Duris of Samos

Duris of Samos (Greek: Δοῦρις ὁ Σάμιος; c.350 BC  after 281 BC) was a Greek historian and was at some period tyrant of Samos.

Personal and political life

Duris claimed to be a descendant of Alcibiades,[1] and was the brother of Lynceus of Samos. He had a son, Scaeus, who won the boys' boxing at the Olympian Games "while the Samians were in exile",[2] that is, before 324 BC; from 352 to 324 Samos was occupied by Athenian cleruchs who had expelled the native Samians.[3] Duris therefore may well have been born at some date close to 350 BC, and, since his main historical work ended with the death of Lysimachus in 281 BC, died at an unknown date after that.[4]

Many 20th century works state that Duris was a pupil of Theophrastus at Athens.[5] There is no evidence for this claim other than a conjectural emendation (by Adamantios Korais) of the text of the Deipnosophistae of Athenaeus.[6] The manuscript text says not that Duris studied under Theophrastus, but that his brother Lynceus and Lynceus's correspondent Hippolochus did so.[7]

The only recorded fact about Duris's public life is that he was "tyrant" or sole ruler of Samos.[8] How he attained this position, for how long he held it, and what events took place under his rule, are unknown.[9]


Duris was the author of a narrative history of events in Greece and Macedonia from the battle of Leuctra (371 BC) down to the death of Lysimachus. 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

For the surviving fragments see the editions by Müller and Jacoby.

Later opinions

Of those later authors who knew Duris's work, few praise it. Cicero accords him qualified praise as an industrious writer.[10] Plutarch used his work but repeatedly expresses doubt as to his trustworthiness.[11] Dionysius of Halicarnassus speaks disparagingly of his style.[12] Photius regards the arrangement of his work as altogether faulty.[13] By contrast with recent predecessors such as Ephorus, Duris served as the exemplar of a new fashion for "tragic history"[14] 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.[15]

Recent critics, believing that Duris was a pupil of Theophrastus, attempted either to demonstrate that "tragic history" agreed with teachings of the Peripatetic school[16] or to analyse Duris's motives for taking a different line from his supposed teachers.[17] The debate was inevitably inconclusive.[18]


  1. Plutarch, Life of Alcibiades 32
  2. Pausanias, Guide to Greece 6.13.5.
  3.  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Duris". Encyclopædia Britannica. 8 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 711.
  4. 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" (Schmitt ; Hazel ). The ancient sources, admittedly meagre, do not support this.
  5. E.g. Barron (1962); Brink (1960); Kebric (1974), (1977); even as late as Hazel (1999); but not J. G. Frazer (Pausanias's Description of Greece vol. 4 [1898] p. 41), and not von Albrecht (1975).
  6. Dalby (1991). The emendation was published by J. Schweighäuser in 1802 and has been accepted by all subsequent editors of Athenaeus.
  7. Athenaeus 128a; Lynceus is also named as a student of Theophrastus at Athenaeus 100e and Suda s.v. Lynkeus.
  8. Athenaeus 337d; Suda s.v. Lynkeus.
  9. "His reign was uneventful", Hazel guesses ().
  10. Cicero, Letters to Atticus 6.1.
  11. Plutarch, Life of Alcibiades 32; Life of Demosthenes 23; Plutarch, Life of Eumenes 1.
  12. Dionysius, On Composition 4.
  13. Photius, Library 176.
  14. Michael Grant, The Ancient Historians (New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1970) p. 142.
  15. Plutarch, Life of Pericles 28.
  16. Brink (1960); Okin (1974), (1980).
  17. Kebric (1974), (1977); Walbank (1960); see Walbank's Polybius (Berkeley, 1972) p. 35.
  18. A. Lesky, A History of Greek Literature (2nd ed., Eng. trans., London, 1966) p. 765; Dalby (1991).


Editions of the fragments

Modern scholarship

Other encyclopedias

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