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This webpage reproduces a portion of
The Library of History

Diodorus Siculus

published in Vol. XI
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1957

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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(Vol. XI) Diodorus Siculus
Library of History

 p177  Fragments of Book XXVI

1 1 Neither the poet nor the historian nor indeed any craftsman in literary form can in all respects satisfy all his readers; for human nature, even though carried to the highest degree of perfection, cannot succeed in winning the approval of all men and the censure of none. Pheidias, for example, was admired above all others for the fabrication of ivory statues; Praxiteles in masterly fashion embodied the emotions in works of stone; Apelles and Parrhasius by their practised skill in blending colours brought the art of painting to its peak. Yet not one of these men attained such success in his work that he could display a product of his skill in all respects above censure. Who, for instance, among poets is more illustrious than Homer? Who among orators than Demosthenes? Who among men of upright life than Aristeides and Solon? Yet even their reputations and talents have been assailed by criticism and the demonstration of mistakes. 2 For they were but human, and though they achieved pre-eminence in their professions, yet through human frailty they  p179 failed in many cases. Now there are certain paltry fellows, full of envy and wise in petty things, who dismiss all that is excellent in any achievement but fasten upon whatever admits of distortion or plausible censure. Thereby, through their denunciation of others, they aspire to enhance their own skill, failing to realize that infirmity of talent is not the result of external influences, but that, on the contrary, every talent is judged in and for itself.​1 3 We may well marvel at the industry which such foolish minds expend upon trivialities in their attempts to win a good name for themselves by reviling others. It is the very nature of some people, I think, to be stupidly mischievous, just as it is the nature of frosts and snow to blast fine young crops. Indeed, just as the eye is dimmed by the dazzling whiteness of snow and loses its power of exact vision, so there are men who neither will nor can themselves achieve anything of note, and who therefore of set purpose disparage the accomplishments of others. Hence men of good understanding should award to those who by diligent efforts have won success the praise due to excellence, but should not carp at the human frailties of those whose success is small. So much, then, for those who make a practice of evilspeaking.

2 1 Hannibal was a born fighter, and having been reared from boyhood in the practice of warfare and  p181 having spent many years in the field as the companion of great leaders, he was well versed in war and its struggles. Nature, moreover, had richly endowed him with sagacity, and since by long years of training in war he had acquired the ability to command, he now had high hopes of success.

3 1 As a countermeasure to the shrewd policy of Fabius the dictator​2 Hannibal challenged him again and again to open combat, and by taunts of cowardice sought to compel him to accede to a decision by battle. When he remained unmoved, the Roman populace began to criticize the dictator, called him "Lackey,"​3 and reproached him with cowardice. Fabius, however, bore these insults calmly and with self-possession.

2 Like a good athlete he entered the contest only after long training, when he had gained much experience and strength.4

3 Once Minucius​5 had been worsted by Hannibal, everyone decided after the event that his total failure was the result of folly and inexperience, but that Fabius, by his sagacity and his ability as a strategist, had shown throughout a prudent concern for safety.

 p183  4 1 Menodotus of Perinthus wrote a Treatise on Greek History in fifteen books; Sosylus of Elis wrote a History of Hannibal in seven books.6

5 1 The Roman legion consists of five thousand men.7

6 1 Men naturally rally to the banners of success, but join in attacks on the fortunes of the fallen.

2 Fortune is changeable by nature and will swiftly bring about a reversal of our situation.

7 1 Dorimachus,​8 the Aetolian general, perpetrated an impious deed, for he plundered the oracle of Dodona and set fire to the temple, except for the cella.

8 1 For since Rhodes had been laid low by a great earthquake, Hiero of Syracuse gave six talents of silver for the reconstruction of the city walls and, in addition to the money, gave a number of fine vases of silver; and he exempted their grain ships from the payment of duty.9

 p185  9 1 What is now called Philippopolis​10 in Thessaly was formerly called Phthiotic Thebes.

10 1 When the question of revolt was brought forward at a public assembly in Capua and the course of action to be taken was being debated, the Capuans allowed a certain Pancylus Paucus​11 to express his opinion. Fear of Hannibal had driven him out of his mind, and he swore to his fellow citizens a peculiar oath. If, he said, there were still one chance in a hundred for the Romans, he would not go over to the Carthaginians; but since, in fact, the superiority of the enemy was manifest and danger now stood at their very gates, they must perforce yield to this superiority. In this way, all having agreed to join forces with the Carthaginians . . .

11 1 After the army of Hannibal had for some time greedily taken their fill of the riches of Campania, their whole pattern of life was reversed. For constant luxury, soft couches, and perfumes and food of every sort, all in lavish abundance, relaxed their strength and their wonted ability to endure danger, and reduced both body and spirit to a soft and womanish condition. Human nature, in fact, accepts only with distaste the unaccustomed practice of hardships and  p187 meagre diet, whereas it takes eagerly to a life of ease and luxury.12

12 1 The cities​13 shifted and floundered as the weight of public opinion tipped the scales now this way, now that.

2 Even the goodwill of friends may be seen to change with changing circumstances.

3 The virtues of good men sometimes win them honour even among enemies.

4 Many women, unmarried girls, and freeborn boys accompanied the Capuan forces because of the shortage of food.​14 War does, in fact, sometimes compel those who in times of peace live in high dignity to endure conditions from which their years should exempt them.

13 1 Wreaking widespread devastation as he went, Hannibal also took over the cities of Bruttium, and later captured Croton and was about to invest Rhegium. Having set out from the west and the Pillars of Heracles, he brought into subjection all the territory of the Romans except for Rome and Naples, and he carried the war as far as Croton.15

14 1 After having denounced the Romans at length for their cruelty and dishonesty, and especially their  p189 arrogance, Hannibal singled out those who were the sons and kinsmen of senators, and in order to pursue the senate, put them to death.

2 Because of his deep hostility to the Romans, Hannibal selected suitable prisoners and paired them off for single combat. He compelled brothers to fight against brothers, fathers against sons, kinsmen against kinsmen. Here, indeed, there is just cause to detest the savage cruelty of the Phoenician, and to admire the piety of the Romans and their steadfast endurance in so grievous a plight. For though they were subjected to fire and goads and were most cruelly scourged, not one of them consented to do violence to his kindred, but all in an access of noble devotion expired under torture, having kept themselves free from the mutual stain of parricide.16

15 1 Upon the death at Syracuse of Gelo and Hiero, the rulers of Sicily, and the succession to the throne of Hieronymus,​17 who was a lad in his teens, the kingdom was left without a capable leader. As a result the youth, keeping company with flatterers who courted him, was led astray into luxurious living, profligacy, and despotic cruelty. He committed outrages against women, put to death friends who spoke frankly, summarily confiscated many estates, and presented them to those who courted his favour. This behaviour brought in its train first the hatred  p191 of the populace, then a conspiracy, and finally the downfall that usually attends wicked rulers.

2 After the death of Hieronymus, the Syracusans, having met in assembly, voted to punish the whole family of the tyrant and to put them all to death, men and women alike, in order to uproot completely the tyrant stock.18

16 1 Mago sent the body of Sempronius​19 to Hannibal. Now when the soldiers saw the corpse, they raised a clamour and demanded that it should be hacked apart and flung piecemeal to the winds. Hannibal, however, declared that it was not seemly to vent one's anger upon a senseless corpse, and confronted as he was by evidence of the uncertainty of Fortune, and at the same time moved by admiration for the man's valour, he granted the dead hero a costly funeral. Then having gathered up the bones and bestowed them decently, he sent them to the Roman camp.

17 1 When the Roman senate heard that Capua had been completely invested with double wall, they did not persist in a policy of unalterable hostility, even though the capture of the city now appeared (imminent?). On the contrary, influenced by ties of kinship, they decreed that all Campanians who changed sides before a fixed date should be granted immunity. The Campanians, however, rejected the senate's generous proposals, and deluding themselves  p193 as to the aid received from Hannibal repented only when repentance was of no avail.20

18 1 [A man may well marvel at the ingenuity of the designer,​21 in connection not only with this invention but with many other and greater ones as well, the fame of which has encompassed the entire inhabited world and of which we shall give a detailed and precise account when we come to the age of Archimedes.]

Archimedes, the famous and learned engineer and mathematician, a Syracusan by birth, was at this time an old man, in his seventy-fifth year. He constructed many ingenious machines, and on one occasion by means of a triple pulley launched with his left hand alone a merchant ship having a capacity of fifty thousand medimni. During the time when Marcellus,​22 the Roman general, was attacking Syracuse both by land and by sea, Archimedes first hauled up out of the water some of the enemy's barges by means of a mechanical device, and after raising them to the walls of Syracuse, sent them hurtling down, men and all, into the sea. Then, when Marcellus moved his barges a bit farther off, the old man made it possible for the Syracusans, one and all, to lift up stones the size of a wagon, and by hurling them one at a time to sink the barges. When Marcellus now moved the vessels off Carthage an arrow can fly, the old man then devised an hexagonal mirror, and at an appropriate distance from it set small quadrangular mirrors of the  p195 same type, which could be adjusted by metal plates and small hinges. This contrivance he set to catch the full rays of the sun at noon, both summer and winter, and eventually, by the reflection of the sun's rays in this, a fearsome fiery heat was kindled in the barges, and from the distance of an arrow's flight he reduced them to ashes. Thus did the old man, by his contrivances,​23 vanquish Marcellus. Again, he used to say, in the Doric speech of Syracuse: "Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world." Now when Syracuse was, as Diodorus relates, suddenly betrayed to Marcellus, or according to Dio, sacked by the Romans while the citizens were celebrating a nocturnal festival of Artemis, this man was killed by one of the Romans, under the following circumstances. Engaged in sketching a mechanical diagram, he was bending over it when a Roman came upon him and began to drag him off as a prisoner of war. Archimedes, wholly intent on his diagram and not realizing who was tugging at him, said to the man: "Away from my diagram!" Then, when the man continued to drag him along, Archimedes turned and, recognizing him for a Roman, cried out: "Quick there, one of my machines, someone!" The Roman, alarmed, slew him on the spot, a weak old man, but one whose achievements were wondrous. As soon as Marcellus learned of this, he was grieved, and together with the noblemen of the city and all the  p197 Romans gave him splendid burial amid the tombs of his fathers. As for the murderer, he had him, I fancy, beheaded. Dio and Diodorus record the story.

19 1 Diodorus the historian, in his comparison of Antioch on the Orontes to Syracuse, says that Syracuse is a tetrapolis.24

20 1 When, after the fall of Syracuse, the inhabitants approached Marcellus as suppliants, he ordered that the persons of all who were freeborn were to be spared, but that all their property was to be taken as booty.25

2 Being unable to procure food after the capture because of their poverty, the Syracusans agreed to become slaves, so that when sold they might receive food from those who purchased them. Thus Fortune imposed upon the defeated Syracusans, over and above their other losses, a calamity so grievous that in place of proffered freedom they voluntarily chose slavery.26

21 1 By his release of the hostages Scipio​27 demonstrated how time and time again the virtue of a  p199 single man has been able summarily to impose kings upon nations.

22 1 Indibeles​28 the Celtiberian, after winning forgiveness from Scipio, again kindled the flames of war when a suitable occasion presented itself. For indeed, those who benefit knaves, in addition to wasting their favours, fail to realize that often times they are actually raising up enemies for themselves.

23 1 The Carthaginians, after bringing the Libyan War​29 to an end, had avenged themselves on the Numidian tribe of the Micatani, women and children included, and crucified all whom they captured. As a result their descendants, mindful of the cruelty meted out to their fathers, were firmly established as the fiercest enemies of the Carthaginians.

24 1 He​30 did not leave unrecorded the great ability of the man (I mean, of course, Hasdrubal), but on the contrary affirms it. For Hasdrubal was the son of Hamilcar, surnamed Barca, the most distinguished man of his time, inasmuch as in the Sicilian War Hamilcar was the only leader who repeatedly defeated the Romans, and after bringing to an end the Civil War,​31 was the first to carry an army across to Spain. As the son of such a father, Hasdrubal proved himself not unworthy of his father's fame. It is generally agreed that next to his brother Hannibal he was the finest general in all Carthage; accordingly Hannibal left him in command of the armies in Spain. He engaged in many battles throughout Spain, constantly  p201 building up his forces after each reverse, and he stood firm in the face of frequent and manifold dangers. Indeed, even after he had been driven back into the interior, his outstanding personal qualities enabled him to bring together a large army, and contrary to all expectations he made his way into Italy.32

2 If Hasdrubal had enjoyed the assistance of Fortune as well, it is generally agreed that the Romans could not have carried on the struggle simultaneously against both him and Hannibal. For this reason we should estimate his ability not on the basis of his achievements but of his aims and enterprise. For these qualities are subject to men's control, but the outcome of their actions lies in the hands of Fortune.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Or, accepting the emendation of Wurm: "failing to realize that every talent is judged, not by the infirmity of others, but by its own soundness."

2 Q. Fabius Maximus, chosen as dictator after the Roman disaster at Trasimene. His policy of studied inactivity won him the abusive title of "Cunctator," which only later was converted into a term of praise.

3 Literally "pedagogue," because, it was said, he followed Hannibal about like the slaves who escorted children to and from school; cp. Plutarch, Fabius, 5.

4 Suidas refers this to Fabius.

5 M. Minucius Rufus, magister equitum and then co-dictator with Fabius. He was saved from total disaster only by the intervention of Fabius: cp. Polybius, 3.104‑105.

6 For Menodotus cp. Jacoby, FGH, no. 82; for Sosylus, no. 176, and for a discussion of his ethnic, Keil, Philologus, 87 (1932), 263‑264.

7 Polybius (3.107.10‑11) sets the normal figure for the infantry of a legion at about 4000, but says that in times of crisis 5000 might be used.

8 Dorimachus of Trichonium, who with Scopas instigated the War of the Allies, or Social War, fought by the Aetolian League and its allies against Philip V of Macedon and the Achaean League (220‑217 B.C.). In the arrangement of his work Diodorus here follows Polybius, who, after carrying the Hannibalic War down to Cannae (216 B.C.) in Book 3, reverts in Books 4 and 5 to the affairs of Greece. For the raid on Dodona cp. Polybius 4.67.1‑4.

9 According to Polybius (5.88.5‑8) the gifts of Hiero and Gelo had a total value of 100 talents. The earthquake, which destroyed the famous Colossus, occurred probably in 227 or 226 B.C.

10 The city was captured by Philip in 217 B.C. during the War of the Allies, and was resettled under its new name with Macedonians: cp. Polybius, 5.99‑100.

11 The accepted form of the name, as given by Livy (23.2 ff.), is Pacuvius Calavius. He was at this time the chief magistrate, medix tuticus, at Capua.

12 Cp. Livy, 23.18.10 ff.

13 Presumably the cities of Italy, after the Roman defeat at Cannae and the defection of Capua.

14 This fragment might more appropriately be placed before chap. 17 (cp. Appian, Hann. 36; Livy, 25.13).

15 The Hoeschel fragments end here, and as a result the division into books is uncertain until the Photius fragments begin in Book 31. The division followed here is that established by Dindorf.

16 This chapter refers to the fate of the Romans taken prisoner at Cannae, whom the senate refused to ransom; cp. Appian, Hann. 28, and Livy, 22.58‑61.

17 Hiero died in the early summer of 215 B.C., a few months after his son, Gelo. Hieronymus, the son of Gelo, and grandson of both Hiero and Pyrrhus, was about 15 years old at this time. He reigned for fifteen months. Polybius (7.7), without exonerating him, says that his crimes were greatly exaggerated.

18 This fragment (15.2) is misnumbered 16 in Dindorf's last edition (followed by Büttner-Wobst in the edition of the Const. Exc.).

19 Ti. Sempronius Gracchus, consul in 215 and 213 B.C., was killed in 212 B.C. while in command of two legions of slaves enrolled after Cannae: see Polybius, 8.35, and Livy, 25.16‑17. Mago was Hannibal's brother.

20 Cp. Livy, 25.22.11‑13.

21 Archimedes.

22 M. Claudius Marcellus.

23 For a more sober account of the military inventions of Archimedes see Polybius, 8.3‑7. Sir Thomas Heath, Archimedes (London, 1920), 6, says: "The story that he set the Roman ships on fire by an arrangement of burning-glasses or concave mirrors is not found in any authority earlier than Lucian (second century A.D.); but there is no improbability in the idea that he discovered some form of burning mirror, e.g. a paraboloid of revolution, which would reflect to one point all rays falling on its concave surface in a direction parallel to its axis."

24 The four sections of the city were the "Island" (Ortygia), Neapolis, Achradina, and Tyche. Strabo, however, says (270) that Syracuse was "in ancient times" a pentapolis.

25 Cp. Livy, 25.25.6‑7. Marcellus seized part of the city in 212 B.C. but completed its capture only in the next year.

26 Cp. the complaints of the Sicilians preferred against Marcellus in 210 B.C. (Livy, 26.29‑30, especially 26.30.9‑10).

27 P. Cornelius Scipio, the great Scipio Africanus, who at the time of his appointment to the command in Spain was only 25 years old. Torn from its context the sense of the present passage is not certain, and the Greek is perhaps corrupt. The hostages are probably Spaniards held by the Carthaginians, whom Scipio released after his capture of Nova Carthago in 209 B.C. By this and other diplomatic acts Scipio won over a number of native princes, whose willingness to recognize him as king the Roman general rebuffed (cp. Polybius, 10.38 and 40).

28 A chieftain of the Ilergeti, a people north of the Ebro, who with his brother Mandonius had come over to the Roman side after the capture of Nova Carthago. For the revolt see Polybius, 11.31‑33, who calls the chieftain Andobales.

29 That is, the Mercenary War; cp. above, Book 25.2‑6.

30 Polybius, whose encomium of Hasdrubal is given in 11.2.

31 The Mercenary or Libyan War (Book 25.2‑6), repeatedly called ἐμφύλιος by Polybius.

32 Where he met his death at the battle of the Metaurus.

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