The last twenty books (XXI–XL) of the Library of History begin with the battle of Ipsus, fought in 301 b.c., and in their original complete form carried the account down to the author’s own day, closing with the events of 61/0 b.c.1 Though Diodorus is now held in scant esteem as a historian—in marked contrast to his high repute in the XVIth century—, and though his work is admittedly derivative in character and hence of uneven worth, depending on the reliability of his sources, still the loss sustained by the disappearance of these books is scarcely to be measured in terms of their intrinsic merit. Had they survived intact, they would have given us, as nothing now does, a single, continuous, and detailed narrative of events in the whole Mediterranean world during two and a half crucial centuries, and a historical perspective that we now sadly lack. As it is, no more than a fraction of the original survives, mostly in brief excerpts or, occasionally, in longer but freely condensed paraphrase. Even these sorry fragments, however, preserve the record of many incidents otherwise
- 1The last narrative fragment (Book 40. 5a) preserved concerns the Catilinarian Conspiracy, 63 b.c. For a discussion of the conflicting evidence on the terminal date of the work, and the possibility that Diodorus originally intended to carry it on to 46/5 b.c., see Oldfather’s Introduction to Vol. I, pp. xiv–xv, xviii–xix.