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Full Version: Historians and Chroniclers in Ancient Rome
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I have been wondering what roles historians and chroniclers played in ancient Roman society? Where they respected, who were these men and who employed them? The emperors? the senate? the legions? I was hoping that since we are all historians (professional or amateur), we could collectively put our heads together and find out what we can about our ancient and noble profession.


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It depends, wasn't Suetonius in the court of the emperor Hadrian before he got thrown out for being rude to Sabina (which seems odd considering the Emperor's dislike for his wife). When you think about it being admitted into the Emperor's circle is a very high honour (which also gave Suetonius the benefits of using the Imperial records) although I'm not entirely sure if his profession was as a historian at the time, but rather as a member of the guards.

It seems to me many of the ancient historians turned to writing history as a side-job, something to be done in retirement perhaps or to supplement some other work. Plutarch belonged to the Priesthood, while men like Arrian, Xenophon, and Ammianus Marcellinus were military men. Josephus was employed by Titus to write a history of the Jewish Wars with Rome (so he was more of a captive turned historian) while Polybius was a Greek exile to Rome after the defeat of Macedon in 168 BC, although he had been a statesman and soldier in his early years.

It seems to me that writing history was the type of respectful thing to be done by men in retirement, along with tending the garden, creating treatises on philosophy, and writing letters to friends. I can't seem to think of anyone whose sole profession was as a historian - like you'd find today, although I'm not 100% sure about that.
I don't think the ancient world had any sort of professional writer. There was no publishing industry to speak of. The tradition was that of the gentleman-amateur. This resulted in some truly dreadful poetry, most of which, thankfully, has not survived. Some may have written history flattering to the sovereign, hoping for patronage. Macaenas was the first man in history to make his name as a patron of the arts and he seems to have supported many writers. Poets and dramatists seem to have enjoyed the highest esteem. But if a man's "job" was writing, then he would have been considered a mere workman, not a literary figure at all.