Between Thucydides and Polybius: The Golden Age of Greek Historiography

  Parmegianni, Giovanni. 2014. Between Thucydides and Polybius: The Golden Age of Greek Historiography. Hellenic Studies Series 64. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

2. Looking for the Invisible: Theopompus and the Roots of Historiography

Riccardo Vattuone

1. Theopompus and the Historiography of the IVth Century BCE

It is not only the fragmentary nature of his work that hinders a critical evaluation of Theopompus. The idiosyncratic interests of one of his most important witnesses, Athenaeus, and the deep-seated ambiguity of Polybius’ interpretation have done much to affect modern judgement, which oscillates between negative and positive assessments, between attempts to categorize Theopompus as a proponent of so-called ‘rhetorical historiography’ and balanced appreciations that take stock of the writer’s broad cultural interests. Apart from the ‘moralism’ of Athenaeus’ interpretation, we must also come to terms with the shadow of Polybius, which is so often cast over earlier historiography, although in this case its impact may be beneficial, in a sense, considering that Book 12 of Polybius’ Histories is to a remarkable degree pervaded by reflections on fourth-century historiography. [1]

That is to say, a careful examination of Theopompus, rather than a rehabilitation, offers historical alternatives. It is possible to choose not to read Athenian history along the lines of the excursus in Book 10 of the Philippica; nevertheless such a long-term perspective can free our interpretation of Athenian democracy after the Persian Wars not only from Isocrates’ Panathenaicus but also from Thucydides’ encomium of Pericles and the notion of a decline that sets in after Pericles’ death. Theopompus’ point of view certainly revolved around Eubulus and his political activity (FF 99–100), but for this very reason we can situate Cimon and Pericles in a wider frame that spans the sixth to the fourth century (FF 88–89). We tend to think that what is left of fifth-century Greek historiography is pure, pristine, and original, while we ought to admit that it is only an interpretation of complex and debated themes of that time. Theopompus’ reaction to the series of Philathenian epideictic flourishes also touches on events of the fifth century, peace treaties proved wrong by a meticulous epigraphical study (F 154). [9] Athenians lie about their past: Theopompus revises the Athenian vulgata of the fifth century along the lines of what Thucydides purports to be doing in 1.20, where he is faced with a tradition that is as firmly entrenched as it is false. [10] That Theopompus’ interpretation of the previous century was informed by the events of his own day should not surprise or shock us, in the name of a {9|10} peculiar kind of ‘classicism’ whereby everything that belongs to the fifth century is authentic and still uncontaminated, while later revisions (in fact new interpretations based on critical reflection) would be distortions and therefore rhetorical. [11] If there is any doubt about the consistency of the praise that Dionysius of Halicarnassus bestowed on Theopompus (T 20a), it is worth remembering that the burden of proof, here and elsewhere, lies on the claimant, the incredulous.

For Theopompus, beginning the Hellenica where Thucydides left off was not an attempt to pay homage to the historiographical tradition or to the authority of a prematurely interrupted source, but a way to undermine the meaning of 404 BCE as a historical threshold. As a writer of Greek History, he saw in Lysander’s victory a concise and clear beginning that extended the war in the following decade up to Sparta’s eventual defeat. Only someone who had seen Philip II at Corinth in 337/6 BCE could take such a long-term view and give a different interpretation not only to the fifth century and the relationships between Greece and Persia but also to the eastern perspective of Agesilaus and Lysander. The choice of embedding his Greek History into the events of Philip’s times, a choice that would displease Polybius (T 19; F 27), was a profound statement about the autonomy of the polis and the new era that had begun, rather than a sign of regret of the sort that lies behind the event (i.e. the Battle of Mantinea) that Xenophon used to close and contain the narrative of his Hellenica.

2. History as Techne: The Birth of a ‘Genre’

It is Athenaeus who is most responsible for our image of Theopompus: a judge and a merciless moralist, who eulogized Alcibiades but struck down the indecent mores of the barbarians and Philip and the Macedonian court. [14] This is the Theopompus known also to Nepos, Cicero, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, and, as we shall see, to Lucian, who warns historians not to incur the same charge as the historian of Chios, who “aggressively attacks many people and makes a profession of it, with the result that he accuses rather than recounts the facts.” [15] The charge that Theopompus turned the field of history into a tribunal does not exclude the fact that he narrated the facts, nor does Lucian mean this when he says “with the result that he accuses rather than recounts the facts” (ὡς κατηγορεῖν, μᾶλλον ἢ ἱστορεῖν τὰ πεπραγμένα). Tradition defines Theopompus {11|12} as φιλαλήθης, which indicates a love both for the truth of what happened and for scrupulous exactness and completeness (ἀκρίβεια: T 28a; F 181a). [16] The greatest admirer of Theopompus is without a doubt Dionysius of Halicarnassus. In a famous passage at ad Pompeium Geminum 6, after stating that Theopompus was the most famous of Isocrates’ pupils and making reference to his rhetorical works, Dionysius adds that he wrote books of history worthy of praise (ἱστορίαν πραγματευμένος, ἄξιος ἐπαινεῖσθαι), in particular because of his choice of subjects (the end of the Peloponnesian War and the history of Philip’s times); the clarity with which he presents his material (οἰκονομία); and, most of all, his dedication to the toils of writing (ἐπιμελείας καὶ φιλοπονία τῆς κατὰ τὴν συγγραφήν). [17] Dionysius has Theopompus’ books in front of him as he writes, open to the pages of the proemium, which were perhaps a little longer than we would have liked. [18] But despite his predecessor’s verbosity, Dionysius can appreciate his critical engagement. Had Jacoby been less cautious in isolating Theopompus’ words from Dionysius’ comments, everybody would agree that Dionysius’ praise was based on the proemium to the Philippica, where Theopompus stated the difficulties of his research, the expenses involved, and the effort of assembling the material (παρασκευή) necessary for constructing the work. [19] There was no need—so, I think, Dionysius means to say—for Theopompus to {12|13} insist too much on the merits of his own writing; the reader was in a position easily to appreciate the quality of the effort the historian had made and the validity of his sources of information.

Dionysius’ discussion of Theopompus’ prologue (ad Pompeium Geminum 6.3 = T 20a) directly references a passage from Thucydides, in the first speech of {13|14} Pericles (1.142.9), where the strategos highlights Athenian naval superiority in comparison with Sparta’s inexperience, which it would be impossible to improve in a short amount of time. The conclusion that Pericles reaches is significant: “navigation is a technical skill, like any other, and so it cannot be practiced here and there or on the side [. . .]” (τὸ δὲ ναυτικὸν τέχνης ἐστίν, ὥσπερ καὶ ἄλλο τι, καὶ οὐκ ἐνδέχεται, ὅταν τύχῃ, ἐκ παρέργου μελετᾶσθαι, ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον μηδὲν ἐκείνῳ πάρεργον ἄλλο γίγνεσθαι). [22] The close relationship between τέχνη ‘technical skill’ and πάρεργον ‘subsidiary activity’ in Theopompus, following the example of Thucydides, is further underscored by a passage from Polybius (12.27.8–9), in which the Achaean historian uses Theopompus to define his own critical method. While Timaeus used only books to write his work, Polybius insists that research, although it requires rather more effort and expense, is in fact the most important part of historia (12.27.6). The reference to Theopompus F 26, i.e. the testimony of Dionysius with which we have been dealing, is clear, and this is made explicit immediately afterwards: Ephorus declares that the best way to acquire knowledge was through autopsy, although this was impossible in a Universalgeschichte (FGH 70 F 110), [23] and Theopompus says that: “He is best in matters of war who has been involved in the most dangers; he is most powerful in words who has taken part in the most political disputes. And the same thing applies to medicine and navigation.” [24] In light of this passage from Polybius (which is for us also FGH 115 F 342), it seems that in Theopompus’ proemium, οὐ . . . πάρεργον τοῦ βίου ‘not a mere accessory of life’ in the context of history claimed for συγγραφή ‘written composition’ a technical dimension that had not before been an object of reflection. The presumption of Theopompus that so irritates Photius in F 25 must be, on the authority of Polybius, who takes it over as his own, his meditation on the boundaries of history in a time when the cultural conflict between history and oratory was particularly marked. According to Photius, the proemia of Ephorus and Theopompus were very similar to one {14|15} another: [25] readers of Ephorus know also that his decision to write about a past no longer verifiable by autopsy (FGH 70 F 9) meant that his historical method would be defined precisely through a contrast with epideictic rhetoric. [26] The discussion was to be resumed by Timaeus and others and would be at the center of historical reflection in the Hellenistic age. [27]

Greek historiography acquired the features of a specific genre through a deepening of its technical characteristics and a corresponding need for an all-abiding commitment. Theopompus was not arguing against Thucydides (or Herodotus); he was trying, rather, to ‘assimilate’ them. His claim about the primacy of the fourth century, which astonishes Photius, has to do in fact with the extension of the field of research, the vastness of the civilized world, and the obligation to draw on disparate sources. And this expansion of the field of history stems from the dilation of the inhabited Greek world. I shall not address here whether or not Ephorus and Theopompus did in fact accomplish their task, but the significance of Theopompus’ proemial claims should not be ascribed only to his colossal self-esteem. Dionysius considers Theopompus to have been verbose, but he never accuses him of promising to do more than he actually did. The supremacy (προτεύειν) that Theopompus so exalted, referred, of course, to a primacy ἐν λόγοις, in rhetorical ability, but above all to cultural primacy: as we saw above in the passage from Photius’ Bibliotheca, “in philosophy and knowledge” (ἐν τῷ φιλοσοφεῖν καὶ φιλομαθεῖν). History becomes a genre among others through the enunciation and the defense of its own technical skills.

3. Hidden Causes

The best-known part of Dionysius’ appraisal of Theopompus is the passage that immediately follows:

τελευταῖόν ἐστι τῶν ἔργων αὐτοῦ καὶ χαρακτηρικώτατον, ὃ παρ’ οὐδενὶ τῶν ἄλλων συγγραφέων οὕτως ἀκριβῶς ἐξείργασται καὶ δυνατῶς οὔτε τῶν πρεσβυτέρων οὔτε τῶν νεωτέρων. τί δὲ τοῦτο ἐστί; τὸ καθ’ ἑκάστην πρᾶξιν μὴ μόνον τὰ φανερὰ τοῖς πολλοῖς ὁρᾶν καὶ λέγειν, ἀλλ’ ἐξετάζειν καὶ τὰς ἀφανεῖς αἰτίας τῶν πράξεων καὶ τῶν πραξάντων αὐτὰς καὶ τὰ πάθη τῆς ψυχῆς, ἃ μὴ ῥάιδια τοῖς πολλοῖς εἰδέναι, καὶ πάντα ἐκκαλύπτειν τὰ μυστήρια τῆς τε δοκούσης ἀρετῆς καὶ τῆς ἀγνοουμένης κακίας.

There remains his crowning and most characteristic quality, one which is found developed with equal care and effect in no other writer, whether of the older or the younger generation. And what is this quality? It is the gift of seeing and stating in each case not only what is obvious to the multitude, but of examining even the hidden motives of actions and actors and the feelings of the soul (things not easily discerned by the crowd), and of laying bare all the mysteries of seeming virtue and undiscovered vice. (Translation by W. R. Roberts)

Dionysius of Halicarnassus ad Pompeium Geminum 6.7 {16|17}

Dionysius may not be an enthusiast of Thucydides, but he knows him well and is certainly aware of the refined reflection on the causes of the Peloponnesian War that opens the first book of the Histories and in fact infuses the entire work. Theopompus, then, is not the first to assert the necessity of going beyond an understanding of events based only upon unquestioned tradition (cf. Thucydides 1.20.3: τὰ ἑτοῖμα), which renders the search for truth, inasmuch as it is superficial, too easy. This is not the place to discuss in detail the fact that Thucydides’ decision to look beyond appearances necessitates the distinction of various levels of causation. The events that took place in Greece between 436 and 431 BCE were among the causes of the great kinesis, but, to take a long-term view that ‘justifies’ the digression termed the ‘Pentecontaetia’ (1.89–117), it was above all Spartan fear in the face of Athenian power (1.23.6). For the Athenian historian, it would have been too easy (and perhaps unfair) to blame Pericles for the final disaster, as his contemporaries probably did. [
30] The cause that was not evident for the majority was embedded in a process that nobody could stop, but that Pericles, more than anyone else, could have controlled.

Dionysius certainly knows this page of fifth-century history and uses it to define Theopompus’ innovation: we have no proof that Theopompus himself explicitly professed this innovation with respect to his predecessors, but attentive readers of Dionysius’ minor works should not be surprised by this possibility. As Dionysius attests, the major characteristic of Theopompus’ work (τῶν ἔργων αὐτοῦ καὶ χαρακτηρικώτατον) is that he explored the hidden causes of events and the motivations of his protagonists. With respect to Thucydides, then, his approach is novel in that it does not focus only on the hidden causes of actions (τὰς ἀφανεῖς αἰτίας τῶν πράξεων) but takes into consideration also the hidden motives of the actors (τὰς ἀφανεῖς αἰτίας τῶν πραξάντων αὐτὰς), which most people did not perceive.

Readers of this testimonium in Jacoby’s collection, or rather the section of Dionysius’ ad Pompeium Geminum to which it corresponds, usually focus on the end of the sentence, “and to reveal all the secrets of what appears to be virtue and what is not recognized as vice” (καὶ πάντα ἐκκαλύπτειν τὰ μυστήρια τῆς τε δοκούσης ἀρετῆς καὶ τῆς ἀγνοουμένης κακίας), as if this expression synthesized everything that was said before it. It is more likely, however, that this was for Theopompus an additional element, not in any way meant to cover the entire category of hidden causes (ἀφανεῖς αἰτίαι), which Dionysius is clearly presenting progressively, in a list in which the last one is by no means the most important. The merciless moralist in Lucian is evident even in Dionysius, a sort of judge of Hades, who condemns and (less frequently) absolves, at times going too far with observations not pertinent to the main narrative. Theopompus, the maledicentissimus, gets carried away: but Dionysius certainly does not reduce the causal perspective of the Philippica to this tribunal activity. We cannot overlook the structure of the passage and its articulation. The ἀφανές in Theopompus is not simply the accumulation of vices and alleged virtues that underlie the historical process, hiding from the gaze of those who are not in a position to see them; it is above all what moves a man to make decisions, to act, and to think about accomplishing enterprises, without neglecting, as many modern readers of Theopompus have assumed, the events themselves and the inextricable network that makes them seem uncontrollable. Ephorus did not believe that the most dramatic war fought among the Greeks depended on such inherent reasons {18|19} as arche or the laws of nature to which it was bound. Along these lines, even if we know very little of Theopompus’ theory, we should consider the writer of the Philippica. It was the very threatening force of this individual, Philip, that clarifies (if any clarification is needed) the role that decisions, choices, and human emotions played in the shaping of events.

To go beyond appearances, viz., the understanding of οἱ πολλοί, in order to understand events is the mental attitude out of which historie developed in Greece: Herodotus and Thucydides are aware of Xerxes’ ambition and the impetuous behavior of Alcibiades, but they both think (in different ways and from different points of view) that the actions of those characters belong to a dynamic that is to a great extent out of their grasp. During the fourth century, however, alongside an interpretation of facts and their connections there prevails an attention to a different sort of anthropology, one that was considered much less as a constant that could render all events foreseeable and universal, but rather much more contingent on its own dynamics, tied to individual and well-defined personalities, who created unexpected innovation and discontinuity in the course of history. If the point of view of fourth-century historiography was richer, as Theopompus thought, it owed this expansion of its horizons to the advent of a new era, whose meaning was not easy to understand.

4. Philip and ‘Universal’ History

Unlike Dionysius, Polybius does not praise Theopompus’ hypotheseis; that is to say, he does not appreciate his decision to abandon the Hellenica in order to write about Philip (8.11.3 = T 19). Polybius makes this claim, alongside other observations about Theopompus, in the context of polemic, where he finds fault with those historians who through cowardice and fear either said nothing about or else falsified the violent capture of Messene by Philip V in 213 BCE. [35] Polybius’ criticism of these omissions and distortions raises, by way of analogy, the theme of the relationship between Theopompus and Philip II. The series of chapters that follows serves to clarify the reasons for Polybius’ strong disapproval: why abandon the history of Greek poleis to write about a man and the events of his time? As we shall see, Polybius also does not tolerate the αἰσχρολογία ‘harsh criticism’ that Theopompus inflicts on Philip and his court, but he is unable to understand the reason why his predecessor, after having decided to continue Thucydides’ work, “as he approached the events around Leuctra and the most famous deeds of the Greeks, right in the middle, threw aside Greece and the things happening there, to change topics and write about Philip’s deeds.” [36] According to Polybius, it would have been much better to include such matters in the Hellenica rather than incorporate the Hellenica into the account of an individual’s actions (ἤπερ ἐν τῇ Φιλίππου τὰ τῆς Ἑλλάδος), however important he may have been. From this clue, we understand first of all that Theopompus’ Philippica was not a biography but the history of events that occurred in Greece at the time of Philip, a history that had as a unifying element the affairs of Philip and Macedon. That is to say, Theopompus chose a specific cheirismos to give an account of Greek events during the time of the Macedonian king (ἐν τῇ Φιλίππου τὰ τῆς Ἑλλάδος). What irritated the Achaean historian, who was himself certainly linked to the period of the polis and the autonomy of the Greek leagues, is precisely the fact that his predecessor had written Greek history by employing what he considered to be a objectionable structure, even though he {20|21} had at his disposal the glorious times of Leuctra and, above all, those of the foundation of Megalopolis wherein lay the roots of the Achaean League. [37]

Polybius’ judgment may be clear enough in substance but not in the way in which it is expressed: what does he mean, for example, by “as he approached the events around Leuctra and the most famous deeds of the Greeks” (συνεγγίσας τοῖς Λευκτρικοῖς καιροῖς καὶ τοῖς ἐπιφανεστάτοις τῶν Ἑλληνικῶν ἔργων)? The twelve books of the Hellenica close at 394 BCE: the criticism of Polybius, then, is that Theopompus chose to end his Greek History with a Spartan date, inadequate inasmuch as it preceded a decadence that had yet to reveal the age that emerged from the end of the Spartan hegemony, well beyond the brief period of Theban glory. In other words, the events around Leuctra were glorious because Sparta’s fall could be considered as the beginning of a new, Achaean, history. But Polybius’ expression in itself can only be understood if we assume that he had before him the very passage in which Theopompus had justified his narrative choice. In 12.27, as we have already seen, Polybius is reading Theopompus. And it is typical of the Achaean historian to use the words of fellow historians when addressing the limits and faults of their works; his critique of Timaeus is a case in point, particularly when he criticizes Timaeus’ bookish approach to historiography by way of a captious exegesis of his proemium. [38] Timaeus, for what it is worth, had for his part treated Aristotle along very similar lines, scornfully judging him an immoderate glutton for his culinary interests. [39] Polybius’ phrase, “as he approached the events around Leuctra and the most famous deeds of the Greeks,” makes sense only if it is, in fact, an expression taken directly from Theopompus’ lengthy introduction to his work, about which Dionysius of Halicarnassus spoke. That said, we can infer that the historian, when confronted with what was happening during his own day—with the period, we might say, in which he had begun work on his history, a period adjacent to the final days of the Spartan hegemony (370–360 BCE)— understood that the end of the Greek polis could not be represented by the dramatic events of the Theban invasion of the Peloponnesus but could only be described within the history of Philip and Macedon’s ascent. The fact that the phrase “as he approached the events around Leuctra and the most famous deeds of the Greeks” comes directly from Theopompus seems also demonstrated by the comment that Polybius appends to his critique of Theopompus. While Theopompus, he says, would not have been able to defend himself before the charge of having unjustly employed aischrologia, he might nevertheless have done so regarding his change of hypothesis. Thus, Polybius writes: “As to this deviation from the right path however, {21|22} which made him change the theme of his history, he might perhaps have had something to say, if any one had questioned him about it” (οὐ μὴν ἀλλὰ πρὸς μὲν ταύτην τὴν ἁμαρτίαν, καθὸ μετέβαλε τὴν ὑπόθεσιν, ἴσως ἂν εἶχέ τι λέγειν, εἴ τις αὐτὸν ἤρετο, 8.11.7). [40] What Theopompus might have said in his defense (ἴσως ἂν εἶχέ τι λέγειν) is exactly what he wrote, and exactly what Polybius asked him (εἴ τις αὐτὸν ἤρετο) while he read, a procedure typical of Hellenistic exegesis. With the expression, “as he approached the events around Leuctra and the most famous deeds of the Greeks,” then, a quotation that Polybius took directly from Theopompus, the historian from Chios justified his choice of immersing his Greek History into a wider setting. It is this awareness of new historical horizons that will reinforce the enterprise of Universalgeschichte.

The greater charge that Polybius makes against Theopompus—quite apart from his cultural debt toward him—was that of furnishing an incoherent image of Philip II. The context for this criticism is, as was the case for T 19, his reproach of historians’ silence in the face of the brutal conduct of Philip V towards Messenia at the end of the third century BCE. For Polybius, Philip V ought to have been condemned for his actions, and instead his flatterers dedicated to him an encomium that naturally omitted any reference to his misdeeds. Indeed, it would have been enough for them not to omit anything, or rather to avoid giving false praise and false blame (λοιδορεῖν ψευδῶς . . . τοὺς μονάρχους οὔτ’ ἐγκωμιάζειν): {22|23} it is not that Polybius rejects all judgments on the behavior of great individuals, but rather demands they be consistent with the developing narrative and appropriate for the character of each (ἀκόλουθον δὲ τοῖς προγεγραμμένοις ἀεὶ καὶ τὸν πρέποντα ταῖς ἑκάστων προαιρέσεσι λόγον ἐφαρμόζειν) (8.8.6–7). Theopompus’ work is the clearest example, in Polybius’ eyes, of the incorrect employment of historical judgment, inasmuch as it violates both of these requirements: his censure of the Macedonian king is both inconsistent with and ill-suited to the ethos of the character. Polybius’ accusations, we should note, stem from historiographic principles, not only from a cumbersome moralism: [43] the description of facts and characters must abide by a linearity of assessment that does not admit contradictions and subtleties. If the decision to write about Philip came from his conviction that “Europe had never before borne a man such as Philip, the son of Amyntas” (μηδέποτε τὴν Εὐρώπην ἐνηνοχέναι τοιοῦτον ἄνδρα παράπαν οἷον τὸν Ἀμύντου Φίλιππον), then it would not have been possible for Theopompus to describe the king, either in the proemium or in any other part of the work, as squandering his family possessions through his immoderate passion for women, as unfaithful and violent against Greek poleis that had already been subjugated to his will, or as a drunkard, intoxicated on almost every page. Polybius’ assessment of Theopompus’ Philip is analogous to that of the Sicilian tyrants described by Timaeus. [44] Just as the Timaean Agathocles has no place in Polybius’ rigid deontology that can neither tolerate the use of comic sources to discredit the tyrant in his early childhood nor admit his aischrologia, [45] so too the Philip of Theopompus, his court of generals, and his soldiers, who are given over to baseness of every kind, are intolerable. [46] The τοιοῦτον ἄνδρα {23|24} in F 27 has been discussed at length, too much perhaps and with contradictory results. [47] Here—just as with the events around Leuctra (Λευκτρικοὶ καιροί)—the τοιοῦτον must represent an emphasis that Polybius put on Theopompus’ text in order to highlight the grandiose figure of Philip II and his impressive historical role, not to mention the vicious aspects of his behavior. In reading the interminable proemium, Polybius considers his predecessor’s choice unacceptable.

Quite apart from his critical choices, Polybius’ viewpoint is telling: Theopompus certainly was violent in his attack of Philip II, but the problem, for Polybius, was not his use of categories such as blame or encomium, nor his narration of historical events. What is stressed in F 27 is that the historian from Chios justified his decision to abandon the Hellenica and saw Philip II as a grandiose, but also a dark and threatening presence in Greek history—a man displaying the customs typical of barbarians, in a moral climate that is completely detached from that aristocratic ethic on which the polis had been based. Polybius’ historiographical principles prevent him from accepting that in rebus Philip’s time and Philip himself are inherently contradictory. In any case, in his opinion aischrologia should never have been used, since it suits neither the ‘genre’, nor the figure against whom it is aimed. It is not accidental that some time later, and with substantial accuracy, the long tale of excesses at the Macedonian court is taken up again by Athenaeus (6.260d-261a = FGH 115 F 225b) in his description of the harmful effects on kings and governors of kolakeia.

According to Polybius, Ephorus was “the first and only one to have undertaken a universal history” (5.33.2 = FGH 70 T 7), an assertion that Diodorus will later echo (4.1.2; 16.76.5); this assertion has been coolly greeted by modern scholars, [48] who prefer to connect, by now almost as an historiographical tic, Ephorus’ ‘generality’ to Isocratean Panhellenism. [49] On the other hand, contemporary historians and philologists consider that the most appropriate way to understand koinai praxeis (or rather τὰ καθόλου) is precisely by defining it by way of Ephorus’ own schema, namely as a history that embraces all the known and inhabited world both spatially and chronologically. [50] Polybius, for his part, {24|25} aspired to write a ‘universal history’ without going back to the remotest past but instead by demonstrating the extraordinary convergence of all history under the aegis of Rome in the short time span of fifty years (1.3.1–4.1): it is the incredible trajectory of an extraordinary historical subject that allows events hitherto disparate and disjoined to be assembled into a significant unity. [51] Ephorus, then, is a strange ancestor of Polybius. Polybius’ admiration, which stems perhaps from Timaeus’ anti-Ephoran polemic, reveals in fact just how different was his own project, focused as it was on a short period, no longer than a century, from his predecessor’s Universalgeschichte, which reached all the way from the Heraclids to the present day. Polybius is not deluded: it was possible, then, to undertake τὰ καθόλου in space and in time, as Ephorus did, or to limit oneself to a contemporary perspective, focusing on one historical element at the center of the narrative, and making it universal in rebus. [52] Polybius could not ignore that the Histories of both Herodotus (revolving around the theme of the Persica) or in fact of Thucydides (focused on the no less general theme of the war between the Athenians and the Peloponnesians) had the writing and the economy that aspired to go beyond the fragmentary dimension of the events. It is not a paradox that Thucydides insists in the first line of his work that the conflict at the center of his account was “global” and “general”. [53] Polybius knows this, and if he considered Ephorus, and not Herodotus, Thucydides, or another historian, to have been the first writer of Universalgeshichte, we must look elsewhere for the reason. [54]

If we look again at Polybius’ criticism of Theopompus’ decision to move from the Hellenica to the Philippica, we are able to observe that Polybius’ negative evaluation is based not only on the underestimation of the so-called Λευκτρικοὶ καιροὶ καὶ τὰ ἐπιφανέστατα τῶν Ἑλληνικῶν ἔργα: the proemium of the Philippica, in which we know that Theopompus justified his choice, must have contained {25|26} both the declaration of the threatening grandeur of Philip and the reason why Greek history was immersed in and contained by the affairs of the Macedonian king (συμπεριλαβεῖν . . . ἐν τῇ Φιλίππου τὰ τῆς Ἑλλάδος : Polybius 8.11.4). The independence of Greek history of “the times of Leuctra” and the true significance of this period for the birth of the Achaean League, an epochal event in the context of the third to second centuries BCE, were considered in Theopompus’ prologue to be less important than the convergence of all the most significant events in the unifying ascent of Philip and Macedon. The inclusion of Greek history in the Philippica does not merely serve as a superficial organizational principle (cheirismos); it gives the work meaning and direction. For Theopompus, τὰ περὶ Φιλίππου embraces both the crucial battle of Cnidus and the dramatic break constituted by the fall of Sparta’s naval power. Theopompus’ perspective (and it could not be otherwise) is oriented towards the great Asian campaign, which the Greek polis, precisely at Cnidus with the end of Spartan thalassocracy, had lost. Not only does this explain Theopompus’ praise of Lysander, but it also clarifies that the structure of the Philippica is an explicit declaration of a universal perspective, whose characterizing element has to do with its subject and its spatial extent, not its chronological completeness. Polybius’ irritation (perhaps even excessive) at this decision is just what he felt for Timaeus who, in wanting to make Sicily, which was only a tea cup, into the centre of the world, could claim to be the author of a universal history (Polybius 12.23.4–7 = FGH 566 F 119a); placing Timoleon “over the most splendid heroes” and Sicily, which had been liberated by Timoleon, at the pivot of the entire history, “he, who had written only about Italy and Sicily, considered it natural to be worthy of comparison with writers of universal history” (12.23.7: αὐτὸς ὑπὲρ Ἰταλίας μόνον καὶ Σικελίας πραγματευόμενος εἰκότως παραβολῆς ἀξιωθῆναι τοῖς ὑπὲρ τῆς οἰκουμένης καὶ τῶν καθόλου πράξεων πεποιημένοις τὰς συντάξεις). This charge against Timaeus is crucial for our understanding of Polybius’ reaction to the Philippica’s proemium; for Polybius completely and disdainfully denies what both Timaeus and Theopompus had claimed by the extent of their interests and the choices they made.

Polybius’ encomium and acknowledgement of Ephorus, as well as his criticism of the proemium of the Philippica, finds its justification in one idea: Ephorus was the first to write a spatially and chronologically ‘universal history’, just as Polybius was the first to conceive a Universalgeschichte that certainly comprised all known space but is limited in time to the rise of Rome, an event that absorbs all other history within itself. Polybius grants Ephorus a primacy that he denies, in order to confer it on himself, Theopompus, Timaeus, and even on Herodotus and Thucydides, who had been epitomized or resumed by Theopompus. That is to say, and this is the paradox in T 19 and F 27, Theopompus made a choice {26|27} that paralleled that of the Achaean critic: to subsume Greek history within τὰ Φιλίππου, because only so powerful an individual, of so dark and grand stature, could give a meaning to, indeed a way of reading, a series of events that would otherwise have been scattered in the fundamental crisis of the poleis.

5. The Judge and the Historian. Observations on the Tradition of Theopompus’ Fragments.

It is common practice in studies of Greek historiography—but also in different fields—to assign to those dealing with τὰ γεγενημένα (“past events”) a philosophical foundation or to make them disciples of somebody in order to justify their framework, the profound reasons behind their research. For instance, Hecataeus is linked to Ionic philosophy; Herodotus and Thucydides to the sophists; Ephorus and Theopompus, of course, to Isocratean rhetoric, and so on to, limiting ourselves to only a few examples, the ‘Aristotelian’ Duris and the Stoics, Polybius and Posidonius. Although it is certainly hard to deny that an author, an intellectual, is influenced by the culture of his own time, and that, in turn, his culture is somehow affected by him, I do not believe that philosophical thinking determined the orientation and choices of these historians. In any case, the subordination of historia to philosophia is more appropriate to the age of Hegel, Collingwood, or Croce than to the fourth-century Greece of Isocrates, Plato and Aristotle. Even if we admit that Theopompus was a disciple of Isocrates, we should not, at any rate, believe that the works of the former are the necessary and inevitable development of the broad, and not always coherent, ideology of the latter. [55] The Isocratean Theopompus was unable to free himself from further debts. The merciless judge depicted in the critique of Polybius (and of Dionysius, too), maledicentissimus, as tradition records, must have been motivated to engage in this censorial activity by some cultural tradition. And it is in this way that a ‘cynical’ matrix has been granted to Theopompus, without adding or detracting from his image as orator and historian. [56] As for Ephorus, I think that Theopompus, too, is far more linked to the tradition of the ‘genre’ inaugurated by him as a techne than dependent upon any cultural stream: that {27|28} is, Theopompus is more a student of Herodotus, Philistus, or Thucydides than of Isocrates. [57]

To gain a more balanced understanding of Theopompus’ historiographical identity, it is not enough, of course, to analyze only the intentions he expresses in the proemia and elsewhere. We should read the fragments in their context, going beyond even the established interpretations. But first it will be necessary to take a preliminary look at the typology of the tradition that has preserved Theopompus and provided us with his prevailing image. The brief observations that follow, although limited, can, I think, serve as the basis for further investigation.

Athenaeus of Naucratis, along with his Deipnosophists, is the fullest and most descriptive conduit for the surviving traces of Theopompus’ works. [58] As we have seen, Athenaeus defines the historian from Chios as philalethes (F 181a), recording here as a sort of leitmotiv that his love for truth expressed itself by way of the great expense he faced in order to obtain all the materials needed for a scrupulous work (πολλὰ χρήματα καταναλώσαντος εἰς τὴν περὶ τῆς ἱστορίας ἐξέτασιν ἀκριβῆ). The context of this fragment—a discussion of various miraculous herbs that can prevent the effects of hemlock and other poisons—is instructive in many ways. In Book 38, Athenaeus tells us, Theopompus speaks at length (διηγούμενος) about Clearchus, the tyrant of Pontic Herakleia, and the habitual use of the medicinal shrub rue by those participating in the tyrant’s dangerous banquets. The tale was known to other sources, as well, and was at some stage even attributed to Euphorion. Athenaeus’ text suggests here that the account of Clearchus, which earned his favorable judgment, is much longer and certainly not reducible to the boundaries of the citation. Theopompus is adduced here—and elsewhere in the Deipnosophists—because of his precision and reliability, to confirm a specific detail in the history of this tyrant and his cruelty. One may be philalethes even when speaking about miraculous events, as Theopompus did in his eighth book, in the context of a strange continent that Silenus describes to Midas in a fascinating dialogue (F 75a). Indeed, Aelian even describes him as a powerful mythologist, in reference to the same event (F 75c). {28|29}

Theopompus’ reputation as a ‘lover of truth’ is no different from what Polybius is forced to recognize in Timaeus and, for that matter, from the attitude that Thucydides claims against those whose superficiality makes them think that Hipparchus was tyrant at the time of his murder or that there was such a thing as a lochos of Pitane in the Spartan Army (1.20). Completeness and exactness are values embraced and suggested by ἀκρίβεια. [59] The Clearchus episode is exemplary: in Theopompus’ history, it is likely that the history of the Herakleia and its ‘tyrant’ went hand in hand, written by way of anecdotes portraying the ethos of the individual. We cannot limit the richness of perspective to the interests of Athenaeus, who passes over the city to leave more space to Clearchus himself. It is unnecessary, I hope, to point out some of the reasons why a sophist would cut the narrative of the Philippica to suit the needs of a collection of symposial anecdotes. It is useful to remember, as a careful reading of the fragments in Athenaeus can show us, that Theopompus’ account contains something else, although in the guise of moral judgment, stern and perhaps pedantic. The majority of the texts transmitted by the Deipnosophists deal with excesses of food, drink, and sex among barbarians or immoderate Greeks. The center of this picture is the dark figure of Philip in FF 224–225a/b. Alongside the Macedonian king, we encounter legendary figures, such as Cotys of Thrace, with his religious mania to marry Athena (F 31); Straton, King of Sidon, with his extravagant rivalry with Nicocles over luxury (F114); the Argive Nicostratus, immoderate in his flattery (F 124); Thys, king of Paphlagon, and the interminable food of his banquet (F 179), who approaches Niseus the Syracusan in immoderacy at the table, as if both ate nearly to the point of death (F 188). There are also entire populations, like the Athenians and the Etruscans, who spend in revelry far more than they spend for the public matters, devoting themselves to all kind of sexual extravagances (F 213; F 204). Above all, it is the barbarians (although also the Athenians or Thessalians) who seem to have borne the brunt of the bitterness that Polybius did not tolerate when aimed at Philip; but he took care not to consider it the predominate characteristic of Theopompus’ historiography. [60]

We may continue to read Athenaeus in this way. Even the most ‘scandalous’ of the fragments (224 and 225 a/b) allow us to suppose that the political judgment and the historical narrative were not limited to the grotesque. In the synthesis with which he closes the citation from Theopompus, Athenaeus calls the Macedonians plunderers (lestai) and this proves their lack of paideia. The narrative of historical events is appropriately (not speciously or falsely) interwoven with the digressions, ethical evaluations, and the elaboration of causes. It was possible to be violent, a lush without scruples, but nevertheless efficient {30|31} and attentive to politics; this is, in fact, explicitly stated about Callistratus, the son of Callicrates, in F 97, a fragment from Book 10. What for Polybius seemed an irreconcilable contradiction with reference to Philip—to repeat the short-sighted judgment already applied to Timaeus’ Agathocles—is perfectly consistent with Theopompus’ view. The citation from Timaeus is instructive since it allows us to see that for both historians Athenaeus provides the same leitmotiv: the tryphe of money weakens mores and infects neighbors. This is the case with the numerous Timaean fragments that deal with the Achaean cities of Italy, and, in the same way, with Theopompus regarding the fatal contact between the democracies in Byzantium and Chalcedon (F 63). [65] Both historians clearly have a viewpoint that is bitter and moralistic, sometimes even cynical, but their narration cannot be reduced to this trait. What I have demonstrated with regard to Timaeus, I think, also applies to Theopompus. [66]

The two logoi of Philocrates and Aristophon (F 164; F 166), retained by Didymus, are full of historical judgments on the situation in Athens in 347/6 {31|32} BCE, in particular Aristophon’s summary of the financial situation in the city on the eve of the Peace of Philocrates. The account of Hermias of Atarneus in Didymus (F 291) helps not only to clarify the tone of Theopompus’ entire account—his harsh judgment, for example, on the money-changer, who was immoral and violent and only by chance in a position of power—but also reveals that he covered Hermias’ attempt to reestablish the city’s ancient constitution after he came to power in Atarneus. The events of 341, followed by the death of the tyrant, surely left room for a more extensive history only alluded to in the Deipnosophists.

We can observe similar attention to the broader background in the fragments in Strabo and Plutarch. In the Geography, the texts of the citations—we think, perhaps, of the excursus on the Adriatic (F 129f.), the Peloponnesus (F 383), Epirus (F 382), Boeotia (F 385), Mariandynians (F 388), the Hellespont, and Sestus (F 390)—are articulated according to the ethnographic approach of Hecataeus, a tendency echoed both by Ephorus and Timaeus in their description of topoi that have to do with local traditions that were not widely known. Here, the citations from Theopompus define unknown terms or provide a story that is unique, miraculous, or unattested elsewhere. Strabo says that Theopompus aimed to narrate myths better then Herodotus, Ctesias, Hellanicus, and the authors of Indica (F 381). In fact, what Theopompus actually said was that he would tell “even myths better than Herodotus, Ctesias, Hellanicus, and the authors of Indica” (φήσας ὅτι καὶ μύθους ἐν ταῖς ἱστορίαις ἐρεῖ, κρεῖττον ἢ ὡς Ἡρόδοτος καὶ Κτησίας καὶ Ἑλλάνικος καὶ οἱ τὰ Ἰνδικὰ συγγράψαντες), emphasizing a superiority in comparison to his predecessors of the sort that is contained in Photius’ version of his proemium (F 25).

In Plutarch, too, we can see that the exclusively moralistic quotations that predominate in Athenaeus are but one aspect of Theopompus’ research. The figure of Agesilaus is illustrative of the relationship between Theopompus’ narration of events and his historical judgment. In the central section of Plutarch’s bios, we find several fragments of an account characterized by evaluations similar to those that assail Philip. According to Theopompus, it was agreed that Agesilaus, who was the only one to receive the command of land and sea troops during the war in Asia Minor, was “the greatest . . . and the most prominent of those then living” (μέγιστος . . . καὶ τῶν τότε ζώντων ἐπιφανέστατος), although “he was prouder of his virtue than he was of his power” (Agesilaus 10.9-10 = FGH 115 F 321). Nevertheless, there are some cracks, here and elsewhere, resulting in a more nuanced picture. Entrusting Pisander with the fleet was clearly a mistake not only because, despite his courage, Pisander had no experience (Xenophon Hellenica 3.4.27–29), but also because Agesilaus privileged the interests of his family over those of the state. Agesilaus’ virtue, of which he {32|33} was so proud, clearly had limits, and Theopompus was not prepared to gloss over them in order to paint an idealized portrait of him. The king’s valor is not at stake, and he very realistically seems to want to prevent the Spartans from facing Epaminondas’ army during the Theban invasion, “against so great, as Theopompus says, a river and wave of war” (πρὸς τοσοῦτον, ὥς φησι Θεόπομπος, ῥεῦμα καὶ κλύδωνα πολέμου); and because of the part he played in causing the invasion, Agesilaus was forced to bend his virtue to mere calculations and to tolerate offenses. It is quite probable that the greatness and limitations of Agesilaus, according to Theopompus’ portrayal of him, were that of a king who recognized the splendor of his city at the time of the expedition to Asia, but was forced to humiliating terms not long afterward. The lofty figure of F 321 does not only try to limit damages, but he incautiously pushes away the invaders with an offer of money, useless inasmuch as they were already in the process of leaving Laconia (Agesilaus 32.13–33.2 = FGH 115 F 323). Plutarch wonders why it is only Theopompus who remembers this detail, which is ignored by all others (Agesilaus 33.1). Agesilaus’ mistake, namely his responsibility for the invasion of Peloponnesus, did not contradict the fact that the Spartans owed the salvation of their city—and on this all were agreed—to Agesilaus, through his wise renouncing of his personal ambitions. It is unclear whether we should also ascribe to Theopompus Plutarch’s discussion of the causes of Sparta’s fall just after this passage (Agesilaus 33.4), in which Plutarch blames Sparta’s downfall on the introduction of a perverse taste for power and supremacy. Agesilaus’ cautiousness, in any case, was not able to revive Sparta: it was a single error, as Plutarch says just after F 323, that drove the polis to its end, just as in the case of an otherwise healthy body infected by disease.

Theopompus’ depiction of Agesilaus, as preserved in Plutarch, is a privileged means, in my opinion, to understand the complexity of his historical judgment about contemporary events. As Plutarch’s Agesilaus shows, Theopompus analyzed contemporary events in detail, corrected the tradition regarding them, and discussed them from a long-term perspective that allowed for a more complex understanding of their causes. Agesilaus is not a character from an encomium, but a multifaceted politician, just as happens in the vivid action of events and not in the assemblies where things are described and said in order to persuade. In Theopompus’ description, Agesilaus’ errors and virtues are intertwined without malice, reflecting Theopompus’ interest in going beyond mere celebration. In the same way, Theopompus’ complex and articulate evaluation of Demosthenes (F 328), softened in a way that displeases Plutarch (he was not “moody and flighty”: F 326), takes into account a variety of actions and, most of all, the dynamis of an orator who forces Philip to peace. The focus is here on the strength of logos in driving events, of a politician who controls situations {33|34} through his words. The positive portrait of Lysander (F 332) is also not merely a rhetorical encomium but is subjected to the critical meticulousness that the Greeks call akribeia. The subversive, innovative character of his politics that could have saved the polis from the Persian threat, was rejected, just as in the case of Alcibiades.

These observations—and there are many others that ought to be added—enable, I think, a more satisfactory reading of Theopompus’ work. This deinos mythologist is an author, punctilious, comprehensive, and meticulous. He narrates broad historical developments, ably interspersing his narrative with digressions of every sort; he attacks opponents so as to include both praise and blame in his account. Quite apart from Athenaeus’ charge of a rhetorical and epideictic moralism, Theopompus seems to be an historian in the full meaning of the term and certainly to have been influenced more by Thucydides and Herodotus than by his putative teacher, Isocrates. {34|}


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[ back ] 1. Schepens and Bollansée 2005; Walbank 2005; Chávez Reino 2005 (on the relationship between Polybius and Ephorus); Bearzot 2005 (on Polybius and Theopompus).

[ back ] 2. While the accounts of Pédech 1989 and Shrimpton 1991 are specifically descriptive, the studies of Connor 1968 and Flower 1994 deal with important themes: political history in the fifth century observed from a fourth-century point of view, the biographical and rhetorical tradition of the work, but they do not attempt to confront the problem in all its complexity. The same ‘censorship’ has affected Ephorus, to whom only one twentieth-century study has been devoted, and an incomplete and superficial one at that (Barber 1935).

[ back ] 3. Wachsmuth 1895:501f.; Schwartz 1907:7f.; Laqueur 1911; Jacoby 1926a:1f.; see Fornara 1983:42. A close examination of the problem can now be found in Parmeggiani 2011:9–25.

[ back ] 4. To get a sense of the point of view of Wilamowitz and his school it is sufficient to read the central chapter, devoted to Ephorus, of Frances Pownall’s recent book (Pownall 2004:113-142), beginning with the assumption contained in the work’s subtitle: The Moral Use of History in Fourth Century Prose. Bruno Bleckmann’s judgement on fourth-century historiography (1998) and on the anonymous author of the Hellenica Oxyrhynchia (2006) is similarly oriented, although with more originality. But it seems to me that Bleckmann deals with classical Greek historiography with the same schemas that he has applied to the late Empire, with some exegetical risk.

[ back ] 5. Schepens 1993:169f.; Marincola 2007b (esp. 175). I dealt with Theopompus’ historiography in the Greek Universalgeschichte in Vattuone 1998:84f.

[ back ] 6. Ambaglio 1995:17.

[ back ] 7. A new edition with commentary on Theopompus by G. Ottone and A. Chávez Reino is forthcoming in the series I frammenti degli storici greci, edited by E. Lanzillotta. Several interpretative guidelines can be found in Ottone 2004:129f., and in Gazzano et al. 2009:73–212.

[ back ] 8. Nicolai 2004:74f. (see esp. 77–78 on Isocrates Panathenaicus 149f.). The mistake is usually to think that Isocrates’ ideas are passed on to his disciples as tasks to be fulfilled.

[ back ] 9. Theopompus notoriously criticizes the reliability of the συνθῆκαι written in Ionic script that were set up by the Athenians against the Persians, pointing out that it was only during the archonship of Euclides (403/2) that they began to use that alphabet (cf. F 155). It is not stated in the text which treaties are concerned, and so it is not certain that Theopompus is here talking about the Peace of Callias (Pédech 1989:115f.). The occasion for this remark is also unclear: it may be a critique of the Athenian pride in having forced the Persians to agree to unfavorable terms with them. Perhaps the context is a critique of the “Cimonian” treaty (Plutarch Cimon 13), which was considered false by Callisthenes too (13.4 = FGH 124 F 16).

[ back ] 10. The Athenians are accused of falsifying the oath taken by the Greeks before the battle of Plataea and for the excessive magnification of the battle of Marathon, which did not take place as described in hymns devoted to it. The accusation concerning the falsification of history is more general: καὶ ὅσα ἄλλα . . . ἡ Ἀθηναίων πόλις ἀλαζονεύεται καὶ παρακρούεται τοὺς Ἕλληνας (FGH 115 F 153). On the basis of F 156, where we find an excursus on the Sacred War of 448–446 BCE, Connor 1968:94f. argues that this polemic was aimed at demonstrating the duplicity of Athens, touched upon by Plutarch Pericles 21 in a discussion of Athenian interests in central Greece (Shrimpton 1991:79–80).

[ back ] 11. It is possible that Theopompus relied in his epigraphical research a little too faithfully on the information about the initiative of Archinus in 403/2 BCE (Pédech 1989:114–115n128). But we should not, at any rate, doubt the seriousness of his method. Theopompus certainly took into account the polemic against Athens’ hypocrisy regarding its interests in Greece and in the Aegean sea, but this does not mean that his reconstruction is rhetorical, in the pejorative sense of the term, that is was based only on reversing other opinions or was devoid of any historiographical content.

[ back ] 12. Parmeggiani 2011:704f., 718f., and passim.

[ back ] 13. See supra, n7. We must first consider what is meant by a fragment, the significance of the citations, and the importance of the context of the citing sources. We often think, with some hermeneutic naiveté, that Jacoby’s Fragmente are indeed what survives of a lost work, without the input of the commentary that can render them as such (Vattuone 1991:12f.).

[ back ] 14. On the nature of the tradition of Athenaeus, see infra section 5 (esp. 28–31). Nepos is surprised by the praise accorded to Alcibiades by Thucydides, Timaeus, and Theopompus, particularly because of the concordance between these last two in praising him beyond all others (nescio quomodo in illo uno laudando consenserunt: Alcibiades 11 = FGH 115 F 288; FGH 566 F 99). It is not clear from Nepos whether Timaeus and Theopompus, who are usually in disagreement, do in fact praise Alcibiades in the same way or whether they both praise him to the exclusion of anyone else. The second alternative is in fact impossible, since we know that, according to Polybius, Timaeus’ encomium of Timoleon was no less exaggerated. Nepos goes on to say that the duo maledicentissimi agree only on the praise of Alcibiades, that they disagree, then, on all the rest of their judgements. We know that Timaeus distanced himself from Theopompus at least with regard to the tradition about Timoleon, both before and after his arrival in Sicily (FGH 566 F 116 vs FGH 115 F 334; FGH 566 F 117 vs FGH 115 F 341); on this, see Vattuone 1991:95f. Another problem is whether the common praise extended also to Alcibiades’ adaptability to foreign mores, which is what we read in Nepos, but cautiously published by Jacoby in a smaller typeface. Such an ethical-political re-evaluation of Alcibiades’ eclecticism would certainly not be out of line with Theopompus’ historical sensibilities (Pédech 1989:233).

[ back ] 15. Lucian Quomodo historia conscribenda sit 59 (FGH 115 T 25a). Lucian refers to the accusation against Theopompus as traditional (καὶ τὴν αὐτὴν Θεοπόμπῳ αἰτίαν ἕξεις . . . ). When Lucian is writing, then, this is already a stereotype, which is only acknowledged and emphasized by the author, albeit paradoxically (. . . ὡς κατηγορεῖν, μᾶλλον ἢ ἱστορεῖν τὰ πεπραγμένα). It certainly does not indicate that Theopompus renounced writing up facts for the sake of moralism in and of itself. Lucian’s criticism is directed towards the excessive use of certain categories, even if it was accepted as legitimate for historiography. There are useful insights in Shrimpton 1991:23f.

[ back ] 16. Athenaeus’ judgement (3.85a–b = FGH 115 T 28a) clearly relies on this passage from Dionysius’ ad Pompeium Geminum (6.2 = FGH 115 T 20a). The ἀνδρὸς φιλαλήθους καὶ πολλὰ χρήματα καταναλώσαντος εἰς τὴν περὶ τῆς ἱστορίας ἐξέτασιν ἀκριβῆ, described in F 181a, is the synthesis of Dionysius’ praise of Theopompus: μάλιστα δὲ τῆς ἐπιμελείας τε καὶ φιλοπονίας τῆς κατὰ τὴν συγγραφήν, also recalled by Suda s.v. Ἔφορος (E 3953 Adler = FGH 115 T 28b = FGH 70 T 28a; see Chávez Reino 2010:262f.). An analysis of F 181a allows us to understand how the account of events tied to individuals and to poleis or ethne far from the Greek motherland was likely approached by way of the ethnographical method, i.e. with a narration of the events enriched with scholarly explanations and etiology, in the style of Hecataeus. Shrimpton 1991:86-87 believes that the story of Clearchus was inserted into the excursus on the Pontus Euxinus. On ἀκρίβεια, see Fantasia 2004:41f.

[ back ] 17. Dionysius of Halicarnassus ad Pompeium Geminum 6.2 = FGH 115 T 20a. Dionysius’ text ‘contains’ several fragments from, and testimonia about Theopompus: this is once again proof that studying a fragmentary author is no more or no less than studying the traditions which preserved his work.

[ back ] 18. Dionysius of Halicarnassus Roman Antiquities 1.1.1 = FGH 115 F 24; Shrimpton 1991:63–64; Santi Amantini 2009:75f.

[ back ] 19. Dionysius of Halicarnassus ad Pompeium Geminum 6.2 = FGH 115 T 20a = FGH 115 F 26. Jacoby cautiously published the text in a smaller typeface because of a textual problem (εἰ καὶ † μηδὲν ἔγραψε). Aujac 1992:97 does not even mention this problem in the apparatus, overlooking Radermacher and Heller’s efforts, and solving the problem with two soothing commas. He was clearly more convinced than his illustrious predecessors that Theopompus—as Dionysius attests—had spoken too much of his achievements and could have refrained from wordiness without precluding the positive judgement of posterity (“even if he had written nothing”). Notwithstanding Aujac’s souplesse, Dionysius’ text is difficult to untangle and would merit from critical suggestions. This does not keep us from understanding the general topic expressed by Theopompus in his proemium (Vattuone 1997:88f.).

[ back ] 20. On F 25, see Flower 1994:13f., 155f.; Vattuone 1997:88–92. In F 25, it is clear that Theopompus did not consider himself to be a disciple of Isocrates, but, if anything, his contemporary and rival.

[ back ] 21. Plutarch De gloria Atheniensium 346f–347c: inasmuch as they are both mimetic activities, historiography and painting cannot compete with the protagonists of events. We have no evidence that Plutarch is here referring to Theopompus’ proud claims; nevertheless his defense of history as a techne that, like other technai, deserves complete commitment, as Polybius well knew, could be considered a manifesto of a program that did not attract many followers in antiquity. The title of Plutarch’s work itself (πότερον Ἀθηναῖοι κατὰ πόλεμον ἤ κατὰ σοφίαν ἐνδοξότεροι) clearly indicates which tradition prevailed up to the end of the Roman Empire and beyond.

[ back ] 22. The meaning of πάρεργον as a ‘subsidiary activity, subordinate element’ can be found in Euripides Hercules Furens 340, Plato Republic 2.370c, and Thucydides 6.69.3. In Thucydides 7.27, the war that Agis conducts from Decelaia in Attica is waged οὐκ ἐκ παρέργου, i.e. not superficially, not lightly. Theopompus takes the image of the steersman from the Periclean logos, assigning it a methodological use.

[ back ] 23. In Ephorus F 110, following a tradition with roots already in Thucydides 1.22.3, the limits of autopsy certainly do not lead to a devaluation of one’s own direct experience, or that of others, but they do open up the possibility of a history not strictly (and not only) contemporary, following a method that, once again, is already present in Thucydides’ archaeology (cf. Parmeggiani 2011:114f.).

[ back ] 24. Polybius 12.27.8–9: τοῦτον μὲν ἄριστον ἐν τοῖς πολεμικοῖς τὸν πλείστοις κινδύνοις παρατετευχότα, τοῦτον δὲ δυνατώτατον ἐν λόγῳ τὸν πλείστων μετεσχηκότα πολιτικῶν ἀγώνων. Τὸν αὐτὸν δὲ τρόπον συμβαίνειν ἐπ’ἰατρικῆς καὶ κυβερνητικῆς.

[ back ] 25. Photius Bibliotheca 176.121a = FGH 70 F 7, which Jacoby does not consider to belong with the other proemial fragments of Theopompus, as he should have done (Vattuone 1997); cf. Parmeggiani 2011:34f.

[ back ] 26. Vattuone 1998:183f.; Parmeggiani 2011:38f., 99f., and passim.

[ back ] 27. Polybius 12.28.8 = FGH 566 F 7; Vattuone 1991:22f.

[ back ] 28. Theopompus’ variety of interests (people, foundations, kings, customs, καὶ εἴ τι θαυμαστὸν ἢ παράδοξον ἑκάστη γῆ καὶ θάλασσα φέρει), was probably an object of Theopompus’ self-pride in the long proemium of his Philippica. It did not, however, aim only to delight, nor did it serve only as a digression, since the richness of material is integrated into the narration of pragmata (συμπεριείληφεν [ἐν] τῇ πραγματείᾳ). Strabo reminds us that, unlike others, Theopompus thought ὅτι καὶ μύθους ἐν ταῖς ἱστορίαις ἐρεῖ κρεῖττον ἢ ὡς Ἑρόδοτος καὶ Κτησίας καὶ Ἑλλάνικος καὶ οἱ τὰ Ἰνδικὰ συγγράψαντες (1.2.35 = FGH 115 F 381), i.e. he wanted to narrate even mythical tales within his historical work, and he wanted to do it better than his predecessors, Herodotus, Ctesias, and Hellanicus. We usually attribute to simple haughtiness any comparison with illustrious ancestors, but the most important aspect here is that Theopompus consciously realizes that he is employing different literary forms within his pragmata. The hypothesis that Dionysius’ ad Pompeium Geminum 6.4 is itself an important testimony to Theopompus’ proemium finds here one more supporting argument.

[ back ] 29. The passage immediately following F 381 (see previous note) is a defence of the philosophical utility of the historian’s polymathie in open contrast with the critics, here again in the form of a prokatalepsis (FGH 115 T 20a4–5: καὶ μηδεὶς ὑπολάβῃ ψυχαγωγίαν ταῦτ’ εἶναι μόνον—οὐ γὰρ οὕτως ἔχει—ἀλλὰ πᾶσαν ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν ὠφέλειαν περιέχει). Aujac 1992:166 (Strabo 1.2.23).

[ back ] 30. This problem is clearly described by Cawkwell 1997:20f.; see also Connor 1984:21f.; Rood 1998:208f.; and Foster 2010:183f. The charges come from comedy and from rhetoric, and Thucydides seems to react to a common notion (as he says in 1.20.3) when he states that the war was inevitable (1.139.4, 140.4–5; 2.59.1) and, therefore, not to be blamed on Pericles (Plutarch Nicias 9.8-9; Alcibiades 14.1f.). Fourth-century historiography does not accept Thucydides’ ‘silence’ on internal politics: Diodorus 12.39-41—which is not to be taken as a mirror for Ephorus FGH 70 F 196—retains a complex tradition that cannot be reduced to gossip (Jacoby 1926b:93). See Parmeggiani 2011:354f., 417f.

[ back ] 31. This passage from Diodorus contains traces of Ephorus’ version that points not only to the chronological time span (from mid-fifth century to the end of the fourth), but also and in particular to the dynamics of domestic affairs and their effects on the relationship between Athens and the Peloponnesian League, all of which serves to demonstrate political initiative and decisions that lead to the war. Diodorus does not cite Ephorus ad litteram, but it is possible that he cites him to show where the Cumaean differed from his predecessor, using Herodotean models. See Parmeggiani 2011:354f., 417f., and also in this volume, 115f. Diodorus’ citation of comic sources here is not in itself a trivialization of the causes, but a way to show how the decisions of Pericles were received and contested (cf. Thucydides 1.140–144). Ephorus F 196 is very helpful in enabling us to understand the value of Dionysius’ discussion of Theopompus, which comes, it seems to me, from the explicit declaration of Theopompus himself.

[ back ] 32. Vattuone 2007:151–152.

[ back ] 33. The structure of Polybius’ criticism against Timaeus is based on images and thoughts found in Ephorus and Theopompus. It is enough to read Polybius 12.27–28 to verify this. The critique of the predecessors touches their technical ability in describing military events, but nowhere their identity as historians. Walbank 1967:409; Pédech 1989:146; Vattuone 1997:100f.; Bearzot 2005:64f.

[ back ] 34. Polybius 12.11.1-2 (FGH 566 T 10. See also F 12) is about the critical accuracy of Timaeus, unintentionally highlighted by showing how, in the case of Locris, Timaeus had intentionally overlooked, omitted, or modified information which he had included. Vattuone 1991:49f.

[ back ] 35. Walbank 1967:78.

[ back ] 36. συνεγγίσας τοῖς Λευκτρικοῖς καιροῖς καὶ τοῖς ἐπιφανεστάτοις τῶν Ἑλληνικῶν ἔργων, τὴν μὲν Ἑλλάδα μεταξὺ καὶ τὰς ταύτης ἐπιβολὰς ἀπέρριψε, μεταλαβὼν δὲ τὴν ὑπόθεσιν τὰς Φιλίππου πράξεις προύθετο γράφειν.

[ back ] 37. Walbank 1962:2.

[ back ] 38. Polybius 12.25h1 = FGH 566 F 34; Polybius 12.25d1 = FGH 566 T 4c; Vattuone 2002:182f.

[ back ] 39. Polybius 12.8.4 = FGH 566 F 156; Düring 1957:385; Vattuone 1991:36.

[ back ] 40. Translated by E. S. Shuckburgh.

[ back ] 41. Schepens 1997:71f. discusses this problem. Normally the aporia is resolved by returning to the text of the testimonium and approaching the problem on a thematic level. We should abandon the persistent idea that there is a rigid distinction between testimonia and fragmenta, that is, that the fragment of an historian can exist without a commentary. On this problem, see Parmeggiani 2011:32f.

[ back ] 42. The study of Dionysius’ text—from which comes our FGH 115 T 20a—allows us to better understand that the so-called ‘fragments’ from Theopompus’ proemium are far more numerous than Jacoby’s collection leads us to believe. Better would be to say: the topics treated by Theopompus in his proemium are much broader than what we read in Jacoby. There is nothing wrong with continuing to speak about fragments and testimonia, using the classical definition, as long as we remember that it is a choice of convenience only, which often does not correspond to sound hermeneutic principles nor to the very nature of the passages under discussion.

[ back ] 43. Polybius’ unease towards Theopompus is meaningful only if he distinguished in rebus very different aspects of Philip’s representation (cf. Momigliano 1975). Although well grounded in his cultural amnesia, the idea that Polybius did not understand the irony of his predecessor in calling Philip II a “great man” (Shrimpton 1977:123f.; 1991:22, 162–163) does not take into account the complexity of critical judgement on the Macedonian, as well as on other figures, like Lysander and Agesilaus. Polybius is well aware of the distinction between history and encomium (10.21.8), since it “touches” also his beloved Philopoemen.

[ back ] 44. In Timaeus, Agathocles is the threatening, but great character who aspired to kingship, although he was only a tyrant. The incipit of Diodorus’ Book 19, which is devoted to Agathocles’ career, looks inconsistent even to modern readers, who are compelled to separate ‘favorable’ from ‘unfavorable’ sources, where the traces of Timaeus absorbed into the Library reflect only a dark, complex evaluation of this character (cf. Vattuone 2005:321f.).

[ back ] 45. Polybius 8.11.5–13 (FGH 115 F 225a and the parallel F 225b = Athenaeus 6.260d–261a); Pédech 1989:214f.

[ back ] 46. This is the famous case of the pais Agathocles (Polybius 12.15 = FGH 566 F 124b), for whom Timaeus used “inappropriate sources” (such as comedy) to cover both the boy and the adult with outrageous jests. As Walbank records (1962:2), the charge of aischrologia raised against Theopompus becomes in Dionysius a reason to praise his manifest freedom of judgment. Also well known is the fact that Theopompus’ contradictions in his depiction of Philip, inasmuch as they are without logic, annoy Polybius much more than those of Timaeus on Agathocles: if nature had given these gifts to the Macedonian, it would be possible to show immediately afterwards his corrupt customs, even if they were hidden (8.10.12f.).

[ back ] 47. The expression, although ambiguous (Connor 1968:137f.) and clearly not ironical (pace Shrimpton 1991), should not reveal more than the stature of a character who deeply influenced an entire historical epoch. Flower (1994:98f.) is right when he sees in Polybius’ interpretation a grave misunderstanding, because what he considers to be a contradiction is the very essence of the judgment on his character. Pédech (1989:247f.) complains that there are not sufficient arguments to back up this interpretation, which seems to him at most a possibility. Parmeggiani (2011:616) rightly stresses Theopompus’ freedom of judgment.

[ back ] 48. Marincola 2007b:172–174; Parmeggiani 2011:711f.

[ back ] 49. Momigliano 1975:697f.; Roveri 1964:58f.; Burde 1974:17f.; Alonso Núñez 2002:39f.

[ back ] 50. Alonso Núñez 2002:117; Marincola 2007b:171.

[ back ] 51. Pelling 2007:245f.

[ back ] 52. Marincola 2007b:171.

[ back ] 53. In the first proemium, the sentence used to define the disruption caused by the ‘great war’ (1.1.2: κίνησις γὰρ αὕτη μεγίστη δὴ τοῖς Ἕλλησιν ἐγένετο καὶ μέρει τινὶ τῶν βαρβάρων, ὡς δὲ εἰπεῖν καὶ ἐπὶ πλεῖστον ἀνθρώπων) signifies a broad and ‘general’ dimension of the conflict. It is not so strange to point out that Greek historiography, beyond the chronological limits of past/present, aims to a universal dimension. Vattuone 1998:75f.

[ back ] 54. The conclusions of Parmeggiani 2011:726f. clarify the complexity of Polybius’ judgment on the previous historiography. It is from the critique of Theopompus’ Philip that we are able to understand why the Achaean historian recognizes in Ephorus and not in Theopompus the primogeniture of this writing model; the fact that Ephorus kept a coherent form with his tidy and precise work lies behind Polybius’ evaluation. Nevertheless, this may not be enough. I think that Polybius’ choice, very close to those of Theopompus and even Timaeus, prompts in him the encomium of Ephorus and the despise for the excessive variety of themes in Theopompus’ work. See infra.

[ back ] 55. Flower 1994:42f.

[ back ] 56. Murray’s thesis (1946) has often been recycled, without search for further proof. Pédech 1989:233f. highlights the relationships between the maledicentissimus and the thinking of Antisthenes, i.e. a philosophical approach which tends to go beyond superficial causes looking for a greater depth. Pédech is the first one to question this approach at the end of his work (235f.).

[ back ] 57. Flower 1994:160f. The Herodotean Theopompus is not only the epitomator of the Histories, but also the heir to Herodotus’ plurality of interests and pleasure in narrating. The fact that Theopompus aimed to continue Thucydides’ work does not indicate a complete adherence to Thucydides’ narrative choices, but rather Theopompus’ desire to embrace two centuries (the 5th and the 4th) to understand the innovation of Philip II. Scholars have tended, however, to look for ideological connections where canonical connections are clear.

[ back ] 58. As many as 73 out of 411 fragments (or 396, to exclude Jacoby’s Zweifelhaftes FF 397–411) of Theopompus come from Athenaeus. This is a great number, and more than half of these quotations are ‘direct’; however, the interests of Athenaeus are specific, and so strongly affect our view of Theopompus.

[ back ] 59. Fantasia 2004:51f.

[ back ] 60. It is not legitimate to get any idea about the complex work of Theopompus from these fragments of débauche. So many scholars agree, from Wilamowitz to Murray, followed by Connor 1968:12 “. . . but certainly the entire Philippica was not such a compilation of exotic sensuality”); Reed 1976:52f.; Shrimpton 1991:28; Flower 1994:8 (“the result is that our impression of Theopompus is necessarily distorted”); Chávez Reino and Ottone 2007:146f.

[ back ] 61. Shrimpton 1991:122–123. Pédech 1989:207f. prefers to point out the ‘psychological’ aspect of Theopompus’ ethics. The so-called moralism of Theopompus seems very well integrated into the historiographical perspective of Dionysius of Halicarnassus’ ad Pompeium Geminum 6.5 (FGH 115 T 20a) where philosophical value and political judgement are attributed to his sentences.

[ back ] 62. Vattuone 2000:11f.

[ back ] 63. Connor 1968:19f.

[ back ] 64. Shrimpton 1991:140.

[ back ] 65. Shrimpton 1991:150f. The conclusion by Pédech 1989:240–241 on his “Théopompe méconnu,” starting from the moralizing imprint of his work, is unacceptable: “Expliquer les événements par un enchaînement logique à la façon de Thucydide ne paraît pas avoir été le souci de Théopompe.” In Dionysius, moralism, mythological taste and mirabilia constitute the character of Theopompus’ tale, well inserted in the pragmata. They become here a means of distinguishing between scientific historiography and rhetorical and novelistic historiography, going against Thucydides as well.

[ back ] 66. Vattuone 1991:319f.

[ back ] 67. FGH 115 F 307 (Lex. in Demosthenes Aristocrates, fr. A1) = FGH 328 F 42. See Costa 2007, 292f.

[ back ] 68. Jacoby 1913:510; Bruce 1970:96f. Dionysius’ judgement (ad Pompeium Geminum 6.4–6) is considered to be decisive by Flower 1994:161f. in confirming the link between the historian and the epitomizer on the level of the narration, the excursus, and the choice of subjects.

[ back ] 69. FGH 115 F 334, Shrimpton 1991:92. See Plutarch Timoleon 4.5 = FGH 566 F 116 = FGH 70 F 221. See Diodorus 16.65.5; Nepos Timoleon 1.3–6; Talbert 1974:36f.; Sordi 1983:263; Vattuone 1991:94.