Diodorus Siculus’ account of theFirst Sicilian Slave War in books 34/5 of his Bibliotheke is dominated by the larger-than-life figure of Eunus, the wonder-working king of the rebels. Modern discussions of this colourful character have either taken the description of Eunus in this narrative to be a faithful, historical representation (Green 1961; Vogt 1965: 29-30; Manganaro 1967: 205-22; Bradley 1989: 116-20), or sought to reinterpret Diodorus’ hostile account in a positive historical context (Toynbee 1965: 405; Finley 1968: 140; Urbainczyk 2008: 52). An underappreciated element of Diodorus’ narrative is the important role of the narrator in defining how Eunus’ character is perceived, through careful verbal links within the narrative, and signposting of Eunus’ qualities through significant vocabulary choices. The aim of this paper is to highlight two elements in this construction in order to demonstrate that Diodorus’ narrative must be read with a full appreciation of its literary complexity.
In the first part of the paper, the description of Eunus’ acclamation as taking place οá½”τε δι’ á¼€νδρεá½·αν οá½”τε διá½° στρατηγá½·αν will be discussed, demonstrating the importance of this phrase, and the specific terms within it, to how Diodorus conceptualised the correct role a Hellenistic king should play in relation to his subjects. By implying that Eunus himself lacked the qualities of á¼€νδρεá½·αand στρατηγá½·α, Diodorus connected him in a negative fashion to a wider ideal of Hellenistic kingship, and in turn undermined any subsequent actions undertaken by Eunus in his role as the royal leader of the rebellion. Furthermore, the implication that Eunus was, in fact, a coward, will be shown to influence the reading of Eunus’ death in the narrative, in which each of his actions leading up to his capture are defined by their cowardly inspiration, a trait in Eunusearlier implied by the narrator.
In the second part of the paper, the literary plays engaged in by the text will be demonstrated further by reference to the use of the verb ψυχαγωγÎω to describe one of Eunus’ final four companions’ actions at drinking bouts. By describing this companion as τετá½±ρτουτοá¿¦ παρá½° τοá½ºς πá½¹τους εá¼°ωθá½¹τος ψυχαγωγεá¿–ν [Εá½”νουν], the narrator connected Eunus, through interlinking verbal play, to his erstwhile master. Earlier in the narrative,Eunus’ master is depicted as ψυχαγωγοá½»μενος by Eunus’ knowledge of wonders, and this in turn caused him to invite Eunus to become his banquet entertainer. By this verbal link, therefore, Diodorus’ narrative sought to create a circle in Eunus’ personal narrative: from being the beguiler of a foolish master Eunus, in turn, was beguiled himself, assuming the role of the master he had earlier put to death during the revolt.
Through these examples, I will argue that Diodorus’ narrative was capable of demonstrating considerable literary skill, and that the text’s interactions with Eunus demonstrate the need to treat with care a narrative that has, in the past, been used primarily as a source of uncomplicated information regarding the history of slavery in Hellenistic Sicily.