Factorum ac dictorum memorabilium libri IX  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Nine Books of Memorable Deeds and Sayings by Valerius Maximus is a collection of stories of Roman history, loosely and irregularly arranged, each book being divided into sections, and each section bearing as its title the topic, most commonly some virtue or vice, or some merit or demerit, which the stories in the section are intended to illustrate.

Most of the tales are from Roman history, but each section has an appendix consisting of extracts from the annals of other peoples, principally the Greeks. The exposition exhibits strongly the two currents of feeling which are intermingled by almost every Roman writer of the empire--the feeling that the Romans of the writer's own day are degenerate creatures when confronted with their own republican predecessors, and the feeling that, however degenerate, the latter-day Romans still tower above the other peoples of the world, and in particular are morally superior to the Greeks.

The author's chief sources are Cicero, Livy, Sallust and Pompeius Trogus, especially the first two. Valerius's treatment of his material is careless and unintelligent in the extreme; but in spite of his contusions, contradictions and anachronisms, the excerpts are apt illustrations, from the rhetorician's point of view, of the circumstance or quality they were intended to illustrate. And even on the historical side we owe something to Valerius. He often used sources now lost, and where he touches on his own time he affords us some glimpses of the much debated and very imperfectly recorded reign of Tiberius.


Factorum ac dictorum memorabilium libri IX ("nine books of memorable deeds and sayings", also known as De factis dictisque memorabilibus or Facta et dicta memorabilia) by Valerius Maximus (c. 20 BCE – c. CE 50) was written around CE 30 or 31. is a collection of approximately a thousand short stories that Valerius wrote during the reign of Tiberius (42 BCE – CE 37). The stories are a variety of anecdotes illustrating how the ancient Romans lived. While the majority of the stories are of Roman life, he does have some foreign stories at the end of some chapters. Most of these are of Greek life and most of those are about Greek philosophers or famous kings.

Several of the stories relate to moral subjects that parallel those in the Old Testament and New Testament. Valerius refers to his moral stories as "examples" that were to be used as moral guidance. Valerius' work on the preservation of moral values of the Roman Republic of the past was widely popular through the Age of Enlightenment, a literary life-span of some 1,700 years. People read Valerius' work for practical guidance in their everyday tasks for living a moral life. This work was especially used as a reference by writers and professional orators.

It is estimated that Valerius's work on these nine books took over a decade. He obtained material from Cicero, and from Livy, Sallust, Pompeius Trogus, Marcus Terentius Varro and other ancient historians. Each of the nine books has several chapters. Each chapter is outlined and grouped thematically and contains several stories illustrating that theme. This work is the earliest known use of a hierarchical organization system for topics of a book. There are a total of 91 chapters covering a wide variety of subjects drawn from Roman life. Valerius arranges his chapters focused on particular virtues, moral and immoral habits, religious practices, superstitions and ancient traditions. There is a thematic guide at the end of the work.

See also

  • Brothel scene [1]

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