- Valerius Maximus Criticism - Essay

Konrad Gries (essay date April 1955)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Gries, Konrad. “Valerius-Maximus an Minimus?” Classical Journal 51, no. 7 (April 1955): 335-39.

[In the following essay, Gries decries the content of Valerius's Memorable Doings and Sayings as “nothing but a huge collection of anecdotes, drawn mainly from the history of Rome,” notes Valerius's rhetorically excessive style, and summarizes the textual history of the collection.]

Modern literary historians do not think much of him. To Fowler, he is “artificial, pompous, and dull.” According to Rose, he has a “most atrocious style, bombastic, would-be-clever, full of artificial and at the same time clumsy and obscure phraseology.” Mackail,...

(The entire section is 3066 words.)

C. J. Carter (essay date 1975)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Carter, C. J. “Valerius Maximus.” In Empire and Aftermath, Silver Latin II, edited by T. A. Dorey, pp. 26-56. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975.

[In the following essay, Carter surveys the content, structure, style, sources, influence, textual history, and reception of Valerius's Memorable Doings and Sayings, commenting primarily on the work's stylistic limitations and the reasons for its centuries-long popularity.]

The great German nineteenth-century historian, Niebuhr, was perhaps exaggerating when he said that the Middle Ages considered Valerius Maximus ‘the most important book next to the Bible’1 but he was certainly...

(The entire section is 12032 words.)

Eugene N. Lane (essay date 1979)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Lane, Eugene N. “Sabazius and the Jews in Valerius Maximus: A Re-Examination.” Journal of Roman Studies 69 (1979): 35-38.

[In the following essay, Lane remarks on a conflation of Sabazius-worshippers and antique adherents of Judaism that he attributes to errors in the manuscript tradition of Valerius's Memorable Doings and Sayings.]

There has long been accepted as a fact in the study of the cult of Sabazius an ostensible reference to Jews who, as early as 139 b.c., worshipped Sabazius, and were expelled from Rome by the praetor peregrinus Cornelius Hispalus.1 The source of this information is often given without qualification as Valerius...

(The entire section is 2594 words.)

G. Maslakov (essay date 1984)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Maslakov, G. “Valerius Maximus and Roman Historiography: A Study of the Exempla Tradition.” Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt (II) 32, no. 1 (1984): 437-96.

[In the following excerpt, Maslakov asserts that a complete understanding of Valerius's Memorable Doings and Sayings requires an analysis within the context of the exempla tradition, claiming that such a reading allows the reader to properly recognize Valerius's historical sensibility as well as his use and manipulation of historical material in the collection.]

VALERIUS MAXIMUS' EXEMPLA. SOME PROBLEMS OF HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

Valerius...

(The entire section is 10778 words.)

Robert Hodgson, Jr. (essay date July 1989)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Hodgson, Jr., Robert. “Valerius Maximus and Gospel Criticism.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 51, no. 3 (July 1989): 502-10.

[In the following essay, Hodgson contends that contemporary scholarly criteria justifying the denigration of Valerius's Memorable Doings and Sayings may be obsolete and that the work offers insight into the development of the exempla tradition in its transition from secular Roman to Christian forms.]

I. VALERIUS MAXIMUS1

In the early years of Tiberius' reign Valerius took to reading Latin and Greek history and collecting anecdotes for an anthology of Roman life. Dedicated to Tiberius and...

(The entire section is 3740 words.)

Robert Hodgson, Jr. (essay date October 1989)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Hodgson, Jr., Robert. “Valerius Maximus and the Social World of the New Testament.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 51, no. 4 (October 1989): 683-93.

[In the following essay, Hodgson focuses on Valerius's depiction of Tiberius and representation of Roman religion in the early Christian era in the Memorable Doings and Sayings.]

Valerius Maximus, a historian and anthologist who wrote under Tiberius, is a significant source of information for reconstructing the social world of early Christianity. This article presents a few passages from Valerius' Factorum et Dictorum Memorabilium Libri Nouem (Of Noteworthy Deeds and Sayings Nine Books)1...

(The entire section is 5088 words.)

Jane Bellemore (essay date 1989)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Bellemore, Jane. “When Did Valerius Maximus Write the Dicta et Facta Memorabilia?” Antichthon 23 (1989): 67-80.

[In the following essay, Bellemore presents internal and external evidence to suggest that Valerius's Memorable Doings and Sayings was written near the beginning of Tiberius's reign, circa 14 to 16 a.d., rather than at its end.]

There can be no doubt that Valerius Maximus completed the Dicta et Facta Memorabilia during the reign of Tiberius (a.d. 14-37), although he refers to this emperor only in general terms, as ‘Caesar’, for example, in the preface to the work or, more usually, as princeps. Despite the fact that...

(The entire section is 7033 words.)

W. Martin Bloomer (essay date 1992)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Bloomer, W. Martin. “Audience and Design.” In Valerius Maximus and the Rhetoric of the New Nobility, pp. 11-58. Chapel Hill, N. C.: The University of North Carolina Press, 1992.

[In the following excerpt, Bloomer concentrates on the intended audience for and the structural design of Memorable Doings and Sayings, arguing that Valerius's reasons for composing the work were not antiquarian or historical, but rather were motivated by his desire to reinterpret and “de-historicize” existing material.]

From what Valerius tells his reader Memorable Deeds and Sayings is a time-saving, smooth, and seamless collection. In his proem and the prooemia...

(The entire section is 10693 words.)

Clive Skidmore (essay date 1996)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Skidmore, Clive. “Valerius's Moral Purpose.” In Practical Ethics for Roman Gentlemen: The Work of Valerius Maximus, pp. 53-82. Exeter, England: University of Exeter Press, 1996.

[In the following essay, Skidmore emphasizes the moral-didactic orientation of Valerius's Memorable Doings and Sayings, viewing its central purpose as the depiction of “traditional standards of morality” from a bygone era.]

[T]he true purpose of Valerius's work has been obscured by the gratuitous assumption that it was merely a handbook for rhetoricians and declaimers. That can be seen very clearly in Bloomer's monograph. The author is well aware that Valerius's examples...

(The entire section is 11811 words.)

D. Wardle (essay date October 1997)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Wardle, D. “‘The Sainted Julius’: Valerius Maximus and the Dictator.” Classical Philology 92, no. 4 (October 1997): 323-45.

[In the following essay, Wardle explores Valerius's positive evocations of Julius Caesar in the Memorable Doings and Sayings, including his affirmation of the emperor's bravery and divinity and his generalized support for imperial rule.]

The career of the man who brought to an end Republican government for the Romans and who was at the same time the founder of the first imperial dynasty, Julius Caesar, posed particular problems for writers in the principates of Augustus and Tiberius.1 Geraldine Herbert-Brown in...

(The entire section is 12223 words.)

D. Wardle (essay date 1998)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Wardle, D. Introduction to Valerius Maximus: Memorable Deeds and Sayings, Book I, translated by D. Wardle, pp. 1-25. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

[In the following excerpted introduction to his translation of the Memorable Doings and Sayings, Wardle considers the composition date, content, structure, sources, and textual history of the collection.]

1. THE AUTHOR

There is very meagre material for a biography of Valerius Maximus; all of it is internal: he tells us that he witnessed the suicide of an old woman in the town of Iulis on the island of Ceos while he was journeying to Asia in the company of Sex....

(The entire section is 7990 words.)

D. Wardle (essay date 2000)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Wardle, D. “Valerius Maximus on the Domus Augusta, Augustus, and Tiberius.” Classical Quarterly 50, no. 2 (2000): 479-93.

[In the following essay, Wardle stresses the conventional political orientation of Valerius's Memorable Doings and Sayings in its praise for the Roman imperial family.]

Valerius Maximus' Facta et dicta memorabilia provide an opportunity of seeing how an undistinguished talent responded to the demise of the republic and the establishment of an imperial system. Fergus Millar has argued that we should view Valerius as a contemporary of Ovid, that is as an author influenced by the last years of Augustus and writing in...

(The entire section is 9380 words.)

D. R. Shackleton Bailey (essay date 2000)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Bailey, D. R. Shackleton. Introduction to Valerius Maximus: Memorable Doings and Sayings, translated by D. R. Shackleton Bailey, pp. 1-7. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000.

[In the following introduction to his English translation of the Memorable Doings and Sayings, Bailey encapsulates scant facts from Valerius's life and comments on the composition of this collection, noting its moral purpose and modern textual history.]

Nothing is known of Valerius Maximus except what can be gathered from his work. His name survives in early manuscripts and epitomists, but without praenomen. The nomen and cognomen are both common and found combined in...

(The entire section is 1698 words.)