Polybius (/pəˈlɪbiəs/; Greek: Πολύβιος, Polýbios; c. 208 – c. 125 BC) was a Greek historian of the Hellenistic period noted for his work The Histories, which covered the period of 264–146 BC in detail. The work describes the rise of the Roman Republic to the status of dominance in the ancient Mediterranean world and includes his eyewitness account of the Sack of Carthage in 146 BC.

Polybius is important for his analysis of the mixed constitution or the separation of powers in government, which was influential on Montesquieu's The Spirit of the Laws and the framers of the United States Constitution.

Stele des Polybios
The stele of Kleitor depicting Polybius, Hellenistic art, 2nd century BC, Museum of Roman Civilization[1]
Bornc. 208 BC
Diedc. 125 BC
Known forThe Histories, events of the Roman Republic, 220–146 BC
Scientific career
InfluencedAll historians of the Roman Republic during and after his time


Polybius was born around 208 BC in Megalopolis, Arcadia, when it was an active member of the Achaean League. His father, Lycortas, was a prominent, land-owning politician and member of the governing class who became strategos (commanding general) of the Achaean League.[2] Consequently, Polybius was able to observe first hand the political and military affairs of Megalopolis. He developed an interest in horse riding and hunting, diversions that later commended him to his Roman captors.

In 182 BC, he was given quite an honor when he was chosen to carry the funeral urn of Philopoemen, one of the most eminent Achaean politicians of his generation. In either 169 BC or 170 BC, Polybius was elected hipparchus (cavalry officer), an event which often presaged election to the annual strategia (chief generalship). His early political career was devoted largely towards maintaining the independence of Megalopolis.

Personal experiences

Polybius’ father, Lycortas, was a prominent advocate of neutrality during the Roman war against Perseus of Macedon. Lycortas attracted the suspicion of the Romans, and Polybius subsequently was one of the 1,000 Achaean nobles who were transported to Rome as hostages in 167 BC, and was detained there for 17 years. In Rome, by virtue of his high culture, Polybius was admitted to the most distinguished houses, in particular to that of Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus, the conqueror in the Third Macedonian War, who entrusted Polybius with the education of his sons, Fabius and Scipio Aemilianus (who had been adopted by the eldest son of Scipio Africanus). Polybius remained on cordial terms with his former pupil Scipio Aemilianus and was among the members of the Scipionic Circle.

When Scipio defeated the Carthaginians in the Third Punic War, Polybius remained his counsellor. The Achaean hostages were released in 150 BC, and Polybius was granted leave to return home, but the next year he went on campaign with Scipio Aemilianus to Africa, and was present at the Sack of Carthage in 146, which he later described. Following the destruction of Carthage, Polybius likely journeyed along the Atlantic coast of Africa, as well as Spain.

After the destruction of Corinth in the same year, Polybius returned to Greece, making use of his Roman connections to lighten the conditions there. Polybius was charged with the difficult task of organizing the new form of government in the Greek cities, and in this office he gained great recognition.

At Rome

In the succeeding years, Polybius resided in Rome, completing his historical work while occasionally undertaking long journeys through the Mediterranean countries in the furtherance of his history, in particular with the aim of obtaining firsthand knowledge of historical sites. He apparently interviewed veterans to clarify details of the events he was recording and was similarly given access to archival material. Little is known of Polybius' later life; he most likely accompanied Scipio to Spain, acting as his military advisor during the Numantine War.

He later wrote about this war in a lost monograph. Polybius probably returned to Greece later in his life, as evidenced by the many existent inscriptions and statues of him there. The last event mentioned in his Histories seems to be the construction of the Via Domitia in southern France in 118 BC, which suggests the writings of Pseudo-Lucian may have some grounding in fact when they state, "[Polybius] fell from his horse while riding up from the country, fell ill as a result and died at the age of eighty-two".

The Histories

Polybius’ Histories cover the period from 264 BC to 146 BC. Its main focus is the period from 220 BC to 167 BC, describing Rome's efforts in subduing its arch-enemy, Carthage, and thereby becoming the dominant Mediterranean force. Books I through V of The Histories are the introduction for the years during his lifetime, describing the politics in leading Mediterranean states, including ancient Greece and Egypt, and culminating in their ultimate συμπλοκή or interconnectedness. In Book VI, Polybius describes the political, military, and moral institutions that allowed the Romans to succeed. He describes the First and Second Punic Wars. Polybius concludes the Romans are the pre-eminent power because they have customs and institutions which promote a deep desire for noble acts, a love of virtue, piety towards parents and elders, and a fear of the gods (deisidaimonia).

He also chronicled the conflicts between Hannibal and Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus such as the Battle of Ticinus, the Battle of the Trebia, the Siege of Saguntum, the Battle of Lilybaeum, and the Battle of Rhone Crossing. In Book XII, Polybius discusses the worth of Timaeus’ account of the same period of history. He asserts Timaeus' point of view is inaccurate, invalid, and biased in favor of Rome. Therefore, Polybius's Histories is also useful in analyzing the different Hellenistic versions of history and of use as a credible illustration of actual events during the Hellenistic period.


In the seventh volume of his Histories, Polybius defines the historian's job as the analysis of documentation, the review of relevant geographical information, and political experience. Polybius held that historians should only chronicle events whose participants the historian was able to interview, and was among the first to champion the notion of factual integrity in historical writing. In Polybius' time, the profession of a historian required political experience (which aided in differentiating between fact and fiction) and familiarity with the geography surrounding one's subject matter to supply an accurate version of events.

Polybius himself exemplified these principles as he was well travelled and possessed political and military experience. He did not neglect written sources that proved essential material for his histories of the period from 264 BC to 220 BC. When addressing events after 220 BC, he examined the writings of Greek and Roman historians to acquire credible sources of information, but rarely did he name those sources.

As historian

Polybius wrote several works, the majority of which are lost. His earliest work was a biography of the Greek statesman Philopoemen; this work was later used as a source by Plutarch when composing his Parallel Lives, however the original Polybian text is lost. In addition, Polybius wrote an extensive treatise entitled Tactics, which may have detailed Roman and Greek military tactics. Small parts of this work may survive in his major Histories, but the work itself is lost, as well. Another missing work was a historical monograph on the events of the Numantine War. The largest Polybian work was, of course, his Histories, of which only the first five books survive entirely intact, along with a large portion of the sixth book and fragments of the rest. Along with Cato the Elder (234–149 BC), he can be considered one of the founding fathers of Roman historiography.

Livy made reference to and uses Polybius' Histories as source material in his own narrative. Polybius was among the first historians to attempt to present history as a sequence of causes and effects, based upon a careful examination and criticism of tradition. He narrated his history based upon first-hand knowledge. The Histories capture the varied elements of the story of human behavior: nationalism, xenophobia, duplicitous politics, war, brutality, loyalty, valour, intelligence, reason, and resourcefulness.

Aside from the narrative of the historical events, Polybius also included three books of digressions. Book 34 was entirely devoted to questions of geography and included some trenchant criticisms of Eratosthenes, whom he accused of passing on popular preconceptions or laodogmatika. Book 12 was a disquisition on the writing of history, citing extensive passages of lost historians, such as Callisthenes and Theopompus. Most influential was Book 6, which describes Roman political, military, and moral institutions, which he considered key to Rome's success; it presented Rome as having a mixed constitution in which monarchical, aristocratic, and popular elements existed in stable equilibrium. This enabled Rome to escape, for the time being, the cycle of eternal revolutions (anacyclosis). While Polybius was not the first to advance this view, his account provides the most cogent illustration of the ideal for later political theorists.

A key theme of The Histories is the good statesman as virtuous and composed. The character of the Polybian statesman is exemplified in that of Philip II. His beliefs about Philip's character led Polybius to reject historian Theopompus' description of Philip's private, drunken debauchery. For Polybius, it was inconceivable that such an able and effective statesman could have had an immoral and unrestrained private life as described by Theopompus.[3] In recounting the Roman Republic, Polybius stated that "the Senate stands in awe of the multitude, and cannot neglect the feelings of the people".[4]

Other important themes running through The Histories are the role of Fortune in the affairs of nations, his insistence that history should be demonstratory, or apodeiktike, providing lessons for statesmen, and that historians should be "men of action" (pragmatikoi).

Polybius is considered by some to be the successor of Thucydides in terms of objectivity and critical reasoning, and the forefather of scholarly, painstaking historical research in the modern scientific sense. According to this view, his work sets forth the course of history's occurrences with clearness, penetration, sound judgment, and, among the circumstances affecting the outcomes, he lays special emphasis on geographical conditions. Modern historians are especially impressed with the manner in which Polybius used his sources, particularly documentary evidence as well as his citation and quotation of sources. Furthermore, there is some admiration of Polybius's meditation on the nature of historiography in Book 12. His work belongs, therefore, amongst the greatest productions of ancient historical writing. The writer of the Oxford Companion to Classical Literature (1937) praises him for his "earnest devotion to truth" and his systematic pursuit of causation.

It has long been acknowledged that Polybius's writings are prone to a certain hagiographic tone when writing of his friends, such as Scipio, and subject to a vindictive tone when detailing the exploits of his enemies, such as Callicrates, the Achaean statesman responsible for his Roman exile.[5]

As a hostage in Rome, then as client to the Scipios, and after 146 BC, a collaborator with Roman rule, Polybius was probably in no position to freely express any negative opinions of Rome. Peter Green advises that Polybius was chronicling Roman history for a Greek audience, to justify what he believed to be the inevitability of Roman rule. Nonetheless, Green considers Polybius's Histories the best source for the era they cover. For Ronald Mellor, Polybius was a loyal partisan of Scipio, intent on vilifying his patron's opponents.[6] Adrian Goldsworthy, while using Polybius as a source for Scipio's generalship, notes Polybius' underlying and overt bias in Scipio's favour. H. Ormerod considers that Polybius cannot be regarded as an 'altogether unprejudiced witness' in relation to his betes noires; the Aetolians, the Carthaginians, and the Cretans.[7] Other historians perceive considerable negative bias in Polybius' account of Crete;[8] on the other hand, Hansen notes that the same work, along with passages from Strabo and Scylax,[9] proved a reliable guide in the eventual rediscovery of the lost city of Kydonia.[10]


Polybius was responsible for a useful tool in telegraphy that allowed letters to be easily signaled using a numerical system (mentioned in Hist. X.45.6 ff.). This idea also lends itself to cryptographic manipulation and steganography.

1 2 3 4 5
1 A B C D E
2 F G H I/J K
3 L M N O P
4 Q R S T U
5 V W X Y Z

This was known as the "Polybius square", where the letters of the alphabet were arranged left to right, top to bottom in a 5 x 5 square, (when used with the modern 26 letter alphabet, the letters "I" and "J" are combined). Five numbers were then aligned on the outside top of the square, and five numbers on the left side of the square vertically. Usually these numbers were arranged 1 through 5. By cross-referencing the two numbers along the grid of the square, a letter could be deduced.

In The Histories, he specifies how this cypher could be used in fire signals, where long-range messages could be sent by means of torches raised and lowered to signify the column and row of each letter. This was a great leap forward from previous fire signaling, which could send prearranged codes only (such as, 'if we light the fire, it means that the enemy has arrived').

Other writings of scientific interest include detailed discussions of the machines Archimedes created for the defense of Syracuse against the Romans, where he praises the 'old man' and his engineering in the highest terms, and an analysis of the usefulness of astronomy to generals (both in the Histories).


Cicero - Musei Capitolini
Marcus Tullius Cicero

Polybius was considered a poor stylist by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, writing of Polybius' history that "no one has the endurance to reach [its] end".[11] Nevertheless, clearly he was widely read by Romans and Greeks alike. He is quoted extensively by Strabo writing in the 1st century BC and Athenaeus in the 3rd century AD.

His emphasis on explaining causes of events, rather than just recounting events, influenced the historian Sempronius Asellio. Polybius is mentioned by Cicero and mined for information by Diodorus, Livy, Plutarch and Arrian. Much of the text that survives today from the later books of The Histories was preserved in Byzantine anthologies.

Charles Montesquieu

His works reappeared in the West first in Renaissance Florence. Polybius gained a following in Italy, and although poor Latin translations hampered proper scholarship on his works, they contributed to the city's historical and political discourse. Niccolò Machiavelli in his Discourses on Livy evinces familiarity with Polybius. Vernacular translations in French, German, Italian and English first appeared during the 16th century.[12] Consequently, in the late 16th century, Polybius's works found a greater reading audience among the learned public. Study of the correspondence of such men as Isaac Casaubon, Jacques Auguste de Thou, William Camden, and Paolo Sarpi reveals a growing interest in Polybius' works and thought during the period. Despite the existence of both printed editions in the vernacular and increased scholarly interest, however, Polybius remained an "historian's historian", not much read by the public at large.[13]

Printings of his work in the vernacular remained few in number — seven in French, five in English, and five in Italian.[14] Polybius' political analysis has influenced republican thinkers from Cicero to Charles de Montesquieu to the Founding Fathers of the United States.[15] John Adams, for example, considered him one of the most important teachers of constitutional theory. Since the Age of Enlightenment, Polybius has in general held appeal to those interested in Hellenistic Greece and early Republican Rome, while his political and military writings have lost influence in academia. More recently, thorough work on the Greek text of Polybius, and his historical technique, has increased the academic understanding and appreciation of him as a historian.

According to Edward Tufte, he was also a major source for Charles Joseph Minard's figurative map of Hannibal's overland journey into Italy during the Second Punic War.[16]

In his Meditations On Hunting, Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset calls Polybius "one of the few great minds that the turbid human species has managed to produce", and says the damage to the Histories is "without question one of the gravest losses that we have suffered in our Greco-Roman heritage".

The Italian version of his name, Polibio, was used as a male first name - for example, the composer Polibio Fumagalli - though it never became very common.

The University of Pennsylvania has an intellectual society, the Polybian Society, which is named in his honor and serves as a non-partisan forum for discussing societal issues and policy.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ John Ma. (2013). Statues and Cities: Honorific Portraits and Civic Identity in the Hellenistic World. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-966891-5, pp 281-282.
  2. ^ "Titus Livius (Livy), The History of Rome, Book 39, chapter 35". www.perseus.tufts.edu. Retrieved 2016-11-02.
  3. ^ Hannibal at New Carthage: Polybius 3. 15 and the Power of Irrationality Author: A. M. Eckstein, Classical Philology, Vol. 84, No. 1 (January 1989), pp. 3-4
  4. ^ Polybius on the Senate and People (6.16) from Perseus Digital Library at Tufts University
  5. ^ Peter Green, Alexander to Actium
  6. ^ The Historians of Ancient Rome, Ronald J. Mellor
  7. ^ Piracy in the Ancient World, p141 H Ormerod
  8. ^ Mogens Herman Hansen 1995, Sources for the Ancient Greek City-State: Symposium, August 24–27, 1994, Kgl. Danske, Videnskabernes Selskab, 376 pages ISBN 87-7304-267-6
  9. ^ Robert Pashley, Travels in Crete, 1837, J. Murray
  10. ^ "C. Michael Hogan, Cydonia, Modern Antiquarian, January 23, 2008". Themodernantiquarian.com. Retrieved 2010-02-28.
  11. ^ Comp. 4
  12. ^ Polybius; Frank W. Walbank; Ian Scott-Kilvert (1979). The Rise of the Roman Empire. Penguin Classics. ISBN 0-14-044362-2.
  13. ^ Burke, Peter (1966). "A Survey of the Popularity of Ancient Historians, 1450-1700". History and Theory. History and Theory, Vol. 5, No. 2. 5 (2): 135–152 [141]. doi:10.2307/2504511. JSTOR 2504511.
  14. ^ Burke, Peter (1966). "A Survey of the Popularity of Ancient Historians, 1450-1700". History and Theory. History and Theory, Vol. 5, No. 2. 5 (2): 135–152 [139]. doi:10.2307/2504511. JSTOR 2504511.
  15. ^ Marshall Davies Lloyd, Polybius and the Founding Fathers: the separation of powers, Sept. 22, 1998.
  16. ^ "Minard's figurative map of Hannibal's war". Edwardtufte.com. Retrieved 2010-02-28.

Editions and translations

Other ancient sources

  • Titus Livius of Patavium (Livy), libri XXI — XLV
  • Pseudo-Lucian Makrobioi
  • Paulus Orosius libri VII of Histories against Pagans

Modern references

  • Davidson, James: 'Polybius' in Feldherr, Andrew ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Historians (Cambridge University Press, 2009)
  • Walbank, Frank W:
    • —— Philip V of Macedon, the Hare Prize Essay 1939 (Cambridge University Press, 1940)
    • —— A Historical Commentary on Polybius (Oxford University Press)
      • Vol. I (1957) Commentary on Books I–VI
      • Vol. II (1967) Commentary on Books VII–XVIII
      • Vol. III (1979) Commentary on Books XIX–XL
    • —— Polybius (University of California Press, 1972)
  • Momigliano, Arnaldo M.: Sesto Contributo alla Storia degli Studi Classici e del Mondo Antico (Rome, 1980)
    • —— Vol. V (1974) "The Historian's Skin”, 77–88 (Momigliano Bibliography no. 531)
    • —— Vol. VI (1973) “Polibio, Posidonio e l'imperialismo Romano”, 89 (Momigliano Bibliography no. 525) (original publication: Atti della Accademia delle Scienze di Torino, 107, 1972–73, 693–707)
  • Moore, John M: The Manuscript Tradition of Polybius (Cambridge University Press, 1965)

Further reading

  • Champion, Craige B. 2004. Cultural Politics in Polybius’s Histories. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.
  • Derow, Peter S. 1979. "Polybius, Rome, and the East." Journal of Roman Studies 69:1–15.
  • Eckstein, Arthur M. 1995. Moral Vision in the Histories of Polybius. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.
  • Farrington, Scott Thomas. 2015. "A Likely Story: Rhetoric and the Determination of Truth in Polybius’ Histories. Histos: The On-Line Journal of Ancient Historiography 9: 29-66.
  • McGing, Brian C. 2010. Polybius: The Histories. Oxford Approaches to Classical Literature. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.
  • Moore, Daniel Walker. 2017. "Learning from Experience: Polybius and the Progress of Rome." Classical Quarterly 67.1: 132-148.
  • Pausch, Dennis. 2014. "Livy Reading Polybius: Adapting Greek Narrative to Roman History." In Defining Greek Narrative. Edited by Douglas L. Cairns and Ruth Scodel, 279-297. Edinburgh : Edinburgh University Press.
  • Sacks, Kenneth S. 1981. Polybius on the Writing of History. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.
  • Schepens, Guido, and Jan Bollansée, eds. 2005. The Shadow of Polybius: Intertextuality as a Research Tool in Greek Historiography. Leuven, Belgium: Peeters.
  • Walbank, Frank W. 2002. Polybius, Rome and the Hellenistic World: Essays and Reflections. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

External links

Attalus I

Attalus I (Ancient Greek: Ἄτταλος Α΄), surnamed Soter (Greek: Σωτήρ, "Savior"; 269–197 BC) ruled Pergamon, an Ionian Greek polis (what is now Bergama, Turkey), first as dynast, later as king, from 241 BC to 197 BC. He was the first cousin once removed and the adoptive son of Eumenes I, whom he succeeded, and was the first of the Attalid dynasty to assume the title of king in 238 BC. He was the son of Attalus and his wife Antiochis.

Attalus won an important victory over the Galatians, newly arrived Celtic tribes from Thrace, who had been, for more than a generation, plundering and exacting tribute throughout most of Asia Minor without any serious check. This victory, celebrated by the triumphal monument at Pergamon (famous for its Dying Gaul) and the liberation from the Gallic "terror" which it represented, earned for Attalus the name of "Soter", and the title of "king". A courageous and capable general and loyal ally of Rome, he played a significant role in the first and second Macedonian Wars, waged against Philip V of Macedon. He conducted numerous naval operations, harassing Macedonian interests throughout the Aegean, winning honors, collecting spoils, and gaining for Pergamon possession of the Greek islands of Aegina during the first war, and Andros during the second, twice narrowly escaping capture at the hands of Philip.

Attalus was a protector of the Greek cities of Anatolia and viewed himself as the champion of Greeks against barbarians. During his reign he established Pergamon as a considerable power in the Greek East. He died in 197 BC, shortly before the end of the second war, at the age of 72, having suffered an apparent stroke while addressing a Boeotian war council some months before. He and his wife were admired for their rearing of their four sons. He was succeeded as king by his son Eumenes II.

Battle of Cannae

The Battle of Cannae () was a major battle of the Second Punic War that took place on 2 August 216 BC in Apulia, in southeast Italy. The army of Carthage, under Hannibal, surrounded and decisively defeated a larger army of the Roman Republic under the consuls Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Gaius Terentius Varro. It is regarded both as one of the greatest tactical feats in military history and as one of the worst defeats in Roman history.

Having recovered from their losses at Trebia (218 BC) and Lake Trasimene (217 BC), the Romans decided to engage Hannibal at Cannae, with approximately 86,000 Roman and allied troops. They massed their heavy infantry in a deeper formation than usual, while Hannibal used the double-envelopment tactic and surrounded his enemy, trapping the majority of the Roman army, who were then slaughtered. The loss of life on the Roman side was one of the most lethal single day's fighting in history; Adrian Goldsworthy equates the death toll at Cannae to "the massed slaughter of the British Army on the first day of the Somme offensive in 1916." Only about 15,000 Romans, most of whom were from the garrisons of the camps and had not taken part in the battle, escaped death. Following the defeat, Capua and several other Italian city-states defected from the Roman Republic to Carthage.

As news of this defeat reached Rome, the city was gripped in panic. Authorities resorted to extraordinary measures, which included consulting the Sibylline Oracles, dispatching a delegation led by Quintus Fabius Pictor to consult the Delphic oracle in Greece, and burying four people alive as a sacrifice to their Gods. To raise two new legions, the authorities lowered the draft age and enlisted criminals, debtors and even slaves. Despite the extreme loss of men and equipment, and a second massive defeat later that same year at Silva Litana, the Romans refused to surrender to Hannibal. His offer to ransom survivors was brusquely refused. With grim determination the Romans fought for 14 more years until they achieved victory at the Battle of Zama.

Although for most of the following decades the battle was seen solely as a major Roman disaster, by modern times Cannae acquired a mythic quality, and is often used as an example of the perfect defeat of an enemy army. It was studied by German strategists prior to World War II, and General Norman Schwartzkopf claimed to have drawn inspiration from Hannibal's success for his devastatingly effective land offensive in the First Gulf War.

Battle of Mylae

The Battle of Mylae took place in 260 BC during the First Punic War and was the first real naval battle between Carthage and the Roman Republic. This battle was key in the Roman victory of Mylae (present-day Milazzo) as well as Sicily itself. It also marked Rome's first naval triumph and also the first use of the corvus in battle.

Cleomenean War

The Cleomenean War (229/228–222 BC) was fought by Sparta and its ally, Elis, against the Achaean League and Macedon. The war ended in a Macedonian and Achaean victory.

In 235 BC, Cleomenes III (r. 235–222 BC) ascended the throne of Sparta and began a program of reform aimed at restoring traditional Spartan discipline while weakening the influence of the ephors, elected officials who, though sworn to uphold the rule of Sparta's kings, had by the time of Cleomenes come to wield extraordinary political power in the Spartan system. When, in 229 BC, the ephors sent Cleomenes to seize a town on the border with Megalopolis, the Achaeans declared war. Cleomenes responded by ravaging Achaea. At Mount Lycaeum he defeated an army under Aratus of Sicyon, the strategos of the Achaean League, that had been sent to attack Elis, and then routed a second army near Megalopolis.

In quick succession, Cleomenes cleared the cities of Arcadia of their Achaean garrisons, before crushing another Achaean force at Dyme. Facing Spartan domination, Aratus was forced to turn to Antigonus III Doson (r. 229–221 BC) of Macedon. In return for Macedonian assistance, the Achaeans were obliged to surrender the citadel overlooking Corinth to Antigonus. Cleomenes eventually invaded Achaea, seizing control of Corinth and Argos, but was forced to retreat to Laconia when Antigonus arrived in the Peloponnese. Cleomenes fought the Achaeans and the Macedonians at Sellasia, where the Spartans were routed. He then fled to the court of his ally, Ptolemy III of Egypt (r. 246–222 BC), where he ultimately committed suicide in the wake of a failed revolt against the new Pharaoh, Ptolemy IV (r. 221–205 BC).

Cretan War (205–200 BC)

The Cretan War (205–200 BC) was fought by King Philip V of Macedon, the Aetolian League, many Cretan cities (of which Olous and Hierapytna were the most important) and Spartan pirates against the forces of Rhodes and later Attalus I of Pergamum, Byzantium, Cyzicus, Athens, and Knossos.

The Macedonians had just concluded the First Macedonian War and Philip, seeing his chance to defeat Rhodes, formed an alliance with Aetolian and Spartan pirates who began raiding Rhodian ships. Philip also formed an alliance with several important Cretan cities, such as Hierapytna and Olous. With the Rhodian fleet and economy suffering from the depredations of the pirates, Philip believed his chance to crush Rhodes was at hand. To help achieve his goal, he formed an alliance with the King of the Seleucid Empire, Antiochus the Great, against Ptolemy V of Egypt (the Seleucid Empire and Egypt were the other two Diadochi states). Philip began attacking the lands of Ptolemy and Rhodes's allies in Thrace and around the Propontis.

In 202 BC, Rhodes and her allies Pergamum, Cyzicus, and Byzantium combined their fleets and defeated Philip at the Battle of Chios. Just a few months later, Philip's fleet defeated the Rhodians at Lade. While Philip was plundering Pergamese territory and attacking cities in Caria, Attalus I of Pergamum went to Athens to try to create a diversion. He succeeded in securing an alliance with the Athenians, who immediately declared war on the Macedonians. The King of Macedon could not remain inactive; he assailed Athens with his navy and with some infantry. The Romans warned him, however, to withdraw or face war with Rome. After suffering a defeat at the hands of the Rhodian and Pergamese fleets, Philip withdrew, but not before attacking the city of Abydos on the Hellespont. Abydos fell after a long siege and most of its inhabitants committed suicide. Philip rejected the Roman ultimatum to stop attacking Greek states and the Romans declared war on Macedon. This left the Cretan cities with no major allies, and the largest city of Crete, Knossos, joined the Rhodians. Faced with this combination, both Hierapytna and Olous surrendered and were forced to sign a treaty favourable to Rhodes and Knossos.

Demetrius of Pharos

Demetrius of Pharos (also Pharus) (Ancient Greek: Δημήτριος ἐκ Φάρου) was a ruler of Pharos involved in the First Illyrian War, after which he ruled a portion of the Illyrian Adriatic coast on behalf of the Romans, as a client king.Demetrius was a regent ruler to Pinnes, the son of Agron who was too young to rule as king. When the Romans were occupied with their own problems, he had grown stronger as an ally of Macedonia and also by conquering Dimallum. Together with Scerdilaidas, he sailed south of Lissus and broke the Roman treaty, attacking Roman allies in the Adriatic and by devastating and plundering many cities in the Cyclades and the Peloponnese. He was expelled from Illyria by Rome after the Second Illyrian War and became a trusted counselor at the court of Philip V of Macedon. He became a strong political influence to Philip V and encouraged him to clash with Rome. Demetrius remained there until his death at Messene in 214 BC while attempting to take the city.

Euthydemus I

Euthydemus I (Greek: Εὐθύδημος Α΄; c. 260 BC – 200/195 BC) was a Greco-Bactrian king in about 230 or 223 BC according to Polybius; he is thought to have originally been a satrap of Sogdiana who overturned the dynasty of Diodotus of Bactria and became a Greco-Bactrian king. Strabo, on the other hand, correlates his accession with internal Seleucid wars in 223–221 BC. His kingdom seems to have been substantial, including probably Sogdiana to the north, and Margiana and Ariana to the south or east of Bactria.

First Macedonian War

The First Macedonian War (214–205 BC) was fought by Rome, allied (after 211 BC) with the Aetolian League and Attalus I of Pergamon, against Philip V of Macedon, contemporaneously with the Second Punic War (218–201 BC) against Carthage. There were no decisive engagements, and the war ended in a stalemate.

During the war, Macedon attempted to gain control over parts of Illyria and Greece, but without success. It is commonly thought that these skirmishes in the east prevented Macedon from aiding the Carthaginian general Hannibal in the war with Rome. The Peace of Phoenice (205 BC) formally ended the war.

First Punic War

The First Punic War (264 to 241 BC) was the first of three wars fought between Ancient Carthage and the Roman Republic, the two great powers of the Western Mediterranean. For 23 years, in the longest continuous conflict and greatest naval war of antiquity, the two powers struggled for supremacy, primarily on the Mediterranean island of Sicily and its surrounding waters, and also in North Africa.

The war began in 264 BC with the Roman conquest of the Carthaginian-controlled city of Messina in Sicily, granting Rome a military foothold on the island. The Romans built up a navy to challenge Carthage, the greatest naval power in the Mediterranean, for control over the waters around Sicily. In naval battles and storms, 700 Roman and 500 Carthaginian quinqueremes were lost, along with hundreds of thousands of lives. Command of the sea was won and lost by both sides repeatedly. A Roman invasion of Carthaginian Africa was destroyed in battle at the Bagradas and the Roman consul Marcus Atilius Regulus was captured by the Carthaginians in 255. In 23 years, the Romans slowly conquered Sicily and drove the Carthaginians to the west end of the island.

After both sides had been brought to a state of near exhaustion, the Romans mobilized their citizenry's private wealth and created a new fleet under consul Gaius Lutatius Catulus. The Carthaginian fleet was destroyed at the Aegates Islands in 241, forcing the cut-off Carthaginian troops on Sicily to give up. A peace treaty was signed in which Carthage was made to pay a heavy indemnity and Rome ejected Carthage from Sicily, annexing the island as a Roman province.

The war was followed by a failed revolt against the Carthaginian Empire. The Romans exploited Carthage's weakness to seize the Carthaginian possessions of Sardinia and Corsica in violation of the peace treaty. The unresolved strategic competition between Rome and Carthage would lead to the eruption of the Second Punic War in 218 BC.

Hamilcar Barca

Hamilcar Barca or Barcas (c. 275–228 BC) was a Carthaginian general and statesman, leader of the Barcid family, and father of Hannibal, Hasdrubal and Mago. He was also father-in-law to Hasdrubal the Fair.

Hamilcar commanded the Carthaginian land forces in Sicily from 247 BC to 241 BC, during the latter stages of the First Punic War. He kept his army intact and led a successful guerrilla war against the Romans in Sicily. Hamilcar retired to Carthage after the peace treaty in 241 BC, following the defeat of Carthage. When the Mercenary War burst out in 240 BC, Hamilcar was recalled to command and was instrumental in concluding that conflict successfully. Hamilcar commanded the Carthaginian expedition to Spain in 237 BC, and for eight years expanded the territory of Carthage in Spain before dying in battle in 228 BC. He may have been responsible for creating the strategy which his son Hannibal implemented in the Second Punic War to bring the Roman Republic close to defeat.


Hannibal Barca (; 247 – between 183 and 181 BC) was a general and statesman from Ancient Carthage who is widely considered one of the greatest military commanders in history. His father, Hamilcar Barca, was a leading Carthaginian commander during the First Punic War (264–241 BC). His younger brothers were Mago and Hasdrubal, and he was brother-in-law to Hasdrubal the Fair, all also commanded Carthaginian armies.

Hannibal lived during a period of great tension in the western Mediterranean Basin, triggered by the emergence of the Roman Republic as a great power after it had established its supremacy over Italy. Although Rome had won the First Punic War, revanchism prevailed in Carthage, symbolised by the alleged pledge that Hannibal made to his father to never be a friend of Rome. The Second Punic War broke out in 218 after Hannibal's attack on Saguntum, an ally of Rome in Hispania. He then made his famous military exploit of carrying war to Italy by crossing the Alps with his African elephants. In his first few years in Italy, he won a succession of dramatic victories at the Trebia, Lake Trasimene, and Cannae. He distinguished himself for his ability to determine his and his opponent's respective strengths and weaknesses, and to plan battles accordingly. Hannibal's well-planned strategies allowed him to conquer several Italian cities allied to Rome. Hannibal occupied most of southern Italy for 15 years, but could not win a decisive victory, as the Romans led by Fabius Maximus avoided confrontation with him, instead waging a war of attrition. A counter-invasion of North Africa led by Scipio Africanus forced him to return to Carthage. Scipio had studied Hannibal's tactics and brilliantly devised some of his own, and he finally defeated Rome's nemesis at the Battle of Zama, having previously driven Hannibal's brother Hasdrubal out of the Iberian Peninsula.

After the war, Hannibal successfully ran for the office of sufet. He enacted political and financial reforms to enable the payment of the war indemnity imposed by Rome; however, those reforms were unpopular with members of the Carthaginian aristocracy and in Rome, and he fled into voluntary exile. During this time, he lived at the Seleucid court, where he acted as military advisor to Antiochus III the Great in his war against Rome. Antiochus met defeat at the Battle of Magnesia and was forced to accept Rome's terms, and Hannibal fled again, making a stop in the Kingdom of Armenia. His flight ended in the court of Bithynia, where he achieved an outstanding naval victory against a fleet from Pergamon. He was afterwards betrayed to the Romans and committed suicide by poisoning himself.

Hannibal is often regarded as one of the greatest military strategists in history and one of the greatest generals of Mediterranean antiquity, together with Philip of Macedon, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Scipio Africanus. Plutarch states that Scipio supposedly asked Hannibal "who the greatest general was", to which Hannibal replied "either Alexander or Pyrrhus, then himself" Military historian Theodore Ayrault Dodge called Hannibal the "father of strategy", because Roman armies adopted elements of his military tactics into their own strategic arsenal. Hannibal has been cited by various subsequent military leaders, such as Napoleon Bonaparte, as an inspiration and the greatest strategist of all time.

Mercenary War

The Mercenary War (240 BC – 238 BC), also called the Libyan War and the Truceless War by Polybius, was an uprising of mercenary armies formerly employed by Carthage, backed by Libyan settlements revolting against Carthaginian control.

The war began as a dispute over the payment of money owed to the mercenaries between the mercenary armies who fought the First Punic War on Carthage's behalf, and a destitute Carthage, which had lost most of its wealth due to the indemnities imposed by Rome as part of the peace treaty. The dispute grew until the mercenaries seized Tunis by force of arms, and directly threatened Carthage, which then capitulated to the mercenaries' demands. The conflict would have ended there, had not two of the mercenary commanders, Spendius and Mathos, persuaded the Libyan conscripts in the army to accept their leadership, and then

convinced them that Carthage would exact vengeance for their part in the revolt once the foreign mercenaries were paid and sent home. They also persuaded the combined mercenary armies to revolt against Carthage, and various Libyan towns and cities to back the revolt. What had been a hotly contested "labour dispute" exploded into a full-scale revolt.

Heavily outmatched in terms of troops, money, and supplies, an unprepared Carthage fared poorly in the initial engagements of the war, especially under the generalship of Hanno the Great. Hamilcar Barca, general from the campaigns in Sicily and father of Hannibal Barca, was given supreme command, and eventually defeated the rebels in 237 BC.

Orophernes of Cappadocia

Orophernes Nicephorus (in Greek Oρoφέρνης Nικηφόρoς, also known as Olophernes) was one of the two sons Antiochis (the daughter of Antiochus III the Great) pretended to have had with Ariarathes IV, the king of Cappadocia because she failed to have children (the name of the other was Ariarathes). However, she then did bear a child, Mithridates, and told her husband about the fake sons. These were sent to Rome and Ionia respectively to avoid a succession dispute with the legitimate son, whose name was changed to Ariarathes and who succeeded his father as Ariarathes V in 163 BC. A few years later Orophernes deposed him with the help of Demetrius I Soter, who became the king of the Syria-based Seleucid Empire in 161 BC when he overthrew Antiochus V, an underage king, and his regent, Lysias. The reign of Orophernes was short-lived. The Romans restored Ariarathes V.

The information we have about Orophernes comes from Justin, Diodorus Siculus and Polybius, whose works have survived in fragments. Therefore, this information is incomplete. We also have very brief references to Orophernes in Appian and Zonaras.

According to Justin, when Ariarathes V refused to marry the sister of Demetrius I, the latter welcomed Orophernes, who had come to him as a suppliant, and supported his claim to the throne of Cappadocia. For Demetrius this was a pretext for war as he wanted to enlarge his kingdom and increase his power by waging war on his neighbours. However, Orophernes plotted with the disgruntled people of Antioch to expel him. The conspiracy was discovered. Demetrius spared his life so that he could still pursue the war against Ariarathes V. He captured him and imprisoned at Seleucia, in his kingdom. The people of Antioch persisted with their rebellion. They were attacked by Demetrius, but they were supported by Ptolemy VI, the king of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, Attalus II, the king of Pergamon, and Ariarathes V. They sent Balas, a young man, to pretend that he was the brother of Antiochus V and claim the throne by force. They called him Alexander (see Alexander Balas). The people believed him. He defeated Demetrius, who died in battle.Justin's brief account did not mention the deposition of Ariarathes V. This is recorded in the Periochae of Livy where an entry for book 47 says that "King Ariarathes of Cappadocia, who had been expelled from his kingdom on the initiative and with troops of king Demetrius..."Appian wrote that Demetrius deposed Ariarathes V and gave the throne of Cappadocia to Olophernes, who gave Demetrius 1000 talents for this.Diodorus Siculus wrote that Orophernes overthrew Ariarathe V and did not try to gain popular support. He raised money through forced contributions. He put many people to death. He gave Timotheus a gift of 50 talents and Demetrius a gift of 70 talents in addition to having paid him 600 talents and still owing him 400 talents (this is probably the money Appian said he paid Demetrius to overthrow Ariarathes). He began to make exactions on all his subjects and to confiscate the property of men "of the highest distinction." It is at this point that Balas (Diodorus did not give his name and only says that he was a youth who resembled Antiochus V) was sent to challenge Demetrius. In this account he was from Smyrna and he was sent by Attalus II, who was aggrieved by the expulsion of Ariarathes V and also had reasons for wanting to keep Demetrius in check. He gave him royal insignia and sent him to Zenophanes, a Cilician who had had a dispute with Demetrius and had been helped by Eumenes II, Attalus' father. This man spread the word that the youth wanted to reclaim his father's throne.In Polybius's account, Ariarathes V arrived in Rome in the summer of 158 BC. After the consuls for 157 BC, Sextus Julius Caesar and Lucius Aurelius Orestes, entered office he did some lobbying. He and his retinue dressed modestly to highlight his distressed situation. Miltiades arrived as an envoy of Demetrius to defend Demetrius and speak against Ariarathes. Orophernes sent a delegation headed by Timotheus and Diogenes to plead Orophernes' case and accuse Ariarathes V. They brought a crown dedicated to Rome, which was a way of pledging allegiance to Rome, and asked to renew Cappadocia's alliance with Rome. The lobbying of this delegation made a greater impression because it outnumbered Ariarathes, it appeared more prosperous and it disregarded truth. Since there was no one to refute falsehoods, it gained the day. However, in another passage, Polybius wrote that Ariobarzanes was restored and left Italy. Orophernes and Theotimus blamed each other for this. In another passage he summarised that Ariarathes was expelled by Orophernes through "the agency of King Demetrius" and recovered his throne "by the help of Attalus." He also noted that after Attalus succeeded his brother Eumenes his policy was to restore Ariarathes to his kingdom.That Ariarathes V was setored as sole ruler of Cappadocia rather than being ordered to be a co-ruler with his alleged brother, is recorded in the Periochae: "King Ariarathes of Cappadocia... was restored by the Senate.Diodorus Siculus wrote that the envoys of Orophernes plotted against Ariarathes V, but the latter captured them and put them to death at Corfu, an island off western Greece. The henchmen of Orophernes made plans against Ariarathes at Corinth, in Greece. However, Ariarathes eluded them and reached Attalus in Pergamon safely.Unlike Polybius and Diodorus Siculus, Appian wrote the Romans "decided that as brothers both Ariarathes and Orophernes should reign together."Zonaras, too, wrote that the Romans ruled that Ariarathes VI and Orophernes were to be co-rulers. His account also has Orophernes as the only child of Antiochis and Ariarathes IV prior to the birth of Ariarathes V. Antiochis adopted Orophernes. There is no mention of another adoptive son. When Ariobarzanes V was born, the position of Orophernes was "detected and he was banished." In his brief mention of Ariarathes VI and Orophernes, Zonaras went on to write that Orophernes deposed Ariarathes V by leading an uprising and defeating him. Attalus II was an ally of Ariarathes and Demetrius was an ally of Orophernes. The Romans decided that the two brothers were to share the kingdom. Subsequently, the fact Ariarathes V had been declared an ally of Rome enabled him to overthrow Orophernes and became the sole ruler. When Attalus II succeed Eumenes II after his death, he drove Orophernes and Demetrius out of Cappadocia. Polybius related that soon after his succession to the throne in 163 BC, Ariarathes sent envoys to Rome to renew “the previously existing alliance.” This is also recorded in the Periochae.Polybius wrote that Orophernes did not hold the kingdom for long. He thought that Orophernes despised traditional Cappadocian customs and "introduced the refined debauchery of Ionia." He lost his kingdom and life because he fell victim to the passion for money and sacrificed his life for this. This view was echoed by Athenaeus, who regarded the Ionian luxury Orophernes introduced as being artificial.When Orophernes' situation became worse, he run out of funds to pay his soldiers and was worried about a mutiny. He plundered a temple of Zeus, which was considered inviolable, to pay the wage arrears.Polybius wrote that Orophernes, who had amassed a great sum, deposited 400 talents in the city of Priene for a rainy day. The town later returned the money. In another passage he wrote that after he was restored, Ariarathes V, who thought that the money belonged to the kingdom, asked Priene to return the money to him. The town refused to give it to anyone else while Orophernes was alive. Ariarathes sent a force to devastate its territory. Priene, which had sent envoys to Rhodes, now appealed to the Romans, who ignored this. Polybius commented that "[t]he Prienians had based high hopes on their command of so large a sum but the result was just the opposite. For they paid the deposit back to Orophernes, and unjustly suffered considerable damage at the hands of King Ariarathes owing to this same deposit."According to Diodorus Siculus, when Orophernes' situation worsened, he was worried about the pay for his soldiers and was afraid about a possible mutiny. Since he was without funds, he plundered a temple of Zeus, which was considered inviolable, to pay the wage arrears.Today Orophernes is mainly known for a poem written by the celebrated modern Greek poet Constantine P. Cavafy in 1915. In meditating on a tetradrachm found in Priene, the poet wrote "Orophernes," on the pretender's life and his adventures.


A polemic () is contentious rhetoric that is intended to support a specific position by aggressive claims and undermining of the opposing position. Polemics are mostly seen in arguments about controversial topics. The practice of such argumentation is called polemics. A person who often writes polemics, or who speaks polemically, is called a polemicist. The word is derived from Ancient Greek πολεμικός (polemikos), meaning 'warlike, hostile', from πόλεμος (polemos), meaning 'war'.Polemics often concern issues in religion or politics. A polemic style of writing was common in Ancient Greece, as in the writings of the historian Polybius. Polemic again became common in medieval and early modern times. Since then, famous polemicists have included the satirist Jonathan Swift, Christian anarchist Leo Tolstoy, the socialist philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the novelist George Orwell, the psycholinguist Noam Chomsky, the social critic Christopher Hitchens, the existential philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, and Friedrich Nietzsche, author of On the Genealogy of Morality: A Polemic.

Polybius (urban legend)

Polybius is a fictitious arcade game, the subject of an urban legend that supposedly first emerged in early 1981. It has served as inspiration for several free and commercial games by the same name.

The original game allegedly was part of a government-run psychology experiment based in Portland, Oregon. Gameplay supposedly produced intense psychoactive and addictive effects in the player. These few publicly staged arcade machines were said to have been visited periodically by men in black for the purpose of data-mining the machines and analyzing these effects. Eventually, all of these Polybius arcade machines allegedly disappeared from the arcade market.

Polybius is also the name of the Greek historian, Polybius, who was known for his assertion that historians should never report what they cannot verify through interviews with witnesses.

Polybius square

In cryptography, the Polybius square, also known as the Polybius checkerboard, is a device invented by the Ancient Greeks Cleoxenus and Democleitus, and perfected by the Ancient Greek historian and scholar Polybius, for fractionating plaintext characters so that they can be represented by a smaller set of symbols.

Polybus (son of Antenor)

In Greek mythology, Polybus (Ancient Greek: Πόλυβος) or Polybius was the son of Antenor and Theano. He was ultimately killed in the Trojan War by Neoptolemus.

The Histories (Polybius)

Polybius’ Histories (Greek: Ἱστορίαι Historíai) were originally written in 40 volumes, only the first five of which are extant in their entirety. The bulk of the work was passed down through collections of excerpts kept in libraries in Byzantium. Polybius, a historian from the Greek city of Megalopolis in Arcadia, was taken as a hostage to Rome after the Roman defeat of the Achaean League, and there he began to write an account of the rise of Rome to a world power.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.