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.
WORKSThe 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.