2
The Historian’s Task

As we have already observed, Polybius says more about writing history, and is more opinionated on the subject, than any other surviving historian from antiquity. Scope and subject matter, drama, rhetoric and speeches, usefulness and truth, methodology, causation, the qualifications needed by the historian, analysis of predecessors’ works, the role of Fate—these and many other matters come under his careful scrutiny. His most concentrated analysis of how to write history (and how not to write it) comes in book 12, which is entirely devoted to the subject, although it is not at all clear whether its main purpose is to attack the Sicilian historian Timaeus or to set out in a more constructive way Polybius’ own views on the writing of history. In any case, important thoughts are also scattered throughout the work, wherever he allows the context to lead him into consideration of the issues. Although not all his views are admired for their sophistication or consistency, this aspect of Polybius makes him particularly fascinating for us, if only because so few other historians of the ancient world have much to say about what they thought they were doing or should be doing.

-51-

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Polybius' Histories
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Editors’ Foreword v
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Maps xi
  • Contents xv
  • Introduction 3
  • 1- Contents and Organization of the Work 17
  • 2- The Historian’s Task 51
  • 3- Art and History- The Narrative of Books 4 and 5 95
  • 4- The Historian as Homeric Hero 129
  • 5- The Political Theorizing of Book 6 169
  • Epilogue- into the Future 203
  • Appendix- Outline of the Work 223
  • Bibliography 241
  • Prominent Persons 247
  • Index 257
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