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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Roman Antiquities

Dionysius of Halicarnassus

published in Vol. I
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1937

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(Vol. I) Dionysius of Halicarnassus
Roman Antiquities

 p. vii  Introduction

Life of Dionysius

The few facts known about the life of Dionysius are virtually all given us by the author himself. At the close of the preface to the Roman Antiquities (chap. 8) he announces himself as Dionysius, the son of Alexander, and a native of Halicarnassus. He also informs us (chap. 7) that he had come to Italy at the time when Augustus Caesar put an end to the civil war in the middle of the 187th Olympiad (late in 30 B.C. or in 29), and that he had spent the following twenty-two years in acquainting himself with the language and the literature of the Romans, in gathering his materials and in writing his History. The preface is dated (chap. 3) in the consul­ship of Nero and Piso (7 B.C.), and the first part, at least, of the work must have been published at that time. It is generally assumed that the entire History appeared then; but in Book VII (70.2) Dionysius refers to Book I as having been already published. This leaves it an open question in how many instalments and at what intervals he issued the work. We do not know the exact date of his birth: but two casual statements in the History enable us to fix it within certain limits. He cites the disastrous  p. viii campaign of Crassus against the Parthians as an event of his own lifetime (II.6.4); and in describing the erection of the original Capitol he states that the new edifice, 'built in the days of our fathers,' stood on the same foundations as the old (IV.61.4). The first of these passages shows that he was born at least as early as 53, and perhaps as early as 54 or 55, since the reference may very well be to the whole Parthian expedition. The second allusion is more indefinite. The new Capitol, begun by Sulla shortly after the burning of the old structure in 83, was formally dedicated by Catulus in 69; nevertheless, as late as the beginning of 62 Caesar, in bringing charges of embezzlement against Catulus, claimed that many parts of the temple were still but half-finished and accordingly wished to have Pompey entrusted with the completion of the work.JJJ We do not know how much justification there was for Caesar's action, though it is evident that it was primarily a political move; in any case, he was unsuccessful, and Catulus' name remained on the pediment of the temple. Whether Dionysius knew of Caesar's charges or attached any importance to them we can only conjecture. Egger,JJJ taking these charges seriously, argued that Dionysius must have been born after 63; yet it is just as natural to believe that the historian dated the temple by the official dedication. The two passages, then, give as extreme limits for the date of Dionysius' birth 69 and 53, with some possibility of the narrower limits of 62 and 55. Modern scholars have generally  p. ix assumed a date between 60 and 55, from the feeling that Dionysius must have been a fairly young man when he came to Rome and undertook to master a new language and literature. The only other reference in an ancient author to the time when Dionysius lived is even more indefinite than those just quoted. Strabo (ca. 63 21 A.D.), in speaking of Halicarnassus, names, as authors who claimed that city as their birthplace, Herodotus, Heraclitus the poet,​a and, 'in our time,' Dionysius the historian (XIV.2.16).

Halicarnassus had declined greatly in importance after the time of Maussolus,º and finally suffered grievously at the hands of the pirates not far from the time when Dionysius was born. It was given a new lease of life by Quintus Cicero while he was serving as governor of Asia (61‑58), if we may believe the enthusiastic tribute paid him by his brother.JJJ Such was the city in which Dionysius apparently spent his youth and early manhood. Whether he composed any of his rhetorical treatises while still residing there is uncertain; but it is generally held that they were all written at Rome.

In Rome Dionysius was a teacher of rhetoric, probably giving private lessons; in one of his treatises addressed to a pupil he refers to 'our daily exercises.'JJJ From these shorter works which took the form of letters addressed to friends, patrons  p. x or pupils, we learn the names of a number of his friends and associates; but unfortunately they are, with one or two exceptions, otherwise unknown to us. Aelius Tubero may have been the historian and jurist who was consul in 11 B.C., the same historian who is praised in the Antiquities (I.80.1). Melitius Rufus, a pupil, and his father, whom Dionysius calls a most valued friend, were evidently Romans. Cn. Pompeius Geminus may well have been a Greek, in spite of his name; Ammaeus also was probably a Greek, and so almost certainly were Demetrius and Zeno. Caecilius of Calacte, who is styled a dear friend, was a rhetorician and historian of whom a great deal is known. In the introduction to the History (chap. 7) Dionysius states that he gained some of his information orally from most learned men (Romans by implication) with whom he came in contact. It would be interesting indeed to know the names of some of these men and how intimately he associated with them; but, with the possible exception of Aelius Tubero, he nowhere names a contemporary Roman author, although he pays tribute to the many excellent works that were being produced in his day, — histories, speeches and philosophical treatises, — by both Romans and Greeks.JJJ From the circumstance that he gives particular credit to the ruling classes of Rome for the recent purification of literary taste, Roberts suggests that he may have been 'influenced more directly . . . by the Roman men of affairs with whom (or with whose sons) his vocation brought him  p. xi into contact than by any Roman man of letters.'JJJ One avowed purpose in writing his History was to make a grateful return to Rome for the education and other advantages he had enjoyed there;JJJ and this certainly suggests that he felt he had been made welcome in Rome.

We have no information regarding the date of his death. If he was the author of the summary of his History in five books which Photius (Cod. 84) attributes to him, he doubtless wrote this after the publication of the large work, and so must have lived for some little time at least after 7 B.C. There are several passages in his shorter works in which he promises to discuss this or that topic 'if I have the time,' or 'if it is possible,' or 'if Heaven keeps us safe and sound.' These have sometimes been taken to indicate that he was already an old man or in poor health; but it is by no means necessary to put such a construction upon his words.

The Roman Antiquities

The work which Dionysius undoubtedly regarded as his masterpiece and the practical embodiment of his theories regarding historical writing was the Roman Antiquities.JJJ It treated the history of Rome from the earliest legendary times down to the  p. xii beginning of the First Punic War, the point at which Polybius' history began. The work was in twenty books,JJJ of which the first ten are preserved, together with the greater part of the eleventh. Of the remaining books we have fragments amounting all told to a little more than the average length of one of the earlier books. Most of these fragments come from the great collection of historical extracts made at the direction of the emperor Constantine Porphyrogennetus in the tenth century.

In his preface Dionysius lays down two principles as fundamental for historians, first, that they should choose subjects noble and lofty and of great utility to their readers, and, second, that they should use the greatest care and discrimination in gathering their materials. He then proceeds to justify his own choice of subject and to describe the careful preparation he had made for his task. In two chapters, obviously imitated from Polybius' introduction, he gives a brief survey of the empires of the past, from the Assyrian to the Macedonian, with a glance at the Greek hegemonies, and points out how greatly Rome had surpassed them all, both in the extent of her dominion and in the length of time it had already endured. He then undertakes to answer the anticipated criticism of those who might censure him for choosing the humble beginnings of Rome as his particular theme when there were so many glorious periods in her later history  p. xiii that would furnish excellent subjects. He declares that the Greeks for the most part were ignorant of Rome's early history, having been misled by baseless reports that attributed the founding of the city to some homeless wanderers, at once barbarians and slaves, and hence were inclined to rail at Fortune for unfairly bestowing the heritage of the Greeks upon the basest of barbarians. He promises to correct these erroneous impressions and to prove that Rome's founders were in reality Greeks, and Greeks from no mean tribes; he will also show that Rome from the very beginning produced countless instances of men as pious, just and brave as any other city ever did, and that it was due to these early leaders and to the customs and institutions handed down by them that their descendants advanced to so great power. Thus he hopes to reconcile his Greek readers to their subjection to Rome. He points out that there had been no accurate history of Rome written by Greeks, but only summary accounts, and even the Romans who had written histories of their country in Greek had passed lightly over events occurring before their own days. He feels, therefore, that in this earlier period of Rome's history he has found a noble theme virtually untouched as yet. By treating this period adequately he will confer immortal glory upon those worthy men of early Rome and encourage their descendants to emulate them in leading honourable and useful lives; at the same time he will have the opportunity of showing his goodwill toward all good men who delight in the contemplation of great and battle deeds, and also of  p. xiv  making a grateful train to Rome for the cultural advantages and other blessings that he had enjoyed while residing there. He declares, however, that it is not for the sak of flattering the Romans that he has turned his attention to this subject, but out of regard for truth and justice, the proper objects of every history. He then describes his preparation for his task, — the twenty-two years he had spent in familiarizing himself with the language and literature of the Romans, the oral information he had received from the most learned men, and the approved Roman histories that he had read. Finally, he announces the period of Roman history to be covered in his work,JJJ and the topics to be treated. He will relate the wars waged by Rome with other peoples and the seditions at home, her various forms of government, the best of her customs and the most important of her laws; in short, he will picture the whole life of the ancient city. As regards the form of his History, it will not be like the works of those who write of wars alone or treat solely of political constitutions, nor will it be monotonous and tiresome like the annalistic histories of Athens; but it will be a combination of every style, so as to appeal  p. xv alike to statesmen and to philosophers as well as to those who desire mere undisturbed entertainment in their reading of history.

More than once in the course of his History (V.56, XI.1; cf. VII.66) Dionysius interrupts his narrative to insist on the importance of acquainting the reader not only with the mere outcome of events, but also with the causes, remote as well as proximate, that led up to them, the circumstances in which the events occurred and the motives of the chief participants. Such information, they say, is of the utmost importance to statesmen, in order that they may have precedents for the various situations that may confront them and may thus be able to persuade their fellow-citizens when they can adduce numerous examples from the past to show the advantage or the harm of a given course of action. Dionysius here shows an understanding of the true function of history, as he does also, in a measure, in his various protestations of devotion to the truth, though he nowhere sets up such a strict standard of absolute impartiality as did Polybius (I.14.4).

Unfortunately, in spite of these high ideals which Dionysius tried to keep before him, his Antiquities is an outstanding example of the mischievous results of that unnatural alliance between rhetoric and history which was the vogue after the time of Thucydides. The rhetoricians regarded a history as a work of art whose primary purpose was to give pleasure. Events in themselves seem to have been considered as of less importance than the manner in which they were presented. Hence various liberties  p. xvi could be taken with the facts in order to produce a more telling effect; and as long as this was done not out of fear or favour, but simply from the desire to make the account more effective, the writer was not conscious of violating the truth. Dionysius doubtless thought that he was living up to his high ideals; but he was first and foremost a rhetorician and could see history only through a rhetorician's eyes. The desire to please is everywhere in evidence; there is a constant straining after rhetorical and dramatic effects.

In conformity with the rhetorical tradition, he interlarded his narrative with speeches which he managed to insert on every possible occasion from the third book onward. One technical purpose which they were intended to serve — to give variety to the narrative — is clear from the very circumstance that there are scarcely any speeches at all in Books I and II, which have a sufficiently diversified narrative to require no further efforts at variety, whereas from Book III onward the speeches occupy very nearly one-third of the total text. Dionysius himself occasionally felt the need of some justification of his insertion of so many speeches and argued that, as the crisis under consideration was settled by discussion, it was therefore important for the reader to know the arguments that were advanced on both sides (VII.66; XI.1). Yet he had no adequate conception of the talents required for carrying out this ambitious programme successfully. Possessing neither the historical sense nor psychological insight, nor even any special gift of imagination, he undertook to compose speeches for  p. xvii any and all occasions by the simple process of following certain stereotyped rhetorical rules. The main argument of many of his speeches he doubtless found already expressed in his sources, either in some detail or in the form of a brief résumé, while in other cases there was probably a mere form of statement that implied a speech at that point; numerous instances of each of these methods can be seen in Livy (who was not one of his sources) on the occasions where Dionysius inserts a speech. But it was little more than the main argument at best that he took over are his sources in most of the speeches of any length. The speeches were the part of a history in which the author was expected to give the freest reinº to his rhetorical talents; and that Dionysius did not fail to make full use of this opportunity is evident from the many imitations of the classical Attic prose writers that are found in his speeches. One of his fundamental principles for the acquiring of a good style was the imitating of classical models, and in the speeches of the Antiquities we see how it was to be done. Not only do we find single phrases and sentences from Demosthenes, Thucydides and Xenophon paraphrased and amplified, but even the tenor of entire passages in those authors is imitated.JJJ It is not at all surprising, therefore, that these speeches fail almost completely to perform their true function of  p. xviii revealing the character and the motives of the different speakers. Nor are they redeemed by any profound thoughts, unless in the imitated passages, or by any original sentiments; for the most part they are little more than a succession of cheap platitudes and rhetoric all commonplaces. Indeed, we might almost believe at times that we were reading the declamations of Dionysius' own pupils.

It has generally been suspected that Dionysius invented a good many of his speeches outright, inserting them at points where there was no indication of any speech in his sources. One fairly clear instance of the sort is found in his account of Coriolanus (VIII.5‑8). After giving much the same account as Livy does of the trick played on the Romans by Attius Tullus at Coriolanus' suggestion in order to provoke them into giving the Volscians a just cause for going to war, Dionysius then represents Coriolanus as summoned by the Volscian leaders to advise them how best to prosecute the war. Coriolanus, in a speech clearly modelled upon the one addressed to the Spartans by the exiled Alcibiades (Thuc. VI.889 ff.), says much by way of self-justification, and finally offers a fresh plan for providing the Volscians with a just ground for war. There is no valid excuse for this second plan, the first one having already proved successful; Dionysius clearly wished to offer a parallel in his History to the famous episode in Thucydides. It is quite probable that several other speeches in this long account of Coriolanus also originated with Dionysius. Yet it must be remembered that he drew largely on the late annalists, some of whose  p. xix histories were very voluminous; and he may have found at least hints of speeches more frequently than has generally been supposed.

Quite in keeping with the tiresome speeches of the Antiquities are the long, circumstantial accounts of such events as Dionysius chose to emphasize in his narrative, and the cumulation of pathetic or gruesome details in tragic situations. His account of the combat between the Horatii and the Curiatii, followed by Horatius' slaying of his sister, occupies ten chapters (III.13‑22) as against but three in Livy (I.24‑26); and there is even a greater dis proportion in the length of their accounts of the events leading up to the combat (Dionys. III.2‑12, Livy I.22 f.) due in part to several long speeches in Dionysius. The outstanding instance of prolixity in the Antiquities is the account of Coriolanus. The events leading up to his exile (including 15 speeches) require 48 chapters (VII.20‑67), whereas Livy relates them in one-half of a single chapter (II.34.7‑12); the remaining events to the end of his life are told by Dionysius in 62 chapters (VIII.1‑62), and by Livy in 6 (II.35‑40). Almost everywhere in the extant portions of Dionysius his account is longer than that of Livy; but this relative fullness of detail was not maintained to the end of the History. To the struggle between the orders and to the Samnite wars he devoted less than four books (part of XIV. and XV‑XVII), where Livy has more than six (VI‑XI and part of XII). In other words, for events nearer his own day, for which the traditions should have been fuller and more reliable, he contented himself with a briefer narrative than for  p. xx the earlier periods, which for most historians had been full of doubt and uncertainty, thereby exactly reversing the logical procedure of Livy. An exception is seen in his detailed account of the war with Pyrrhus, a war which aroused his special interest for more reasons than one. Nowhere is his fondness for minute detail more out of place than in his account of tragic events, such as the encounter of the triumphant Horatius with his sister, Tullia's behaviour when she forces the driver of her carriage to continue on his way over the dead body of her father, the grief of Lucretius when his daughter slays herself, Verginius' slaying of his own daughter, and Veturia's visit to the cp of her son Coriolanus. By his constant effort to make us realize the full pathos or horror of the scene he defeats his own purpose. The dignified restraint shown by Livy in relating these same events is far more impressive.

Dionysius perhaps felt that he was making a distinct contribution toward the solidarity of the Graeco-Roman world when he undertook to prove, as his principal thesis, the Greek origin of Rome's founders. Not only did he trace the Aborigines back through the Oenotrians to Arcadia, but he even showed that the ancestors of the Trojans had come originally from that same district of Greece; other Greek elements represented in the population of early Rome were the Pelasgians, naturally of Greek origin, Evander and his company from Arcadia, and some Peloponnesian soldiers in the following of Hercules, who had remained behind in Italy when that hero passed through the peninsula on his return from Spain to Argos. None of the  p. xxi various details of this theory was original with Dionysius, for he cites his authorities at every step; but he may have been the first to combine these separate strands of tradition into a single, comprehensive argument. The entire first book is devoted to the proving of this thesis; and the argument is further strengthened at the end of Book VII by a detailed comparison of the ceremonies at the Ludi Romani with early Greek religious observances. As we saw from his introduction, he hoped by this demonstration to reconcile his fellow Greeks to Rome's supremacy; at the same time, he obviously understood the Romans of his day well enough to realize that, far from regarding Rome's glory as thereby diminished in any way, they would feel flattered by the thought of such a connexion with the heroic age of Greece. Incidentally, the proving of his thesis afforded him an excellent opportunity for dealing with the legendary period and thus giving greater variety to his work. But the acceptance of this theory was bound to give him an inverted view of the course of Roman history. Instead of recognizing the gradual evolution of the people and their institutions from very rude beginnings, he sees an advanced stage of civilization existing from the very first; and Rome's kings and later leaders are in such close contact with the Greek world that they borrow thence most of the new institutions that they establish from time to time. Thus he assumes that the celeres, the senate, the two consuls with joint powers, and the custom whereby the members of each curia dined together on holy days, were all based on Spartan models;  p. xxii that the division of the citizens into patricians and plebeians followed a similar division at Athens; that Servius Tullius organized a Latin League on the analogy of the Amphictyonic League of Greece, and that even the dictator­ship was suggested by the practice followed in various Greek cities of appointing an aisymnetes to deal with a particular emergency. Dionysius probably found most, if not all, of these institutions explained in his sources; in about half of the instances he qualifies his statement by the words 'in my opinion,' but this does not seem a sufficient criterion for deciding the author­ship of these views.

Dionysius is so ready to praise Rome's ancient heroes and institutions on every occasion, with never a word of disapprobation, that his impartiality may well be questioned. On a number of occasions he praises the piety and other virtues of the early Romans, which secured for them the special favour of Heaven; once (XX.6) he styles them the most holy and just of Greeks. A number of their laws and practices, especially some of those said to have been instituted by Romulus, are declared to be superior to those in vogue among the Greeks. Thus, Romulus' policy of colonizing captured cities and sometimes even granting them the franchise is contrasted with the ruthless practices of the leading Greek states and their narrow-minded policy of withholding the rights of citizen­ship from outsiders (II.16 f., XIV.6); and his laws regarding marriage and the patria potestas are described as better than the corresponding Greek practices (II.24‑27). Romulus is praised also for rejecting such of the  p. xxiii myths as attributed any unseemly conduct to the gods and all grosser forms of religious worship (II.18 f.). Indeed, our historian even approves of the Roman censor­ship, the inquisitorial powers of which were not limited, as in Athens and Sparta, to the public behaviour of the citizens, but extended even inside the walls of private homes (XX.13). But it is not the Greeks alone who are contrasted unfavourably with the old Romans; Dionysius is just as ready to point out to the Romans of his own day their failure to maintain the high standards set by their ancestors. He contrasts the spirit of mutual helpfulness and forbearance that characterized the relations of the plebeians and patricians in the early days with the era of bloodshed that began under Gaius Gracchus (II.11); similarly, he praises the simplicity of the first triumph (II.34), the excellent grounds on which Servius Tullius granted the franchise to manumitted slaves (IV.24), the deference shown by the early consuls to the authority of the senate (V.60), and the lawful and modest behaviour of the dictators down to the time of Sulla (V.77), contrasting each of these practices and institutions with the evil forms they assumed in later days. In one instance (VIII.80) he leaves it to the reader to decide whether the traditional Roman practice or the practice of the Greeks which some had recently wished to introduce at Rome, was the better. The pointing of all these contrasts is part of the historian's function as moralist, the function which he had in mind when in his Letter to Pompeius (chap. 3) he said that the attitude of Herodotus toward the events he was describing was  p. xxiv everywhere fair, showing pleasure in those that were good and grief at those that were bad. Dionysius doubtless endeavoured to be fair and sincere in his judgments; but he was, nevertheless, biased in favour of the Romans and in favour of the senatorial party, the Optimates of his own day. He even attempts to palliate one or two of the less savoury incidents associated with Rome's beginnings: he pictures Romulus as plunged into the depths of grief and despair at the death of Remus; and again, as addressing words of comfort and cheer to the captured Sabine maidens, assuring them that their seizure was in accordance with a good old Greek custom, and that it was the most distinguished way for women to be married! Livy makes no attempt to save the character of Romulus in the first instance, and in the second stops far short of Dionysius.

In the matter of religion, also, Dionysius makes no concealment of his attitude. He frequently refers to a divine providence. He speaks scornfully of the professors of atheistic philosophies, 'if philosophies they should be called,' who deny that the gods concern themselves with the affairs of mortals (II.68.2; VIII.56.1). He, for his part, is assured that the gods do sometimes intervene on behalf of the righteous (II.68 f.) and also to punish the wicked, as in the case of pyramid (XX.9 f.). The Romans, in particular, because of their piety and other virtues, had frequently been the recipients of divine favour, while the designs of their enemies were brought to naught (V.54.1; VI.13; VII.12.4; VIII.26.3). The gods, he holds, manifest their will through portents, and the dis regarding of these may  p. xxv be severely punished, as in the case of Crassus (II.6.4). Hence he recorded from time to time a goodly number of portents which he regarded as particularly noteworthy. With respect to the myths, he looked upon many of them, in which the gods played shameful parts, as blasphemous (II.18.3); and, though he recognized that some of the Greek myths had a certain value as allegorical interpretations of natural phenomena, or as consolations in misfortune or other similar ways, he nevertheless felt that for the ignorant mass of mankind they did more harm than good, and he was more inclined himself to accept the Roman religion (II.20). It is to be observed that in relating myths he nowhere implies his own belief in them, but generally introduces them with some qualifying phrase, such as 'it is said,' 'they say,' etc.

Dionysius doubtless made what he considered to be a thorough study of Roman political institutions; but his narrative constantly shows that he came far short of a real understanding of many of them. His failure to distinguish accurately between patricians and senators and between the patrum auctoritas and a senatus consultum is a source of no little confusion; but, worse still, he often uses the Attic term προβούλευμα (preliminary decree) both for senatus consultum and for patrum auctoritas. His frequent use of 'patricians' for 'senators' is easily explained when we compare Livy, who constantly uses the word patres for both patricians and senators. This ambiguous term was doubtless found by both historians in their sources; indeed, in a few instances Dionysius carelessly retained the word  p. xxvi as 'fathers' (V.33.2; VI.69.2). In making his choice between the renderings 'patricians' and 'senators' he seems to have adopted the former wherever the patres seemed to be opposed as a class to the plebeians (e.g.IV.8.2; VIII.82.4; IX.42.3). The term patrum auctoritas was apparently no better understood by Livy than by Dionysius; even for the early period he several times represents the auctoritas as preceding the vote of the comitia, and after the Publilian law of 339, which required the auctoritas to be given before the people voted, he uses patrum auctoritas and senatus consultum indiscriminately. There is, in fact, every reason for believing that the term patrum auctoritas had become obsolete even in the time of the older annalists who were Livy's chief sources. But Dionysius, with sources before him that probably showed no greater mis understanding of this term than does Livy, made matters much worse as the result of his assumption that the patrum auctoritas, and indeed any decree of the senate, was usually a preliminary decree to be ratified by the people. This view justified him in using the word προβούλευμα, the name given to the programme of business prepared by the Athenian Boulê for the consideration of the Ecclesia. It can hardly have been the desire to use the word προβούλευμα that led him to adopt its essential implications; for he often uses δόγμα or ψήφισμα in the same way for a decree of the senate that was to be ratified by the people. He must have had some reason in the first place for believing that the patrum auctoritas was a necessary preliminary to  p. xxvii action by the people. We know that it was customary for the consuls, as a matter of practical convenience, to ask the senate's advice and secure its approval before bringing any important matter before the people, inasmuch as the action taken in the comitia would have to receive the patrum auctoritas later in order to be valid. If Dionysius was aware this custom but not of its purpose, he might well reason that it was absurd for the senate to give its approval more than once to the same business, and hence, since he knew the patrum auctoritas was required for all votes of the people, he would naturally identify this term with the preliminary approval of the senate. It is true this view of the matter seems to be directly opposed to an important statement which he makes at the very outset. When defining the powers of the senate and of the people as established by Romulus, he states that the senate was to ratify the decisions of the people, but adds that in his own day the reverse principle was followed, the decrees of the senate then requiring the approval of the people (II.14.3). The natural implication of his statement is that the change had come about in fairly late times, but he nowhere in the extant books has anything more definite to say on the subject. In a very few instances he speaks of the 'patricians' (doubtless to him identical with the senators) as ratifying a vote of the people afterwards, e.g., in the case of the election of Numa (II.60.3) and the appointment of the first tribunes (VI.90.2); but as early as the election of Ancus Marcius he represents the people as ratifying the choice of the senators (III.36.1), and a little later  p. xxviii  speaks of this as normal procedure (IV.40.2; 80.2). In the last passage he is more explicit, declaring it to be the duty of the senate to consider in advance (προβουλεύειν) all matters relating to the general welfare, and the duty of the people to ratify their decision. It is fairly evident, then, that Dionysius' own theory was that a προβούλευμα of the senate had been necessary from the beginning. If his narrative occasionally violates this theory in practice, it is probably either because his sources were so explicit in particular instances that he felt he could not contradict them, or because he was negligent now and then and forgot to make his practice conform consistently to his theory. Another important matter in which he failed to make theory and practice coincide at all times will be mentioned a little later. It is not clear whether he believed the plebiscita, also, required a προβούλευμα; his language is at times ambiguous and his accounts of the procedure in the case of various plebiscita are inconsistent with one another. He held the mistaken view that all senators were patricians, even under the republic; for he believed that plebeians were made patricians before being admitted to the senate (II.47.1; V.13.2). But it is not in constitutional matters only that he made serious errors; there is confusion also in his account of religious matters. Thus, he uses 'haruspex' for 'augur' in II.22.3, and his account of the duties of the pontifices (II.73) contains many errors.JJJ

 p. xxix  A few words must be said about Dionysius' chronology. His date for the founding of Rome was 751 B.C., two years later than that adopted by Varro; and this difference between the two chronologies remains constant for the first 304 years of the city down to the time of the decemvirs (the period covered by Books I‑X). At that point the gap widens: Dionysius represents the decemviral rule as continuing for a third year, while Varro assigned to it only two years. Accordingly, for the half-dozen years covered by Book XI Dionysius' dates are three years later than those of Varro. The fragments of the last nine books do not give any dates; but three sporadic references in the earlier books to events of the third and first centuries B.C. show that for this late period his dates are the same as Varro's.JJJ Dionysius devotes two chapters (I.74 f.) to explaining how he arrived at the date 751 for the founding of the city, and for fuller information refers the reader to a separate work,JJJ that he had published to show how the Roman chronology was to be reduced to the Greek. There are other passages also which bear witness to the particular interest he felt in matters of chronology.JJJ Notwithstanding all the attention he devoted to this side of his work, modern scholars have for the most  p. xxx part been very harsh in their judgments of him in this very regard, accusing him of carelessness generally in the matter of his dates and, in particular, of following one system of chronology for the period treated in his History and another for events nearer his own day. Our historian had to wait long for his vindication; but one of the most recent investigators in the field of Roman chronology, Oscar Leuze, has come ably to his defence and shown that at least the more important of these charges of inaccuracy rest upon mis understanding of Dionysius' real meaning or of his usage.JJJ

Like most of the later Greek historians, Dionysius uses the reckoning by Olympiads, usually adding the name of the Athenian archon. From the beginning of the republic he normally gives the Greek date only for the first year of each Olympiad, identifying the intervening years merely by the names of the Roman magistrates. As the Athenian official year began in mid-summer and the Olympiadic year of the historians either in mid-summer or early autumn, whereas the Roman consular year began, in later times, on January 1, though in  p. xxxi earlier times at various seasons of the year, the Greek historians were confronted with an awkward problem in synchronizing Roman and Greek dates. The solution apparently followed by Dionysius, and probably by Polybius and Diodorus also, was to adopt the later Roman year of uniform length for all periods of Roman history, and to identify a given Roman year with the Olympiadic year in the course of which it began, rather than with that in which it ended (as is the modern practice). The dates given in the notes of the present edition follow this principle, only a single year being indicated as the modern equivalent of the Greek year, instead of parts of two years. Thus Olymp. 7,1 is identified as 751 B.C. instead of 752/1. The only exceptions are a few dates of non-Roman events, where Dionysius was probably not concerned with the exact Roman equivalent.

Dionysius was in theory opposed to the annalistic method of writing history. In his Letter to Pompeius (chap. 3) he criticized Thucydides' chronological arrangement of events, by winters and summers, as seriously interrupting the continuity of the narrative, and praised Herodotus for adopting the topical order. Yet when he himself was to write a history of Rome he evidently found it im practicable to avoid following the annalists method in vogue among the Romans. For the regal period, it is true, he arranges the events of each reign under the two headings of wars and peaceful achievements. But beginning with the establishment of the republic, he treats the events of each year by themselves, first naming the consuls or  p. xxxii other chief magistrates. For the greater part of the period that he covers this method could cause no confusion, as the military campaigns were of short duration; and it had the further advantage of avoiding monotony, since the narrative was constantly alternating between wars abroad and dissensions at home.

As regards his sources, Dionysius states in his preface (chap. 7) that he had consulted the works of the approved Roman historians, — Cato, Fabius Maximus (Servilianus?), Valerius Antias, Licinius Macer, Aelius (Tubero), Gellius, Calpurnius (Piso) and many others, — and that he had also derived information from conversations with the most learned men. And at the end of Book I (chap. 89) he refers to his careful reading of many works by both Greek and Roman writers on the subject of the origin of the Romans. His claim certainly appears to be justified, so far at least as Book I is concerned. In this one book he cites no fewer than thirty Greek authors, most of them historians or logographers, and seven Roman writers, — Cato, Tubero and Piso, of those named above, and Fabius Pictor, Lucius Alimentus, C. Sempronius (Tuditanus) and Varro. To the last-named he owns his indebtedness for his account of the old cities of the Aborigines (chaps. 14 f.); but he probably owes considerablyº more to him in this book in places where he has not named his source. After the birth of Romulus and Remus there was scarcely any further occasion for using Greek sources; and he usually mentioned the Roman historians only in cases where there were divergent trans. He  p. xxxiii naturally considered it to be his task as a historian to reconcile the different traditions so far as possible and present a smooth, uninterrupted narrative; and in the main he has succeeded very well in doing so.JJJ But now and then he found such divergences among his sources that he could not ignore them. In such cases he presents the two or more versions and either expresses his own preference or, quite often, leaves the decision to the reader. At times he makes the decision with the greatest confidence, especially in matters of chronology. He is prompt to discover anachronisms, and rebukes rather sharply the historians who have carelessly perpetuated them; Licinius Macer and Cn. Gellius are thus censured on two occasions (VI.11.2; VII.1.4), also Fabius Pictor (IV.6 f.; 30.2 f.), while Calpurnius Piso Frugi is named in one instance (IV.7.5) as the only one to give the correct version. It is generally recognized that he followed the late annalists as his principal sources; their histories were generally very voluminous, and in them he could find the full, detailed accounts which he frequently gives. His political orientation is that of the annalists of Sulla's time, who were strong champions of the senate's supremacy. They wrote their annals as propaganda, deliberately falsifying their account of events from time to time in order to make it appear that the senate had held from the first, or at least from the beginning of the republic, the same dominant position in the State  p. xxxiv that it held in the second and first centuries before Christ. They did this by representing the senate as having been consulted in early times on various occasions where tradition made no mention of any action on its part.JJJ Dionysius seems to have held the extreme view that even under the monarchy the senate had played a dominant part, the king's power being limited much as at Sparta (II.14.1 f.; cf.  VI.66.3). This was his theory; but in actual practice his narrative mentions very few specific occasions where the senate was consulted by the king, and we gain the impression that the power of the latter was virtually supreme. But from the moment of the establishing of the republic his account of events is in strict agreement with his theory. His failure to reconcile practice and theory earlier argues a lack of inventiveness either on his part or on that of his sources; it probably did not seem worth the trouble to work out the details. This view of the senate's original supremacy was the view taken also by Cicero in his De Republica; but it was not the view of Livy, who followed earlier annalists and rightly held that the senate had only gradually gained its wide powers. It is just such differences in orientation as this that make it fairly certain that Dionysius was not using Livy as his source in the numerous passages where their accounts seem at first sight strikingly similar.JJJ Besides the authors cited by Dionysius, he also  p. xxxv mentions a number of inscriptions, both at Rome and elsewhere, and there are sporadic references to the annales maximi, the records of the censors, etc.; but he does not say that he had seen any of these himself, and it is probable that he found the references in the annalists.

The first historian to cite Dionysius was Plutarch, who modeled his style upon that of the Antiquities.JJJ Schwartz held that Dionysius was Plutarch's sole source for his Coriolanus, but this view is opposed by Bux. The Romulus and Numa may each contain a little from the Antiquities, the Camillus is chiefly based on Livy.JJJ Dionysius is twice quoted in the Pyrrhus, but not enough of his account is preserved to enable us to make any accurate comparison between the two.

Scripta Rhetorica

The shorter works of Dionysius have generally gone under the name of Scripta Rhetorica; but they contain more of lengthy criticism than of technical rhetoric. They are all in the form of letters addressed to some literary friend, patron or pupil. There is no internal evidence to show whether they were composed before or after the History was published; but it is generally assumed that Dionysius wrote them from time to time during the years that he was engaged upon his great work. Although no absolute dates can be assigned to these several treatises, the relative order in which  p. xxxvi they were composed can be determined in most cases by means of the frequent references in one to what the writer has already discussed or proposes to discuss in another. The order in which Roberts arranges them is as follows:

First Letter to Ammaeus.

On the Arrangement of Words.

On the Ancient Orators.

On the Style of Demosthenes.

On Imitation: Books III.

Letter to Cn. Pompeius.

On Imitation: Book III.

On Dinarchus.

On Thucydides.

Second Letter to Ammaeus.

Egger would transpose the second and third items, seeing a greater maturity of judgment in the treatise on the Arrangement of Words. As regards the Dinarchus, he says we can be sure only that it was later than the Ancient Orators.

The treatise on Imitation is known to us only from fragments. Only the first half of the study of the Ancient Orators is preserved, treating of Lysias, Isocrates and Isaeus; in the second part Demosthenes, Hyperides and Aeschines were discussed. The treatise on the Style of Demosthenes is thought to be an enlarged edition of the discussion of Demosthenes in the earlier series. Other Works which have been lost were on the Choice of Words, on Figures, and on Political Philosophy, the latter a defence of the rhetoric of Isocrates and his school  p. xxxvii against its Epicurean detractors. The early editions attributed to Dionysius an Ars Rhetorica, but this is no longer held to be his work.

For a detailed account of the Scripta Rhetorica the reader is referred to Max. Egger, Denys d'Halicarnasse, pp20‑246; a brief survey of these works may be found in W. Rhys Roberts, Dionysius of Halicarnassus: The Three Literary Letters, pp4‑34. Roberts also gives (pp209‑19) a bibliography of the Scripta Rhetorica down to the year 1900.

To his labours as literary critic Dionysius brother a wide and thorough acquaintance with the works of the Attic prose writers, a discriminating taste, and great industry and zeal. His chief merit as a critic lies in his purity of taste; he rejoiced in the recent triumph of Atticism over Asianism and did his best to strengthen that victory. His rhetorical works have much in common with those of Cicero, due to their both using many of the same sources. Like Cicero, Dionysius held Demosthenes in the greatest admiration; but this excessive admiration for one man seems to have made him unfair in his judgment of all others: he tended to judge all the prose writers by the standards he set up for the orators. In other respects as well he is often narrow and superficial in his criticisms, and his manner is too dogmatic.

The first reference to Dionysius as a rhetorician in any extant author is in Quintilian, who merely names him three times in lists of rhetoricians. In the third century the circle of Libanius paid some attention to him. From the fifth century onward  p. xxxviii he was regarded by the Byzantines as the supreme authority on rhetoric. h3 Manuscripts

The manuscripts used by Jacoby for the first ten books of the Antiquities are as follows: Chisianus 58, 10th cent. Urbinas 105, 10th‑11th cent. Coislinianus 150, 16th cent. Regius Parisinus 1654 and 1655, 16th cent. Vaticanus 133, 15th cent. Urbinas 106, 15th cent. C and E also contain Book XI; F contains only I‑V.

The MSS. used for Book XI and those for the Fragments of XII‑XX will be listed in Vol. VII.

A and B are by far the best of the MSS.; the others are all late, and some of them, especially C and D, contain numerous interpolations. The editio princeps was based on D. B was first used by Hudson, but he contented himself with giving its readings in his notes. The translators Bellanger and Spelman were prompt to adopt most of the good readings of B, and many were taken into the text by Reiske. Ritschl was the first to make a comparative study of A and B. As a result of his first investigation, based on insufficient evidence, he was inclined to rate A much higher than B; but later he showed a better appreciation of the good readings found only in B, and concluded that a sound text must rest upon a judicious use of both  p. xxxix A and B,JJJ — a conclusion in which Jacoby heartily concurred, Kiessling based his edition on B so far as possible.

The individual symbols of the late MSS. appear very infrequently in Jacoby's (and the present) critical apparatus, since these MSS. are rarely of any service in establishing the text. An occasional good reading found only in the margin of D (Dmg) may have been entered by R. Stephanus himself; in any event such readings are evidently based on conjecture rather than on the authority of any manuscript. h3 Editions

The important editions of the Antiquities follow:

Robert Estienne (Stephanus), Paris, 1546. The editio princeps of the Greek text, Books I‑XI. Based on the very inferior Cod. Reg. Paris. 1654‑55.

Friedrich Sylburg, Frankfort, 1586. Books I‑XI and the Excerpta de Legationibus, translation (Gelenius' version revised) and notes. Sylburg made use, chiefly in his notes, of two MSS., a Romans (not to be identified) and a Venetus (272). Reprinted in careless form at Leipzig in 1691.

John Hudson, Oxford, 1704. Books I‑XI with the Excerpta de Legationibus and Excerpta de Virtutibus et Vitiis, a revision of Portus' Latin translation, and notes of various scholars. Hudson was the first to use the Urbinas (which he called  p. xl Cod. Vaticanus), but cited its readings only in the notes.

J. J. Reiske, Leipzig, 1774‑75. The text and translation of Hudson's edition with Reiske's own notes added. Too late to accomplish much in Vol. I, Reiske discovered that the printer was faithfully reproducing all the typographical errors of Hudson's edition; but from Book III.21 onward he corrected the proof sheets and also for the first time inserted the good readings of B in the text. Dionysius is often cited by the pages of this edition.

Adolf Kiessling, Leipzig (Teubner), 1860‑70. Based on B, so far as possible.

Carl Jacoby, Leipzig (Teubner), 1885‑1905; Index, 1925.

Adolf Kiessling-Victor Prou, Paris (Didot), 1886. Greek text and Latin translation (Portus revised). An unfortunate edition. Kiessling, after getting the work fairly started, dropped it completely; and Prou, who was called upon to complete the task, was far from possessing Kiessling's critical ability. Jacoby recognized the hand of Kiessling through the greater part of Books I‑III; from that point on the edition has virtually no critical value.

Besides these complete editions of the Antiquities, selected chapters were edited by D. C. Grimm (Archaeologiae Romanae quae ritus Romanos explicat Synopsis), Leipzig, 1786; J. J. Ambrosch (I.9‑38; II.1‑29; II.30‑56; II.64‑74) in four academic Festschriften, Breslau, 1840‑46; Fr. Ritschl (I.1‑30), Bonn, 1846. Angelo Mai published at Milan, in 1816, some fragments from an epitome contained  p. xli in a Milan MS., Cod. Ambrosianus Q 13 sup., and its copy, A 80 sup. These are now included (as the Excerpta Ambrosiana) among the Fragments of Books XII‑XX.


The first Latin translation of the Antiquities (Books I‑XI) was that of Lapus (or Lappus) Biragus, published at Treviso in 1480, three-quarters of a century before the first edition of the Greek text appeared. It possesses a special interest because it was based on two MSS., not as yet identified with any now extant, which were placed at the translator's disposal by Pope Paul II. Ritschl argued that one of these must have belonged to the better class of MSS. now represented by A and B, since the translation contains most of the additions to the text of the editio princeps that are found in one or both of the older MSS.JJJ Lapus'  p. xlii  translation was reprinted, 'with corrections,' but also with a multitude of fresh typographical errors, at Paris in 1529, and again, as revised by Glareanus, at Basle in 1532. A fresh translation of Books I‑X by Gelenius, based on the text of the princeps, appeared at Basle in 1549; for Book XI he merely reprinted Lapus' translation. Sylburg (1586) revised the translation of Gelenius and added his own version of Book XI. Aemilius Portus brought out a new translation (Lausanne, 1588); and this translation was adopted in the editions of Hudson and Reiske, and, with numerous corrections, in that of Kiessling-Prou.

An Italian translation by Francesco Venturi appeared at Venice in 1545, one year before the editio princeps. The translator names as his sources a Greek copy, very difficult to read, and a Latin translation [Lapus] full of errors. Apparently no serious use was made of the manuscript; it may well have proved to be generally inferior to Lapus' reading. In any case, Venturi's translation, with the exception of a few minor changes which were probably due to conjecture, presupposes the same Greek text as that of Lapus. Another Italian translation was published by M. Mastrofini, Rome, 1812‑13.

 p. xliii  A French version by G. F. le Jay (Paris, 1722) was loudly acclaimed by the admirers of the translator as representing perfection itself; but the two men who next translated the Antiquities, Bellanger and Spelman, showed that it was a servile translation of Portus' Latin version, errors and all. The following year Bellanger brought out, anonymously, his own translation, based on Hudson's text and the good readings of B contained in Hudson's notes. It is a smooth, fluent translation, but often rather free and at times little more than a paraphrase. It was reprinted later under Ballanger's own name.

In German there have been translations by J. L. Benzler (1752; reprinted 1771‑72) and by G. J. Schaller and A. H. Christian (Stuttgart, 1827‑50). Benzler's version was quite free, that of Schaller (Books I‑IV) accurate and scholar­ly; the part translated by Christian has not been seen by the present translator.

The only English version to appear hitherto is that of Edward Spelman, which was published with notes and dissertations at London in 1758. It is a good and, for the most part, fairly close translation of Hudson's text (Books I‑XI) as improved by the good readings of the Urbinas and occasional conjectural emendations. See further on p. xlv.

The Greek text here presented is based on the edition of Jacoby, but departs rather frequently from his text. All significant departures are indicated in the critical notes, but not, as a rule, minor details of orthography, elision and crasis, or corrections  p. xliv of obvious typographical errors that appear in his edition. Jacoby was fairly consistent in following out the principles which he had established with greater or less probability in two plin studies of Dionysian usage.JJJ But in the case of some phrases and combinations of vowels for which he could not show that elision or crasis is normally to be expected, he vacillated in his attitude toward the MSS., sometimes following them in permitting hiatus and at other times emending; the present edition follows the MSS. (or some MS.) in all such cases. The MSS. are likewise followed in their spelling of the various forms of adjectives such as χαλκοῦς and κρυσους, which appear in the contracted and the uncontracted forms with about equal frequency; Jacoby occasionally emended an uncontracted form. He adopted the late spellings επαυσθην and ηλασθην wherever they have the authority of any MS.,JJJ and occasionally elsewhere; in the present text the Attic forms επαυθην and ηλαθην are everywhere restored.

The present editor has permitted himself the liberty of spelling a few Latin proper names in the Greek text in the manner that many an editor would have liked to spell them, but as only a few of the earlier editors ventured to do in actual  p. xlv practice, and then only in the case of part of the names. It is hard to believe that Dionysius would have written such forms, for example, as Φαιστύλος for Φαυστύλος (compare his correct form Φαυστῖνος), Λωρεντόν (in Book I) for Λαύρεντον (the form found in Book V; cf. Λαυρεντῖνοι and Λαυρεντία), or Λαῦνα for Λαουϊνία in such a context as I.59.3 (and if he wrote the correct form here, he must have used it elsewhere).

The critical apparatus lists only the more important variants and emendations; many simple emendations made by the early editors and adopted in subsequent editions are passed over in silence. No fresh collations of the MSS. have been available; but here and there an obvious error in Jacoby's report has been corrected or a suspicious entry queried.

The present translation is based on that of Spelman. His rendering of numerous passages, more especially in the speeches, is so spirited and so idiomatic, and often requires so few changes to make it seem thoroughly modern in tone, that it seemed desirable to use what was best of it in preparing this version for the Loeb Classical Library. If Spelman had been at his best more uniformly, a mild revision, to bridge his translation into accord with the present Greek text, would have been all that was required. But the quality of his English is very uneven. He constructs a good many long, cumbersome sentences, in imitation of the Greek, shows an excessive fondness for the absolute use of the participle, and at times uses a vocabulary that seems more Latin than English. Where he thus  p. xlvi departs from a good English style, and wherever his rendering is not sufficiently close to the Greek for the present purpose, changes have been freely made, some of them very drastic. No attempt has been made to preserve the antique flavour that characterizes Spelman's rendering, as a whole, inasmuch as the passages which he has rendered most successfully from other points of view are usually the most modern in diction. He did not translate the fragments; they appear here in English for the first time. The notes with which Spelman accompanied his version were scholar­ly and useful in their day, but have not the same interest now; accordingly, an entirely new set of notes has been prepared for this edition.

For the convenience of the reader parallel passages of Livy have been indicated in the notes, beginning with I.64.


A bibliography of the Roman Antiquities covering the period from 1774 to 1876 was published by Jacoby in Philologus, XXXVI (1877), pp129‑31, 152‑54. It was continued in the introductions to the several volumes of his edition, including the Index (1925). To the lists there given should be added:

Edw. Schwartz, in Pauly-Wissowa, Real-Encyclopädie, s.v. Dionysius, cols. 934‑61.

Max. Egger, Denys d'Halicarnasse (Paris, 1902) pp1‑19, 247‑98. An excellent study of Dionysius, more particularly as rhetorician.

H. Liers, Die Theorie der Geschichtsschreibung des Dionys von Halikarnass, Waldenburg, 886.

Eiliv Skard, Epigraphische Formeln bei Dionys von Halikarnass, in Symbolae Osloenses XI (1932), 55‑60.

E. Gaida, Die Schlachtschilderungen in den Antiquitates Romanae des Dionys von Halikarnass, Breslau, 1934.


A = Chisianus 58

B = Urbinas 105

C = Coislinianus 150

D = Regius Parisinus 1654 and 1655

E = Vaticanus 133

F = Urbinas 106

O = AllJJJ the MSS.

R = AllJJJ the MSS. not otherwise cited.

a, b, and occasionally c, added to the symbol of a MSS. indicate the successive hands; mg denotes a marginal entry.

Steph. = editio princeps of R. Stephanus.

Steph.2 = notes of H. Stephanus.

But there is good reason for suspecting that Jacoby usually ignored E and F; in fact, he nowhere seems to cite the latter individually.

Thayer's Note:

a I.e., not the famous Heraclitus (the philosopher). (Diog. Laërt. IX.1.17).

Page updated: 29 Jun 20