Cassius Dio

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Lucius (or Claudius) Cassius Dio (/ˈkæʃəs ˈd/; alleged to have the cognomen Cocceianus;[1][2] Greek: Δίων Κάσσιος Κοκκηϊανός Dion Kassios Kokkeianos, c. AD 155 – 235),[3][4] known in English as Cassius Dio, Dio Cassius, or Dio, was a Roman consul and noted historian who wrote in Greek. Dio published a history of Rome in 80 volumes, beginning with the legendary arrival of Aeneas in Italy; the volumes then documented the subsequent founding of Rome (753 BC), the formation of the Republic (509 BC), and the creation of the Empire (31 BC), up until AD 229. The entire period covered by Dio's work is approximately 1,400 years. Of the 80 books, written over 22 years, many survive into the modern age, intact, or as fragments, providing modern scholars with a detailed perspective on Roman history.

Biography[edit]

Dio was the son of Cassius Apronianus, a Roman senator, and he was born and raised at Nicaea in Bithynia. Byzantine tradition maintains that Dio's mother was the daughter or sister of the Greek orator and philosopher, Dio Chrysostom; however, this relationship has been disputed. Lucius is often identified as Dio's praenomen, but a Macedonian inscription, published in 1970, reveals the abbreviation, "Cl.", presumably Claudius.[5] Although Dio was a Roman citizen, he wrote in Greek. Dio always maintained a love for his hometown of Nicaea, calling it "his home", as opposed to his description of his villa in Italy ("my residence in Italy").[citation needed]

For the greater part of his life, Dio was a member of the public service. He was a senator under Commodus and governor of Smyrna following the death of Septimius Severus; he became a suffect consul in approximately the year 205. Dio was also Proconsul in Africa and Pannonia. Severus Alexander held Dio in the highest esteem and reappointed him to the position of consul, even though his caustic nature irritated the Praetorian Guards, who demanded his life. Following his second consulship, while in his later years, Dio returned to his native country, where he eventually died.

Dio was either the grandfather or great-grandfather of Cassius Dio, the Roman consul in 291.[6]

Roman History[edit]

Dio published a Roman History (Ῥωμαϊκὴ Ἱστορία, Historia Romana), in 80 books, after twenty-two years of research and labour. The books cover Roman history for a period of approximately 1,400 years, beginning with the arrival of the legendary Aeneas in Italy (c. 1200 BC), through to the subsequent mythistoric founding of Rome (753 BC); they also cover historical events up to AD 229. The work is one of only three written Roman sources that document the Celtic revolt of AD 60 - 61 in Britain that was led by Boudica. Until the first century BC, Dio provides only a summary of events; after that period, his accounts become more detailed. From the time of Commodus (ruled 180 - 192 AD), Dio is very circumspect in his conveyance of the events that he witnessed.

In the 21st century, fragments remain of the first 36 books, including considerable portions of both Book 35 (on the war of Lucullus against Mithridates VI of Pontus) and 36 (on the war with the pirates and the expedition of Pompey against the king of Pontus). The books that follow, up until the Book 54, inclusive, are nearly all complete; they cover the period from 65 BC to 12 BC, or, from the eastern campaign of Pompey and the death of Mithridates to the death of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. The 55th book contains a considerable gap, while the 56th to the 60th books (which cover the period from 9 through 54) are complete and contain events from the defeat of Varus in Germany to the death of Claudius. Of the 20 subsequent books in the series, there remain only fragments and the meager abridgement of John Xiphilinus, a monk from the 11th century. The abridgment of Xiphilinus, as now extant, commences with the Book 35t and continues to the end of the Book 80: it is a very indifferent performance and was made by order of the emperor Michael VII Parapinaces. The last book covers the period from 222 to 229 (the reign of Alexander Severus).

The fragments of the first 36 books, as they have been collected, consist of four kinds:

  1. Fragmenta Valesiana: fragments that were dispersed throughout various writers, scholiasts, grammarians, and lexicographers, and were collected by Henri Valois.
  2. Fragmenta Peiresciana: large extracts, found in the section entitled, "Of Virtues and Vices", contained in the collection, or portative library, compiled by order of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus. The manuscript of this belonged to Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc.
  3. The fragments of the first 34 books, preserved in the second section of the same work by Constantine, entitled “Of Embassies.” These are known under the name of Fragmenta Ursiniana, as the manuscript in which they are contained was found in Sicily by Fulvio Orsini.
  4. Excerpta Vaticana by Angelo Mai: Contains fragments of books 1 to 35 and 61 to 80. Additionally, fragments of an unknown continuator of Dio (Anonymus post Dionem), generally identified with the 6th-century historian, Peter the Patrician, are included; these date from the time of Constantine. Other fragments from Dio that are primarily associated with the first 34 books were found by Mai in two Vatican MSS.; these contain a collection that was compiled by Maximus Planudes. The annals of Joannes Zonaras also contain numerous extracts from Dio.

Literary style[edit]

Dio attempted to emulate Thucydides in his writing style, but was unable to match the arrangement and the presentation of the materials, the soundness of his viewpoint, and the accuracy of his reasoning.[citation needed] Dio's style is generally clear, where there appears to be no corruption of the text; although, his writing is full of Latinisms. Dio's writing was underpinned by a set of personal circumstances, whereby he was able to observe significant events of the Empire in the first-person, or he had direct contact with the key figures who were involved.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Dio's name: L'Année épigraphique 1971, 430 = Κλ΄ Κάσσιος Δίων. Roman Military Diplomas, Roxan, 133 = L. Cassius Dio.
  2. ^ Alain Gowing, who has edited Cassius Dio, argues that the evidence for Cocceianus is insufficient, and the ascription is a Byzantine confusion with Dio Chrysostom, whom Pliny shows to be named Cocceianus; he provides the previously unattested praenomen of Claudius.
  3. ^ Prof. Cary's Introduction at LacusCurtius
  4. ^ According to some scholars, such as Millar (Millar, F., A study of Cassius Dio, Oxford 1966, p. 13), he was born later, in 163/164.
  5. ^ Gowing, who adopts it; Claudius, however, is usually a nomen.
  6. ^ Martindale, J. R.; Jones, A. H. M, The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, Vol. I AD 260-395, Cambridge University Press (1971), pg. 253

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Political offices
Preceded by
Uncertain
Consul suffectus of the Roman Empire
around 205
with uncertain
Succeeded by
Uncertain
Preceded by
Quintus Aiacius Modestus Crescentianus,
Marcus Pomponius Maecius Probus
Consul of the Roman Empire
229
with Alexander Severus
Succeeded by
Lucius Virius Agricola ,
Sextus Catius Clementinus Priscillianus