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1. Of TAUROMENIUM in Sicily, the celebrated historian, was the son of Andromachus, who collected the Naxian exiles, after their city had been destroyed by Dionysius, and settled them in the town of Tauromenium, which had been recently founded, and of which he became the tyrant, or supreme ruler, B. C. 358 (Diod. 16.7, comp. 14.59, with Wesseling's note). Andromachus received Timoleon at Tauromenium, when he came to Sicily in B. C. 344, and he was almost the only one of the tyrants whom Timoleon left in possession of their power (Plut. Tim. 10 ; Marcellin. Vit. Thue. § 42). We do not know the exact date of the birth or death of Timaeus, but we can make an approximation to it, which cannot be very far from the truth. We know that his history was brought down to B. C. 264 (Plb. 1.5), and that he attained the age of ninety-six (Lucian, Macrob. 22). Now as his father could not have been a very young man between B. C. 358 and 344, during which time he held the tyrannis of Tauromenium, we probably shall not be far wrong in placing the birth of Timaeus in B. C. 352, and his death in B. C. 256. We learn from Suidas that Timaeus received instruction from Philiscus, the Milesian, a disciple of Isocrates; but we have no further particulars of his life, except that he was banished from Sicily by Agathocles, and passed his exile at Athens, where he had lived fifty years when he wrote the thirty-fourth book of his history (Diod. Exc. ex libr. xxi. p. 560, Wess.; Polyb. Exc. Vat. pp. 389, 393; Plut. de Exil. p. 605c). We are not informed in what year he was banished by Agathocles, but it may have been in the year that the latter crossed over to Africa (B. C. 310), since we are told that the tyrant, fearing an insurrection in his absence, either put to death or drove into exile all the persons whom he suspected to be hostile to his government. (Diod. 20.4.)


History of Sicily

Timaeus wrote the history of Sicily from the earliest times to B. C. 264, in which year Polybius commences the introduction to his work (Plb. 1.5). This history was one of great extent. Suidas quotes the thirty-eighth book (s. v. τὸ ἱερὸν πν̂ρ), and there were probably many books after this. It appears to have been divided into several great sections, which are quoted with separate titles, though they in reality formed a part of one great whole. Thus Suidas speaks of ᾿Ιταλικὰ καὶ Σικελικὰ in eight books, and of Ἐλληνικὰ καὶ Σικελικά. It has been conjectured that the Italica and Sicelica were the title of the early portion of the work, during which period the history of Sicily was closely connected with that of Italy; and that the second part of the work was called Sicelica and Hellenica, and comprised the period during which Sicily was brought more into contact with Greece by the Athenian invasions as well as by other events. The last five books contained the history of Agathocles (Diod. p. 561, Wess.). Timaeus wrote the history of Pyrrhus as a separate work (Dionys. A. R. 1.6; Cic. Fam. 5.12); but, as it falls within the time treated of in his general History, it may almost be regarded as an episode of the latter.


The value and authority of Timaeus as an historian have been most vehemently attacked by Polybius in many parts of his work. He maintains that Timaeus was totally deficient in the first qualifications of an historian, as he possessed no practical knowledge of war or politics, and never attempted to obtain by travelling a personal acquaintance with the places and countries he described ; but on the contrary confined his residence to one spot for fifty years, and there gained all his knowledge from books alone. Polybius also remarks that Timaeus had so little power of observation, and so weak a judgment, that he was unable to give a correct account even of the things he had seen, and of the places he had visited; and adds that he was likewise so superstitious, that his work abounded with old traditions and well-known fables, while things of graver importance were entirely omitted (Polyb. lib. xii. with the Fragmenta Vaticana of his work). His ignorance of geography and natural history appears to have been very great, and Polybius frequently mentions his errors on these subjects (e.g. 2.16, 12.3, 5). But Polybius brings still graver charges against Timaeus. He accuses him of frequently stating wilful falsehoods, of indulging in all kinds of calumnies against the most distinguished men, such as Homer, Aristotle, and Theophrastus, and of attacking his personal enemies, such as Agathocles, in the most atrocious manner. These charges are repeated by Diodorus and other ancient writers, among whom Timaeus earned so bad a character by his slanders and calumnies, that he was nick-named Epitimaeus (Ἐπιτίμαιος), or the Fault-Finder (Athen. 6.272b; comp. Diod. 5.1, 13.90, Exc. xxi. p. 561, Wess.; Strab. xiv. p.640). Lastly, Polybius censures the speeches in the history of Timaeus, as unsuitable to the speakers, and the times at which they are represented as delivered, and as marked by a scholastic, verbose, and inflated style of oratory.

Most of the charges of Polybius against Timaeus are unquestionably founded upon truth; but from the statements of other writers, and from the fragments which we possess of Timaeus's own work, we are led to conclude that Polybius has greatly exaggerated the defects of Timaeus, and omitted to mention his peculiar excellencies. Nay, several of the very points which Polybius regarded as great blemishes in his work, were, in reality, some of its greatest merits. The rationalizing Polybius quite approved of the manner in which Ephorus and Theopompus dealt with the ancient myths, which they attempted, by stripping them of all their miracles and marvels, to turn into sober history ; but it was one of the great merits of Timaeus, for which he is loudly denounced by Polybius, that he attempted to give the myths in their simplest and most genuine form, as related by the most ancient writers. There can be little doubt that if the early portion of the history of Timaeus had been preserved, we should be able to gain a more correct knowledge of many points than from the histories of Theopompus and Ephorus.

Ὀλυμπιονῖκαι χρονικὰ πραξίδια

Timaeus also collected the materials of his history with the greatest diligence and care, a fact which even Polybius is obliged to admit (Exc. Vat. p. 402, init.). He likewise paid very great attention to chronology, and was the first writer who introduced the practice of recording events by Olympiads, which was adopted by almost all subsequent writers of Greek history (Diod. 5.1). For this purpose he drew up a list of the Olympic conquerors, which is called by Suidas Ὀλυμπιονῖκαι χρονικὰ πραξίδια. Cicero formed a very different opinion of the merits of Timaeus from that of Polybius. He says (de Orat. 2.14) :--" Timaeus, quantum judicare possim, longs eruditissimus, et rerum copia et sententiarum varietate abundantissimus, et ipsa compositione verborum non impolitus, magnam eloquentiam ad scribendum attulit, sed nullum usum forensem." (Comp. Cic. Brut. 95.

On Syria
Rhetorical Arguments

In addition to the Sicilian history and the Olympionicae, Suidas assigns two other works to Timaeus, neither of which is mentioned by any other writer, namely, An Account of Syria, its cities and kings, in three books (περὶ Συρίας καὶ τῶν αὺτῆς πόλεων καὶ βασιλέων βιβλία γ́), and a collection of rhetorical arguments in sixty-eight books (Συλλογὴ ῥητορικῶν ἀφορμῶν), which was more probably written, as Ruhnken has remarked, by Timaeus the sophist.


The fragments of Timaeus have been collected by Göller, in his De Situ et Origine Syracusarum, Lips. 1818, pp. 209-306, and by Car. and Theod. Müller, in the Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum, Paris, 1841, pp. 193-233, both of which works also contain dissertations on the life and writings of Timaeus.

Further Information

Compare Vossius, De Historicis Graecis, pp. 117-120, ed. Westermann; Clinton, Fast. Hell. vol. iii. pp. 489, 490.

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hide References (6 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (6):
    • Cicero, Letters to his Friends, 5.12
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 13.90
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.7
    • Polybius, Histories, 1.5
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 5.1
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 20.4
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