Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2007.02.48

Cinzia Bearzot, Franca Landucci, Diodoro e l'altra Grecia: Macedonia, Occidente, Ellenismo nella Biblioteca storica. Atti del Convegno, Milano, 15-16 gennaio 2004.   Milan:  Vita e Pensiero, 2005.  Pp. vii, 423.  ISBN 88-343-5006-5.  €30.00.  

Reviewed by Catherine Rubincam, University of Toronto (
Word count: 2567 words

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This volume, comprising the proceedings of a similarly entitled conference, is the third and last in a series of conference proceedings resulting from a collaborative research project of four northern Italian universities dedicated to "Diodorus Siculus and Hellenistic Historiography".1 The 17 papers here published were delivered under an overall rubric, "Diodorus and the 'other' Greece", which aimed, in the words of the Editor (VII), "to draw attention to areas, geographical and chronological, that were 'other' than those more traditionally studied." The result is "a complex and heterogeneous volume", offering various points of view on "the terminology, sources, interpretation, and historical thought" of Diodorus (VII). The usefulness of any such volume of conference proceedings depends largely on the coherence of focus of its disparate parts: do they collectively enrich and advance scholarship in the specified area? to what extent do they exhibit unified or complementary foci?

Thanks to his status as the historian whose work every modern historian of ancient Greece must use, while fervently wishing this could be avoided, and one of only two Hellenistic historians of which substantial sections have survived, Diodorus has attracted a steady stream of scholarship during the past 150 years. Until about 1950 its main focus was traditional Quellenforschung, aimed at the determination of which earlier historical work(s) lay behind each section of Diodorus' textbook of World History, and at the reconstruction of those lost works through the Bibliotheca. More recently, however, a new focus has emerged, which, instead of using the text of Diodorus chiefly as a means for reconstructing the lost narrative of (e.g.) Ephorus or Timaeus, shortens and widens its gaze to take in the whole of the Bibliotheca Historica, and tries to answer for it the same questions one would pose about any work of history: who was the author? what can be discovered about his life? what made him decide to write this work? what kind of work was he trying to produce? over what period did he accomplish the writing? what contemporary events and circumstances may have affected it? what connections can be made between this historical work and the cultural world out of which it grew?2 The most important task for 21st-century Diodoran scholars is the fruitful reconciliation of these two divergent approaches to the Bibliotheca. This methodological issue, though rarely acknowledged explicitly, hovers behind all the contributions to this volume. It is unfortunate that the "light editorial touch"3 so often evident in such volumes of conference proceedings resulted in the Editor's forfeiting the opportunity to tackle this important issue explicitly.

All but two of the papers are in Italian, the two exceptions being those by M. Hatzopoulos (Athens; the paper is in English) and F. Lefèvre (Paris; in French), whose contributions to the conference and to the Proceedings were especially invited (VIII). The order of arrangement is nowhere explained: the first eight papers appear to follow a roughly chronological order (from 4th-century BC Boeotia to the Successors of Alexander); the remaining nine include some with a narrow chronological focus (e.g. G. Vanotti on Diodorus' depiction of Hermocrates of Syracuse), while others (e.g. M. T. Zambianchi on ethnicity in Diodorus' treatment of the Macedonians and their neighbours) apply a thematic approach to a longer period of history. Bearzot's explanation (VII) of the book's subtitle ("Macedonia, Occidente, Ellenismo nella Biblioteca storica") seems to acknowledge the difficulty of subsuming all the papers under any more specific rubric.

I shall offer first comments on the individual papers, before reverting, in summation, to the common thread which, though seldom explicitly referred to, provides something of a unifying purpose to the collection.

1. Marta Sordi ("L'egemonia beotica in Diodoro, libro XV", 3-15) reiterates, in explicit rejoinder to the work of some revisionist Diodoran scholars, her conviction that "the true merit of our compiler is that of having preserved, with remarkable fidelity, sources lost to us", specifically, in the case of Book 15, "the reconstruction and the judgments that Ephorus gave of the ephemeral Theban hegemony" (6). On this basis she proceeds to offer some refinements to the views of Momigliano and Stylianou concerning the nature of and the reasons for that divergence.4

2. Cinzia Bearzot ("Aminta III di Macedonia in Diodoro", 17-41) makes the revisionist argument that Diodorus' account of Amyntas III reflects Callisthenes' history (written later than Xenophon's, though before Ephorus', from the perspective of a northerner -- a citizen of Olynthus). While conceding that the question whether Diodorus drew directly or indirectly (via Ephorus) on Callisthenes cannot be answered "on the basis of a single episode" (41), Bearzot finally pronounces "the hypothesis of Ephoran mediation ... rather unsatisfactory" and permits herself to "wonder whether the relationship between Ephorus and Diodorus ought not to be profoundly rethought" (41). 3. Miltiades Hatzopoulos ("The reliability of Diodorus' account of Philip II's assassination", 43-65) builds upon his reconstructions, based on the Oleveni inscription, of Philip's two Illyrian wars5 to produce a strong argument for regarding Justin's account of the assassination of Philip as more likely to be correct than that of Diodorus. Hatzopoulos presents this as a contribution to his 25-year-old project of using recently discovered material evidence to prompt a new evaluation of the ancient literary traditions concerning Philip's assassination.

4. Giovanni Parmeggiani ("Diodoro e la crisi delle egemonie nel IV secolo a.C.", 67-103) sees analogies between Diodorus' portrayals of Epaminondas and Philip II, the heroes, respectively, of Books 15 and 16. He argues that no inconsistency need be seen between Diodorus' admiration for Philip's effective military and political leadership and his disapproval of the king's immorality -- a view that led some previous scholars to postulate that Diodorus had imperfectly blended the views of two different historiographic traditions. Parmeggiani contends instead that such an ambivalence towards Philip was inherent in the most famous and influential treatment of his reign, that of Theopompus' Philippica, which Diodorus must have known.

5. François Lefèvre ("Diodore XVI-XVII et la documentation épigraphique: notes de style et d'histoire", 105-126) expounds four cases in Diodorus' narratives of the Sacred War and the accession of Alexander (DS 16.23.1-3 and 29.2-4; 16.60.3; 17.2.2; 17.4.2) in which there appears a "remarkable agreement between the testimony of the official texts and that of Diodorus, both in the vocabulary and in the procedures, with which our author evidently has a good acquaintance, even if he is drastically abridging, as he does habitually" (112). Lefèvre thus both vindicates the accuracy of some important details in Diodorus' narrative of 4th-century-BC Greek history, using an argument independent of Quellenforschung, and confirms the connection of Diodorus' terminology with that of some Hellenistic epigraphic texts.

6. Serena Bianchetti ("La concezione dell'ecumene di Alessandro in Diodoro XVII-XVIII", 127-153) analyzes the geographical data and world view that emerge from the testimonia of Diodorus about Alexander's future plans, and argues that these reflect 2nd-century-BC criticism of Eratosthenes' geography.

7. Franca Landucci Gattinoni ("La tradizione su Seleuco in Diodoro XVIII-XX", 155-181) argues (against such influential scholars as A. B. Bosworth) in favour of down-dating Perdiccas' death from spring 321 to spring 320 BC, and in favour of Diodorus' having used Douris as a source for events in Greece, alongside Hieronymus for events in Asia.

8. Federicomaria Muccioli ("Aspetti della translatio imperii in Diodoro: le dinastie degli Antigonidi e dei Seleucidi", 183-221) sets out to explain why Diodorus differs from other universal historians (such as Nicolaus, Timagenes, and Trogus), in making almost no reference to the theme of translatio imperii. This leads him to some interesting observations on the more individualistic focus of Diodorus' moralistic interests.

9. Pietrina Anello ("Barbaros ed enchorios in Diodoro", 223-237) analyzes the use of the term barbaros in the Bibliotheca and the relationship between barbaros and enchorios. She concludes that the era in which Diodorus lived and wrote, dominated by the 'ecumenical' power of Rome, made obsolete the traditional dichotomy between Greeks and barbarians (cf. especially the roughly contemporary attempt by DH AR 1.5.1 to re-construct the Romans as 'honorary' Greeks), and led to the adoption of enchorios to designate peoples regarded as less civilized than Greeks.

10. Federica Cordano ("Geometria e politica a Thurii e altrove", 239-255) argues that there are considerable similarities between the foundation narratives of Diodorus on Thurii and of Herodotus on Cyrene, and further that the details given by Diodorus concerning both the physical and the political planning of Thurii are precise and in many cases supported by archaeology. This then is another case where the accuracy of Diodorus' narrative can be confirmed independently of the arguments of traditional Quellenforschung.

11. Gabriella Vanotti ("L'Ermocrate de Diodoro: un leader 'dimezzato'", 257-281) discovers two different representations of the character of Hermocrates, leader of the Syracusan oligarchic party, in different parts of Diodorus' narrative of the late 5th century (DS 13 passim), and attempts, not very decisively, to find a basis for determining whether these variant interpretations result from Diodorus' own 'mediation' or are to be ascribed rather to his source. She concludes that Diodorus' account, however determined, is an altogether "simplified and simplistic" representation of the events and personalities concerned.

12. Riccardo Vattuone ("Fra Timoleonte e Agatocle. Note di storie e storiografia ellenistica", 283-325) sets out a new reconstruction of some aspects of the 20-year period (c. 337-317) between Timoleon's death and Agathocles' seizure of power, on the basis of the very sketchy narrative of DS 19.2-9. Like many of the contributors to this volume, Vattuone expresses some ambivalence towards Quellenforschung, acknowledging on the one hand that "Quellenforschung, among all its faults and virtues, gives rise to temptations that are not always resistible" (312, n. 46), while on the other hand attacking ferociously "the vicious circularity" of some of its procedures, as tending to raise "a certain doubt about its results" (313).

13. Stefania de Vido ("Tradizioni storiche ed etnografiche nella Libia di Diodoro", 327-355) examines Diodorus' account of Libya (admittedly a marginal aspect of his work) and concludes that it does have a certain homogeneity, in spite of being drawn from a variety of different sources, reflecting generally a fairly typical hellenistic view of this area, albeit one coloured by a distinctive Sicilian interest.

14. Delfino Ambaglio ("Diodoro e i tempi della Macedonia", 357-367), after an introduction that comes close to recanting the revisionist views on the originality of Diodorus expressed in his book,6 sets out evidence for the crucial importance of Macedonia to the architectonic structure of the Bibliotheca, and argues that this reflects a distinctively Diodoran view of the development of world history.

15. Maria Teresa Zambianchi ("I Macedoni e i popoli confinanti nella Biblioteca diodorea", 369-381) makes an argument somewhat analogous to that of P. Anello: that the changed circumstances of Macedonia by the lifetime of Diodorus (now, along with Greece, reduced to subjection by Rome) are reflected in the lack of interest of that historian in defining the different ethnicities of Macedonia's neighbours at earlier stages of its history.

16. Rita Scuderi ("Filippo V e Perseo nei frammenti diodorei", 383-405) contrasts Diodorus' characterization of Philip V and Perseus with that found in other sources (principally Polybius), noting that Diodorus' narratives, so far as we can reconstruct them from fragments, are both more biographical and more moralistically one-sided. She points out that both these elements align with Diodorus' professed interest in (a) giving somewhat biographical treatment to lives of important people, even at the cost of violating his annalistic chronological scheme, and (b) using character portraits as vehicles of moral education.

17. Lucio Troiani ("Diodoro e la storia ebraica", 407-416) examines the few passages in the Bibliotheca that discuss Jewish history and tradition, comparing this representation of the Jews with those of other sources, both Jewish (e.g. Josephus) and non-Jewish (e.g. Tacitus). He concludes that Diodorus' picture appears to have been influenced by "the idea of the Hebrew nation as a sacred state, hostile to the slightest expansionist or regal wish" (416). This is consistent with Diodorus' having written before the changes due to the career of Herod the Great (policies of greater openness to Greek civilization and a need to flatter the imperial authority).

It will be apparent from these particulars that this volume does indeed have a thread of continuity, which, however, is too often barely acknowledged, namely, the concern of all contributors, from one perspective or another, with the most important methodological question facing Diodoran scholars today: how to reconcile fruitfully the older focus on Quellenforschung with the newer focus on Diodorus' own conceptions, plans, and methods. Most of these papers are in some sense revisionist, in that they at least entertain the possibility of challenging the cardinal assumption of 19th-century Quellenforschung, that every aspect of the content of Diodorus' narrative was determined solely by the source(s) on which it depended.7 A few contributors (most notably, Vattuone) take direct aim at the inadequacies of the older methodology. Most, however, take a more indirect approach, suggesting connections between the language and/or attitudes found in various sections of the Bibliotheca that traditionalists have derived from diverse sources and identifying determinants other than those putative sources, namely, language and attitudes found either in other texts from Diodorus' own lifetime or in sections of the Bibliotheca usually held to depend on more than one source tradition. The implications of this characterization of the papers found herein should be clear: Most of these 17 scholars are in fact pursuing largely revisionist lines of work on Diodorus, in spite of the apparent recantation of revisionism by one of their number (Ambaglio). It is to be hoped that some real and direct discussion of this crucial methodological issue will inform their work on the promised translation and commentary on the whole Bibliotheca for which the Editor states (VIII) that these conferences were intended to be a preparation.

On the whole, the volume is well produced, although the non-Italian papers suffer from an annoying number of misprints. The diversity of content among the papers makes particularly regrettable the decision to provide only a six-page "Index of Personal and Divine Names" instead of a more comprehensive index to the contents of all the papers. Similarly, a general list of works cited would have been a particular boon to readers, especially given the old-fashioned policy of citation used in the footnotes, which gives the reader no help in tracking down the first citation of each work, to find the full bibliographic information.


Cinzia Bearzot, "Presentazione"

Marta Sordi, "L'egemonia beotica in Diodoro, libro XV"

Cinzia Bearzot, "Aminta III di Macedonia in Diodoro"

Miltiades Hatzopoulos, "The reliability of Diodorus' account of Philip II's assassination"

Giovanni Parmeggiani, "Diodoro e la crisi delle egemonie nel IV secolo a.C."

François Lefèvre, "Diodore XVI-XVII et la documentation épigraphique: notes de style et d'histoire"

Serena Bianchetti, "La concezione dell'ecumene di Alessandro in Diodoro XVII-XVIII"

Franca Landucci Gattinoni, "La tradizione su Seleuco in Diodoro XVIII-XX"

Federicomaria Muccioli, "Aspetti della translatio imperii in Diodoro: le dinastie degli Antigonidi e dei Seleucidi"

Pietrina Anello, "Barbaros ed enchorios in Diodoro"

Federica Cordano, "Geometria e politica a Thurii e altrove"

Gabriella Vanotti, "L'Ermocreate de Diodoro: un leader 'dimezzato'"

Riccardo Vattuone, "Fra Timoleonte e Agatocle. Note di storie e storiografia ellenistica"

Stefania de Vido, "Tradizioni storiche ed etnografiche nella Libia di Diodoro"

Delfino Ambaglio, "Diodoro e i tempi della Macedonia"

Maria Teresa Zambianchi, "I Macedoni e i popoli confinanti nella Biblioteca diodorea"

Rita Scuderi, "Filippo V e Perseo nei frammenti diodorei"

Lucio Troiani, "Diodoro e la storia ebraica".


1.   The conference, held at the Università Cattolica di Milano, January 15-16, 2004, involved researchers from that university and from the Universities of Bologna, Firenze, and Pavia. The two previous volumes in the series were: Storiografia locale e storiografia universale. Forme di acquisizione del sapere storico nella cultura antica, Como 2001, and Storici greci d'Occidente, Bologna 2002 (reviewed by J. Prag, BMCR 2004.11.21).
2.   The most influential statement of the older approach was that of E. Schwartz, RE 5 (1903), "Diodoros" 38, cols. 668ff. The newer approach is well represented by K. Sacks, Diodorus Siculus and the First Century, Princeton 1990.
3.   The term is borrowed from J. Prag's review of the preceding volume in the series (cited above, note 1). Many of his comments on the problems of coherence he detected in that volume could be applied equally well to this one.
4.   A. Momigliano, "L'egemonia tebana in Senofonte e in Eforo", in Momigliano, Terzo contributo alla storia degli studi classici e del mondo antico, 1, Rome 1966, 347ff.; P. J. Stylianou, A Historical Commentary on Diodorus Siculus, Book 15 (Oxford 1998), 10 and 120ff.
5.   M. B. Hatzopoulos, "The Oleveni inscription and the dates of Philip II's reign," in W. L. Adams and E. N. Borza, Philip II, Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Heritage (Washington 1982), 21-42.
6.   D. Ambaglio, La Biblioteca storica di Diodoro Siculo: problemi e metodo, Como 1995.
7.   Most authoritatively stated by E. Schwartz, RE 5 (1903), "Diodoros" 38, col. 669.

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