♦ Since the days of emperor Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Empire was confronted at the Danube, its Northern frontier, with attacks by strong bands of warriors. North of the river, at the periphery of the Roman world, these groups formed new peoples. With the Goths, mentioned for the first time around the middle of the 3rd century AD, the attacks and incursions into the territory of the Roman Empire reached new heights.
♦ The defence of Rome against the Goths (and other Germanic tribes) between around AD 250 and 275 was the subject of the historical work of Dexippus of Athens, a contemporary and well-informed eyewitness. His work, written in Greek and entitled Scythica (using an archaic name of all the peoples of the far North, i.e. the Scythians), has not survived. Up until a few years ago, we had only few fragments preserved in excerpts or quotations by later authors.
♦ In 2007–2009, during a research project of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) on Greek palimpsests of the Austrian National Library in Vienna, Jana Grusková discovered fragments of an unknown ancient text in eight pages of a medieval (Byzantine) manuscript from the 11th century and identified them as probably coming from Dexippus’ Scythica (⇒). The text is hardly legible with the naked eye, since it was washed off in the 13th century and the parchment was reused for a new text (a so-called palimpsest).
♦ In an FWF research project of the ÖAW (2012–2015) (⇒) Jana Grusková together with Gunther Martin, a specialist on Dexippus, deciphered 60% of the fragments, which they named Scythica Vindobonensia or Dexippus Vindobonensis, and published them in a provisional transcription (⇒). State-of-the-art methods of digital recovery of erased writings were applied to reveal the original manuscript.
♦ Another FWF project, entitled "Scythica Vindobonensia", followed in 2015–2020 (⇒). It aimed at further deciphering and editing the Vienna fragments by Grusková and Martin.
♦ Scholars from various fields have been invited to explore the new text in its historical and historiographical contexts (“Empire in Crisis” ⇒).
♦ Additional methods of digital recovery, including XRF element mapping at a synchrotron, have been applied (⇒).
♦ 2020–present: From the very beginning, Gunther Martin and Jana Grusková have been working towards the ultimate goal of preparing a critical edition (editio princeps) of the Scythica Vindobonensia alias Dexippus Vindobonensis (including a philological and historical commentary, and studies on the language, style etc.). It will be published as soon as the complex recovery and the decipherment have been completed (⇒).
♦ The recovery of this masterpiece of ancient historiography combines traditional philological and historical methods with cutting-edge approaches of image science and material analysis. The success lies in the cooperation between various fields of research.