Contemplating the end of Roman power: Polybius' Histories in context

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Taking “eschatology” as engagement with the prospect of the breakdown of social and political order, this contribution discusses the various ways in which the question of the duration or fall of the Roman empire influenced the works of different Hellenistic authors. Bringing Polybius, Dionysius and Aemilius Sura, representatives of elite forms of historical writing in the Roman West, into dialogue with more “popular” texts such as the Third Sibylline Oracle and the miracle narrative in Phlegon of Tralleis, both associated with the Eastern Mediterranean, this chapter explores the interrelationship of eschatology and the debate about the end (or not) of Roman power in the late Hellenistic period. Honing in on the complexity of the debate about Rome's downfall, it argues for a revision of the widespread view that visions of Rome's fall were a form of “escapism”. In the process, it provides new insight into the pre-history of the concept of Roma aeterna. Finally, it offers a more nuanced understanding of a key aspect of Polybius’ concept of history and history-writing by bringing it into dialogue with its larger narrative and cultural context.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEschatology in antiquity
Subtitle of host publicationforms and functions
EditorsHilary Marlow, Karla Pollmann, Helen van Noorden
Place of PublicationAbingdon, Oxon
PublisherRoutledge Taylor & Francis Group
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781315459493, 9781315459486
ISBN (Print)9781138208315, 9781032043050
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2021

Publication series

NameRewriting antiquity


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