Polybius

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Polybius of Megalopolis
Ochlocracy
Influenced
  • Virtually all of subsequent
    Ortega y Gasset

Polybius (/pəˈlɪbiəs/; Greek: Πολύβιος, Polýbios; c. 200 – c. 118 BC[2]) was a Greek historian of the Hellenistic period. He is noted for his work The Histories, which covered the period of 264–146 BC and the Punic Wars in detail.

Polybius is important for his analysis of the mixed constitution or the

United States Constitution.[3]

The leading expert on Polybius for nearly a century was F. W. Walbank (1909–2008), who published studies related to him for 50 years, including a long commentary of his Histories and a biography.[4]

Early life

Polybius was born around 200 BC in Megalopolis, Arcadia,[5] when it was an active member of the Achaean League. The town was revived, along with other Achaean states, a century before he was born.[6]

Polybius' father, Lycortas, was a prominent, land-owning politician and member of the governing class who became strategos (commanding general) of the Achaean League.[7] Consequently, Polybius was able to observe first hand during his first 40 years the political and military affairs of Megalopolis, gaining experience as a statesman.[5] In his early years, he accompanied his father while travelling as ambassador.[8] He developed an interest in horse riding and hunting, diversions that later commended him to his Roman captors.

In 182 BC, he was given quite an honor when he was chosen to carry the funeral urn of

strategia (chief generalship). His early political career was devoted largely towards maintaining the independence of Megalopolis.[citation needed
]

Personal experiences

Polybius' father, Lycortas, was a prominent advocate of neutrality during the Roman war against

Macedon. Lycortas attracted the suspicion of the Romans, and Polybius subsequently was one of the 1,000 Achaean nobles who were transported to Rome as hostages in 167 BC, and was detained there for 17 years. In Rome, by virtue of his high culture, Polybius was admitted to the most distinguished houses, in particular to that of Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus, the conqueror in the Third Macedonian War, who entrusted Polybius with the education of his sons, Fabius and Scipio Aemilianus (who had been adopted by the eldest son of Scipio Africanus). Polybius remained on cordial terms with his former pupil Scipio Aemilianus and was among the members of the Scipionic Circle
.

When Scipio defeated the

Carthaginians in the Third Punic War, Polybius remained his counsellor. The Achaean hostages were released in 150 BC, and Polybius was granted leave to return home, but the next year he went on campaign with Scipio Aemilianus to Africa, and was present at the Sack of Carthage
in 146, which he later described. Following the destruction of Carthage, Polybius likely journeyed along the Atlantic coast of Africa, as well as Spain.

After the destruction of Corinth in the same year, Polybius returned to Greece, making use of his Roman connections to lighten the conditions there. Polybius was charged with the difficult task of organizing the new form of government in the Greek cities, and in this office he gained great recognition.

At Rome

In the succeeding years, Polybius resided in

Mediterranean countries in the furtherance of his history, in particular with the aim of obtaining firsthand knowledge of historical sites. He apparently interviewed veterans to clarify details of the events he was recording and was similarly given access to archival material. Little is known of Polybius' later life; he most likely accompanied Scipio to Spain, acting as his military advisor during the Numantine War
.

He later wrote about this war in a lost monograph. Polybius probably returned to Greece later in his life, as evidenced by the many existent inscriptions and statues of him there. The last event mentioned in his Histories seems to be the construction of the Via Domitia in southern France in 118 BC, which suggests the writings of Pseudo-Lucian may have some grounding in fact when they state, "[Polybius] fell from his horse while riding up from the country, fell ill as a result and died at the age of eighty-two".

The Histories

The Histories describes the rise of the Roman Republic as a global power in the ancient Mediterranean world. The work includes eyewitness accounts of the Sack of Carthage and Corinth, and the Roman annexation of mainland Greece after the Achaean War.[9]

Polybius' Histories cover the period from 264 BC to 146 BC. It focuses mainly on the years 220 BC to 167 BC, detailing Ancient Rome's overcoming of their geopolitical rival, Carthage, and thereby becoming the dominant Mediterranean force. Books I through V are The Histories' introduction, set during his lifetime. They describe political affairs in the leading Mediterranean states during the time, including in Ancient Greece and Egypt, explaining their "συμπλοκή" or interconnectedness.

In Book VI, Polybius describes the political, military, and moral institutions that allowed the Romans to succeed. He also describes the First and Second Punic Wars. Polybius concludes that the Romans are the pre-eminent power because they have customs and institutions which promote a deep desire for noble acts, a love of virtue, piety towards parents and elders, and a fear of the gods (deisidaimonia). Polybius also details the battles between Hannibal and Scipio Africanus in the Second Punic War; such as the Battle of Ticinus, the Battle of the Trebia, the Siege of Saguntum, the Battle of Lilybaeum, the Battle of Rhone Crossing and the Battle of Zama, among others.

In Book XII, Polybius discusses the worth of Timaeus' account of the same period of history. He asserts Timaeus' point of view is inaccurate, invalid, and biased in favor of Rome. Christian Habicht considered his criticism of Timaeus to be spiteful and biased,[10] However, Polybius' Histories is also useful in analyzing the different Hellenistic versions of history and of use as a credible illustration of actual events during the Hellenistic period.

Sources

Polybius held that historians should only chronicle events whose participants the historian was able to interview,[11] and was among the first to champion the notion of factual integrity in historical writing. In the twelfth volume of his Histories, Polybius defines the historian's job as the analysis of documentation, the review of relevant geographical information, and political experience. In Polybius' time, the profession of a historian required political experience (which aided in differentiating between fact and fiction) and familiarity with the geography surrounding one's subject matter to supply an accurate version of events.

Polybius himself exemplified these principles as he was well travelled and possessed political and military experience. He did not neglect written sources that provided essential material for his histories of the period from 264 BC to 220 BC. When addressing events after 220 BC, he examined the writings of Greek and Roman historians to acquire credible sources of information, but rarely did he name those sources.

As historian

Polybius wrote several works, most of which are lost. His earliest work was a biography of the Greek statesman Philopoemen; this work was later used as a source by Plutarch when composing his Parallel Lives; however, the original Polybian text is lost. In addition, Polybius wrote an extensive treatise entitled Tactics, which may have detailed Roman and Greek military tactics. Small parts of this work may survive in his major Histories, but the work itself is lost, as well. Another missing work was a historical monograph on the events of the Numantine War. The largest Polybian work was, of course, his Histories, of which only the first five books survive entirely intact, along with a large portion of the sixth book and fragments of the rest. Along with Cato the Elder (234–149 BC), he can be considered one of the founding fathers of Roman historiography.

Livy made reference to and uses Polybius' Histories as source material in his own narrative. Polybius was among the first historians to attempt to present history as a sequence of causes and effects, based upon a careful examination and criticism of tradition. He narrated his history based upon first-hand knowledge. The Histories capture the varied elements of the story of human behavior: nationalism, xenophobia, duplicitous politics, war, brutality, loyalty, valour, intelligence, reason and resourcefulness.

Aside from the narrative of the historical events, Polybius also included three books of digressions. Book 34 was entirely devoted to questions of geography and included some trenchant criticisms of

aristocratic and popular elements existed in stable equilibrium. This enabled Rome to escape, for the time being, the cycle of eternal revolutions (anacyclosis
). While Polybius was not the first to advance this view, his account provides the most cogent illustration of the ideal for later political theorists.

A key theme of The Histories is the good statesman as virtuous and composed. The character of the Polybian statesman is exemplified in that of Philip II. His beliefs about Philip's character led Polybius to reject historian Theopompus' description of Philip's private, drunken debauchery. For Polybius, it was inconceivable that such an able and effective statesman could have had an immoral and unrestrained private life as described by Theopompus.[12] In recounting the Roman Republic, Polybius stated that "the Senate stands in awe of the multitude, and cannot neglect the feelings of the people".[13]

Other important themes running through The Histories are the role of Fortune in the affairs of nations, his insistence that history should be demonstratory, or apodeiktike, providing lessons for statesmen, and that historians should be "men of action" (pragmatikoi).

Polybius is considered by some to be the successor of

reasoning
, and the forefather of scholarly, painstaking historical research in the modern scientific sense. According to this view, his work sets forth the course of history's occurrences with clearness, penetration, sound judgment, and, among the circumstances affecting the outcomes, he lays special emphasis on geographical conditions. Modern historians are especially impressed with the manner in which Polybius used his sources, particularly documentary evidence as well as his citation and quotation of sources. Furthermore, there is some admiration of Polybius' meditation on the nature of historiography in Book 12. His work belongs, therefore, amongst the greatest productions of ancient historical writing. The writer of the Oxford Companion to Classical Literature (1937) praises him for his "earnest devotion to truth" and his systematic pursuit of causation.

It has long been acknowledged that Polybius' writings are prone to a certain

hagiographic tone when writing of his friends, such as Scipio, and subject to a vindictive tone when detailing the exploits of his enemies, such as Callicrates, the Achaean statesman responsible for his Roman exile.[14]

As a hostage in Rome, then as client to the Scipios, and after 146 BC, a collaborator with Roman rule, Polybius was probably in no position to freely express any negative opinions of Rome.

Scylax,[18] proved a reliable guide in the eventual rediscovery of the lost city of Kydonia.[19]

Cryptography

Polybius was responsible for a useful tool in

cryptographic manipulation and steganography. Modern implementations of the Polybius square, at least in Western European languages such as English, Spanish, French, German and Italian
, generally use the Roman alphabet in which those languages are written. However, Polybius himself was writing in Greek, and would have implemented his cipher square in the Greek alphabet. Both versions are shown here.

1 2 3 4 5
1 A B C D E
2 F G H I/J K
3 L M N O P
4 Q R S T U
5 V W X Y Z
1 2 3 4 5
1 A B Γ Δ E
2 Z H Θ I K
3 Λ M N Ξ O
4 Π P Σ T Y
5 Φ X Ψ Ω

In the Polybius square, letters of the alphabet were arranged left to right, top to bottom in a 5 × 5 square. When used with the 26-letter Latin alphabet two letters, usually I and J, are combined. When used with the Greek alphabet, which has exactly one less letter than there are spaces (or code points) in the square, the final "5,5" code point encodes the spaces in between words. Alternatively, it can denote the end of a sentence or paragraph when writing in continuous script.

Five numbers are then aligned on the outside top of the square, and five numbers on the left side of the square vertically. Usually these numbers were arranged 1 through 5. By cross-referencing the two numbers along the grid of the square, a letter could be deduced.

In The Histories, Polybius specifies how this cypher could be used in fire signals, where long-range messages could be sent by means of torches raised and lowered to signify the column and row of each letter. This was a great leap forward from previous fire signaling, which could send prearranged codes only (such as, 'if we light the fire, it means that the enemy has arrived').

Other writings of

scientific interest include detailed discussions of the machines Archimedes
created for the defense of Syracuse against the Romans, where Polybius praises the 'old man' and his engineering in the highest terms, and an analysis of the usefulness of astronomy to generals (both in the Histories).

Influence

Polybius was considered a poor stylist by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, writing of Polybius' history that "no one has the endurance to reach [its] end".[20] Nevertheless, clearly he was widely read by Romans and Greeks alike. He is quoted extensively by Strabo writing in the 1st century BC and Athenaeus in the 3rd century AD.

His emphasis on explaining causes of events, rather than just recounting events, influenced the historian

Diodorus, Livy, Plutarch and Arrian
. Much of the text that survives today from the later books of The Histories was preserved in Byzantine anthologies.

His works reappeared in the West first in Renaissance Florence. Polybius gained a following in Italy, and although poor Latin translations hampered proper scholarship on his works, they contributed to the city's historical and political discourse. Niccolò Machiavelli in his Discourses on Livy evinces familiarity with Polybius. Vernacular translations in French, German, Italian and English first appeared during the 16th century.[21] Consequently, in the late 16th century, Polybius' works found a greater reading audience among the learned public. Study of the correspondence of such men as Isaac Casaubon, Jacques Auguste de Thou, William Camden and Paolo Sarpi reveals a growing interest in Polybius' works and thought during the period. Despite the existence of both printed editions in the vernacular and increased scholarly interest, however, Polybius remained an "historian's historian", not much read by the public at large.[22]

Printings of his work in the vernacular remained few in number—seven in French, five in English (John Dryden provided an enthusiastic preface to Sir Henry Sheers' edition of 1693) and five in Italian.[23] Polybius' political analysis has influenced republican thinkers from

Charles de Montesquieu to the Founding Fathers of the United States.[24] John Adams, for example, considered him one of the most important teachers of constitutional theory. Since the Age of Enlightenment, Polybius has in general held appeal to those interested in Hellenistic Greece
and early Republican Rome, while his political and military writings have lost influence in academia. More recently, thorough work on the Greek text of Polybius, and his historical technique, has increased the academic understanding and appreciation of him as a historian.

According to Edward Tufte, he was also a major source for Charles Joseph Minard's figurative map of Hannibal's overland journey into Italy during the Second Punic War.[25]

In his Meditations On Hunting, Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset calls Polybius "one of the few great minds that the turbid human species has managed to produce", and says the damage to the Histories is "without question one of the gravest losses that we have suffered in our Greco-Roman heritage".

The Italian version of his name, Polibio, was used as a male first name—for example, the composer Polibio Fumagalli—though it never became very common.

The University of Pennsylvania has an intellectual society, the Polybian Society, which is named in his honor and serves as a non-partisan forum for discussing societal issues and policy.

Editions and translations

See also

Notes and references

  1. , pp 281-282.
  2. ^ Derow 2016.
  3. ^ "Polybius and the Founding Fathers: The separation of powers".
  4. ^ Gibson & Harrison: Polybius, pp. 1–5.
  5. ^ .
  6. .
  7. ^ "Titus Livius (Livy), The History of Rome, Book 39, chapter 35". www.perseus.tufts.edu. Retrieved 2016-11-02.
  8. ^ .
  9. ^ Polybius (~150 B.C.). The Rise of the Roman Republic. Translated by Ian Scott-Kilvert (1979). Penguin Books. London, England.
  10. ^ Athens from Alexander to Antony by Christian Habicht p119
  11. ^ Farrington, Scott Thomas (February 2015). "A Likely Story: Rhetoric and the Determination of Truth in Polybius’ Histories." Histos 9: 29-66. (p. 40): "Polybius begins his history proper with the 140th Olympiad because accounts of the remote past amount to hearsay and do not allow for safe judgements (διαλήψεις) and assertions (ἀποφάσεις) regarding the course of events.... he can relate events he saw himself, or he can use the testimony of eyewitnesses. ([footnote 34:] Pol. 4.2.2: ἐξ οὗ συµβαίνει τοῖς µὲν αὐτοὺς ἡµᾶς παραγεγονέναι, τὰ δὲ παρὰ τῶν ἑωρακότων ἀκηκοέναι.)" [archive URLs: 1 (full text), 2 (abstract & journal citation)]
  12. ^ Hannibal at New Carthage: Polybius 3. 15 and the Power of Irrationality Author: A. M. Eckstein, Classical Philology, Vol. 84, No. 1 (January 1989), pp. 3-4
  13. Perseus Digital Library at Tufts University
  14. ^ Peter Green, Alexander to Actium
  15. ^ Ronald J. Mellor, The Historians of Ancient Rome
  16. ^ H. Ormerod, Piracy in the Ancient World, p.141
  17. ^ Robert Pashley, Travels in Crete, 1837, J. Murray
  18. ^ "C. Michael Hogan, Cydonia, Modern Antiquarian, January 23, 2008". Themodernantiquarian.com. Retrieved 2010-02-28.
  19. ^ Comp. 4
  20. .
  21. .
  22. .
  23. ^ Marshall Davies Lloyd, Polybius and the Founding Fathers: the separation of powers, Sept. 22, 1998.
  24. ^ "Minard's figurative map of Hannibal's war". Edwardtufte.com. Retrieved 2010-02-28.

Sources

Ancient sources

  • Titus Livius of Patavium (Livy), libri XXI — XLV
  • Pseudo-Lucian Makrobioi
  • Paulus Orosius libri VII of Histories against Pagans

Modern sources

  • Davidson, James: 'Polybius' in Feldherr, Andrew ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Historians (Cambridge University Press, 2009)
  • .
  • Gibson, Bruce & Harrison, Thomas (editors): Polybius and his World: Essays in Memory of F.W. Walbank, (Oxford, 2013).
  • Momigliano, Arnaldo M.: Sesto Contributo alla Storia degli Studi Classici e del Mondo Antico (Rome, 1980)
    • —— Vol. V (1974) "The Historian's Skin", 77–88 (Momigliano Bibliography no. 531)
    • —— Vol. VI (1973) "Polibio, Posidonio e l'imperialismo Romano", 89 (Momigliano Bibliography no. 525) (original publication: Atti della Accademia delle Scienze di Torino, 107, 1972–73, 693–707)
  • Moore, John M: The Manuscript Tradition of Polybius (Cambridge University Press, 1965)
  • Walbank, Frank W.:
    • —— Philip V of Macedon, the Hare Prize Essay 1939 (Cambridge University Press, 1940)
    • —— A Historical Commentary on Polybius (Oxford University Press)
      • Vol. I (1957) Commentary on Books I–VI
      • Vol. II (1967) Commentary on Books VII–XVIII
      • Vol. III (1979) Commentary on Books XIX–XL
    • —— Polybius (University of California Press, 1972)

Further reading

  • Champion, Craige B. 2004. Cultural Politics in Polybius's Histories. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.
  • Derow, Peter S. 1979. "Polybius, Rome, and the East." Journal of Roman Studies 69:1–15.
  • Eckstein, Arthur M. 1995. Moral Vision in the Histories of Polybius. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.
  • Farrington, Scott Thomas. 2015. "A Likely Story: Rhetoric and the Determination of Truth in Polybius' Histories. Histos: The On-Line Journal of Ancient Historiography 9: 29–66.
  • McGing, Brian C. 2010. Polybius: The Histories. Oxford Approaches to Classical Literature. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.
  • Moore, Daniel Walker. 2017. "Learning from Experience: Polybius and the Progress of Rome." Classical Quarterly 67.1: 132–148.
  • Pausch, Dennis. 2014. "Livy Reading Polybius: Adapting Greek Narrative to Roman History." In Defining Greek Narrative. Edited by Douglas L. Cairns and Ruth Scodel, 279–297. Edinburgh : Edinburgh University Press.
  • Sacks, Kenneth S. 1981. Polybius on the Writing of History. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.
  • Schepens, Guido, and Jan Bollansée, eds. 2005. The Shadow of Polybius: Intertextuality as a Research Tool in Greek Historiography. Leuven, Belgium: Peeters.
  • Walbank, Frank W. 2002. Polybius, Rome and the Hellenistic World: Essays and Reflections. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

External links