Diodorus Siculus

, an ancient historian, was born, at Agyrium, in Sicily, and nourished in the times of Julius Caesar and Augustus, in the first century. He informs us that he was no less than thirty years in writing his history, in the capital of the world, viz. Rome; where he collected materials which he could not have procured elsewhere. Nevertheless, he did not fail to travel through the greatest part of the provinces of Europe and Asia, as well as to Egypt, that he might not commit the usual faults of those who had ventured to treat particularly of places which they had never visited. He calls his work, not a history, but an Historical Library; and with some reason; since, when it was intire, it contained, according to the order of time, all which other historians had written separately. He had comprized in forty books the most remarkable events which had happened in the world during the space of 1138 years; without reckoning what was comprehended in his six first books of the more fabulous times, viz. of all which happened before the Trojan war. But of these forty, only fifteen books are now extant. The first five are intire, | and give us an account of the fabulous times, explaining the antiquities and transactions of the Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians, Libyans, Grecians, and other nations, before the Trojan war. The five next are wanting. The llth begins at Xerxes’s expedition into Greece; from whence, to the end of the 20th, which brings the history down to the year of the world 3650, the work is intire; but the latter twenty are quite lost. Henry Stephens asserts, from a letter communicated to him by Lazarus Baif, that the Historical Library of Diodorus remains intire in some corner of Sicily upon which, says la Mothe le Vayer, “I confess I would willingly go almost to the end of the world, in hopes to find so great a treasure. And I shall envy posterity this important discovery, if it be to be made when we are no more; when, instead of fifteen books only, which we now enjoy, they shall possess the whole forty.

The contents of this whole work are thus explained in the preface by Diodorus himself; “Our six first books,” says he, “comprehend all that happened before the war of Troy, together with many fabulous matters here and there interspersed. Of these, the three former relate the antiquities of the barbarians, and the three latter those of the Greeks. The eleven next include all remarkable events in the world, from the destruction of Troy to the death of Alexander the Great. And lastly, the other twentythree extend to the conquest of Julius Caesar over the Gauls, when he made the British ocean the northern bounds of the Roman empire.” Since Diodorus speaks of Julius Caesar, as he does in more places than one, and always according to the pagan custom, with an attribute of some divinity, he cannot be more ancient than he. When Eusebius writes in his Chronicon, that Diodorus lived under this emperor, he seems to limit the life of the former by the reign of the latter; yet Suidas prolongs his days even to Augustus; and Scaliger observes in his “Animadversions upon Eusebius,” that Diodorus must needs have lived to a very great age; and that he was alive at least half the reign of Augustus, since he mentions on the subject of the olympiads, the Roman bissextile year: now this name was not used before the fasti and calendar were corrected; which was done by Augustus, to make the work of his predecessor more perfect. | Diodorus has met with a different reception from the learned. Pliny affirms him to have been the first of the Greeks who wrote seriously, and avoided trifles: “primus apud Graccos desiit nugari,” are his words. Bishop Montague, in his preface to his “Apparatus,” gives him the praise of being an excellent author; who, with great fidelity, immense labour, and uncommon ingenuity, has collected an “Historical Library,” in which he has exhibited his own and the studies of other men. This history, without which we should have been ignorant of the antiquities and many other particulars of the little town of Agyrium, or even of Sicily, presents us occasionally with sensible and judicious reflections. Diodorus takes particular care to refer the successes of war and of other enterprises, not to chance or to a blind fortune, with the generality of historians; but to a wise and kind providence, which presides over all events. Yet he exhibits proofs of extraordinary credulity, as in his description of the Isle of Panchaia, with its walks beyond the reach of sight of odoriferous trees; its fountains, which form an infinite number of canals bordered with flowers; its birds, unknown in any other part of the world, which warble their enchanting notes in groves of uninterrupted verdure; its temple of marble, 4000 feet in length, &c. The first Latin edition of Diodorus is that of Milan, 1472, folio. The first of the text was that of Henry Stephens, in Greek, 1559, finely printed: Wesseling’s, Amsterdam, Gr. and Lat. with the remarks of different authors, various lections, and all the fragments of this historian, 1745, 2 vols, folio, was long accounted the best, but is not so correct as was supposed. Poggius translated it into Latin, the abbe Terasson into French, and Booth into English, 1700, fol. Count Caylus has an ingenious essay on this historian in vol. XXVIL of the “Hist. de l’academie des Belles Lettres,” and professor Heyne has a still more learned and elaborate memoir in “The Transactions of the Royal Society of Gottingen,” vol. V. on the sources of information from which Diodorus composed his history. This was afterwards inserted among the valuable prolegomena to Heyne’s edition of Diodorus, 1798, &c. 10 vols. 8vo, which is now reckoned the best. 1


Moreri.—Fabric. Bibl. Græc.—La Mothe le Vayer Jugemens sur le Hist.— Vossius de Græc. Hist.—Saxii Onomast.