THE AUTHORSHIP OF THE HISTORIA AUGUSTA: TWO NEW COMPUTATIONAL STUDIES

THE AUTHORSHIP OF THE HISTORIA AUGUSTA: TWO NEW COMPUTATIONAL STUDIES

The case of the Historia Augusta, per collection of imperial biographies from Hadrian sicuro Carus supposedly written by six different authors, provided the impetus for the introduction of computational methods into the Echtheitskritik of ancient authors con 1979. After verso flurry of studies durante the 1990s, interest waned, particularly because most of those studies seemed esatto support conclusions incompatible with the scholarly consensus on the question. Mediante the paper, we approach this question with the new tool of authorship verification – one of the most promising approaches sopra forensic stylometry today – as well as the established method of principal components analysis to demonstrate that there is niente affatto simple alternative between single and multiple authorship, and that the results of per computational analysis are mediante fact compatible with the results obtained from historical, literary, and philological analysis.

The Historia Augusta (henceforth HA) is verso collection of biographies of Roman emperors stretching from Hadrian (AD 117–138) preciso Carus (AD 282–283) and his sons Carinus (AD 283–285) and Numerian (AD 283–284).1 1 Justin Stover would like puro thank George Woudhuysen for helpful suggestions. We are both grateful puro the editors for accepting this paper and the anonymous referees for many helpful suggestions. The code and texts for this paper can be found mediante the following repository: The lives purport preciso be written by six different authors, Aelius Spartianus, pridius, Trebellius Pollio, and Flavius Vopiscus, working under the Emperors Diocletian (AD 284–305) and Constantine (AD 306–337). For much of the period it covers, the HA represents the only extended narrative source, and the testimony it offers can be invaluable. Unfortunately, the HA is also famous for its bizarre details and puzzling omissions, as well as its lurid focus on emperors’ peccadilloes and personal habits esatto the detriment of their political accomplishments. It also notoriously includes documents – speeches, letters, laws – which are almost certainly fabricated by the author(s), and cites verso whole host of authors nowhere else attested, and probably invented.2 2 See L. Homo, ‘Les documents de l’Histoire Auguste et leur valeur historique’, RH 151 (1926) 161–198 and 152 (1926) 1–31. But the problem of the HA is not only its unreliability as an historical source: it also includes throughout troubling anachronisms, mentions of office and titles that only came into being mediante the middle of the fourth century, decades after the supposed dates of its composition. Con 1889, Hermann Dessau put forth the provocative thesis that the HA was con fact the rete informatica of per scapolo author working under the reign of Theodosius (AD 379–395), and that division of the lives between six authors and their dedications puro Diocletian and Constantine were merely a literary ploy.3 3 H. Dessau, ‘Uber Zeit und Personlichkeit der Scriptores Historiae Augustae’, Hermes 24 (1889) 337–92. Ronald Syme – the most influential exponent of the Dessau thesis – would famously term the author ‘per rogue grammaticus’.4 4 R. Syme, Ammianus and the Historia Augusta (Oxford 1968) 207.

1. Verso computational solution?

As early as the late 1970s, it was realized that this question of scapolo or multiple authorship con verso raccolta offered per perfect test case for statistical methods of authorship attribution. Ian Marriott conducted verso groundbreaking analysis, published per the Journal of Roman Studies con 1979, which suggested that computational analysis indicated celibe authorship of the corpo.5 5 I. Marriott, ‘The authorship of the Historia Augusta: two computer studies’, JRS 69 (1979) 65–77. This was verso seminal application of forensic stylometry, as developed by Mosteller and Wallace, onesto verso Latin text.6 6 F. Mosteller and D. Wallace, Inference and disputed authorship: the Federalist (Cambridge, Pero 1964). Unfortunately, his analysis was marred by methodological errors, particularly the use of sentence length as per criterion of authorship, which is niente affatto longer considered an effective stylometric feature even for modern texts, and should definitely not be used for ancient texts, where the punctuation is coppia sicuro the modern editor.7 7 D. Sansone, ‘The calcolatore elettronico and the Historia Augusta: per note on Marriott’, JRS 80 (1990) 174–77. For the correlative poor prova of anche.g. average sentence or length, consult the extensive comparative evaluation reported in: J. Grieve, ‘Quantitative authorship attribution: an evaluation of techniques’, LLC 22 (2007) 251–70.

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