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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Vegetius on the Roman navy : translation and commentary, book four, 31-46 Emanuele, Paul Daniel


This thesis is made up of three parts. The first discusses by way of introduction the unresolved questions concerning Flavius Vegetius Renatus and his Epitoma Rei Militaris, reviewing the arguments and evidence which have been brought to bear on such fundamental issues as the proper spelling of the author's name, his station in life, the place in which he lived and wrote, his floruit-date and the identity of the emperor to whom he dedicated his work. Since there exists no external evidence which might aid in the solution of any of these problems, the arguments put forward have been based upon clues found within the text. It has been established with certainty that Vegetius wrote sometime between A.D. 383 and 450; but in this sixty-seven year interval, which is not longer than a man's life-span, five emperors reigned in the West, any one of whom might have been Vegetius' dedicatee. Beyond this, however, nothing is certain. The next portion of the thesis consists of a translation into English of the last part of Book 4 (chapters 31-46), a treatise on the Roman navy. This relatively easy task was most recently undertaken by John Clarke in 1767. The last and most substantial section of the present work is a commentary upon Vegetius' naval chapters dealing with the history of the Roman fleets, their organisation, the types of ships they used, the preparation of shipbuilding wood, the winds, astrological meteorology, tides and currents, naval artillery, armour and battle tactics. By presenting such a wide range of subjects Vegetius has produced a handbook on the Roman art of war at sea which is without parallel in Latin literature. Very little that he says, however, cannot be found in the work of at least one Greek or Latin author; a great deal is available in several. Among these are technical writers, poets and historians. The commentary, then, consists in large part of citations of such sources as may corroborate or contradict Vegetius' statements or supply further information. Although it is likely that Vegetius himself consulted some of these, in only one instance is it possible to establish his debt to any specific predecessor. The references supplied in the commentary are taken from many ancient works whose number and diversity of subject matter show that our author was a well-read and scholarly individual.

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