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|Vortigern Studies > Vortigern > The Sources > Victorius|
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Victorius of Aquitaine, a countryman of Prosper and also working in Rome, produced in 457 an Easter Cycle, which was based on the consular list provided by Prospers Chronicle. This dependency caused scholars to think that Prosper had been working on his own Easter Annals for quite some time. In fact, Victorius published his work only two years after the final publication of Prosper's Chronicle. Victorius finished his Cursus Paschalis in A.P. 330 (A.D. 457); from that date onwards he left blank the column giving the names of the consuls, but his lunar tables were extended to the year A.D. 559 or A.P. 532 - hence the name, Cursus Paschalis annorum DXXXII (Easter Table up to the year 532). This first version was later continued by other authors, who filled in the names as the years passed.
The Victorian system of the Cursus Paschalis was made official by synod in Gaul in 541 and was still in use for historical work in England by 743, when an East Anglian king-list was created, which doube-dated by Victorian and Dionysian eras. Also, it was used for a letter to Charlemagne in 773. Victorius was, probably in its continued form, a source for both Bede (who found here that Aetius was consul for the third time in A.D. 446) and the Historia Brittonum. However, by this time the Cursus Paschalis was probably obsolete both in England and Wales.
As with all sources from Antiquity, Victorius is not a totally reliable source of information. For instance, between the years AD 276 and AD 345 the consuls mentioned by Victorius are one year off with the consuls named in the 'Chronochraphy of 354' (also named 'Calendar of 354'), a 4th century illuminated manuscript, which was produced in 354 AD for a wealthy Roman Christian named Valentius. This MS contains (part VIII) a list of Roman consuls up to 354 AD. These problems do not influence the theory below, however. But it once more illustrates that sources must be studied and compared, not taken at face value as too often happens in 'genealogical studies' seen on the internet.
The text of the Cursus Paschalis begins with Year 1, which is the year A.P. 1 and hence the year A.D. 28. As noted above, Victorius' entries ended with A.P. 330 (A.D. 457).
Nennius the supposed author of the Historia Brittonum, probably used Victorius' Cursus for the consuls that were active in the yearsof certain events that he had found earlier. These consuls he then apparently inserted into his own work for the embellishment of his history. Dumville suggested that 'Nennius' used a copy of the Cursus that was probably of irish descent, which contained synchronisms of consular dates with some important Irish events. This might have inspired him to do the same for his British history. Miller suggested that the author was trained in the north (probably York) and had thus aquainted himself with the Victorian system.
Though it has been proposed that Nennius, by looking for the consuls and then supplying the year (especially when looking for the dates of Vortigern), in fact misused Victorius Cursus, I have tried to challenge that opinion. Though the full discussion is printed elsewhere, some of it is printed here as well, because of its strong reliance on the consuls presented in the Cursus Paschalis. The Computus (a.k.a. chapter 66 of the Historia Brittonum) presents us with three highly important dates. This passage purports to date three crucial events in fifth-century Britain; the accession of Vortigern (in A.D. 425) and the arrival of the Saxons in the fourth year of Vortigern (A.D. 429). This is the full text of chapter 66:
All dates are embellished with regnal years of consuls, found in the Cursus Paschalis, apart from the last one.
However, none of these dates agree with the more traditional dates for these events presented by Bede and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. For most scholars an 'early' Vortigern as opposed to Bedes dating around A.D. 449 might be acceptable, but such an early date for the coming of the Saxons is out of the question.
This apparent discrepancy led David Dumville to conclude that 'Nennius' was attempting to write a synthetic history and as a result looked for the dates of the Adventus Saxonum and the accession of Vortigern. Dumville states that 'Nennius' computed these dates himself, using only two sources, Prosper's Epitoma Chronicon, and Victorius' Cursus Paschalis. After he had made the calculation as to the date he wanted, 'Nennius' subsequently would have added the necessary references to the contemporary Roman consuls from Victorius' Cursus Paschalis to add authority to his text. For the full discussion, see Forty years of Fear. What remains clear is that, though 'Nennius' certainly used the Cursius of Victorius, he completely misunderstood the difference between A.P. and A.D. dates, and often mistook the one for the other.
Vortigerns Accession - 425
The Cursus Paschalis was first used for the establishment of Vortigerns accession. Dumville saw the statement in chapter 31 as the key:
According to Dumville, 'Nennius' would have discovered from Prosper that Maximus' death occurred at the hands of the Emperors Theodosius and Valentinian in A.D. 388. To this he would have added the period of forty years (the period mentioned in chapter 31) to arrive at the date for the Adventus Saxonum. According to Dumville, a statement in chapter 29 showed that 'Nennius' believed that emperors gave way to consuls:
This is a quotation from Prospers Chronicle (c. 1191, AD 388), though altered by the substitution of the word consulibus for imperatoribus, which was supposedly confirmed when he found in the Victorian Cursus Paschalis that Valentinian and Theodosius were consuls in A.D. 387 and 388 (Dumville 1972-74: 444).
Adventus Saxonum - 428
Based on this, Dumville also rejected the calculation of the Adventus Saxonum. As 'Nennius' supposedly wished to establish the accession of Vortigern, he would have turned again to the Cursus Paschalis to find both consuls who brought the reign of Maximus to an end, and found both Valentinian and Theodosius mentioned together for the first time in Anno CCCXCVIII (A.D. 425). Nennius then supposedly equated these consuls in A.D. 425 with the emperors in A.D. 388. Hence, since Vortigern supposedly succeeded Maximus, his accession occurred in A.D. 425. This meant that the Adventus Saxonum took place in A.D. 388 + the Forty Years of Fear = A.D. 428.
Since my rejection of Dumvilles method is printed in full elsewhere, I will concentrate here on the involvement of Victorius Cursus Paschalis only.
Dumville seems to assume that 'Nennius' failed to distinguish the emperors of the fourth from their successors of the fifth century, confusing the emperors Theodosius I and Valentinian II of the fourth century, with Theodosius II and Valentinian III. But 'Nennius' used Prosper's chronicle for one of the sources, who ascribed the fall of Maximus to Theodosius and Valentinian sub anno 388. Nennius would therefore have surely noticed that in the Victorian Cursus Paschalis, the names of Stilicho and Aetius appeared before the year that he supposedly equated with the death of Maximus. He would then also have known that the consuls he found in A.D. 425 were not the emperors that ended Maximus reign!
Furthermore, Dumville assumes that 'Nennius' looked in the Victorian Cursus Paschalis for the first appearance of Theodosius and Valentinian together to deduce the accession of Vortigern. But Dumville fails to explain why 'Nennius' supposedly had to choose for the year A.D. 425 for this event, instead of, e.g. A.D. 426, where both names occur as well, as they do in other years. The names of Theodosius and Valentinian also appear in several other years by themselves, as they of course do before the death of Maximus. As there is no reason why 'Nennius' would not have chosen any of these dates, the supposed choice of this date now becomes difficult to explain.
To illustrate this, I have printed here a large part of the Cursus Paschalis, from the year AD 367 to AD 497, the last date mentioned in chapter 66 of the Historia Brittonum.
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