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The Oxford Classical Dictionary

Kenneth S. Sacks


of Cyme (c. 405–330 bc), a historian whose now lost work is of great importance because Diodorus (3) Siculus followed it extensively. In antiquity, he was thought to have been a student of Isocrates; there are in fact clear echoes of Isocratean sentiments in the Ephoran parts of Diodorus, and some of the character assessments found in Diodorus are in the Isocratean style. His pro-Athenian bias might also have come from Isocrates.

The 30-book History (Ἱστορίαι) avoided the mythological period—although it included individual myths—beginning with the Return of the Heraclidae and reaching the siege of Perinthus, in 340. His son, Demophilus, completed the work with an account of the Third Sacred War. His work was grand in scope and far longer than 5th-cent. histories. According to Polybius (1), he was the first universal historian, combining a focus on Greek history with events in the barbarian east. Ephorus may have been the first historian to divide his work by books, and he provided each with a separate proem. Individual books were apparently devoted exclusively to a particular area (southern and central Greece, Macedonia, Sicily, Persia), but within each book events were sometimes retold episodically, sometimes synchronistically.

Ephorus drew on a diversity of sources, historical and literary, at times using good judgement (he preferred the Oxyrhynchus historian to Xenophon (1)), at other times making unfortunate choices (he coloured Thucydides (2)'s account with material from 4th-cent. pamphleteers). Of special interest to Ephorus were migrations, the founding of cities, and family histories (see genealogy).

The History was widely quoted in antiquity and was generally complimented for its accuracy (except in military descriptions). It was known to Polybius and was extensively used by Strabo, Nicolaus of Damascus, Polyaenus (2), Plutarch, and possibly Pompeius Trogus. But its greatest significance lies in the probability that Diodorus followed it closely for much of Archaicand practically all of Classical Greek history. In paraphrasing Ephorus, Diodorus supplies critical information, especially about 4th-cent. mainland history.

His other works include a history of Cyme (Ἐπιχώριος λόγος), a treatise on style (Περὶ λέξεως), and two books (Περὶ εὑρημάτων) which aimed at satisfying the demand for popular information on diverse topics characteristic of the period.


Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 70. G. L. Barber, The Historian Ephorus (1935);Find this resource:

R. Drews, American Journal of Philology (1962, 383–92, and (1963, 244–55;Find this resource:

C. Rubincam, Phoenix (1976, 357–661;Find this resource:

G. Schepens, Historiographica Antiqua (1977), 95–118.Find this resource:

Kenneth S. Sacks