Quintus Fabius Pictor

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Quintus Fabius Pictor (* around 254 BC; † around 201 BC) was a Roman politician and historian .


Quintus Fabius Pictor is the first literary figure among the Roman historians. He was a member of the patrician family of the Fabians , son of the consul from 269 BC. BC, Gaius Fabius Pictor and grandson of Gaius Fabius Pictor , who was the first to use the nickname Pictor. 225 BC He took part in the fight against the Celts advancing to central Italy and in the Second Punic War he fought in 217 BC. BC on Lake Trasimeno against the Carthaginians . As a senator he was assigned to travel to the Oracle of Delphi to seek advice after the defeat in the Battle of Cannae . The consultation of the Delphic Oracle and its translation into Latin required a command of the Greek language. It can therefore be assumed that Quintus Fabius was familiar with the Greek culture.


Fabius' work belongs to the genre of historiography. The subgenus is controversial. Greek authors cite the work as Romaika ( Dionysius of Halicarnassus ) or Romaion ( Diodor ). Cicero , Pliny the Elder and Gellius name the work annales . So for a long time Fabius was ranked among the ranks of the annalists; B. Peter Bung. But since the annalistic scheme does not pervade the whole work, Gelzer Pictor counts more as an imitator of Hellenistic ktiseis (founding stories ) and Flach finds a pragmatic historiography in the representation of contemporary history . Michael von Albrecht does not want to "drive the contrast between annals and pragmatic historiography to extremes, especially since the disparate material does not allow either of the two principles to be implemented consistently".

Except for a few fragments, Fabius's work has been lost. It reports from the founding of the city of Rome to around the 2nd Punic War. Where exactly the work ends is a matter of dispute. The composition time is between 215 and 210 BC. Chr. Fabius is strongly influenced by Greek historiography, its role model function is already evident in his depiction of the early period. Here he makes use of the Greek Ktisis literature and uses the Tire of Sophocles . He finds the Aeneassage in Hellanikos of Mytilene, the Romulus legend in Hieronymos of Cardia and Diocles of Peparethos . Like others, he lacked the material to reliably reconstruct the early history of Rome. As sources he used his own chronicles and those of other important Roman families as well as the annals on which the pontifex Maximus published the calendar every year, listing the names of the magistrates and important events of the year under the respective date.

From the First Punic War , Pictor gives a detailed report on contemporary history , in which he can also contribute himself. He is mainly guided by political goals. In the artistic-literary field, he would probably not have been able to stand up to the art of Greek language anyway. Nevertheless, he writes his work in Greek. The reasons for this are, however, rather that he wanted to reach the Greek-speaking world and counteract the anti-Rome sentiments prevailing there. He must have felt this on his Delphi trip. Greek historians sharply criticized the Roman expansion on the Dalmatian coast; the most famous representative of the mainstream hostile to Rome was Philinos von Akragas , whose hometown had been plundered by the Romans. Therefore Fabius wanted to bring the Roman point of view, Roman values ​​and traditions closer to the Greeks and to justify the Roman world power position. For example, he compared his view of the First Punic War with that of the Greek authors. In doing so, he protected the Senate, of which he was himself, from accusations.

Nevertheless, Pictor does not reflect the generally valid attitude of the Roman people or their upper class in his work. Rather, he takes the point of view of his family, the Fabians, and is thus often in opposition to other senatorial families. Pictor also incorporates current political disputes and prolonged rivalries with other gentes into his work. Because of this double objective, Pictor is in conflict between the expectations of his gender, also in the field of historiography, to stand up for certain convictions and the dogma of pragmatic historiography, which demands the greatest possible objectivity and to which he felt drawn as a historian.

His work ends with his memories of the Second Punic War, where he sees the war guilt entirely on the side of the Carthaginians, especially the Barkas family, i.e. Hamilkar Barkas and Hannibal - an attempt to bring Rome's political position closer to the Hellenistic world.


Fabius thus becomes the founder of a Roman historiography in Greek and a tradition according to which the preoccupation with Roman history was considered to be the task of men who, like him, played a leading role in public life in Rome (see also Senatorial Historiography ). Most of his successors came from senatorial families and wrote in Greek until the middle of the 2nd century BC. The phenomenon of the politician, especially the senator as a historian, continues up to Cato , Sallust and Tacitus .

It was used as a source by Polybius , Livius , Dionysius of Halicarnassus and Diodorus . His texts were translated into Latin at the time of Cicero .

Editions and translations

  • Hans Beck , Uwe Walter (ed.): The early Roman historians . Volume 1: From Fabius Pictor to Cn. Gellius . Texts on research 76. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2001, ISBN 3-534-14757-X , pp. 55-136.
  • Hermann Peter (ed.): Historicorum romanorum reliquiae . Volume 1. Teubner, Leipzig 1914, pp. 69-100 (reprint 1967).
  • Tim J. Cornell et al. a. (Ed.): The Fragments of the Roman Historians . Volume 2. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2013, pp. 32-105.


  • Michael von Albrecht : History of Roman literature from Andronicus to Boethius and its continued effect . Volume 1. 3rd, improved and expanded edition. De Gruyter, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-11-026525-5 , pp. 315-317
  • Carlo Scardino: Fabius Pictor and the Earliest Roman Historians. In: Bernhard Zimmermann , Antonios Rengakos (Hrsg.): Handbook of the Greek literature of antiquity. Volume 2: The Literature of the Classical and Hellenistic Period. CH Beck, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-406-61818-5 , p. 657 f.
  • Werner Suerbaum : Q. Fabius Pictor. In: Werner Suerbaum (Ed.): The archaic literature. From the beginnings to Sulla's death (= Handbook of Ancient Latin Literature , Volume 1). CH Beck, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-406-48134-5 , pp. 359-370
  • Dieter Timpe : Fabius Pictor and the beginnings of Roman historiography . In: Rise and Fall of the Roman World 1,2, 1972, pp. 928–969.
  • Matthias Gelzer : Roman politics with Fabius Pictor . In: Gelzer: Small writings . Edited by H. Straßburger et al., Volume 3. Wiesbaden 1964.
  • Dieter Flach : Roman historiography . Darmstadt 1998.
  • Tim J. Cornell: Quintus Fabius Pictor . In: Tim J. Cornell et al. a. (Ed.): The Fragments of the Roman Historians . Volume 1. Oxford 2013, pp. 160-178


  1. ^ Peter Bung: Q. Fabius Pictor, the first Roman annalist . Dissertation Cologne 1950.