Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2001.08.36

J. S. Richardson (trans.), Appian: Wars of the Romans in Iberia, with an Introduction, Translation and Commentary.   Warminster:  Aris & Phillips, 2000.  Pp. 184.  ISBN 085668720-0.  

Reviewed by L. V. Pitcher, Somerville College, University of Oxford
Word count: 1314 words

This edition of the book of Appian's Roman History usually known as Iberike is intended, as R. puts it, "to provide a text and apparatus, combined with a translation and commentary which will make the work accessible to those interested in Appian, both as a source for an important and fascinating period of Rome's involvement in the Iberian peninsula and as a historiographer in his own right" (p9). In the Introduction, Appian the historiographer is the main topic of concern. It concisely marshals the incontrovertible data about the author's life; the Eutuchia inscription, perhaps in the interests of brevity, is omitted. It then discusses Appian's merits and defects as a historian.

R. vigorously contests the view that "Appian's value lies mostly in the information he transmits", pointing to his skill in character delineation, division of narrative, and clear and vivid style (p5). His observations of the author's not invariably laudatory attitude to Rome's representatives in this book (pp6-7) are salutary. Indeed, one may perhaps pursue this line of thought even further. R.'s contrast between the portraits of the virtuous elder Africanus on one hand and the cruel and deceitful Hannibal on the other could perhaps be modified with profit by reference to the rest of the Roman History, where Hannibal can be shown as doing honour to a fallen enemy (Hann. 50.217, though sharp practice immediately follows), while Scipio is the subject of a rumour that he managed the settlement with Carthage with an eye not just to the good of the state but also to his own glory (Lib. 56.245). Even in this book, the two are not perhaps always as different as R. alleges. Hannibal combines force and persuasion against the Iberians at 13.51 in a way not altogether dissimilar to Scipio at 24.93, where the use of force is noticed by R. himself ad loc. The end of the section on "Appian as a historian" makes a strong case for seeing the author's perspective on the wars in Iberia as conditioned by his second century A.D. outlook. Appian, it is argued, sees Iberia as being incorporated into an "organised and administered empire" (p7) at the end of the Second Punic War,1 which explains his description of later difficulties as rebellions against Roman authority.

R.'s text of the Iberike is his own. Some of the lacunae are filled out with supplements exempli gratia in the interests of the common reader (for instance, 14.53, 72.305, and 90.393), but otherwise divergences from the Teubner edition of Viereck and Roos move usually in the direction of conservatism. R. therefore holds out against that edition's tendency to emend away aspects of Appian's account which are at odds with the rest of our sources, such as the belief that Fulvius Flaccus went to Hispania Citerior as consul (42.172). Since Appian's narrative has other historical oddities which no amount of emendation could explain away--one thinks of the identification of Saguntum with New Carthage (12.47)--this reluctance is probably justified. On the other hand, fidelity to the paradosis is perhaps carried too far at 20.79, where the otiose καί expelled by Viereck makes an unwelcome reappearance. It will take more than Kratt's assertion of Appian's penchant for superfluous καί 2 to convince this reader that it is anything other than a scribal error. There appear to be a number of misprints which it is worth putting on record: the disagreement between MSS. over the position of the word κακῶι at 11.40 3 seems to have resulted in its total disappearance from R.'s text; Mendelssohn's conjecture ἐπεπέμφθησαν loses its third epsilon in the app. crit. to 39.159; and words are incorrectly divided on ten occasions.4

The facing translation is smooth and lucid. It is marred, however, by a tendency to leave words in the Greek untranslated by the English. The most striking examples are δι' αὐτοὺς at 17.64 and νυκτὸς at 20.77 and 68.288, κρύφα μετετέθειτο at 32.128, ἄλλων at 73.310 and ἡμέρας at 93.406, but this list is not exhaustive.5 These ellipses are accompanied by two outright mistranslations; the ἐλεφάντων δέκα of 46.189 become "three elephants" on the opposite page, presumably from confusion with the ἐλέφαντας τρεῖς of 46.193, while ἐνακισχιλίους at 56.237 is rendered as "six thousand", presumably from confusion with the ἑξακισχιλίους at 56.234.

R. notes that his commentary is "mostly concerned with historical and historiographical matters" (p9). Appian's account bristles with historical difficulties: conflicts between sources, geographical misapprehensions, and otherwise unattested individuals or locations are all in evidence. It is no small task to lay bare these problems within the constraints of an Aris and Phillips commentary, but R. carries it off with aplomb. Literary, epigraphic, and archaeological data are deployed with clarity and concision; secondary literature is quoted in quantity sufficient to enlighten inexpert readers (such as this reviewer) without crushing them. If it is the mark of a good commentary that it informs on problems the existence of which one had never even considered, R. scores well; the note on the implausibility of suppliants carrying olive branches at Coca (52.218) is a good example. However, the typographical difficulties which beset the text reappear in the notes. For the most part these are harmless, if annoying (e.g., the assertion that Scipio was "serious ill" on pp132 and 133, or the caption "The Seige of Numantia" on p165) but Hostilius Mancinus is introduced as "Hostlius" (also p165; the missing "i" returns in later mentions) and the second sentence on p173 has been mangled.

There are also, as promised, some notes on Appian's historiography. R. has shrewd things to say about a number of the historian's narrative decisions; his remarks on 8.29 [Hannibal's election], 27.107 [Scipio at the battle of Ilipa], and 39.158 [the end of the Hannibalic war] are cases in point. On occasion one can perhaps query his interpretation. For example, Appian's omission of the war against the Illyrians in 229 BC in his description of the conflict in Iberia as Rome's second "external" campaign (4.13) may spring not so much from forgetfulness as from structural considerations; he wishes to keep together the four books in which the Carthaginians feature prominently (Sic., Iber., Hann., and Lib.) without having to insert the Illyrian book between them, and so he suggests a simple chronological progression from Sic. to Iber. which has to suppress for the moment the events of 229, later to be described at Illyr. 7.17f. R. also illuminates the text at a number of points with parallels from elsewhere in the Roman History (e.g., on 9.33, 12.44-7, and 42.171). This practice is very helpful, since it throws a welcome light upon Appian's recurring themes and concerns as a historiographer. Indeed, one could perhaps go even further than R. in drawing attention to such passages. One might add the account of the fall of Athens at Mith. 38.150 to the learned list of instances of cannibalism in sieges in the note on 96.416, or point out how the younger Africanus' willingness to use hunger as a weapon against men who have become like wild animals at 97.420 compares favourably with Pompey's decision to fight at Pharsalus (cf. BC 2.61.252, 66.276).

R. concludes his introduction with the hope that his work "will contribute to the recent revival of interest both in the Roman period in Iberia and in Appian as a historian" (p9). If his edition is on the whole more definitive on the history of the peninsula than on Appianic historiography, this is in large part due to the format. Appian is more elusive than he seems, and a single-book commentary of moderate length is bound to encounter difficulty in laying bare all his complexities. Nonetheless, R. has produced an edition which should indeed add impetus to the welcome upsurge of interest in this intriguing period and a writer who, as R. puts it (p5), "has more to be said for him than has always been acknowledged".


1.   P7 refers to "the sending of regular magistrates to the area at the end of the First Punic War", but this seems to be one of the work's numerous typos (on which see below).
2.   Kratt De Appiani elocutione, Diss. Heidelberg 1886 p55, cited by Leidl ad loc..
3.   The app. crit. of Viereck-Roos, Goukowsky and Leidl suggest that the MSS. vary between putting it after αἰφνιδίωι or after ἀκαταγγέλτωι, but none that it is entirely omitted.
4.   ἐκέ λευον at 8.31; αὐ τοῦ at 18.71; Καρ χηδονίων at 30.117; ἐγγε γύητο at 37.150; ἱκετη ρίαις at 61.258; διώ κειν at 64.270; προκαλού μενος at 65.276; ἐνθυμού μενος at 71.303; ἐκέ λευσε at 73.308; παρέ τασσεν at 76.326.
5.  Other casualties are πάλιν at 26.101; εὐθὺς at 34.139; ἔτι at 46.191; ἅπαντας at 52.219; πᾶν at 92.401; δυσχερέστατον at 75.319; and ἐς τότε at 101.438.

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