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Dio Cassius: Roman History



Cassius Dio (or Dion Cassius as he is known in Greek) wrote hisRoman History in 80 books in Greek, sometime in the early 3rd century underSeverus or Caracalla, both of whom he knew. Dio exerted no appreciable influence on his immediate successors in the field of Roman history. But among the Byzantines he became the standard authority on the subject, a circumstance to which we doubtless owe the preservation of such a large portion of his work. Most of the remainder is extant in the 'condensed book' format, or 'epitome' sofavoured by the Byzantine.




Dio Cassius: Roman History



"The Excerpts De Sententiis (M) are contained in a Vatican palimpsest (Vaticanus Graecus 73) of the tenth or eleventh century. The Ms. is in very bad condition; numerous leaves were discarded and the others disarranged when the Ms. was used for the second writing. Angelo Mai, who first published the collection in 1826, employed chemical reagents to bring out the letters and even then had to despair of many passages. Since his use of the Ms. the letters have naturally faded still more, and parts of some leaves have been covered in the work of repair. The excerpts attributed to Dio are drawn from nearly all periods of Roman history, and fall into two groups, the first extending down to 216 B.C., the other from 40 B.C. to the reign of Constantine ; between the two portions several leaves, and probably entire quaternions, have been lost from the Ms. That the former set of fragments is taken from Dio none will deny. The later collection, however, extends much beyond the reign of Alexander Severus, where Dio ended his history; furthermore, the style and diction are considerably different from Dio's own. It is now generally agreed that all the excerpts of this second set were the work of one man, whom Boissevain, following Niebuhr, would identify with Petrus Patricius, a historian of the sixth century. Nevertheless, though not directquotations from Dio, they are of value in filling out both his account and that of Xiphilinus.


"Zonaras was private secretary to the emperor Alexis I. Comnenus in the early part of the twelfth century; later he retired to a monastery on Mt. Athos and devoted himself to literary labours. Among various works which he left is his 'Epitomh_ 'Istoriwn, a history of the world, in eighteen books, extending from the creation down to the death of Alexis in 1118. It has been satisfactorily shown that for Books VII-IX, in which Roman history is carried down from the landing of Aeneas to 146 B.C., his chief source was Dio, supplemented by Plutarch anda couple of quotations from Herodotus: We are justified, therefore, in recognizing as an epitome of Dio whatever remains after the exclusion of the portions that are derivable from the other two sources. After narrating the destruction of Corinth Zonaras laments that he could find no ancient authorities for the remainder of the republican period ; hence it is inferred that Books XXII-XXXV had even then been lost from all the Mss. He resumes his narration with the time of Sulla, and after relying on various lives of Plutarch for a time, finally follows Dio's account once more, beginning with Book XLIV, 3 ; but for the period subsequent to Domitian's death he used Dio only indirectly, through the epitome of Xiphilinus. Zonaras is therefore of great importance for Books I-XXI, and to a lesser degree for Books XLIV-LXVII, where he occasionally supplements our Mss. of Dio or the epitome of Xiphilinus. There are numerous Mss. of Zonaras, five of which are cited byBoissevain..." (Cary)


Despite his importance as a source for Roman history, Dio has been thought worthy of only of one major, comprehensive bibliography. Martinelli 1999 and the subsequent update in Martinelli 2002 provide summaries of around fifty years of modern scholarly discussions of Dio. The various contributions to ANRW II 34.3 (see Haase 1997, cited under Collections of Articles) provide substantial but partial bibliographies.


These concerns aside, this book fills a crucial need. It makes Dio a more teachable author and will give scholars in many areas of Roman history an entree into critical engagement with Dio as something other than a source of facts. It provides important insights into the possibilities of Greco-Roman historiography as political analysis and the origins of our modern metanarrative of the late republic and Augustan periods. Those who go from this book to a more extensive reading of Dio will naturally discover complexities beyond what Madsen has been able to present in this volume. They will also discover a good deal of high-quality recent scholarship to which Madsen has contributed. Scholars and teachers of Roman historiography and political thought, as well as historians of the Augustan period, should welcome this study warmly.


Of the eighty books of Dio's great work Roman History, covering the era from the legendary landing of Aeneas in Italy to the reign of Alexander Severus (222-235 CE), we possess Books 36-60 (36 and 55-60 have gaps), which cover the years 68 BCE-47 CE. The missing portions are partly supplied, for the earlier gaps by Zonaras, who relies closely on Dio, and for some later gaps (Book 35 onwards) by John Xiphilinus (of the eleventh century). There are also many excerpts. The facilities for research afforded by Dio's official duties and his own industry make him a very vital source for Roman history of the last years of the republic and the first four emperors.


This volume provides a new translation of Books 57 and 58 of Cassius Dio's Roman History and the 'fragments' of these books preserved in later Byzantine epitomes, as well as the first English language commentary to examine them in their entirety. Dio's Roman History covers almost 1,000 years from the founding of Rome up to the early third century AD, with Books 57 and 58 focusing on the reign of the emperor Tiberius (AD 14-37): his account of this period is one of the most important to have survived from antiquity, not least as it preserves a historiographical tradition in some ways distinct from that of Tacitus and Suetonius. These books also reveal something of his authorial preoccupations and present a glimpse into the mind of the historian, and especially into his understanding of the mechanics of imperial government. The focus of the commentary is both historical and historiographical, in so far as it aims to illuminate not only issues arising from Dio's account of the Tiberian principate, but also to reveal the unity of his work and literary programme: a series of appendices complement the analysis by providing discussion of some of the key historical problems surrounding Dio and the reign of Tiberius. The translation (the first since the Loeb Classical Library edition of E. Cary) aims for both clarity and accuracy, and particular care has been taken to separate the various textual traditions that have been used to reconstruct the lost portions of Dio's text. An accompanying general introduction offers an accessible overview of Cassius Dio's approach to history based on the latest research in the field, and will be of particular use to graduate and undergraduate students coming to the text for the first time.


C. T. MallanC. T. Mallan is a Senior Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Western Australia. He was educated at the University of Oxford and the University of Queensland and has held academic posts in both the UK and Australia. His academic work focuses on Roman imperial history and historiography.


Cassius Dio was born in AD 150 in Nicaea. He spent the greater part of his life in the public service. He was a senator under Commodus and consul twice, once in 220 and again in 229. He wrote his 80-book history of Rome over 22 years. After his second consularship, he returned to Nicaea, where he died in AD 235.


Cassius Dio's depiction of Septimius Severus is a crucial part of the author's Roman History, as it informs questions of the historian's relationship with the Severan regime, his overall goals in writing his history, and even the process of composing the history itself. Difficulties of interpretation arise because of Cassius Dio's seemingly critical stance toward the emperor throughout much of his narration of Severus' reign, in contrast to the generally positive obituary that Severus receives at the end of book 77[76]. The nature of Dio's comments on Severus' way of life and accomplishments has led scholars to understand Dio's view of the emperor as largely positive, and at worst "mixed" (e.g., Millar 1964: 138-150; Alföldy 1968: 113; Manuwald 1979: 283; Hose 1994: 408; Murison 1999: 11-12; cf. Bering-Staschewski 1981: 75). 041b061a72


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