Polyaenus: Greek-Roman author (second century CE) of a collection of stratagems.

Portait of a Roman man, third quarter of the second century CE
Portait of a Roman man, third quarter of the second century CE

Polyaenus was born in Bithynia, but his family was from Macedonia. Both regions were culturally Greek and politically Roman in his age, the second century CE. During the reign of the emperors Marcus Aurelius (161-180) and his brother Lucius Verus (161-169), he pursued a career as a lawyer and orator in the Roman courts.

He is best known from his eight books of Strategemata ("on stratagems'), which was presented to Lucius Verus on the occasion of his war against the Parthian Empire. According to the author himself, the dedicatees did indeed read the books, and there is some evidence that Marcus Aurelius had the Strategemata with him during his Marcomannic war.

Polyaenus is interested in the technique of war, not in history for its own sake. Therefore, he often carelessly confuses the names of the generals. Yet, there is some structure.

1 Mythological
2 Fourth century Spartans and Thebans
3 Athenians
4 Macedonians (especially Philip and Alexander the Great)
5 The history of Sicily
6 Several kinds of people
7 Iranians: Medes, Persians, Scythians, Parthians, Celts
8 The Roman republic; stratagems of women

It is interesting to notice that Polyaenus stresses Greek history and ignores the part that would have been most useful: the history of the Roman imperial legions. This interests shows that he is influenced by the literary movement of the Second Sophistic.


This page was created in 2004; last modified on 23 November 2018.