AUB Libraries Online Exhibits

Siculus, D. (1749). Histoire universelle de Diodore de Sicile. (J. Terrasson, Trans.) (Tome Septieme). Paris: De Bure l’aîné.

histoire universelle009.jpg

Very few works survived from the ancient historians of Sicily. A rare surviving body of work is that of Diodore of Sicily, which gave a rare account of ancient Egypt and Greece, as well as Rome. Diodore spent some thirty years working on his "Universal history" which was entitled "the historical library", "bibliotheque historique": it covers over 1,000 years, starting with mythological times, and ending with Julius Caesar’s reign and the battle of Pharsale. The "historical library" comprises some forty books, out of which only twenty survived: 1-5 and then 11-22: all other surviving elements were fragments. By presenting this monumental history in three major phases (Greece and Asia Minor, then Sicily, followed by the history of Rome), Diodore elevated his own country to the level of Greece and Rome in its impact and stature. It is worth noting that the list of the seven wonders of the World is sometimes attributed to Diodore of Sicily, based on his detailed description of the gardens of Babylon. What we display here is a French translation of this monumental work, translated in 1744 by Mr. L’Abbe Terrason (1670-1750), who was a member of the French Academy (elected in 1717). He translated several works from Latin, and in his famous dissertation, a translation of Homer’s Iliad, he took the side of the Modernes in the famous battle of the Anciens et Modernes which defined the French Renaissance, siding with Perrault in his famous dictum which summarized the quarrel as such:

“Learned Antiquity through all its extent,
Was never enlightened to equal our times.