Eutropius (historian)

Flavius Eutropius (fl.around AD 360) was a Roman historian.


The exact background and birthplace of Eutropius is disputed. Some scholars claim he was born in Burdigala (Bordeaux) and was a man of medicine.[1] Others, however, most notably H.W. Bird, have dismissed these claims as being highly unlikely. Eutropius has been referred to as 'Italian' in other sources and supposedly held estates in Asia. Aside from that, his name was Greek, making it unlikely he came from Gaul.[2] He was, however, almost certainly a pagan and remained one under the emperor Julian's Christian successors.[1]

He served as the imperial secretary (Latin: magister memoriae) in Constantinople. He accompanied Julian the Apostate (r 361–363) on his expedition against the Parthians in 363.[1] He survived at least as long as the reign of the emperor Valens (364–378), to whom he dedicated his Summary of Roman History.

His history ends during Valens's reign but he possibly survived and held high office in later years as well: a "Eutropius" is known to have served as praetorian prefect for Illyria in 380 and imperial consulwith the emperor Valentinian IIin 387.[1][3]


His Summary of Roman History (Latin: Breviarium Historiae Romanae) is a ten-chapter compendium of Roman history from its foundation to the accession of Valens. It was compiled with considerable care from the best accessible authorities; it was written in a clear and simple style; and it treats its subjects with general impartiality.[1] For the Republican period, Eutropius depended upon an epitome of Livy. For the Empire, he appears to have used Suetonius and the now lost Enmannsche Kaisergeschichte. At the end, he probably made use of his own personal experiences.[4]


The independent value of his Summary is small, but it sometimes fills a gap left by the more authoritative records. It is particularly useful to historians for its account of the First Punic War, as no copy of Livy's original books for that period have survived.

Its stylistic and methodological virtues caused it to be much used by later Roman chroniclers.[1] In particular, it received expanded editions by Paul the Deacon and Landolf Sagax[5] that repeated the original text and then continued it into the reigns of Justinian the Great and Leo the Armenian respectively. It was translated into Greek by Paeanius around 380[1] and by Capito Lycius in the 6th century. The latter translation has survived almost in its entirety.

Although Eutropius's style contains some idiosyncrasies, the work's plain style made it long a favorite elementary Latin schoolbook. A scholarly edition was compiled by H. Droysen in 1879, containing Capito Lycius's Greek edition and the expanded Latin editions of Paul and Landolf. There have been numerous English editions and translations, including Bird's.[6]



  1. Lieu (1998), p. 77.
  2. Eutropius, active 4th century. (1993). The breviarium ab urbe condita of Eutropius : the right honourable secretary of state for general petitions : dedicated to Lord Valens, Gothicus Maximus & perpetual emperor. Bird, H. W. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. ISBN 0-85323-208-3. OCLC 28250017.
  3. Bird (1993), pp. vii & seq.
  4. Bird (1993), pp. xliv & seq.
  5. Landolfus Sagax, Historia Miscella, about AD 1000.
  6. Bird (1993).


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Eutropius". Encyclopædia Britannica. 9 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 958.
  • Bird, Harold W., ed. (1993), Breviarium, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, ISBN 978-0853232087.
  • Den Boer, Willem (1972), Some Minor Roman Historians, Leiden: Brill, pp. 114 & seq., ISBN 90-04-03545-1
  • Lieu, Samuel N. C. (1998), "Eutropius", Encyclopaedia Iranica, Vol. IX, Fasc. 1, p. 77.
Political offices
Preceded by
Flavius Euodius
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Valentinian II
Succeeded by
Magnus Maximus,
Theodosius I,
Maternus Cynegius
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