In 135 b.c., unable to endure the treatment of their master Damophilus, a group of slaves, urged on by the wonder-worker Eunus, captured the city of Enna in Eastern Sicily in a night-time raid. The subsequent war, according to our sources the largest of its kind in antiquity, raged for three years, destroying the armies of Roman praetors, and engaging three consecutive consuls in its eventual suppression. The success of the rebels in holding out for years against a progression of Roman armies indicates the importance of the event, and the capabilities of their leaders. One expects the man capable of leading such a revolt to have been exceptional, and in this respect the ancient accounts do not disappoint: in a narrative replete with larger-than-life characters, ranging from the depraved slave-owner Damophilus (Diod. Sic. 34/5.2.10, 35–8) to the restrained Roman consul Calpurnius Piso (Val. Max. 4.3.10), one figure stands out in Diodorus Siculus'Footnote 1 depiction: the leader of the slaves. This man, Eunus, whom Diodorus describes as the leader of the event he calls the (first) Sicilian Slave War,Footnote 2 has been variously interpreted in modern scholarship. Analyses have fallen into two (not mutually exclusive) categories. On the one hand, the hostile and outlandish account of Diodorus is accepted uncritically, with the details of Eunus' character understood as faithful, historical representations.Footnote 3 On the other hand, the negative facets of Eunus' character are reinterpreted in a positive historical context, thereby outlining his suitability and capability to lead such a large and successful insurgency against Rome.Footnote 4 Indeed, UrbainczykFootnote 5 recently argued that despite the difficulties in saying anything definite about the leaders of the so-called Sicilian Slave Wars ‘[Diodorus] attributed to [Eunus] all the powers, abilities, wisdom, and cunning that challenges to the status quo had to have in order to succeed’.
To argue that Diodorus' openly hostile account could conceal the positive traits necessary for a leader of an insurrection is appealing. Yet any attempt to unveil a positive portrayal of Eunus from the hostile narrative rests on the assumption that it is possible to extract historically reliable material from a hostile tradition. Nor do we have to accept without question, as many have done, the portrayal of Eunus given in Diodorus as historically accurate. Before we can begin to approach a historical understanding of Eunus, therefore, we have to understand the literary aims and methods of the text in which he is portrayed. Both of the approaches above have not understood a number of key moments in the narrative of Eunus' career during the conflict. In what follows, I revisit Diodorus' characterization of Eunus. I argue that we must take full account of the literary context of the narrative. Once we analyse the depiction of Eunus in this manner, we will see that it served the purpose of ensuring his condemnation in the minds of Diodorus' readers: it was not, strictly, a historically accurate presentation.
KING OF THE ‘SLAVES’
1. The coronation
Eunus is introduced into Diodorus' narrative as (34/5.2.5) τις οἰκέτης Ἀντιγένους Ἐνναίου͵ Σύρος τὸ γένος ἐκ τῆς Ἀπαμείας͵Footnote 6 ἄνθρωπος μάγος καὶ τερατουργὸς τὸν τρόπον (‘a certain household slave of Antigenes of Enna, a Syrian from Apamea, a magician and wonder-worker in manner’). His reputation in Sicily as a prophet led to Damophilus' slaves turning to him to receive consent from the gods for their rebellion (34/5.2.10–1, 24b). At his exhortation they then seized Enna, and in the aftermath proclaimed him king. Modern scholars have seen Eunus' coronation as a high point in Diodorus' characterization of Eunus; and it is in many ways the pivotal moment of Eunus' career in Diodorus' narrative of the First Sicilian Slave War. Yet the passage actually defines Eunus' character negatively and describes the unlikelihood of his continuing success; it is the lynchpin of his whole relationship to his subjects. After the sack of Enna and the execution of various notable slave-owners, Diodorus continues (34/5.2.14):
Then Eunus was chosen king, and not because of his courage, nor his generalship (οὔτε δι' ἀνδρείαν οὔτε διὰ στρατηγίαν), but only because of his knowledge of wonders and his setting of the revolt in motion, but also at the same time because his name seemed to hold some favourable omen with regard to the goodwill of his subjects.
In the first case, we should note the negative assessment this passage suggests of Eunus' suitability for kingship. The passage implies that he has neither ἀνδρεία (‘courage’) nor στρατηγία (‘generalship’). It seems that Diodorus did not value Eunus' worth, and it appears that he also judged the critical faculties of the men selecting Eunus to be very poor: he was elected for superficial reasons based on his name,Footnote 7 his wonders and the fact that he had incited the revolt. We should start by looking closely at the qualities not considered for Eunus' acclamation, to assess in greater detail not only what Diodorus says, but how he is saying it.
It is important to note first that the phrasing of this passage is typical for Diodorus, although in this case with an interesting twist: in his history he consistently uses expressions based on the phrase ἀνδρεία τε καὶ στρατηγία to denote the qualities of generals and kings whom he considered to be exceptional leaders. In some variations of the expression ἀνδρεία is replaced with ἀρετή (‘valour’) or στρατηγία is replaced with στρατηγικός (‘general-like’). However, the meaning remains essentially the same: ‘brave and a good general’. This expression, in all combinations of ἀνδρεία and ἀρετή with στρατηγία or στρατηγικός, features 28 times throughout the Bibliothêkê, and is reserved for such notable men as Heracles (4.53.7), Epaminondas (15.39.2, 88.3), King Philip II of Macedon (16.1.6) and Fabius Cunctator (26.3.3) among others.Footnote 8 Furthermore, the chronological spread of the instances in the Bibliothêkê suggests that this was an expression unique to Diodorus. Yet, the use of this expression for Eunus is the only occasion, out of a total of 28, in which it is expressed in the negative. It appears, Diodorus' fragmentary survival aside, that Eunus is rhetorically set up as the antithesis of the previous leaders described with this phrase. Therefore, we should look more closely at why these two attributes were associated with ‘good’ leaders in order to understand the choice of an implied negative for Eunus.
We must first consider Hellenistic ideals of kingship, and in particular why bravery and generalship could be picked out by Diodorus as emblematic of a ‘good’ leader. In surviving works on Hellenistic kingship, courage and generalship are often noted as important. While there were acknowledged limits to this aspect – preferably a king was πολεμικός, yet if he was ϕιλοπόλεμος this trait was not desirable (see Philodemus, On the Good King according to Homer col. 9.13–15)Footnote 9 – it was none the less an important aspect of a king's role and character.Footnote 10 The election or acclamation of a king in the Hellenistic period, as with the Eunus episode above, was directly linked to the ideology of kingly behaviour. From authors as early as Xenophon it is possible to trace the development of this ideology and its component parts.
For Xenophon a good leader was one who achieved excellence through unremitting effort (Mem. 2.1.212–34),Footnote 11 and in his Cyropaedia he contrasted this quality in Cyrus with the attitude of Cyaxares, who often counselled the less brave or adventurous tactic (see Cyr. 1.3.20–3; 2.1.1–9, 4.13; 3.3.13–20, 46–7). Xenophon thought that men desert pathetic figures when presented with a better alternative: for example when Cyaxares' men joined Cyrus (5.1.24–6). Other authors express the same idea, notably Polybius (5.40.1–2) and Diodorus (33.22.1). AustinFootnote 12 showed that kings were often proclaimed after military victories: see, for example, Alexander the Great (Plut. Alex. 34), Demetrius Poliorcetes (Plut. Demetr. 18; cf. Diod. Sic. 20.53.1–4) and Attalus I (Polyb. 18.41), to name a few.Footnote 13 Since the aura of success was directly tied to kings, the link was maintained because an unsuccessful king could quickly become an object of contempt, and therefore vulnerable.Footnote 14 It was also important to the soldiers that they profited from their king's success: without that, they could be quick to turn on their king, as was the case with Demetrius (Plut. Demetr. 42.1–6; 44.8).Footnote 15 Indeed, failure as a military leader was enough to damn a king as unmanly and feminine, such as the denigration of King Prusias in Polybius for behaving γυναικοθύμως (‘in a womanish manner’, 32.15.9; see also 28.21.3). The military sphere was distinctly masculine in antiquity, while failure was a sign of effeminacy.Footnote 16 A corollary to this idea was the wider notion that leaders should focus on administrative and military matters over all other concerns. We may note Polybius' account of Philopoemen censuring the Achaean strategoi for failing to focus on their arms and armour (11.8–9),Footnote 17 Plutarch's comment on Pyrrhus' concentration on skilful generalship at the expense of caring about music (Pyrrh. 8.3), and Aristeas' statement that kings should focus on forethought for their subjects (245) and study records of their kingdom (283).Footnote 18 Diodorus' account of Viriathus also reflects these concerns, especially Viriathus' preference for eminence won through ἀνδρεία (‘bravery’, 33.7.1–4).
Diodorus' use of the phrase ἀνδρεία τε καὶ στρατηγία as a ‘catch-all’ definition of a good leader accords with the surviving evidence for Hellenistic attitudes towards kingship: for Diodorus the best leaders were brave in battle and had a knowledge of strategy; it hardly needs mentioning that a brave leader was not effeminate or luxurious.
We should now return to Eunus, the ‘slave king’. I noted above that Diodorus' choice of vocabulary when describing Eunus' acclamation – which followed a very minor success at Enna – suggested that he was setting Eunus up in opposition to ‘good’ leaders. The outline of Hellenistic literature on kingship has clarified the contrast: Diodorus clearly describes Eunus' acclamation as taking place for the wrong reasons, and implies that Eunus was the inverse of what a Hellenistic king should be.Footnote 19 We should now pursue this new recognition through the rest of Diodorus' narrative, after a final comment. In terms of the narrative, and especially in terms of Eunus' own career, his acclamation was the apex of everything that had gone before. During Diodorus' introduction of his character, we learn that Eunus predicted his own rise to kingship (34/5.2.7–9; although not, as will become clear, through true prophetic ability), and Diodorus, by describing Eunus' crowning achievement as he does, directly downplays Eunus' success: the description of Eunus' acclamation appears to have been composed with the literary objective of characterizing Eunus negatively.Footnote 20 Furthermore, Diodorus achieved this denigration through appeal to Hellenistic ideals of kingship, and so connected Eunus to a wider contemporary ideology. In spite of Eunus' very real success as king for a number of years,Footnote 21 Diodorus continues to undercut Eunus' actions throughout his narrative, thereby negating his success, and turning his readers against him. It is to these various negations of Eunus' achievements we now turn, in order to assess by what literary means they were achieved, as well as the effect they have on the reader.
2.1 An ignoble end
From his apex, we turn first to Eunus' downfall. The narrative of it is compressed (34/5.2.20–3; the climax of the war, and the subsequent capture and death of Eunus, is preserved only in Photius), but it is clear that Eunus' demise came at the very end of the revolt, and completed Diodorus' narrative of the war. After the town of Enna was retaken by the Romans, Diodorus gives an account of Eunus' flight and capture with a company of a thousand bodyguards (34/5.2.22–3). We are told that the bodyguards killed themselves to avoid capture, thereby taking the initiative, in a sense, from the Romans. Eunus himself fled to a cave, and was captured there with four companions (34/5.2.22). After his capture Eunus died while in the jail of Morgantina from a disease in which his flesh dissolved into lice. There are several aspects of this account that warrant attention.
Diodorus describes Eunus' flight using the word ἀνάνδρως (‘in an unmanly fashion’), as he fled to the caves διὰ δειλίαν (‘through cowardice’). This is in keeping with the way Diodorus portrays Eunus' acclamation as king.Footnote 22 Unlike in his acclamation, in which he was contrasted implicitly with ‘good’ leaders for his lack of bravery and generalship, Eunus' behaviour is explicitly contrasted with that of his followers (34/5.2.22). Therefore, while he fled through cowardice, they bravely took their own lives. This is a damning indictment of Eunus: not only did he take the coward's way, but his men refused to fight for him. Their actions mirror those of other soldiers of Hellenistic monarchs, who abandoned their leader because of flaws in their leader's character: faced with a choice between dying fighting for their king and death by their own hands, they chose the latter.
The portrayal of a leader as a coward was exploited for propagandistic purposes by other ancient authors as well. Plutarch (Aem. 19.3–10) contrasted the two differing accounts of King Perseus' withdrawal from the battle of Pydna, one from Polybius (29.18) and the other from Posidonius: the former argued that Perseus withdrew through cowardice at the start of the battle, while the latter argued that it was through injury late in the battle. Both Chaniotis and WalbankFootnote 23 thought that Polybius described this episode as he did to strengthen his pro-Roman bias. For present purposes it is notable that Polybius' version used cowardice as a method of denigrating Perseus.
Furthermore, for a king the manner of death was significant. Diodorus characterizes Eunus' death as οἰκείως τῆς περὶ αὐτὸν ῥᾳδιουργίας (‘worthy of his knavery’, 34/5.2.23).Footnote 24 He died, it has been argued, from scabies,Footnote 25 and the manner of his death is an interesting feature of this passage. UrbainczykFootnote 26 noted that Antiochus IV Epiphanes died in a similar fashion according to 2 Maccabees 9:5, 8–10. In that narrative, Antiochus IV is a monstrous enemy of the Jews, and his death is described as a divine punishment. Similarly Plutarch (Sull. 36) linked Sulla's death from a disease like that of Eunus to his excessive lifestyle after he retired from public life; also Pheretime in Herodotus (4.205), who is described as dying from a festering body as divine punishment for her way of life. Finally, Herod Antipater is described as dying eaten up by worms (Acts 12:23). This particular form of death was attributed to people who were the object of hostile narrative treatment.
2.3 The companions
There is more to Eunus' negative characterization in this passage than cowardice: Eunus' companions on his capture also deserve attention. We learn (34/5.2.22) that he had only four attendants left when he was dragged out of his cave: a cook (μάγειρος), a baker (ἀρτοποιός), a masseuse (τρίβων) and a drinking-party entertainer (τετάρτου τοῦ παρὰ τοὺς πότους εἰωθότος ψυχαγωγεῖν αὐτόν). Eunus was thus depicted as a degenerate monarch,Footnote 27 and his cowardly flight is therefore contrasted directly with his former guards: no military figure was left with him, only creators of luxury and food.Footnote 28 Again, this contrasts with the prevalent model in Greek thought that a ‘good’ leader refused luxuries and excesses, as I argued above. Indeed, some Hellenistic authors singled out leisure and the dining companions of a king as an important subject.Footnote 29 Moreover, Xenophon noted in his Oeconomicus the necessity to exercise control over oneself before one can rule others (12.9–14).Footnote 30 The focus on luxury in the roles of the attendants is also reminiscent of Theopompus of Chios' criticisms of Philip's court, which he accused of engaging in excessive drinking and extravagance (Ath. 166f–167c and 260d–261a).Footnote 31 The focus on luxury in his demise is clearly designed to complement Eunus' characterization as a coward and unworthy Hellenistic king. Moreover, as we shall see in what follows, the language of the passage concerning the fourth attendant, the entertainer, is related directly to the introduction of Eunus himself in the narrative in a manner that suggests that the construction of the narrative of Eunus' death was serving a very specific purpose in the overall story of the revolt.
2.4 From beguiler to beguiled
The fourth attendant is described as τετάρτου τοῦ παρὰ τοὺς πότους εἰωθότος ψυχαγωγεῖν αὐτόν (‘a fourth, who had been accustomed, throughout the drinking bouts, to beguiling [Eunus]’, 34/5.2.22). Specifically the verb ψυχαγωγέω, meaning ‘to beguile’ in this context, echoes Eunus' own introduction into the narrative, where Diodorus gave a lengthy aside on Eunus' history prior to his involvement in the rebellion (34/5.2.5–9). The passage contains important facets of his character which further demonstrate his unsuitability for kingship, but we will focus on another aspect of it, where Diodorus describes Eunus' relationship with his master (34/5.2.7–8). The passage tells us that Eunus' master, Antigenes, was rather taken with his slave's outspoken claims, and made him into a dinner entertainer; he was so successful that he was able to extract extra food from his master's guests.Footnote 32 However, the verb describing Antigenes' relationship to Eunus (ψυχαγωγέω) is used in exactly the same way as in the passage seen earlier detailing Eunus' fourth attendant: Antigenes was beguiled by Eunus.Footnote 33 Interestingly, this verb is the same as that used by Polybius in his discussion of ‘tragic historians’ at 2.56.10 to describe the aim of the ‘tragic historian’.Footnote 34 Diodorus used the verb ψυχαγωγέω, along with the noun ψυχαγωγία in a variety of ways. The basic use of the words as ‘to please’ and ‘pleasure’ in a neutral sense are found seven times (1.91.7; 2.8.7, 10.5, 53.6; 3.50.1; 4.4.3; 16.52.4) and are typically placed in the ‘mythological’ sections of his work. The negative use of the verb to mean ‘to beguile’ or ‘to seduce’ is found six times (1.76.2; 20.77.2; 26.17.1; 30.6.1; 31.14.1; 32.9b.1; this list is not inclusive of the two uses described in the main text concerning Eunus) and is generally used of leaders or peoples that are negatively described in the narrative: e.g. the Campanians are described as ψυχαγωγούμενοι (‘deluding themselves’) about their relationship with Hannibal; hence they sided with him against Rome (see 26.17.1).Footnote 35
The relationship between the passages describing Eunus' beguilement of his master and his own death is clear, and suggests an effort at ring composition in the construction of Eunus' character. For example, Eunus' beguilement of his own master took place at dinner parties, while Eunus' attendantFootnote 36 (34/5.2.22) παρὰ τοὺς πότους εἰωθότος ψυχαγωγεῖν αὐτόν (‘had been accustomed, throughout the drinking bouts, to beguiling [Eunus]’, my emphasis).Footnote 37 While the context is not identical, the implication of luxury is there in both passages, and this link must be intentional. The inference from this internal allusion is that Diodorus links Eunus to his own master and creates a circle in Eunus' personal narrative: he has gone from the beguiler of a foolish master to being the beguiled himself (and by logical association, foolish as well). It also suggests that Diodorus' intention was to portray Eunus, in spite of his status as the leader of a revolt against the actions and mistreatments of harsh masters, as no better than the same men he had risen up against: in a sense, Eunus became his master – who, we must not forget, Eunus had put to death during the uprising (Diod. Sic. 34/5.2.15). Owing to the state of Diodorus' narrative we can only hint at the full interrelationship between Eunus and Antigenes, but I suggest that this allusion demonstrates the effort expended to create a convincing literary account of Eunus' character, which, through certain careful applications of vocabulary, had a clear purpose in mind: to create a circular narrative for him, but also to turn the reader against him, through a narrative that is clearly a piece of literary stylization (as opposed to historical reality).
We have seen that the character of Eunus in the narrative of Diodorus, specifically relating to his role as king, is made up of cowardice, military inexperience and luxurious tendencies, described in terms that were consistent with Diodorus' own conception of (bad) Hellenistic leadership as well as wider ideas about Hellenistic kingship. Furthermore, Diodorus makes explicit links between Eunus and his master Antigenes, creating a comparison between the two and thus completing for Eunus a character arc that ended with his own assumption of the role that his master had filled in the narrative. It is also important to note that this portrayal of Eunus – in spite of the fragmentary and compressed nature of the source that does not give the full picture of his development – is consistent throughout his rise to power and his subsequent demise. There is only one other aspect directly related to Eunus' character to consider, and that is Diodorus' insistent references to wonder-working both when introducing Eunus and subsequently on his rise to kingship.
3.1 Τερατεία and τερατευόμενος
As already seen, Diodorus' introduction of Eunus includes a lengthy aside on his actions prior to the start of the revolt. This episode, discussed in part above, contains an important aspect of Diodorus' representation of Eunus: his pretensions to wonder-working. Before relating Eunus' relationship with his master, Diodorus provides a lengthy introduction to Eunus that provides a context for the reader's interpretation of his actions throughout the narrative (Diod. Sic. 34/5.2.5–8). This description outlined how Eunus gained fame for his apparent abilities at prophecy through his special relationship with Atargatis,Footnote 38 and his consequent position as Antigenes' dinner entertainer. In this capacity, Eunus had close access to Antigenes' dinner guests, who engaged with his alleged prophecy. This passage is very important for the construction of Eunus' character in the narrative.
He is characterized throughout the passage in a clearly consistent way. He is first introduced as a (34/5.2.5) μάγος καὶ τερατουργός (‘magician and wonder-worker’). However, Diodorus does not allow Eunus' status as a μάγος καὶ τερατουργός to appear legitimate. Immediately afterwards, Diodorus clarifies the situation: Eunus προσεποιεῖτο … προλέγειν τὰ μέλλοντα (‘claimed … to foretell the future’);Footnote 39 yet no real prophecy is taking place. We soon learn that Eunus went on to pretend (ὑποκρίνετο)Footnote 40 that he saw gods. The language chosen here is specific. In spite of his claims to the contrary, Eunus' actions are always described strictly in terms of creative impulse, not divine inspiration.Footnote 41 However, these claims, despite their fraudulent nature (as highlighted by Diodorus), gained Eunus considerable fame (34/5.2.6). This led to his position as entertainer at his master's dinner parties (34/5.2.8) and ultimately to his election as king. When Eunus was elected king, Diodorus remarked that it was principally because of his wonder-working (τερατεία). Throughout the passage above (34/5.2.5–8) Diodorus consistently uses words related to the concept of ‘wonders’ (τέρατα: for example see 34/5.2.5 for τερατουργός and 34/5.2.8 for τερατεία and τερατεύομαι). In keeping with Diodorus' description of Eunus' character in other respects, the description of Eunus' reputation as a wonder-worker remains uniform. However, it is important to enquire whether, as with his portrayal of Eunus as possessing neither ἀνδρεία nor στρατηγία, Diodorus is again linking his portrayal of Eunus to general stereotypes, either within his work or from the wider Hellenistic world, and whether this portrayal has an even deeper pejorative sense than that suggested by its surface appearance.
3.2 The connotations of τερατεία and τερατευόμενος
The negative connotations of the words τερατεία and τερατευόμενος can be found earlier than Diodorus in Polybius and his descriptions of other authors' techniques.Footnote 42 The word is consistently used to describe a style of history that focussed more on sensationalism than historical ‘fact’: at 2.56.10 Polybius describes how ‘tragic’ historians like Phylarchus would describe their history τερατευόμενον (‘sensationally’); at 2.58.12, once again attacking Phlyarchus, Polybius stated that Phylarchus included excessive detail and invented outrages that took place at the sack of Mantinea purely for the sake of τερατείας (‘sensationalism’); finally, at 7.7.1, Polybius asserted that other historians (not named), when describing the fall of Hieronymus of Syracuse, introduced πολλήν … τερατείαν (‘much sensationalism’). In Polybius, in the historiographical context, τερατεία and τερατευόμενος were both linked to ψεῦδος (‘falsehood’) in history (e.g. 2.58.12)Footnote 43 and, as argued above, Diodorus makes it quite clear that Eunus' τερατείαι were false; although he does not use the word ψεῦδος he does seem to be working from the same concept of τερατεία as Polybius in this passage.Footnote 44 Returning to Diodorus' Bibliothêkê in general, twice (3.36.2; 6.1.3) he uses the adjective τερατώδης (‘monstrous’) to describe stories told about gods that he felt were invented. Indeed in the second case he states explicitly that the writers of myth πεπλάκασιν (‘invented’) the monstrous tales. He also uses the verb τερατολογέω (‘to tell of marvels’) twice (1.63.8; 4.53.7) to criticize the Egyptians for creating sensational tales of the pyramids, and in the latter passage the poets' tales about Heracles, which he felt were inaccurate. None the less, these are the only surviving passages of Diodorus' Bibliothêkê to use the vocabulary in this manner.Footnote 45 I do not want to speculate on the origin of the terminology used to describe Eunus in this passage – and in any case the answer may be unattainable; but it is enough to note that Polybius, just like the Suda,Footnote 46 provides a persuasive framework for the proposed interpretation of Diodorus: Eunus' description is linked to a mode of behaviour stereotyped as deceptive and false. At this point it is worth investigating Greek ideas about ‘magic’ and ‘magic-workers’ to see how the connotations in these concepts inform our interpretation of Eunus' character.
3.3 Μάγος, γόης and ϕαρμακεύς
As we have seen, Diodorus labours to characterize Eunus' actions as illegitimate and fraudulent. Additionally, he describes Eunus as a μάγος (‘magician’). There were several terms in antiquity that carried the meaning of ‘magician’– μάγος (‘magician’), γόης (‘sorcerer’) and ϕαρμακεύς (‘poisoner/sorcerer’) – which, in spite of their varied origins,Footnote 47 became synonymous as ‘magic-worker’, although typically in a disparaging sense.Footnote 48 In particular the terms μάγος and γόης were almost entirely interchangeable, with no distinction as to what type of magic was practised, resulting in a generic meaning. These terms carried expectations of trickery, linked as they were by the Suda to τερατεία, which, as mentioned, the Suda considered to be based on falsehoods.Footnote 49 Furthermore, in the Roman mind, foreign peoples and their religions were often associated with witchcraft, and different regions held different expectations of their specific craft.Footnote 50 Holy men and ‘magicians’ from the east of the Mediterranean were typically understood, in both the Greek and the Roman worlds, to be skilled in prophecy, provided their prophetic abilities were not used to enhance their own authority: in this case they were considered a lowly magician.Footnote 51 Furthermore, the Romans believed, at least in the first century b.c., that the religious observances of the μάγοι in Persia were suspect (Catull. 90);Footnote 52 in Roman literature there were also clear distinctions between Roman ‘state’ religious practices, which were acceptable, and magical rites of a foreign and dangerous nature.Footnote 53 In Greek and Roman literate society of the mid first century b.c. there was a clear opinion that the dubious magical practices of other religions and those of ‘magicians’ were intended to alter the course of nature and were implicitly wrong.Footnote 54 This led to the use of the terms μάγος and γόης for stigmatizing ‘socially deviant, and therefore undesirable, views and behaviour’.Footnote 55 However, in spite of clear prejudices against these magical practitioners, some were very successful: for example, Simon Magus from the Acts of Peter, or Alexander the False Prophet from Lucian's Alexander. When looked at from this perspective, even Jesus could be viewed as one of the most successful charlatan magicians.Footnote 56 However, my main point is not that these men could be successful, but that the purpose of the terminology used to describe them was consistently negative.
Furthermore, the centrality of this ‘wonder-working’ to Eunus' character returns, as we have seen, in his election to the kingship: the apex of his success. After commenting on the qualities for which Eunus was not elected, ἀνδρεία τε καὶ στρατηγία, Diodorus informs us of the reasons for his election (34/5.2.14): διὰ δὲ μόνην τερατείαν καὶ τὸ τῆς ἀποστάσεως ἄρξαι (‘but only because of his knowledge of wonders and his setting of the revolt in motion’). We can now understand Diodorus' tone in this exclamation, given his clear prejudices against the use of τερατεία. For example, it is hardly positive that the slaves were duped by Eunus, and his charlatan ability could not be considered flattering, if we keep in mind the negative view driving the use of the relevant terms. It is apparent that this characteristic of Eunus infects his crowning achievement, further undermining his success, on top of the fact that Diodorus considered Eunus a coward and an inept leader. Furthermore, there is an additional element of Diodorus' scorn for Eunus at his crowning moment that we have not yet examined.
4. τὸ τῆς ἀποστάσεως ἄρξαι
We have seen above that Diodorus gave us yet another reason for Eunus' election (34/5.2.14): τὸ τῆς ἀποστάσεως ἄρξαι (‘his setting of the revolt in motion’). To understand the event to which Diodorus refers, we have to turn to two separate, parallel passages from earlier in the narrative. After describing the treatment of Damophilus' slaves, Diodorus relates (in two parallel versions, 34/5.2.10 and 24b, preserved by Photius and the Constantinian excerpts respectively) that they went to Eunus to ascertain if they had the approval of the gods for their rebellion. Subsequently, Eunus put on a display of wonder-working before pronouncing in their favour and encouraging them to act quickly. Both passages are consistent in their use of language to describe Eunus' actions, especially concerning τέρατα and its derivations (τερατεία in 34/5.2.10 and τερατευόμενος in 34/5.2.24b). The two passages are similar, although the first, from Photius, is simpler and less detailed than the latter from the Constantinian excerpts. In the Photian version, for example, the slaves ask Eunus for advice, and immediately on working his wonders (μετὰ τερατείας) Eunus is presented as assenting: Eunus acts without knowing what the slaves' resolve was. In the Constantinian excerpt, there is a delay in his assent: Eunus, who still began working wonders (ὁ δὲ τερατευόμενος), waited until περὶ τίνων ἥκουσι ἀκούσας (‘he heard why they had come’) to grant them permission. The slaves only asked initially if their decision was approved (εἰ συγχωρεῖται παρὰ τῶν θεῶν αὐτοῖς τὸ βεβουλευμένον), but had provided no details, and it appears from the narrative that Eunus delayed his prophecy in order to hear the full details.Footnote 57 Eunus, furthermore, does not provide a true prophecy, for Diodorus has already made it clear by now that Eunus was a charlatan: he was not divinely inspired and so preferred, as this passage implies, to know as much as possible before ‘divining’. We should also consider how the characterization of Eunus discussed above affects our reading of this passage.
Throughout the narrative, Eunus is described in terms very different from those used of the rebels whom he then led. Concerning the slaves, we should note first how Diodorus describes their treatment with regard to their lack of food and clothing and their alienation from their masters. This is consistent throughout the general descriptions of slave mistreatment in the narrative, as well as the specific case of the slave owner Damophilus, whose actions caused the initial outbreak of war. Thus we learn from Diodorus that Sicilian slave owners were abusing their slaves through a combination of depriving them of adequate clothing, malnutrition and continuing estrangement that provoked their banditry (34/5.2.2 and 26). When describing Damophilus' treatment of slaves, Diodorus specifically notes his lack of provisioning for his herdsmen (34/5.2.36) and his poor relationship towards suppliant slaves (34/5.2.38). When compared with Eunus, the contrast is apparent. A lack of provision, even if it had occurred in Eunus' case (and for this we have no evidence), was offset by Eunus' close access to his master at dinner parties with the added bonus that (34/5.2.8) τινες αὐτῶν ἀπὸ τῆς τραπέζης ἀξιολόγους μερίδας αἴροντες ἐδωροῦντο (‘some of [the dinner guests], lifting substantial portions from the table gave them to him as gifts’). Furthermore, Eunus' position as the dinner entertainer gave him a close and, to judge by the narrative in Diodorus, good-natured relationship with his master;Footnote 58 it is clear from these aspects of the narrative that he was a favoured slave. Up to the moment when the estranged and mistreated slaves come to Eunus, his lifestyle had been completely separate from theirs, as he had neither experienced nor shared in their collective plight. Ancient readers might accordingly have seen his subsequent leadership as flawed: Eunus was actually benefiting from his position as a favoured slave and his opportunistic pretence of prophecy. This suggests in turn that his leadership of the revolt was a mark of further opportunism: it was not based on a shared experience of bad treatment, creating a separation between Eunus and his subjects in the mind of the reader.
By singling out Eunus in this way, Diodorus set up the platform for his subsequent negative portrayal of Eunus, the cowardly king. As is now clear, Diodorus was not crediting Eunus with any positive characteristics. The connotations inherent in the language associated with him, shown above, and the clear indications given by Diodorus that Eunus was not actually a divinely inspired seer serve to denigrate his character in preparation for his subsequent important role. Indeed, the strength of this characterization led one scholar – interested in magic and magicians, not slavery – to comment that the ‘… account we have of Eunus’ career will be in some measure an imaginative recreation … based on patterns of behaviour with which [the author] was familiar'.Footnote 59 This view of Diodorus' text is unusual in that it allows for a certain level of creativity on the part of the author, creativity which we have seen in Diodorus' choices of language when describing Eunus. And this description leaves little doubt about the author's opinion of the man.
5. Toward a reading of Hellenistic slavery?
The depiction of Eunus in Diodorus is unremittingly hostile. At no point in the narrative is Eunus praised unless the praise is tempered with a corresponding caveat or explanatory denigration of either him or his followers. The associations crafted throughout Diodorus' narrative with Hellenistic concepts of kingship and wonder-working are consistent from Eunus' introduction down to his pathetic death in a Morgantina jail. It is striking that the strongest scorn is reserved for the most significant moment of Eunus' career, his acclamation as king. At this moment Diodorus tied together all the threads of abuse employed throughout the narrative against Eunus, negating the importance of Eunus' achievements and destroying any credibility that Eunus, once king, sought to achieve. Furthermore, his depiction in Diodorus is composed in such a way as to create certain literary effects. The symbolic connection between Eunus and his master, Antigenes, indicates that, because of literary finesse that had Eunus assume the place of his own degenerate master by the end of his life, we cannot trust the impression given by the text for historical purposes. Awash with stereotypes and literary plays, Eunus' character is a caricature designed to turn the reader against him.
This conclusion foregrounds a larger problem. If Diodorus was able to play so freely with his depiction of Eunus, we cannot assume that he did not do so elsewhere in his narrative of the conflict. Thus, it is well known that he introduced the narrative with an anachronistic explanation of the banditry on the island, yet this problem has been largely ignored (34/5.2.3 and 31).Footnote 60 A reassessment of that episode is beyond the remit of this paper, but it is clear that this section of Diodorus' Bibliothêkê is problematic in historical terms beyond its fragmentary and epitomized nature. We must be very careful, when using this narrative to write the history of slavery in the Hellenistic world, not to assume that stories told by ancient narrators necessarily contain a hardcore of historical data.