EUTROPIUS wrote his Breviarium Ab Urbe Condita (Brief History of Rome from its Foundation) at the behest of Valens (emperor of the East, 364–378), whom he titles Gothicus Maximus, which indicates the work was composed in 369/70. The Breviarium is divided into ten books, but this is deceptive – in Ruehl’s 1887 edition, it occupies only 75 pages. Eutropius prefaces the work:
According to the pleasure of your Clemency, I have arranged in a brief narrative, in order of time, such particulars in the history of Rome as seemed most worthy of notice, in transactions either of war or peace, from the foundation of the city to our own days;* adding concisely, also, such matters as were remarkable in the lives of the emperors; that your Serenity’s divine mind may rejoice to learn that it has followed the actions of illustrious men in governing the empire, before it became acquainted with them by reading.
Of Eutropius himself precious little is certainly known. In the Breviarium (X, 16), he mentions that he had served under the emperor Julian (who, because of his rejection of Christianity, is known as Julian the Apostate) on his Persian campaign of 363 (where Julian was killed).* In a single 10th century manuscript (Codex Bambergensis E.III.22), which only contains the dedication and preface of the Breviarium, not the work itself, Eutropius is titled magister memoriae (secretary of state for general petitions). Conjectures concerning his later career, based on the coincidence of the name Eutropius, may be encountered.
Translation by John Selby Watson