Scholars often assume that historians in late antiquity ended their narratives with the previous regime because it was too dangerous for them to write candidly about the current imperial reign. While this was generally true, there are some notable exceptions to the pattern which, when studied together, show that this rule was not iron-clad and cannot safely be relied on to date the composition of texts and the scope of their coverage (in the case of lost works). Both the rule and the exceptions illuminate the nuanced play of “truth” and “power” in late antiquity. In assessing our evidence we must often read between the lines, but not all historians were as timid as we might assume. The Roman empire's “secret history” could sometimes be aired.

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