Halicarnassus (Greek: Διονύσιος
Αλεξάνδρου Αλικαρνασσεύς Dionysios Alexandrou
Alikarnassefs; "Dionysios son of Alexandros of Halikarnassos"; c. 60
BC – after 7 BC) was a Greek historian and teacher of rhetoric,
who flourished during the reign of Caesar Augustus. His literary style
was Atticistic — imitating Classical
Attic Greek in its prime.
Dionysius' opinion of the necessity of a promotion of paideia within
education, from true knowledge of Classical sources, endured for
centuries in a form integral to the identity of the Greek elite.
2.1 Dionysian imitatio
3 Foundation myth
Romulus and Remus
3.1.1 Origins and survival in the wild
3.1.3 Overthrow of Amulius
3.1.4 Death of Remus
3.2 Foundation of
Rome by Romulus
3.2.2 Legal system
3.2.3 Rape of the Sabine women
3.2.4 Deaths of
Tatius and Romulus
6 Further reading
7 External links
He was a Halicarnassusian. At some time he moved to
Rome after the
termination of the civil wars, and spent twenty-two years studying
Latin and literature and preparing materials for his history. During
this period, he gave lessons in rhetoric, and enjoyed the society of
many distinguished men. The date of his death is unknown. In the
19th century, it was commonly supposed that he was the ancestor of
Aelius Dionysius of Halicarnassus.
His major work, entitled Ρωμαϊκή Αρχαιολογία
(Romaiki Archeologia, Roman Antiquities), embraced the history of Rome
from the mythical period to the beginning of the First Punic War. It
was divided into twenty books, of which the first nine remain entire,
the tenth and eleventh are nearly complete, and the remaining books
exist in fragments in the excerpts of the Roman emperor Constantine
Porphyrogenitus and an epitome discovered by
Angelo Mai in a Milan
manuscript. The first three books of Appian, Plutarch's Life of
Camillus and Life of Coriolanus also embody much of
His chief object was to reconcile the
Greeks to the rule of Rome, by
dilating upon the good qualities of their conquerors and also by
arguing, using more ancient sources, that the Romans were genuine
descendants of the older Greeks. According to him, history is
philosophy teaching by examples, and this idea he has carried out from
the point of view of a Greek rhetorician. But he carefully consulted
the best authorities, and his work and that of
Livy are the only
connected and detailed extant accounts of early Roman history.
Dionysius was also the author of several rhetorical treatises, in
which he shows that he has thoroughly studied the best Attic models:
The Art of
Rhetoric (Τέχνη ρητορική Techni ritoriki),
which is rather a collection of essays on the theory of rhetoric,
incomplete, and certainly not all his work;
The Arrangement of Words (Περί συνθέσεως
ὀνομάτων Peri syntheseos onomaton, De compositione verborum),
treating of the combination of words according to the different styles
On Imitation (Περί μιμήσεως Peri mimiseos), on the best
models in the different kinds of literature and the way in which they
are to be imitated—a fragmentary work;
Commentaries on the Attic Orators (Περί τών Αττικών
ρητόρων Peri ton Attikon ritoron), which, however, only deal
with Lysias, Isaeus,
Isocrates and (by way of supplement) Dinarchus;
On the Admirable Style of
Demosthenes (Περί λεκτικής
Δημοσθένους δεινότητος Peri lektikis Dimosthenous
On the Character of Thucydides (Περί Θουκιδίδου
χαρακτήρος Peri Thoukydidou charaktiros).
The last two treatises are supplemented by letters to Gn. Pompeius and
Ammaeus (two, one of which is about Thucydides).
Main article: Dionysian imitatio
Dionysian imitatio is the literary method of imitation as formulated
by Dionysius, who conceived it as the rhetorical practice of
emulating, adapting, reworking, and enriching a source text by an
Dionysius' concept marked a significant departure from the concept of
mimesis formulated by
Aristotle in the 4th century BC, which was only
concerned with "imitation of nature" and not "imitation of other
Latin orators and rhetoricians adopted Dionysius' method
of imitatio and discarded Aristotle's mimesis.
Dionysius is one of the primary sources for the accounts of the Roman
foundation myth and the myth of
Romulus and Remus. He was heavily
relied upon for the later publications of
Livy and Plutarch[citation
needed]. He writes extensively on the myth, sometimes attributing
direct quotations to its figures. The myth spans the first 2 volumes
of his Roman Antiquities, beginning with Book I chapter 73 and
concluding in Book II chapter 56.
Romulus and Remus
Origins and survival in the wild
Dionysius claims that the twins were born to a vestal named Ilia
Silvia (sometimes called Rea). Her family descends from
Aeneas of Troy
and the daughter of King
Latinus of the Original
Latin tribes. Proca,
her grandfather had willed the throne to his son
Numitor but he was
later deposed by her uncle, Amulius. For fear of the threat that
Numitor's heirs might pose, the king had Ilia's brother, Aegestus
killed and blamed robbers. The truth about the crime was known by
some, including Numitor, who feigned ignorance.
Amulius then appointed
Ilia to the Vestal priestesshood, where her vow of chastity would
prevent her from producing any further male rivals. Despite this, she
became pregnant a few years later, claiming to have been raped.
The different accounts of the twins' conception are laid out, but
Dionysius declines to choose one over the others. The sources
variously relate that it was a suitor,
Amulius himself (in full armor
to conceal his identity), or even the god Mars himself. The latter is
supposed to have comforted Ilia by making her grieve, and telling her
that she would bear twins whose bravery and triumphs would be
unmatched. Ilia hid her pregnancy with claims of illness so as to
avoid her vestal duties.
Amulius suspected her and employed physicians
and his wife to monitor her for signs of being with child. When he did
discover the truth, she was placed under armed guard. After being
informed of the delivery of the twins,
Amulius suspected that she had
in fact given birth to triplets. The third child had been concealed
from the guards present. Ilia was either put to death, or kept
secretly in a hidden dungeon for the rest of her life.
Citing Fabius, Cincius, Porcius Cato, and Piso, Dionysius recounts the
most common tale. The king orders the twins to be tossed into the
Tiber. When his servants arrived at the riverbank, high waters had
made it impossible to reach the stream. They left the twin's basket in
a pool of standing water on the site of the ficus Ruminalis. After the
waters of the Tiber had carried the twins away, their basket is
overturned by a rock and they are dumped into the mud. A she-wolf
finds them there and nurses them in front of her lair (the Lupercal).
Plutarch places the
Lupercal as at the foot of Palantine hill along
the road to the Roman chariot grounds and was the source of a natural
The twins were discovered by unnamed herdsmen, and when they arrive,
the she-wolf calmly retreats into the cave. Faustulus, the man in
charge of the royal abattoir, happened upon the scene. He had heard
the story of Ilia's twin birth and the king's order, but never let on
that he suspected the foundlings were one and the same. He persuaded
the shepherds to allow him to take the boys home, and brought them to
his wife, who had just delivered a stillborn child. Later, quoting
Fabius' account of the overthrow of Amulius, Dionysius claims that
Faustulus had saved the basket in which the boys had been
As they grew, the boys exhibited the graces and behavior of the
royal-born. They passed their days living as herdsmen in the
mountains, spending many nights in huts of reeds and sticks.
Dionysius relates an alternate, "non-fantastical" version of Romulus
and Remus' birth, survival and youth. In this version,
to switch the twins at birth with two other infants. The twins were
delivered by their grandfather to
Faustulus to be fostered by him and
Faustulus was descended from the first Greek colonists in
Latium. He was the caretaker for Amulius' holdings around Palatine
hill. He was persuaded to care for the twins by his brother Faustinus,
who tended the kings herds on nearby Aventine hill.
Their adopted mother was Faustulus' wife Laurentia, a former
prostitute. According to Plutarch, lupa(
Latin for "wolf") was a common
term for members of her profession and this gave rise to the she-wolf
legend. The twins receive a proper education in the city of Gabii.
Overthrow of Amulius
According to Fabius, when the twins were 18, they became embroiled in
a violent disputes with some of Numitor's herdsmen. In retaliation,
Remus was lured into an ambush and capture while
elsewhere. In Aelius Tubero's version, the twins were taking part in
the festivities of the Lupercalia, requiring them to run naked through
the village when Remus, defenseless as he was, was taken prisoner by
Numitor's armed men.
After rounding up the toughest herdsmen to help him free Remus,
Romulus rashly set out for Alba Longa. To avoid tragedy, Faustulus
intercepted him and revealed the truth about the twins' parentage.
With the discovery that
Numitor was family,
Romulus sets his sights on
Amulius, instead. He and the rest of his village set out in small
groups toward the city so that their arrival will go unnoticed by the
guards. Meanwhile, after being turned over to
Numitor to determine his
punishment, Remus was told of his origins by the former king and
eagerly joins with him in their own effort to topple Amulius. When
Romulus joined them at Numitor's home, the three of them began to plan
their next move.
Faustulus had begun to worry about how the twins' claims
will be heard in Alba. He decides to bolster them by bringing the
basket in which they were abandoned to the city. He's stopped by
suspicious guards at the gates and he and the basket are seen by
none-other-than the servant who had taken them to the river those many
years before. Under the questioning of the king, and after the king's
insincere offers of benevolence toward his nephews, Faustulus, trying
Romulus and Remus, and escape the king's clutches, claimed
he had been bringing the basket to the imprisoned Ilia at the twins
request and that they were at the moment tending their flocks in the
Faustulus and his men to find the boys. He then tried to
Numitor into coming to the palace so that the former king could
be kept under guard until the situation had been dealt with.
Unfortunately for the king, the man he sent to lure
Numitor into his
clutches instead revealed everything that had happened at the palace.
The twins and their grandfather led their joint supporters to the
palace, killed Amulius, and took control of the city.
Plutarch continues the same alternate version of the twins' parentage
and youth. After the boys had returned home from their studies in
Numitor has the twins attack his own herdsmen and drive off his
own cattle to contrive a complaint against his brother. To placate
Amulius ordered not only the twins to be brought to the palace
for trial, but all the others who were present, as well. This is
Numitor had hoped for. When
Romulus and Remus
Romulus and Remus arrived in
Alba, their grandfather revealed their true identity and he, the twins
and the other herdsmen joined forces to attack Amulius, apparently
Death of Remus
The now re-installed King
Romulus and Remus
Romulus and Remus control
over the area around where
Rome would be founded, and sent some of
Alba Longa's commoners and nobles along with them. These included
volunteers as well as his enemies, and other troublemakers and fifty
families of the descendants of the
Greeks who had settled in Italy
after the Trojan War. The commoners were given provisions, weapons,
slaves and livestock.
Wanting to use competition to better complete the many tasks ahead of
them, each twin took command of half of the new group of colonists and
natives. Instead, the two groups each wanted their twin to be king.
Romulus and Remus
Romulus and Remus began to harbor their own ambitions
of being the sole ruler of the new city. Things came to a head when a
dispute broke out over the particular hill upon which
Rome should be
Romulus wanted to build on
Palatine Hill for its significance
to their childhood. Remus chose
Aventine Hill for its strategic
advantages. Finally, with no resolution in site, they took the matter
to Numitor. He told each twin to stake out a spot on an appointed
morning at dawn and wait for a "bird omen" from the gods to settle
They took his suggestion and the two brothers took their positions
along with guard to prevent cheating. No birds appeared to Romulus,
but he tried to trick Remus by sending a message that he should come
to him right away. Ashamed, the messengers took their time, and while
en route, Remus saw 6 vultures. The messengers brought Remus back to
his brother and when they arrived,
Romulus was asked what type of bird
he had seen (apparently owing to the ruse). Unsure,
suddenly saved by the sudden arrival of 12 vultures. He dismissed his
brother's query and declared himself the winner. Furious Remus refused
to accept defeat. This reignited the conflict between them.
Outwardly, each twin acknowledged the other's claim to having won:
Remus by seeing the vultures first, and
Romulus by seeing more of
them. Privately, however, neither was willing to give in. An armed
battle broke out between their followers resulting in deaths among
Faustulus was so distraught over his inability to end the strife
between his adopted sons that he threw himself into the middle of the
fighting and was killed. Remus also fell.
Romulus was devastated at
his personal losses as well as the many suffered by the twins'
followers. Only after the intervention of
Laurentia was he able to
return to the job of founding the city.
Other sources who are unnamed by
Plutarch claimed that despite his
anger over Romulus' conduct during the contest of the augury, Remus
conceded and the construction of the city began on Palatine Hill. Out
of resentment, he derided the city's newly-built walls and
demonstrated their ineffectiveness by leaping over them, saying that
an enemy of
Romulus could do the same. In response, Celer, the job's
foreman, killed him on the spot with a blow to the head and implied
that Remus himself had become his brother's enemy.
Rome by Romulus
Before construction on the city began
Romulus made sacrifices and
received good omens, and he then ordered the populace to ritually
atone for their guilt. The city's fortifications were first and then
housing for the populace. He assembles the people and gives them the
choice as to what type of government they want. After his address,
which extols Bravery in war abroad, and moderation at home, and in
Romulus denies any need to remain in power, the people decide to
remain a kingdom and ask him to remain its king. Before accepting he
looks for a sign of the approval of the gods. He prays, and witnesses
an auspicious lightning bolt, after which he declares that no king
shall take the throne without receiving approval from the gods.
Rome into 3 tribes, each selected a
Tribune in charge of
each. Each tribe was divided into 10 Curia, and each of those into
smaller units. He divided the kingdoms land holdings between them.
Plutarch suggests that Athenian institutions were the inspiration for
Romulus' creation of the Patrician class from the wealthy and
virtuous. Other sources cited claim All others Roman's formed the
Plebeian class. The Patricians were put in charge of religious, legal
and civil institutions, while the Plebs were to be farmers, herders
and tradesmen. Each curiae was responsible for provided soldiers in
the event of war.
To maintain order, every pleb had the right to choose a Patrician in a
system of patronage (clientela). All patrons (patronus) were required
to protect the rights and interests of those plebs (cliens) beneath
them. In return all plebs were required to support his patron in his
endeavors and assist him when needed. It was illegal for either party
to testify against one another or otherwise act against the interests
of the other.
Romulus then proceeded to establish the senate. Another
act that Dionysius attributes to Greek influence. He selected 300 of
the strongest and fittest among the nobles to become his personal
bodyguard and messengers. The celeres were so-named either for their
quickness, or, according to Valerius Antias, for their commander.
These were the first
Roman cavalry and were instrument in many Roman
Romulus then delimited the various powers of the institutions he had
created. The Roman king was made the ultimate authority in all
religious and legal matters. He would personally hear the cases of
"the greatest crimes" but after reaching a decision, his opinion would
be subject to approval by the people. He would be the commander in
chief of the military in wartime.
The senate would have the power to decide any matter or issue brought
to them by the king with a binding vote (attributed by Dionysius to
the Lacedaemonians. The popular assemblies had the power to elect
magistrates, pass laws and declare war at the king's discretion.
Romulus passed laws meant to encourage child-rearing. He welcomed free
men of any background to settle in the new city with promises of
citizenship and an offer of protection from those from home who might
be pursuing them. Immigrants flocked to
Rome as a result.
also benefit from their practice of sending colonists to newly
conquered cities and allowing the subjugated to carry on as they had
before. More common in the Greek world was to treat those they
Rome grew 10 times during Romulus' reign.
In an extensive exploration of the various, lurid traditions of the
day, Dionysius effusively praises the manner in which Romulus'
organized and established Rome's religious customs and practices. He
attributes to the king everything from the founding of temples, to
defining the sphere of individual gods, their festivals and the
blessings they would each bestow. Among the Greek and native
traditions, he kept only those he deemed worthy and rejected any that
were too unseemly or otherwise unfit for Roman society.
According to Terentius Varro,
Romulus appointed a large number of
Roman men and women to religious office during his reign. He also
allowed the various curia to select their own. He adopted the Greek
practice of appointing children to participate in the city's
ceremonies. He established an office of augury, who would ensure the
approval of the gods during all worship undertaken. Each curia was
required to sacrifice and give offerings in a way so specified. He
established budgets for religious practice in the city.
Bernard van Orley -
Romulus Gives Laws to the Roman People - WGA16696
Again, Dionysius thoroughly describes the laws of other nations before
contrasting the approach of
Romulus and lauding his work. The Roman
law governing marriage is, according to his Antiquities an elegant yet
simple improvement over that of other nations, most of which he
harshly derides. By declaring that wives would share equally in the
possessions and conduct of their husband,
Romulus promoted virtue in
the former and deterred mistreatment by the latter. Wives could
inherit upon their husband's birth. A wife's adultery was a serious
crime, however, drunkenness could be a mitigating factor in
determining the appropriate punishment. Because of his laws, Dionysius
claims, not a single Roman couple divorced for the next 5 centuries.
His laws governing parental rights, in particular those that allow
fathers to maintain power over their adult children were an
improvement over those of others.
Under the laws of Romulus, native-born free Roman's were limited to
two forms of employment: farming and the army. All other occupations
were filled by slaves or non-Roman labor.
Romulus used the trappings of his office, to encourage compliance with
the law. His court was imposing and filled with loyal soldiers and he
was always accompanied by the 12 lictors appointed to be his
Rape of the Sabine women
Further information: Battle of the Lacus Curtius
According to Gnaeus Gellius, in Romulus' fourth year in power, the
recently founded city of Rome, its population swollen with immigrants
found itself surrounded by unfriendly neighbors and short of
Romulus sought to solve both problems through
intermarrying with the other cities in the region, but he was
rebuffed. His solution having been approved by his grandfather,
received the auspices of the gods, and the support of the senate began
with the announcement of a spectacular festival and competitions to
honor the god Neptune, and to which all of Rome's neighbors were
welcome. They came from far and wide, sometimes entire families, to
attend and participate.
On the king's signal, Romans began abducting the young women in
attendance much to the shock and horror of their guests. Later, the
women are brought before him where he assures them that he and the
other men of
Rome intend to honorably marry them and that they won't
be sexually exploited in any way. This eases their fears.
The cities of Caenina, Crustumerium, and
Antemnae petition Tatius,
king of the
Sabines to lead a joint attack in response to the
kidnappings. Their goal was stymied by Rome's own diplomatic efforts
and the other three cities eventually concluded that
delaying any action on purpose. They decided to attack
Sabines and their armies are defeated and their cities captured
each in turn.
The wars that resulted from the mass abduction committed by the Romans
came to a climax in an epic battle fought at the foot of the
Capitoline Hill. After the
Sabines had captured the Roman Citadel
through guile, they occupied the most strategically important point in
the city with the help, knowing or otherwise, of Tarpeia. After
several skirmishes and minor engagements, the armies fought two
pitched battles featuring valor and losses to both sides.
The Intervention of the Sabine Women, by Jacques-Louis David, 1799
In the course of the battle, both sides found themselves on the verge
of defeat, only to turn the tide back in the nick of time. Romulus
himself was injured by a rock to the head. The fighting ceased only by
the coming of dusk. Afterwards, the Sabine women, led by the noble
Hersilia, convinced the two kings to make peace.
After a ceasefire, the nations agreed to become a single kingdom under
the joint rule of
Romulus and Tatius. The city was expanded and its
institutions were adjusted to accommodate the new increase in
population and to demonstrate their mutual good will. The joint
kingship lasted for four years until the death of Tatius. During this
time they conquered the
Camerini and made their city a Roman colony.
Tatius and Romulus
The two peoples are merged under a joint throne with
Rome as the
Sabines and Romans alike were then declared Quirites,
from the Sabine city of Cures. To honor the Sabine women, when Romulus
divided the city into 30 local councils, he named them after the
women. He also recruits three new units of knights and called them
Ramnenses Tatiensis (from the two kings names).
Some of Tatius' friends victimized some Laurentii and when the city
sent ambassadors to demand justice,
Tatius would not allow Romulus
hand over the perpetrators over to them. A group of
Sabines waylay the
ambassadors as they sleep on the way home. Some escape and when word
gets back to Rome,
Romulus promptly turns the men
respsonsible—including one of Tatius' family members—over to a new
group of ambassadors.
Tatius follows the group out of the city and
frees the accused men by force. Later, while both kings are
participating in a sacrifice in
Lavinium he is killed in retribution.
The account of
Licinius Macer recounts that
Tatius was killed when he
went alone to try and convince the victims in
Lavinium to forgive the
crimes committed. When they discovered he had not brought the men
responsible with him, as the senate and
Romulus had ordered, an angry
mob stones him to death.
After his rule had turned more dictatorial,
Romulus met his end.
Either through actions divine or earthly. According to some reports,
Romulus is swept up into heaven, where he takes his place among the
gods as Quirinus. Others point to the hands of the nobility, who had
grown ever more resentful of their treatment by king.
Collected Works edited by
Friedrich Sylburg (1536–1596) (parallel
Greek and Latin) (Frankfurt 1586) (available at Google Books)
Complete edition by
Johann Jakob Reiske
Johann Jakob Reiske (1774–1777)
Archaeologia by A. Kiessling (1860-1870) (vol. 1, vol. 2, vol. 3, vol.
4) and V. Prou (1886) and C. Jacoby (1885–1925) (vol. 1, vol. 2,
vol. 3, vol. 4, supplementum) 
Hermann Usener and
Ludwig Radermacher (1899-1929) in
Teubner series (vol. 1 contains Commentaries on the Attic Orators,
Letter to Ammaeus, On the Admirable Style of Demosthenes, On the
Character of Thucydides, Letter to Ammaeus about Thucydides, vol. 2
contains The Arrangement of Words, On Imitation, Letter to Gn.
Pompeius, The Art of Rhetoric, Fragments)
Roman Antiquities by V. Fromentin and J. H. Sautel (1998–), and
Opuscula rhetorica by Aujac (1978–), in the Collection Budé
English translation by
Edward Spelman (1758) (available at Google
Trans. Earnest Cary, Harvard University Press, Loeb Classical Library:
Roman Antiquities, I, 1937.
Roman Antiquities, II, 1939.
Roman Antiquities, III, 1940.
Roman Antiquities, IV, 1943.
Roman Antiquities, V, 1945.
Roman Antiquities, VI, 1947.
Roman Antiquities, VII, 1950.
Trans. Stephen Usher, Critical Essays, I, Harvard University Press,
1974, ISBN 978-0-674-99512-3
Trans. Stephen Usher, Critical Essays, II, Harvard University Press,
1985, ISBN 978-0-674-99513-0
^ a b T. Hidber. Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece (p.229).
Oct 2013, 832 pages, ISBN 1136787992, (editor N. Wilson).
^ a b One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates
text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh,
ed. (1911). "Dionysius Halicarnassensis". Encyclopædia Britannica. 8
(11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 285–286.
^ Schmitz, Leonhard (1867), "Dionysius, Aelius", in Smith, William,
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, 1, Boston,
^ Dionysius of Halicarnassus. "The Roman Antiquities (Loeb Classical
Library edition, 1937), Book 1, 11". Penelope, University of Chicago.
Retrieved January 12, 2013.
^ E. Gabba, Dionysius and the History of Archaic
Rome (Berkeley 1991)
^ a b c Ruthven (1979) pp. 103–4
^ Jansen (2008)
^ In his account of the conflict with Amulius,
Livy claims that
Faustulus, had always known that the boys had been abandoned by the
order of the king and had hoped that they are of Royal blood,
^ a b c Chisholm 1911.
Library resources about
Dionysius of Halicarnassus
Resources in your library
Resources in other libraries
By Dionysius of Halicarnassus
Resources in your library
Resources in other libraries
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Halicarnassus: A study in the development of critical method.
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
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de Jonge, Casper Constantijn. 2008. Between Grammar and Rhetoric:
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commentary, by W. Kendrick Pritchett. Berkeley and London: Univ. of
Gabba, Emilio. 1991. Dionysius and the history of archaic Rome.
Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.
Gallia, Andrew B. 2007. "Reassessing the 'Cumaean Chronicle': Greek
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of Roman Studies 97: 50–67.
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Rhetoric and speeches in Hellenistic
historiography." Athenaeum 74: 383–95.
Usher, S. 1974–1985. Dionysius of Halicarnassus: The critical
essays. 2 vols. Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard Univ. Press.
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identity in Dionysius of Halicarnassus. Berlin and New York: De
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Rutgers University Studies in Classical Humanities 6. New Brunswick,
English translation of the Antiquities (at LacusCurtius)
1586 Edition with the original Greek from the Internet Archive
Greek text and French translation
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