The Ancient Library

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The excerpta, which A. Mai has published from a Vatican MS., and which belonged to a work contain­ing the history from the time of Valerian down to the time of Constantine the Great, bear indeed the name of Dion Cassius, but are in all probability taken from the work of a Christian writer, who continued the work of Dion, and A. Mai is in­clined to think that this continuation was the work of Joannes Antiochenus. Dion Cassius himself (Ixxii. 18) intimates, that he treated the history of republican Rome briefly, but that he endeavoured to give a more minute and detailed account of those events of which he had himself been an eye­witness. Unfortunately, only a comparatively small portion of this work has come down to us entire. Of the first thirty-four books we possess only fragments, and the Excerpta, which Ursinus, Valesius, and A. Mai have successively published from the collections made by the command of Con­stantine Porphyrogenitus. A few more fragments have recently been published by F. Haase (Dionis Cassii librorum deperditorum Fragmenta, Bonn, 1840, 8vo.), who found them in a Paris MS. It must further be observed, that Zonaras, in his Annals, chiefly, though not solely, followed the authority of Dion Cassius, so that, to some ex­tent, his Ammls may be regarded as an epi­tome of Dion Cassius. There is a considerable fragment commonly considered as a part of the 35th book, which however more probably belongs to the 36th, and from this book onward to the 54th the work is extant complete, and embraces the history from the wars of Lucullus and Cn. Pompey against Mithridates, down to the death of Agrippa, ». c. 10. The subsequent books, from 55 to 60, have not come to us in their original form, for there are several passages quoted from these books which are not now to be found in them; and we there­fore have in all probability only an abridgment made by some one either before or after the time of Xiphilinus. From book 61 to 80 we have only the abridgment made by Xiphilinus in the eleventh century, and some other epitomes which were probably made by the same person who epi­tomized the portion from the 55th to the 60th book. A considerable fragment of the 71st book was found by A. Mai in a Latin translation in the Vatican library, of which a German version was published anonymously (Braunschweig, 1832, 8vo,); but its genuineness is not quite established. Another important fragment of the 75th book was discovered by J. Morelli, and printed first at Bas-sano, and afterwards (1800) at Paris, in folio, uniform with Reimarus's edition of Dion Cassius.

Notwithstanding these great losses, we possess a sufficient portion of the work to enable us to form a correct estimate of its value. It contains an abundance of materials for the later history of the republic and for a considerable period of the empire, for some portions of which it is our only source of information. In the first of the fragments published by A. Mai, Dion distinctly states, that he had read nearly everything which had been written on the history of Rome, and that he did not, like a mere compiler, put together what he found ^in other writers, but that he weighed his authorities, and exercised his judgment in selecting what he thought fit for a place in his work. This assertion of the author himself is perfectly justified by the nature and character of his history, for it is manifest everywhere that he had acquired a tho-


rough knowledge of his subject, and that his no-' tions of Roman life and Roman institutions were far more correct than those of some of his pre­decessors, such as Dionysius of Halicarnassus. Whenever he is led into error, it is generally owing to his not having access to authentic sources, and to his being obliged to satisfy him­self with secondary ones. It must also be borne in mind, as Dion himself observes (liii. 19), that the history of thu empire presented much more difficulties to the historian than that of the re­public. In those parts in which he relates contem­porary events, his work forms a sort of medium between real history and mere memoirs of the emperors. His object was to give a record as com -plete and as accurate as possible of all the impor­tant events; but his work is not on that account a dry chronological catalogue of events, for he en deavours, like Thucydides, Polybius, and Tacitus, to trace the events to their causes, and to make us see the motives of men's actions. In his endea­vours to make us see the connexions of occurrences he sometimes even neglects the chronological order, like his great models. But with all these excel­lences, Dion Cassius is the equal neither of Thucy­dides nor of Tacitus, though we may admit that his faults are to a great extent rather those of his age than of his individual character as an historian. He had been trained in the schools of the rhetori­cians, and the consequences of it are visible in his history, which is not free from a rhetorical tinge, especially in the speeches which are introduced in it. They may not be pure inventions, and may have an historical groundwork, but their form is rhetorical ; though we must own that they are among the best rhetorical productions of the time. In the formation of his style he appears to have endeavoured to imitate the classic writers of ancient Greece ; but his language is nevertheless full of pe­culiarities, barbarisms, and Latinisms, probably the consequence of his long residence in Italy; and the praise which Photius (BibL Cod. 71) bestows upon him for the clearness of his style, must be greatly modified, for it is often harsh and heavy, and Dion seems to have written as he spoke, without any attempt at elegance or refinement. (See the excel­lent essay of Reimarus, De Vita et Scriptis Cassii Dionis, appended to his edition; R. Wilmans, De Fontibus et Auctoritate Dionis Cassii^ Berlin, 1835, 8vo.; Schlosser, in a dissertation prefixed to Lo-renz's German translation of Dion, Jena, 1826, 3 vols. 8vo.; and the brief but admirable character­istic of Dion by Niebuhr in his " Lectures on Roman Hist." edited by Dr. Schmitz, i. pp. 72—78.)

The work of Dion Cassius was first published in a Latin translation by N. Leonicenus, Venice, 1526; and the first edition of the Greek original is that of R. Stephens (Paris, 1548, fol.), which contains from book 35 to 60. H. Stephens then gave a new edition with a Latin translation by Xylander. (Geneva, 1591, fol.) The epitome of Xiphilinus from book 60 to 80 was first printed in the edition of Leunclavius. (Frankfurt, 1592, and Hanau, 1606, fol.) After the fragments and eclogae collected by Ursinus and Valesius had been published, J. A. Fabricius formed the plan of preparing a complete and comprehensive edition of Dion Cassius; but his death prevented the completion of his plan, which was carried out by his son-in-law, H. S. Reimarus, who published his edition at Hamburg, 1750—52, in 2 vols. fol,

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