1. The historian, was the son of Lycortas, and a native of Megalopolis, a city in Arcadia.
The year in which he was born is uncertain. Suidas (s. v.
) places his birth in the reign of Ptolemy Euergetes, who died in B. C. 222.
It is certain, however, that Polybius could not have been born so early as that year; for he tells us himself (25.7) that he was appointed ambassador to Egypt along with his father and the younger Aratus in B. C. 181, at which time he had not yet attained the legal age, which he himself tells us (29.9), was thirty among the Achaeans.
But if he was born, according to Suidas, before the death of Ptolemy Euergetes, he must then have been forty years of age.
In addition to which, if any other proof were needed, it is impossible to believe that he could have taken the active part in public affairs which he did after the fall of Corinth in B. C. 146, if he was born so early as Suidas alleges. We may therefore, without much improbability, suppose with Casaubon that he was born about B. C. 204, since he would in that case have been about twenty-five at the time of his appointment to the Egyptian embassy.
Lycortas, the father of Polybius, was one of the most distinguished men of the Achaean league ; and his son therefore received the advantages of his training in political knowledge and the military art.
He must also have reaped great benefit from his intercourse with Philopoemen, who was a friend of his father's, and on whose death, in B. C. 182, Lycortas was appointed general of the league.
At the funeral of Philopoemen in this year Polybius carried the urn in which his ashes were deposited. (Plut. Philpoem.
21, An seni gerunda sit respubl.
p. 790, &c.)
In the following year, as we have already seen, Polybius was appointed one of the ambassadors to Egypt, but he did not leave Greece, as the intention of sending an embassy was abandoned. From this time he probably began to take part in public affairs, and he appears to have soon obtained great influence among his countrymen. When the war broke out between the Romans and Perseus king of Macedonia, it became a grave question with the Achaeans what line of policy they should adopt. The Roman party in the league was headed by Callicrates, an unprincipled timeserving sycophant, who recognized no law but the will of Rome.
He was opposed by Lycortas and his friends : and the Roman ambassadors, Popillius and Octavius, who came into Peloponnesus at the beginning of B. C. 169, had complained that some of the most influential men in the league were unfaivourable to the Roman cause and had denounced by name Lycortas, Archon, and Polybius.
The more moderate party, who did not wish to sacrifice their national independence, and who yet dreaded a contest with the Romans from the consciousness of their inability to resist the power of the latter, were divided in opinion as to the course of action. Lycortas strongly recommended them to preserve a strict neutrality, since they could hope to gain nothing from either party; but Archon and Polybius thought it more advisable not to adopt such a resolution, but to be guided by circumstances, and if necessary to offer assistance to the Romans.
These views met with the approval of the majority of the party; and accordingly, in B. C. 169, Archon was appointed strategus of the league, and Polybius commander of the cavalry, to carry these views into execution. The Achaeans shortly after passed a decree, placing all their forces at the disposal of the Roman consul, Q. Marcius Philippus ; and Polybius was sent into Macedonia to learn the pleasure of the consul. Marcius, however, declined their assistance for the present. (Plb. 28.3
In the following year, B. C. 168, the two Ptolemies, Philometor and his brother Euergetes II., sent to the Achaeans, to request succour against Antiochus Epiphanes, and, if this were refused, to beg that Lycortas and Polybius might come to them, in order to aid them with their advice in the conduct of the war.
But as Antiochus was shortly after compelled by the Romans to relinquish his attempts against the Ptolemies, neither of these measures was necessary, and Polybius accordingly remained at home (29.8).
After the fall of Perseus and the conquest of Macedonia, two Roman commissioners, C. Claudius and Cn. Dolabella, visited Peloponnesus, for the purpose of advancing the Roman interests in the south of Greece.
At the instigation of Callicrates, they commanded that 1000 Achaeans should be carried to Rome, to answer the charge of not having assisted the Romans against Perseus.
This number included all the best and noblest part of the nation, and among them was Polybius. They arrived in Italy in B. C. 167, but, instead of being put upon their trial, they were distributed among the Etruscan towns. Polybiiis was more fortunate than his other companions in misfortune.
He had probably become acquainted in Macedonia with Aemilius Paulus, or his sons Fabius and Scipio, and the two young men now obtained permission from the praetor for Polybius to reside at Rome in the house of their father Paulus. Scipio was then eighteen years of age, and soon became warmly attached to the illustrious exile, and availed himself of his advice and assistance, both in his private studies and his public life.
The friendship thus formed between the young Roman noble and the Greek exile was of great advantage to both parties ; Scipio was accompanied by his friend in all his military expeditions, and received much advantage tage from the experience and knowledge of the latter; while Polybius, besides finding a liberal patron and protector in his exile, was able by his means to obtain access to public documents, and accumulate materials for his great historical work (Plb. 32.9
, &c.; Paus. 7.10
The Achaean exiles remained in Italy seventeen years. The Achaeans had frequently sent embassies to the senate supplicating the trial or release of their countrymen, but always without success. Even their earnest entreaty, that Polybius and Stratius alone might be set at liberty, had been refused.
At length, in B. C. 151, Scipio exerted his influence with Cato the Censor to get him to support the restoration of the exiles, and the authority of the latter carried the point, though not without a hard struggle and a protracted debate in the senate.
After their restoration had been decreed, Polybius was anxious to obtain from the senate on behalf of himself and his countrymen the additional favour of being reinstated in the honours which they had formerly enjoyed; but upon consulting Cato, the old man bade him, with a smile, beware of returning, like Ulysses, to the Cyclop's den, to fetch away any trifles he had left behind him. (Plb. 35.6
; Plut. Cat. Ma. 9
; Paus. 7.10
.) Polybius returned to Peloponnesus in this year with the other Achaean exiles, who had been reduced during their banishment from 1000 to 300. During his stay in Greece, which was, however, not long, he exhorted his countrymen to peace and unanimity, and endeavoured to counteract the mad projects of the party who were using every effort to hurry the Achacans into a hopeless struggle with the Roman power. When it was too late, the Achaeans saw and recognised the wisdom of his advice; and a statue erected to his honour bore on its pedestal the inscription, "that Hellas would have been saved, if the advice of Polybius had been followed" (Paus. 8.37.2
In the first year of the third Punic war, B. C. 149, the consul M'. Manilius sent for Polybius to attend him at Lilybaeum, but upon reaching Corcyra, he heard from the consuls that the Carthaginians had given hostages, tages, and thinking, therefore, that the war was at an end, and that his presence was no longer needed, he returned to Peloponnesus (Polyb. Exc. Vatican.
But he soon left it again in order to join Scipio. His Roman connections probably made him an object of suspicion with what was called the independent party; and his residence in his native country may therefore have been not very pleasant to him.
In addition to which he was no doubt anxious to be a spectator of the final struggle which was now going on between Rome and Carthage, and the history of which he intended to write.
Polybius was present with Scipio at the destruction of Carthage, B. C. 146 (Appian, App. Pun. 132
) ; and immediately after that event he hurried to Greece, where the Achaeans were waging a mad and hopeless war against the Romans. Whether he was present at the capture of Corinth may well be questioned, and it is probable, as Thirlwall (Hist. of Grecce,
vol. viii. p. 455, note 3) has remarked, that he would not have hastened to Peloponnesus till the struggle was over.
He must, however, have arrived there soon afterwards; and he exerted all his influence to alleviate the misfortunes of his countrymen, and to procure favourable terms for them.
As a friend of Scipio, the conqueror of Carthage, he was received with marked distinction; and the want of patriotism with which his enemies had charged him, enabled him now to render his country far more effectual service than he could otherwise have done.
The statues of Philopoemen and Aratus, which the Roman commissioners had ordered to be conveyed to Italy, were allowed, at his intercession, to remain in Peloponnesus. So much respect did the commissioners pay him, that when they quitted the country in the spring of B. C. 145, after arranging its affairs, and reducing it to the form of a Roman province, they ordered him to visit the various cities, and explain the new laws and constitution.
In the execution of this duty, Polybius spared no pains or trouble.
He traversed the whole country, and with indefatigable zeal he drew up laws and political institutions for the different cities, and decided disputes that had arisen between them.
He further obtained from the Romans a relaxatio n of some of the most severe enactments which had been made against the conquered Achaeans. His grateful fellow-countrymen acknowledged the great services he had rendered them, and statues were erected to his honour at Megalopolis, Mantineia, Pallantium, Tegea, and other places. (Plb. 40.8
; Paus. 8.9
Polybius seems now to have devoted himself to the composition of the great historical work, for which he had long been collecting materials.
At what period of his life he made the journies into foreign countries for the purpose of visiting the places which he had to describe in his history, it is impossible to determine.
He tells us (3.59) that he undertook long and dangerous journies into Africa, Spain, Gaul, and even as far as the Atlantic, on account of the ignorance which prevailed respecting those parts. Some of these countries he visited while serving under Scipio, who afforded him every facility for the prosecution of his design. Thus we learn from Pliny (H. N.
v. l), that Scipio, during the third Punic war, placed a fleet at the disposal of his friend, in order that he might explore the African coast.
At a later period of his life he visited Egypt likewise; and this journey must have been taken after the fall of Corinth, since he was in that country in the reign of Ptolemy Physeon, who did not ascend the throne till B. C. 146 (Strab. xvii. p.797
It has been conjectured that Polybius accompanied Scipio to Spain in B. C. 134, and was present at the fall of Numantia in the following year, since Cicero states (ad Fam.
5.12) that Polybius wrote a history of the Numantine war.
The year of his death is uncertain. We have only the testimony of Lucian (Macrob.
23), that he died at the age of 82, in consequence of a fall from his horse, as he was returning from the country. If we are correct in placing his birth in B. C. 204, his death would fall in B. C. 122
The history of Polybms consisted of forty books.
It began B. C. 220, where the history of Aratus left off, and ended at B. C. 146, in which year Corinth was destroyed, and the independence of Greece perished.
It consisted of two distinct parts, which were probably published at different times and afterwards united into one work.
The first part comprised a period of fifty-three years, beginning with the second Punic war, the Social War in Greece, and the war between Antiochus and Ptolemy Philopator in Asia, and ending with the conquest of Perseus and the downfal of the Macedonian kingdom, in B. C. 168.
This was in fact the main portion of his work, and its great object was to show how the Romans had in this brief period of fifty-three years conquered the greater part of the world; but since the Greeks were ignorant for the most part of the early history of Rome, he gives a survey of Roman history from the taking of the city by the Gauls to the commencement of the second Punic war, in the first two books, which thus form an introduction to the body of the work.
With the fall of the Macedonian kingdom the supremacy of the Roman dominion was decided, and nothing more remained for the other nations of the world than to receive laws from the republic, and to yield submission to its sway.
But, says Polybius (3.4
), "the view only of the manner in which wars are terminated can never lead us into a complete and perfect knowledge. either of the conquerors or the conquered nations, since, in many instances, the most eminent and signal victories, through an injudicious use and application of them, have proved fatal and pernicious ; as, on the other hand, the heaviest ills of fortune, when supported within constancy and courage, are frequently converted into great advantage. On this account it will he useful, likewise, to review the policy which the Romans afterwards observed, in governing the countries that were subdued, and to consider also, what were the sentiments of the conquered states with respect to the conduct of their masters : at the same time describing the various characters and inclinations of particular men, and laying opera their tempers and designs, as well in private life as in the affairs of government....... To render, therefore, this history complete and perfect, it will be necessary to lay open and explain the circumstances and condition of each several people, from the time that the contest was decided which gave to the Romans the sovereignty of the world, to the rise of new commotions and disorders. And as these too were of great importance, and attended with many uncommon incidents, and as I was myself engaged in the execution of some of them, in the conduct and contrivance of others, and was an eye-witness of almost all, I shall undertake the task of relating them at large, and begin, as it were, a new history."
This second part, which formed a kind of supplement, comprised the period from the conquest of Perseus in B. C. 168, to the fall of Corinth in B. C. 146.
The history of the conquest of Greece seems to have been completed in the thirty-ninth book; and the fortieth book probably contained a chronological summary of the whole work. (Comp. Clinton, F. H.
ad ann. 146.)
The subjects contained in each of these parts are related circumstantially by Polybius in the following passage, which will give the reader the best idea of the contents of the work.
"Having first explained the causes of the war between the Carthaginians and the Romans, which is most frequently called the war of Hannibal, we shall show in what manner this general entered Italy, and gave so great a shock to the empire of the Romans, that they began to fear that they should soon be dispossessed even of their proper country and seat of government : while their enemies, elate with a success which had exceeded all their hopes, were persuaded that Rome itself must fall, as soon as they should once appear before it. We shall then speak of the alliance that was made by Philip with the Carthaginians as soon as he had ended his war with the Aetolians, and settled the affairs of Greece. Next will follow the disputes between Antiochus and Ptolemy Philopator, and the war that ensued between them for the sovereignty of Coele-Syria ; together with the war which Prusias and the Rhodians made upon the people of Byzantium ; with design to force them to desist front exacting certain duties, which they were accustomed to demand from all vessels that sailed into the Pontus.
In this place we shall pause awhile, to take a view of the form and constitution of the Roman government ; and, in the course of our inquiry, shall endeavour to demonstrate, that the peculiar temperament and spirit of their republic supplied the chief and most effectual means by which this people were enabled, not only to acquire the sovereignty of Italy and Sicily, and to reduce the Gauls and Spaniards to their yoke, but to subdue the Carthaginians also, and when they had completed this great conquest, to form the project of obtaining universal empire. We shall add, likewise, a short digression concerning the fite of Hiero's kingdom in Sicily; and afterwards go on to speak of those commotionis that were raised in Egypt, after the death of Ptolemy, by Philip and Antiochus : the wicked arts by which those princes attempted to share between themselves the dominions of the infant king; and the manner in which the former of them invaded Egypt, Samos, and Caria; and the latter Coele-Syria and Phoenicia. We then shall make a general recapitulation of all that was transacted by the Carthaginians and the Romans, in Spain, Sicily, and Africa; and from thence shall again remove the history to Greece, which now became the scene of new disorders. And having first run through the naval battles of Attalus and the Rhodians against king Philip, we shall next describe the war that followed between the Romans and this prince; together with the causes, circumstances, and conclusion of it.
After these events, we shall relate in what manner the Aetolians, urged by their resentment, called Antiochus from Asia, and gave occasion to the war between the Achaeans and the Romans. And having explained the causes of that war, and seen the entrance of Antiochus into Europe, we shall then show the manner in which he fled back again from Greece; and afterwards, when he had suffered an entire defeat, was forced to abandon all the country on this side of mount Taurus. Next will follow the victories by which the Romans gave an effectual check to the insolence of the Gauls; secured to themselves the sovereignty of nearer Asia; and delivered the people of that country from the dread of being again exposed to the violence and savage fury of those barbarians. We shall then give some account of the misfortunes in which the Aetolians and Cephallenians were involved, and of the war which Eumenes sustained against Prusias and the Gauls of Greece; together with that of Ariarathes against Pharnaces. And after some discourse concerning the union and form of government of the confederate cities of Peloponnesus, which will be attended also with some remarks upon the growth and flourishing conditions of the republic of the Rhodians, we shall, in the last place, take a short review of all that has been before related; and conclude the whole with the expedition of Antiochus Epiphanes into Egypt, and the war with Perseus, which was followed by the entire subversion of the Macedonian empire." (3.2, 3.)
He then proceeds to relate the subjects contained in the second part of his history. "The chief of these transactions were, the expeditions of the Romans against the Celtiberians and Vaccaeans ; the war which the Carthaginians made against Massinissa, a sovereign prince of Africa; and that between Attains and Prusias in Asia. We shall also see the manner in which Ariarathes, king of Cappadocia, was driven from his dominions by Orofernes, assisted by Demetrius, and again by his own address recovered his paternal rights. We shall see Demetrius, the son of Seleucus, after he had reigned twelve years in Syria, deprived of his kingdom aud his life, by the conspiracy of the other kings. About the same time, the Romans absolved those Greeks that were accused of having secretly excited the wars of Perseus, and permitted them to return to their own country. And not long afterwards the same Romans made war again upon the Carthaginians : at first intending to force them to remove the seat of their republic; but afterwards with design to exterminate both their name and government, for reasons which I shall there endeavour to explain. And lastly, when the Macedonians had, about this time, broken their alliance with the Romans, and the Lacedaemonians were also separated from the Peloponnesian league, the ill fate of Greece received at once both its beginning and full accomplishment, in the loss of the common liberty." (3.5.)
It has been already remarked that the main object of the work of Polybius was to show by what means and in what manner the Romans subdued the other nations of the world. And although he regards Fortune (Τύχη
) as the goddess who regulates the affairs of men, whose hand may always be traced in the history of nations, and to whom the Romans, therefore, owe their dominion (comp. e. g. 1.4, 58, 86, 2.35. 70, 4.2, 8.4). still he repeatedly calls the reader's attention to the means by which Fortune enabled this people to rise to their extraordinary position.
These he traces first of all in their admiral le political constitution (6.1), and in the steadfastness. perseverance, and unity of purpose which were the natural results of such a constitution.
But while the history of Rome thus forms the subject of his work, the history of the various nations with which Rome came into contact, was also given with equal care; and accordingly we find him entitling his work "A General or Universal History" (καθολικὴ, κοινὴ ἱστορία
), and mentioning the unity of subject as one of the chief motives that had induced him to select that period of history. (Comp. 1.4, 2.37.4, 4.28.3, 5.31.6, 5.105.4.)
The history of Polybius might, therefore, be called, as it has been by a German writer, the "History of the Growth of Roman Power, to the Downfal of the Independence of Greece."
The history of Polybius is one of the most valuable works that has come down to us from antiquity ; and few historical works, either in ancient or in modern times, will bear comparison with it. Polybius had a clear apprehensoin of the knowledge which an historian must possess; and his preparatory studies were carried on with the greatest energy and perseverance. Thus he not only collected with accuracy and care an account of the events that he intended to narrate, but he also studied the history of the Roman constitution, and made distant journies to become acquainted with the geography of the countries that he had to describe in his work.
In addition to this, he had a strong judgment and a striking love of truth, and, from having himself taken an active part in political life, he was able to judge of the motives and actions of the great actors in history in a way that no mere scholar or rhetorician could possibly do.
But the characteristic feature of his work, and the one which distinguishes it from all other histories which have come down to us from antiquity, is its didactic
He did not, like other historians, write to afford amusement to his readers, or to gratify an idle curiosity respecting the migration of nations, the foundation of cities, or the settlement of colonies; his object was to teach by the past a knowledge of the future, and to deduce from previous events lessons of practical wisdom. Hence he calls his work a Pragmateia
), and not a History
, see e.g. 1.1, 3, 3.32).
The value of history consisted, in his opinion, in the instruction that might be obtained from it; and a mere narration of events, however vividly pourtrayed, was described by him as ἀλαζονεία
(16.20.4, 22.2.7). Consequently he conceived it to be the duty of the historian to impress upon his reader the lessons of political and moral wisdom which his narrative conveyed, and was by no means satisfied to let the reader draw such conclusions for himself. Thus the narrative of events became in his view of secondary importance; they formed only the text of the political and moral discourses which it was the province of the historian to deliver.
The reflections of Polybius are, it is true, characterised by deep wisdom; and no one can read them without admiring the solidity of the historian's judgment, and deriving from them at the same time both instruction and improvement. Still, it must be admitted, that, excellent as they are, they materially detract from the merits of the history as a work of art; their frequent occurrence interrupts the continuity of the narrative, and destroys, to a great extent, the interest of the reader in the scenes which are described. Instead of narrating the events in such a manner that they should convey their own moral, and throwing ill, as it were by the way, the reflections to which the narrative should give rise, he pauses in the midst of the most interesting scenes to impress upon the reader the lessons which these events ought to teach, and he thus imparts to his work a kind of moralising tone, which frequently mars the enjoyment of the reader, and, in some cases, becomes absolutely repulsive.
There can be no doubt that some of the most striking faults in the history of Polybius arise from his pushing too far the principle, which is doubtless a sound one to a certain extent, that history is written for instruction and not for amusement. Hence he omits, or relates in a very brief manner, certain important events, because they did not convey, in his opinion, lessons of practical wisdom ; and, on the other hand, he frequently inserts long episodes, which have little connection with the main subject of his work, because they have a didactic tendency. Thus we find that one whole book (the sixth) was devoted to a history of the Roman constitution; and in the same manner episodes were introduced even on subjects which did not teach any political or moral truths, but simply because his countrymen entertained erroneous opinions on those subjects.
The thirty-fourth book, for example, seems to have been exclusively a treatise on geography. Although Polybias was thus enabled to impart much important information, of which we, in modern times, especially reap the benefits, still it cannot be denied that such episodes are no improvements to the history considered as a work of art.
Still, after making these deductions, the great merits of Polybius remain unimpaired. His strict impartiality, to which he frequently lays claim, has been generally admitted both by ancient and modern writers. And it is surprising that he displays such great impartiality in his judgment of the Romans, especially when we consider his intimate friendship with Scipio, and the strong admiration which he evidently entertained of that extraordinary people. Thus we find him, for example, characterising the occupation of Sardinia by the Romans in the interval between the first and second Punc wars, as a violation of all justice (3.28.2), and denouncing the general corruption of the Roman generals from the time of their foreign conquests, with a few brilliant exceptions (18.18).
But, at the sane time, he does not display an equal impartiality in the history of the Achaean league; and perhaps we could hardly expect from him that he should forget that he was an Achaean.
He no doubt thought that the extension of the Achaean league was essential to the liberties of Greece; and he is thus unconsciously led to exaggerate equally the merits of its friends and the faults of its enemies.
He describes in far too glowing colours the character of Aratus, the great hero of the Achaean league, and ascribes (2.40) to the historical work of this statesman a degree of impartiality, to which it certainly was not entitled. On the same principle, he gives quite a false impression of the political life of Cleomenes, one of the greatest men of the latter days of Greece, simply because this king was the great opponent of Aratus and the league.
He was likewise guilty of injustice in the views which he gives of the Aetolians, of which Brandstäter has quoted some striking instances in the work referred to below, although it must be confessed that the modern writer is in some cases equally unjust to the ancient historian, from the partiality which he displays for the Aetolians. Not only does Polybius exhibit a partiality for the Achaeans, but he cannot forget that he was an Arcadian, and is equally zealous for the honour of his native land. Thus he considers it strange that the Achaean league derived its name from the Achaean people, and not rather from the Arcadians, whom he classes with the Lacedaemonians (2.38); and many other instances might be quoted in which he displays an equal partiality towards his own people.
The style of Polybius will not bear comparison with the great masters of Greek literature; nor is it to be expected that it should.
He lived at a time when the Greek language had lost much of its purity by an intermixture of foreign elements, and he did not attempt to imitate the language of the great Attic writers.
He wrote as he spoke, and had too great a contempt for rhetorical embellishments to avail himself of them in the composition of his work.
The style of such a man naturally bore the impress of his mind; and, as instruction and not amusement was the great object for which he wrote, he did not seek to please his readers by the choice of his phrases or the composition of his sentences. Hence the later Greek critics were severe in their condemnations of his style, and Dionysius classes his work with those of Phylarchus and Duris, which it was impossible to read through to the end. (Dionys. De Compos. Verb.
But the most striking fault in the style of Polybius arises from his want of imagination. No historian can present to his readers a striking picture of events, unless he has at first vividly conceived them in his own mind; and Polybius, with his cool, calm, calculating judgment, was not only destitute of all imaginative powers, but evidently despised it when he saw it exercised by others.
It is no doubt certain that an historian must keep his imagination under a strong control; but it is equally certain that he will always fail in producing any striking impression upon the mind of his readers, unless he has, to some extent, called his imagination into exercise.
It is for this reason that the geographical descriptions of Polybius are so vague and indistinct; and the following remarks of Dr. Arnold, upon the character of Polybius as a geographer, are quite in accordance with the general views we have expressed : -- "Nothing shows more clearly the great rarity of geographical talent, than the praise which has been commonly bestowed upon Polybius as a good geographer.
He seems indeed to have been aware of the importance of geography to history, and to have taken considerable pains to gain information on the subject : but this very circumstance proves the more the difficulty of the task; for his descriptions are so vague and imperfect, and so totally devoid of painting, that it is scarcely possible to understand them. For instance, in his account of the march of the Gauls into Italy, and of the subsequent movements of their army and of the Romans, there is an obscurity, which never could have existed had he conceived in his own mind a lively image of the seat of war as a whole, of the connection of the rivers and chains of mountains with each other, and of the consequent direction of the roads and most frequented passes." (Hist. of Rome,
vol. iii. pp. 473, 474.) To this same cause, the want of imagination on the part of Polybius, we are disposed to attribute the apparent indifference with which he describes the fall of his native country, and the extinction of the liberties of Greece.
He only sought to relate facts, and to draw the proper reflections from them : to relate them with vividness and to paint them in striking colours was not his calling.
The greater part of the history of Polybius has perished. We possess the first five books entire, but of the rest we have only fragments and extracts, of which some, however, are of considerable length, such as the account of the Roman army, which belonged to the sixth book.
The first five books were first printed in a Latin translation executed by Nic. Perotti, and issued from the celebrated press of Sweynheym and Pannartz. Rome, 1473, fol.
The first part of the work of Polybius, which was printed in Greek, was the treatise on the Roman army, which was published by Ant. de Sabio, Venice, 1529, 4to., with a Latin translation by Lascaris
; and in the following year, 1530, the Greek text of the first five books, with the translation of Perotti, appeared at Hagenau, edited by Obsopoeus (Koch)
, but without the treatise on the Roman army, which had probably not yet found its way across the Alps.
A few years afterwards a discovery was made of some extracts from the other books of Polybius; but the author of the compilation, and the time at which it was drawn up, are unknown; for we can hardly believe with Casaubon that it was the Epitome which was made by M. Brutus, and of which both Plutarch (Plut. Brut. 100.4
) and Suidas (s. v. Βροῦτος
These extracts, which must be distinguished from those of the emperor Constantinus Porphyrogenitus mentioned below, contain the greater part of the sixth book, and portions of the following eleven (vii.--xvii.). The manuscript containing them was brought from Corfu, and they were published, together with the first five books which had already appeared at Basel, 1549, fol. from the press of Herragius. The Latin translation of these extracts was executed by Wolfgang Musculus, who also corrected Perotti's version of the other books, and the editing of the Greek text was superintended by Arnold Paraxylus Arlenius. A portion of these extracts, namely a description of the naval battle fought between Philippus and Attalus and the Rhodians, belonging to the sixteenth book, had been previously published by Bayf in his De Re Navali Veterum, Paris, 1536, reprinted at Basel, 1537. In 1582 Ursinus published at Antwerp, in 4to.
, a second collection of Extracts from Polybius, entitled Excerpta de Legationibus
(Ἐκλογαὶ περὶ Πρεσβειῶν
), which were made in the tenth century of the Christian era by order of the Emperor Constantinus Porphyrogenitus. These Excerpta
are taken from various authors, but the most important of them came from Polybius. In 1609 Is. Casaubon published at Paris, in folio, his excellent edition of Polybius. in which he incorporated all the Excerpta and fragments that had hitherto been discovered, and added a new Latin version.
He intended likewise to write a commentary upon the author, but he did not proceed further than the 20th chapter of the first book; this portion of his commentary was published after his death at Paris, 1617, 8vo. A further addition was made to the fragments of Polybius by Valesius, who published, in 1634, another portion of the Excerpta of Constantinus, entitled Excerpta de Virtutibus et Vitiis (περὶ ἀρετῆς καὶ κακίας）
, containing extracts from Polybius, Diodorus Siculus, and other writers; and to this collection Valesius added several other fragments of Polybius, gathered together from various writers. Jacobus Gronovius undertook a new edition of Polybius, which appeared at Amsterdam in 1670, in 3 vols. 8vo.
; the text of this edition is taken almost verbatim from Casaubon's, but the editor added, besides the extracts of Valesius and the commentary of Casaubon on the first twenty chapters of the first book, many additional notes by Casaubon which had been collected from his papers by his son Mericus Casaubon, and likewise notes by Gronovius himself. The edition of Gronovius was reprinted under the care of J. A. Ernesti at Leipzig, 1763-1764, 3 vols. 8vo. The next edition is that of Schweighaeuser, which surpasses all the preceding ones.
It was published at Leipzig, 1789-1795 in 8 vols. 8vo., of which the first four contained the Greek text with a Latin translation, and the other volumes a commentary, an historical and geographical index, and a copious "Lexicon Polybianum," which is almost indispensable to the student. Schweighaeuser's edition was reprinted at Oxford in 1823, in 5 vols. 8vo.
, without the commentary, but with the Lexicon.
From the time of Valesius no new additions were made to the fragments of Polybius, with the exception of a fragment describing the siege of Ambracia, originally published in the second volume of Gronovius's Livy, until Angelo Mai discovered in the Vatican library at Rome the third section of the Excerpta of Constanttinus Porphyrogenitus, entitled Excerpta de Sententiis
), which, among other extracts, contained a considerable number from the history of Polybius. These excerpta were published by Mai in the second volume of his Scriptorum veterucm Nora Collectio, Rome, 1827
, but in consequence of the mutilated state of the manuscript from which they were taken, many of them are unintelligible. Some of the errors in Mai's edition are corrected in the reprints of the Excerpta, published by Geel at Leyden in 1829, and by Lucht at Altona in 1830
; but these Excerpta appear in a far more correct form in the edition of Heyse, Berlin, 1846, since Heyse collated the manuscript afresh with great care and accuracy. The last edition of Polybius is by Immanuel Bekker (Berlin, 1844, 2 vols. 8vo.),
who has added the Vatican fragments.
Of the translations of Polybius into modern languages, those most worthy of notice are the French, by Thuillier, chiefly remarkable on account of the military commentary appended to it by Folard, Amsterdam, 1759, 7 vols. 4to.
; the German, by Seybold, Lemgo, 1779-1783, 4 vols. 8vo.
; and the English by Hampton, 1772, 2 vols. 4to.
: the latter is upon the whole a faithful version, and we have availed ourselves of it in the quotations which we have made above.
Livy and Polybius
Livy did not use Polybius till he came to the second Punic war, but from that time he followed him very closely, and his history of the events after the termination of that war appears to be little more than a translation of his Greek predecessor. Cicero likewise seems to have chiefly followed Polybius in the account which he gives of the Roman constitution in his De Republica.
The history of Polybius was continued by Poseidonius and Strabo. [POSEIDONIUS; STRABO.]
Besides the great historical work of which we have been speaking, Polybius wrote,
The Life of Philopoemen
In three books, to which he himself refers (10.24).
A treatise on Tactics
(τὰ περὶ τὰς Τάξεις ὑπομνήματα
), which he also quotes (9.20), and to which Arrian (Tactic.
init.) and Aelian (Tactic.
cc. 1, 3) allude.
A History of the Numantine War
According to the statement of Cicero (Cic. Fam. 5.12
Quoted by Geminus (100.13, in Petavius, Uranologium,
vol. iii. p. 31, &c.), but it is not improbable that this formed part of the 34th book of the History, which was entirely devoted to geography.
The reader will find some valuable information respecting the character of Polybius as an historian in the following works ;--Lucas, Ueber Polybius Darstellung des Aetolischen Bundes,
Königsberg, 1827 ; Merleker, Die Geschichte des Aetolisch-Achueischen Bundesgenossen-Krieges,
Königsberg, 1831; K. W. Nitzsch, Polybius : zur Geschichte antiker Politik und Historiographie,,
Kiel, 1842; Brandstäter, Die Geschichten des Aetolischen Landes, Volkes und Bundes, nebst einer historiographischen Abhandlung ueber Polybius,