Diodorus’ use of Agatharchides’ description of Africa

Hau, L. (2019) Diodorus’ use of Agatharchides’ description of Africa. In: Coltelloni-Trannoy, M. and Morlet, S. (eds.) Histoire et Géographie Chez les Auteurs Grecs du lie Siecle Avant J.-C. au Vie Siecle Après J.-C. Boccard: Paris, pp. 27-42. ISBN 9782701805351

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This paper starts from the premise that Polybius’ Histories is unrepresentative of Hellenistic historiography generally, and that the Bibliotheke of Diodorus Siculus may be a better window into this largely disappeared but once flourishing genre. One of the features that distinguish Diodorus’ work from Polybius’ is his inclusion of large amounts of ethnographic material. This paper examines one of his extended ethnographic sections, 3.2-55, which deals with Africa south of Egypt, as a case study of his practice and purposes with such passages. First it considers Diodorus’ ethnography in the context of the Greek historiographical tradition and shows that Diodorus most likely considered it an integral component of universal history. Secondly, a comparison of the passage as found in Diodorus with a parallel version of it from Photius, which clearly goes back to the same source, Agatharchides of Cnidus, demonstrates that Diodorus seems to be motivated by an interest in exciting details, but also that he makes an effort to make Agatharchides’ narrative fit in with his own thematic concerns, namely pity for the suffering of civilians, especially women, and cruelty of rulers and slave masters. Thirdly, Diodorus’ relationship with the impression gained of Agatharchides of Cnidus from the comparison with Photius is considered. Diodorus and Agatharchides seem to have shared a number of interests, including the suffering of groups of people who have little or no place in the Histories of Polybius, marvels and the marvellous and moral didacticism. The conclusion is that Diodorus seems to have found ethnography as natural an outlet for the themes of his Bibliotheke as history, and that neither he nor his readers seem to have thought ethnography out of place in a work of universal history.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Hau, Dr Lisa Irene
Authors: Hau, L.
Subjects:D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D051 Ancient History
D History General and Old World > DF Greece
D History General and Old World > DT Africa
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > Classics

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