Greek writers


Polybios was a Greek writer, historian and politician. He was born in 203 BC (Megapolis in Arcadia) and died in 120 BC. He was the most important historian of the Hellenistic period.

Polybios was the son of Lycortes, the strategos of the Achaean League, and thus came from a wealthy family that provided him with a high education. He himself supported Achaean neutrality during the Third Macedonian War. After the Roman victory at the Battle of Pydna, it was for this reason that Polybius was brought as a hostage to Rome, where he was forced to live for 17 years. Here he was responsible for raising the children of wealthy families. After gaining his freedom, he travelled to Africa, where he devoted himself entirely to historical studies. He was present at the destruction of Carthage, for example.

Polybios gradually came to the conclusion that it was better for the peoples to be under the rule of Rome and to benefit from this situation. He returned to Greece, where he helped the consul Lucius Mummius to organize a new form of government. He then returned to Rome to complete his works.

According to Polybius, government in society works in a cycle. There is chaos at the beginning, which turns into monarchy (the individual decides everything), which turns into tyranny (the individual begins to abuse power), which turns into aristocracy (the overthrow of the tyrant and the rule of the best), which turns into oligarchy, and which turns into democracy. Then everyone will want to rule and chaos will reign again.

His most important work is the 40 books he called "History". Only a third of them have survived. This work builds on the work of the historian Timaeus and describes how the Roman Empire became a world power. He wrote the work according to three principles that he set himself (study and criticism of sources, personal knowledge of places and political experience). He always tried to explain why a given fact happened, what preceded it and what its consequences were.

Many of his successors drew on his work.