Cassius Dio

Cassius Dio

Lucius Cassius Dio Cocceianus[1][2] (Greek: Δίων ὁ Κάσσιος, c. AD 155 or 163/164[3] to after 229), known in English as Cassius Dio, Dio Cassius, or Dio (Dione. lib) was a Roman consul and a noted historian writing in Greek. Dio published a history of Rome in 80 volumes, beginning with the legendary arrival of Aeneas in Italy through the subsequent founding of Rome (753 BC), the formation of the Republic (509 BC), and the creation of the Empire (31 BC), up to 229 AD; a period of about 1,400 years. Of the 80 books, written over 22 years, many survive into the modern age intact or as fragments, providing modern scholars with a detailed perspective on Roman history.



Cassius Dio was the son of Cassius Apronianus, a Roman senator. He was born and raised at Nicaea in Bithynia. Byzantine tradition holds that Dio’s mother was the daughter or sister of the Greek orator and philosopher Dio Chrysostom; this relationship has been disputed. His praenomen is usually held to have been Lucius, but a Macedonian inscription published in 1970 shows it as Cl., presumably Claudius.[4] Although a Roman citizen, he wrote in Greek. Dio always maintained a love for his hometown of Nicaea, calling it 'his home', as opposed to his description of his villa in Italy ('my residence in Italy').

Dio passed the greater part of his life in public service. He was a senator under Commodus and governor of Smyrna after the death of Septimius Severus, and afterwards suffect consul around 205. He was also Proconsul in Africa and Pannonia. Severus Alexander held him in the highest esteem and made him his consul again, even though his caustic nature irritated the Praetorian Guards, who demanded his life. Following his second consulship, being advanced in years, he returned to his native country, where he died.

He was the father of Cassius Dio, Consul in 291.

Roman History

Dio published a Roman History (Historia Romana), in 80 books, after 22 years of research and labour. It covers Roman history for a period of about 1,400 years, beginning with the arrival of the legendary Aeneas in Italy (c. 1200 BC), through the subsequent mythistoric founding of Rome (753 BC), then it covers historical events up to AD 229. The work is one of only three written Roman sources that document the Celtic revolt of 60 - 61 AD in Britain, led by Boudica. Until the 1st century BC, Dio gives only a summary of events; after that period, his accounts become more detailed; and from the time of Commodus, he is very circumspect in relating what passed under his own eyes.

Today, fragments remain of the first 36 books, including considerable portions of both the 35th book (on the war of Lucullus against Mithridates VI of Pontus) and the 36th (on the war with the pirates and the expedition of Pompey against the king of Pontus). The books that follow, to the 54th inclusive, are nearly all complete: they cover the period from 65 BC to 12 BC, or from the eastern campaign of Pompey and the death of Mithridates to the death of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. The 55th book has a considerable gap in it. The 56th to the 60th, inclusive, which cover the period from 9 to 54, are complete, and contain the events from the defeat of Varus in Germany to the death of Claudius. Of the next 20 books in the series, there remain only fragments and the meager abridgement of John Xiphilinus, a monk of the 11th century. The 80th or last book covers the period from 222 to 229 (the reign of Alexander Severus). The abridgment of Xiphilinus, as now extant, commences with the 35th book and continues to the end of the 80th book. It is a very indifferent performance, and was made by order of the emperor Michael VII Parapinaces.

The fragments of the first 36 books, as now collected, are of four kinds:

  1. Fragmenta Valesiana, such as were dispersed throughout various writers, scholiasts, grammarians, and lexicographers, and were collected by Henri Valois.
  2. Fragmenta Peiresciana, comprising large extracts, found in the section entitled "Of Virtues and Vices", in the great collection or portative library compiled by order of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus. The manuscript of this belonged to Peiresc.
  3. The fragments of the first 34 books, preserved in the second section of the same work of Constantine's, entitled “Of Embassies.” These are known under the name of Fragmenta Ursiniana, because the manuscript containing them was found in Sicily by Fulvio Orsini.
  4. Excerpta Vaticana, by Angelo Mai, which contain fragments of books 1 to 35, and 61 to 80. To these are added the fragments of an unknown continuator of Dio (Anonymus post Dionem), generally identified with the 6th-century historian Peter the Patrician, which go down to the time of Constantine. Other fragments from Dio belonging chiefly to the first 34 books were found by Mai in two Vatican MSS., which contain a collection made by Maximus Planudes. The annals of Joannes Zonaras also contain numerous extracts from Dio.

Literary style

Dio attempted to emulate Thucydides in his writing style, but came up short both in arrangement and the presentation of the materials and in the soundness of his viewpoint and accuracy of his reasoning. His style is generally clear, where there appears to be no corruption of the text, although his writing is full of Latinisms. His diligence is unquestionable, and due to his personal circumstances he had the opportunity to either be a first-person observer of or have direct contact with the key figures involved in many of the significant events of the Empire during his own lifetime.

Political offices
Preceded by
Quintus Aiacius Modestus Crescentianus,
Marcus Pomponius Maecius Probus
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Alexander Severus
Succeeded by
Lucius Virius Agricola ,
Sextus Catius Clementinus Priscillianus

See also


  1. ^ Dio's name: L'Année épigraphique 1971, 430 = Κλ΄ Κάδδιος Δίων. Roman Military Diplomas, Roxan, 133 = L. Cassius Dio.
  2. ^ Alain Gowing, who has edited Cassius Dio, argues that the evidence for Cocceianus is insufficient, and the ascription is a Byzantine confusion with Dio Chrysostom, whom Pliny shows to be named Cocceianus.
  3. ^ According to some scholars, such as Millar (Millar, F., A study of Cassius Dio, Oxford 1966, p. 13), he was born later, in 163/164.
  4. ^ Gowing, who adopts it; Claudius, however, is usually a nomen.


External links

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