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Occupation: Associate Professor
Affiliation: Department of Ancient and Medieval History, Lobachevsky National Research State University of Nizhny Novgorod
Address: Russian Federation, Nizhny Novgorod
Occupation: Chair
Affiliation: Department of Ancient and Medieval History, Lobachevsky National Research State University of Nizhny Novgorod
Address: Russian Federation, Nizhny Novgorod

The article, continuing the overview of current Cassius Dio scholarship, focuses on the disputable issues of narrative modes and patterns of his <em >Roman History, including the role of various speeches in their dramatic context, the correlation between annalistic and biographical techniques, Dio’s treatment of Roman public institutions and, especially, their evolution within the transition from Republic to Principate. The discussions concerning Dio’s political and literary career, his political thinking, Book 52 constitutional debates also are under consideration. The present survey demonstrates that modern scholars have completely abandoned the outdated preconception of Dio as a ‘copyist’ or a ‘compiler’. Currently, our historian is treated as an author who had a distinct narrative strategy, elaborated on the structure of his work and made his deliberate choice between historiographic methods and techniques. Recent studies show, on the one hand, the diversity of the methodological agendas applied to different parts of Dio’s work, and, on the other hand, a number of recurrent themes and issues. The majority of these elements of consistency belong to the sphere of the author’s political agendas, with his entire conceptual framework of Dio’s narrative being closely connected to the demonstration of proper political leadership paradigms.

KeywordsCassius Dio, Roman History, Graeco-Roman historiography, historical causation, historical narrative, historiographic methods and techniques, political agendas, Cassius Dio scholarship.
AcknowledgmentThe reported study was funded by RFBR, project number 20-19-50173.
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1 Historical narrative
2 Narrative modes and patterns
3 A body of recent scholarship has looked at Dio’s narrative in terms of its literary and rhetorical characteristics. The Roman History is recognized to be a literary construct reflecting the author’s version of the Empire and its past. Such an approach provided fruitful ground for exploring diverse forms of Dio’s narrative discourse: political, ideological, cultural. Particular attention has been paid to peculiarities of Dio’s methods and historiographic approaches, the narrative structuring, in particular the annalistic and biographical techniques and the speeches deployment principles. А survey of the recent scholarship on these issues is represented below.
4 Modern scholarship has found Dio’s methodological agendas to be closely linked to his take on human nature, as well as his overall understanding of history. For instance, Hose explains the impact of Thucydides’ paradigm upon the Roman History by Dio’s inability “to establish rudimentary ‘teleological’ principles such as those found in Herodotus, Polybius, or Diodorus. It is thus understandable that in searching for another model of historiography he lit upon Thucydides”1. As said in Part 1 of the article, the Thucydidean paradigm is more detectable in the republican section of Dio’s work rather than in the imperial one. Obviously, Dio could have different methodological agendas for different parts of his work or switch methods according to the plot itself. As Rich rightly notes, sometimes “he was the cynical student of Machtpolitik, sometimes the political moralist, ready with edifying sentiments or models for conduct”2. The question which arises here is to what extend such a diversity of Dio’s narrative techniques did depend on his sources. Did he simply follow from one material to another one? For decades the positive answer to this question remained quite common among scholars, with Dio being regarded as a “one-sorce historian”. Recent studies have challenged this traditional view. A number of case-studies have revealed various thematic and interpretative differences between Dio’s materials and the parallel narratives and other sources on the Regal period3, Second Punic War4, Late Republic5, Julio-Claudian and Flavian periods6 or the Severans7. As a historian of his own right, Dio elaborates on all these topics and in some cases offers independent information. 1. Hose 2007, 464.

2. Rich 1990, 14.

3. Briquel 2016; Fromentin 2016.

4. Simon 2016.

5. Simons 2009, Baron 2019.

6. Devillers 2016a.

7. Molin 2016c.
5 A detailed analysis of compositional and methodological particularities of different parts of Dio’s work has been carried out by Kemezis who undertook a rare attempt to comprehend Dio’s extensive work as a literary whole8. Based on narratology approaches applied primarily to modern fiction9, he employs “narrative world” concept in order to reveal and explore the intrinsic conceptual integrity of Dio’s narrative, though admitting that different parts of it might have their independent functions. According to Kemezis, Dio re-imagined the history of Rome and created his own version of the Roman Empire as a stage for the historical process10. Methodologically, the study of Dio’s “narrative world” implies that the text should not always be taken at face value, sometimes subtexts and hints should be identified, while the main aim is to define the general principles of the construction and functioning of the narrative. Therefore, Kemezis advocates for making assumptions, formulating generalized explanatory models, and providing general assessments without delving into rhetorical analysis in each particular case11. The basic premise for such an approach is that the ancient texts were designed for readers capable of understanding “narrative worlds”, because neither in the time of the Severans, nor in our days, people perceive the world of the text and reality as identical12. Unfortunately, Kemezis does not refer to concrete examples of such reflection in ancient times. Therefore, it’s tempting to inquire about the correlation between ostensibly conscious and purposeful construction of the “narrative world” and the genre specifics. In fact, many Greek and Roman historians expressed their commitment to aleteia13 and believed that accurate and trustworthy account of the past events distinguished history from poetry which was based on fiction (e.g., Polyb. 1.14.5–6, 2. 56.12; Arist. Poet. 9.1451b.1; Luc. Hist. conscr. 8–9). Another issue closely linked to the previous one is the relationship between the individual author’s creativity and the literary trends of his times. In this regard Burden-Strevens rightly points to Kemezis’s selectiveness in dealing with the massive modern scholarship on the Second Sophistic14. 8. Kemezis 2014, 10.

9. A concise introduction to Dio in narratological perspective see Hidber 2004.

10. Kemizis 2014, 11.

11. Kemezis 2014, 11, 14.

12. Kemezis 2014, 14.

13. Dio is not an exception in this respect: 1.1.2.

14. Burden-Strevens 2016a, xi.
6 In comparison with the previous historiography, the novelty of Dio’s work, according to Kemezis, is the creation of an original compositional structure of the narrative, covering several historical epochs. Dio’s “narrative world” is not static. It changes at different historical stages defined by Dio in his comments on the periodization of the history of Rome (52.1.1; 72[71].36.4): early and middle Republic, Late Republic, Principate, contemporary period. These periods are associated by Kemezis with different types of narrative, i.e. “narrative modes”, such as republic, dynasteia, principate and the “eyewitness” mode15. The first two modes are distinguished in accordance with the periodization of the history of Rome in the opening chapter to Book 52. The identification of two other modes within the imperial period is based on Dio’s famous reference to the “realm of iron and rust” which replaced the kingdom of gold after the death of Marcus Aurelius (72[71].36.4); and his pledge to describe the contemporary events in more detail and more carefully, since he was a witness to them (72.18.4). Importantly, such a narrative structuring is never mentioned by Dio. It has been reconstructed by Kemezis, albeit tentatively, as the author himself acknowledges16. He concludes: “Each of the four discernible modes – Republic, dynasteiai, Principate and contemporary – functions as its own domain within the overall story world. Each has its own modalities or rules for what sorts of events are knowable and worth telling, for what sorts of motivations and possibilities for action characters have and for what is the nature of the Roman commonwealth and its relationship to individuals. Literary techniques also differ greatly; each mode has its own way of deploying speeches, digressions, narrative asides, vivid or emotive descriptive passages and so forth”17. Consequently, different elements of Dio’s narrative – for example the speeches – might have a different meaning and function in each mode. 15. Kemezis 2014, 98.

16. Kemezis 2014, 109.

17. Kemezis 2014, 98.

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