Life[ edit ] According to his own work, he was born at Agyrium in Sicily now called Agira. However, his English translator, Charles Henry Oldfather , remarks on the "striking coincidence"  that one of only two known Greek inscriptions from Agyrium Inscriptiones Graecae XIV, is the tombstone of one "Diodorus, the son of Apollonius". It was divided into three sections. The end has been lost, so it is unclear whether Diodorus reached the beginning of the Gallic War as he promised at the beginning of his work or, as evidence suggests, old and tired from his labours he stopped short at 60 BC.
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The earliest date Diodorus mentions is his visit to Egypt in the th Olympiad between 60 and 56 BC. This visit was marked by his witnessing an angry mob demand the death of a Roman citizen who had accidentally killed a cat , an animal sacred to the ancient Egyptians Bibliotheca historica 1.
Diodorus shows no knowledge that Egypt became a Roman province—which transpired in 30 BC—so presumably he published his completed work before that event. Diodorus asserts that he devoted thirty years to the composition of his history, and that he undertook a number of dangerous journeys through Europe and Asia in prosecution of his historical researches. Modern critics have called this claim into question, noting several surprising mistakes that an eye-witness would not be expected to have made[ citation needed ].
Structure[ edit ] In the Bibliotheca historica, Diodorus sets out to write a universal history, covering the entire world and all periods of time. Each book opens with a table of its contents and a preface discussing the relevance of history, issues in the writing of history or the significance of the events discussed in that book. The first five books describe the history and culture of different regions, without attempting to determine the relative chronology of events.
Diodorus expresses serious doubts that such chronology is possible for barbarian lands and the distant past. The resulting books have affinities with the genre of geography. Books six to ten, which covered the transition from mythical times to the archaic period , are almost entirely lost. By book ten he had taken up an annalistic structure,  narrating all the events throughout the world in each year before moving on to the next one.
Books eleven to twenty, which are completely intact and cover events between BC and BC, maintain this annalistic structure. The rest of the book is devoted to Egypt and is divided into two halves. In the first half he covers the origin of the world and the development of civilisation in Egypt. In the second half he presents the history of the country, its customs and religion, in a highly respectful tone.
His main sources are believed to be Hecataeus of Abdera and Agatharchides of Cnidus. The majority of the book is devoted to the history of the Assyrians , focussed on the mythical conquests of Ninus and Semiramis , the fall of the dynasty under the effeminate Sardanapallus , and the origins of the Medes who overthrew them. This section is explicitly derived from the account of Ctesias of Cnidus chapters He first describes India, drawing on Megasthenes chapters ,  then the Scythians of the Eurasian steppe , including the Amazons and the Hyperboreans chapters and Arabia Felix chapters Based on the writings on Agatharchides , Diodorus describes gold mining in Egypt , with horrible working conditions: And those who have been condemned in this way—and they are a great multitude and are all bound in chains—work at their task unceasingly both by day and throughout the entire night For no leniency or respite of any kind is given to any man who is sick, or maimed, or aged, or in the case of a woman for her weakness, but all without exception are compelled by blows to persevere in their labours, until through ill-treatment they die in the midst of their tortures.
Finally he describes the islands of H iera and Panchaea in the southern ocean, and the Greek islands. Diodorus notes that bad events can have positive outcomes, like the prosperity of Greece which he says resulted from the Persian Wars.
Diodorus account mostly focuses on mainland Greece, covering the end of the Pentecontaetia , 22, , the first half of the Peloponnesian War 30, 31—34, 38—51, 55—63, , and conflicts during the Peace of Nicias Most of the side narratives concern events in southern Italy, relating to the foundation of Thurii , 23, 35 and the secession of the Plebs at Rome Diodorus is believed to have continued to use Ephorus, perhaps supplemented with other historians, as his source for Greek events in this book, while the source for the events in western Greece is usually identified as Timaeus of Tauromenium.
This book opens with the account of the Sicilian Expedition , culminating in two very long speeches at Syracuse deliberating about how to treat the Athenian prisoners After that the two areas again diverge, with the Greek narrative covering the Decelean War down to the battles of Arginusae and Aigospotami , 45—53, 64—74, The Sicilian narrative recounts the beginning of the Second Carthaginian War , culminating in the rise of Dionysius the Elder to the tyranny , 54—63, 75, 80—96, Ephorus is generally agreed to have continued to be the source of the Greek narrative and Timaeus of the Sicilian narrative.
The source of the Sicilian expedition is disputed - both Ephorus and Timaeus have been put forward. Powerful men, therefore, should avoid evil deeds in order to avoid receiving this reproach from posterity. Diodorus claims that the central subjects of the book are negative examples, who demonstrate the truth of these remarks.
The book is again divided into Greek and Sicilian narratives. Fairly brief notes mention Roman affairs year by year, including the war with Veii 93 , and the Gallic Sack Firstly, he announces the importance of parrhesia free speech for the overall moral goal of his work, insofar as he expects his frank praise of good people and criticism of bad ones will encourage his readers to behave morally.
Secondly, he declares that the fall of the Spartan empire , which is described in this book, was caused by their cruel treatment of their subjects. It then transitions into praise of Philip II , whose involvement in the Third Sacred War and resulting rise are the main subjects of the book. Possibilities include Demophilus , Diyllus , Duris of Samos and Theopompus ; contradictions in his account suggest that he was following multiple sources simultaneously and did not succeed in combining them perfectly.
Despite a promise in the brief prologue to discuss other contemporary events, it does not contain any side-narratives, although, unlike other accounts of Alexander, it does mention Macedonian activities in Greece during his expedition. Owing to its length, the book is split into two halves, the first running down to the Battle of Gaugamela and the second part continuing until his death Sources of information include Aristobulus of Cassandreia , Cleitarchus , Onesicritus and Nearchus , but it is not clear that he used these directly.
The account is largely based on Hieronymus of Cardia. Book XIX: BC[ edit ] This book opens with a prologue arguing that democracy is usually overthrown by the most powerful members of society, not the weakest, and advancing Agathocles of Syracuse as a demonstration of this proposition.
The narrative of the book continues the account of the Diadochi, recounting the Second and Third Wars of the Diadochi; the Babylonian War is completely unmentioned. Interwoven in this narrative is the rise to power of Agathocles of Syracuse and the beginning of his war with Carthage. It is disputed whether this latter narrative strand is based on Callias of Syracuse , Timaeus of Tauromenium , or Duris of Samos.
Diodorus criticises the practice as inappropriate to the genre, but acknowledges that in moderation such speeches can add variety and serve a didactic purpose. Books 32 to 38 or 39 probably had Poseidonius as their source. He shows none of the critical faculties of the historian, merely setting down a number of unconnected details.
His narrative contains frequent repetitions and contradictions, is without colouring, and monotonous; and his simple diction, which stands intermediate between pure Attic and the colloquial Greek of his time, enables us to detect in the narrative the undigested fragments of the materials which he employed.
As damaging as this sounds, other more contemporary classical scholars are likely to go even further. Diodorus has become infamous particularly for adapting his tales ad maiorem Graecorum gloriam "to the greater glory of the Greeks" , leading one prominent author to refer to him as one of the "two most accomplished liars of antiquity"   the other being Ctesias.
Far more sympathetic is the estimate of C. Oldfather, who wrote in the introduction to his translation of Diodorus: While characteristics such as these exclude Diodorus from a place among the abler historians of the ancient world, there is every reason to believe that he used the best sources and that he reproduced them faithfully.
His First Book, which deals almost exclusively with Egypt, is the fullest literary account of the history and customs of that country after Herodotus. Books II-V cover a wide range, and because of their inclusion of much mythological material are of much less value. In the period from to BC, which he treats in annalistic fashion and in which his main source was the Universal History of Ephorus, his importance varies according to whether he is the sole continuous source, or again as he is paralleled by superior writers.
To the fifty years from to BC Thucydides devotes only a little more than thirty chapters; Diodorus covers it more fully For the years BC Diodorus is again the only consecutive literary account, and Diodorus offers the only chronological survey of the period of Philip , and supplements the writers mentioned and contemporary sources in many matters.
For the period of the Successors to Alexander, BC Books XVIII-XX , he is the chief literary authority and his history of this period assumes, therefore, an importance which it does not possess for the other years. Editorial history[ edit ] The earliest extant manuscript of Bibliotheca historica is from about 10th century.
The first printing of the Greek original at Basel in contained only books 16—20, and was the work of Vincentius Opsopoeus. It was not until that all of the surviving books, and surviving fragments of books 21 to the end were published by Stephanus at Geneva.