The poet Nemesianus and the Historia Augusta

Justin Stover, George Woudhuysen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lurking in the Historia Augusta’s life of the short-lived Emperor Carus is what appears to be a reference to the genuine contemporary poet Nemesianus and an extant work by him, the Cynegetica. Given the HA’s predilection for ‘bogus authors’, this is rather surprising, but because some of what the HA says about Nemesianus is true, the otherwise unique details of his life and works that it provides have been generally accepted. We show first that the reference to the Cynegetica is an incorporated gloss in the text of the HA, one that reveals that the text was being read and studied in northern Francia. We then demonstrate that the name ‘Olympius’, which the HA gives to Nemesianus, is not authentic, offering an analysis of the text’s onomastic habits more generally. We show that ‘Olympius Nemesianus’ is one of several invented authors in the HA, lent a superficial plausibility by borrowing the name of some real ancient writer. Finally, we reflect on the way that these conclusions might undermine two developing tendencies in the study of the Historia Augusta.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Roman Studies
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 24 May 2022


  • Historia Augusta
  • Nemesianus
  • onomastics
  • transmissions
  • manuscripts


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