Cassius Dio: Politician and Historian

Carsten Hjort Lange, Jesper Majbom Madsen

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When approaching Cassius Dio as a historian, we must not forget Cassius Dio the politician and vice versa. He provides us with one of the main surviving narratives of Roman history. But even if he lived during the Principate, he, unsurprisingly, tried to understand the past he studied as a historian. This does of course not rule out the possibility of a specific take on the past. Dio was a political theorist in as much as he looked a Roman history through the lens of his preferred political system, monarchy (Rich 1989; Lange 2019a; Madsen 2019). Taking his cue from Thucydides, Dio’s ideal political system supposedly suppressed human nature, limiting stasis and civil war. Violence, political upheaval and civil war was an integrated part of his contemporary world, but also the ghost of the past. A ghost the historian Dio tried to understand. Consequently, the Roman History is (also) the story of how Rome ended up with monarchy, the most stable form of government (Rich 1989, 92). Importantly, Dio’s approach is poorly described as one from hindsight, but should instead be understood as a question of understanding the past (contra Mitchell, Morrell, Osgood & Welch 2019, 3). Whatever we make of this, Dio needs to be judged as a historian, case by case as well as in its textual and contextual context.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMadsen, J.M. & Lange, C.H., Cassius Dio the Historian: Methods and Approaches
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021
SeriesHistoriography of Rome and Its Empire Series

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