Polybius (puh-LIHB-ee-uhs) was born into a prominent Greek family. His father, Lycortas, was a leading statesman of a southern Greek confederation of city-states, the Achaean League. In the second century b.c.e., Rome was expanding its influence in Greece. In Rome’s Third Macedonian War (172-167 b.c.e.), Polybius served as an ambassador to the Romans and was able to save the Achaeans money by delaying an offer of aid. The pro-Roman policy did not help the Achaeans when the Romans pursued a harsher policy, including sending a number of prominent Greeks into exile in Italy. Polybius was fortunate, serving in the house of Lucius Aemilius Paullus, a prominent Roman leader, and tutoring his two young sons. In this position, Polybius became acquainted with the Roman state and was permitted to travel extensively.
Following his exile, Polybius was an adviser to the Romans and was able to moderate some of Rome’s demands when the Achaean League was conquered in the 140’s b.c.e. The Histories (n.d.; translation, 1889), Polybius’s main and greatest work, examined how Rome came to dominate the Mediterranean world. His other works include a history of the Numantine War (134-132 b.c.e.) and a treatise on military tactics (both now lost.)
While Polybius was most proud of his service to his countrymen, his examination of Rome and its “mixed” constitution has greatly affected governmental...
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