An alternative theory of
the history of Christianity
The "Historia Augusta" and "Historia Ecclesiastica"
'I am striving to give back
the Divine in myself
to the Divine in the All.'
--- Final words of Plotinus
to Eustochius (C.270 CE)
Were the "Historia Augusta" and the "Historia Ecclesiastica"
manufactured in the same Constantinian scriptorium?
 The "Historia Augusta"
Sourced from the Editor of livius.org
A Collection of Bogus Biographies - an ancient mockumentary
Historia Augusta: modern name of a collection of (bogus) biographies of Roman emperors of the second and third centuries.
The collection of biographies of Roman emperors called Historia Augusta consists of the lives of most rulers from Hadrian (117-138) to Carinus (283-285). They can be divided into two groups:
Hadrian to Gordian III (117-244), dedicated to the emperor Diocletian (284-305), and written by four authors;
Valerian to Carinus (253-285), dedicated to Constantine I the Great (306-337), and written by two authors.
At first sight, it looks as if during the reign of Constantine the Great, Trebellius Pollio and Flavius Vopiscus continued a project that had been started during the reign of Diocletian by Spartianus, Capitolinus, Lampridius, and Gallicanus.
The biographies of the emperors between 244 and 253 (Philippus Arabs, Decius, Trebonianus Gallus, Aemilianus) are missing, which is a pity, because here, we would have expected some sort of introduction to the second half of the Historia Augusta.
The Politics of two separate "fake" groups of six "fake" authors?
The fact that there seem to be two groups is interesting, because the four first authors lived during the reign of Diocletian, who persecuted the Christians, whereas Pollio and Vopiscus lived during the reign of the first Christian ruler of the Roman empire. Now the work appears to be written by people who shared a common outlook on the past, and agreed to the values of the pagan senatorial aristocracy of Rome. We would love to know whether the two teams knew each other, or whether the second team was working for or against Constantine.
Unfortunately, the prologue to the first part of the work is also missing. Here, the first four authors must have explained something about the aim of their project. It is also sad that the lives of Nerva and Trajan are lost; had they been there, we would have had some sort of bridge between the Lives of the Twelve Caesars by Suetonius and the Historia Augusta.
So we are left with a collection of imperial biographies that is damaged at precisely the two points where its authors might have explained what they were doing. Yet, probably the two lacunas are not coincidental at all, because the Historia Augusta is something like an ancient mockumentary.
The Politics of just one single author has been conjectured and established by Computer analysis
As long ago as 1889, it has been suggested that the work was composed by one single author. (This idea was proposed by the great German Altertumswissenschaftler Hermann Dessau in a classic essay "Über Zeit und Persönlichkeit der Scriptor Historiae Augustae", in the journal Hermes.) A more recent stylistic analysis using computer techniques has confirmed this hypothesis beyond reasonable doubt. But the six fake authors and the fake division into an earlier and a later phase of composition, are only the beginning of a lovely game of hide and seek.
Fake Documents abound - totalling 160 forgeries
One of the most charming aspects is the introduction of fake information, especially in the second half. At least one ruler has been invented, remarkable omens are introduced, and anecdotes are added. The information in the second half of the life of the decadent emperor Heliogabalus is very entertaining, but completely untrue, and only introduced as a contrast to the biography of his successor Severus Alexander, who is presented as the ideal ruler. Ancient readers must have loved these mirror images, and may have smiled when the author of the Life of Heliogabalus accused other authors of making up charges to discredit the emperor, and used them all the same.
The "minor" biographies (i.e. the lives of co-rulers and usurpers) are usually entirely invented.
The senatorial audience preferred novels and fictions, not history and facts
Of course this means that the Historia Augusta is not reliable as a source for these lives, but it is a very valuable source for those who want to reconstruct the values and ideas of the the senatorial elite of ancient Rome. The pagan senators were obviously credulous people, who preferred a vie romancée and were not interested in real biography. They liked novels and fiction, not history and facts. This literary taste is older than the Historia Augusta: the first example from the Roman world is the vie romancée of Apollonius of Tyana by Philostratus, which is in turn inspired by the Education of Cyrus by Xenophon.
The Fake Dates
Another aspect of the game is the fake date. It can be shown that the Life of Septimius Severus was written after another series of imperial biographies (either the Caesares by Aurelius Victor or the Enmannsche Kaisergeschichte), which continued to about 360/361. There are also several anachronisms and tacit references to people who lived in the fourth century and events that took place after the reign of Constantine.
It can certainly not be excluded that the Historia Augusta was in fact composed during the reign of Julianus Apostata (361-363), who briefly attempted to revive paganism. The text may have been part of an attempt to deduce from the splendor of Roman history that the pagan traditionalists were right, and Christianity was, from an historical point of view, an unRoman activity.
However, this interpretation is not without serious complications, and dates of publication during the reigns of Theodosius I (379-395) and Honorius (395-423) have been proposed as well. What is certain, is that it was composed before 425, because the Roman author Symmachus has used the Historia Augusta.
The Novel Invention of (a) Fake Sources and (b) other Fake Sources which disagree with them
Among the many games that are played in the Historia Augusta is the invention of no less than 130 fake documents, most charmingly introduced in the introduction of the Life of Aurelian. Fake sources were not a new practice (cf. the invented letters in Plutarch's Life of Alexander). What is new, however, is that the author the Historia Augusta invents sources to disagree with them.
Sourced from Pagan and Christian Historiography in the Fourth Century - Arnaldo Momigliano
The Historia Augusta is the classic example of historiographic mystery.
- The Historia Augusta purports to have been written under Diocletian and Constantine,
but the majority of modern scholars prefer — rightly or wrongly — a date later than 360 (7).
- There are two or three sentences in the Historia Augusta which sound like a criticism of the Christians.
One is the good-humoured remark that in Egypt ‘those who worship Serapis are, in fact, Christians and those
who call themselves bishops of Christ are in fact devotees of Serapis’ (Firmus, 8, 2).
The Historia Augusta is by no means the big anti-Christian pamphlet which some scholars have seen in it.
On the contrary, the ideal emperor Severus Alexander worships Jesus with Abraham in his private chapel.
- For the first time we come across historical work done in collaboration, — which adds to its elusiveness.
- The Historia Augusta is the classic example of historiographic mystery. The work purports to have been written
by six authors at various moments of the reigns of Diocletian and Constantine. Some at least of the alleged
authors claim to have written in collaboration. This very claim of team-work is baffling: cooperative ‘Cambridge
histories were not common in antiquity. The writing is sensational and unscrupulous, and the forged documents
included in this work serve no obvious purpose. One or two passages may point to a post-Constantinian date either
for the whole collection or at least for the passages themselves. But the date and the purpose of the Scriptores
Historiae Augustae remain au unsolved problem.
- The fact that at least one of these historical works, the Historia Aurusta,
is guilty of professional dishonesty is not a sign of strength, for historiography of this kind.
 The "Historia Ecclesiastica"
The "Historia Ecclesiastica" was produced by Eusebius who is generally admitted also
to have been the first editor-in-chief of the "Constantine Bible" and it is thus reasonable
to conjecture that these two works may have been produced in the same scriptorium -
the one which Eusebius presided over.
The question which begs to be asked and answered is whether this same "Eusebian controlled Scriptoria"
was also the one which was responsible for the production of the "Historia Augusta". If this is the case,
it is reasonable to be suspicious that both the "Historia Ecclesiastica" and the "Constantine Bible"
are also to be discerned as fictions -- forgeries that exhibit the same characteristics as those
which are outlined above.
And remember, where you have a concentration of power in a few hands,
all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control.
History has proven that. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
--- Lord Acton
Assessing Constantine as a "barbarian" gangster is not difficult at all. As "The Boss" he could
afford to send "The Boss's Mother" on very successful (although totally unbelievable) archaeological
search and retrieve missions to "The Holy Land" for the holy relics of Jesus. The Holy Relics of
Jesus only begin to start turning up with "The Boss's Mother".
Mountain Man Graphics