction: The Res Gestae of Ammianus Marcellinus (c. 330-395) provides, amongst historical facts, exhaustive accounts of battles and sieges, literary topoi and a complex historiography, including a detailed account of the emotional reactions of emperors and the effects of these emotions upon their subjects. Although anger plays a significant role in the life of Julian, it has often been the position of modern scholars to focus on the positive portrayal of Julian in the historian’s accounts. For example, Axel Brandt in 1999 pointed out the praise Ammianus infused into his descriptions of the actions of Julian, using such terms as prudentia and temperantia. Roger Blockley in 1994 pointed out the exempla that the historian used throughout the Res Gestae often to emphasise virtues and vices in his far-reaching portrayals of characters and events. He revealed that in twenty-nine places these exempla were used to characterise Julian in a positive light, and only two were negative. However, as Thompson in 1943, and Rosen in 1978 discussed, it is important to recognise that negative judgements from Ammianus on Julian are apparent, even as early as Book 21, where his severe military actions are criticised.