Anonymous, Origo Gentis Romanae: The Origin of the Roman People (2004). Preface.
There are many untranslated texts in the mass of medieval Latin manuscripts that has come down to us. One such is a three-part work which appears in the manuscripts under the name of Sextus Aurelius Victor, with the title 'Origo Gentis Romanae'. In modern times, this label has become attached to the first part only of this work. The second part is the well-known epitome of Roman history, the De Caesaribus of Aurelius Victor, while the third is a De viris illustribus.
The work is extant in two manuscripts:
The three parts were assembled into a single corpus, perhaps in late antiquity, but have diverse authorship and origins. It seems likely that the author of the Origo was a pagan, living in the second half of the fourth century.
While part two has been translated into English at least twice, the first portion has never had an English translation until now.
In early 2004, I posted a message to three internet fora, soc.history.ancient, soc.history.medieval, and humanities.classics. The message wondered aloud what happens to all the graduates fluent in Latin and Greek that leave our universities every year, and whether anyone could suggest a way in which one might get untranslated texts in front of people with the skills to do something about it, and with time on their hands. These fora are primarily used by adolescents to hurl insults at each other, so I was unsure whether useful information would result; on the other hand, I thought it possible that students might be interested.
The response took me rather by surprise. Several posters suggested that an online collaborative effort would probably be effective in translating a text, and volunteered to be involved. Anxious not to lose momentum, I therefore set up a webpage on which anyone who accessed the page could enter text. The only Latin text I had to hand was the Origo, from www.thelatinlibrary.com, of which I had translated a few pieces. This I cut up into chapters, and made the Latin and a box for English available online. I also cross-posted a notice into alt.language.latin, and the LT-ANTIQ mailing list.
Over the next fortnight, the majority of the text was translated by people who had seen the messages, as a bit of fun to which anyone could contribute, even if only a few words here or there or a comment. Over the next few weeks, the remainder was done, and various corrections made. The result is now online here. I have edited down the comments slightly, and these also appear now as endnotes. I have not tried to remove the conversational nature of some of them: rather to preserve the flavour of the effort. The Latin text as received was corrected slightly, and proved to be a transcription of the Tuebner edition. It is appended, for reference.
When the project was almost complete, I learned that Dr Tom Banchich and his group were working on a scholarly translation, to appear online! He also told me that a couple of German translations had been done recently. I am glad that we didn't interfere with each other. The Origo Gentis Romanae, translated by Kyle Haniszewski, Lindsay Karas, Kevin Koch, Emily Parobek, Colin Pratt, and Brian Serwicki under the supervision of Thomas M. Banchich (Canisius College Translated Texts, Number 3: Buffalo, New York, 2004) is now posted at http://www.roman-emperors.org/histsou.htm, where it joins earlier translations of the Epitome de Caesaribus and Festus' Breviarium.
This experiment was a lot of fun for all who participated. It is hoped that the availability of this translation will increase interest in this curious 4th century text.
6th March 2003.
Jean-Claude RICHARD, Pseudo-Aurelius Victor, Les Origines du Peuple Romain. Paris: Budé/Belles Lettres (1983). ISBN: 2-251-01320-2. Critical text and French translation.
This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2004. All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
Greek text is rendered using the Scholars Press SPIonic font, free from here.
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