Conrad’s latest post at VUnEx is his usual exhilarating excursion through byways of history that one might have thought dusty until he poured champagne over them; he begins with a delightful passage from Borrow‘s Lavengro (“‘He—he—he! you must know that in Lasan akhades wine is janin.’ ‘In Armenian, kini,’ said I; ‘in Welsh, gwin; Latin, vinum. But do you think that Janus and Janin are one?'”) and continues, via Abravanel, to Annius of Viterbo’s Commentaria super opera diversorum auctorum de antiquitatibus loquentium.
Now Annius’ big idea was to get lots of fragments from ancient historians—Berosus of Chaldaea, Myrsilos of Methymna, Fabius Pictor, and so on—draw them all up, and weave them into a holistic history of the ancient world… The same basic idea had been done before by writers like Josephus and Eusebius; the only problem with Annius was that all of his fragments had been entirely fabricated, and by him.
Now that’s what I call breathtaking chutzpah, and his Wikipedia entry points out that not only his citations were sham: “His expertise in Semitic philology, once celebrated even by otherwise sober ecclesiastical historians, was entirely fictive.”