Herodian Analysis


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

What little is known about Herodian’s (huh-ROH-dee-uhn) life is inferred from his writings, including the approximate year of his birth and length of his life. Born in the eastern, Greek half of the Roman Empire, Herodian spent considerable time in Rome and the provinces as a minor official in the imperial civil service. This gave him access to imperial correspondence, senatorial archives, and eyewitness accounts and an opportunity to travel on official business to various parts of the empire. After his retirement, Herodian wrote in Greek a history in eight books of the events of his lifetime, from the death of Marcus Aurelius to the accession of Gordian III, translated into English in 1969 as History of the Empire After Marcus.

Although his history dealt with recent events, it contains errors of chronology and geography and reveals a poor grasp of military strategy. A rhetorical and moralizing strain runs through the history, in which style becomes more important than historical accuracy. Marcus Aurelius is described as the ideal emperor, against whom his many successors are compared and found wanting. Despite these drawbacks, Herodian often used documentary sources, eyewitness accounts, and personal observations that are contained in no other source.


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Herodian provides a detailed history of his time. Though perhaps an inferior historian to Dio Cassius, Dio’s history of the period survives only in fragments and ends nine years earlier. Despite its errors, Herodian’s history is more accurate than most of the other historical narratives of that period.

Additional Resource

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Whittaker, C. H., trans. Herodian. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1969-1970.