Asphaleia in Diodorus Siculus’ historical conception

Author(s):  E.S. Danilov, candidate of Sciences, P.G. Demidov Yaroslavl State University, Yaroslavl, Russia,

Issue:  Volume 45, № 4

Rubric:  Topical issues of political science

Annotation:  Diodorus Siculus’ (90–30 BC) Bibliotheca Historica has been the subject of textological analysis many times. Scholars often took notice of the ancient mythographer’s moralizing maxims. This article is aimed at finding a place for the concept of asphaleia in the system of Graeco-Roman historical and philosophical ideas as exemplified by the Diodorus’ work. Security is thought to be a sign of peaceful and careless existence. It is ensured by wise governance. Public security was certainly considered to be more important than any personal interests. Even when Diodorus speaks about personal security, he sometimes makes a reference to collective protection. If the king cares for his people’s prosperity, treats his subjects justly, maintains the rule of law, then his security becomes a precondition of general stability. Such a mutually beneficial cooperation is traced by the historian at the level of individual ethnic and social groups. According to Bibliotheca Historica, treason for the sake of security was a commonplace. Moreover, such base acts were often caused by the guarantee of asphaleia, but not by promises of money or other material benefits, though such cases were also not uncommon. Not only beneficial rulers, but also gifted generals deserved the reverential attitude. Indeed, good commanders keep a lid on important information, maintain discipline and watch over the course of battles. They are potential saviors of their native land from plunder, distemper and military defeats. Diodorus suggests that the general’s soteria is a guarantee of well-being of his army and his victories. Diodorus believed that citizens doing military service accepted responsibility for the security of their state, because it cared for them in peacetime. The cause of general safety may be jeopardized due to the greed of private individuals. Only modesty and equality accompany glory and security. It is unworthy to cling to one’s own security and cowardly wait for the outcome of war. It is a seeming advantage and it turns into disgrace. It is honorable to sacrifice one’s personal security in exchange for undying glory. Heroes who kept a stiff upper lip and disregarded their own lives in times of trouble were always held in respect. Only prudent and righteous people are able to protect the fatherland. Asphaleia for Diodorus is materialized in the form of certain religious symbols and geographical features. The first conventional group includes deified animals under whose images people united in order to stand against perils. The second group is mainly represented by sea harbours and sanctuaries serving as asylums. What should people do to be in security as long as possible? They must follow not only the philanthropy principle, but also the considerations of benefit. Diodorus supports Epicurus who believed that only pious life could be calm. But is it possible to equate ataraxia and asphaleia? What is the correlation between inward peace and earthly reliability of being completely dependent on externals? It appears that Diodorus’ asphaleia is an active component of the world history as distinguished from ataraxia. Asphaleia is rooted not so much in the contemplation of peaceful life as in the active struggle for law and justice. In other words, ataraxia is a derivative of asphaleia. It seems that Diodorus’ ataraxia is closer to asphaleia than to the Stoic apathia. Perhaps, we should also separate asphaleia and soteria. Soteria is salvation, i.e. the boundary condition characterized by release from danger, which results in security.

Keywords:  ancient historiography, Diodorus of Sicily, security, asphaleia, soteria.

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