Polybius (pōlĬ´bēəs), 203? BC–c.120 BC, Greek historian, b. Megalopolis. As one of the leaders of the Achaean League and a friend of Philopoemen, he was influential in Greek politics. Having advocated the neutral stand of the League in the war between Rome and Macedon, he was deported (167 BC) with a large number of Achaeans to Rome after the Roman victory over Macedon. He obtained the protection of Aemilius Paullus and of the Scipio family, and under their patronage he undertook several voyages, notably one to Achaea, where he sought to win favor for the Roman government. It was also under the Scipios' patronage that Polybius undertook his universal history, one of the great historical works of all time (see tr. by W. R. Paton in the Loeb Classical Library, 6 vol., 1954). Of the 40 books only the first five survive intact; of the rest there are generous fragments. It was Polybius' chief aim to trace for his contemporaries the causes of the sudden rise of Rome; his history covered the Mediterranean world from before 220 BC to 146 BC A historian of the school of Thucydides, Polybius spared no efforts in his research for detail, accuracy, and unbiased truth, but as a great admirer of Rome, he could not, however, avoid a measure of partiality. His presentation is nevertheless soberly analytical and devoid of rhetoric. Not content with setting forth the facts, Polybius stopped his narrative to insert general discussions on the purpose of history writing (which he considered, like Thucydides, a guide to political conduct), on the principles of the Roman state, and on other broad subjects.

See studies by K. Von Fritz (1954) and F. W. Walbank (1973); F. W. Walbank, A Historical Commentary on Polybius (Vol. I, 1957; Vol. II, 1967; Vol. III, 1974).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Polybius: Selected full-text books and articles

Polybius' Histories By Brian McGing Oxford University Press, 2010
FREE! The Histories of Polybius By Polybius; Evelyn S. Shuckburgh MacMillan, vol.1, 1889
FREE! The Histories of Polybius By Evelyn S. Shuckburgh MacMillan, vol.2, 1889
Cultural Politics in Polybius's Histories By Craige B. Champion University of California Press, 2004
The Greek Historians By T. J. Luce Routledge, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "Polybius"
Greek Historiography By Simon Hornblower Clarendon Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Historical Explanation: Polybius and His Predecessors"
The Ancient Greek Historians By J. B. Bury Dover, 1958
Librarian’s tip: Lecture VI "Polybius"
FREE! Greek Life and Thought: From the Age of Alexander to the Roman Conquest By J. P. Mahaffy MacMillan, 1887
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 22 "Polybius and His Age"
The Constitution of the Roman Republic By Andrew Lintott Clarendon Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Polybius and the Constitution"
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