Comments on Polybius
- Following are comments on Polybius conveyed to me by Dan R. who will attend the next chat:
Polybius definitely had political "bents". His father, Lycotas, was leader of the Achaean League, which wanted their autonomy at almost all costs). His father's political dealings were sufficiently anti-Roman to cause his son, Polybius, to be taken to Rome as a political prisoner. Polybius was himself in line to become the military leader of the League when Paullus ordered him to Rome, to tutor his two sons which he had given in adoption some 15 years earlier: Scipio Aemilianus (born Marcus Aemilius Paullus) and Fabius Maximus Aemilianus (born Lucius Aemilius Paullus). Both of these young men fought under their father's command at Pydna in 167 BCE. All young Romans needed political mentoring to make it to the Senate and to the Curule Magistries and Polybius' acumen must have greatly impressed Paullus. He would have also tutored Paullus' new sons, aged 12 and 14, but they died of unexplained illness, one just before Paullus' great triumph and the other a few days after it.
P.'s writings must be viewed as at least "swayed" by his allegiance to both the Paulii and Scipii families. His mistrust of Fabius Pictor, the only historical references in writing in the second Century BCE (not extant), is probably justified. In just one example, Polybius clearly protects the reputation of Paullus, the co-consul of 216 BCE, by laying the lost battle of Cannae at the feet of Varro, whose insistence on fighting and whose reordering his legions proved disastrous. Many historians today believe that the Senate had chosen men they knew would take the fight to Hannibal, and give Varro and Paullus equal footing as losing generals in the great disaster. Varro's early exit compared to Paullus' death stand can be explained by Paullus' oath to Fabius Maximus before the battle, "that he would not leave the field at all costs". Varro was received almost as a hero when he finally got to Rome a couple of weeks after the battle. A failure to take the initiative was often more damning than a loss to the Roman ethos of military leadership.
Still, P. is one of the cleanest thinking and most honest-to-facts historians of all time, period. But, he was captive of his Greek education and could thus not fathom the religious nature of Africanus which he typecasts as a simple pragmatist. Romans of the Second Punic war period were unquestionably very religious people. far more so than the Romans of the 160's BCE.
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