Diodorus Siculus (I b.C.): a father of history


Testo in italiano


Diodorus Siculus was born in Agira, a city perched on a hill in the center of Sicily, 44 years before the coming of Christ, when Sicily was part of the Roman Empire.

Who knows how many times Diodorus has walked among the winding streets of his city!

Who knows how many times he found himself chatting in the acropolis, on top of Agira, where today stands the ruins of a subsequent castle!

It was the times of Julius Caesar.

Diodorus was of a noble family and from a young age he was sent by relatives to Rome to study Latin and law.

One cannot but imagine him, in those days, on a carriage, close to the cornfields, passing by this inn just a few steps from Agira, which I believe has always existed, perhaps stopping to eat something and go to Katane, today’s Catania, where a ship would take him to Rome capital.

But this was nothing for Diodorus Siculuswho became a great traveler, going to Greece, Egypt, Asia, Europe, Carthage and who knows where else, and for this reason he was also an expert ancient geographer, anticipating the studies of the great medieval Arab geographer Idrisi at the court of the Norman Roger II.

When he returned he decided it was time to talk about his travels, his meetings, his knowledge.

And he began to write a monumental work, which occupied him the rest of his life: the Biblioteca Historica of 40 volumes even though only 7 arrived to us.

He wrote it in Greek, the language that was used in Sicily despite the fact that the island had recently passed to the Romans at the time of Diodorus.

Starting from before the Trojan War, Diodorus Siculusr eaches the countryside of Julius Caesar, in 60 BC

In the preface he hopes that his work will serve to bring the knowledge of all men to the history that must be everyone’s heritage.

Although historical criticism has not compared him to the great Greek historians such as Thucydides, Timaeus or Polybius, he is nevertheless recognized as having a certain simplicity and fluency in language that have made his work fundamental for the transmission of knowledge.

Once again the imagination makes me see him bent, on his wooden table, with the lit candle, papyrus and ink, writing day and night, night and day.

Diodorus Siculus is believed to have died in Rome at the age of 77.

Villa Giulia in Palermo, where I am now, preserves the cenotaph of him and Agira two tombstones



Author: Claudio Paterna, Cultural Department of Splendid Sicily

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