UW Press




FaceBook Twitter Tumblr GoodReads UW Press Newsletter

UW Press Blog







UW Madison

American Association of University Presses




The Play of Allusion in the Historia Augusta
David Rohrbacher

Wisconsin Studies in Classics
Patricia A. Rosenmeyer, Laura McClure, Mark Stansbury-O’Donnell, and Matthew Roller, Series Editors

“An important addition to the scholarship of the Historia Augusta. . . . Offers us a steady platform from which to begin assessing the work more safely. For that, Rohrbacher is deserving of no small praise.”

By turns outlandish, humorous, and scatological, the Historia Augusta is an eccentric compilation of biographies of the Roman emperors and usurpers of the second and third centuries. Historians of late antiquity have struggled to explain the fictional date and authorship of the work and its bizarre content (did the Emperor Carinus really swim in pools of floating apples and melons? did the usurper Proculus really deflower a hundred virgins in fifteen days?). David Rohrbacher offers, instead, a literary analysis of the work, focusing on its many playful allusions. Marshaling an array of interdisciplinary research and original analysis, he contends that the Historia Augusta originated in a circle of scholarly readers with an interest in biography, and that its allusions and parodies were meant as puzzles and jokes for a knowing and appreciative audience.


Author. Photo credit, Name David Rohrbacher is a professor of classics at New College of Florida. He is the author of The Historians of Late Antiquity.




“As someone who had long pressed for a change in approach to the HA, I very much welcome this book.”
Journal of Roman Studies

“Well informed and engaging. . . . Rohrbacher’s lucid exposition. . . is both stimulating and important.”
Classical World

“This lively and original analysis of the Historia Augusta successfully argues that it was a fictional work to entertain a fifth-century audience, and the pleasure resides in the deliberate anachronisms, allusions, and parodies of both ancient and more contemporary authors and genres.”
—Ellen O’Gorman, University of Bristol

“A valuable literary study that synthesizes a large, diffuse body of scholarship, integrating it in an intelligent argument about the literary milieu in which the Historia Augusta emerged. The Historia Augusta has long needed a study like this one.”
—Adam Kemezis, University of Alberta


Publicity and Press Kit Resources

Click here for current & upcoming UW Press events

Download high resolution cover, color

Download high resolution cover, b/w

Download high resolution author photo, color

Download high resolution author photo, b/w

All images are at least 2.25 inches at 300 dpi wide; current title covers are a minimum of 1500 px wide/6 inches wide at 300 dpi. Please contact us if you need a custom size.

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at publicity@uwpress.wisc.edu or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)



Also in the Series

Shaping Ceremony

Language and Authority in De Lingua Latina
Varro's Guide to Being Roman
Diana Spencer


The Athenian Adonia in Context
The Adonis Festival as Cultural Practice
Laurialan Reitzammer

The Play of Allusion in the Historia Augusta

Larger images

New in Paperback!
January 2019
LC: 2015036817 DF
272 pp. 6 x 9

Book icon
Paper $21.95 s
ISBN 9780299327040
Book icon
Cloth $65.00 s
ISBN 9780299306007
Shopping cart

Review Cart