Although the city-states of ancient Greece had lost
their political independence by the first century
B.C., their culture remained intellectually vibrant,
producing many great writers and thinkers; in particular,
Greek historical writing continued to flourish.
One of the Greek historians who lived and
worked during the time of Roman domination was
Diodorus was originally from Agyrium, a Greek
city on the island of Sicily.He lived during the time
of Julius CAESAR, AUGUSTUS, Mark Antony, and
Cleopatra, and traveled extensively throughout his
life in Asia, Egypt, Europe, and other countries, living
part of the time in Rome. He is known today
for the massive history he composed, titled Bibliotheca
Historica (Historical Library). This work was
nothing less than a massive effort to record the
universal history of the part of the world known to
Greeks and Romans. In Bibliotheca Historica,
Diodorus discusses the ancient civilizations of
Egypt, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean.
It took Diodorus approximately 30 years to
compile Bibliotheca Historica. He divided it into 40
volumes, beginning with the mythical origins of
various civilizations and continuing until his own
time. Many of these volumes have vanished, and
only fragments exist of others. Volumes one
through five and 11 through 20 have survived
Compared to other classical historians, such as
HERODOTUS and THUCYDIDES, Diodorus is not particularly
skilled as a historian, showing minimal
understanding of historical cause and effect and
making little effort to substantiate his claims.Nevertheless,
his work is important for the information
it provides on the people, culture, and events
of ancient civilization, including Alexander the
Great, Ptolemy, Eumenes,Macedonius,Antigonus,
the Gallic Wars, India, Iran, and details of the first
few years of the Roman Empire. Bibliotheca Historica
also provides information on the now-lost
written works of Hecataeus of Abdera,Ctesias, and
Megasthenes, and draws on other histories (such as
those written by Ephorus, Philistus, Hieronymus
of Cardia, Timaeus, Philinus, and Posidonius),
thus giving historians a means by which they can
compare and confirm historical information. The
Bibliotheca Historica is also important for the vast
amount of information Diodorus provides on
Sicily, information that would otherwise be lost.
English Versions of Works by Diodorus
Antiquities of Egypt: A Translation, with Notes, of Book
I of the Library of History of Diodorus Siculus.
Translated by Edwin W. Murphy. Somerset, N.J.:
Transaction Publishers, 1990.
Diodorus Siculus: The Reign of Philip. Translated by E.
I.McQueen. London: Bristol Classical Press, 1995.
Works about Diodorus
Sacks, Kenneth S. Diodorus Siculus and the First Century.
Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press,
Stylianou, P. J. Historical Commentary on Diodorus
Siculus: Book 15. Oxford: Oxford University Press,