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Polybius (; grc-gre, Πολύβιος, ; ) was a Greek historian of the
Hellenistic period In Classical antiquity, the Hellenistic period covers the time in History of the Mediterranean region, Mediterranean history after Classical Greece, between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire, as sig ...
. He is noted for his work , which covered the period of 264–146 BC and the
Punic Wars The Punic Wars were a series of wars between 264 and 146BC fought between Roman Republic, Rome and Ancient Carthage, Carthage. Three conflicts between these states took place on both land and sea across the western Mediterranean region and i ...
in detail. Polybius is important for his analysis of the mixed constitution or the
separation of powers Separation of powers refers to the division of a state (polity), state's government into branches, each with separate, independent power (social and political), powers and responsibilities, so that the powers of one branch are not in conflic ...
in government, his in-depth discussion of checks and balances to limit power, and his introduction of "the people", which influenced
Montesquieu Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, Lot-et-Garonne, Montesquieu (; ; 18 January 168910 February 1755), generally referred to as simply Montesquieu, was a French judge, intellectual, man of letters, historian, and p ...
's '' The Spirit of the Laws'',
John Locke John Locke (; 29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704) was an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment thinkers and commonly known as the "father of liberalism ...
's '' Two Treatises of Government'', and the framers of the
United States Constitution The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It superseded the Articles of Confederation, the nation's first constitution, in 1789. Originally comprising seven articles, it delineates the nat ...
. The leading expert on Polybius for nearly a century was F. W. Walbank (1909–2008), who published studies related to him for 50 years, including a long commentary of his ''Histories'' and a biography.


Early life

Polybius was born around 200 BC in Megalopolis, Arcadia, when it was an active member of the
Achaean League The Achaean League (Ancient Greek, Greek: , ''Koinon ton Akhaion'' "League of Achaeans") was a Hellenistic-era confederation of Greece, Greek polis, city states on the northern and central Peloponnese. The league was named after the region of Ac ...
. The town was revived, along with other Achaean states, a century before he was born. Polybius' father, Lycortas, was a prominent, land-owning politician and member of the governing class who became ''
strategos ''Strategos'', plural ''strategoi'', Linguistic Latinisation, Latinized ''strategus'', ( el, στρατηγός, pl. στρατηγοί; Doric Greek: στραταγός, ''stratagos''; meaning "army leader") is used in Greek language, Greek to ...
'' (commanding general) of the Achaean League. Consequently, Polybius was able to observe first hand during his first 40 years the political and military affairs of Megalopolis, gaining experience as a
statesman A statesman or stateswoman typically is a politician who has had a long and respected political career at the national or international level. Statesman or Statesmen may also refer to: Newspapers United States * The Statesman (Oregon), ''The St ...
. In his early years, he accompanied his father while travelling as
ambassador An ambassador is an official envoy, especially a high-ranking diplomat who represents a state and is usually accredited to another sovereign state or to an international organization as the resident representative of their own government or sov ...
. He developed an interest in horse riding and hunting, diversions that later commended him to his Roman captors. In 182 BC, he was given quite an honor when he was chosen to carry the funeral urn of Philopoemen, one of the most eminent Achaean politicians of his generation. In either 169 BC or 170 BC, Polybius was elected ''hipparchus'' (cavalry officer) with the intention of fighting for Rome during the
Third Macedonian War The Third Macedonian War (171–168 BC) was a war fought between the Roman Republic and King Perseus of Macedon. In 179 BC, King Philip V of Macedon died and was succeeded by his ambitious son Perseus of Macedon, Perseus. He was anti-Roman and ...
. This event often presaged election to the annual '' strategia'' (chief generalship). His early political career was devoted largely towards maintaining the independence of Megalopolis.


Personal experiences

Polybius' father, Lycortas, was a prominent advocate of neutrality during the Roman war against
Perseus In Greek mythology A major branch of classical mythology, Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and C ...
of
Macedon Macedonia (; grc-gre, Μακεδονία), also called Macedon (), was an Classical antiquity, ancient monarchy, kingdom on the periphery of Archaic Greece, Archaic and Classical Greece, and later the dominant state of Hellenistic Greece. Th ...
. Lycortas attracted the suspicion of the Romans, and Polybius subsequently was one of the 1,000 Achaean nobles who were transported to Rome as hostages in 167 BC, and was detained there for 17 years. In Rome, by virtue of his high culture, Polybius was admitted to the most distinguished houses, in particular to that of
Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus (c. 229 – 160 BC) was a two-time Roman consul, consul of the Roman Republic and a general who conquered Macedon, putting an end to the Antigonid dynasty in the Third Macedonian War. Family Paullus' fat ...
, the conqueror in the
Third Macedonian War The Third Macedonian War (171–168 BC) was a war fought between the Roman Republic and King Perseus of Macedon. In 179 BC, King Philip V of Macedon died and was succeeded by his ambitious son Perseus of Macedon, Perseus. He was anti-Roman and ...
, who entrusted Polybius with the education of his sons, Fabius and
Scipio Aemilianus Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Aemilianus (185–129 BC), known as Scipio Aemilianus or Scipio Africanus the Younger, was a Roman general and statesman noted for his military exploits in the Third Punic War against Ancient Carthage, Cartha ...
(who had been adopted by the eldest son of
Scipio Africanus Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (, , ; 236/235–183 BC) was a Roman general and statesman, most notable as one of the main architects of Rome's victory against Ancient Carthage, Carthage in the Second Punic War. Often regarded as one of the ...
). Polybius remained on cordial terms with his former pupil Scipio Aemilianus and was among the members of the Scipionic Circle. When Scipio defeated the
Carthaginians The Punic people, or western Phoenicians, were a Semitic people, Semitic people in the Western Mediterranean who migrated from Tyre, Lebanon, Tyre, Phoenicia to North Africa during the Iron Age, Early Iron Age. In modern scholarship, the term '' ...
in the
Third Punic War The Third Punic War (149–146 BC) was the third and last of the Punic Wars fought between Ancient Carthage, Carthage and Roman Republic, Rome. The war was fought entirely within Carthaginian territory, in modern northern Tunisia. When the S ...
, Polybius remained his counsellor. The Achaean hostages were released in 150 BC, and Polybius was granted leave to return home, but the next year he went on campaign with Scipio Aemilianus to Africa, and was present at the Sack of Carthage in 146, which he later described. Following the destruction of Carthage, Polybius likely journeyed along the Atlantic coast of Africa, as well as Spain. After the destruction of
Corinth Corinth ( ; el, Κόρινθος, Kórinthos, ) is the successor to an ancient city, and is a former municipality in Corinthia, Peloponnese (region), Peloponnese, which is located in south-central Greece. Since the 2011 local government refor ...
in the same year, Polybius returned to Greece, making use of his Roman connections to lighten the conditions there. Polybius was charged with the difficult task of organizing the new form of government in the Greek cities, and in this office he gained great recognition.


At Rome

In the succeeding years, Polybius resided in
Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus (Romulus and Remus, legendary) , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg ...
, completing his historical work while occasionally undertaking long journeys through the
Mediterranean The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Western Europe, Western and Southern Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa ...
countries in the furtherance of his history, in particular with the aim of obtaining firsthand knowledge of historical sites. He apparently interviewed veterans to clarify details of the events he was recording and was similarly given access to archival material. Little is known of Polybius' later life; he most likely accompanied Scipio to Spain, acting as his military advisor during the
Numantine War The Numantine WarThe term Numantine War can refer to the whole conflict lasting from 154 to 133 or to just the latter part, from 143 to 133. Thus, the two conflicts are sometimes called the Numantine Wars (plural) and subdivided into the First an ...
. He later wrote about this war in a lost
monograph A monograph is a specialist work of writing (in contrast to reference works) or exhibition on a single subject or an aspect of a subject, often by a single author or artist, and usually on a scholarly subject. In Library catalog, library catalo ...
. Polybius probably returned to Greece later in his life, as evidenced by the many existent inscriptions and statues of him there. The last event mentioned in his ''Histories'' seems to be the construction of the
Via Domitia The Via Domitia was the first Roman road built in Gaul, to link Italy and Hispania through Gallia Narbonensis, across what is now Southern France. The route that the Romans regularised and paved was ancient when they set out to survey it, and tr ...
in
southern France Southern France, also known as the South of France or colloquially in French language, French as , is a defined geographical area consisting of the regions of France that border the Atlantic Ocean south of the Marais Poitevin,Louis Papy, ''Le midi ...
in 118 BC, which suggests the writings of Pseudo-Lucian may have some grounding in fact when they state, " olybiusfell from his horse while riding up from the country, fell ill as a result and died at the age of eighty-two".


''The Histories''

''The Histories'' describes the rise of the
Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Res publica Romana ) was a form of government of Rome and the era of the ancient Rome, classical Roman civilization when it was run through res publica, public Representation (politics), representation of the Roman peo ...
as a global power in the ancient Mediterranean world. The work includes eyewitness accounts of the Sack of Carthage and
Corinth Corinth ( ; el, Κόρινθος, Kórinthos, ) is the successor to an ancient city, and is a former municipality in Corinthia, Peloponnese (region), Peloponnese, which is located in south-central Greece. Since the 2011 local government refor ...
, and the Roman annexation of mainland Greece after the
Achaean War The Achaean War of 146 BC was fought between the Roman Republic and the Greek Achaean League, an alliance of Achaean and other Peloponnesian states in ancient Greece. It was the final stage of Rome's conquest of mainland Greece, taking place j ...
. Polybius' ''Histories'' cover the period from 264 BC to 146 BC. It focuses mainly on the years 220 BC to 167 BC, detailing Ancient Rome's overcoming of their geopolitical rival, Carthage, and thereby becoming the dominant Mediterranean force. Books I through V are ''The Histories'' introduction, set during his lifetime. They describe political affairs in the leading Mediterranean states during the time, including in
Ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a northeastern Mediterranean Sea, Mediterranean civilization, existing from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of Classical Antiquity, classical antiquity ( AD 600), th ...
and Egypt, explaining their "''συμπλοκή"'' or interconnectedness. In Book VI, Polybius describes the political, military, and moral institutions that allowed the Romans to succeed. He also describes the
First First or 1st is the ordinal form of the number 1 (number), one (#1). First or 1st may also refer to: *World record, specifically the first instance of a particular achievement Arts and media Music * 1$T, American rapper, singer-songwriter, D ...
and
Second Punic War The Second Punic War (218 to 201 BC) was the second of Punic Wars, three wars fought between Ancient Carthage, Carthage and Roman Republic, Rome, the two main powers of the western Mediterranean Basin, Mediterranean in the 3rd century BC. For ...
s. Polybius concludes that the Romans are the pre-eminent power because they have customs and institutions which promote a deep desire for noble acts, a love of virtue, piety towards parents and elders, and a fear of the gods (''deisidaimonia''). Polybius also details the battles between
Hannibal Hannibal (; xpu, 𐤇𐤍𐤁𐤏𐤋, ''Ḥannibaʿl''; 247 – between 183 and 181 BC) was a Punic people, Carthaginian general and statesman who commanded the forces of Ancient Carthage, Carthage in their battle against the Roman ...
and
Scipio Africanus Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (, , ; 236/235–183 BC) was a Roman general and statesman, most notable as one of the main architects of Rome's victory against Ancient Carthage, Carthage in the Second Punic War. Often regarded as one of the ...
in the Second Punic War; such as the Battle of Ticinus, the
Battle of the Trebia The Battle of the Trebia (or Trebbia) was the first major battle of the Second Punic War, fought between the Carthaginian Empire, Carthaginian forces of Hannibal and a Roman Republic, Roman army under Tiberius Sempronius Longus (consul 218 B ...
, the
Siege of Saguntum The siege of Saguntum was a battle which took place in 219 BC between the Carthaginians and the Saguntines at the town of Saguntum, near the modern town of Sagunto in the province of Valencia, Spain. The battle is mainly remembered today because i ...
, the Battle of Lilybaeum, the Battle of Rhone Crossing and the
Battle of Zama The Battle of Zama was fought in 202 BC near Zama (Tunisia), Zama, now in Tunisia, and marked the end of the Second Punic War. A Roman Republic, Roman army led by Scipio Africanus, Publius Cornelius Scipio, with crucial support from Numidia ...
, among others. In Book XII, Polybius discusses the worth of Timaeus' account of the same period of history. He asserts Timaeus' point of view is inaccurate, invalid, and biased in favor of Rome. Christian Habicht considered his criticism of Timaeus to be spiteful and biased, However, Polybius' ''Histories'' is also useful in analyzing the different Hellenistic versions of history and of use as a credible illustration of actual events during the
Hellenistic period In Classical antiquity, the Hellenistic period covers the time in History of the Mediterranean region, Mediterranean history after Classical Greece, between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire, as sig ...
.


Sources

Polybius held that historians should only chronicle events whose participants the historian was able to interview, and was among the first to champion the notion of factual integrity in historical writing. In the twelfth volume of his ''Histories'', Polybius defines the historian's job as the analysis of documentation, the review of relevant geographical information, and political experience. In Polybius' time, the profession of a historian required political experience (which aided in differentiating between fact and fiction) and familiarity with the geography surrounding one's subject matter to supply an accurate version of events. Polybius himself exemplified these principles as he was well travelled and possessed political and military experience. He did not neglect written sources that provided essential material for his histories of the period from 264 BC to 220 BC. When addressing events after 220 BC, he examined the writings of Greek and Roman historians to acquire credible sources of information, but rarely did he name those sources.


As historian

Polybius wrote several works, most of which are lost. His earliest work was a biography of the Greek statesman Philopoemen; this work was later used as a source by
Plutarch Plutarch (; grc-gre, Πλούταρχος, ''Ploútarchos''; ; – after AD 119) was a Greek people, Greek Middle Platonism, Middle Platonist philosopher, historian, Biography, biographer, essayist, and priest at the Temple of Apollo (D ...
when composing his ''
Parallel Lives Plutarch's ''Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans'', commonly called ''Parallel Lives'' or ''Plutarch's Lives'', is a series of 48 biographies of famous men, arranged in pairs to illuminate their common moral virtues or failings, probably writt ...
''; however, the original Polybian text is lost. In addition, Polybius wrote an extensive treatise entitled ''Tactics'', which may have detailed Roman and Greek
military tactics Military tactics encompasses the art of organizing and employing fighting forces on or near the battlefield. They involve the application of four battlefield functions which are closely related – kinetic or firepower, Mobility (military), mobil ...
. Small parts of this work may survive in his major ''Histories'', but the work itself is lost, as well. Another missing work was a historical monograph on the events of the
Numantine War The Numantine WarThe term Numantine War can refer to the whole conflict lasting from 154 to 133 or to just the latter part, from 143 to 133. Thus, the two conflicts are sometimes called the Numantine Wars (plural) and subdivided into the First an ...
. The largest Polybian work was, of course, his ''Histories'', of which only the first five books survive entirely intact, along with a large portion of the sixth book and fragments of the rest. Along with
Cato the Elder Marcus Porcius Cato (; 234–149 BC), also known as Cato the Censor ( la, Censorius), the Elder and the Wise, was a Roman soldier, senator A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or Legislative chamber, chamber of a ...
(234–149 BC), he can be considered one of the founding fathers of
Roman historiography Roman historiography stretches back to at least the 3rd century BC and was indebted to earlier Greek historiography. The Romans relied on previous models in the Ancient Greek literature, Greek tradition such as the works of Herodotus (c. 484 – 425 ...
.
Livy Titus Livius (; 59 BC – AD 17), known in English as Livy ( ), was a Ancient Rome, Roman historian. He wrote a monumental history of Rome and the Roman people, titled , covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome before the traditiona ...
made reference to and uses Polybius' ''Histories'' as source material in his own narrative. Polybius was among the first historians to attempt to present history as a sequence of causes and effects, based upon a careful examination and criticism of tradition. He narrated his history based upon first-hand knowledge. ''The Histories'' capture the varied elements of the story of human behavior:
nationalism Nationalism is an idea and movement that holds that the nation should be congruent with the State (polity), state. As a movement, nationalism tends to promote the interests of a particular nation (as in a in-group and out-group, group of peo ...
,
xenophobia Xenophobia () is the fear or dislike of anything which is perceived as being foreign or strange. It is an expression of perceived conflict between an in-group and out-group and may manifest in suspicion by the one of the other's activities, a ...
, duplicitous politics, war, brutality, loyalty, valour, intelligence, reason and resourcefulness. Aside from the narrative of the historical events, Polybius also included three books of digressions. Book 34 was entirely devoted to questions of geography and included some trenchant criticisms of
Eratosthenes Eratosthenes of Cyrene (; grc-gre, wikt:Ἐρατοσθένης, Ἐρατοσθένης ;  – ) was a Greek polymath: a Greek mathematics, mathematician, geographer, poet, astronomer, and music theory, music theorist. He was a man of lear ...
, whom he accused of passing on popular preconceptions or ''laodogmatika''. Book 12 was a disquisition on the writing of history, citing extensive passages of lost historians, such as Callisthenes and
Theopompus Theopompus ( grc-gre, Θεόπομπος, ''Theópompos''; c. 380 BCc. 315 BC) was an Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, Greek historian and rhetorician. Biography Theopompus was born on the Aegean Islands, Aegean island of Chios. In early youth, he ...
. Most influential was Book 6, which describes Roman political, military, and moral institutions, which he considered key to Rome's success; it presented Rome as having a mixed constitution in which
monarchical A monarchy is a government#Forms, form of government in which a person, the monarch, is head of state for life or until abdication. The legitimacy (political)#monarchy, political legitimacy and authority of the monarch may vary from restric ...
,
aristocratic Aristocracy (, ) is a form of government that places strength in the hands of a small, privileged ruling class, the aristocracy (class), aristocrats. The term derives from the el, αριστοκρατία (), meaning 'rule of the best'. At t ...
and popular elements existed in stable equilibrium. This enabled Rome to escape, for the time being, the cycle of eternal revolutions (''
anacyclosis The political doctrine of anacyclosis (or ''anakyklosis'' from el, ἀνακύκλωσις) is a cyclical theory of political evolution. The theory of anacyclosis is based upon the Greek typology of constitutional forms of rule by the one, the ...
''). While Polybius was not the first to advance this view, his account provides the most cogent illustration of the ideal for later political theorists. A key theme of ''The Histories'' is the good statesman as virtuous and composed. The character of the Polybian statesman is exemplified in that of Philip II. His beliefs about Philip's character led Polybius to reject historian
Theopompus Theopompus ( grc-gre, Θεόπομπος, ''Theópompos''; c. 380 BCc. 315 BC) was an Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, Greek historian and rhetorician. Biography Theopompus was born on the Aegean Islands, Aegean island of Chios. In early youth, he ...
' description of Philip's private, drunken debauchery. For Polybius, it was inconceivable that such an able and effective statesman could have had an immoral and unrestrained private life as described by Theopompus. In recounting the
Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Res publica Romana ) was a form of government of Rome and the era of the ancient Rome, classical Roman civilization when it was run through res publica, public Representation (politics), representation of the Roman peo ...
, Polybius stated that "the
Senate A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house An upper house is one of two Debate chamber, chambers of a bicameralism, bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the lower house.''Bicameralism'' (1997) by George Tseb ...
stands in awe of the multitude, and cannot neglect the feelings of the people". Other important themes running through ''The Histories'' are the role of Fortune in the affairs of nations, his insistence that history should be demonstratory, or ''apodeiktike'', providing lessons for statesmen, and that historians should be "men of action" ( ''pragmatikoi''). Polybius is considered by some to be the successor of
Thucydides Thucydides (; grc, , }; BC) was an Classical Athens, Athenian historian and general. His ''History of the Peloponnesian War'' recounts Peloponnesian War, the fifth-century BC war between Sparta and Athens until the year 411 BC. Thucydides has ...
in terms of objectivity and critical
reasoning Reason is the capacity of Consciousness, consciously applying logic by Logical consequence, drawing conclusions from new or existing information, with the aim of seeking the truth. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activ ...
, and the forefather of scholarly, painstaking historical research in the modern scientific sense. According to this view, his work sets forth the course of history's occurrences with clearness, penetration, sound judgment, and, among the circumstances affecting the outcomes, he lays special emphasis on geographical conditions. Modern historians are especially impressed with the manner in which Polybius used his sources, particularly documentary evidence as well as his citation and quotation of sources. Furthermore, there is some admiration of Polybius' meditation on the nature of historiography in Book 12. His work belongs, therefore, amongst the greatest productions of ancient historical writing. The writer of the ''Oxford Companion to Classical Literature'' (1937) praises him for his "earnest devotion to truth" and his systematic pursuit of causation. It has long been acknowledged that Polybius' writings are prone to a certain hagiographic tone when writing of his friends, such as Scipio, and subject to a vindictive tone when detailing the exploits of his enemies, such as Callicrates, the Achaean statesman responsible for his Roman exile. As a hostage in Rome, then as client to the Scipios, and after 146 BC, a collaborator with Roman rule, Polybius was probably in no position to freely express any negative opinions of Rome. Peter Green advises that Polybius was chronicling Roman history for a Greek audience, to justify what he believed to be the inevitability of Roman rule. Nonetheless, Green considers Polybius' ''Histories'' the best source for the era they cover. For Ronald Mellor, Polybius was a loyal partisan of Scipio, intent on vilifying his patron's opponents. Adrian Goldsworthy, while using Polybius as a source for Scipio's generalship, notes Polybius' underlying and overt bias in Scipio's favour. H. Ormerod considers that Polybius cannot be regarded as an 'altogether unprejudiced witness' in relation to his ''betes noires''; the Aetolians, the Carthaginians and the Cretans. Other historians perceive considerable negative bias in Polybius' account of
Crete Crete ( el, Κρήτη, translit=, Modern: , Ancient: ) is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the 88th largest island in the world and the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Sicily, Sardinia, Cyprus, ...
; on the other hand, Hansen notes that the same work, along with passages from
Strabo Strabo''Strabo'' (meaning "squinty", as in strabismus) was a term employed by the Romans for anyone whose eyes were distorted or deformed. The father of Pompey was called "Pompeius Strabo". A native of Sicily so clear-sighted that he could see ...
and
Scylax Scylax of Caryanda ( el, Σκύλαξ ὁ Καρυανδεύς) was a Greek people, Greek exploration, explorer and writer of the late 6th and early 5th centuries BCE. His own writings are lost, though occasionally cited or quoted by later Greek ...
, proved a reliable guide in the eventual rediscovery of the lost city of
Kydonia Kydonia or Cydonia (; grc, Κυδωνία; lat, Cydonia) was an ancient city-state on the northwest coast of the island of Crete. It is at the site of the modern-day Greek city of Chania. In legend Cydonia was founded by King Cydon (), a son ...
.


Cryptography

Polybius was responsible for a useful tool in
telegraphy Telegraphy is the long-distance transmission of messages where the sender uses symbolic codes, known to the recipient, rather than a physical exchange of an object bearing the message. Thus flag semaphore is a method of telegraphy, whereas p ...
that allowed letters to be easily signaled using a numerical system, called "the Polybius square," mentioned i
Hist. X.45.6 ff.
This idea also lends itself to
cryptographic Cryptography, or cryptology (from grc, , translit=kryptós "hidden, secret"; and ''graphein'', "to write", or ''-logy, -logia'', "study", respectively), is the practice and study of techniques for secure communication in the presence of ...
manipulation and
steganography Steganography ( ) is the practice of representing information within another message or physical object, in such a manner that the presence of the information is not evident to human inspection. In computing/electronic contexts, a computer file, ...
. Modern implementations of the Polybius square, at least in Western European languages such as English, Spanish, French, German and Italian, generally use the Roman alphabet in which those languages are written. However, Polybius himself was writing in Greek, and would have implemented his cipher square in the Greek alphabet. Both versions are shown here. In the Polybius square, letters of the alphabet were arranged left to right, top to bottom in a 5 × 5 square. When used with the 26-letter
Latin alphabet The Latin alphabet or Roman alphabet is the collection of letters originally used by the Ancient Rome, ancient Romans to write the Latin language. Largely unaltered with the exception of extensions (such as diacritics), it used to write Eng ...
two letters, usually I and J, are combined. When used with the Greek alphabet, which has exactly one less letter than there are spaces (or code points) in the square, the final "5,5" code point encodes the spaces in between words. Alternatively, it can denote the end of a sentence or paragraph when writing in continuous script. Five numbers are then aligned on the outside top of the square, and five numbers on the left side of the square vertically. Usually these numbers were arranged 1 through 5. By cross-referencing the two numbers along the grid of the square, a letter could be deduced. In ''The Histories'', Polybius specifies how this cypher could be used in fire signals, where long-range messages could be sent by means of torches raised and lowered to signify the column and row of each letter. This was a great leap forward from previous fire signaling, which could send prearranged codes only (such as, 'if we light the fire, it means that the enemy has arrived'). Other writings of
scientific Science is a systematic endeavor that Scientific method, builds and organizes knowledge in the form of Testability, testable explanations and predictions about the universe. Science may be as old as the human species, and some of the earli ...
interest include detailed discussions of the machines
Archimedes Archimedes of Syracuse (;; ) was a Greek mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics in their work, typically to solve mathematical problems. Mathematicians are concerned with numbers, data, ...
created for the defense of Syracuse against the Romans, where Polybius praises the 'old man' and his engineering in the highest terms, and an analysis of the usefulness of astronomy to generals (both in the ''Histories'').


Influence

Polybius was considered a poor stylist by
Dionysius of Halicarnassus Dionysius of Halicarnassus ( grc, Διονύσιος Ἀλεξάνδρου Ἁλικαρνασσεύς, ; – after 7 BC) was a Greek historian and teacher of rhetoric, who flourished during the reign of Emperor Augustus. His literary style ...
, writing of Polybius' history that "no one has the endurance to reach tsend". Nevertheless, clearly he was widely read by Romans and Greeks alike. He is quoted extensively by
Strabo Strabo''Strabo'' (meaning "squinty", as in strabismus) was a term employed by the Romans for anyone whose eyes were distorted or deformed. The father of Pompey was called "Pompeius Strabo". A native of Sicily so clear-sighted that he could see ...
writing in the 1st century BC and
Athenaeus Athenaeus of Naucratis (; grc, Ἀθήναιος ὁ Nαυκρατίτης or Nαυκράτιος, ''Athēnaios Naukratitēs'' or ''Naukratios''; la, Athenaeus Naucratita) was a Greeks, Greek rhetorician and grammarian, flourishing about the e ...
in the 3rd century AD. His emphasis on explaining causes of events, rather than just recounting events, influenced the historian Sempronius Asellio. Polybius is mentioned by
Cicero Marcus Tullius Cicero ( ; ; 3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) was a Ancient Rome, Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher, and Academic skepticism, academic skeptic, who tried to uphold optimate principles during crisis of ...
and mined for information by
Diodorus Diodorus Siculus, or Diodorus of Sicily ( grc-gre, wikt:Διόδωρος, Διόδωρος ;  1st century BC), was an ancient Greece, ancient Greek historian. He is known for writing the monumental universal history ''Bibliotheca historica' ...
,
Livy Titus Livius (; 59 BC – AD 17), known in English as Livy ( ), was a Ancient Rome, Roman historian. He wrote a monumental history of Rome and the Roman people, titled , covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome before the traditiona ...
,
Plutarch Plutarch (; grc-gre, Πλούταρχος, ''Ploútarchos''; ; – after AD 119) was a Greek people, Greek Middle Platonism, Middle Platonist philosopher, historian, Biography, biographer, essayist, and priest at the Temple of Apollo (D ...
and
Arrian Arrian of Nicomedia (; Greek: ''Arrianos''; la, Lucius Flavius Arrianus; ) was a Greek historian, public servant, military commander and philosopher of the Roman period. '' The Anabasis of Alexander'' by Arrian is considered the be ...
. Much of the text that survives today from the later books of ''The Histories'' was preserved in Byzantine anthologies. His works reappeared in the West first in Renaissance
Florence Florence ( ; it, Firenze ) is a city in Central Italy and the capital city of the Tuscany region. It is the most populated city in Tuscany, with 383,083 inhabitants in 2016, and over 1,520,000 in its metropolitan area.Bilancio demografico ...
. Polybius gained a following in Italy, and although poor Latin translations hampered proper scholarship on his works, they contributed to the city's historical and political discourse.
Niccolò Machiavelli Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli ( , , ; 3 May 1469 – 21 June 1527), occasionally rendered in English as Nicholas Machiavel ( , ; #Machiavel, see below), was an Italian diplomat, author, philosopher and historian who lived during the Re ...
in his ''
Discourses on Livy The ''Discourses on Livy'' ( it, Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio, ) is a work of political history and philosophy written in the early 16th century (c. 1517) by the Italian writer and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli, best known a ...
'' evinces familiarity with Polybius. Vernacular translations in French, German, Italian and English first appeared during the 16th century. Consequently, in the late 16th century, Polybius' works found a greater reading audience among the learned public. Study of the correspondence of such men as Isaac Casaubon,
Jacques Auguste de Thou Jacques Auguste de Thou (Thuanus) (8 October 1553, Paris – 7 May 1617, Paris) was a French historian, book collector and president of the Parliament of Paris. Life Jacques Auguste de Thou was the grandson of , president of the Parliament ...
,
William Camden William Camden (2 May 1551 – 9 November 1623) was an English antiquarian, historian, Topography, topographer, and herald, best known as author of ''Britannia'', the first Chorography, chorographical survey of the islands of Great Britain and ...
and
Paolo Sarpi Paolo Sarpi (14 August 1552 – 15 January 1623) was a Italian people, Venetian historian, prelate, scientist, canon lawyer, and statesman active on behalf of the Venetian Republic during the period of its successful defiance of the Venetian In ...
reveals a growing interest in Polybius' works and thought during the period. Despite the existence of both printed editions in the vernacular and increased scholarly interest, however, Polybius remained an "historian's historian", not much read by the public at large. Printings of his work in the
vernacular A vernacular or vernacular language is in contrast with a "standard language". It refers to the language or dialect that is spoken by people that are inhabiting a particular country or region. The vernacular is typically the native language, n ...
remained few in number—seven in French, five in English (
John Dryden '' John Dryden (; – ) was an English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who in 1668 was appointed England's first Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom, Poet Laureate. He is seen as dominating the literary life of Restoration ...
provided an enthusiastic preface to Sir Henry Sheers' edition of 1693) and five in Italian. Polybius' political analysis has influenced republican thinkers from
Cicero Marcus Tullius Cicero ( ; ; 3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) was a Ancient Rome, Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher, and Academic skepticism, academic skeptic, who tried to uphold optimate principles during crisis of ...
to Charles de Montesquieu to the
Founding Fathers of the United States The Founding Fathers of the United States, known simply as the Founding Fathers or Founders, were a group of late-18th-century American Revolution, American revolutionary leaders who United Colonies, united the Thirteen Colonies, oversaw the Am ...
.
John Adams John Adams (October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, attorney, diplomat, writer, and Founding Fathers of the United States, Founding Father who served as the second president of the United States from 1797 to 1801. Befor ...
, for example, considered him one of the most important teachers of constitutional theory. Since the
Age of Enlightenment The Age of Enlightenment or the Enlightenment; german: Aufklärung, "Enlightenment"; it, L'Illuminismo, "Enlightenment"; pl, Oświecenie, "Enlightenment"; pt, Iluminismo, "Enlightenment"; es, La Ilustración, "Enlightenment" was an intel ...
, Polybius has in general held appeal to those interested in
Hellenistic Greece Hellenistic Greece is the historical period of the country following Classical Greece, between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the annexation of the classical Greek Achaean League heartlands by the Roman Republic. This culminated ...
and early Republican Rome, while his political and military writings have lost influence in academia. More recently, thorough work on the Greek text of Polybius, and his historical technique, has increased the academic understanding and appreciation of him as a historian. According to
Edward Tufte Edward Rolf Tufte (; born March 14, 1942), sometimes known as "ET",. is an American statistician and professor emeritus of political science, statistics, and computer science at Yale University. He is noted for his writings on information design ...
, he was also a major source for
Charles Joseph Minard Charles Joseph Minard (; ; 27 March 1781 – 24 October 1870) was a French civil engineer recognized for his significant contribution in the field of information graphics in civil engineering and statistics. Minard was, among other things, note ...
's figurative map of
Hannibal Hannibal (; xpu, 𐤇𐤍𐤁𐤏𐤋, ''Ḥannibaʿl''; 247 – between 183 and 181 BC) was a Punic people, Carthaginian general and statesman who commanded the forces of Ancient Carthage, Carthage in their battle against the Roman ...
's overland journey into
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic, ) or the Republic of Italy, is a country in Southern Europe. It is located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, and its territory largely coincides with the Italy (geographical region) ...
during the
Second Punic War The Second Punic War (218 to 201 BC) was the second of Punic Wars, three wars fought between Ancient Carthage, Carthage and Roman Republic, Rome, the two main powers of the western Mediterranean Basin, Mediterranean in the 3rd century BC. For ...
. In his ''Meditations On Hunting'', Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset calls Polybius "one of the few great minds that the turbid human species has managed to produce", and says the damage to the ''Histories'' is "without question one of the gravest losses that we have suffered in our Greco-Roman heritage". The Italian version of his name, Polibio, was used as a male first name—for example, the composer Polibio Fumagalli—though it never became very common. The
University of Pennsylvania The University of Pennsylvania (also known as Penn or UPenn) is a Private university, private research university in Philadelphia. It is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and is ranked among the highest- ...
has an intellectual society, the Polybian Society, which is named in his honor and serves as a non-partisan forum for discussing societal issues and policy.


Editions and translations

* Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Usher, S. (ed. and trans.) ''Critical Essays, Volume II.'' Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985. * ''Polybii Historiae'', editionem a Ludovico Dindorfi curatam, retractavit Theodorus Büttner-Wobst, Lipsiae in aedibus B. G. Teubneri
vol. 1vol. 2vol. 3vol. 4vol. 5
1882–1904. * ** Loeb Number L128; Books I-II. ** Loeb Number L137; Books III-IV. ** Loeb Number L138; Books V-VIII. ** Loeb Number L159; Books IX-XV. ** Loeb Number L160; Books XVI-XXVII. ** Loeb Number L161; Books XXVIII-XXXIX. * * ''The Histories'' or ''The Rise of the Roman Empire'' by Polybius: ** At
Perseus Project The Perseus Project is a digital library project of Tufts University, which assembles digital collections of humanities resources. Version 4.0 is also known as the "Perseus Hopper", and it is hosted by the Department of Classical Studies. The proj ...

English & Greek version
* At " LacusCurtius"
Short introduction to the life and work of Polybius

1670 edition of Polybius' works vol.1 at the Internet archive

1670 edition of Polybius' works vol.2 at the Internet archive
* Polybius: "The Rise Of The Roman Empire", Penguin, 1979.
"Books 1–5 of History. Ethiopian Story. Book 8: From the Departure of the Divine Marcus"
featuring Book I-V of ''The Histories'', digitized, from the
World Digital Library The World Digital Library (WDL) is an international digital library operated by UNESCO and the United States Library of Congress. The WDL has stated that its mission is to promote international and intercultural understanding, expand the volume ...


See also

*
Anacyclosis The political doctrine of anacyclosis (or ''anakyklosis'' from el, ἀνακύκλωσις) is a cyclical theory of political evolution. The theory of anacyclosis is based upon the Greek typology of constitutional forms of rule by the one, the ...
*
Kyklos The ''kyklos'' (Ancient Greek: κύκλος , "cycle") is a term used by some classical Ancient Greece, Greek authors to describe what they considered as the cycle of governments in a society. It was roughly based on the history of Greek city-sta ...
* Polybius square * Polybius (urban legend) *
Mixed government Mixed government (or a mixed constitution) is a form of government that combines elements of democracy, aristocracy and monarchy, ostensibly making impossible their respective degenerations which are conceived as anarchy, oligarchy and tyranny. T ...


Notes and references


Sources


Ancient sources

* Titus Livius of Patavium (Livy), libri XXI — XLV * Pseudo-Lucian ''Makrobioi'' * Paulus Orosius libri VII of ''Histories against Pagans''


Modern sources

* Davidson, James: 'Polybius' in Feldherr, Andrew ed. ''The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Historians'' (Cambridge University Press, 2009) * *Gibson, Bruce & Harrison, Thomas (editors): ''Polybius and his World: Essays in Memory of F.W. Walbank'', (Oxford, 2013). * Momigliano, Arnaldo M.: ''Sesto Contributo alla Storia degli Studi Classici e del Mondo Antico'' (Rome, 1980) ** —— Vol. V (1974) "The Historian's Skin", 77–88 (Momigliano Bibliography no. 531) ** —— Vol. VI (1973) "Polibio, Posidonio e l'imperialismo Romano", 89 (Momigliano Bibliography no. 525) (original publication: ''Atti della Accademia delle Scienze di Torino'', 107, 1972–73, 693–707) * Moore, John M: ''The Manuscript Tradition of Polybius'' (Cambridge University Press, 1965) * Walbank, Frank W.: ** —— ''Philip V of Macedon'', the Hare Prize Essay 1939 (Cambridge University Press, 1940) ** —— ''A Historical Commentary on Polybius'' (Oxford University Press) *** Vol. I (1957) Commentary on Books I–VI *** Vol. II (1967) Commentary on Books VII–XVIII *** Vol. III (1979) Commentary on Books XIX–XL ** —— ''Polybius'' (University of California Press, 1972)


Further reading

* Champion, Craige B. 2004. ''Cultural Politics in Polybius's Histories.'' Berkeley: Univ. of California Press. * Derow, Peter S. 1979. "Polybius, Rome, and the East." ''Journal of Roman Studies'' 69:1–15. * Eckstein, Arthur M. 1995. ''Moral Vision in the Histories of Polybius.'' Berkeley: Univ. of California Press. * Farrington, Scott Thomas. 2015. "A Likely Story: Rhetoric and the Determination of Truth in Polybius' Histories. ''Histos: The On-Line Journal of Ancient Historiography'' 9: 29–66. * McGing, Brian C. 2010. ''Polybius: The Histories.'' Oxford Approaches to Classical Literature. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press. * Moore, Daniel Walker. 2017. "Learning from Experience: Polybius and the Progress of Rome." ''Classical Quarterly'' 67.1: 132–148. * Pausch, Dennis. 2014. "Livy Reading Polybius: Adapting Greek Narrative to Roman History." In ''Defining Greek Narrative.'' Edited by Douglas L. Cairns and Ruth Scodel, 279–297. Edinburgh : Edinburgh University Press. * Sacks, Kenneth S. 1981. ''Polybius on the Writing of History.'' Berkeley: Univ. of California Press. * Schepens, Guido, and Jan Bollansée, eds. 2005. ''The Shadow of Polybius: Intertextuality as a Research Tool in Greek Historiography.'' Leuven, Belgium: Peeters. * Walbank, Frank W. 2002. ''Polybius, Rome and the Hellenistic World: Essays and Reflections.'' Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.


External links

* * *
Works by Polybius at Perseus Digital Library
* {{Authority control 200s BC births 110s BC deaths 2nd-century BC Greek people 2nd-century BC historians Ancient Arcadians 2nd-century BC Ancient Greek statesmen Ancient Megalopolitans Hellenistic-era historians Historians of Roman Achaia Roman-era Greek historians Theoretical historians