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Theopompus the Historian.

The historical works of Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon provide something approaching a connected account of Greek affairs from 546 to 362 B.C. The Hellenica of Xenophon, covering the years 411-362, begin where the unfinished history of Thucydides breaks off. Other writers of the fourth century produced histories of Greece starting in 411 or an earlier date, and continuing into the fourth century, or treated specific segments of fourth-century history. Had these works survived to complement Xenophon, collectively they would furnish a consecutive narrative of the entire period 411- 336. One of the most substantial losses is that of Theopompus, author of the Hellenica, covering Greek affairs in the years 411-394, and the Philippica, treating the history of Greece and Macedonia during the reign of Philip II (359-336).

Although none of Theopompus's work survives in its original form, much is known about him. Later writers described Theopompus and his writings (these descriptions are known as testimonies) and quoted, paraphrased, or referred in a less precise way to specific passages (these citations are called fragments). This evidence provides the foundation for Professor Shrimpton's book, the first comprehensive study of Theopompus.

Shrimpton concentrates on the two major historical works. The opening chapter surveys the life, works and style of Theopompus. There follow chapters on the Hellenica (2), the Philippica (3), the moral and political views of Theopompus (4), and his treatment of Philip and Demosthenes (5). Appendix A concerns the authorship of the Hellenica Oxyrhynchia; Appendix B provides a translation of the testimonies and fragments. Twenty-one pages of notes precede a bibliography of seven pages. The book concludes with three detailed indices (proper names in the historical fragments; references to the testimonies and fragments in Shrimpton's text; general index).

Shrimpton's major conclusions both confirm earlier research and advance our understanding of Theopompus and Greek historiography in the fourth century and later. Theopompus (ca 379 - after 323) began working on the Hellenica in the 350s. After completing this work before ca 343, he wrote the Philippica in the 340s to 320s. In several respects he was a maverick. He wrote as a critical outsider, discussing events of mainland Greece from an Aegean perspective. He violated the canons of historical writing by engaging in continual censure of important individuals. (Shrimpton might have explained more effectively that the title Philippica, parallel to Hellenica, alludes in startling fashion to Theopompus's vision of Greek affairs as subordinate to the actions of Philip. Like Herodotus, he justifiably treated Greek history within the context of the expansion of an external power. But even Polybius, the historian of Roman imperialism, thought he should have written a Hellenocentric account). Leading characteristics of Theopompus's work include sarcasm, rambling digressions, and harsh moral judgements. Because no ancient critic accused him of being fundamentally untruthful or diverging substantially from the generally accepted sequence of events, the fragrnents of Theopompus may be studied in the light of fuller accounts, such as those of Xenophon, Plutarch, and Diodorus. This procedure yields a fair idea of the topics covered. Theopompus's moral criticism of individuals, cities, and peoples suggests his political judgement. The Hellenica treated the period of Spartan ascendancy, terminated at the battle of Cnidus. There was some continuity between the Hellenica and the Philippica, for lengthy digressions in the latter discussed the affairs of the eastern Mediterranean (Books 11-19), Sicily (pp. 39-42) and (perhaps) the Black Sea (pp. 28-32) between 394 and 343, but no such background was provided for events of mainland Greece. (Shrimpton might have contrasted more emphatically the strict relevance of the digressions on the eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea with the more tenuous link between Philip's affairs and the Sicilian excursus). Theopompus inserted no major digressions after 344/3, from which time the king totally dominated Hellenic affairs. The Philippica provided a full account of his reign. Theopompus was thoroughly hostile to him. Philip, although depraved, was able to subdue continental Greece because his victims were too weak to resist. The Greeks more corrupt. The Second Athenian Confederacy, which might have produced strong opposition, had all but dissolved because it degenerated from a voluntary association of free states into a reincarnation of the Athenian empire. Demosthenes mismanaged the allied war-effort through authoritarian behaviour. Philip was always lucky. Although Theopompus probably advocated a panhellenic campaign against a vulnerable Persian empire, he scorned his teacher Isocrates's notion that Philip was the man to lead it.

I found eleven typographical errors (on pp. 43, 56, 60, 65, 142, 167, 211 234, 261, 344) and three mistakes of translation: in F81 (p. 228) it is Philip, not his companions, who wastes time (correct translation on pp. 168-69); in F208 (p. 246) read "Other authors as well as Theopompus . . . have shown . . . ."; in F213 (p. 247) read "management of the city" (correct translation on p. 170). In Appendix B, I should have liked to see identified the sources of the testimonies and fragments. To the bibliography add A. Momigliano, RFIC N.S. 13 (1935) 180-204 ( = Quinto Contributo 683-706).

Shrimpton concludes that Theopompus "saw the issues of the age in simplistic, moral terms . . ." (p. 181). I am not convinced that Theopompus never rose above this level. How did Philip transform his struggling nation on the periphery of the Greek world into a strong and wealthy kingdom that not only absorbed the Thracian littoral but also subjected continental Greece to hegemonial federalism? As Shrimpton notes (p. 141), the Macedonian deliberately employed immorality as an instrument of policy Fl62, F224, F225). Thus Theopompus did not explain Philip's achievement merely as the serendipitous by-product of universal decadence. This conclusion is supported by F292 (not discussed by Shrimpton), in which Theopompus demonstrates that the king's military action, too, involved rational calculation. Thus Theopompus must have discussed the strategy and practical motives of Macedonian expansion (the latter included the desire of Philip's courtiers for landed property: F225b). But one must concede that explanatory insight was not the trademark of the censorious raconteur. In this respect Theopompus was inferior to Herodotus, Thucydides, and Polybius.
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Author:Baronowski, Donald Walter
Publication:Canadian Journal of History
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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