203–120 BC

Polybius is one of the most important original sources for the early history of the Roman Republic. Although he was Greek by birth, and wrote in Greek, he lived among many of the most prominent Romans of his time. His Roman patrons were the Scipio family, who played a very prominent role in the Punic Wars, and Polybius himself was an eyewitness to the destruction of Carthage. In his youth Polybius's family was also very involved in Greek politics, especially the Achaean League. His family was on intimate terms with Philopoemen, the leader of the Achaean League. In 171 B.C. open war broke out between Rome and Perseus of Macedon, and Polybius recommended siding with Rome. After the Romans conquered Perseus at the battle of Pydna, in 168 B.C. Polybius and many of his friends were sent as hostages to Italy. Because Polybius had already befriended the Consul Aemilius Paulus, he was invited to go to Rome, and become the instructor of Paulus's sons, one of whom was later adopted into the Scipio family, and achieved great fame for conquering Carthage. This son of Aemilius, later known as Scipio Aemilius Africanus, became a lifelong friend of Polybius, and opened many doors for him within Roman society. Naturally, Polybius came to be very partial towards Rome, and most of his histories reflect a great fascination with the Roman culture and activities.

Polybius was sought after as an advisor by many well known Romans. He followed his friend Scipio Aemilius, by then elected consul to Africa, to help him prosecute the third Punic War. He was an eyewitness to the destruction of Carthage, and very soon after traveled to Corinth which was destroyed the same year as a result of an Achaean uprising. He worked to salvage some of the most important works of Greek art from the city, and negotiated for leniency and cooperation between his Achaean countrymen and their Roman conquerors. This was the end of his career in public life however. From that point on, he retired to Rome to write his forty-book, complete history of the Ancient world, for which he is best known.

Key events during the life of Polybius:

182 BC
On the death of Philopoemen, Polybius's father becomes head of Achaean League.
169 BC
Polybius advises cooperation with Rome, against Macedon.
168 BC
After battle of Pydna, Polybius is sent as a 'hostage' to Rome, but is protected by Paulus and Scipio families.
  Serves as tutor to sons of Aemilius Paulus; befriends Scipio Aemilius; becomes well connected in Rome.
151 BC
Returns briefly to Greece.
147 BC
Follows Scipio Aemilius, now a consul, to Carthage.
146 BC
Eyewitness to destruction of Carthage.
146 BC
Returns to Achaea to find Corinth has been destroyed. Intervenes to assure Achaean cooperation with conquerors.
  Wrote a forty-book complete history of the ancient world, much of which has been preserved.
120 BC
Died at age 82.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Lords of the World  in  Lords of the World  by  Alfred J. Church

Image Links

The city was given to the flames.
 in The Story of Rome

Carthagian Women (Preparing for the Romans.)
 in Old World Hero Stories

Short Biography
Philopoemen Lead the Achaean League. Tried to unite Greeks, shortly before Greece fell to Rome.
Aemilius Paulus Led Rome against Macedonia at the Battle of Pydna and was victorious.
Scipio the Younger Led the siege of Carthage during the third Punic War.