Timaios of Tauromenion: A case study in Hellenistic historiography

Christopher A Baron, University of Pennsylvania


Felix Jacoby's monumental collection, Die Fragmente der Griechischen Historiker, provides a valuable reference tool for the student of ancient historiography. However, the remains of these "fragmentary" historians present daunting methodological difficulties, for the vast majority are not pieces broken off from the original work (which present their own problems of interpretation); rather, they consist of citations and paraphrases by later authors and come to us in a mediated form. Unless the new context in which they are preserved is taken into account, our judgment of these lost historians can be seriously distorted. In this dissertation, I use Timaios of Tauromenion (ca. 350--260 BC) as a case study for the larger project of establishing a methodology for the study of fragmentary Hellenistic historians. Polybius' Book 12 is our major source of evidence for Timaios. But while he preserves a good deal of valuable information, the polemical framework which Polybius imposes on that information severely distorts our image of his predecessor. Thus the key, as described by Riccardo Vattuone, is to "recontextualize" the fragments, a process I carry out for Timaios' work in three ways. First, I place Timaios in his historical context and consider what effect the varying fortunes of early third-century Athens had on his work. I also consider the contemporary intellectual context in which Timaios operated, in terms of both place (Athens) and time (early Hellenistic period), to see whether he played any part in the scholarly and literary debates of the day. Finally, I examine Timaios in his historiographical context, focusing on his relation to the writing of history, as well as other literary genres, in the Hellenistic age. I conclude that the use to which later authors put his work has severely skewed our image of it, and that the "antiquarian" elements evident in the fragments were interwoven with historical narrative of contemporary events; that, contrary to the traditional portrait, Timaios was neither an isolated misanthrope nor an escapist; and that, by applying a more flexible notion of genre, we can discover Timaios engaging in a type of Herodotean historiography, in terms of subject matter and narrative structure.

Subject Area

Ancient civilizations|Classical studies

Recommended Citation

Baron, Christopher A, "Timaios of Tauromenion: A case study in Hellenistic historiography" (2006). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3211034.