History and Geography

Atlas holding the world

"...that what has been done may not fade in time from the memory of man, and great and remarkable achievements, whether of Greeks or of foreign (barbaroi) peoples, may not lack the honor or rememberance." - Herodotus.

We have an especially strong collection of historical and geographical works. This section includes the king-lists and royal records from Sumeria, Babylonia, Assyria, Egypt, Greece, and early Rome.

Specific titles include Manetho's Chronology of Egyptian History and the Babylonian priest Berossus' Chronicle of the Kings of Babylon. The Assyrian passion for history is reflected in Assyrian historical texts from the reigns of Tiglathpileser I (c. 1100 B.C.), Ashurnacirpal, Shalmaneser II, Sargon, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, and Ashurbanipal. We also have the Synchronistic History of Assyria and Babylonia, which covers dealings between the two nations over disputed territory from 1450 B.C. to 700 B.C. Persian accounts include Ctesias' history of Persia. Ctesias was a doctor at the Persian court who had access to Persian records. The Phoenician world is described by the Phoenician priest, Sanchuniathon (14th/13th century B.C.); Charon of Carthage's Lives, which covered famous people; History of the First Punic War, by Philinus of Agrigentum; Sosylus of Sparta's account of Hannibal's works; Punic works on the geography of Africa; Menandros of Ephesus' history of Phoenicia (which reportedly used Phoenician records); and Timaeus of Sicily's works on Carthage. We also have the Periplus of the Northern Sea by Himilco, a Carthaginian admiral and explorer, and the Periplus of Hanno, which records Hanno's voyage to western Africa. The Periplus of Hanno exists in a Greek translation. We also have a copy in the original language that was copied from the Temple of Chronos (Baal Hammon) at Carthage by a Carthaginian who escaped the destruction of Carthage and hid in north Africa for some time.

The history of Greece is well covered. Herodotus of Halicarnassus' great history includes books on Asia, Egypt, and Greece. Thucydides of Athens' account of the Peloponnesian War is justly famous. Xenophon of Athens' Hellenica describes Greece from the end of Thucydides' account to 362 B.C. He also wrote Anabasis ('Journey to the Interior') about the rebellion of Cyrus. We also have the influential historical works of Ephorus (c. 375 B.C.) and the works of Theopompus (4th century B.C.), including his history of Philip II of Macedon. Aristotle wrote many works, including some that were historical and geographical in nature.

Later historians and geographers include Callimachus (c. 275 B.C.), who wrote Rivers of the World, Names of the Months in Different Nations and Cities, and Changes of Name of Islands and Cities, and the famous geographer Eratosthenes (c. 250 B.C.). Polybius (c. 150 B.C.) and Poseidonius (c. 75 B.C.) are two other well-known historians.

We also have works from the Roman world. We have Q. Fabius Pictor's early Annals (c 202 B.C.), which covers Roman topics even though it is written in Greek and Cato the Elder's seven-book history Origines (c 195 B.C.), the first major history written in Latin. We also have Q. Ennius' Annales (c 170 B.C.), an epic history of Rome whose popularity was eventually eclipsed by Virgil's Aeneid. Other works include Julius Caesar's Commentaries, about his campaigns in Gaul and his books on the Civil Wars of Rome, Varro's 41-volume Human and Divine Antiquities and his Annales, Strabo's 47-book treatise on Roman history and his 17-book geography called Geographia, Dionysius of Halicarnassus' The Early History of Rome (c. 8 B.C.), and Livy's 142 books on the history of Rome from its founding to 17 A.D. We also have Sallust's Histories, Jugurtha (about war against the Numidian king, Jugurtha), and Catiline (about the Catiline conspiracy against the Roman Senate that was put down by Cicero). These works all drew on documentary evidence. In addition, we have Verrius Flaccus's work on the Etruscans, Emperor Claudius' histories of Etruria and Carthage, and Pomponius Mela of Spain's Chorographia, the first major Roman geography text.

We also have copies of brand new works, like Pliny [the Elder]'s (born 23 A.D.) and Lucan's unfinished epic Pharsalia. Lucan, and his uncle Seneca, regrettably died earlier this year (65 A.D.).

The Celts of the distant north have not yet taken to writing, but we have many accounts of people who have been to their lands or who have talked to people who have. The Carthaginian Himilcar was one of the first people to leave an account of the area. Hecataeus of Miletus (c 500B.C.), an early geographer and writer, was the first to use the term "Keltoi". His works are quoted by the later Herodotus (c. 450 B.C.). Pytheas of Massalia (4th century B.C.) spoke of an island called Brettanike. He travelled there and possibly beyond around 310 - 306 B.C. Theopompus' 4th century B.C. account of Philip II of Macedon includes his contacts with the Keltoi. Hieronymus of Cardia and Phylarchus, both of the 3rd century B.C., wrote about the customs of the Keltoi. Marinus wrote about the Keltoi in the 1st century B.C. Poseidonius' first-hand account of Gaul in the 1st century B.C. is much quoted by Diodorus Siculus (1st century B.C.), and Strabo (25 A.D.). There is also a copy of a Greek inscription in Upper Egypt (185 B.C.) that tells how some mercenaries with Greek names caught a fox or jackal. From the inscription it is obvious that the mercenaries were, in fact, Keltoi.

We have works by the premiere biographers, Xenophon and Isocrates. We also have many biographies. Eratosthenes' Chronographia lists information about many important people. Theopompus wrote about Philip of Macedon. Hermippus of Smyrna wrote about many writers, and Philochorus wrote about Euripides. Cornelius Nepos' On Illustrious Men includes biographies of Cato the Elder, Atticus, generals, kings, poets, orators, historians, and scholars.


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Updated November 20, 2009