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Duris of Samos
Duris of Samos
Relief inscribed stele with the Samian honorary decree
Ruling Samos Writing history
A narrative history of Greece
Duris of Samos (Greek: ? ; c. 350BC – after 281BC) was a Greekhistorian and was at some period tyrant of Samos. Duris was the author of a narrative history of events in Greece and Macedonia from 371BC to 281BC, which has been lost. Other works included a life of Agathocles of Syracuse and a number of treatises on literary and artistic subjects.
Personal and political life
Duris claimed to be a descendant of Alcibiades. He had a son, Scaeus, who won the boys' boxing at the Olympian Games "while the Samians were in exile"; that is, before 324BC. From 352 to 324 Samos was occupied by Atheniancleruchs who had expelled the native Samians. Duris therefore may well have been born at some date close to 350BC, and, since his main historical work ended with the death of Lysimachus in 281 BC, must have died at an unknown date after that. Some modern sources assume that the Olympic victor Scaeus must have been the father, not the son, of the historian Duris; hence he is described in at least two encyclopedias as "son of Scaeus". The ancient sources, admittedly meagre, do not support this. Duris was the brother of Lynceus of Samos, author of comedies, letters and the essay Shopping for Food.
Many 20th century works state that Duris was a pupil of Theophrastus at Athens. There is no evidence for this claim other than a conjectural emendation by Adamantios Korais of the text of the Deipnosophistae of Athenaeus. The manuscript text says not that Duris studied under Theophrastus, but that his brother Lynceus and Lynceus's correspondent Hippolochus did so.
The only recorded fact about Duris's public life is that he was tyrant, or sole ruler, of Samos. How he attained this position, for how long he held it, and what events took place under his rule, are unknown. "His reign was uneventful", Hazel guesses.
Duris was the author of a narrative history of events in Greece and Macedonia from the battle of Leuctra (371BC) down to the death of Lysimachus (281BC). This work, like all his others, is lost; over thirty fragments are known through quotations by other authors, including Plutarch. It was continued in the Histories of Phylarchus. Other works by Duris included a life of Agathocles of Syracuse, which was a source for books 19-21 of the Historical Library of Diodorus Siculus. Duris also wrote historical annals of Samos arranged according to the lists of the priests of Hera; and a number of treatises on literary and artistic subjects.
List of works
Parts of eight of Duris's works survive, ranging from 33 fragments of his Histories to a single, small fragment from his On Sculpture. A full listing is:
Histories (also listed as Macedonica and Hellenica; 33 fragments)
On Agathocles (also listed as Libyca; 13 fragments)
Annals of Samos (22 fragments)
On Laws (2 fragments)
On Games (4 fragments)
On Tragedy (and perhaps On Euripides and Sophocles; 2 fragments)
On Painters (2 fragments)
On Sculpture (1 fragment)
Of those later authors who knew Duris's work, few praise it. Cicero accords him qualified praise as an industrious writer.Plutarch used his work but repeatedly expresses doubt as to his trustworthiness.Dionysius of Halicarnassus speaks disparagingly of his style.Photius regards the arrangement of his work as altogether faulty. By contrast with recent predecessors such as Ephorus, Duris served as the exemplar of a new fashion for "tragic history" which gave entertainment and excitement greater importance than factual reporting. In Plutarch's "Life of Pericles" a telling example is Duris's elaborate (and, according to Plutarch, exaggerated) description of cruelty and extensive destruction at Samos when Athenian forces, led by Pericles, subdued the island.
Recent critics, believing that Duris was a pupil of Theophrastus, have attempted either to demonstrate that "tragic history" agreed with the teachings of the Peripatetic school or to analyse Duris's motives for taking a different line from his supposed teachers. The debate was inevitably inconclusive.