Theopompus (born c. 380 BC) was a Greek
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

 and rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...



Theopompus was born on Chios
Chios is the fifth largest of the Greek islands, situated in the Aegean Sea, seven kilometres off the Asia Minor coast. The island is separated from Turkey by the Chios Strait. The island is noted for its strong merchant shipping community, its unique mastic gum and its medieval villages...

. In early youth he seems to have spent some time at Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

, along with his father, who had been exiled on account of his Laconia
Laconia , also known as Lacedaemonia, is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Peloponnese. It is situated in the southeastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula. Its administrative capital is Sparti...

n sympathies. Here he became a pupil of Isocrates
Isocrates , an ancient Greek rhetorician, was one of the ten Attic orators. In his time, he was probably the most influential rhetorician in Greece and made many contributions to rhetoric and education through his teaching and written works....

, and rapidly made great progress in rhetoric; we are told that Isocrates used to say that Ephorus
Ephorus or Ephoros , of Cyme in Aeolia, in Asia Minor, was an ancient Greek historian. Information on his biography is limited; he was the father of Demophilus, who followed in his footsteps as a historian, and to Plutarch's claim that Ephorus declined Alexander the Great's offer to join him on his...

 required the spur but Theopompus the bit (Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

, Brutus, 204).

At first he appears to have composed epideictic
The Epideictic oratory, also called ceremonial oratory, or praise-and-blame rhetoric, is one of the three branches, or "species" , of rhetoric as outlined in Aristotle's Rhetoric, to be used to praise or blame during ceremonies....

 speeches, in which he attained to such proficiency that in 352‑351 he gained the prize of oratory given by Artemisia II of Caria
Artemisia II of Caria
Artemisia II of Caria was a sister, the wife and the successor of the king Mausolus. She was a daughter of Hecatomnus, and after the death of her husband she reigned for two years, from 353 to 351 BC...

 in honour of her husband, although Isocrates was himself among the competitors. It is said to have been the advice of his teacher that finally determined his career as an historian—a career for which he was peculiarly qualified owing to his abundant patrimony and his wide knowledge of men and places. Through the influence of Alexander, he was permitted to return to Chios about 333, and figured for some time as one of the leaders of the aristocratic party in his native town. After Alexander's death he was again expelled, and took refuge with Ptolemy in Egypt, where he appears to have met with a somewhat cold reception. The date of his death is unknown.


The works of Theopompus were chiefly historical, and are much quoted by later writers. They included an Epitome of Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

's History (Whether this work is actually his is debated),the Hellenics, the History of Philip, and several panegyrics and hortatory addresses, the chief of which was the Letter to Alexander.

The Hellenics

The Hellenics treated of the history of Greece, in twelve books, from 411 (where Thucydides
Thucydides was a Greek historian and author from Alimos. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC...

 breaks off) to 394 BC — the date of the battle of Cnidus (cf. Diod. Sic., xiii. 42, with xiv. 84). Of this work only a few fragments were known up till 1907. The papyrus fragment
Hellenica Oxyrhynchia
Hellenica Oxyrhynchia is the name given to a history of the late 5th and early 4th centuries BC in ancient Greece, of which papyrus fragments were unearthed at Oxyrhynchus, in Egypt. One of the two major fragments, the so-called London papyrus, found in 1906, deals with battles in the late...

of a Greek historian of the 4th century, discovered by B. P. Grenfell and A. S. Hunt, and published by them in Oxyrhynchus Papyri, vol. v. (1908), has been recognized by Eduard Meyer
Eduard Meyer
Eduard Meyer was a German historian.-Biography:Meyer was born at Hamburg and educated at the Gelehrtenschule des Johanneums and later at the universities of Bonn and Leipzig. After completing his studies, he spent one year in Istanbul. In 1879, he went to the University of Leipzig as privatdocent...

, Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff
Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff
Enno Friedrich Wichard Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff was a German Classical Philologist. Wilamowitz, as he is known in scholarly circles, was a renowned authority on Ancient Greece and its literature.- Youth :...

 and Georg Busolt as a portion of the Hellenics. This identification has been disputed, however, by Friedrich Blass
Friedrich Blass
Friedrich Blass was a German classical scholar.After studying at Göttingen and Bonn from 1860 to 1863, he lectured at several gymnasia and at the University of Königsberg. In 1876 he was appointed extraordinary professor of classical philology at Kiel, and ordinary professor in 1881...

, J. B. Bury
J. B. Bury
John Bagnell Bury , known as J. B. Bury, was an Irish historian, classical scholar, Byzantinist and philologist.-Biography:...

, E. M. Walker and others, most of whom attribute the fragment, which deals with the events of the year 395 BC and is of considerable extent, to Cratippus
Cratippus , was a Greek historian. There are only three or four references to him in ancient literature, and his importance derives from his being identified by several scholars with the author of the historical fragment discovered by Grenfell and Hunt. The fragment itself was published in...


In the Hellenics, Theopompus mentions Herostratus
Herostratus was a young man and arsonist; seeking notoriety, he burned down the Temple of Artemis in ancient Greece.-Occurrence:On July 21, 356 BC, Herostratus set fire to the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus in what is now Turkey...

 and his arson of the Temple of Artemis
Temple of Artemis
The Temple of Artemis , also known less precisely as the Temple of Diana, was a Greek temple dedicated to a goddess Greeks identified as Artemis and was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was situated at Ephesus , and was completely rebuilt three times before its eventual destruction...

, thus helping Herostratus to his goal of achieving fame, despite the Ephesian
Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Asia Minor, near present-day Selçuk, Izmir Province, Turkey. It was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek era...

 authorities forbidding mention of his name under penalty of death.

History of Philip II

A far more elaborate work was the history of Philip
Philip II of Macedon
Philip II of Macedon "friend" + ἵππος "horse" — transliterated ; 382 – 336 BC), was a king of Macedon from 359 BC until his assassination in 336 BC. He was the father of Alexander the Great and Philip III.-Biography:...

's reign (360‑336), with digressions on the names and customs of the various races and countries of which he had occasion to speak, which were so numerous that Philip V of Macedon
Philip V of Macedon
Philip V was King of Macedon from 221 BC to 179 BC. Philip's reign was principally marked by an unsuccessful struggle with the emerging power of Rome. Philip was attractive and charismatic as a young man...

 reduced the bulk of the history from 58 to 16 books by cutting out those parts which had no connection with Macedon
Macedonia or Macedon was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south....

ia. It was from this history that Trogus Pompeius
Gnaeus Pompeius Trogus
Gnaeus Pompēius Trōgus, known as Pompeius Trogus, Pompey Trogue, or Trogue Pompey, was a 1st century BC Roman historian of the Celtic tribe of the Vocontii in Gallia Narbonensis, flourished during the age of Augustus, nearly contemporary with Livy.His grandfather served in the war against Sertorius...

 (of whose Historiae Philippicae we possess the epitome by Justin
Junianus Justinus
Justin was a Latin historian who lived under the Roman Empire. His name is mentioned only in the title of his own history, and there it is in the genitive, which would be M. Juniani Justini no matter which nomen he bore.Of his personal history nothing is known...

) derived much of his material. Fifty-three books were extant in the time of Photius (9th century), who read them, and has left us an epitome of the 12th book. Several fragments, chiefly anecdotes and strictures of various kinds upon the character of nations and individuals, are preserved by Athenaeus
Athenaeus , of Naucratis in Egypt, Greek rhetorician and grammarian, flourished about the end of the 2nd and beginning of the 3rd century AD...

, Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 and others. Of the Letter to Alexander we possess one or two fragments cited by Athenaeus, criticizing severely the immorality and dissipations of Harpalus
For other uses, see Harpalus Harpalus son of Machatas was an aristocrat of Macedon and boyhood friend of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC. Being lame in a leg, and therefore exempt from military service, Harpalus did not follow Alexander in his advance within the Persian Empire but...


The artistic unity of his work suffered severely from the frequent and lengthy digressions, of which the most important was On the Athenian Demagogues in the 10th book of the Philippica, containing a bitter attack on many of the chief Athenian statesmen, and generally recognized as having been freely used by Plutarch in several of the Lives.

Another fault of Theopompus was his excessive fondness for romantic and incredible stories; a collection of some of these was afterwards made and published under his name. He was also severely blamed in antiquity for his censoriousness, and throughout his fragments no feature is more striking than this. On the whole, however, he appears to have been fairly impartial. Philip himself he censures severely for drunkenness and immorality, while Demosthenes
Demosthenes was a prominent Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens. His orations constitute a significant expression of contemporary Athenian intellectual prowess and provide an insight into the politics and culture of ancient Greece during the 4th century BC. Demosthenes learned rhetoric by...

 receives his warm praise.

Other works

The Attack upon Plato and the treatise On Piety, which are sometimes referred to as separate works, were perhaps only two of the many digressions in the history of Philip; some writers have doubted their authenticity.

The "Three-headed", an attack on the cities of Athens, Sparta
Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

 and Thebes
Thebes, Greece
Thebes is a city in Greece, situated to the north of the Cithaeron range, which divides Boeotia from Attica, and on the southern edge of the Boeotian plain. It played an important role in Greek myth, as the site of the stories of Cadmus, Oedipus, Dionysus and others...

, was published under the name of Theopompus by his enemy Anaximenes of Lampsacus
Anaximenes of Lampsacus
Anaximenes of Lampsacus was a Greek rhetorician and historian.-Rhetorical works:Anaximenes was a pupil of Zoilus and, like his teacher, wrote a work on Homer. As a rhetorician, he was a determined opponent of Isocrates and his school...

. The nature of the extant fragments fully bears out the divergent criticisms of antiquity upon Theopompus. Their style is clear and pure, full of choice and pointed expressions, but lacking in weight and dignity.

External links

Further reading

  • Flower, Michael Attyah. Theopompus of Chios: history and rhetoric in the fourth century BC. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1994.
  • Lund, Helen S. Lysimachus: a study in early Hellenistic kingship. London: Routledge, 1992.
  • Shrimpton, Gordon S. Theopompus the historian. Montreal : McGill-Queen's University Press, 1991.
  • Ottone, Gabriella (2004)."Per una nuova edizione dei frammenti di Teopompo di Chio: riflessioni su alcune problematiche teoriche e metodologiche" Ktèma. Civilisations de l'Orient, de la Grèce et de Rome antiques 29 : 129-143.
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