Help with Fragments, Part 2: Jacoby (Hard Copy)

When it comes to collections of Latin historical fragments, there are a bunch of different options. In Greek, there’s Jacoby. In this post, I’m going to be offering help for using the multivolume hardcover version only. There is an online edition, hosted by Brill; it’s subscriber-only, and we don’t have access. I suspect this is true of many libraries with multiple, still perfectly functional, copies of the ‘old’ Jacoby. That being said, I know that many of the tips I’m giving here will be useless for the online version, so if anyone does have access and would like to give advice, please speak up!

The absolute, number-one, no-holds-barred, crucial tip for Jacoby: Use the index.

Please, please use the index.

Also, use the right index (more on this below). Jacoby’s work is not organized in a way that is conducive to browsing.


If the index volume is not available, and you already know what author you’re looking for, you can Google him to get your Jacoby number. Make sure to include the “Jacoby”. So, for example, maybe you are looking up Duris of Samos to get a taste of ‘tragic’ history. You can enter “Duris Samos Jacoby” as your search term, and voilà! first search term, you get his Jacoby number:

duris, samos, tragic history, 'tragic'

Google search results

If you had the online version, you could click and be done. But with the hard-copy version, you now have a number; go to the library, get the correct volume (76 is in part 2, by the way), and make sure to pick up both parts of FGrH Teil 2 — that is, both the text (Text) and the commentary (Kommentar).

If you don’t have good Greek and German, you should hold off on this project; only the online edition has translations (some translations of the Greek are collected here). And Jacoby’s commentary, while old, is often still very useful.

Now let’s pretend that you don’t have the internet — you’re at the library with only your library card (yes, I do this) and a sudden desire to read Greek historical fragments. It could happen to anybody. Especially since ‘fragments’ often mean long, uninterrupted chunks of history — for example, Fabius Pictor’s  chapters on early Rome, or all of the surviving Babyloniaka of Berossus. In order to choose the right index, you need to know what you’re interested in.

There are three hard-copy indices to Jacoby. Each of the three has its own purpose — these are NOT your typical subject/author/word indices. (Jacoby’s work is itself organized topically, but unless you happen to know that universal history is in volume 2, this is generally not useful before you reach the library. Once you’re there, the book itself does helpfully tell you what’s in each volume.)

If you are a historian and coming to look for a particular Greek historian or historians, proceed directly to volume 3. It has an alphabetical listing of all preserved historians. Since you are probably either searching for a topic (in which case the volumes themselves are what you want) or chasing down a citation (in which case you ought to have the Jacoby number — but not always!), this list will probably be most helpful. To go back to our Duris example: if you know that Duris is the originator (supposedly) of tragic history (which may or may not exist), and you want to find out what exactly that means, and you are stuck in the library with no internet — well, you should use volume 3 to find out where Duris is.

Volumes 1 and 2 are for those interested in the textual transmission — they contain a list of citing sources (organized alphabetically by source) and a concordance between source and citing source. So if you are researching the textual transmission of Timaeus (of Tauromenium: #566), for example, you might be interested to know how many fragments come from Polybius — and the problems that percentage may entail for reading Timaeus (on this, see here, here, and here — only a brief selection of the available literature).

Digital tools have made Jacoby much easier to use. It’s not likely that you’ll find yourself needing the index to look up a particular number, and the Greek texts are available on the TLG. This does not mean that Jacoby is an overrated or unnecessary tool, for several reasons. First, because he does organize his fragments topically, you may come across other relevant information while you are looking for a particular citation. Second, because the commentary still contains useful observations. Third, because you (like me) may still prefer to read Greek on paper. And finally, because Jacoby numbers are universal: if you have options for citing a given source, Jacoby’s are standard.

Which brings me to the last point: how do you cite Jacoby? The exact method will, of course, depend on your manner of citation. But generally speaking, the work itself (Die Fragmente der griechischer Historiker) is abbreviated to FGrHist or (equally correctly) FGrH/FGH. The small ‘r’ is necessary in the first case. Make sure the “Greek” comes first — otherwise you are referring to a different set of fragments. You then use the historian’s number, and indicate whether it is a fragment (fr.) or a testimonium (t.). They are labeled as such within the book, so you should be able to figure this out fairly easily.


duris, duris of samos, jacoby, 'tragic' history, tragic history

End of testimonia, beginning of fragments

And finally, follow typical classical citation practices — book and chapter. If there are subchapters, indicate those as well. But also make sure that you give both the author’s name and the Jacoby number!

Here is an example:

duris, duris of samos, 'tragic' history, jacoby, tragic history, macedoniaca, makedoniaka


Citation: Duris of Samos (FGrH 76 fr. 3).

Happy reading!



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Help with Fragments, Part 2: Jacoby (Hard Copy) by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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