- Hardcover: 512 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press (January 1, 1933)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674993071
- ISBN-13: 978-0674993075
- Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 4.6 x 1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,005,752 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Diodorus Siculus: Library of History, Volume I, Books 1-2.34 (Loeb Classical Library No. 279)
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Top Customer Reviews
The Loeb series date back to the turn of the last century. They are designed for people with at least some knowledge of Greek or Latin. They are a sort of compromise between a straight English translation and an annotated copy of the original text. On the left page is printed the text in Greek or Latin depending on the language of the writer and on the right side is the text in English. For somebody who knows even a little Greek or Latin these texts are invaluable. You can try to read the text in the original language knowing that you can correct yourself by looking on the next page or you can read the text in translation and check the translation with the original for more detail. While some of the translations are excellent mostly they are merely serviceable since they are designed more as an aid to translation rather than a translation in themselves. Most of them follow the Greek or Latin very closely. These books are also very small, maybe just over a quarter the size of your average hardcover book. This means that you'll need to buy more than just one book to read a complete work. They are also somewhat pricey considering their size. The Loeb Collection is very large but most of the more famous works can be found in better (and cheaper) translations elsewhere. If you want to read a rarer book or read one in the original language then you can't do better than the Loeb Editions.
Diodorus' Library of History takes up twelve volumes in the Loeb series. Diodorus was a Sicilian who wrote a universal history sometime in the first century BC. His work covers both Roman and Greek history and is useful for providing a general Mediterranean view of classical history. Diodorus' work is generally derided for its use of myth and for shamelessly reproducing exactly what was printed in his sources. The first part however is where we get much of our information about Greek myths while the second is made more bearable by the fact that he is exceptionally scrupulous about recording what those sources are. Since most of these sources have been lost over time Diodorus' account is invaluable in piecing together what they said. This isn't to completely dismiss his flaws since he quite often misinterprets his sources or muddles the timeline. But while there are better sources for much of his material covering the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars, for the section covering the Hellenistic period Diodorus is our primary source. Unfortunately even his work is incomplete. Out of an original 40 books only books 1-5 and 11-20 survive intact. The rest exist only in fragments. Diodorus covers a lot of ground from the period before the Trojan War to Julius Caesar's Gallic campaigns. For that reason his book is divided into three sections. The first section (books 1-6) cover the carious myths in a historical way and are divided geographically. The second section (7-17) offers a history of the world from the Trojan War to the death of Alexander the Great. The third section (18-40) covers world history from the early Hellenistic kingdoms through to the campaign of Julius Caesar.Regrettably, most of that last section is missing.
This volume covers the prehistory of Ancient Egypt and most of Mesopotamia, India, Scythia, and Arabia. It's mostly myth and not particularly useful if you're looking for facts about those cultures. While many have criticized Diodorus for being inaccurate, nobody has accused him of being dull. This book is worth a read even if it does end up being of little use.
I originally bought the book solely for the purpose of having a sample of Hellenistic Greek that I could compare with the grammar of the New Testament. I really had not planned to even occasionally use the volume as a reference. Upon receiving the book, though, I opened it up and read a little of the English just to get a sense of the work in general. I was hooked from the very first pages.
As a historian, Diodorus has often been criticized for employment of unreliable sources, lack of discrimination, and a poor organization of material. Part of the general scholarly distaste for Diodorus results one one hand from his free intermingling of what is clearly mythology with history. On the other hand, huge sections of his history are organized year by year, so that he describes what happens in a given year in every empire that he covers. The year-by-year organization does not begin until about book five, however. The initial books of his history cover the origins and characteristics of various major races and nations of his world, and as mentioned above, incorporate great elements of fancy. It is these elements that have made his series so interesting to read, however.
It is obvious that Bulfinch's Mythology and other standard works on Greek mythology draw much material from Diodorus Siculous, and reading it definitely makes one feel like he is walking along the paths of the scholars.