A PARTIAL EDITION OF "LES FAIS DES ROMMAINS"

THOMAS JAMES MCCORMICK, Fordham University

Abstract

Les Fais des Rommains is an early fifteenth century copy of an anonymous prose translation of Roman history with Julius Caesar as the central figure. The subject matter is primarily based upon histories of Sallust, Suetonius, Julius Caesar, and Lucan. Less frequently used sources are works by Isidore of Seville, Flavius Josephus, Petrus Comestor, St. Augustine, as well as the Bible. It is an ambitious attempt on the part of the author to glean from the best Roman historians a history of Roman civilization with intentional didactic emendations suitable to a medieval audience. These changes include instructions on leading a life of virtue and invented battle scenes similar to those in the chansons de geste. Fifty-nine manuscripts of the translation are accounted for to date. The oldest known one was written in the thirteenth century and is the only edited manuscript on the subject. It is supplemented by another from the same century. The manuscript discussed in this study is located in the British Museum. It is perhaps that manuscript of the best group which is most representative of the fifteenth century. Therefore, it is the most suitable for a new edition. In spite of the widely extended popularity of the topic during the Middle Ages, relatively scant scholarship has been devoted to the subject until more recent years. Because of the need for a new and modern edition of the translation, the author of this dissertation intends to publish a complete critical edition, incorporating substantial portions of the material of the study into the introduction and notes.^ In the dissertation, Les Fais des Rommains is partially edited, ending with Book IV of Julius Ceasar's De bello Gallico. It is demonstrated that the most noteworthy feature and that which best illustrates the value in translating and editing this particular version is to be found in the changes in syntax and style as well as in miscellaneous unclassifiable changes which are occasioned consciously or unconsciously in the course of perhaps two centuries, between the edited thirteenth century verion and the fifteenth century rendition under discussion in this study.^ The procedure used is to present an explanation of the type of change taking place, while indicating the particular variants by means of striking contrasting examples from both the fifteenth and thirteenth century versions of the subject matter. It is shown that while the scribe of the fifteenth century copy frequently condenses the style found in the older work, at times he is much more elaborate. The copyist of the newer version tends to replace parts of speech in the older rendition with more recent forms which often better clarify the material. His work also includes examples indicative of more recent French syntax. His manuscript likewise presents examples which are the antithesis of the equivalents in the earlier edition, and which at times are lacking in sense. There are many instances in which the Latin proper names in both versions differ from each other. However, it is shown that there are many more instances in which proper names in both works differ from the original Latin sources. Many of the changes between the two versions show the imagination of a scribe raisonneur.^ On the eve of the introduction of printing when the ideal of complete fidelity to the author's words would be realized, the scribe of Les Fais des Rommains reminds one that no two manuscripts are identical. Here a scribe is faithful to his text, but echoes the thoughts and language of his times. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Medieval

Recommended Citation

THOMAS JAMES MCCORMICK, "A PARTIAL EDITION OF "LES FAIS DES ROMMAINS"" (January 1, 1981). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI8123559.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8123559

Share

COinS