Historian; born about 155 at Nicæa in Bithynia; held the highest offices of state in the Roman empire; became consul in 221; died about 240. He wrote an extended work in Greek which dealt with the entire history of Rome, and also included Jewish history. Only books lxi.-lxxx. have been preserved intact, in the extract made by Xiphilinus in the eleventh century, the remainder existing merely in fragments. Most important for Jewish history are the fragments of books lx.-lxix., which contain highly valuable information on matters that would otherwise be entirely unknown.
Dion's references to Jewish affairs may be divided into the three following groups:
- 1. Scattered notices, such as the order against religious assemblies at Rome, under Claudius (book lx. 6); the punishment of the consul Flavius Clemens and others, "who followed Jewish customs and laws" (lxvii. 13); and the references to the Jewish princess Berenice (lxvi. 15).
- 2. Remarks on the Jewish war under Nero, Vespasian, and Titus (lxvi. 4-15). These because of their accuracy and impartiality, so far as such characteristics were possible in a Roman writing on Jewish matters, do not lose in value even when compared with the account of Josephus. Indeed, they are the only authentic notices of this important war besides Josephus' account, which is colored in favor of the Romans. Dion narrates, quite independently of Josephus, the difficulties of the besieging Romans in getting drinking-water, while the Jews had a plentiful supply. He also says that deserters from the Jewish camp poisoned the water of the Romans. As a similar statement is found in Sextus Julius Africanus (Κεστοί, § 3, in "Mathem. Veteres," p. 290), who probably drew his material from Justus of Tiberias, it is possible that Dion Cassius also used the work of the last-named historian.Dion says, further, that Titus himself was wounded by a stone (a detail not mentioned by Josephus); that many Romans, believing the city to be impregnable, went over to the Jews; and that the Roman soldiers, because of the sanctity of the Temple, hesitated for days to enter it, even after a breach had been made. All these occurrences are materially toned down by Josephus. Dion describes how the people, the magistrates, and the priests were placed in defending the Temple; and he says that Jerusalem fell on a Sabbath (the Romans took the Sabbath to be a fast-day). In all these matters Dion shows that he had reliable and authentic information. Since Vespasian as well as Titus wrote "Recollections" of the Jewish war, Dion may have used them. Another of his sources is assumed to have been the account of Antoninus Julianus, a Roman general and rhetorician, who took an active part in the war.
- 3. For an account of the Jewish war under Trajan and Hadrian Dion is the most important source (lxviii. 32, lxix. 12-14), though his descriptions of the cruelties perpetrated by the Jews at Cyrene and on the island of Cyprus are probably exaggerated. While not free from errors, Dion's account is largely confirmed by the Rabbis and by the Church Fathers; and even the fifty walled cities with the capture of which he credits the Jews can be severally located. He is more accurate than Spartianus, one of the authors of the "Scriptores Historiæ Augustæ," who, like Dion, mentions the account of Emperor Hadrian; but of the two, Dion only seems to have taken the Jewish data directly from this authentic source.
- The text of Dion Cassius is reprinted in Th. Reinach, Textes d' Auteurs Grees Rélatifs aux Juifs, i.;
- the passages referring to the Bar Kokba war, in Münter, Der Jüd. Krieg Unter Trajan und Hadrian, 1824, pp. 106-110.
- For an enumeration of the fifty cities, see S. Krauss, in Magazin, 1892, xix. 227.
- For the connection with Antoninus, see Schlatter, Zur Topographie und Gesch. Palästina's, 1893, pp. 397 et seq.;
- and for that with Justus, see Büchler, in Kaufmann Gedenkbuch, 1900, p. 18.
- On Hadrian as source, see Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., 1901, i. 674, note 72.