Roman Republic

Mediterranean powers at the time of Timaeus (adapted from Wikipedia)

As Edward Bispham and Timothy Cornell (in Cornell T. J. (editor), referenced below, Vol. I, at p. 163) pointed out, Q. Fabius Pictor (died after 216 BC):

  1. “... was the first Roman to write a history of his city ... , and he did so in Greek.”

Unsurprisingly, when Fabius gave a date for the foundation of his city, he also did this ‘in Greek ‘: according to Dionysius of Halicarnassus (7 BC):

  1. “... Q. Fabius [places the foundation of Rome] in the first year of the 8th Olympiad, [the year that we call 748 BC]”, (‘Roman Antiquities, 1: 74: 1).

I discuss Fabius’ dating and those of subsequent scholars in my page Date of the Foundation of Rome III: from Q. Fabius Pictor.   However, we should first deal with the comparable dates given by two earlier Greek scholars whose works provided the basis for these later refinements:

  1. Timaeus of Tauromenium (discussed in this page); and

  2. Eratosthenes of Cyrene (see the page Date of the Foundation of Rome II: Eratosthenes).

Biography of Timaeus

Timaeus was the son of Andromachus, the founder of the Greek city of Tauromenium (on the east coast of Sicily, near modern Taormina) in 358 BC near the site of Naxos, which had been the first Greek colony to be founded on Sicily.  Diodorus Siculus (1st century BC) recorded relevant history:

  1. when Dionysius I, the tyrant of Syracuse captured Naxos in 403 BC, he:

  2. “... sold the inhabitants into slavery, turned their property over to the soldiers to plunder, and razed the walls and the dwellings. ... He gave the territory of the Naxians  ... to the neighbouring Siceli ...”, (‘Library of History’, 14: 15: 2-3); and

  3. in 358 BC:

  4. “... Andromachus of Tauromenium, who was the father of Timaeus, the author of the ‘Histories’, and distinguished for his wealth and nobility of spirit, gathered together the men who had survived the razing of Naxos ... Having settled [them on] the hill called Tauros above Naxos, ... he called [the new city] Tauromenium ....”, (‘Library of History’, 16: 7: 1).

Timaeus was born here in ca. 350 BC, at a time when tensions within and between the Greek cities were exacerbated by Carthagian incursions.  As Christopher Baron (referenced below, at p. 17) observed:

  1. “By 345/4 BC, the situation had become dire, and exiles from Syracuse ... called for help from their mother city, Corinth.  There, a little-known aristocrat called Timoleon hired a force of 700 mercenaries and sailed to Sicily.”

According to Plutarch (ca. 100 AD), when  Timoleon arrived in Sicily in 344 BC, he and his fleet:

  1. “... put in at Tauromenium ... where they were kindly received by Andromachus, the master and ruler of the city.  Andromachus  ... not only led his own citizens in the ways of law and justice, but was also known to be  against and hostile to [less benign] tyrants.  Therefore, ... he allowed Timoleon to make [Tauromenium] a base of operations, and persuaded his citizens to join the Corinthians in their struggle to set Sicily free”, (‘Life of Timoleon’, 6-8).

Timoleon soon took Syracuse, where he instituted and presided over an oligarchy.  He expelled all of the Sicilian tyrants except Andromachus, made peace with the Carthaginians (thereby securing stability for the Greeks to the east of the Halycus river), and invited new settlers from Greece. 

Timoleon died in ca. 333 BC, but the government that he had established lasted until Agathocoles seized Syracuse in  ca. 317 BC and quickly gained control of the rest of Greek Sicily.  The fate of Andromachus (if he was still alive) in unknown, but:

  1. according to Diodorus, Timaeus: 

  2. “... was banished from Sicily by Agathocles and could not strike back while the monarch lived, [although, thereafter], he defamed him for all time in his ‘History’”, (‘Library of History’, 21: 17: 1);

  3. according to the hypercritical Polybius (ca. 150 BC), the exiled Timaeus:

  4. “... lived for nearly 50 years in Athens with access to the works of previous writers, [and] considered himself peculiarly qualified to write history ... ”, (‘Histories’, 12; 25d: 1); and

  5. according to Plutarch, Timaeus put his period of exile to good use:

  6. “The  Muses, it appears, called exile to their aid in perfecting for the ancients the finest and most esteemed of their writings.  ... [For example], Timaeus of Tauromenium [wrote] at Athens, ... [He and] many more did not despair when driven from their countries,... , but ... accepted their exile as a provision granted by Fortune for this end, an exile that has made them everywhere remembered even in death”, (‘On Exile’, 14, translated byPhillip H. De Lacy, referenced below, at p. 557).

None of Timaeus works survive but (as we shall see) fragments of at least three of them survive:

  1. a chronographical work based on the list of victors at the four-yearly pan-Hellenic games at Olympia; and

  2. two works of history:

  3. one on the Greek cities of Sicily and Italy from their foundations until the death of Agathocles in 289 BC; and

  4. an extension of this work that included the Pyrrhic Wars (280–275 BC)and ended with the outbreak of the First Punic war between Cartage and Rome in 264 BC (when Timeus would have been about 86).

An author usually identified as the pseudo Lucian  claimed that Timaeus lived to be 96 (see this translation of his ‘Macrobii’, at para. 22), and this is possible.  Plutarch (above) implied that he produced all of his scholarly works in Athens, but this is not certain.  He would probably have able to return to Sicily at any time after 270 BC, when Hiero II became tyrant of Syracuse, but it is impossible to establish whether he ever did so.

Timaeus’ Olympic Victor List

From Paul Christesen (referenced below, 2009, at p. 164)

The so-called ‘Suda’ (a Byzantine encyclopaedia of the 10th century AD) referred to Timaeus’ ‘Olympic Victors or Chronica Praxidika’.  Unfortunately, no explicit citations of this work (identified by this or any other title) survive, although it was presumably the basis of the following remark by Polybius, in which he disparagingly characterised Timaeus as:

  1. “... the man who:

  2. matches the [Spartan] ephors with the kings of Sparta starting from the earliest times; and

  3. sets the lists of the Athenian archons and priestesses of Hera at Argos alongside those of the Olympic victors; 

  4. pointing out mistakes [of as little as] three months made by the poleis (cities) in these registers !”, (‘Histories’, 12: 11: 1) , based on the translation by Paul Christesen (referenced below, 2007, at p. 279).

Paul Christesen argued that this passage indicates that, in this work, Timaeus had synchronised eponym lists of:

  1. the Spartan kings and ephors;

  2. the Athenian archons;

  3. the priestesses of Argos; and

  4. the names of the winners of the stadion (foot) race at successive, four-yearly Olympiads (see his comment at p. 277).

He also argued that the title of the work given in the ‘Suda’ indicates that he was primarily concerned with using the Olympian victor list for general chronographical purposes (presumably so he could synchronise the city-specific eponym lists from Sparta, Athens and Argos with the pan-Hellenic list of Olympic victors.

Olympic Victor Lists

Although pan-Hellenic games had probably been held at Olympia on a sporadic basis from a very early date, they only began to be to be held at regular, four-yearly intervals in the 8th century BC.  The names of the victors at these regular games, which were probably recorded initially in a relative ad hoc manner, were subsequently compiled as a continuous eponym list that could be used for dating purposes.  Of course, the result was only as good as the underlying data: thus, for example, Plutarch began his account of the reign of the Roman King Numa (traditionally 715 – 672 BC) by noting that:

  1. “Chronology ... is hard to fix, especially when it is based upon [the list of] names of victors in the Olympic games that is said to have been published at a late period by Hippias of Elis, who had no fully authoritative basis for his work”, (‘Life of Numa’, 1: 4).

However, this approach at least allowed the reign of Numa (for example) to be synchronised with eponym lists from Sparta, Athens and/or Argos.

Paul Christesen (referenced below, 2007, at p. 46) argued that Hippias of Elis compiled his influential list of Olympic victors in the period 400-360 BC.  His original list no longer survives but, from at least the time of Eratosthenes’ ‘Chronographiai’ (3rd century BC), the canonical list began in the year that we call 776 BC

  1. he began his list in the year that we call 776 BC, when Coroebus of Elis won the stadion race; and

  2. this date, however expressed, became canonical.   

He argued (at p. 172) that the ‘Olympionkon’ of Aristotle (330s BC):

  1. “... contained stories about the Olympic victors, [together with] a victor catalogue that began in 776 BC and was organised around numbered Olympiads.”

Thus, the stories would have begun with Coroebus of Elis, but the associated games would have been referred to as ‘the first Olympiad’ (rather than as the games in which Coroebus of Elis won Diogenes Laertius).  A surviving fragment from Aristotle’s work shows this new method of dating  in practice: according to Diogenes Laertius (3rd century AD):

  1. “Eratosthenes, in his ‘Olympic Victories’, records, on the authority of Aristotle, that the father of Meton was a victor in the 71st Olympiad [in Ol. 71: 1 = 496 BC]”, (‘Lives of Eminent Philosophers: 8: 2: Empedocles’, translated by Robert Hicks, referenced below, at p. 367).

Timaeus then probably broke new ground when he produced a stripped-down list of numbered Olympiads (starting with Ol. 1 = 776 BC) that could be used to synchronise the dates of the historical events since that time for a pan-Hellenic audience (see p. 25 and p. 288).

Timaeus’ Historical Works

A now-corrupt entry in the ‘Suda’ indicates that Timaeus was also the author of ‘Italica and Sicelica’ in <thirty->eight books.  This would have been a ‘local’ history of the Greek cities of Sicily and southern Italy, in a recognised tradition comparable to those of other Greek localities across the Mediterranean.  Thus, for example, the Romano-Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (late 1st century AD) criticised discrepancies between successive historians who belonged to some of these distinct traditions:

  1. “Even on Sicilian history, Timaeus did not condescend to agree with [the Syracusan historians] Antiochus [4th century BC], Philistus [ca. 300 BC], or Callias [ca. 300 BC]; there is similar divergence on Attic affairs, between the authors of the ‘Atthides’; and on Argive affairs, between the historians of Argos”, (‘Against Apion’, 1: 17-8, translated by Henry St John Thackeray, reference below, at p. 171).

According to Christopher Baron (referenced below, at pp. 30-1), it probably began with the mythological ‘history’ of the western Mediterranean and ended with a long tirade (in five chapters) on Agathocles’ rule at Syracuse (316 - 289 BC).   Polybius (critical as usual) sniffed that:

  1. “... I [cannot] approve the terms in which [Timaeus] speaks of Agathocles, even if that prince were the most impious of men. I allude to the passage at the end of his ‘account, in which he says that Agathocles in his early youth was a common prostitute ...”, (‘Histories, 12: 15: 1).

It seems that Timaeus had also devoted an earlier passage to the deeds of Timoleon in 344 BC: in another critical passage, Polybius sneered that:

  1. “... Timaeus makes Timoleon greater than the most illustrious gods:

  2. Callisthenes, [whom Timaeus had criticised], spoke of [Alexander the Great], a man whose soul ... had something in it that was greater than human; while

  3. Timaeus [spoke only] of Timoleon, who ... ,  in his whole life, only accomplished one move (and that by no means important considering the greatness of the world), the move from [Corinth] to Syracuse.

  4. ... in my opinion, ... Timaeus was sure that, if Timoleon, who had sought fame in a mere tea-cup, as it were, Sicily, could be shown to be worthy of comparison with the most illustrious heroes, he himself, who treated only of Italy and Sicily, could claim comparison with writers whose works dealt with the whole world and with universal history”, (‘Histories’, 12: 5-7).

Cicero alluded to another work by Timaeus in a letter that he wrote in 55 BC, in which he observed that many Greek writers had detached their accounts of particular wars from their continuous histories and cited, inter alia, the cases of:

  1. “... Timaeus with the War of Pyrrhus [in the 270s BC], and Polybius with that of Numantia ...”, (‘Letters to Friends’ 22: 2, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, at p. 157).

It seems that this work continued until 264 BC, since Polybius prefaced his own work by noting that it would begin with:

  1. “... the first occasion on which the Romans crossed the sea from Italy.  This follows immediately on the close of Timaeus' history, and took place in the 129th Olympiad [264‑261 BC]”, (‘Histories’, 1: 5: 1).

Timaeus and Rome

Dionysius of Halicarnassus (7BC) observed that:

  1. “As far as I am aware, the first historian to touch upon the early period of the Romans was Hieronymus of Cardia, in his work on the Epigoni [the  successors of Alexander the Great, also known as Diadochi].  After him, Timaeus of Sicily related:

  2. the beginnings of [the Romans’] history in his general history; and

  3. the wars with Pyrrhus of Epirus in a separate work”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 1: 6: 1)

Aulus Gellius (2nd century AD) similarly referred to Timaeus account of the early history of Italy and Rome:

  1. “Timaeus, in his ‘Historia’ (which he composed in the Greek language about the affairs of the Roman people) and M. Varro, in his ‘Antiquitates rerum humanarum [et divinarum (47 BC)]’, wrote that the land of Italy derived its name from a Greek word, oxen, which were called  ἰταλοί (Italoi) in ancient Greek”, (‘Attic Nights’, 11: 1: 1).

As far as we know, he was the earliest scholar to give an explicit date for the foundation of Rome: according to Dionysius:

  1. “ ... Timaeus of Sicily, using what κανών (canon) I do not know, places it at the same time as the foundation of Carthage: that is, in the 38th year before the first Olympiad”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 1: 74: 1).

As mentioned above, according to Censorinus (at ‘De Die Natali Liber’, 21: 3), Timaeus believed that there were 417 years between the fall of Troy and Ol. 1: 1.  We also saw above that David Asheri (referenced below, at p. 53, note 1) argued that Timaeus had applied the synchronisation Ol. 1: 1 = 776 BC (albeit that the use of this figure is not attested before Eratosthenes): if Asheri is correct, then, according to Timaeus’ chronology:

  1. the fall of Troy can be synchronised to 776 + 417 = 1193 BC; and

  2. the foundation of Rome and Carthage can be synchronised to 776 + 38 = 814 BC.

However, as Nikos Kokkinos (referenced below, 2013, at p.  50) pointed out, if Timaeus had also assumed a date 10 years before that of Eratosthenes for Ol. 1: 1, then

  1. his date for the fall of Troy would have been 1203 BC;

  2. his date for the foundation of Rome and Carthage would have been 824 BC.

The important point is that, in either case, Timaeus would have deduced that both Carthage and Rome had been founded 379 years after the fall of Troy.

With regard to Timaeus’ methodology, Nikos Kokkinos (referenced below, 2013, at p.  50) pointed out  that:

  1. “Dionysius [above] does not question the basis of Timaeus’ chronology for Carthage, but only his basis of the equation with Rome.”

This perceptive remark suggests that we should consider Timaeus’ dating of the foundation of Carthage before returning to his dating of the foundation of Rome.

Timaeus and the Foundation of Carthage

Carthaginian silver tetradrachm from Sicily (ca. 320BC)

Obverse: head of a female (Elissa/ Dido ?) wearing a necklace and a Phrygian tiara

Reverse: lion in front of a date palm

Reverse inscription (transliterated): 's'mmhnt' (of the people of the camp)

Image from the website of Numismatica Ars Classica 

Timaeus was no stranger to the Carthaginians and their culture, since they were in control of  western Sicily for most of his lifetime.  Furthermore, we know that he wrote an account of the foundation of Carthage: as Karen Haegemans (referenced below, at p. 278) pointed out, the now-anonymous Greek author of an essay known as ‘De Mulieribus Claris in Bello’ (‘On Warrior Women’, date uncertain) cited him as the source of the following information on a lady called ‘Θειοσσ᾽’ (Theiosso):

  1. “Timaeus tells us that she was called Elissa in the Phoenician language.  She was the sister of Pygmalion, the king of Tyre.  Timaeus says that she founded Carthage in Libya: when Pygmalion killed her husband, she put all her riches on a ship and fled with some fellow citizens.  After much suffering, she arrived in Libya.  The Libyans called her Δειδὼ (Deido or Dido). After the foundation of [Carthage], the king of the Libyans wanted to marry [Elissa, but] she refused.  Because she was [under pressure from] her own citizens, she pretended to perform a rite to absolve herself of a vow [presumably to remain faithful to her dead husband’s memory].  She built an enormous pyre close to her house and lit it.  Then, she threw herself from her palace [into] the fire”, (‘FGrHist.’, 566: fragment 82 translated by Karen Haegemans, referenced below, at p. 279).

Karen Haegemans argued (at p. 279) that this account was probably a faithful summary of Timaeus’ text.  Timaeus himself might well have taken it from a tradition that was well-established at Carthage and Sicily by his time of writing: although there is no hard evidence that such a tradition existed, Josephine Quinn (referenced below, at p. 114 and note 13) suggested that:

  1. the woman depicted on the obverse of the coin illustrated above could be Elissa/ Dido; and

  2. if so, then this coin could be a ‘Phoenician’ example of a type of coin that was issued by Greek colonists to depict their founders. 

We might reasonably assume that Dionysius (above) found Timaeus’ date for Elissa’s foundation of Carthage in this now-lost narrative account.  However, this raises the question of Timaeus’ source for this date.  The answer might well lie in a passage by Polybius, in which he recorded that:

  1. “Timaeus himself tells us that he had incurred so much expense and been put to so much trouble in collecting records from the Tyrians [among others] ... that he could not hope that ... [anyone would believe it]”, (‘Histories’, 12: 28a: 2 - see David Asheri, referenced below, at p. 63, note 17 for the phrase ‘records from Tyre’).

The Tyrian records that Timaeus had collected would have been the obvious place for Timaeus to look for the date of the foundation of Carthage by Elissa, princess of Tyre.  Furthermore, as David Asheri (referenced below, at pp. 63-4) observed, their translation from Phoenician into Greek would not have been a problem for Timaeus, even at Athens:

  1. “There was, after all, no lack of Hellenized and educated Tyrians living in the thriving community at Piraeus [from] the 4th century  BC ...  At any rate, there is no reason whatsoever to postulate that translations of Phoenician texts were unknown to the Greeks before the time of Menander of Ephesus [the source of Josephus’ Tyrian material - see below].”

Asheri concluded (at pp. 65-6) that:

  1. “... the [canonical date that] Timaeus used for dating [the foundation of] Carthage was apparently a Tyrian [document], ... translated into Greek and somehow squared with the Olympic chronology.”

Josephus, Tyrian Records and the Date of the Foundation of Carthage

We know from the Romano-Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (late 1st century AD) that the necessary Tyrian documents existed:

  1. “For very many years past, the people of Tyre have kept public records of the memorable events in their internal history and in their relations with foreign nations, compiled and very carefully preserved by the State.  It is recorded therein that, [for example], the Temple at Jerusalem was built by King Solomon 143 years and 8 months before the foundation of Carthage by the Tyrians.  There was good reason why the erection of [this] temple should be mentioned in their records: for King Hirom [I] of Tyre was a friend of our King Solomon, a friendship which he had inherited from his father”, (‘Against Apion’, 1: 106-11, translated by Henry St John Thackeray, reference below, at pp. 205-7).

Josephus’relied for his Tyrian information on Menander of Ephesus, whom Nikos Kokkinos (referenced below, 2013, at p. 40) dated to the 1st half of the 2nd century BC: according to Josephus:

  1. “This author has recorded the events of each reign, in Hellenic and non-Hellenic countries alike, and has taken the trouble to obtain his information in each case from the national records.  Writing on the kings of Tyre, when he comes to Hirom, [the friend of King Solomon], he expresses himself thus:

  2. ‘On the death of Abibalus, the kingdom passed to his son Hirom, who ... reigned for 34 years’”, (‘Against Apion’, 1: 118, translated by Henry St John Thackeray, reference below, at pp. 211).

Josephus then summarised (at ‘Against Apion’, 1: 125) Menander’s Tyrian king list from the reign of Hirom I:

  1. Hirom I: 34 years (see above)

  2. Baleazarus, son of Hirom I: 7 or 17 years

  3. Abdastartus, son of Baleazarus; 9  years

  4. Methusastartus, son of Deleastartus: 12 years

  5. Astharymus, son of Deleastartus: 9 years

  6. Pheles, son of Deleastartus: 8 months

  7. Ithobaal, priest of Astarte: 12 or 32 years

  8. Badezorus II, son of Ithobaal: 6, 7, 8 or 18 years

  9. Mettēn, son of Badezorus: 9, 25 or 29 years

  10. Pygmalion, [the brother of Elissa]: 7, 40 or 47 years

I have taken these figures from Nikos Kokkinos (referenced below, 2013, at p.  57, Table 2):

  1. the figures for the reigns of the ten kings come from columns 1-6 in this table, which record figures found in each of these manuscripts (none of which is earlier than the 11th century AD); and

  2. where more than one figure is given for a particular reign, the figure in bold is taken from column 7, which represents Kokkinos’ reasoned reconstruction. 

Josephus then recorded a vital piece of information for the subject under discussion here:

  1. “Now, in the 7th year of [the reign of Pygmalion], his sister fled from him and built the city Carthage in Libya.  So, since:

  2. the number of years from the reign of Hiram I until the building of Carthage amounts to 155 years and 8 months; and

  3. [Solomon’s] temple was built at Jerusalem in the 12 year of the reign of Hiram I

  4. Carthage was founded 143 years and 8 months after the building of [Solomon’s] temple”, (‘Against Apion’, 1: 126, translated by Henry St John Thackeray, reference below, at p. 213).

Thus, Josephus used what must have been the canonical date of Erissa’s foundation of Carthage to date the year of the completion of Solomon’s temple. 

Nikos Kokkinos (referenced below, 2013, at p. 46) observed that the key to the synchronisation of these dates with the Christian era:

  1. “... came in 1951, when [the inscription on] a marble slab from Assur [in modern Iraq] was published [by Fuad Safar, referenced below], giving the annals of the first 20 campaigns of [the Assyrian King] Shalmaneser III, inscribed in 838 BC.  In his 18th year (almost certainly in the spring of 841 BC), ... [he] conducted a campaign in the west  and received tribute from various rulers including one Ba-’a-li-ma-an-zer of Tyre.  It has been shown that this Tyrian king can only be identified with ‘Balezeros II’ the son of ‘Ithobalos Γ.”

(The inscription is illustrated in this webpage by Bryan Windle: search on ‘Ba’ali-manzeri’).  Kokkinos tabulated (at pp. 58-9, Table 4) this synchronised chronology for the ten reigns from Hirom I (995 - 922 BC) to Pygmalion (814 - 768 BC).  The key point for the current discussuion is that, on the basis of Kokkinos’ reconstruction of Menander’s king list, Elisa founded Carthage in or soon after the year that we call 808 BC.

Timaeus’ Dating of the Foundation of Carthage

We can now compare the dating implied by Menander’s king list (808 BC) with that of Timaeus (as recorded by Dionysius): as we have seen, if we assume that Timaeus’ Ol.1: 1 synchronised to ca. 776 BC, he dated the foundation of Carthage to ca. 814 BC.  David Asheri (referenced below, at pp. 64-5), who doubted the reliability of the detailed regnal dates transmitted by Josephus, nevertheless concluded that:

  1. “There is little doubt ... that the 7th year of Pygmalion should be located in the last quarter of the 9th century BC ... Assuming, then, that Timaeus’ ultimate source for Carthage’s foundation was a translated Tyrian record, one must conclude that the Carthaginian component of the synchronism is not an invention but rather a piece of chronological information discovered in the best document available at that time, [which was] a quite reliable one, even by modern standards.”

David Asheri (referenced below, at pp. 67) pointed out that, with this dating:

  1. “... Timaeus made a break with the earlier chronological tradition:

  2. Sophocles placed Carthage in the age of [the probably mythical] Triptolemus, which is at any rate several generations earlier than the fall of Troy;

  3. Eudoxus of Cnidus placed it shortly before the Trojan War; and

  4. even Timaeus’ direct predecessor, Philistus [of Syracuse (ca. 430 - 356 BC)] ... placed the founding about 1215 BC, a date that, in his own canon, possibly belonged to a pre-Trojan age as well. 

  5. Timaeus, on the other hand, totally disregarded the Trojan connection and, by drastically lowering the date from the mythical to the historical past, he sharply departed from tradition, both in method (by using a Tyrian document instead of a conventional canon a bello Troiano) and in substance.”

Nikos Kokkinos (referenced below, 2013, at pp. 50-1) pointed out that:

  1. “For Timaeus to be able to take [the] bold step ... [of] uprooting the [Greeks’ traditional date for the foundation of Carthage] from its heroic past and moving it forward into history by four centuries ... [must have required] uniquely strong evidence: [arguably] the Tyrian Annals.”

Synchronisation of the Putative ‘Tyrian’ Date of the Foundation of Carthage

Nikos Kokkinos (referenced below, 2013, at p.  50) argued that the credit for the synchronisation of the putative ‘Tyrian’ dating of the foundation of Carthage to 38 years before Ol. 1: 1 probably:

  1. “...belongs to Timaeus, [rather than] to Dionysius, since the former is known to have used the list of the Olympic victors as a yardstick [for dating local lists of eponymous kings, magistrates or priests/ priestesses - see the quote from Polybius above].”

Unfortunately, it is now probably impossible to recover how Timaeus arrived at what seems to have been a surprisingly accurate synchronisation.  Note, however, the suggestion of Karen Haegemans (referenced below, at p. 280) that:

  1. “... it may be assumed that [Tyrian documents] circulated in the Greek world, especially after the destruction of Tyre by Alexander in 332 BC.”

I think that this observation might be generalised in the context of the subsequent establishment of the library at Alexandra by Ptolemy I (discussed below) at the time when Timaeus was in Athens.  Thus, although we do not know the precise synchronisation that allowed Timaeus to equate the 7th year of Pygmalion’s reign at Tyre with the 38th year before Ol. 1: 1, we should not be surprised that he had relatively easy access to the data that he needed for this purpose,

Timaeus and the Foundation of Rome (II) 

We saw above that Timaeus assumed that there were 417 - 38 = 379 years between the fall of Troy and the foundation of both Carthage and Rome and that, if we assume that Timaeus had equated Ol. 1: 1 to the year that we call 776 BC (as Eratosthenes subsequently did), then according to Timaeus:

  1. the fall of Troy can be synchronised to 776 + 417 = 1193 BC; and

  2. the foundation of Rome and Carthage can be synchronised to 776 + 38 = 814 BC.

We also saw that  Greek scholars such as Lycophron (a contemporary of Timaeus) and Eratosthenes (from the following generation) believed that Romulus had founded Rome within one or two generations of the fall of Troy.  Thus, Timaeus’ radical shift  in chronology from the 12th to the 9th century BC applied to the foundation of Rome as well as to that of Carthage. 

A passage by Dionysius indicates that Timaeus was aware of the tradition that Aeneas had established his capital at Lavinium in Latium after the fall of Troy: he recorded that the images of Aeneas’ household gods (which the Romans knew as the Penates) were housed in the inner sanctum of a temple at Lavinium:

  1. “Concerning their figure and appearance, Timaeus ... makes the statement that the holy objects preserved in the sanctuary at Lavinium are: iron and bronze caducei (heralds' wands); and a Trojan earthenware vessel.  He e says that he learned this from the inhabitants [of Lavinium]”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 1: 67: 3-4).

None of the surviving fragments of Timaeus’ work allows conjecture as to how he filled the gap between Aeneas’ arrival at Lavinium in the 12th century BC and Romulus’ foundation of Rome. some 3 centuries later but, as Timothy Cornell (referenced below, 1975, at p. 4) pointed out:

  1. “... the version [of the story of Rome’s foundation] that became made Romulus and Remus the remote descendants of Aeneas through a fabricated dynasty of ... kings [of Alba Longa].”

According to Plutarch (1st century AD), among the variants of this tradition, the one that:

  1. “ ... has the widest credence and the greatest number of adherents was first published among the Greeks ... by Diocles of Peparethus, whom Fabius Pictor [see below] follows in most points.  Here again there are variations in the story, but its general outline is as follows: the descendants of Aeneas reigned as kings in Alba, and the succession devolved at length upon two brothers, Numitor and Amulius ...”, (‘Life of Romulus’, 3: 1-2).

He then described the circumstances in which:

  1. Amulius’ daughter gave birth to the twins Romulus and Remus; and

  2. when they reached adulthood, Romulus or one of his followers killed Remus.

Finally, he recorded  that:

  1. “... they say that, [on] the day on which Romulus founded his city  ... , there was ... an eclipse, which they think was the one seen by Antimachus, the epic poet of Teos, in [Ol. 6: 3 = 754 BC]”, (‘Life of Romulus’, 12: 2).

Christopher Baron (referenced below, at p. 49) observed that it is possible that Timaeus:

  1. “... played some role in the development of the Alban king list that filled in the ... gap between Aeneas and Romulus, but there is no evidence to indicate this.”

Like Dionysius, we are unable to say why Timaeus believed that Carthage and Rome had been founded at the same date.  However, as we shall see, despite the audacity of Timaeus’ late dating:

  1. it became broadly accepted for Carthage except in poetic circles; and

  2. it was subsequently pushed even further for Rome, so that (for example) Plutarch gave the ‘canonical’ date of 754 BC. 

At last three of our surviving sources provide evidence for both of these trends, each in a single passage:

  1. Evidence from Cicero (ca. 45 BC) comes in a passage in which he compared the constitutions of two states whose original constitutions had been similar in some respects to that of early Rome:  the start of this passage is now lost, but it can be completed on the basis of a slightly later line, in which Cicero made it clear that he was thinking of Carthage and Sparta.  On this basis, the passage of interest here can be translated and completed as follows:

  2. “[Carthage is] 65 years older [than Rome], for it was founded in the 39th year before the first Olympiad”, (‘On the Republic’, 2: 23), translated by Clinton Keys, referenced below, at p. 151).

  3. Cicero essentially accepted Timeas’ Olympiad dating for Carthage, but (at least in this passage) he placed the foundation of Rome in the year that we call 776 + 39 - 65 = 750 BC.

  4. A few decades later, Cn. Pompeius Trogus wrote a long account of the foundation of Carthage in his now-lost ‘Historiae Philippicae et Totius Mundi Origines et Terrae Situs’. We know from the surviving  epitome of it by M. Junianus Justinus (3rd century AD) that, according to Trogus:

  5. Ascanius, son of Aeneas, moved from Lavinium to Alba Longa after his father’s death, and that this remained the capitol of  his descendants for 300 years (‘Epitome of Pompeius Trogus’, 43: 1: 13);

  6. Romulus and Remus, the last of these descendants, founded Rome (‘Epitome of Pompeius Trogus’, 43: 3: 1); and

  7. Carthage was founded 72 years before Rome (‘Epitome of Pompeius Trogus’, 18: 6: 9).

  8. Trogus’ 300 years for the Alban kings is probably just a ‘round number’ that did not affect his dating system.  H seems to have dated the foundation of Carthage on the basis of a ‘canonical’ date of for the foundation of Rome: if he used the canonical 754 BC indicated by Plutarch, then his date for the foundation of Carthage was 826 BC. 

  9. Timaeus’ late dating for Carthage cut across another Roman tradition that was famously promoted by Virgil (a contemporary of Trogus), in which Elissa/ Dido was queen of Carthage at the time of Aeneas’ flight from Troy (see below).  Interestingly, in his commentary on Virgil’s ‘Aeneid’, Servius (4th century AD) criticised Virgil’s departure from historical dates at this point, observing that, when Virgil alleged that Aeneas had seen Carthage, he must be wrong, because:

  10. “... it is established that:

  11. Carthage was built 70 year before the founding of Rome; and

  12. Rome was founded CCCXL (340) years after the fall of Troy”, (‘ad Aen.’ 1: 267, based on the translation by Ralph Hexter, referenced below, at p. 338 and note 38).

  13. Servius, like Trogus, dated the foundation of Carthage on the basis of a ‘canonical’ date of for the foundation of Rome: if he used the canonical 754 BC indicated by Plutarch, then his date for the foundation of Carthage was 824 BC.  (On this basis, Servius’ date for the foundation of Troy would be 1094 BC, which suggests that the CCCXL in the manuscripts is corrupt.)

Sicily During Timaeus’ Exile

Agathocles concluded a treaty with the neighbouring Carthaginians in 314 BC but contravention it in 311 BC when he invaded Carthaginian territory.  He was soundly defeated at Himera in the summer of 311.  The Carthaginians blockaded Sicily and besieged Syracuse, but Agathocles escaped to Africa and threaten Carthage.  In 309 BC, he secured the help of Ophellas, who governed Cyrene for Ptolemy Lagides and had ambitions to the west (see the map above).  According to Diodorus Siculus (1st century BC) :

  1. “On account of [Ophellas’] marriage [to a prominent Athenian lady called Eurydice] and the other marks of favour that he had habitually displayed toward their city, a good many of the Athenians eagerly enlisted for the campaign.  No small number  of the other Greeks were also quick to join in the undertaking, since they hoped to reserve for the most fertile part of Libya for colonisation and to plunder the wealth of Carthage.  [This was an attractive prospect, since] conditions throughout Greece had become unstable and straitened on account of the continuous wars and the mutual rivalries of the princes, and [the Greek volunteers] expected not only to gain many advantages, but also to rid themselves of their present evils”, (‘Library of History’, 20: 40: 4).

However, this was a trick: Agathocles had Ophellas killed and took over his army.

The war dragged on until 306 BC, when Agathocles renewed the original treaty with his Carthaginian neighbours.  As we shall see, the war between the Diadochi (the rival generals of Alexander who fought for control over his empire after his death) had reached a climax in this year with a stunning naval victory by Demetrius Poliorcetes, the son of Antigonus Monophthalmus, over Ptolemy Lagides, which gave Antigonus control of Cyprus.  According to Diodorus Siculus:

  1. “... when Antigonus heard of [this] victory. ...  he assumed the diadem and from that time on he used the style of king; and he permitted Demetrius also to assume this same title and rank.  Ptolemy, however, not at all humbled in spirit by his defeat, also assumed the diadem and always signed himself king. ... [The other Diadochi], ... Seleucus,  ... Lysimachus and Cassander, ... [son followed]. ... When Agathocles heard that [these]  princes ... had assumed the diadem, he also called himself king, since he thought that he was not inferior to them in power, territory or deeds”, (‘Library of History’, 20: 53:2 - 54:1).

Shortly thereafter, Agathocles married Theoxene, a stepdaughters of the newly-designated King Ptolemy I.

Agathocles’ death l in 289 BC led to a period of huge disunity among the Greeks, which allowed the Carthaginians  the opportunity to cross the Halycus.  In 278 BC:

  1. an embassy from Agrigentum, Syracuse and Leontini invited King Pyrrhus of Epirus (who was then allegedly helping the Greeks of Southern Italy against the Romans) to Sicily to expel the Carthaginians; and

  2. the Carthaginians laid siege to Syracuse and agreed their third treaty with the Romans, this time against Pyrrhus, their common enemy.

Pyrrhus spent the period 278-6 BC in Sicily, during which he removed the immediate threat from the Carthaginians but failed to ingratiate himself with the Sicilian Greeks.  He therefore returned to southern Italy, at which point, the Syracusan army and citizens appointed Hiero II as  commander of the troops.  At about this time, a body of Campanian mercenaries known as the Mamertines (who had been employed by Agathocles) seized the stronghold of Messina and threatened Syracuse:  when Hiero managed to drive them off in 270 BC, his grateful countrymen recognised him a s their king.  In 264 BC, Hiero returned to the offensive against the Mamertines called  on Rome for assistance.  Hiero forged an alliance with the Carthaginian but, when the Romans defeated them in 263 BC, he concluded a treaty with Rome, by which he was to rule over the south-east of Sicily and the eastern coast as far as Tauromenium.  It is not known whether Timaeus returned to Sicily before his own death, which took place at about this time. 

Timaeus is known to have written at least three works (discussed below) during his exile, none of which survive.

Read more:

Quinn J., “In Search of the Phoenicians”, (2018) Princeton NJ

Baron C., “Timaeus of Tauromenium and Hellenistic Historiography”, (2013) Cambridge

Cornell T. J. (editor), “The Fragments of the Roman Historians”, (2013) Oxford

Kokkinos, N., “The Tyrian Annals and Ancient Greek Chronography”, Scripta Classica Israelica, 32 (2013) 21-66

Christesen P., “Whence 776? The Origin of the Date for the First Olympiad”, International Journal of the History of Sport, 26:2 (2009) 161–82

O‘Sullivan L., “The Regime of Demetrius of Phalerum in Athens, 317-307 BC”,  (2009) Leiden

Christesen P., “Olympic Victor Lists and Ancient Greek History”, (2007) Cambridge

Shackleton Bailey D. (translator), “Cicero: Letters to Friends, Vol. I, Letters 1-113”, (2001) Cambridge MA

Haegemans K. “Elissa, the First Queen of Carthage, through Timaeus' Eyes”, Ancient Society, 30 (2000) 277-91

Asheri D., “The Art of Synchronisation in Greek Historiography: the Case of Timaeus of Tauromenium”, Scripta Classica Israelica, 11 (1992) 52-89

Hexter R., “Sidonian Dido”, in:

  1. Hexter R. and Selden D. (editors), “Innovations of Antiquity’, (1992), New York and Oxford, at pp. 332-90

Cornell T. J., “Aeneas and the Twins: the Development of the Roman Foundation Legend”, Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society, 21 (1975) 1-32

De Lacy P. H. (translator), “Plutarch. Moralia, Volume VII: On Love of Wealth; On Compliancy; On Envy and Hate; On Praising Oneself Inoffensively; On the Delays of the Divine Vengeance; On Fate; On the Sign of Socrates; On Exile; Consolation to His Wife”, (1926) Cambridge MA

Safar F., “A Further Text of Shalamaneser III from Assur”, Sumer 7 (1951), 11-12 (text) and 19 (translation)

Keyes C. (translator), “Cicero: On the Republic; On the Laws”, (1928) Cambridge MA

Thackeray H. St. J. (translator), “Josephus: The Life; Against Apion”, (1926) Cambridge MA

Hicks R. D. (translator), “Diogenes Laertius.: Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Vol. II, Books 6-10”, (1925) Cambridge MA

Linked Pages: Date of the Foundation of Rome I: Timaeus

  1. Date of the Foundation of Rome II: Eratosthenes

  2. Date of the Foundation of Rome III: from Q. Fabius Pictor

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