Julius Obsequens

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Julius Obsequens was a Roman writer who is believed to have lived in the middle of the fourth century AD. The only work associated with his name is the Liber de prodigiis (Book of Prodigies), completely extracted from an epitome, or abridgment, written by Livy; De prodigiis was constructed as an account of the wonders and portents that occurred in Rome between 249 BC-12 BC.

The work was first printed by the Venetian humanist, Aldus Manutius, in 1508, after a manuscript belonging to Jodocus of Verona (now lost). Of great importance was the edition by the Basle Humanist Conrad Lycosthenes (1552), trying to reconstruct lost parts and illustrating the text with wood-cuts. Later editions were printed by F. Oudendorp (Leyde, 1720) and O. Jahn (1853, with the periochae of Livy).

An aspect of Obsequens' work that has inspired much interest in some circles is that references are made to things moving through the sky. These have been interpreted as reports of unidentified flying objects (UFOs), but may just as well describe meteors, and, since Obsequens, probably, writes in the 4th century, that is, some 400 years after the events he describes, they hardly qualify as eye-witness accounts.

For the year 100 BC, for example, Obsequens writes:

"Fax ardens Tarquiniis late visa subito lapsu cadens. Sub occasu solis orbis clipei similis ab occidente ad orientem visus perferri."
"When C. Murius and L. Valerius were consuls, in Tarquinia towards sunset, a round object, like a globe, a round or circular shield, took its path in the sky from west to east."

For the year 91 BC, he reports that:

"At Aenariae, while Livius Troso was promulgating the laws at the beginning of the Italian war, at sunrise, there came a terrific noise in the sky, and a globe of fire appeared burning in the north. In the territory of Spoletum, a globe of fire, of golden color, fell to the earth gyrating. It then seemed to increase in size, rose from the earth and ascended into the sky, where it obscured the sun with its brilliance. It revolved toward the eastern quadrant of the sky."

Finally, Obsequens provided another example of this phenomenon for the year 42 BC, stating simply that:

"something like a sort of weapon, or missile, rose with a great noise from the earth and soared into the sky."

References[edit]

  • Julio Obsecuente, Libro de los Prodigios (restituido a su integridad, en beneficio de la Historia, por Conrado Licóstenes), ed. Ana Moure Casas (Madrid: Ediciones Clásicas, 1990)
  • Giulio Ossequente, Il Libro dei prodigi, ed. Solas Boncompagni (Rome: Edizioni Mediterranee, 1992)
  • Beyer, Jürgen, 'Obsequens, Julius', in Enzyklopädie des Märchens. Handwörterbuch zur historischen und vergleichenden Erzählforschung, vol. 10 (Berlin & New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2000-02), coll. 176-8
  • David Engels, Das römische Vorzeichenwesen (753-27 v.Chr.). Quellen, Terminologie, Kommentar, historische Entwicklung (Stuttgart: Franz-Steiner, 2007), p. 221-235.

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