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Diodorus Siculus

 p. vii  Introduction to Books XVIII‑XX

The Sources of Books 18‑20

The chief source of Diodorus in Books 18 through 20, except for the material dealing with Italy and Sicily, is the history of Hieronymus of Cardia, a friend and fellow countryman of Eumenes, and after Eumenes' death the companion of Antigonus, Demetrius, and Gonatas. Save for a few fragments (FGrH, No. 154) the work of Hieronymus is lost, but certain of these fragments (e.g., the description of the funeral car of Alexander, frag. 2) can be brought into direct relation with Diodorus. It is a safe assumption that he centred his history about the careers of the leaders whom he successively served; and, following him, Diodorus makes his narrative revolve about Eumenes, Antigonus, and Demetrius. Hieronymus was with Eumenes throughout the campaigns that followed the death of Alexander, took refuge with him on Nora, and was wounded in the final battle at Gabenê. In the accounts of the duel between Eumenes and Neoptolemus (Book 18.31), the sufferings on Nora (chap. 42), and Eumenes' devices for retaining the support of his generals (Book 19.15, 23, 24) Diodorus presents vivid details that must come from an eyewitness; and in Antigonus' statement of his reasons for unwillingly ordering the death of Eumenes (Book  p. viii 19.44.1‑3), which he must certainly have desired, we probably have the explanation that he offered to Hieronymus when he attached the latter to his personal following. Antigonus placed Hieronymus in charge of the asphalt industry on the Dead Sea, and to this we owe the detailed account of that sea and of the Nabataean Arabs (Book 19.94‑100). That Diodorus tells more of the disposition of the troops of Demetrius at Gaza than of that of the enemy (Book 19.82‑83) is due to Hieronymus' presence by the side of Demetrius. Diodorus' treatment of Antigonus is, in general, sympathetic, but Antigonus is never presented as a hero as are both Eumenes and Demetrius; and here again we have a reflection of the attitude of Hieronymus.

Although Hieronymus is Diodorus' chief source, he is not the only one. The fulsome praise of Ptolemy (Books 18.14.1, 28.5‑6, 33.3; 19.86.3) is certainly not from Hieronymus but from a source favourable to the Egyptian leader; and the confused account of Perdiccas' ill-fated campaign in Egypt (Book 18.33‑36) is probably the result of a careless combination of Hieronymus and this second source.

There is general agreement that the major part of Diodorus' narrative of Sicilian affairs in this period rests on the History of Agathocles by Duris. Not only is there similarity between portions of Diodorus and certain fragments of Duris (Book 20.41.3 and 104.3 compared with FGrH, 76.17 and 18), but also the series of brilliantly described scenes and the generally favourable treatment of Agathocles fit that author, a follower of the grand style and himself tyrant of Samos. It is also agreed that parts of the narrative rest upon Timaeus, who is directly cited  p. ix in Book 20.79.5, 89.5, and to whom we probably owe the passages that are definitely hostile to Agathocles (e.g. Book 19.7, 8) or laudatory of his enemies (Book 19.71.4 compared with 3.3‑4).

The theory has been advanced that for his brief notices of Roman affairs in Books 19 and 20 Diodorus used one of the earlier annalists, for example, Fabius Pictor, and thus preserves a purer tradition than that of Livy. Although it is quite probable that Diodorus did use a brief account of Roman history written in Greek, there is nothing in the scattered notices to indicate the nature of this work. The statement that the Romans found Luceria a useful stronghold against the near-by peoples "down to our times" (Book 19.72.9) is probably taken in its entirety from this source; but Luceria may well have been used by the Romans in the Social War as it certainly was in the Civil Wars, and the passage cannot be used, as it has been, to prove a source contemporary with the war against Hannibal. The nature of Diodorus' source for the history of Rome and Italy must therefore remain an open question.

It is also an open question whether Diodorus used any of these writers directly. He may have followed Hieronymus, Duris, and the unidentified writer on Italian affairs for the several portions of his history, adding material from other source when he wished; or he may have followed some unknown work or works in which the combination had already been made.

More detailed discussions of the problems suggested in these paragraphs will be found in Rudolf Schubert, Die Quellen zur Geschichte der Diodochenzeit, and in the articles on Diodorus, Diyllus, Duris, Hieronymus,  p. x and Timaeus in Pauly-Wissowa-Kroll, Realencyclopädie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft.

Note on Chronology

The dates given throughout this volume, both in the margin of the translation and in the notes, have been taken from the chronological table in the second edition of Beloch, Griechische Geschichte, 4.2.624 ff.​a

Hieronymus seems to have arranged his history by campaigning seasons, equivalent to the years of our calendar, clearly marking the end of each season by indicating the winter quarters of the various armies; and in general Diodorus followed this same plan, relating all the events of each year before passing to the next, and usually calling attention to the winter quarters of the chief leaders. For his own chronological framework, however, Diodorus used the Athenian archon years, and in fitting the campaigning seasons into these archon years he is not always consistent. As a rule he gives under each archon all the events of the year during which he took office; thus, under the archon of 318/17 he narrates all the events of 318. Quite naturally, in introducing a new character whose previous career has been outside the main course of the history, he goes back and tells what is necessary of that earlier career. Thus the whole story of Agathocles' rise to power is given at the beginning of Book 19 in connection with his successful coup de main in 317.

If the chronology of Diodorus is thus interpreted, it is reasonably accurate and consistent. Diodorus, indeed, gives his account of the final campaign of Eumenes after naming the archon of 316/15 (Book  p. xi 19.17‑34, 37‑43); that is, he puts it at the beginning of the campaigning season of 316 rather than in the last half of 317 where it belongs. But this is an understandable and not very serious difference. The campaign certainly started before the end of the summer of 317 (Book 19.18.1, 19.1‑2, 21‑2), was briefly interrupted when both armies went into winter quarters, but started again in December (37.3), and the final battle probably took place late in that month or early in January. Diodorus simply placed the whole campaign in the year in which the final decision was reached. Chapters 15 to 43 of Book 18, however, present special difficulties. The events of 322 should, by Diodorus' usual method, follow his mention of the archon of 322/1 in chapter 26, but they are actually narrated in the eleven chapters just preceding; and in chapter 26, after the archon is named, we go at once to the burial of Alexander in 321 (chaps. 26‑28), the building of the funeral car being described here in connection with the transportation of the body to Egypt rather than two years earlier when construction was started. The next archon­ship to be mentioned is that of 319/18 in chapter 44, and the narrative of 319 immediately follows in its proper place. It would be easy to assume one or more lacunae between chapters 28 and 44 with the loss of the names of the archons of 321/0 and 320/19 and much of the history of the two years, but that would not explain the earlier irregularity; and the omission of the second of these archons from the Parian Marble may possibly suggest some more deep-seated trouble.

In equating the Roman and Greek systems of chronology, Diodorus used a list of Roman consuls  p. xii to which the "dictator years" of 333, 324, 309, and 301 had not been added. In the period here in question he assigns the consuls to years that differ from those of the traditional (Varronian) chronology by two years at the beginning of Book 18 (cp. chap. 2.1 and note) and thereafter by one year; but he usually agrees with Livy in assigning events to the years of particular consuls, and, since the "dictator years" are quite certainly imaginary, his chronology is, to this extent, better than the Varronian. (Cp. H. Stuart Jones in the Cambridge Ancient History, 7.321 f.)

Thayer's Note:

a Jona Lendering points out that Hellenistic chronology, naturally, has made some strides since. For an overview of progress during the twentieth century, see the Bryn Mawr Classical Review of Thomas Boiy, Between High and Low. A Chronology of the Early Hellenistic Period.

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