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Headword: Ῥωμαίων ἀρχή
Adler number: rho,246
Translated headword: Roman empire, Romans' empire
Vetting Status: high
This surpassed by far that [sic] of [the] Assyrians and Persians and Macedonians, the previous ones. In the East it is bounded by [the] Indians and [the] Red Sea[1] and [the] Nile and Cataracts[2] and lake Maeotis.[3] As regards the west, [it is bounded by] [...][4] and Ocean itself,[5] which was shown by the [sc. Romans'] accomplishments to be no myth;[6] nor did the poets falsely sing its name for entertainment, since in fact the land of the Britons, which is an island surrounded by Ocean, has now been discovered and is considered part of the Roman empire. Accordingly, whoever wants may tell how undisputedly they have surpassed the ancient states —- judging by the size of the force of their attackers, by their comparative bravery,[7] by their generalship, by the ingenuity of their devices,[8] and by the excellence of their opponents. Dexippus [sc. wrote this].[9]
[It is said] that the growth of the Roman empire was due to its peoples'[10] love of battle and to the fine organization of their fighting force, for all who live toward the west are more spirited than those who live on the other side [sc. of the Mediterranean]. Also the Romans are exceptional in the organized technical skill which they apply to their work. In this skill they excel even the Galatians[11] -- wearing down [their opponents] in their wars against neighboring peoples, and beating the barbarians through their discipline, and the Greeks through their courageous nature.
Greek Original:
Ῥωμαίων ἀρχή: αὕτη τῆς Ἀσσυρίων καὶ Περσῶν καὶ Μακεδόνων τῶν πρὶν μακρῷ ὑπερῆρεν, ὁρισαμένη πέρατα ἑαυτῆς πρὸς μὲν ἕω Ἰνδοὺς καὶ ἐρυθρὰν θάλατταν καὶ Νεῖλον καὶ καταρράκτας καὶ λίμνην Μαιῶτιν. ὅσα δὲ πρὸς δυσμάς, ὠκεανόν τε αὐτόν, ὃν δὴ μῦθον εἶναι τοῖς ἔργοις ἐδηλώθη, μηδὲ ἄλλως πρὸς ψυγαγωγίαν τοὔνομα αὐτοῦ παρὰ τοῖς ποιηταῖς ᾄδεσθαι: εἴγε καὶ ἡ Βρεττανῶν χώρα, ἣν περιρρέων νῆσον ἐργάζεται, νῦν εὑρεθεῖσα ἐν πέρασι τῆς Ῥωμαίων ἀρχῆς ἀριθμεῖται. λεγέτω μὲν οὖν, ὅτῳ δοκεῖ, ὡς ἀναμφίλογοι τῶνδε πρὸς τὰ παλαιὰ αἱ ὑπερβολαί, πλήθει τε χειρὸς τῶν ἐπελθόντων εἰκάζοντι καὶ τόλμαις ἑκατέρων καὶ στρατηγήσεσι καὶ μηχανήσεων ἐπινοίαις καὶ τῶν ἀντιπολεμησάντων ἀρετῇ. Δέξιππος. ὅτι τὴν Ῥωμαίων ἀρχὴν αἴτιον αὐξηθῆναι τὸ φιλόμαχον ἐθνῶν καὶ τὸ εὐσύντακτον τῆς δυνάμεως: πάντες γὰρ οἱ πρὸς ἑσπέραν θυμικώτεροι εἰσὶ τῶν ἐπὶ θάτερα κατοικούντων. περιττεύει δὲ Ῥωμαίοις τὸ τεταγμένον ἐν τῷ ἔργῳ τεχνικόν: ᾧ καὶ Γαλατῶν ἐκράτουν, καὶ ἐν τοῖς πρὸς τοὺς ὁμόρους πολέμοις τριβέντες καὶ περιόντες τῶν βαρβάρων τῇ συντάξει, τῶν Ἑλλήνων φύσει καὶ ἀνδρείᾳ.
[1] Probably 'Red Sea' here refers to either the Persian Gulf or the Indian Ocean; cf. epsilon 3097.
[2] Perhaps the cataracts of the Nile, or more likely the Iron Gates of the Danube: see kappa 745.
[3] The Sea of Azov: mu 344.
[4] Something is missing here; mention of the Rhine and Danube, Bernhardy supposed.
[5] 'Ocean' here refers to the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean west of the continental coast. In archaic Greek epic Ocean is an divine figure; the Iliad even calls Ocean the γένεσις or father-source of the gods (14.201 at web address 1), and the Odyssey provides an early confirmation of the idea, which was certainly commonplace later, that Ocean surrounded the world and served as a sort of boundary zone (11.13, 21, 158, 12.1 at web address 2). Hesiod too accords an early, and thus honored, place to Ocean in his Theogony (20). In the Suda, Ocean has an entry at omega 43; see also the Orkneys at omicron 665.
[6] The sense here does need a negative, i.e. Bekker's μή for the transmitted δή .
[7] Literally this phrase is translated 'by the bravery of each side', that is the bravery of the Romans and of those with whom they may be compared.
[8] 'Devices' here means things like catapults and ballistas, technical military equipment which gave them the upper hand.
[9] See generally delta 237 for Dexippus (FGrH 100), a third-century CE Athenian sophist and general, who wrote a universal history and the Skythica, which dealt with the Gothic Wars of the third century CE. (Other Suda entries that include excerpts from him are alpha 3292, epsilon 2455, epsilon 3485, pi 420, pi 494, pi 778, and sigma 227. (The present passage is FGrH 100 F12. According to Adler's apparatus, B.G. Niebuhr (1776-1831) attributed the second passage in this entry to Dexippus also (but he has not been followed).
[10] Perhaps we should write 'people's', following Niebuhr's (and Bernhardy's) emendation of ἐθνῶν to ἐθνοῦς . Certainly in such a nationalistic description as this it would make more sense to call the Romans a 'people' rather than 'peoples'.
[11] On the Galatians or Gauls, see gamma 21.
Associated internet addresses:
Web address 1,
Web address 2
Keywords: chronology; ethics; geography; historiography; history; military affairs; poetry; science and technology
Translated by: Abram Ring on 11 February 2005@15:06:49.
Vetted by:
Catharine Roth (added cross-references, set status) on 11 February 2005@19:58:53.
David Whitehead (augmented n.5; more keywords; cosmetics) on 13 February 2005@04:35:07.
Catharine Roth (added note on the Cataracts after discussion with AR) on 31 August 2006@12:16:12.
Catharine Roth (added cross-reference) on 6 September 2006@23:23:15.
David Whitehead (tweaked tr; another note; another keyword) on 22 September 2010@10:08:27.
David Whitehead (another keyword; cosmetics; raised status) on 29 October 2013@10:55:04.
David Whitehead (tweaks to tr; another note) on 5 June 2014@08:46:31.


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