Ronald Syme

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Syme, Ronald


Born Mar. 11, 1903, in Eltham, New Zealand. British historian; specialist in the history of ancient Rome.

Syme was ambassador to Turkey in 1941 and 1942. From 1942 to 1945 he was a professor of classical philology at the University of Istanbul, and in 1949 he became a professor of ancient history at Oxford University. Since 1944 he has been a member of the British Academy, and he is an honorary member of several foreign institutions. From 1951 to 1954, Syme was president of the International Federation of Classical Societies, and from 1952 to 1971 he served as secretary-general of the International Council for Philosophy and the Humanities.

Syme’s research is centered on the change in the social composition of the ruling oligarchy in Rome from the first century B.C. to the first century A.D. Syme views the civil wars at the end of the republic and the transition from the republic to the empire as a revolution. His works contain a great deal of factual material based on prosopography, that is, treating historical events on the basis of an analysis of the sources of biographical data of political figures. A number of Syme’s studies are devoted to Tacitus, Sallust, Ammianus Marcellinus, and the authors of biographies of the emperors.


The Roman Revolution. Oxford, 1939.
Tacitus, vols. 1–2. Oxford, 1958.
Sallust. Berkeley-Los Angeles, 1964.
Ammianus and Historia Augusta. Oxford, 1968.
Emperors and Biography: Studies in the Historia Augusta. Oxford, 1971.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
A more subtle story than the lurid one, and a better reason for studying this material than is given in the online group study guide, was elaborated by Ronald Syme in The Roman Revolution, first published in 1939, 63 years before Schiff acknowledges.
E significativo, por exemplo, notar como elementos tais como os prefacios passam ao largo das grandes obras tidas como referencia nos estudos tacitianos ate ha pouco tempo, como o estudo de Sir Ronald Syme (1960).
In the late 1930s, Ronald Syme saw in the rise to power of Augustus and his henchmen a 'Roman revolution', a prefiguring of the age of Hitler and Stalin; in 1990, Peter Green freely admitted, in the introduction to From Alexander to Actium (University of California Press), his magisterial survey of the Hellenistic era, just how frequently he had been struck while writing it 'by an overpowering sense of deja vu'.
In distinguishing vice from virtue, Tacitus was, as the late Oxford historian Sir Ronald Syme once put it, "ever alert for the contrast of name and substance." (35) Tacitus acknowledged that there was, in Syme's British phrasing and spelling, "the nominal sovranty of law." (36) All the same, he knew that, whatever the appearance, in reality, "sovranty"--sovereignty--in the Roman Empire had been ceded to one man, and thereby to those who, through the force of their arms, through the force of their martial and financial might, kept that one man in power.
The greatest 20th-century secular Roman historian, Sir Ronald Syme, in his seminal book on Augustus (The Roman Revolution, 1939, repr.
That anyone could undertake to write a book about the Augustan age without citing Ronald Syme's Roman Revolution (especially since it specifically discusses Horace) is extraordinary -- the book was published sixty-one years ago!
In one of his latest papers, published the year before his death, Sir Ronald Syme surveyed the modern scholarly literature on `The date of Justin and the discovery of Trogus' and argued that Justin's abbreviated version of the Historiae Philippicae of the Augustan historian Pompeius Trogus (not an epitome in the strict sense of that word) was composed in the later fourth century, specifically in `the vicinity of 390'--not in the Antonine or Severan period, as so many have contended.(1) Syme's central argument was lexicographical: he drew attention to a number of words in Justin's vocabulary which point to a date in the fourth century rather than the second or third.
Alfoldi, and he could have cited more than one item by Ronald Syme who, until Wilkes himself took over the role, was the best Anglo-Saxon expert on the land of the south Slavs in the Roman period.
To Ronald Syme he was a member of the Augustan Machine, whose official importance was overlooked by moralistic writers.
The trio of Isaiah Berlin, Ronald Syme and Hugh Trevor-Roper helped me greatly with their advice.