In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Diodorus Siculus

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Text (Greek Editions, Translations)
  • Commentaries
  • Miscellaneous Volumes

Classics Diodorus Siculus
Franca Landucci
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 August 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 August 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0320


Diodorus is known as the author of the Library of History, a universal, or world, history in forty books from the age of the myths to Caius Julius Caesar’s deeds. The title of his work is not a modern speculation, but is confirmed by the manuscript tradition as a whole: Βιβλιοθήκη ἱστορικὴ, in Greek, Bibliotheca historica, in Latin, that is, literally, “collection of books of historical theme.” Diodorus, therefore, constructed his work on the pages of his predecessors, although only seldom does he quote the names of his sources, while more often he is silent. For a long time Diodorus has been heavily criticized by moderns, who accused him of copying (often badly) the works of the past: As a matter of fact, however, the surviving books of his Library of History are a formidable repository of historiographical literature lost in the original. For some historical periods, and in particular for the reign of Philip II of Macedonia and the age of the Diadochoi, until 302 BCE, Diodorus is our main source.

General Overviews

As we have already mentioned in the introduction, for a long time modern scholars have considered Diodorus a simple copyist, devoid of any originality. Diodorus has been heavily criticized by moderns, who accused him of copying (often badly) the works of the past: Schwartz 1903 was not only the collector of 19th-century critics but also the fiercest detractor of Diodorus, who was considered by him as a table scribe. Against these harsh 19th-century criticisms, during the last seventy years some important monographs have been published: they have tried to offer to the reader an overview on Diodorus’s life and work (Farrington 1937, Palm 1955, Spörri 1959, Sacks 1990, Wirth 1993, Ambaglio 1995, Rathmann 2016, Muntz 2017).

  • Ambaglio, Delfino. 1995. La Biblioteca storica di Diodoro Siculo. Problemi e metodo. Como, Italy: New Press.

    Wide analysis of the contents of the Library. The lack of an index of the quoted passages makes the work difficult to use.

  • Farrington, Benjamin. 1937. Diodorus Siculus: Universal historian. Swansea, UK: Univ. of Wales Press.

    Short and generic presentation of Diodorus’s figure.

  • Muntz, Charles E. 2017. Diodorus Siculus and the world of the late Roman Republic. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190498726.001.0001

    Diodorus molded his material to reflect on the major issues of the Late Roman Republic even when writing about mythological times or far-away places.

  • Palm, Jonas. 1955. Über Sprache und Stil des Diodoros von Sizilien. Ein Beitrag zur Beleuchtung der hellenistischen Prosa. Lund, Sweden: Gleerup.

    A monograph still rather relevant since it offers a wide and in-depth analysis of the Library’s language and style.

  • Rathmann, Michael. 2016. Diodor und seine “Bibliotheke”. Weltgeschichte aus der Provinz. Klio. Beihefte 27. Berlin: De Gruyter.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783110481433

    The most recent analysis of Diodorus’s figure and work, with many indexes and an updated bibliography.

  • Sacks, Kenneth S. 1990. Diodorus Siculus and the first century. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

    Fundamental work which, for the first time, analyzes Diodorus’s figure and work in relation to the audience of his contemporaries.

  • Schwartz, Edward. 1903. Diodoros [38]. In Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft 5.1, coll. 663–703. Stuttgart and Weimar, Germany: J. B. Metzler.

    Exhaustive analysis of the contents of the surviving books of the Library; wide review of previous bibliography; strong insistence on the Quellenforschung, with a careful indication of the names of the individual authors largely “copied” by Diodorus for the various historical periods.

  • Spörri, Walter. 1959. Späthellenistische Berichte über Welt, Kultur und Götter. Untersuchungen zu Diodor von Sizilien. Basel, Switzerland: Reinhardt.

    An interesting analysis on Diodorus’s culture.

  • Wirth, Gerhard. 1993. Diodor und das Ende des Hellenismus. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.

    An interesting analysis on the relationship between Diodorus and the Hellenistic culture.

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