), a native of Alexandria, lived at Rome during the reigns of Trajan, Hadrian, and Antoninus Pius, as we gather from various passages in his work. We have hardly any particulars of his life, for his autobiography, to which he refers at the end of the preface to his history, is now lost.
In the same passage he mentions, that he was a man of considerable distinction at Alexandria, and afterwards removed to Rome, where he was engaged in pleading causes in the courts of the emperors.
He further states, that the emperors considered him worthy to be entrusted with the management of their affairs (μέχρι με σφῶν ἐπιτροπεύειν ἠξίωσαν
); which Schweighäuser and others interpret to mean, that he was appointed to the office of procurator or praefectus of Egypt.
There is, however, no reason for this supposition. We know, from a letter of Fronto, that it was the office of procurator which he held (Fronto, Ep. ad Anton. Pium,
9, p. 13, &c., ed. Niebuhr); but whether he had the management of the emperors' finances at Rome, or went to some province in this capacity, is quite uncertain.
History of Rome
Appian wrote a Roman history (Ῥωμαϊκὰ
, or Ῥωμαϊκὴ ἱστορία
) in twenty-four books, on a plan different from that of most historians.
He did not treat the history of the Roman empire as a whole in chronological order, following the series of events; but he gave a separate account of the affairs of each country from the time that it became connected with the Romans, till it was finally incorporated in the Roman empire.
The first title people with whom the Romans came in contact were the Gauls; and consequently his history, according to his plan, would have begun with that people.
But in order to make the work a complete history of Rome, he devoted the first three books to an account of the early times and of the various nations of Italy which Rome subdued.
The subjects of the different books were:
We possess only eleven of these complete; namely, the sixth, seventh, eighth, eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, and twenty-third.
There are also fragments of several of the others. The Parthian history, which has come down to us as part of the eleventh book, has been proved by Schweighäuser to be no work of Appian, but merely a compilation from Plutarch's Lives of Antony and Crassus, probably made in the middle ages. (See Schweighäuser's Appian,
vol. iii. p. 905, &c.)
Appian's work is a mere compilation.
In the early times he chiefly followed Dionysius, as far as the latter went, and his work makes up to a considerable extent for the books of Dionysius, which are lost.
In the history of the second Punic war Fabius seems to have been his chief authority, and subsequently he made use of Polybius. His style is clear and simple; but he possesses few merits as an historian, and he frequently makes the most absurd blunders. Thus, for instance, he places Saguntum on the north of the Iberus (Iber.
7), and states that it takes only half a day to sail from Spain to Britain. (Iber.
Appian's history was first published in a barbarous Latin translation by Candidus, at Venice, in 1472.
A part of the Greek text was first published by Carolus Stephanus, Paris, 1551; which was followed by an improved Latin version by Gelenius, which was published after the death of the latter at Basel, 1554. The Greek text of the Ἰβηρικὴ καὶ Ἀννιβαϊκή was published for the first time by H. Stephanus, Geneva, 1557. Ursinus published some fragments at Antwerp, 1582. The second edition of the Greek text was edited, with the Latin version of Gelenius, by H. Stephanus, Geneva, 1592. The twenty-third book of Appian, containing the wars with Illyria, was first published by Hœeschelius, Augsburg, 1599
, and some additional fragments were added by Valesius, Paris, 1634
. The third edition of Appian's work was published at Amsterdam in 1670, and is a mere reprint of the edition of H. Stephanus.
The work bears on the title-page the name of Alexander Tollius, but he did absolutely nothing for the work, and allowed the typographical errors of the old edition to remain. The fourth edition, and infinitely the best, is that of Schweighäuser, Leipzig, 1785, 3 vols. 8vo. A few new fragments of Appian were published by Mai in the second volume of his Nova Collectio vet. Scrip.: they are reprinted, together with the new fragments of Polybius, in Polybii et Appiani Historiarum Excerpta Vaticana, &c., edited by Lucht, Altona, 1830.
Letter to Fronto
Mai also discovered a letter of Appian to Fronto (p. 229 in Niebuhr's edition of Fronto).