PROCOPIUS of Caesarea

PROCOPIUS of Caesarea Arcana Historia, qui est liber nonus Historiarum

Lyon, J. Jullieron for A. Brugiotti, 1623


FIRST EDITION. folio. pp (xii), xxiii (i), 135 (i), 142, (xx). Roman and Greek letter in double column. Title in red and black, engraved device of sun with motto “Flammis Ipse Suis”, fine floriated woodcut initials and headpieces, grotesque tail-pieces, eight small engravings in text, early French ms note on fly concerning Theodora, early shelf-marks on pastedown. Light age yellowing, the odd marginal spot. A very good copy, crisp and clean, in slightly later French calf over boards, covers bordered with double gilt rule, spine with raised bands gilt in compartments, ‘MI’ within hexagram gilt in each, a.e.r., upper joint and head and tail of spine worn.

First edition of this important work by Procopius, (Byzantine Greek historian, secretary to Belisarius, famous general of the Emperor Justinian), his famous ‘Secret History’ which had recently been discovered in the Vatican library and edited for publication by Niccolo Alamanni. The text’s existence was known from contemporary sources which referred to it as the Anekdota but had remained unpublished. It covers roughly the same years as the first seven books of Procopius’ History of Justinian’s Wars and appears to have been written after their appearence, in 550-558. The Palestinian Procopius accompanied Belisarius in his early campaigns in Africa and Italy, and was later made prefect of Constantinople, then capital of the Empire, in 562. His History of the Wars, is an account of the events of his own time, our principal surviving source for the first two thirds of Justinian’s reign and the one of the most important surviving first hand sources of Byzantine history. Unlike his earlier work the ‘Historia Arcana’ was never meant for publication and claims to provide explanations and additions that the author could not insert into the former for fear of retribution. Parts are so vitriolic, not to say pornographic, that for some time translations from Greek were only available into Latin “The Historia Arcana of Procopius is a puzzling work. The historian himself describes it as a continuation and correction of his eight-book de Bellis, but its tone seems remarkably different from that of the earlier work – polemical, slanderous, even obscene. Nevertheless, the Historia Arcana is useful as a record of opposition to Justinian’s reign, and is the longest and most detailed source for the life of his Empress, Theodora, and that of General Belisarius’ wife, Antoninaa. Historians discussing Theodora and/or Antonina must turn to the Historia Arcana, and they must adopt some working assumptions about the accuracy of Procopius’ black picture of these women.” E. Fisher. ‘Theodora and Antonina in the Historia Arcana’. Niccolò Alamanni was a Roman antiquarian of Greek origin. He was educated in Rome at the Greek college, founded by Gregory XIII, but was ordained according to the Latin rite. He was appointed secretary to Cardinal Borghese, and afterwards made custodian of the Vatican Libray. He is best remembered as the discoverer and first editor of this important history.

BM STC Fr. C17th. p. 447. Brunet IV 897. Graesse. V 455.

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