BMCR 2000.01.09

Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker. Indexes of Parts I, II, and III. Indexes of Ancient Authors

, Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker. Indexes of Parts I, II, and III. Indexes of Ancient Authors. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1999.

1 Responses

Felix Jacoby’s Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker ( FGrHist) has rightly been called the greatest individual work of twentieth-century classical scholarship. Originally planned in ten volumes, the work was eventually divided into five parts, two of which were fully completed at the author’s death in 1959.1 The third part, a massive section entitled “Geschichte von Städten und Völkern (Horographie und Ethnographie),” had a mixed fate. All of the texts of the historians (nos. 297-856) were completed by Jacoby, but he had published the commentary only for those authors who wrote on individual city-states (up to no. 607) — though “only” is perhaps the wrong word, when one considers the breadth of this commentary, especially that on the Atthidographers (nos. 323a-334), which by itself would have guaranteed Jacoby’s reputation as a great scholar.2

For many years it was assumed that we would never see any further work on FGrHist, and that Jacoby’s “torso” (as he himself styled it) would be all that we ever had of this monumental work.3 But an international team of scholars has now begun to do what once seemed impossible — to complete FGrHist, by both finishing the commentary on Part III, nos. 608a-856, and going on to do Part IV (Biography and Antiquarian Literature) and Part V (Historical Geography). In 1994, Charles Fornara brought out the first of eight fascicules which will eventually comprise the Commentary on Part III; several volumes of Part IV, under the general editorship of the distinguished historiographer Guido Schepens, have already appeared; and the first fascicule of Part V, edited by H.-J. Gehrke and D. Meyer, is scheduled to appear in 2003.4

As part of this renewed activity on FGrHist, it was decided to provide indices for the material already published by Jacoby. Indeed although a masterpiece, FGrHist has never been an easy work to use. Jacoby insisted on a peculiar arrangement by sub-genres of historical writing (as he conceived them).5 This by itself would have been difficult, but it was then further complicated by a concession to practicality, namely, an arrangement by author rather than by individual work. And yet if an author wrote works in a variety of (Jacoby’s) sub-genres (as many did), he could, nevertheless, appear in only one section. Jacoby seems to have decided what work of the author was most important and then assigned him to the category that best described that work. So, for example, Arrian wrote a Parthika (on Rome’s wars with Parthia from the first century BCE to his own time) and a Bithyniaka (a history of his homeland Bithynia), but he is to be found amongst the historians of Alexander’s Successors — no doubt because his Affairs after Alexander is his most important (i.e., for us) fragmentary work.6 Before the volumes under consideration here, the only help we have had in using FGrHist has been an alphabetical list of authors at the end of III.C., pp. 947-64, the last volume published by Jacoby himself. And it has hardly been enough.

Pierre Bonnechère (hereafter B.) has now provided a full set of indices and concordances for the texts of Parts I-III. B. tells in the preface how he decided to create this work, after he once “wasted numerous hours” trying to track down a fragment of Apollodorus cited by Syncellus, and one of Hecataeus preserved by Stephanus of Byzantium. I am fairly certain that all of us who have used Jacoby on a consistent basis can parallel this story, but no one before B. has transformed his frustration into something of such great benefit to others.

In the first of these three volumes,7 we find an Introduction, which explains the necessity for the indices, and the manner of presentation used in these volumes, especially how texts are cited and arranged, together with a bibliography of modern works. Then follow two Tables, the first listing in numerical order all the historians, from 1 (Hecataeus of Miletus) to 856 (Dionysophanes), complete with all the “a”‘s and “b”‘s, Jacoby’s way of designating either a non-historian or an historian whose work he had included earlier, but select fragments of whom he felt obliged to insert at a second or third point. The second Table contains the historians in alphabetical order, with their accompanying number(s). I think it might have been a bit less confusing if B. had not given a repeated author separate lines for each of his numbers, since only a knowledge of the “a / b” convention would tell the reader that, for example, the Hellanicus who appears on six separate lines is the same man, whereas the two Antipaters (nos. 114 and 507), or three Theophiloses (nos. 296, 573, and 733) are, in fact, different historians. Following these two Tables is the first of the Indices, containing the “source” authors, i.e., the surviving writers who provide us with the Testimonia and Fragments. The source authors are listed alphabetically, from Achilles Tatius to Zosimus, with the individual passages cited and the standard style reference (e.g., 70 F 115) to where that passage can be found in FGrHist. This index, like all subsequent ones, is divided into two sections, one for Testimonia and one for Fragments.

In Volume II is the second Index, where each author is listed in the numerical order in which he appears in Jacoby’s collection (beginning, again, with Hecataeus of Miletus), and each testimonium or fragment follows, also in numerical order (T1, T2, etc.) with the exact reference to the source-text. Volume III contains Index III, a list of all the historians now in alphabetical, rather than numerical, order, beginning with Abaris and ending with Zopyrus Magnes. Here under each historian one finds the source-texts likewise laid out in alphabetical order. So, for example, under “Acilius, Gaius” (no. 813), one finds Cicero, Gellius, Livy, Macrobius, and Plutarch (in that order), and the passages where each of these cites Acilius. I think this third volume will be the one that occasional users of FGrHist find most valuable.

Nearly all of the editorial decisions made should win general approval. B. tells us that he originally intended to update the references to newer and now standard editions, but decided against it (vol. I, p. IX). This was a wise decision, and B. was correct to have kept the references to Jacoby’s editions: not only do newer editions occasionally have texts different from the one printed by and commented on by Jacoby, but also a knowledge of the texts with which Jacoby worked is often important in understanding his reaction to a certain source or historian. Another good decision by B. was to indicate (by a superscript “Add.”) when a testimonium or fragment appeared in one of the occasional corrigenda and addenda sections of FGrHist, but not to encumber the indices themselves by giving more information than this. Instead, a full list of all the corrigenda and addenda sections that can be found throughout FGrHist is given in one place (vol. I, p. XXI, n. 13), and this list too is a great convenience. B.’s ways of dealing with scholia and commentaries, as well as papyri and inscriptions, are sound and pragmatic, and as consistent as one could wish for (I, pp. VIII-X). His occasional notes, like those of all the new volumes of FGrHist that have so far appeared, are in English.

The division of each index into two sections, Testimonia and Fragments, has both costs and benefits (as would the incorporation of both into a single index). B.’s division makes for a small practical inconvenience, in that one must look in two places for each author, even though oftentimes it will not matter if the passage being sought appears as a testimonium or a fragment. Sometimes the indices as set up will be misleading (at least at first sight) in terms of the number of times a source-text cites a lost work, since Jacoby often split a single source-author passage into several testimonia and fragments, sometimes breaking off in the middle of the sentence. But these are minor compared to the benefits, the most obvious of which is that there is a significant difference between an author telling us something about a lost historian (whether it be about his life or character or reception) and actually citing his work. By being able to examine the Fragments in a separate index, one can come to a better understanding of both lost historian and source-text, in a way that one could not if the two indices had been combined. On balance, B.’s decision was the correct one.

I must not allow to pass without comment a singular service that B. has done in these indices, the more so as he himself mentions it modestly and briefly: namely, expanding Jacoby’s often frighteningly laconic abbreviations at the beginning of the testimonium or fragment into full and clear references. This takes several forms. First, he has added sub-sections for ancient authors, so that Jacoby’s “Plut. Camillus 19″ is in B.’s indices “Plut. Camillus 19.7;” Jacoby’s “Phot. Bibl. 224″ becomes B.’s “Phot. Bibl. 224, 222b69-239b43.” Second, he has provided both sets of numbers for texts that have them: “Appian, Mithridatica 8″ becomes “Appian, Mithridatica 2, 8″ or “Athenaeus 3.80.D” becomes “Athenaeus 3, 19, 80d.” Third and most helpfully, abbreviated references have been fully expanded, such that “Didymus zu Demosth. 8, 8” becomes “Didymus ad Demosthenem, Orationes (Philippica 4), 10, 34, col. 8, 8-16,” or, in the example B. himself cites, “Comm. Momms. 480” becomes “T. Gomperz, ‘Anaxarch und Kallisthenes,’ in Commentationes philologae in honorem Theodori Mommseni, Berlin, 1887, p. 480.” Moreover, B. provides beginning and ending points of every passage, and even includes in his indices the supplementary references that Jacoby gave in many of the fragments (whether or not Jacoby actually quoted them in his text). All of this must have taken a prodigious amount of work and deserves our special gratitude.

B. tells us (vol. I, p. VIII n. 3) that he did not include the supplements to FGrHist published by H. J. Mette (a student of Jacoby’s) in three issues of Lustrum, and this is the only decision that I found to be truly regrettable.8 In some fifty pages, Mette found both new historians and new fragments of historians already published by Jacoby. No reasons are given for this decision, and I assume it was done because they are not, properly speaking, a part of Jacoby’s collection. Yet it is a pity that they could not be included, since Mette’s work (which has never been published elsewhere, to my knowledge) contains some very valuable material, including new fragments and some historians not in Jacoby. Placing those references in this work would (I think) have taken little effort (certainly very little compared to B.’s monumental task) and the benefits would have been substantial, in terms of completeness and in helping to bring this often-overlooked material to the attention of more scholars.

The accuracy of such a work, with its thousands of entries, can only be determined over time, of course, but I was encouraged by my own experience, which consisted of checking several hundred entries at random throughout the three volumes. All I turned up was a minor typographical error, although one of the indices did not even have that.

B. expresses the hope that the indices will “make it a simple matter to ascertain which historians had read or not read the works, now lost, of their predecessors” and in addition “will aid in assessing the content of intellectuals’ libraries in the Greek (principally Hellenistic), Roman, and Byzantine periods, as well as the transmission of historical texts and the lifespan of certain works now fragmentary. More generally, they should make possible a better appreciation of the phenomenon of quotation in the ancient world” (vol. I, p. VIII). All of these are laudable goals, and B.’s work will undoubtedly assist in these inquiries, even if we know that the game of citing previous authors is hardly straightforward, and later authors may cite without saying so, or cite without any real knowledge of the authors they invoke. And caution is needed in any case, since the dividing line between source-text and ‘fragment’ is not always clear or obvious.9

What I found wonderful about these indices, apart from their obvious use, was how they often provide an overview of a certain work or author. One can easily be struck by the juxtaposition of items in tabular form, and this might in turn give rise to some interesting and important questions. One notices, for example, that there are only five citations of lost historians in Plutarch’s Nicias, but twenty-one in the Themistocles and forty-one in the Theseus. Or one can see at a glance that Cicero in his philosophical works cites the greatest number of lost Greek historians in the de Divinatione, and only two in the de Republica. It is not that one can make facile conclusions based merely on these indices (so many other circumstances must be taken into account), but rather that some might be stimulated to do further research when they notice distinctions of these sorts. Having the information presented in this way, moreover, gives us the ability to see more clearly what sorts of source-texts make up the fragments of a lost historian. Here Volume III is particularly valuable. To take just two examples: the pages of references to Stephanus’ Ethnika under the entry for Hecataeus of Miletus must remind us how skewed our impression of the latter’s Periegesis is and should supply a salutary warning about making conjectures or conclusions about the character of his lost work. Or a glance at Theopompus reveals strikingly how much of that historian comes from Antigonus’ paradoxographic collection or Athenaeus or (again) Stephanus. Of course it was always possible to discover this by one’s own collation, but B.’s indices have made it much easier to see this immediately for each historian.

B. deserves our warmest thanks, then, for providing these wonderful new tools with which we can mine Jacoby’s incomparable work. They have helped tame an intimidating and at times erratic masterpiece in such a way that both the occasional and habitual user will derive greater benefit from FGrHist. I am sorry that B. had to waste those few hours some years ago, but I am very grateful to him for saving the rest of us thousands more.


1. Jacoby’s original plan for FGrHist is outlined in Klio 9 (1909) 80-123, reprinted in Abhandlungen zur griechischen Geschichtsschreibung, ed. H. Bloch (Leiden 1956) 16-64, with the ten-volume outline on p. 64. Bloch explains the changes the outline underwent on p. 424.

2. The commentary on the Atthidographers appeared in two volumes as FGrHist III b: Supplement (1954); the prolegomenon to the commentary was published separately, of course, as Atthis: The Local Chronicles of Ancient Athens (Oxford 1949). For the background to its publication see M. Chambers, “The Genesis of Jacoby’s Atthis,” in Owls to Athens, ed. E. M. Craik (Oxford 1990) 381-90.

3. He calls it a “torso” at FGrHist III.C, p. 7*. The word was no doubt appealing, since it was often used to describe Thucydides’ unfinished history (see, e.g., E. Howald, Vom Geist antiker Geschichtsschreibung (Munich and Berlin, 1944) 46).

4. Fornara’s first volume contained the commentary on Hellanicus’ Aigyptiaka (608a) and Aristagoras (608). More recently three volumes of Part IV.A, Biography have appeared: IV.A.1, The Pre-Hellenistic Period, edd. J. Bollansée, G. Schepens, J. Engels, and E. Theys (1998); IV.A.3, Hermippos of Smyrna, ed. Jan Bollansée (1999); IV.A.7, Imperial and Undated Authors, ed. J. Radicke (also 1999). For the methodological problems inherent in the undertaking, it is well worth reading G. Schepens, “Jacoby’s FGrHist : Problems, Methods, Prospects,” in G. Most, ed., Collecting Fragments / Fragmente Sammeln (Göttingen 1997) 144-72.

5. Jacoby’s rationale for his decision is given at Abhandlungen 16-20; the fullest exposition in English is C. W. Fornara, The Nature of History in Ancient Greece and Rome (Berkeley et al. 1983) 1-46. For reservations about this taxonomy see S. Humphreys, “Fragments, fetishes, and philosophies: towards a history of Greek historiography after Thucydides,” in Most (above, n. 4), 207-224; J. Marincola, “Genre, Convention, and Innovation in Greco-Roman Historiography,” in C. S. Kraus, ed., The Limits of Historiography (Leiden 1999) 281-324; C. Joyce, “Was Hellanikos the First Chronicler of Athens?” Histos 3 (1999), accessible at

6. To be sure, Jacoby made up for this somewhat by including the other works of an author in the relevant section, with a reference to where the historian’s works appear. For example, in the section on local histories of Bithynia (III. C, p. 552) Jacoby notes Arrian’s Bithyniaka with a reference to the earlier volume in which the actual fragments appear.

7. Vol. I. Introduction. Alphabetical List of Authors Conserving Testimonia and Fragments. Pp. xlviii + 186. NLG 130/US$76.50. ISBN 90-04-11389-4. II. Concordance Jacoby – Source. Pp. 424. NLG 195/US$115. ISBN 90-04-11390-8. III. Alphabetical List of Fragmentary Historians with Alphabetic List of Source-Authors for Each. Pp. 426. NLG 225/US$132.50. ISBN 90-04-11391-6. ISBN for the 3-vol. set: 90-04-11392-4.

8. H. J. Mette, “Die ‘Kleinen’ griechischen Historiker heute,” Lustrum 21 (1978) 5-43; id., “Nachtrag zu Lustrum 21, 21.41,” ibid. 22 (1879-80) 107-8; id., “Die ‘Kleinen’ griechischen Historiker heute (Ergänzungen zu Lustrum… bis zum Jahre 1984),” ibid. 27 (1985) 33-8. B. cites only the first of these.

9. See, e.g., G. Bowersock, “Jaocby’s Fragments and Two Greek Historians of Pre-Islamic Arabia,” in Most (above, n. 4) 173-85.