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Marcellinus Comes

Latin chronicler of the sixth century

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Marcellinus Comes, Latin chronicler of the sixth century. He was an Illyrian by birth, but spent his life at the court of Constantinople. Under Justin I (518-527) Marcellinus was chancellor to Justinian, the Emperor’s nephew already chosen as his successor. When Justinian succeeded to the throne (527-565), his chancellor remained in favor and obtained various high places in the government. Otherwise little or nothing is known of his life. He died apparently soon after 534. The only surviving work of Marcellinus is his chronicle (Annales), one of the many continuations of Eusebius. It covers the period from 379 to 534. First he brought it down to 518, then he added a continuation to 534, as he says himself in the work. An unknown writer added a continuation down to 566. Although the work is in Latin, it describes almost exclusively the affairs of the East. The author says truly that he has “followed only the Eastern Empire” The few facts about Western Europe, taken from Orosius’s “Historia adv. paganos” and Gennadius’s “De viris illustribus”, are introduced only in as much as they relate in some way to Constantinople. On the other hand the chronicle is filled with unimportant details and anecdotes about that city and its court. Contemporary Church history is described fully as far as the East is concerned. Marcellinus is uncompromisingly orthodox and has no good word to say of any of the heretics who appear in his pages. He is often inaccurate. He mentions Theodoret of Cyrus in 466, whereas that person died ten years earlier. Cassiodorus (De Institut. divinis, XVII) mentions two other works of this author, four books “De temporum qualitatibus et positionibus locorum”; and a “most exact description of the cities of Constantinople and Jerusalem in four little books”. Both are lost.

Marcellinus’s “Annales” were first published at Paris in 1546 (by A. Schonhovius); again by J. Sirmond (Paris, 1619); in the Lyons “Maxima Bibliotheca veterum Patrum” (1677), IV, 517; in Gallandi’s “Bibliotheca veterum Patrum”, X, 343; and in”P.L.” LI, 917. The best text is that of Mommsen in his”Chronica minora” in “Monum. Germ. hist. auct. antiquiss.” (Berlin, 1894), IX, pp. 37 sq. The work is used by Jordanis the Goth (d. c. 560).



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