Polyaenus or Polyenus (//; see ae (æ) vs. e; Greek: Πoλύαινoς, Poluainos, "many proverbs") was a 2nd-century Macedonian author, known best for his Stratagems in War (in Greek, Στρατηγήματα), which has been preserved. The Suda calls him a rhetorician, and Polyaenus himself writes that he was accustomed to plead causes before the emperor. He dedicated Stratagems in War to Marcus Aurelius (161–180) and Verus (161–169), while they were engaged in the Parthian war (162–165), about 163 CE, at which time he was too old to accompany them in their campaigns.
This work is divided into eight books, of which the first six contain an account of the stratagems of the most celebrated Greek generals, the seventh of those of foreign people, and the eighth of the Romans, and illustrious women. Parts, however, of the sixth and seventh books are lost, so that of the 900 stratagems which Polyaenus described, only 833 have survived.
The book has survived through a single copy of the 13th century, which once belonged to Michel Apostolios and is now in the Laurentian Library in Florence. The work is written in a clear and pleasing style, though somewhat tinged with the artificial rhetoric of the age. It contains a vast number of anecdotes respecting many of the most celebrated men in antiquity, and has uniquely preserved many historical facts.
There are no less than five Byzantine abridgments of this work, the most important in the same library of the original, the Laurentian. This compendium, titled Ὑπoθέσεις ἐκ τῶν στρατηγικῶν πράξεων, contains fifty-eight chapters and three hundred fifty-four stratagems and is useful to elucidate and explain many passages of the original, lost or not. Despite the existence of the abridgements, Polyaenus' treatise was not popular in the Middle Ages. The original is rarely cited by Byzantine sources, which suggests that it had ceased to circulate, and that the abridgements had replaced it. To this it must be added that only the Ὑπoθέσεις derives directly from the original, while the other four versions seem to be summaries of the first.
Polyaenus was first printed in a Latin translation, executed by Justus Vulteius, at Basel, 1549. The first edition of the Greek text was published by Isaac Casaubon, Lyon, 1589; the next by Pancratius Maasvicius, Leyden, 1690; the third by Samuel Mursinna, Berlin, 1756; the fourth by Coray, Paris, 1809. The work has been translated into English by R. Shepherd, London, 1793; into German by Seybold, Frankfurt, 1793–94, and by Blume, Stuttgart, 1834.
Polyaenus also wrote several other works, all of which have perished. The Suda has preserved the titles of two, On Thebes (Περὶ Θηβῶν) and Tactics, in three books (Τακτικά); and Stobaeus makes a quotation from a work of Polyaenus, Ὑπὲρ τoῦ κoινoῦ τῶν Mακεδόνων (For the koinon of Macedonians), and from another entitled Ὑπὲρ τoῦ Συνεδρίoυ (For the Synedrion). Polyaenus likewise mentions his intention of writing a work on the memorable actions of M. Aurelius and L. Verus.
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- Bayle, Pierre; Dictionnaire historique et critique, Amsterdam, (1740), "Polyænus"
- Dain, A.; "Cinq adaptations Byzantines de les Stratagèmes de Polyen", (Revue des études anciennes), pp. 321–46
- "Polyaenus" from the Encyclopædia Britannica (1911)
- Polyen, Ruses de guerre, Gui-Alexis Lobineau (traducteur), Paris, (1840)
- Seyffert, Oskar; Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, "Polyænus", (1894)
- Smith, William; Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, "Polyaenus (2)", Boston, (1867)
- K. Brodersen (hg), Polyainos. Neue Studien. Polyaenus. New Studies (Berlin: Verlag Antike, 2010).
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Smith, William, ed. (1870). "article name needed". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
- Livius, Polyaenus by Jona Lendering
- Polyaenus, Stratagems of War, Translated by E. Shepherd, 1793 (excerpts: those stratagems concerning Alexander and some of the Diadochi)
- Stratagems of War (complete translation)
- Eduard von Woelffin 1887 edition at the Internet Archive