Dio Cassius was born into a family distinguished for imperial service and literary composition. He received a standard rhetorical education and by the mid-180’s c.e. had entered public service at Rome, where he became a member of the senate about 189 c.e. Dio observed many political developments at first hand and was remarkably adept at shifting with changing political winds. He described the assassination of the emperor Lucius Aurelius Commodus in 192 c.e. as the beginning of the “most violent wars and civil strife.” He found favor under Lucius Septimius Severus (r. 193-211), for whom he composed his first known work, “On Dreams and Portents” (now lost). Its success encouraged Dio to embark on the composition of a Roman history. Dio was named replacement consul around 205 c.e. and was a member of Severus’s imperial council. In the late 220’s c.e., he was given military commands in Dalmatia and Upper Pannonia, and in 229 c.e., he was rewarded with a second consulate. He then retired from public service, pleading age and poor health, and returned home to Nicaea, where he spent the rest of his life.
Dio is known primarily for his eighty-book Romaika (probably c. 202 c.e.; Roman History, 1914-1927), which begins with the arrival of Aeneas in Italy circa the eleventh century b.c.e. and continues to 229 c.e. Surviving sections include Books 36-54, 55-60, and 78-79; the rest...
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