1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Festus

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FESTUS (? Rufus or Rufius), one of the Roman writers of breviaria (epitomes of Roman history). The reference to the defeat of the Goths at Noviodunum (A.D. 369) by the emperor Valens, and the fact that the author is unaware of the constitution of Valentia as a province (which took place in the same year) are sufficient indication to fix the date of composition. Mommsen identifies the author with Rufius Festus, proconsul of Achaea (366), and both with Rufius Festus Avienus (q.v.), the translator of Aratus. But the absence of the name Rufius in the best MSS. is against this. Others take him to be Festus of Tridentum, magister memoriae (secretary) to Valens and proconsul of Asia, where he was sent to punish those implicated in the conspiracy of Theodorus, a commission which he executed with such merciless severity that his name became a byword. The work itself (Breviarium rerum gestarum populi Romani) is divided into two parts—one geographical, the other historical. The chief authorities used are Livy, Eutropius and Florus. It is extremely meagre, but the fact that the last part is based on the writer’s personal recollections makes it of some value for the history of the 4th century.

Editions by W. Förster (Vienna, 1873) and C. Wagener (Prague, 1886); see also R. Jacobi, De Festi breviarii fontibus (Bonn, 1874), and H. Peter, Die geschichtliche Litt. über die römische Kaiserzeit ii. p. 133 (1897), where the epitomes of Festus, Aurelius Victor and Eutropius are compared.