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  • Diodorus Siculus and the World of the Late Roman Republic by Charles E. Muntz
  • Seth Kendall
Charles E. Muntz. Diodorus Siculus and the World of the Late Roman Republic. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. xii, 284. $85.00. ISBN 978-0-19-049872-6.

Despite the fact that he was writing in Rome in one of the most well documented periods of classical history, no contemporary reference to Diodorus Siculus exists. So begins the first chapter of Diodorus Siculus and the World of the Late [End Page 101] Roman Republic, which also notes that other intellectuals in Rome at that time receive mention. These facts along with certain passages in the proëm of the Bibliotheke lead Charles Muntz to the interesting if highly speculative conclusion that Diodorus had gone to Rome hoping both to do research and to find a patron, although in that last he was apparently unsuccessful. This, Muntz continues, was because Diodorus had not yet produced a substantial work, and he intended Books I-III (to which Muntz himself devotes most of his attention) to be the offering whereby he could acquire both fame and sponsorship. But the proëm also mentions that his books were unpublished, and there is no indication that they were ever published during his lifetime. This, Muntz concludes, was because the first three books of the Bibliotheke treated subjects that had become dangerous when the assassination of C. Julius Caesar altered the political and intellectual landscape of Rome.

Muntz devotes what are the most interesting and informative parts of his book, chapters 4 to 7, to supporting these conclusions. Chapter 4 ("Mythical History") discusses how Diodorus breaks with longstanding historiographical tradition in choosing to include in his history events from the mythic past (i.e., events before the development of writing for "barbarian" cultures, and before the Trojan War for the Greeks; 118–122). Specifically, he records the deeds of certain "gods". As Muntz explains, Diodorus—following Euhemerus—held that these "gods" were actually men who had been deified, and because their example still served to inspire, they are appropriate inclusions (since preserving deeds for others to learn from and, if good deeds, emulate, is for Diodorus the main purpose for the study of history; 8).

The discussion of the deification of kings is continued in chapter 5 ("The Deified Culture Bringers"), in which Muntz explains how deification of rulers had become commonplace in the Hellenistic World, it being understood that those so elevated were regarded not as immortal beings wielding cosmic powers, but as men with enormous earthly powers who merited eternal memory and honors for using their capacities to help those in need (145–147). Reasoning that something similar had happened to great men in the past, Diodorus asserts that certain "gods" were deified "culture bringers", mortal men whose discoveries advanced the progress toward civilization (135–140). Muntz also touches upon how, in narrating their deeds, Diodorus establishes what makes men suitable for deification: godhood is bestowed properly upon a once-living king, not merely for conquests, or for acts which solely helped his own people, but also for benefits conferred on the whole world, and usually brought by means of a "grand tour" (150–165).

Deification was therefore a reward for virtuous acts, which the living definitely recognized and even appropriately sought, though complete divinity could only be conferred after death. Deification as a fitting honor for those yet living was very much a philosophical question in Late Republican Rome, Muntz also argues in chapter 5, drawing upon various writings of Cicero which specifically focused on C. Julius Caesar. Diodorus seeks to add his opinion to this debate in his first three books, implying that, for bringing civilization to barbarian regions and for his overall clemency, Caesar was indeed worthy of the divinity that may have been conferred upon him while he was alive, and he would continue to deserve it upon his death (189). Of course, Caesar was not a king, but the Bibliotheke—whose first three books may have neared completion in 44—makes it clear that the historian approved of monarchy. His thoughts on that subject are [End Page 102] treated...


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