Roman history from non-Roman sources

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,870
Blachernai
Traditionally, most of Roman imperial history is written from Greek and Latin texts. But at least for the late empire we have material in Syriac and Armenian. I've read enough scholarship to suggest that at least the main historical narratives in these languages are not being ignored (especially when they're available in translation) but they generally seem to be considered to be secondary to the Greek and Latin sources, and it's certainly true that there's little in these other languages that match, say, Ammianus Marcellinus when it comes to high politics and the military. But are the traditions in other languages integrated as well into Roman history as they can be? Or will they always be secondary?

I ask this coming from a slightly later period. For example, our Greek sources for the middle of the seventh century are seriously deficient and written much later, and only in the last little while have scholars come to realize that there's an invaluable contemporary Armenian history. This history does not always match what we think we know about the period, but it also makes a lot of sense and continues to hold up to scrutiny.
 

cachibatches

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
2,351
Josephus is pretty well integrated.

An interesting note: I was watching the latest Henry Louis Gates special and he demonstrated that there is an untranslated Meroitic account of the Nubian War.
 
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HackneyedScribe

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
6,494
I don't think Josephus counts. When he wrote his book he was a Roman citizen born in Roman territory writing to convince people not to rebel, as he himself rebelled and then surrendered, and then worked directly for the Roman emperors with a Roman pension and Imperial Roman patronage.
 
Oct 2018
1,514
Sydney
For example, our Greek sources for the middle of the seventh century are seriously deficient and written much later, and only in the last little while have scholars come to realize that there's an invaluable contemporary Armenian history. This history does not always match what we think we know about the period, but it also makes a lot of sense and continues to hold up to scrutiny.
Are you referring to Agathangelos? Am I right in remembering that Moses Khorenats'i was writing later?
 
Oct 2018
1,514
Sydney
And to answer your question, yes I don't think late antique scholars on the whole make enough use of non-Graeco-Roman literary sources. They also don't make enough use of later Byzantine histories like that of Zonaras.
 

starman

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
4,104
Connecticut
We’re indebted to the Sassanids for the monuments at Bishapur and Naqs-i-Rustam. Without them our knowledge of mid third century events would be based on Roman sources with their omissions and deceptions. But the monuments may not count for Greek was one of the languages they use.
 
Oct 2018
1,514
Sydney
We’re indebted to the Sassanids for the monuments at Bishapur and Naqs-i-Rustam. Without them our knowledge of mid third century events would be based on Roman sources with their omissions and deceptions. But the monuments may not count for Greek was one of the languages they use.
Yeah the so-called Res Gestae Divi Saporis is trilingual: Middle Persian, Parthian and Greek.
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,870
Blachernai
I don't think Josephus counts. When he wrote his book he was a Roman citizen born in Roman territory writing to convince people not to rebel, as he himself rebelled and then surrendered, and then worked directly for the Roman emperors with a Roman pension and Imperial Roman patronage.
Indeed, and he wrote it in Greek, so it's not part of a non-Graeco-Roman literary tradition.

Are you referring to Agathangelos? Am I right in remembering that Moses Khorenats'i was writing later?
Pseudo-Sebeos. There's a Robert Thomson English translation. It includes a commentary by Howard-Johnston, who refined his thoughts in Witnesses to a World Crisis, but who also wrote the much shorter Encyclopedia Iranica article.

And to answer your question, yes I don't think late antique scholars on the whole make enough use of non-Graeco-Roman literary sources. They also don't make enough use of later Byzantine histories like that of Zonaras.
Might part of the problem with this be the lack of editions? I believe we have a Kedrenos now, but Tocci is still years away from finishing Zonaras.