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Cassius Dio: Between History and Politics

Historical writing about Rome in both Latin and Greek forms an integrated topic. There are two strands in ancient writing about the Romans and their empire: (a) the Romans’ own tradition of histories of the deeds of the Roman people at home and at war, and (b) Greek historical responses, some developing their own models(Polybius, Josephus) and the others building on what both the Roman historians and earlier Greeks had written (Dionysius, Appian, Cassius Dio). Whereas older scholarship tended to privilege a small group of ‘great historians’ (the likes of Sallust, Livy, Tacitus), recent work has rightly brought out the diversity of the traditions and recognized that even ‘minor’ writers are worth exploring not just as sources, but for their own concerns and reinterpretation of their material.

Cassius Dio (164 – after 229 CE) was a Roman senator and consul turned historian. A Roman of Greek origin (Nicaea, Bithynia), writing in Greek, and although his work doesnot present itself as exclusively annalistic in nature, but also as a series of imperial biographies, beginning with the dynasts of the Republic, he nevertheless writes annalistic, i.e. Roman history. Cassius Dio is the only historian who follows the developments of Rome’s political institutions during a more than thousand year period. This makes him an indispensable source for Rome’s history, particularly in the Late Republic, the reign of Augustus, and the second and third centuries CE.

The principal aim of the network is to change how Cassius Dio – one of the key historians of ancient Rome – is perceived: from a historian sometimes judged mediocre to a politician and intellectual steeped in Roman history and historiography. This reassessment will rest on deeper study of his narrative technique, his relationship with traditions of universal and more Rome-based historiography, and his structural approach to Roman history.

The network is a joint venture between the University of Southern Denmark, Aarhus University, and Aalborg University, in cooperation with University of Alberta and Georgetown University. The Network is funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark (DFF), Humanities (FKK), Georgetown University, and the University of Alberta.

Last Updated 15.07.2022