Greek historian. Born in Alexandria at the end of the 1st cent. ad, he experienced the Jewish rising of ad 116/17, became a Roman citizen, moved to Rome as an advocate and eventually gained, through the influence of his friend Cornelius Fronto, the rank of a procurator under Antoninus Pius, which enabled him to devote his time to writing a Roman History. After the preface and bk. 1 on Rome in the period of the kings, the work is arranged ethnographically, dealing with the individual peoples as Rome conquered them: bk. 2, Italians; 3, Samnites; 4, Celts; 5, Sicilians; 6, Iberians; 7, Hannibal; 8, Carthaginians (Libyans and Nomads); 9, Macedonians and Illyrians; 10, Greeks and Ionians; 11, Syrians (Seleucids) and Parthians; and 12, Mithradates VI.; 13–17 treat the Civil Wars; 18–21, the wars in Egypt; 22, the century up to Trajan; 23, Trajan's campaigns against Dacians, Jews, and Pontic peoples; and 24, Arabians. A survey of Rome's military and financial system was apparently not yet written when Appian died in the 160s. The preface, bks. 6–9, and 11–17 survive complete, apart from 8b on the Nomads and 9a on the Macedonians (of which only fragments exist) as well as 11b on the Parthians (11b was perhaps unfinished at Appian's death); 1–5 are fragmentary, 10 and 18–24 lost.
In order to accommodate a millennium of Roman history in a single work, Appian greatly, but not always successfully, reduced the material he chose from a variety of Greek and Latin authors, among them Hieronymus of Cardia, Polybius, and Roman annalists like Asinius Pollio, Caesar, and Augustus. Since some of his valuable sources, esp. on the Civil Wars, are otherwise lost, his work gains historical importance for us, even though it does not simply reproduce these sources. Recent research has stressed Appian's own conscious contribution not only in choosing, reducing, and arranging the material, but also in the independent composition of speeches, in the introduction of episodes from the rhetorical repertoire, and in detailed interference with the sources in view of his avowed aims: a proud citizen of Alexandria, Appian makes events in Egypt the climax of his work; a convinced monarchist, he explains, not always correctly, Roman republican institutions to his Greek audience; a stout conservative, he regards a lack of popular concord, as witnessed in the Civil Wars, as cataclysmic; unusually interested in administration and finance, he preserves more social and economic information than most historiographers; above all, an ardent admirer of Rome, Appian explains her success through reference to the Romans' good counsel, endurance, patience, moderation, and, esp., overall virtue.
Subjects: Classical Studies.