Eutropius (AD 363–387) – Brief History of Rome from its Foundation

Eutropius was a Roman historian who wrote his Breviarium Ab Urbe Condita (Brief History of Rome from its Foundation) at the behest of Valens (emperor of the East, 364–378). The work was probably written between 364-378. The Breviarium is a ten-chapter compendium of Roman history from its foundation to the short reign of Jovian.

Of Eutropius himself precious little is certainly known. He might have been born in Burdigala (Bordeaux) and was a man of medicine although other sources Eutropius refer to him as being ‘Italian’ and supposedly held estates in Asia. His name was Greek, which also makes it unlikely he came from Gaul.

He 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). He dedicated his Summary of Roman History to the Emperor Valens (364–378).

References to Britain by Eutropius

Eutropius, Short History 6 (based on Livy, Books 117-142, and Suetonius)

[17] In the six hundred and ninety-third year from the founding of the city, Caius Julius Caesar, who was afterwards emperor, was made consul with Lucius Bibulus;note and Gaul and Illyricum, with ten legions, were decreed to him. He first subdued the Helvetii, who are now called Sequani; and afterwards, by conquering in most formidable wars, proceeded as far as the British Ocean. In about nine years he subdued all that part of Gaul which lies between the Alps, the river Rhône, the Rhine, and the Ocean, and extends in circumference nearly three thousand two hundred miles.

He next made war upon the Britons, to whom not even the name of the Romans was known before his time; and having subdued them, and received hostages, sentenced them to pay a tribute. On Gaul, under the name of tribute, he imposed the yearly sum of forty thousand sesterces; and invading the Germans on the other side of the Rhine, defeated them in several most sanguinary engagements. Among so many successes, he met with three defeats, once in person among the Arverni,note and twice in Germany during his absence; for two of his lieutenant-generals, Titurius and Aurunculeius, were cut off by ambuscades.

Eutropius, Short History 7 (based on Livy, Books 87-116)


[13] After him reigned Claudius, the uncle of Caligula, and son of that Drusus who has a monument at Mogontiacum, whose grandson Caligula also was. His reign was of no striking character; he acted, in many respects, with gentleness and moderation, in some with cruelty and folly.

He made war upon Britain, which no Roman since Julius Caesar had visited; and, having reduced it through the agency of Gnaeus Sentius and Aulus Plautius, illustrious and noble men, he celebrated a magnificent triumph. Certain islands also, called the Orcades, situated in the ocean, beyond Britain, he added to the Roman Empire, and gave his son the name of Britannicus.

So condescending, too, was he towards some of his friends, that he even attended Plautius, a man of noble birth, who had obtained many signal successes in the expedition to Britain, in his triumph, and walked at his left hand when |502 he went up to the Capitol. He lived to the age of sixty-four, and reigned fourteen years; and after his death was consecrated and deified.


[14] In military affairs he attempted nothing. Britain he almost lost; for two of its most noble towns were taken and levelled to the ground under his reign. The Parthians took from him Armenia, and compelled the Roman legions to pass under the yoke. Two provinces however were formed under him; Pontus Polemoniacus, by the concession of King Polemon; and the Cottian Alps, on the death of King Cottius.


[19] To him succeeded Vespasian, who had been chosen emperor in Palestine, a prince indeed of obscure birth, but worthy to be compared with the best emperors, and in private life greatly distinguished, as he had been sent by Claudius into Germany, and afterwards into Britain, and had contended two and thirty times with the enemy; he had also added to the Roman Empire two very powerful nations, twenty towns, and the Isle of Wight on the coast of Britain.

Eutropius, Short History 8 (From Nerva to Severus Alexander – based on the Enmannsche Kaisergeschichte)


[19] Severus, in addition to his glory in war, was also distinguished in the pursuits of peace, being not only accomplished in literature, but having acquired a complete knowledge of philosophy.

The last war that he had was in Britain; and that he might preserve, with all possible security, the provinces which he had acquired, he built a rampart of thirty-two miles long from one sea to the other. He died at an advanced age at York, in the eighteenth year and fourth month of his reign,note and was honored with the title of god.

Eutropius, Short History 9 (From Maximinus Thrax to Diocletian based on the Enmannsche Kaisergeschichte)


[21] During this period, Carausius, who, though of very mean birth, had gained extraordinary reputation by a course of active service in war, having received a commission in his post at Bononia, to clear the sea, which the Franks and Saxons infested, along the coast of Belgica and Armorica, and having captured numbers of the barbarians on several occasions, but having never given back the entire booty to the people of the province or sent it to the emperors, and there being a suspicion, in consequence, that the barbarians were intentionally allowed by him to congregate there, that he might seize them and their booty as they passed, and by that means enrich himself, assumed, on being sentenced by Maximian to be put to death, the imperial purple, and took on him the government of Britain.

[22] While disorder thus prevailed throughout the world, while Carausius was taking arms in Britain and Achilleus in Egypt, while the Quinquegentiani were harassing Africa, and Narses was making war upon the east, Diocletian promoted Maximian Herculius from the dignity of caesar to that of emperor, and created Constantius and Maximian Galerius caesars,note of whom Constantius is said to have been the grand-nephew of Claudius by a daughter, and Maximian Galerius to have been born in Dacia not far from Serdica.

That he might also unite them by affinity, Constantius married Theodora the step-daughter of Herculius, by whom he had afterwards six children, brothers to Constantine; while Galerius married Valeria, the daughter of Diocletian; both being obliged to divorce the wives that they had before.

With Carausius, however, as hostilities were found vain against a man eminently skilled in war, a peace was at last arranged. At the end of seven years, Allectus, one of his supporters, put him to death, and held Britain himself for three years subsequently, but was cut off by the efforts of Asclepiodotus, prefect of the praetorian guard.

Eutropius, Short History 9 (From Constantine to Iovian based on Eutropius’ own experiences)


But after the death of Constantius, Constantine, his son by a wife of obscure birth, was made emperor in Britain, and succeeded his father as a most desirable ruler.

Roman Sites to visit in South East England