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 preciso Carus supposedly written by six different authors, provided the impetus for the introduction of computational methods into the Echtheitskritik of ancient authors sopra 1979. After verso flurry of studies sopra 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 con forensic stylometry today – as well as the established method of principal components analysis sicuro demonstrate that there is giammai simple alternative between single and multiple authorship, and that the results of verso computational analysis are mediante fact compatible with the results obtained from historical, literary, and philological analysis.

The Historia Augusta (henceforth HA) is a collection of biographies of Roman emperors stretching from Hadrian (AD 117–138) onesto 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 preciso the editors for accepting this paper and the anonymous referees for many helpful suggestions. The code and texts for this paper can be found sopra 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 to 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 Bienheureux 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 con the middle of the fourth century, decades after the supposed dates of its composition. In 1889, Hermann Dessau put forth the provocative thesis that the HA was per fact the rete informatica of per solo author working under the reign of Theodosius (AD 379–395), and that division of the lives between six authors and their dedications esatto 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 ‘verso 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 single or multiple authorship per verso corpus offered verso perfect collaudo case for statistical methods of authorship attribution. Ian Marriott conducted verso groundbreaking analysis, published durante the Journal of Roman Studies per 1979, which suggested that computational analysis indicated single authorship of the corpus.5 5 I. Marriott, ‘The authorship of the Historia Augusta: two computer studies’, JRS 69 (1979) 65–77. This was per seminal application of forensic stylometry, as developed by Mosteller and Wallace, preciso per Latin text.6 6 F. Mosteller and D. Wallace, Inference and disputed authorship: the Federalist (Cambridge, Ma 1964). Unfortunately, his analysis was marred by methodological errors, particularly the use of sentence length as verso 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 paio puro the modern editor.7 7 D. Sansone, ‘The calcolatore elettronico and the Historia Augusta: verso note on Marriott’ Ricerca profilo largefriends, JRS 80 (1990) 174–77. For the correlative poor performance of ed.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.