Ammianus Marcellinus

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Attacotti. A British tribe or people. Little is known of the Attacotti, whose name means ‘oldest inhabitants’, perhaps a reference to their ancient origins. They seem to have inhabited a corner of north-western Britain, most probably the Outer Hebrides, although Ireland and north-west Scotland have also been suggested as their homeland. They are mentioned only in late Roman sources such as Ammianus Marcellinus and St Jerome, amongst whom they had a reputation for savagery. St Jerome, in particular, accused them of cannibalism. According to Ammianus they took part in raids on the province of Britain in ad 365, and two years later joined with other enemies of Rome in the barbarica conspiratio which overwhelmed the frontier defences of Britain. Nevertheless by the end of the 4th cent. Attacotti are recorded serving with the Roman army, one unit even being attached to the imperial bodyguard, the auxilia palatina.

Keith Branigan

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Ammianus Marcellinus (ămēā´nəs märsĬlī´nəs), c.330–c.400, Roman historian, b. Antioch. After retiring from a successful military career, he wrote a history of the Roman Empire as a sequel to that of Tacitus, his model. The history, in 31 books, covered the years from AD 96 to 378; only Books XIV–XXXI, covering the years AD 353–78, survive. Though written in an extremely rhetorical style, this reliable and impartial history is praised not only for its coverage of military events, but for detailed information concerning economic, administrative, and social history, biographical information about the various emperors, and tolerant descriptions of foreign cultures. Although a pagan and an admirer of Julian the Apostate, Ammianus was able to write about Christianity without prejudice.

See E. A. Thompson, Historical Work of Ammianus Marcellinus (1947); Ammianus Marcellinus (his work tr. by J. C. Rolfe 1935, repr. 1963); R. Syme, Ammianus and the Historia Augusta (1968).