Diodorus Siculus


Diodorus Siculus
Historian late first century BC.
    The Greek author Diodorus Siculus made a brief visit to Egypt in c.59 BC, and he devoted Book I of his History to aspects of ancient Egypt. Although his first-hand experience of the country enabled him utilise and quote from his personal impressions, he did this only occasionally and preferred to derive his account from earlier writers, relying heavily on Hecataeus of Abdera, Agatharchides of Cnidus, and *Herodotus.
    Diodorus covers many of the same subjects as *Herodotus and, although his book is longer, his style of writing is far less entertaining; also, although both authors deal with the same material in many cases, each introduces details which are not found in the other account—their treatment of the subject of mummification is a good example of this.
    Diodorus gives an account of the *Osiris Myth which is covered much more fully by the later writer *Plutarch; he also describes animal worship, the cult and burial of the dead, the Egyptian systems of administration, law, education and medicine, and the flora and fauna to be found in the country. He also speculates on the causes of the inundation of the Nile and provides some interesting comments on the practise of cannibalism which he maintained occurred during times of great famine, although the sacred animals were spared. Another subject he considers is the forced labour camps which were introduced to deal with criminals. He comments that these were a good example of the Egyptians' attitude towards the rehabilitation of the criminal.
    His chronological account of the history contains many inaccuracies and a modern assessment of his work would be that it is a compilation of information from other sources rather than a serious historical record. Nevertheless, his writings form an important although unverifiable source for those periods (such as the fifth and fourth centuries BC) for which other evidence is scarce.
BIBL. Diodorus of Sicily, General History (twelve vols) Book I, 12-27, London: 1933; Waddell, W.G. An account of Egypt by Diodorus the Sicilian, being the First Book of his Universal History translated into English. The University of Egypt: Bulletin of the Faculty of Arts I, Part 1 (May 1933), pp 1-47; Part 2 (December 1933), pp. 161-218; Africa, T.W. Herodotus and Diodorus on Egypt. JNES 22 (1963) pp. 254 ff.
Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Rosalie and Antony E. David

Ancient Egypt. A Reference Guide. . 2011.