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POLYBIUS (born ca. 208 BC) of Mega-
lopolis in the Peloponnese (Morea), served
the Achaean League in arms and diplomacy
for many years, favouring alliance with
Rome. From 168 to 1^1 he was hostage in
Rome where he became a friend of Ae-
milius Paulus and his tw r o sons, and espe-
cially adopted Scipio Aemilianus whose
campaigns he attended later. In late life he
was a trusted mediator between Greece
and the Romans w r hom he admired; helped
in the discussions which preceded the final
war with Carthage; and, after 146, was
entrusted by the Romans with details of


administration in Greece. He died at the
age of 82 after a fall from his horse.

The main part of Polybius' history covers
the years 264-146 BC. It describes the rise
of Rome to the destruction of Carthage
and the domination of Greece by Rome.
It is a great work, accurate, thoughtful,
largely impartial, based on research, full of
insight into customs, institutions, geogra-
phy, causes of events and character of peo-
ple; it is a vital achievement of first rate
importance, despite the incomplete state in
which all but the first five of the forty
books have reached us. Polybius' overall
theme is how and why the Romans spread
their power as they did.

The Loeb Classical Library edition of Poly-
bius is in six volumes.




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First published 1922
Reprinted 1954, 1960, 1967, 1975, 1979, 1992, 1998

LOEB CLASSICAL LIBRARY is a registered trademark
of the President and Fellows of Harvard College

ISBN 0-674-99142-7

Printed in Great Britain by St Edmundsbury Press Ltd,

Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, on acid-free paper.
Bound by Hunter 6- Foulis Ltd, Edinburgh, Scotland.




Book I 2

Book II 240


Quare historiae huius non postrema haec laus est, quod
in parte versetur rerum Romanarum longe nobilissima, sive
virorum virtutem spectes, sive publica instituta aut mores,
sive gestorura raagnitudinem. Cum autem inter excellentis
historiae condiciones doctissimi veterum hanc cum primis
ponant, ut certi intervallo temporis circumscribatur, et a
notabili principio ad notabilem finem perducatur, hanc
historiae legem, ut quidem illis placet, a Polybio mirifice
esse observatam invenimus.




POLYBIUS was born about 208 B.C. at Megalopolis
in Arcadia. His father, Lycortas, who spent the
greater part of his life more especially the years
181-168 B.C. in the service of the Achaean League,
was a friend and supporter of Philopoemen ; he
went as ambassador to Rome in 189, to Ptolemy
Epiphanes, king of Egypt, in 186 and again in 181 ;
and he was Strategus of the League in 184. In his
youth Polybius began to take part in public affairs.
He seems to have served with the Romans in the
campaign of 189 against the Gauls in Asia Minor ;
he carried the urn of Philopoemen to burial in 183 ;
he was associated with his father Lycortas in the
embassy to Egypt in 181 ; and he was Hipparchus
of the Achaean League for the year 169-8.

Throughout the period (18 1-1 68) of political associa-
tion with his father Polybius consistently maintained
the view that the supremacy of Rome in Greece
must be accepted, and that the Greek states must
conduct their affairs, whether singly or collectively,
and preserve their freedom, without giving any
offence, or cause of complaint, to the Roman republic.
But there was much intriguing, in Greece and at
Rome, against this policy of legal independence ;
and the suspicions of the Romans were so far aroused



that they came to regard the independents with no
less displeasure than the avowed enemies of the
republic. Thus, though the Achaean League main-
tained correctly enough this policy of a strict legality
during the third war between Rome and Macedon
(172-168), its leaders were quickly brought to
account after the defeat of King Perseus at Pydna
(168 B.C.), and no less than a thousand Achaeans
were transported to Italy to be tried for their alleged
opposition to the sovereignty of Rome. Of this
company was Polybius we hear nothing more of
his father Lycortas : he may have died about this
time. Quartered in Italian cities, these Greeks
waited for the trial which never came ; and at last
in 151 B.C., when after sixteen years liberty was
given to them to return home, there were less than
three hundred of the thousand left to go back.

Polybius was more fortunate than the rest. He
had become acquainted with Aemilius Paulus and
his two sons during the campaign against Perseus
and afterwards in Macedonia, and now in 167 he
was allowed to remain in Rome in the house of
Aemilius, to act as tutor to the two boys. This was
the beginning of that famous friendship between
Polybius and the younger son, who became by
adoption Publius Scipio Aemilianus. Panaetius, the
Stoic philosopher, was also an inmate of Aemilius
Paulus' house about this time, exercising perhaps
in rivalry with Polybius a tutorial influence upon
the sons. Polybius had access through Aemilius
Paulus to the best of Roman society during those
sixteen years of expatriation in Italy, and he made
good use of his opportunities. He studied the history
and institutions of Rome, doubtless with a view to


the history that he meant to write himself; he
observed Roman life and character, in the individual
and in the state l ; he hunted the boar with the
younger sportsmen.

The Romans appreciated the ability and the
versatility of Polybius, and in 14-9 B.C. less than two
years after his return to Arcadia invited his assist-
ance in the diplomatic discussions that preceded
the last Punic War. And when Publius Scipio
rejoined the army before Carthage in 147 as
commander-in-chief, Polybius was in close attend-
ance, to advise on questions of siege operations,
or to conduct explorations on the coast of Africa in
ships officially supplied. He stood by Scipio 's side
while Carthage was burning (146 B.C.) ; and when
that destruction was finished he returned to Greece,
in time, if not to witness the sack of Corinth by
Mummius, at any rate to modify the executions of
the Romans and to rescue some of the treasures of
art from destruction or deportation. And when the
Roman commissioners withdrew from Greece, they
left Polybius with authority to settle the details for
the administration of each surviving city. Thus he
came to be regarded as a public benefactor, for he
had done his work well ; and statues were raised to
him in Megalopolis, Mantinea, Tegea, Olympia, and

Polybius lived for some twenty years after this
work was done, but we know little or nothing about
his employments. He may have joined Scipio during
the siege of Numantia in Spain (134-132) : he visited
Egypt again : his travels in Europe, Asia, and per-
haps in Africa, may have been continued and
1 Cf. vi. 56, on the moral tone of the Romans.



extended in this period ; and his literary work
there were, in addition to the History, a Life of
Philopoemen in three books, a Treatise on Tactics,
and a History of the Numantine War must have
occupied much of his time. A sportsman to the last,
he met his death at eighty-two by an accidental fall
from his horse as he was returning from the country.

The project of writing a history of the age probably
suggested itself to Polybius, and was certainly
developed, during the years of his detention in
Italy. Expatriation loosened the links with Greece,
and tightened the connexion with Rome. His
original scheme was to record the rise of Rome to
supremacy over the Mediterranean states in the
years 220-168 B.C., i.e. from the beginning of the
Second Punic War to the end of the Third Mace-
donian War. He subsequently extended this scheme
in order to include an account of events from the
first expedition of the Romans outside Italy (i.e.
from the beginning of the First Punic War, in 264 B.C.,
the point where the history of Timaeus had ended)
and to continue the record to the year (146 B.C.)
which witnessed the destruction of Carthage and of
Corinth. In the end the History consisted of forty
books, of which the first two were introductory
(TrpoKaraa-Kcvfy, the next thirty dealt with the
main subject, and the last eight with the corollary.
Of the forty books the first five only are preserved
complete : of the rest there are only sections and
fragments numerous, it is true, but of varying
length and importance gathered from epitomes
and excerpts.

Polybius was keenly alive to the greatness of his
subject : he never forgot it himself, and he did


not allow his readers to forget it. ' Fruitful as
Fortune is in change, and constantly as she is
producing dramas in the life of men, yet assuredly
never before this did she work such a marvel, or
act such a drama, as that which we have witnessed." 1
' What man is so indifferent or so idle that he would
not wish to know how and under what form of
government almost all the inhabited world came
under the single rule of the Romans in less than
fifty-three years (220-168 B.C.) ? " 2 Thus at the out-
set he stated the scheme of his work ; several times
in the earlier books 3 he repeated the formula, for
such it was, explaining in due course the extension
of the scheme 4 in order to provide a proper introduc-
tion and conclusion ; and in the last surviving chapter
of the last book 5 he acknowledged the completion
of his purpose. Careful to observe throughout the
proportion and the continuity of things, he composed
his systematic history (rr/jay/xarcta) to be at once
" catholic " (read* oXov) in its relation to the general
history of the world, and " pragmatic ' or " apo-
deictic ' in its conscious demonstration of the
principle of cause and effect. 6 And so he made his
work " perhaps the greatest universal history, or his-
tory of the civilized world, attempted in old times." *
Was there ever a book, indeed, written so strictly
according to plan, by a person so well qualified ?

For indeed it seemed that destiny itself had called
and trained Polybius to this task. The son of a
statesman, he spent the first forty years of his life
in actual connexion with politics, diplomacy, and war ;

1 i. 4. 2 i. 1. 3 e.g. iii. 1-3, 31, 32.

iii. 4. 6 xl. 14. 6 iii. 6-8.

7 Mahaffy, Greek Life and Thought, p. 556.



and he naturally came to regard it as an indispensable
qualification of a historian that he should be able to
record his own experiences of peace and war,
describing from his own knowledge men and circum-
stances, events and localities. As a man of action
himself, he felt the necessity of first-hand evidence
wherever it was obtainable, and spared no pains
to obtain it ; and he had no opinion of stay-at-home
historians (like Timaeus) who lived in libraries and
wrote as bookmen. Nevertheless, in the technical
preparation of his work Polybius was cautious and
painstaking beyond all others : he was a practical man,
but he did not despise theory. So for and with
his travels, extensive and systematic 1 as they were,
he made a special study of geography embodying
many of his observations in Book xxxiv., which is
almost entirely geographical ; and with his visits,
official or unofficial, to various countries, he combined
an examination of documents and records and all,
no doubt, to make his work correct, continuous, and
complete. He may not have been a great general,
or diplomat, or even topographer ; but he was always
careful, and generally right in his conclusions. He
was impelled and guided by a natural instinct for
truth : ' For as a living creature is rendered wholly
useless if deprived of its eyes, so if you take truth
from history, what is left is but an idle unprofitable
tale ? " 2 Truth, he says elsewhere, is shown by nature
to mankind as supreme in divinity and power : sooner
or later, truth must prevail over all opposition. 3
It is worth while to consider a little further what

1 e.g. he crossed the Alps by the pass which Hannibal
was believed to have used.

8 i. 14. 8 xiii. 5.



was the position of Polybius in Greece for in a
sense it was typical of his age and what his point
of view. He was a native of Megalopolis, a city
whose very foundation in the fourth century had
been an experiment in federal unity. By birth and
instinct an aristocrat, he had no sympathy with
democratic survivals or demagogic outbreaks. As a
statesman he realized that the old Greek ideas of
freedom and independence, centred in the city-
state, were gone, nor ever likely to return, except
so far as was possible under the suzerainty of Rome
or rather, in the reconciliation of Roman rule and
Greek intellect. Early in his career he saw that the
Roman power was inevitable and irresistible ; and
therefore he strove by skilful diplomacy to guide
and keep the Achaean League, and the Greeks in
general, in ways that were correct and unexception-
able. He was a Stoic, and he .believed that the
Roman order of things was part of a divine Providence
that ruled the world. This belief, confirmed by his
closer acquaintance with the Romans, and by their
progress in conquest, he expounded in his History,
with such detail of causes, circumstances, and
consequences as to show that he understood the
position and the prospects of the Romans in the
Mediterranean world far more clearly than at that
time they themselves were able to do.

Polybius lived in a self-conscious age, when
criticism was mostly captious and destructive, and
standards of right and wrong, of truth and falsehood,
were unsteady and uncertain. In the History he
himself criticizes other writers freely enough, often
at great length *, and with a severity that became
1 e.g. Timaeus in Book xii.



proverbial. Was he not nicknamed tTrm'/jcuos for
his treatment of Timaeus in particular ? He divides
historians into three classes : those who write
for pay to suit the pleasure or the plans of
kings and states ; those who write for rhetorical
display ; those who write for truth, and for the good
of mankind. 1 He appreciates the power of rhetoric
in history for good and ill ; but he avoids such
assistance in his own work, for fear that he may fail
to tell " the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but
the truth." He employs the vocabulary of ordinary
usage ; and though his statements are always clear,
and generally adequate, the style is seldom remark-
able or attractive. Yet in the opinion of a great
historian " the narrative is a model of completeness,
simplicity, and clearness " 2 : it is the concentration
of intellect upon a task a vital century in the
history of Rome for which something besides
intellect was needed, something of moral judge-
ment, of spiritual understanding. In this respect
the larger humanity, where a sense of imagination
joins with a sense of humour to modify the mechanism
of intellect Polybius is certainly lacking ; and his
narrative, for all its simplicity and clearness, fails
often to interest just because it is so uniformly
correct, so invariably instructive.

The work of Polybius was valued in ancient times,
and not least by the Romans. Was his History
intended primarily for Roman readers ? Possibly :
but at first it would scarcely be comprehended by
more than a few of them, such as the Scipionic circle.

1 xvi. 14.

2 Mommsen, History of Rome (English Translation), vol.
iii. p. 467.



And to many, if not most, of the Greeks of his own
day he must have seemed something of a suspect,
and no proper patriot, who could devote forty books
to an outspoken appreciation of all things Roman.
Yet, save for his lack of rhetoric, he was thought
to have exemplified every virtue of history : his
opinions were frequently quoted, his works were
compressed into epitomes and reproduced in excerpts.
The pity is that by such abridged editions we have
been deprived of the means of forming a just estimate
of his work as a whole. For what was chosen for
survival in epitome or excerpt, because it appeared
most interesting or important in the generations
that followed his own, cannot give us the whole
story as Polybius told it the o^x^a Ka #' ^ ov KC "
jue/oos, we might almost say nor reveal the whole
mind of Polybius. Yet enough remains to establish
his worth, as a historian who was generally right
in point of fact and reasonable in point of view, who
" accomplished what he had intended, a history to
guide life, to proclaim truth, and in all sagacity to
forecast the future from the past." 1

For the books (i.-v.) which are still extant in
complete form the best Manuscript is A, Codex
Vaticanus 124, of the eleventh century. Fragments
of the lost books are to be seen in F, Codex Urbinas
102, of the eleventh century, in the Constantine
Excerpts, and in M, Codex Vaticanus 73, of the
tenth century, a palimpsest containing excerpts.
The Constantine Excerpts, so called because they

1 Wyttenbach, Praefatio ad selecla principum histori-



were made by direction of the Byzantine Emperor
Constantine (A. D. 9 12-959) as part of an Encyclopaedia
of History and Political Science, give passages of
Polybius arranged under various headings according
to the subject matter.


The Translator died suddenly in 1921, and the
Editors have seen the work through the press.
The Introduction has been supplied by Colonel
Edwards, C.B.

Addendum (1992): Special mention must be made of
F. W. Walbank's monumental A Historical Commentary
on Polybius, 3 vols, Oxford 1957 (1-6), 1967 (7-18), and
1979 (ig-[4o]); and of his Polybius (Sather Classical Lec-
tures), Berkeley 1972, the best introduction to Polybius.
See also the Penguin Polybius; The Rise of the Roman
Empire, translated by Ian Scott-Kilvert and selected and
introduced by F. W. Walbank (Harmondsworth 1979,
with bibliography on pages 37-9).




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1. HAD previous chroniclers neglected to speak in
praise of History in general, it might perhaps have
been necessary for me to recommend everyone to
choose for study and welcome such treatises as the pre-
sent, since men have no more ready corrective of con-
duct than knowledge of the past. But all historians,
one may say without exception, and in no half-hearted
manner, but making this the beginning and end of their
labour, have impressed on us that the soundest educa-
tion and training for a life of active politics is the study
of History, and that the surest and indeed the only
method of learning how to bear bravely the vicissitudes
of fortune, is to recall the calamities of others. Evi-
dently therefore no one, and least of all myself, would
think it his duty at this day to repeat what has been so
well and so often said. For the very element of
unexpectedness in the events I have chosen as my
theme will be sufficient to challenge and incite
everyone, young and old alike, to peruse my system-
atic history. For who is so worthless or indolent
as not to wish to know by what means and
under what system of polity the Romans in


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BOOK I. 1.5-2.6

less than fifty-three years have succeeded in sub-
jecting nearly the whole inhabited world to their sole
government a thing unique in history ? Or who
again is there so passionately devoted to other
spectacles or studies as to regard anything as of greater
moment than the acquisition of this knowledge ?

2. How striking and grand is the spectacle pre-
sented by the period with which I purpose to deal,
will be most clearly apparent if we set beside and
compare with the Roman dominion the most famous
empires of the past, those which have formed the
chief theme of historians. Those worthy of being
thus set beside it and compared are these. The
Persians for a certain period possessed a great rule
and dominion, but so often as they ventured to
overstep the boundaries of Asia they imperilled
not only the security of this empire, but their
own existence. The Lacedaemonians, after having
for many years disputed the hegemony of Greece, at
length attained it but to hold it uncontested for
scarce twelve years. The Macedonian rule in
Europe extended but from the Adriatic region to
the Danube, which would appear a quite in-
significant portion of the continent. Subsequently,
by overthrowing the Persian empire they became
supreme in Asia also. But though their empire
was now regarded as the greatest geographically
and politically that had ever existed, they left the
larger part of the inhabited world as yet outside it.
For they never even made a single attempt to dispute
possession of Sicily, Sardinia, or Libya, and the most

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