BMCR 1998.11.30

The Historians of Ancient Rome


Mellor’s aim is to provide a collection of source material from Roman historians suitable for use in undergraduate Roman history or western civilization courses. Though, by their very nature, books like this can neversatisfy all of the people all of the time, The Historians of Ancient Rome will certainly and deservedly satisfy many, more, in fact, than any of its competitors.

After a Preface comprising a succinct overview of Roman historiography (pp. 1-13), Mellor opens his anthology with selections from Polybius — I.1-14, ; II.1-2, 7-12; III.1,4,6-17, and 20-30; and VI.1-9, 11-18, and 56-57 — reprinted from the 1889 translation of Evelyn Schuckburgh. As is his practice with each of the authors he has chosen, Mellor glosses these Polybius selections with a brief biographical and historiographical opening notice and, preceding each individual excerpt, with concise comment on the contents of what will follow. He offers no explanatory notes or other helps. Presented in the same fashion are translations of Appian’s Civil Wars I.1-26, reprinted from Horace White’s 1913 Loeb; of all of Sallust’s Catilinarian Conspiracy, reprinted from John Rolfe’s 1920 Loeb; of Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic War I.1-54 and VI.11-28, adapted from the translation of W. A. McDevitte; of Livy I.1-13, 15-49, 55-60, II.1-14, 31-40, III.33-37, 44-49, 56-58, V.34-49, XXI.1-48, 52-63, XXII.3-7, 44-51, XXX.28-37, XXXI.1-9, XXXIII. 6-10, 30-33, 38-40, XXXIV.1-8, XXXVI.15-19, XXXVIII.37-38, XXXIX.51, and XLV.12, 20-25, adapted from William Robert’s translation; Augustus’ Res Gestae, translated by Mellor himself; Suetonius’ Life of Gaius Caligula, in Rolfe’s 1913 Loeb translation; Tacitus’ Life of Agricola, Annals I.1-15, 33-53, II.69-73, III.1-18, IV.1-12, 32-35, VI.50-51, XI.23-38, XII.65-69, XIII.1-5, XIV.1-11, XV.37-44, 60-64, and XVI.18-19; and Histories I.1-16 and III.66-72, all translated by A. J. Church and W. J. Brodribb; The Life of Hadrian from David Magie’s 1922 Loeb Historia Augusta; and Ammianus Marcellinus XXV.1-4 and XXXI.12-14, translated by C. D. Yonge for the old Bohn’s Classical Library series. All selections include chapter numbers. There follows, last of all, a very brief bibliography (pp. 533-534), about half of which is devoted to translations of each of the authors in question.

There are a few, rather minor, flaws. Though The Historians of Ancient Rome is meant for classroom use, explanatory notes are sparse, limited almost completely to the Res Gestae. Of the translations Mellor has chosen, students will find McDevitte’s 1869 rendering of Caesar difficult going. A spot check for mechanical errors revealed only the omission of to or toward from the translation of Annals XVI.19. The assertion in the Introduction (p. 5) that “Sulla called his own commentarius nothing more than the ‘raw material for history,'” seems to allude to Cicero Brutus 262, which refers to Caesar rather than to Sulla. These points aside, Mellor’s selection addresses a real pedagogical void. It well merits the attention of teachers of introductory Roman history surveys and even of some more advanced courses.

Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic and Civil Wars (New York, 1869). (London, 1912-1924). The Works of Tacitus (London, 1886). (London, 1862). P. 477, where Forte illis diebus Campaniam petiverat Caesar becomes “It happened at the time that the emperor was on his way Campania.”