Cultural Politics in Polybius's Histories

By Craige B. Champion | Go to book overview

APPENDIX C
ΛOΓIΣMOΣ in Polybius's Histories

Throughout this work I have maintained that a Polybian image of Romans (especially in their earlier history) is that of quasi Hellenes who possess the quintessential Hellenic virtue of reasoning power, or logismos. A key passage here is 2.35, where Polybius links the Roman defeat of the barbarian Gallic tribesmen with famous Greek victories over barbarian peoples and explicitly says that the decisive advantage of the victors was cool reasoning power (2.35.8–9:

).1 The ability to reason, to judge, and to maintain self-possession in the most parlous of times is the hallmark of Polybius's Hellenic virtue, and the historian explicitly states that Greeks excel over others in the ability to discern right action in any situation (5.90.8: ). But as we have seen, these virtues are not innate and immutable for any particular people in the historian's conception; institutional factors are the paramount causal determinant for the exercise of logismos in the Histories. Here Polybius's depiction of the non-Greek, non-Roman Hannibal is instructive. While the Polybian characterization of Hannibal is inconsistent (cf. 3.15.6–9: the raging, impetuous youth at New Carthage), it is noteworthy that Hannibal frequently displays the requisite virtues,2 and that he was the product of an organized politeia, which was sufficiently evolved to be included in the political analysis in book 6. These qualities—the exercise of rationality, levelheaded discernment, the ability to discriminate and to take the longer view of a situation, and control of shortsighted emotion and passion—are constituent elements of the semantic field of the substantive λoγισμoς in the Histories. The following is a word study of this key term and its substantive and verbal cognates, the purpose of which is to demonstrate the semantic range of Polybian λoγισμoς and thereby to justify my use of the word in a shorthand way to describe Roman and/or Greek (and very rarely barbarian) exhibition of these virtues, even in passages where Polybius does not explicitly use the term λoγισμoς.

____________________
1
See Champion 1996: 324–28.
2
Cf. Pédech 1964: 242–43, 376.

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