Bryn Mawr Classical Review 02.05.16


Cassius Dio, The Augustan Settlement (Roman History 53-55.9). Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1990. Pp. xii, 260. ISBN 0-85668-383-3. $49.95 (hb). ISBN 0-85668-384-1. $24.95 (pb).


Reviewed by Alain M. Gowing, University of Washington.

This past year saw the publication of two noteworthy articles on Cassius Dio's views on Augustus: one co-authored by M. Reinhold and P.M. Swan ("Cassius Dio's Assessment of Augustus," in Between Republic and Empire. Interpretations of Augustus and His Principate, edited by K.A. Raaflaub and M. Toher, 155-73 [Berkeley, 1990]), and another by J.W. Rich ("Dio on Augustus," in History as Text, edited by Averil Cameron, 86-110 [Chapel Hill, 1990]). As I observed in a review of the latter (BMCR 1.2), Rich's contribution gave one cause to look forward to the appearance of his commentary on Dio's Augustan Books. Readers who shared my anticipation will not be disappointed. The Augustan Settlement does indeed have much to recommend it: a concise introduction to Dio as a historiographer and the issues associated with reading his account of Augustus; a lucid English translation of the facing Greek text; a detailed commentary; nine serviceable maps; and a full index.

In both the introduction and the commentary Rich brings to bear two admirable qualities: serious attention to Dio as a thinker in his own right and a broad familiarity with the history of and scholarship on the Augustan period. As usual with texts published in this series, the commentary is keyed to the English translation, but Rich has read Dio with care and frequently draws attention to the nuances of his Greek. He thereby joins the ranks of those who in recent years have happily confounded Schwartz' complaint that Dio's reader "Nüsse knacken muss und keinen Kern findet" (RE 3 [1899] col. 1691). As Rich ably shows, close reading of this historian, coupled with the effort to understand his own interests and perspective, can yield useful results. Ample evidence for this may be found throughout the commentary, which is thorough, fully documented with references to primary and secondary sources alike, and accurate. (I noted only an occasional slip, e.g., on p. 135, the Lex Titia dates to late November of 43, not to 42; on p. vi and passim, Bonnefond-Coudry, not Bonnefond-Coubry). In addition, Rich occasionally provides fresh insight into old cruxes (e.g., the conspiracy of Murena); and the commentary as a whole is distinguished by both Rich's understanding of the way Dio works and thinks (e.g., on 53.12.1 and Dio's description of the nature of Augustus' leadership) and his ability to make historical sense of Dio's occasional ambiguities (e.g., on 53.12 and Dio's presentation of Augustus' foreign policy).

The Greek text is that established by Boissevain with "a few changes." (I noticed three, all relatively minor, at 53.12.2, 53.16.2, and 54.10.6.) An apparatus criticus is provided at the end, compiled from Boissevain, with some judicious pruning, and from subsequent conjectures by other scholars. A few typos have found their way into this apparatus, some potentially troublesome: e.g., at 53.4.1 read SWFRO/NISTAI for SESWFRO/NISTAI (V); at 53.15.2 BOULEU/SANTAS for BOULEU/SANTES (VM); at 54.1.1 E)PIGENOME/NW for E)PIGENOME/NW| (VM); at 54.3.7 TINA\ DE\ for TINA\ DE) (VM).


[[Note from your kindly e-editor: A good example of the difficulties of transliteration to e-world. That last one reports that the book incorrectly prints *de* with a smooth breathing over the epsilon and corrects to a grave accent. I have this feeling that even a full TLG Beta transliteration would still leave you looking at that and saying, 'Say what? DE) Must be an e-misprint!' Even as I look at the hard copy, I'm wondering if the misprint isn't a misprint for, say, an acute accent. We're s till five years away, alas, from getting real Greek on the nets, I think.]]

It may seem churlish to complain about the limits of such a welcome and well-executed commentary. Rich himself concedes (p. iv) that a commentary on Dio's entire account of Augustus (Bks. 51-56) would have been preferable, and indeed, given the quality of the present volume, one cannot help but regret the decision to focus solely on 53-55.9 (covering the years 28-5 BC). Meyer Reinhold's recent commentary (From Republic to Principate: An Historical Commentary on Cassius Dio's 'Roman History.' Books 49-5 2 (36-29 B.C.) [Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1988]) perhaps discouraged the inclusion of the earlier books (though this is not explicitly stated); and the fragmentary state of 55.10-13.1 is given as one reason for terminating at 55.9. But most of the remainder of 55 and 56 survives intact, and a similar treatment of those portions (which are admittedly less interesting to those concerned strictly with Dio as a source of historical information on the period) would have enhanced the value of this study qua study on Dio's views of Augustus and the principate in general. Indeed, one of the most valuable observations to come from Rich's work is that Bks. 51-56 constitute an extended commentary on the entire Imperial period and a prelude to the remainder of Dio's History.

Specialized studies of Cassius Dio have proliferated since the appearance of Fergus Millar's groundbreaking A Study of Cassius Dio (Oxford, 1964). It is astonishing to realize, however, how few commentaries (and most of them unremarkable) existed until the appearance of Reinhold's in 1988 (the initial installment of a planned commentary by various scholars on the entire corpus). With the appearance of Reinhold's and now Rich's commentary, the study of this historian has therefore reached an important milestone. But The Augustan Settlement will be of great interest not only to those concerned with Cassius Dio, but to anyone working on or teaching the Augustan period, particularly at the graduate level, where having the Greek text at hand will be desirable. The price may discourage some from making it a required text for such classes, but the attention given to the history of and scholarship on the Augustan settlement as well as to Dio himself makes this an extremely valuable resource. In addition, the production quality of this particular volume surpasses most of the Aris & Phillips editions I have had occasion to use. It is, in brief, well worth the price. With this and Reinhold's commentary, Augustan scholars finally have a useful guide to at least part of the best extant history of the regime we possess.