Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2013.01.26 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2013.01.26

W. R. Paton, F. W. Walbank, Christian Habicht, Polybius: The Histories. Vol. V, Books 16-27 (revised edition). The Loeb Classical Library 160.   Cambridge, MA; London:  Harvard University Press, 2012.  Pp. 607.  ISBN 9780674996601.  $24.00.  

Reviewed by Michael Kleu, Universität zu Köln (

Since the development of the revised edition by Walbank and Habicht and the general differences compared to Paton’s first edition have already been discussed in the reviews of volumes I - IV, I will skip over these aspects and focus on some of the modifications made in volume V.1

Besides several changes in the translation, some errors from the first edition have been corrected. For example, in the heading of Pol. 20.9 “The Achaeans Make Peace” is replaced by “The Aetolians Make Peace”. In other cases inaccuracies have been resolved; for example, the references to the works of other ancient authors in Pol. 16.24.9 and 18.29.6. Some of the year dates have also been adapted to the current state of research. At least once, instead of Paton’s suggestion a more likely one is provided (Pol. 16.31.5).

In general, the numerous explanatory notes of the revised edition offer the reader a good assistance in orienting themselves within the fragmentary tradition of Polybius’ books 16 to 27 by contextualizing the events mentioned historically, referring to recent research and clarifying special terms, persons, places etc. When, for example, Polybius speaks about the enormous anger of Philip V of Macedon right at the beginning of book 16 without any context, a footnote explains the possible reasons for it. In Pol. 18.44.6, to give another example, the reader finds out that the ‘sixteen’ (ἑκκαιδεκήρης), that Philip V was allowed to keep after losing the Second Macedonian War against the Romans, was a ‘very large ship. …This vessel was probably taken from Demetrius by Lysimachus in 288 (Plu. Dem. 43.4) and remained in Macedon until 168, when Aemilius Paullus after his victory over Perseus took it to Rome and paraded it up the Tiber (Livy 45.35.3).’

On the other hand, some explanatory notes one might have expected to be added in the revised edition are still missing. In Pol. 16.11.1, for example, the name of a city besieged by Philip V is lost, but a side note in the codex Urbinas indicates that Polybius must be speaking about Cnidus.2 Unfortunately, there is still no reference to this.

Whereas such explanations might be primarily helpful for those reading Polybius for the first time or not familiar with the topic, other revisions are of more fundamental importance. In Paton’s original edition, for instance, Pol. 16.7.6 mentions on the occasion of the Battle of Chios: ἑάλωσαν δὲ ζωγρίᾳ τῶν μὲν συμμάχων καὶ Μακεδόνων εἰς δισχιλίους, τῶν δ᾽ ὑπεναντίων εἰς ἑπτακοσίους (Paton’s translation: ‘About two thousand of the allies and Macedonians and about seven hundred of their adversaries were taken prisoners.’). However, the τῶν δ᾽ ὑπεναντίων proves problematic, since in our most important source, the Codex Urbinas, a manuscript from the 10th or 11th century, τῶν δ᾽ Αἰγυπτίων is written instead. In 1789 Schweighäuser had very understandable doubts about the reading τῶν δ᾽ Αἰγυπτίων because Polybius never mentions Egyptians before in this context. While Schweighäuser’s suggestions to read rather τῶν δ᾽Ἀτταλικῶν or τῶν δ᾽Ἀσιανῶν did not become accepted, Niebuhr, in 1819, shared the former’s doubts and replaced τῶν δ᾽ Αἰγυπτίων by τῶν δὲ ἐναντίων. This replacement was adopted in the form of τῶν δ᾽ ὑπεναντίων by Büttner-Wobst in 1893, who did not even mention the original reading τῶν δ᾽ Αἰγυπτίων any more.3 Although Holleaux offered in 1921 a strong defense of the reading of the codex Urbinas, Paton preferred in the first edition of the book reviewed to follow Büttner-Wobst, just as Drexler did in his German translation in 1963.4 Walbank, on the contrary, shared the view of Holleaux, as Foulon, Weil and Cauderlier did in 1995.5 Now, due to the revisions of Walbank and Habicht, Loeb’s revised edition of The Histories also resorts to τῶν δ᾽ Αἰγυπτίων, which results in the new translation ‘and about seven hundred Egyptian crew members were taken prisoners.’ The acceptance of τῶν δ᾽ Αἰγυπτίων involves the interesting implication that Egyptians must have served in the Macedonian fleet, and this is probably related to Philip’s taking possession of Samos.6

In a few cases the Polybian text is augmented with additional fragments Paton did not include. While in the first edition book 16 ends with chapter 39, the revised edition contains a chapter 40. In book 18, chapter 40a is enlarged by one new fragment. Book 19 consists now of two fragments, while in Paton’s edition the same book is completely lost. In book 21 the revised edition modifies the counting of the book’s last few chapters by including the chapters 40 and 47, which both cannot be restored. In book 22 the reader now finds the chapters 1 and 2 that were omitted by Paton.

I found two modifications that might be less fortunate. In 1926 Paton referred, in connexion with a naval victory mentioned in Pol. 21.2.1, to Livy 36.43, where a victory of a Roman fleet against one of Antiochus III is described. While offering more details about the battle, the revised edition irritatingly omits the reference to Livy. In Pol. 23.12- 14 Paton cites Livy 39.50.10 and explains in a footnote that Polybius at this point compares Philopoemen, Hannibal and Scipio, because according to Polybius they all died in the year he was just referring to. In the revised edition the reader is confronted with these three chapters without any explanation and without the reference to Livy.

Finally, there are some mistakes in Paton’s translation that regrettably have not been corrected in the revised edition. In the translation of Pol. 16.3.6 ‘triremes’ is written instead of ‘quinqueremes’ and in Pol. 18.6.1 the translation confuses the Rhodians with the Romans.

Certainly, these points of critique do not overweigh the many positive aspects of Loeb’s revised edition of Polybius’ books 16 to 27, which is thus fully recommended.


1.   BMCR 2011.05.40 and BMCR 2012.03.53.
2.   Cf. M. Holleaux: Études d’épigraphie et d’histoire grecques. Tome IV: Rome, la Macédoine et l’orient grec. Première partie, Paris 1952, p. 222 n. 2 and F.W. Walbank: A Historical Commentary on Polybius, Volume II: Commentary on Books VII-XVIII, Oxford 1967, p. 512.
3.   J. Schweighaeuser (ed.): Polybii Megapolitani Historiarum, quidquid superest, Tom. III, Oxford 1823 (reprint). B.G. Niebuhr: Historischer Gewinn aus der armenischen Uebersetzung der Chronik des Eusebius, in: Kleine historische und philologische Schriften von B.G. Niebuhr, Osnabrück 1969 (reprint), pp. 179-304, p. 294f. n. 87. Th. Büttner-Wobst (ed.): Polybii Historiae, Vol. III, Leipzig 1893.
4.   M. Holleaux: Études d’épigraphie et d’histoire grecques. Tome IV: Rome, la Macédoine et l’orient grec. Première partie, Paris 1952, pp. 239-243. H. Drexler (Übers.): Polybios. Geschichte, Gesamtausgabe in zwei Bänden, Zürich/Stuttgart 1961-1963, p. 906.
5.   F.W. Walbank (as above, n. 2) p. 510. E. Foulon/R. Weil/P. Cauderlier (edd., tradd.): Polybe. Histoires. Tombe X: livres XIII-XVI, Paris 1995.
6.   Cf. Pol. 16.2.9 and Polyaen. 4.18.2.

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