Memnon of Heraclea

Memnon (in Greek Mεμνων; lived possibly 1st century AD) was a Greek historical writer, a native probably of Heraclea Pontica. He wrote a large work on the history of that city, especially of the tyrants under whose power Heraclea had at various times fallen. Our knowledge of this work is derived from Photius. Of how many books it consisted we do not know. Photius had read from the ninth to the sixteenth inclusive, of which portion he has made a tolerably copious abstract. The first eight books he had not read, and he speaks of other books after the sixteenth. The ninth book begins with an account of the tyrant Clearchus, the disciple of Plato and Isocrates. The last event mentioned in the sixteenth book was the death of Brithagoras, who was sent by the Heracleians as ambassador to Julius Caesar, after the latter had obtained the supreme power (48 BC). From this Vossius supposes that the work was written about the time of Caesar Augustus; in the judgment of Orelli, not later than the time of Hadrian or the Antonines. It is, of course, impossible to fix the date with any precision, as we do not know at all down to what time the entire work was carried. The style of Memnon, according to Photius, was clear and simple, and the words well chosen. The Excerpta of Photius, however, contain numerous examples of rare and poetical expressions, as well as a few which indicate the decline of the Greek language. These Excerpta of Photius were first published separately, together with the remains of Ctesias and Agatharchides by Henry Estienne, Paris, 1557. The best edition is that by Johann Conrad Orelli, Leipzig, 1816, containing, together with the remains of Memnon, a few fragments of other writers on Heraclea.

Memnon's history is valuable as a continuous account of nearly all the Hellenistic period, albeit a compressed one from a local vantage point. It is also valuable as the only reasonably complete example of the Greek historical genre of local history.


Smith, William (editor); Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, "Memnon", Boston, (1867)

Memnon; History of Heracleia, Andrew Smith (translator), (2004)


This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology by William Smith (1867).

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