♦ 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. Additional recovery methods, including XRF element mapping, were applied to make the previously illegible parts of the palimpsest legible. A critical edition (editio princeps) with a philological and historical commentary will be published in due course (⇒).
♦ Scholars from various fields have been invited to explore the new fragments in their historical and historiographical contexts. Important questions have been discussed and settled (“Empire in Crisis” ⇒).
♦ 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.