Home >> New International Encyclopedia, Volume 16 >> Plague to Polybius >> Polybius


history, books, bc, leipzig, greek and edition

POLYB'IUS (Lat., from Poly bios) (...205-e.120 mc.). The chief Greek Ids torian of the Hellenistic period, born at lopolis, in Arcadia. lie was the son of Lyeortas. a of the Achwan and an intimate friend of Philopcemen. His birth and talent early secured him important political positions in his native city. In B.C. 181 he was chosen as member of the embassy which was to visit Alex andria, hut which Was afterwards tip: and in 169 lie held the office of hippareh in the Aelnean After the of Macedonia in 16S, he was one of the thousand noble and influential Aelneans who were taken to Rome as hostages.

There he remained seventeen years. Through some good fortune he soon gained the friend-hip of ,-Emilins Paulus and his sons, with whom he resided during a large portion of his exile. The young Scipio _Emilianus became strongly at tached to him and took him a- companion on his journeys in Northern Italy and also in his mili tary expeditions against the Celtiberians in Spain. In 150. together with his fellow-exile-, he was allowed to return to his home, but during the Third Punic War he rejoined Scipio, accom panied him on his African campaign, and was present at the destruction of Carthage in 146. The outbreak of war between the Aelneans and Romans called him again to Greece, where he was of the greatest service through his influence with the Romans in' procuring favorable terms for the vanquished. So grateful were his country men for his services in their behalf that Mega lopolis, Mantinea. and many other towns erected statues in his honor. It is said that he met his death by a fall from a horse.

Polybius's chief work is hi? Histories in 40 books, of which the first five have come down to complete: we also have considerable portions of the first IS books, preserved in a codex of Urbino and also the important excerpts of Con stantinus Porphyrogenitus. The subject of this

history was the gradual extension of the Roman Empire from B.C. 266. Polybins devoted the first two books of his work to an introductory sketch of Rome and Carthage from 266 to 221. From this point it is a general history of the times, including the important events in Greece, Asia, and Libya, as well as in the West. The history to 168 B.C. occupied books 3-30, while the last ten hooks brought the history down to the year 146. Polybius seems to have begun his work as early as 150. and the composition of it appa rently extended over some 25 years.

Polyhius i, the first great example of a writer of history on the pragmatic method. Ile endeav ored not simply to present facts, but also to as certain the causes of these facts. and to draw from them lessons valuable for the future. On the other hand, his tone is too didactic in general, and the continuity of his narrative is too often interrupted by digressions. His style is clear, but without grace or charm: he incurred the censure of later Greek critics for carelessness in the choice of words and in the structure of sentences. His work, however, marked an epoch in the his tory of Greek literary style. for with it begins the period of the so-called 'common' dialect. a slightly modified Attic. The best annotated edition is by Schweighiiuser in S (Leipzig, 1789-95) : critical editions by Bekker (Berlin. 1844). Dindorf (last edition. Leipzig, 18S2-S9). and also by Hultsch (2(1 ed., ib., 188S; English translation by Shuckburcffi. London. ISM). Con sult: Scala, Die St utlicn des Polybius (Leipzig, IS90) Cuntz, Polybius nerd spin Werk (ib., 1902).