Dionysius of Halicarnassus

Dionysius Halicarnassensis ("of Halicarnassus"), Greek historian and teacher of rhetoric, flourished during the reign of Caesar Augustus.

He went to Rome after the termination of the civil wars, and spent twenty-two years in studying the Latin language and literature and preparing materials for his history. During this period he gave lessons in rhetoric, and enjoyed the society of many distinguished men. The date of his death is unknown. His great work, entitled Ρωμαικης Αρχαιολογιας (Rhomaikes Archaiologias, Roman Antiquities), embraced the history of Rome from the mythical period to the beginning of the First Punic War.

It was divided into twenty books, of which the first nine remain entire, the tenth and eleventh are nearly complete, and the remaining books exist in fragments in the excerpts of Constantine Porphyrogenitus and an epitome discovered by Angelo Mai in a Milan manuscript. The first three books of Appian, and Plutarch's Life of Camillus also embody much of Dionysius.

His chief object was to reconcile the Greeks to the rule of Rome, by dilating upon the good qualities of their conquerors. According to him, history is philosophy teaching by examples, and this idea he has carried out from the point of view of the Greek rhetorician. But he has carefully consulted the best authorities, and his work and that of Livy are the only connected and detailed extant accounts of early Roman history.

Dionysius was also the author of several rhetorical treatises, in which he shows that he has thoroughly studied the best Attic models: The Art of Rhetoric (which is rather a collection of essays on the theory of rhetoric), incomplete, and certainly not all his work; The Arrangement of Words (Περι Συνθεσως Ονοματων), treating of the combination of words according to the different styles of oratory; On Imitation (Περι Μιμησεως, Peri Mimeseos), on the best models in the different kinds of literature and the way in which they are to be imitated — a fragmentary work; Commentaries on the Attic Orators (Περι Των αρχαιων Ρητορων), which, however, only deal with Lysias, Isaeus, Isocrates and (by way of supplement) Dinarchus; On the Admirable Style of Demosthenes (Περι λεκτικης Δημσθενους δεινοτητος Perì lektikês Demosthenous deinotetos); and On the Character of Thucydides (Περι Θουκιδιδου χαρακτηρος), a detailed but on the whole an unfair estimate. These two treatises are supplemented by letters to Gn. Pompeius and Ammaeus (two).


  • Complete edition by Johann Jakob Reiske (1774–1777
  • of the Archaeologia by A. Kiessling and V. Prou (1886) and C. Jacoby (1885–1891
  • Opuscula by Hermann Usener and Ludwig Radermacher (1899) in the Teubner series
  • Roman Antiquities by V. Fromentin and J. H. Sautel (1998-), and Opuscula rhetorica by Aujac (1978-), in the Collection Budé
  • English translation by Edward Spelman (1758).


A full bibliography of the rhetorical works is given in W. Rhys Roberts's edition of the Three Literary Letters (1901); the same author published an edition of the De compositione verborum (1910, with trans.).

See also M. Egger, Denys d'Halicarnasse (1902), a very useful treatise. On the sources of Dionysius see O. Bocksch, "De fontibus Dion. Halicarnassensis" in Leipziger Studien, xvii. (1895). Cf. also J. E. Sandys, Hist. of Class. Schol. i. (1906).

He is often cited as Dion. Halic. in print publications.


English translation of the Antiquities (at LacusCurtius)

This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.

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