Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2009.03.45

Franca Landucci Gattinoni, Diodoro Siculo: Biblioteca storica: libro XVIII: commento storico. Storia. Ricerche.   Milano:  Vita e Pensiero, 2008.  Pp. liii, 345.  ISBN 9788834315781.  €30.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Alexander Meeus, University of Leuven (
Word count: 2504 words

No historian of Classical Greek or early Hellenistic history can avoid using Diodorus Siculus as a source, and for some periods he is even the most important one. Such is the case for the years after Alexander the Great's death. Nonetheless, very few commentaries on his work exist; most books have no commentary at all. A group of Italian scholars has now undertaken the laudable task of filling this serious gap in our libraries by producing a commentary on the whole work. Franca Landucci Gattinoni (henceforth L.), who has written numerous valuable books and articles on the history and historiography of the Age of the Successors, has now provided us with a commentary on book XVIII (containing the history of the Diadochoi from 323 until 318 BC) as a part of this series. Goukowsky and Rathmann had already done crucial work with the ample notes accompanying the French and German translations respectively,1 but this is the first full commentary on book XVIII to be published. L. has thus produced a useful instrument for everyone studying the early history of the Successors, although not all the parts of the book are equally successful.

The volume starts with an introduction, which, after a brief presentation of book XVIII (pp. ix-x), deals with the parallel tradition and the problem of the sources for books XVIII-XX (pp. x-xxiv) and the vexing chronology of the early history of the Successors (pp. xxiv-xlvi). Then L. sets out the structure of the text (pp. xlvi-l). The introduction is concluded by a chronological table (pp. li- liii). For an introduction to Diodorus and his methods the reader is referred to the first volume of the series.2 After the introduction the commentary itself starts (pp. 1- 274), then follow a bibliography (pp. 275-321), and two useful indexes (of names and of sources) (pp. 323-345).

The part on the chronology of the early Diadochan period -- a highly controversial issue -- is probably the strongest part of the book. L. provides a clear overview of the problems in the chronology of the events from 323 until 319 and presents the arguments in favour of the low chronology which dates the death of Perdikkas and the settlement of Triparadeisos in 320 BC. The section ends with a discussion of seven more or less fixed points (Alexander's death, the battle of Krannon, the completion of Alexander's funeral carriage, Perdikkas' death, the congress at Triparadeisos, Seleukos' arrival in Babylonia, and Antipatros' death). A chronological table sets the high and the low chronology and the 'cronologia mista' side by side in three columns. Indeed, in the commentary (pp. 238-239, 250-251, 253, and 266-267) we learn that L. follows the eclectic chronolgy developed by Boiy.3 L. differs from Boiy on one point, however, namely in dating the start of the rule of Demetrios of Phaleron in Athens to the early summer of 317 (as opposed to the winter of 318/7 in Boiy's chronology).4

In the section on Diodorus' sources for the history of the Diadochoi L. shows -- as she has been doing for almost thirty years now -- that, in spite of the communis opinio, there is no evidence for identifying Diodorus' source as Hieronymus of Cardia, let alone for the assumption that he was the sole source. She also points out convincingly that some passages in Diodorus XVIII-XX are so critical of Antigonos, one of Hieronymus' paymasters, that they are unlikely to have been taken from the latter's work. Since the thesis that Hieronymus was Diodorus' (only) source is so often uncritically accepted, L.'s demonstration is most welcome. She then goes on to argue that Diodorus used Duris of Samos as his second source, besides Hieronymus, while the evidence for such an assumption is equally non-existent. In trying to prove her point L. has recourse to a questionable method, and sometimes she even prefers an obviously wrong interpretation of events in order to find proof for her assumption.

L. singles out two passages as especially important to her argument that there are two traditions to be identified in Diodorus' narrative on the Successors (pp. xviii-xix); much more supposed evidence is adduced in the commentary proper. She relies heavily on the argument from silence, assuming that we can conclude from silences in Diodorus and Photius' summary of Arrian that their respective ultimate sources had already omitted the elements missing in these derivative accounts. In the first passage, XVIII 41.5, Diodorus claims that Antigonos decided no longer to obey the kings and the regent Antipatros, while feigning friendship with the latter. Arrian (Succ. F1.43), on the other hand, according to L., accuses Kassandros of slandering Antigonos who could only defend himself against the accusations thanks to his many virtues. In fact, we only have Photius' brief summary of Arrian, and it does not accuse Kassandros of anything. It states that there were troubles between Kassandros and Antigonos and that the former informed his father, who settled the matter. Kassandros' accusations against Antigonos are not qualified as being slanderous, and it is clear from Antipatros' decision not to leave the kings with Antigonos that Antipatros had his reasons not to trust him fully in Arrian's version too. There is no necessary contradiction between Arrian and Diodorus, let alone between their sources. The other passage is XVIII 39.7, which is deemed to be in contradiction with Arrian, Succ. F1.38. In this case there are even fewer traces of opposing tendencies. Both sources simply report different elements of the same story and they are wholly complementary.

It is obvious that the argument from silence must not be used here. Unless one is absolutely certain that an author is quoting literally and in full, he may have omitted something -- no matter how slavish a compiler he is assumed to have been. We do not know the number of books of his source on the history of the Diadochoi, but Diodorus' usual habit was to leave out a lot. His 10-book account of Archaic and Classical Greek history was based on the 30 books of Ephorus, and for book XVII he probably used Cleitarchus' history which consisted of at least 12 books. Diodorus did not do this by merely copying some passages completely and leaving other parts out totally. As a result of this, his omissions cannot teach us anything about what was not in his source. Moreover, there is no guarantee that he has preserved the tendency of his source. The unsound nature of such a method of source analysis is even more clear in the case of Arrian's History of the Successors. The text we have is Photius' 14-page (in the Teubner, where much space is taken up by the apparatus) summary of Arrian's 10 book text. The summary cannot tell us anything about what Arrian did not write, and there certainly is no way of using Photius' text for conclusions on what was not in Arrian's source. These passages contain no certain traces of different traditions. As Geiger aptly pointed out in another review (BMCR 2008.07.60 in this journal, 'Quellenforschung is a no less rigorous discipline than textual criticism, both only common mistakes and significant formal correspondences can be considered as proof'. Proving that two authors used a different source is even more difficult. Scholars all too often neglect Brunt's warnings on the interpretation of secondary authors and epitomators.5 Furthermore, not every statement which can be interpreted as somehow negative or positive on someone necessarily has to represent a tendency.

In the commentary on the distribution of offices in the Babylon settlement, L. discerns three different traditions in the sources. In fact we are simply facing a combination of confusion and omissions in the extant sources. Failing to recognize this, L. understands descriptions of different moments in the course of events as meaningful contradictions between our sources. Arrian's statement that Perdikkas was appointed chiliarch does not contradict Diodorus' claim that he became regent, as the former describes the second stage of the settlement and the latter the third stage.6 Thus, while L. points out that the "tripartition...has never been clearly put forward by modern scholars" (p. 20), there is a good reason for this: there is no such tripartition of the tradition. In discussing the origins of this presumed tripartite tradition, L. again seeks arguments for Duris where there are none, once more laying much weight on an omission in Photius' summary of Arrian. She correctly points out that Diodorus makes it clear that epimeleia and chiliarchy are two different offices, the former allotted to Perdikkas and the latter to Seleukos. Instead of concluding that Arrian's attribution of the chiliarchy to Perdikkas belongs to the second stage, while Seleukos' appointment belongs to the third stage, as Heckel and Bosworth argued pursuasively,7 L. tries to prove the existence of a distinct tradition on Seleukos' chiliarchy which goes back to Duris. In doing so, she dismisses Heckel's argument, which actually is the most lucid and accurate analysis of the chiliarchy ever produced, as "incomprehensible" (pp. 21-22). Many more examples could be given, but these should suffice to illustrate the problems with L.'s Quellenforschung.

Although the subject is central to L.'s book, we never get a detailed exposition of how she sees the question of Diodorus' sources in books XVIII-XX. In the introduction we learn that Diodorus did use Hieronymus, but not for the passages critical of Antigonus, and that Duris was the source of these and other passages in Diodorus' narrative on the Successors. There is more to it, however. On p. 150, L. argues that Diodorus' praise of Ptolemy in chapter 33 goes back to 'an Alexandrian source'. Nothing is said here about the identification of the source, nor do we get an explanation of its use by Diodorus. The commentary on chapter 35 (p. 155) implies that the Alexandrian source was used by Duris and thus reached Diodorus indirectly. One who reads only the commentary on 39.5-7 (p. 173), will get the impression that the pro-Ptolemaic tendency emanates from Duris himself. Thus, it is left to the reader to find out exactly what L.'s views on the matter are, which is especially annoying in a book that is meant to be used rather than read. Apart from this lack of clarity, there is inconsistency too. As noted above, L. argues against Hieronymus as Diodorus' sole source, because some passages are critical of Antigonos in claiming that he no longer accepted subordination to the kings and aimed at personally gaining supreme power over the entire empire (p. xvi-xviii). One such passage is 41.4-5 (see p. xvi n. 33), but in the introduction to the commentary on chapters 40-47 we read that Hieronymus most likely is the source for these chapters (pp. 185-186). L. does not list 58.4 as critical of Antigonos, but it complies with her definition by claiming that Antigonos wanted personal rule. This too, however, is part of a sequence which is attributed to Hieronymus (p. 236). These problems for the main thesis are never addressed.

L. has chosen to organize her commentary on the basis of larger entities, rather than writing a line-by-line commentary on separate issues. She often gives an introduction to groups of chapters which treat the same subject and thereafter comments on its separate parts. The scope of the lemmas ranges from one paragraph to two whole chapters. As in the introduction, the main themes in the commentary are Quellenforschung and chronology. The former issue often monopolizes L.'s attention to such an extent that nothing is said about the really relevant issues. Chronology, on the other hand, is a highly relevant matter, and L. handles it very well. The commentary contains several lemmas of interest, such as the discussion of the sea battles of the Lamian War (ad 15.8-9), the analysis of the satrapy distribution of Triparadeisos (pp. 174-180), the rejection of the view that there might be a lacuna in book XVIII (pp. 183-184, not including the Quellenforschung there), the remarks on the battle of Orkynia (ad 40.5-8), the examination of Polyperchon's appointment (pp. 211-213), the analysis of Polyperchon's diagramma (ad 56), the discussion of Polyperchon's appeal to Olympias (ad 57), and the various remarks concerning the chronology of Eumenes' movements after his release from Nora (pp. 238-239, 243, and 267). Conspicuously little is said about Diodorus himself. Only his penchant for moralizing on the role of Fortune in human life is sometimes pointed out, as are his fixed formulas for changing from one theatre to another. Surely a historian who is an indispensable source for so much of Greek history from 480 util 302 B.C., and on whose independence and working methods scholars nowadays hold extremely opposite views,8 deserves more attention in a commentary on his text.

One also wonders why the commentary contains several repetitions, some of which are not immediately relevant. Thus, in the commentary on XVIII 2.1 L. discusses the problems of Diodorus' Roman consul list in detail, with almost half a page on the divergences in book XV, which are rather immaterial to book XVIII, where it suffices to know that Diodorus' chronography is two years off the mark. When commenting on 26.1, L. literally repeats fourteen lines of this discussion and summarizes the rest in a few lines, so we get nineteen lines which are again literally repeated in the commentary on 44.1 and on 58.1. The introduction to the commentary on chapters 58-63 contains 37 lines of text, almost the length of an entire page, which are repeated literally in the commentary on chapter 63. 23 lines from the commentary on chapter 56 are an almost literal repetition from the introduction (p. xxxvii n. 120). Of the 56 lines of commentary on chapter 54, 41 lines consist of an almost literal repetition of remarks from the analysis of chapters 48 and 49. Examples of such literal repetitions can easily be multiplied. Many of these might not bother most readers, as those who read a commentary from cover to cover are few, but no one would be troubled when finding cross-references instead of these repetitions, so that more space would have been left to treat the numerous important matters which have been left undiscussed.

Although I have not systematically searched for typos, I noticed some, but almost all of those are trivial, except for the references to 41.6 in note 33 on page xvi, which should be 41.4, and to 27.3-4 and 27.4 on page 134, which should be 26.3-4 and 26.4. The long bibliography at the end is very useful, though there are perhaps inevitable lacunae,9 and one wonders about the need of including more than 50 articles from Der Neue Pauly.

L.'s commentary is probably the first place where one wants to look when dealing with a passage from book XVIII of the Bibliotheca historica, since one will find references to recent literature and possibly relevant comments, but it is unfortunate that L. spent so much time and space on Quellenforschung while neglecting many of the more relevant problems that confront readers of Diodorus' text.


1.   P. Goukowsky, Diodore de Sicile. Bibliothèque historique, livre XVIII (Collection des Unversités de France), Paris 1978; M. Rathmann, Diodoros, Griechische Weltgeschichte, Buch XVIII-XX, Teilband B: Kommentar und Anhang (Bibliothek der griechischen Literatur 63B), Stuttgart 2005.
2.   D. Ambaglio, F. Landucci & L. Bravi, Diodoro Siculo, Biblioteca storica. Commento storico: Introduzione generale, Milano 2008.
3.   T. Boiy, Between High and Low. A Chronology of the Early Hellenistic Period (Oikoumene. Studien zur antiken Weltgeschichte 5), Frankfurt am Main 2007, reviewed in BMCR 2008.09.27 by M. Kleu. It is the great merit of P.J. Stylianou to have shown, with a different argument from Boiy's, that this chronology is in fact also supported by the narrative of Diodorus XVIII and XIX, in an article which has thus far been neglected by scholars of the period of the Diadochoi: 'The Pax Macedonica and the Freedom of the Greeks of Asia (with an Appendix on the Chronology of the Years 323- 301)', Epeteris tou Kentrou Epistemonikon Ereunon 20 (1994), 1-84, on pp. 71-84. I would like to thank Shane Wallace for bringing this article to our attention.
4.   For Athenian events of this period, L. follows the chronology of B. Gullath & L. Schober, 'Zur Chronologie der frühen Diadochenzeit: die Jahre 320 bis 315 v.Chr.', in H. Kalcyk et al. (edd.), Studien zur Alten Geschichte. Siegfried Lauffer zum 70. Geburtstag am 4. August 1981 dargebracht von Freunden, Kollegen und Schulern I, Roma 1986, 329-378.
5.   P.A. Brunt, 'On Historical Fragments and Epitomes', CQ 30 (1980), 477-494.
6.   The need to distinguish between three different stages was first shown by R.M. Errington, 'From Babylon to Triparadeisos', JHS 90 (1970), 49-59. His conclusions have been elaborated by E.M. Anson, 'Craterus and the Prostasia', CP 87 (1992), 38-43, A.B. Bosworth, The Legacy of Alexander. Politics, Warfare, and Propaganda under the Successors, Oxford 2002, 29-63, and recently A. Meeus, 'The Power Struggle of the Diadochoi in Babylon, 323 B.C.', AncSoc 38 (2008), 39-82. On the well-considered omissions in Diodorus' summary, see: R. Bauer, Die Heidelberger Epitome. Eine Quelle zur Diadochengeschichte, Leipzig 1914, 19-20, and Meeus, art. cit., 58-59.
7.   W. Heckel, The Marshals of Alexander's Empire, London 1992, 366-370; A.B. Bosworth, op. cit., 56.
8.   See e.g. K.S. Sacks, Diodorus Siculus and the First Century, Princeton 1990, and the review by P.J. Stylianou in this journal.
9.   Just a few examples among recent studies: A.W. Collins, 'The Office of Chiliarch under Alexander and the Successors', Phoenix 55 (2001), 259-283; W. Huss, Ägypten in hellenistischer Zeit. 332-30 v.Chr., München 2001; E.D. Carney, 'Women and Military Leadership in Macedonia', AncW 35 (2004), 184-195; P. Rodriguez, 'L'évolution du monnayage de Ptolémée Ier au regard des événements militaires (c. 323-c.300)', CCG 15 (2004), 17-35; A.J. Bayliss, 'Antigonus the One-Eyed's Return to Asia in 322: A new consideration for a rasura in IG II2 682', ZPE 155 (2006), 108-126; W. Heckel, 'Nikanor Son of Balacrus', GRBS 47 (2007), 401-412; M. Seyer, Der Herrscher als Jäger: Untersuchungen zur königlichen Jagd im persischen und makedonischen Reich vom 6.-4. Jahrhundert v. Chr., sowie unter den Diadochen Alexanders des Grossen, Wien 2007.

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