Historiōn ta Sōzomena: Polybii Lycortae F. Megalopolitani Historiarum Libri qui Supersunt

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by Polybius

Historiōn ta Sōzomena

Title page from Historiōn ta Sōzomena, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author Polybius
Editor Jacobus Gronovius
Translator Issac Casaubon
Published Amstelodami: Officina Johannis Janssonii à Waesberge, & Johannis van Someren
Date 1670
Edition {{{edition}}}
Language Greek and Latin
Volumes 3 volumes in 5 volume set
Pages {{{pages}}}
Desc. 8vo (18 cm.)
Location Shelf I-3
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]
Half-title, volume three.
Polybius (c. 200 BCE–c. 118 BCE) was born in Arcadia, a region of Greece, around 200 BCE to a member of the Achaean confederacy ruling Greece. He became hipparchos (cavalry commander) of the confederacy in 169, but this victory was short-lived when he was included in a group of one thousand prominent Achaeans deported to Rome in 168. This “political purge” followed the Roman conquest of Macedonia, and resulted in Polybius being kept in Italy for sixteen years without a trial.[1] Polybius befriended and mentored powerful Roman general and politician [[wikipedia:Scipio Aemilianus|Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus] and was consequently allowed to stay in Rome, interspersed with various political and military trips to Spain and Carthage.[2] Following the Roman sack of Corinth in 146 BCE, Polybius “helped to usher in the Roman settlement of Greece.”[3]

Polybius is unique for being the only Hellenistic historian for whom a substantial amount of his works survives. Though all of his minor works are gone, the first five books of his Histories remain in their entirety, and many excerpts and quotations from the remainder of the forty books are preserved by other writers. In his introduction, Polybius states that his purpose in writing the Histories was to “describe and explain Rome’s rise to world dominion” in just under 53 years.[4] His belief that the perfection of the Roman constitution, “an even blend of monarchical, aristocratic, and democratic elements as he saw it” was responsible for the greatness of Rome had long-term impacts on influential Romans and historians.[5] Written in Greek, his history was primarily intended for Greeks, though also included were upper-class Romans who knew Greek. Aiming to be useful to his contemporaries, Polybius took a political approach to his history, explaining and analyzing wars and politics while avoiding emotional or cultural factors. Polybius was one of the first historians to attribute a role in Rome’s success to Fortune. Although he steers clear of giving divinities credit, but emphasizes Rome’s success being a result of her own merits.[6]

This particular edition is a Latin translation of what remains of Polybius’s Histories.

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Listed twice in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as "Polybius. Gr. Lat. 3.v. 8vo." Thomas Jefferson gave one copy to John Wayles Eppes and the other to Thomas Jefferson Randolph. Jefferson had sent at least one of these copies to Wythe from Paris.[7] Brown's Bibliography[8] includes the 1763-64 edition of Polybius published in Leipzig based on an edition Jefferson sold to the Library of Congress.[9] Barbara Dean lists the 1670 Amsterdam edition in her bibliographic memo.[10] George Wythe's Library[11] on LibraryThing indicates "Precise edition unknown." Because we do not know which edition Wythe owned, the Wolf Law Library followed Dean's choice and purchased a copy of the 1670 Amsterdam edition when a copy became available.

Headpiece, first page of text, volume five.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in later full calf, uniformly bound, with raised bands and spines in six panels. Has morocco title label to second panel, contrasting morocco volume label to third, and remaining panels with gilt central lozenge and volute corner pieces. Gilt rolled border to covers with all edged marbled and blue endpapers. Purchased from Temple Rare Books.

Images of the library's copy of this book are available on Flickr. View the record for this book in William & Mary's online catalog.

See also


  1. M.C. Howatson, ed. "Poly'bius" in The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).
  2. Ibid.
  3. John Roberts, ed. "Polybius" in Oxford Dictionary of the Classical World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).
  4. Ibid.
  5. Howatson, "Poly'bius."
  6. Ibid.
  7. See Thomas Jefferson to Wythe, 16 September 1787, page 5.
  8. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at: https://digitalarchive.wm.edu/handle/10288/13433.
  9. E. Millicent Sowerby, Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, (Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress, 1952-1959), 1:25 [no.51].
  10. Memorandum from Barbara C. Dean, Colonial Williamsburg Found., to Mrs. Stiverson, Colonial Williamsburg Found. (June 16, 1975), 5 (on file at Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary).
  11. LibraryThing, s.v. Member: George Wythe," accessed on June 28, 2013.