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Commentarii ‘memoranda’, were often private or businesslike, e.g. accounts, notebooks for speeches, legal notes, or teaching materials. Their public use (excluding the false ‘commentarii of the kings’) developed in the priestly colleges (e.g. pontifices, see libri pontificales, and augures), and with magistrates (consuls, censors, aediles) and provincial governors. They apparently recorded decisions and other material relevant for future consultation, and at least in some cases explained their rationale: this could amount to a manual of protocol. Under the empire the ‘imperial memoranda’ (commentarii principis) provided an archive of official constitutions, rescripts (see magister libellorum), etc: entering a decision in the commentarii conferred its legal authority.

In the late republic a more literary usage developed, ‘memoir’ rather than ‘memoranda’. Various records, handbooks, and other learned works were so described, but especially autobiographies, under the influence of such Greek works as Aratus (2)'s ‘memoirs’ (ὑπομνήματα‎, the nearest Greek equivalent): thus perhaps the work of Sulla, more certainly Cicero's accounts of his consulship and above all Caesar's commentarii. Such works favoured a plain style, ostensibly concentrating on content rather than the more obvious forms of rhetoric: they might purport to provide raw material for others to work up (Plut.Luc. 1. 4; Cic.Ep. Att. 2. 1. 2, Brut.262; HirtiusBGall. 8 pr. 5), but that pretence was sometimes thin.


F. Bömer, Hermes, Zeitschrift für klassische Philologie 1953, 210–250.Find this resource:

    J. Rüpke, Gymnasium 1992, 201–226.Find this resource:

      J. Marincola, Authority and Tradition in Ancient Historiography (1997), 180–182, 195–198.Find this resource:

        E. Meyer, Legitimacy and Law in the Roman World (2004), 32–33.Find this resource:

          A. Riggsby, Caesar in Gaul and Rome (2006).Find this resource:

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