Bryn Mawr Classical Review 95.08.10


P. G. Walsh (ed. and trans.), Livy Book XXXIX. Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1994. Pp. x + 196. $49.95 (hb). $24.95 (pb). ISBN 0-85668-625-5 (hb). ISBN 0-85668-626-3 (pb).


Reviewed by Christina S. Kraus, University College, London (c.s.kraus@ucl.ac.uk).

In this fourth and penultimate volume of his edition of Ab urbe condita 36-40, W[alsh] continues to work with clarity and brevity within the Aris & Phillips format, providing a text, translation, and (primarily) historical commentary on Livy's account of the events of 187-183 B.C. Book 39 is enjoying popularity: there is a new Budé (ed. A.-M. Adam) and an even newer school commentary in the Bryn Mawr series (ed. G. Forsythe); W's edition will probably prove the most useful for advanced students of classics and ancient history alike, accessible as it is to readers with and without Latin. The translation, which improves on available English versions, is fluidly idiomatic (its general excellence rests in large part on W's text, which is accompanied by a generous apparatus, printed in an appendix): particularly happy touches are 2.10 pacatis Liguribus 'with the Ligurians now reduced to inactivity' (cf. 1066 and All That's 'extermination of the Zulus: peace with the Zulus'); 15.14 cooperti stupris 'caked with defilement'; 51.6 graue imperium 'oppressive dominion.' Places where W slips are few indeed, and many only a matter of opinion or taste: e.g., at 1.3 W defuses Livy's sententious ditiores quam fortiores exercitus faciebat by moving it from the end to the beginning of the sentence; 2.3 'cliffs so steep' misses the fig. etym. in rupes deruptas ('precipitous precipices'?); 16.1 minus tamen esset 'it would not have mattered': I think this is a present contrafactual (so too Adam) -- the conspirators would matter less now if they had stayed clear of crimes, but they didn't, and so the state is in danger; 16.7 ubi deorum numen praetenditur sceleribus 'when crimes are overlaid with the gods' will,' I would reverse the order ('when the gods' will is used as an excuse/pretext for crimes'); 17.2 'bolted' seems overly colloquial for profugisset in a senatorial decree; 23.13 nouae atque insuetae libertatis uitio may be appositional to seditionibus principum (so Adam; cf. Ov. P. 3.3.101 liuor, iners uitium and for the risk of civil unrest posed by libertas immatura cf. Liv. 2.1.3-6); 24.2 instituit of mines does not seem to be technical in Latin, and hence 'sinking' is the wrong register in English.

As well as providing essential historical information, the introduction and commentary offer glimpses of ways of reading Livian narrative that can take the student beyond the text-as-quarry-for-facts. While W's critical vocabulary is somewhat limited (the words 'drama/dramatic' [used both technically and not] and 'lively/enliven' appear 12 and 5 times respectively on pp.10-11), he is much more willing than in previous volumes to approach Livy descriptively rather than prescriptively, without abandoning his keen critical judgment. Attention is drawn to the structure of speeches and to Livy's flexible use of traditional rubrics and arrangement (cf. p.151 on 36.12 and see now T.J. Luce in Livius: Aspekte seines Werkes, ed. W. Schuller [1993] 71-87); to metaphorical and technical language (e.g., 6.4 on fire, 42.4 on triumph formulae; but at 7.2 W does not note that in that triumph report Livy has replaced the expected transferri with transuehi); to the anti-Roman sentiments Livy allows his characters (e.g., p.150; he must have been influenced in this technique by Sallust, though W does not mention the Letter of Mithridates); and to the dramatic (in the technical sense) shape of the Bacchanalia story, the most famous episode in the book. W helpfully appends a text and translation of the SC de Bacchanalibus, which Livy puts under contribution, allusively, as often (p.5 'the gist of it appears at 18.7-9'; one might note here that though W finds Livy's report of the conspiracy 'unsatisfactory' as historical analysis, that report seems, by W's own account on pp.4-5, to provide information both about the changing socio-economic conditions since the second Punic war and about the chief reasons for the extraordinary reaction to the ritual among the Roman authorities).

At 7.5 (p.116) on the subject of booty bringing tax relief and the eventual cancellation of the occasional tax in 167, it is worth adding that the reason for that cancellation was the arrival in Rome of yet another pile of eastern loot, the Pydna triumph. At 9.1 Livy prefaces his undoubtedly novelistic account of the detection of the Bacchanalian conspiracy with the words indicium hoc maxime modo ad Postumium consulem peruenit, on which W remarks (p.118) that the underlined phrase 'reveals some scepticism about the details.' It reminds me of phrases like oratio huius modi, with which ancient historians flag speeches as being of their own composition: here, then, does it mark the whole episode as free composition, a probable illustration of how the ritual was discovered? The story has strong affinities with Livy's private vignettes, the little -- and surely invented -- stories from which big events grow (e.g., Lucretia, Fabia; see also Ogilvie on 4.9.6 and 3.44-49, the 'desire to illustrate [laws] by paradigms'); one can note the domestic touch of the repeated diminutives (see W on 9.4); the alarming confrontation between meek woman and consular retinue (12.2, cf. 6.34.6); and the use of (uelut) forte to introduce the crucial meeting of the consul and Aebutia (11.7, cf. 1.58.6, 6.34.6, 8). Also on the Bacchanalia: though pointing out (p.4) that Livy juxtaposes the eastern triumphs which brought foreign excess to Rome (5.14-7.5) with his account of the Bacchanalia, another foreign importation, W does not make the important connection back to the Preface, where the moral decline of Rome is put in terms of disease (Praef. 9-10 ~ 39.9.1. contagio morbi) and specifically of immigration (Praef. 11 tam serae auaritia luxuriaque immigrauerint ~ 39.8.3, 9.1 ex Etruria Romam ... penetrauit; 14.4 coniurationes ... importarent; 18.8-9; see D.S. Levene, Religion in Livy [1993] 93-4). The tension between the problems and advantages of open immigration is central to Livy's analysis of the growth of Rome and of the groups within it (esp. the plebs, the group most involved in the Dionysiac rites [W, p.4]: see my n. on 6.4.4), and the theme runs throughout the narrative of the Bacchanalia; when Hispala 'immigrates' to Aebutia's house for protection, then (14.2), W masks the verb's importance by translating immigraret as 'move in.' In the delicious story of Flamininus and the scortum who wants to see an execution over dinner (chh.42-3), it is worth mentioning that this was a declamatory topic to which Seneca devotes considerable space (Contr. 9.2 -- a text adduced by W for a linguistic parallel at 43.3, but with no hint that the topic is identical!); it may be pure coincidence, but it is in this controuersia that Livy's preference for choice diction is quoted (9.2.26: Seneca does not, however, mention Livy's presence at or participation in any declamations of this topic). In the notes on the death scenes of Philopoemen and Hannibal (chh. 49-51), a cross reference to W's useful discussion of character sketches at 40.3 (p.155-6) would be helpful; and in the syncrisis of the two foreign generals with Scipio (52.7-9, p.173) a reference to A.J. Pomeroy, The appropriate comment (1991) would illuminate conventional elements that W leaves undiscussed (e.g., the topos of the appropriate death, 52.7).

This is certainly the best of W's Aris & Phillips commentaries to date: students will enjoy it, and I look forward to Book 40.