Polybius, The Histories, Volume I

LCL 128: xxviii-xxix

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have known something of it (cf. K. Ziegler, RE Polybius 1453, commenting on 35. 6). Another passage suggests that Polybius has received some critical reactions (38. 5.1). He himself reports that he addressed the Rhodian historian Zeno by letter and made him aware of mistakes he had made concerning the topography of Laconia. Zeno replied courteously, accepting the criticism, and added that he was unable to make changes, as he had already published his work (16.20.4–7). Such an exchange between two historians in antiquity is very rarely attested; it may recall the correspondence between Tacitus and Pliny the Younger on the eruption of Mount vesuvius in AD 79, when Tacitus, approaching the moment in which he would have to discuss the event in his Histories, wanted to learn more about the death of Pliny’s uncle in that catastrophe.

Despite its great popularity, the Histories has not survived in its entirety. Only the first five books are completely preserved; for the following, mainly excerpts remained, made by order of the emperor Constantinus Porphyrogennetus in the tenth century. At that time Books 17, 19, 37, and 40 had already been lost. The authors who used Polybius, usually without quoting him, are of great assistance in attempts to reconstruct the contents of the lost books and parts of the work.

Readers will find a more comprehensive and still very useful introduction to the author and his Histories in Konrad Ziegler’s article “Polybios,” RE 21 (1952) 1440–1578, and another valuable summary is F. W. Walbank, A Historical Commentary on Polybius, I (Oxford 1957) 1–37.

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