BMCR 2007.07.14

Livy: The Dawn of the Roman Empire (Books 31-40). With an introduction and notes by Waldemar Heckel. Oxford World’s Classics

, , , The dawn of the Roman empire. Oxford world classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. xxxvi, 612 pages : maps ; 20 cm.. ISBN 019283293X. $14.95.

In the fourth decade of his history ab urbe condita, Livy broadens the scope of his narrative in order to mirror the expansion of Roman imperium into Greece, Macedonia, and Western Asia. By defeating Hannibal and the Carthaginians in the Second Punic War, Rome had established a permanent foothold in the western Mediterranean (books 21-30). Now, she turns her greedy eyes towards the regal opulence of the east. In these ten books, Rome overcomes first Philip V (31-35) and then Antiochus III (36-40), thus marking her emergence as the imperial superpower in the Mediterranean world. This translation is the first unabridged English rendering of books 31-40 since the Loeb, published some seventy years ago.1 It is perhaps the most significant of John Yardley’s (Y.) many contributions to the translation of Latin literature.2 Waldemar Heckel (H.) has edited the volume; he also supplies the introduction and explanatory notes which complement the text.3 The evenness and accuracy of the translation, in combination with the wealth of ancillary material, make this book a welcome addition to the Oxford World’s Classics and a valuable resource for both students and scholars.

The “Introduction” (pp. vii-xlii) admirably fulfills the goal of establishing Livy and books 31-40 in their larger historical and literary contexts. H. begins with a brief biography of the historiographer (“Livy’s Life and Work” [pp. vii-viii]) and an especially helpful review of the contents and (generally) pentadic structure of his composition (” Ab Urbe Condita” [pp. viii-xi]). Thereafter, he maps out the complex historical situation (“Livy’s Fourth Decade and the Historical Background” [pp. xi-xxvi]). Here, it is difficult to agree wholeheartedly with his assessment of the “largely unwilling expansion of Rome from political and military leadership of Italy to ‘world power'” (p. xii). In truth, “the burdens of imperialism” (ibid.) have dissuaded few nations from willingly shouldering the onus. Regardless, this section is indispensable for those wishing to acquire a better understanding of the general historical circumstances.

H. outlines the course of “The First and Second Macedonian Wars” (pp. xii-xv); then, he widens the purview of his discussion in order to trace the rise and fall of the kingdom of Macedonia, concluding with the regional power-grabbing of the so-called Diadochoi in the wake of Alexander the Great’s premature demise (“The Hellenistic World” [pp. xv-xvii]). Next, H. follows the fortunes of Sparta, from the disastrous defeat inflicted by the Thebans at the battle of Leuctra (371 B.C.) until the Aetolian invitation to Antiochus III to “liberate” Greece (“Sparta and the Achaean League” [pp. xvii-xix]). The focus then shifts to Western Asia. Continuing the narrative of events after the death of Alexander and the dissolution of his empire, H. traces the rise of the Seleucid kingdom down to the time of Antiochus III (“Antiochus the Great” [pp. xix-xxi]). Thereafter, “War with Antiochus the Great” (pp. xxi-xxiii) summarizes the course of his brief conflict with Rome, brought to its swift conclusion by the humiliating Peace of Apamea.

As a balance against this account of affairs in the east, H. also provides a concise overview of contemporary “Events in Italy and the West” (pp. xxiii-xxiv), from the military action in Spain and northern Italy to the domestic crises surrounding the repeal of the lex Oppia and the suppression of the Bacchanalian conspiracy. After some remarks on “Roman Politics” (pp. xxiv-xxv) during this tumultuous period, the historical section of the introduction concludes with a summation of the central issues surrounding the “fall” of the Scipios, the historical difficulties of which continue to defy complete elucidation (“The Trials of the Scipios” [pp. xxv-xxvi]). As a brief coda to this succinct, and yet thorough, historical orientation, H. dwells momentarily on the place of Livy’s narrative in books 31-40 within the ancient historiographical tradition (“Sources for Books 31-40” [pp. xxvi-xxix]). Here, the addition of a section connecting the broad historical overview with a more detailed explication of the structure and content of this decade would have been useful. Nevertheless, this is a minor point, and the introduction is excellent overall.

Immediately after the introduction, Y. offers a brief “Note on the Text and Translation” (p. xxx). Then, there follows a valuable “Select Bibliography” (pp. xxxi-xxxiii) in several sections,4 “A Chronology of Events” (pp. xxxv-xxxvi), and, finally, four “Maps” (pp. xxxviii-xlii).

Y.’s translation (pp. 1-538) strikes the right balance between fidelity to the Latin and observance of the rules of modern English prose style.5 Examples of his elegant rendering of Livy include “the issue was accordingly left up in the air and the delegates dismissed” for dimissis ita suspensa re legatis (31.32.5), “he was within an inch of being crushed to death where he lay” for haud multum afuit quin iacens opprimeretur (31.37.9), and “the critical moments of warfare did not brook delay, they said, or dilatory commanders” for non exspectare belli tempora moras et dilationes imperatorum (31.48.10). There are hardly any significant errors in the translation.

Some passages merit further comment:

31.8.4: Y. misses both a patribus and, more importantly, legatum. Translate: “The consul was granted permission <(by the Senators)> to send anyone he liked who was not a member of the Senate in order to declare war on the king.”

31.35.6: Y. omits concursator. Translate: “nor his [skirmisher] ( who ranged over the battlefield virtually devoid of any kind of armour)” (cf. 27.18.14).

34.38.2: The form tutabantur is not passive, but rather deponent; accordingly, tyranni is still the subject (see OLD s.v. for the rare active forms of the verb and the even rarer forms of the verb in a passive sense). Translate: “while they [the tyrants] protected the more elevated spots and those where access was difficult with outposts of armed sentinels rather than a rampart” (cf. 31.2.8).

35.11.6: Y. overlooks coeperunt. Translate: “The Numidians mounted their horses and [rode] towards the enemy outposts, but without attacking anyone” (the same error occurs also in 35.35.10, with the omission of coepere).

36.21.7: Y. misses in and the implied eum. Translate: “He [Marcus Iunius Brutus] called him [Marcus Porcius Cato] into the Senate at break of day” (cf. 32.1.14).

37.18.4: Y. translates this sentence: “Attalus at first put guard-emplacements before the city, and mounted attacks with his cavalry and light infantry, actually harassing his enemy instead of merely mounting a defence.” However, the use of “actually” and “merely” inverts the true meaning of the contrast implied in magis lacessebat quam sustinebat hostem. When facing an enemy it is always better sustinere than merely lacessere. Here, the point is that Attalus realized his military inferiority and was ultimately unable to prevent Seleucus from initiating the siege of Pergamum (cf. 37.18.5). Bettenson, in contrast, renders the sense of the passage accurately: “he harassed the enemy but did not really withstand their onset”.

39.52.3: Y. misconstrues aduersus quem : “As for Antias, his version is refuted by the tribune of the plebs, Marcus Naevius, who appears as the accused in the title of a speech of Publius Africanus.” In fact, it was Marcus Naevius who was the accuser (cf. 39.52.4-6 and, earlier, 38.56.6), at least according to one version of the famous “trials of the Scipios” (38.50.4-60.10, as well as Gel. 4.18). Translate: “As for Antias, his version is refuted by the tribune of the plebs, Marcus Naevius, against whom, according to the title on the roll, the speech of Publius Africanus was addressed.” Consequently, Y. translates 39.52.6 incorrectly, as well: “It therefore appears that Scipio was alive in the tribunate of Naevius, who could have been arraigned by him, but that he died before the censorship of Lucius Valerius and Marcus Porcius.” Bettenson translates this passage correctly: “It is therefore evident that Scipio was alive in the tribunate of Naevius and that he could have been brought to trial by him; but clearly he had died before the censorship of Lucius Valerius and Marcus Porcius.” The confusion arises from the vagueness of the pronouns: here, ei refers to Scipio and ab eo refers to Marcus Naevius, but Y. accidentally inverts their meaning.

Given the broad chronological and geographical scope of this decade of Livy, it is inevitable that one finds a number of minor errors in the rendering of toponyms and ethnonyms, both in the translation itself and in the General Index. Apart from a few slips in both capitalization and orthography, there are also some more important inconsistencies.6 Generally speaking, it is desirable to translate Lacedaemonii consistently as either “Spartans” (e.g., 31.25.3, not “Sparta”) or “Lacedaemonians” (e.g., 31.25.4), in order to avoid confusion (so, too, in the case of Lacedaemon). The best solution, perhaps, is to render Lacedaemonii as “Lacedaemonians”, Lacedaemon as “Lacedaemon”, and Sparta as “Sparta”, with an explanatory note on the relationship of these terms (the form Spartani does not occur in this decade; the adjective occurs in 34.41.7 and 38.17.12). It is likewise desirable to translate Macedonia consistently as either “Macedon” (e.g., 31.1.6) or “Macedonia” (e.g., 31.3.2).

The phrase socii ( ac, or, less commonly, et) nomen Latinum should not be translated “the allies and (the members of) the Latin League” (e.g., 31.5.4), but rather “the allies and those with Latin rights (i.e., the ius Latii)” (e.g., 31.7.15) (see OLD s.vv. nomen 19b and Latinus 3). These two renderings of the phrase are not simply interchangeable. After the conclusion of the Latin War at the battle of Antium (338 B.C.), the “Latin League” as such was dissolved. Latin cities thereafter maintained their respective treaty relationships with Rome on a strictly bilateral basis, under varying terms. Moreover, Rome later extended the ius Latii to many other, non-Latin, communities throughout Italy, as well as in Gaul, Spain, and Africa.7

Two appendices immediately follow the translation. “Appendix 1. List of Variations from the Teubner Text” (p. 539) furnishes an inventory of those twelve passages (mostly in book 40, cf. p. xxx) in which Y. adopts a reading different from that in the Teubner text, as well as a helpful compilation of those misprints noticed by both himself and Briscoe.8 Of the variants, the deletion of sic in 34.12.1 seems reasonable (cf. Briscoe in the app. crit.), since the collocation sic sine does not occur elsewhere in Livy. The tense shift in habebant for habent in 37.6.3 certainly accords with the strict rules of Latin syntax, but may not be necessary, given the great elasticity in the observance of the sequence of tenses. It is worth mentioning that Walsh also reads habebant, citing Watt, however, for the emendation. The reading duces regii, praefecti et purpurati for duces regii praefecti purpurati in 37.59.5 is eminently sensible (cf. Briscoe in the app. crit., citing Engel’s similar punctuation), but again the change may not be necessary, since Livy is fond of this type of asyndeton, especially in such “list-narratives” as this inventory of the booty displayed during Lucius Cornelius Scipio’s triumph. Here also, Walsh agrees with Y., but Walsh neither cites him nor provides any other rationale for his reading in the app. crit.. In 38.37.9 (not 38.37.10), Y.’s addition of cum is unnecessary, since Livy does not elsewhere require the preposition (cf. 31.45.4). Walsh likewise retains the text in Briscoe. Meanwhile, in 39.49.1, Y. accepts the emendation inita proposed by Heraeus, as does Walsh (cf. Briscoe in the app. crit.). While this reading certainly remedies the problem of the otherwise ungoverned purpose construction ( ad praeoccupandam Coronen), it is still a somewhat awkward and imperfect solution.

The majority of Y.’s variant readings concern book 40. The deletion of – que (Gronovius) in 40.9.7 is absolutely correct (cf. Briscoe in the app. crit.). The ” per ego te” construction is a standard formula in Latin prayer language, where the postposition of the personal pronouns, more commonly seen in Greek word-order, signals the antiquity of the morphosyntactical formation (see OLD s.v. per 10). In 40.12.17, Y. adopts the reading uoluntate suggested by Drechsler for uirtute, the reading found in the manuscripts (cf. Briscoe in the app. crit.). Again, Walsh agrees. In 40.16.8, a similarly vexed passage, Y. reads the garbled name of the Spanish town lurking in ut hic nam as Vrbiacam, following Schulten, while Walsh cautiously interprets the manuscript reading itself as the name of the town, Vthicnam (cf. Briscoe in the app. crit. and Walsh ad loc.). The reading nox (Crévier) for mox in 40.45.2 well restores the sense of the passage, and Walsh adopts this reading, too. Meanwhile, Y. boldly reads furores in 40.46.6, while Walsh refrains from emendation, retaining the manuscript reading fueritis with Briscoe (cf. Briscoe in the app. crit.). In 40.46.15, however, the proposed reading remittere se (Madvig), with which Walsh agrees, is somewhat unsatisfactory, since the cadence of the sentence strongly suggests that omnibus instantibus qui aderant governs a tricolon crescens, which would then consist of dextras fidemque dedere, the reading under discussion, and finire odium. Y. translates the sentence: “At the urging of all present, they shook hands and pledged to resolve and bring to an end their mutual animosity.” In order to restore the second member of the triad to its full force, it is preferable to read, e.g., either remittere se iras (also Madvig) or, more simply, remittere iras (cf. 34.32.6 and 39.5.5). Finally, in 40.58.1, Y. adopts the extensive emendation proposed by Madvig for a passage still badly in need of repair. As this brief discussion makes clear, book 40 presents many textual problems that continue to resist a final solution. As a chronological aid, “Appendix 2. Consuls (Censors) and Praetors 200-179 BC” (pp. 540-542) documents the known office-holders for those years.

Arranged by book and keyed to the page numbers of the translation, the “Explanatory Notes” (pp. 543-586) address a wide range of topics. H. provides the majority of these notes, but Y. occasionally adds a brief remark of his own on the text, accordingly designated “(Translator’s note)” (e.g., as a coverlet for your bed ad p. 149). There are only a few important errors in this section which require further discussion. First, two notes directly contradict each other, council of the Aetolians, which they call ‘Panaetolian’ ad p. 29 and Pylaic ad p. 34. Here, the second note is correct, not the first. The Panaitolika was the spring meeting, and the Thermaika (or Thermika) was the fall meeting of the Aetolian League.9 Second, the note which the Greeks call ‘asyla’ ad p. 247. is unclear. The form asyla is the neuter nominative/accusative plural of the adjective used substantively, with the meaning “[places] free from violence”, i.e., “sanctuaries” (see LSJ s.v. II.). There is no need for H. to make mention in his note of the abstract noun asylia, the form which means “freedom from violence”. Third, the Parilia was celebrated on April 21, not August 21 ( Parilia ad p. 482). Finally, it would have been helpful to include a note at 35.20.8-14 (cf. Briscoe ad 35.20.11-12) and 40.51.5 (cf. Walsh ad loc.), given the evident difficulties in both text and interpretation in these passages. An “Index of Personal Names” (pp. 587-597) and a “General Index” (pp. 599-612) round out the supplementary material.

Altogether, Y. and H. have combined their efforts to produce an exemplary volume which, as the only modern unabridged English translation of Livy 31-40, will do much to promote a renewed interest in this decade of Livy among both students and scholars. Y.’s smooth and accurate translation well captures both the meaning and the force of the Latin, while H.’s introductory and supplementary material firmly ground the translation in its literary and historical contexts.10


1. Besides the Loeb Classical Library (1935-1938) version, see also the translations by Henry Bettenson in the Penguin Classics (1976, books 31-45 abridged) and, most recently, by P. G. Walsh in his individual editions of books 36-40 for Aris and Phillips (1990-1996).

2. Among others, Y. has translated Quintus Curtius and Justin, as well as books 21-30 of Livy, also for the Oxford World’s Classics (2006). For the translation of books 21-30, see my recent review in BMCR 2007.03.36 and the addendum in 2007.04.14. For previous reviews of his translation of books 31-40, see T. Davina McClain, BMCR 2001.04.10 and B. Clarot, LEC 69.1 (2001): 126. The present review aims to furnish a more thorough examination of the translation itself, according to the format of my earlier review of Y.’s more recent translation of books 21-30. I should also add that, since the publication of that review, Prof. Yardley and I have corresponded regularly via email.

3. Apart from his previous collaboration with Y. for the translations of Quintus Curtius and Justin, H. has also published widely on Alexander the Great and his era, including, most recently, Who’s who in the age of Alexander the Great (Malden, MA and Oxford, 2006), as well as several volumes forthcoming.

4. Y. adopts the Teubner text edited by Briscoe as the basis for his translation. Unfortunately, however, he was unable to consult P. G. Walsh’s recent (1999) Oxford Classical Text for books 36-40 (cf. p. xxx). In this review, “Walsh” refers to this edition, while “Walsh ad” refers to the commentary in the Aris and Phillips editions (see note 1 above). Similarly, “Briscoe” refers to the Teubner edition, while “Briscoe ad” refers to the two-volume commentary on books 31-37 (Oxford, 1973 and 1981).

5. See my earlier review for a brief discussion of the general characteristics of Y.’s translation.

6. McClain (see note 2 above) cites the confusion between “Smyrna” and “Zmyrna”. Additional errors of this sort include 34.16.10: for “Terracona” read “Tarraco” (cf. 34.16.6) and the confusion over the correct rendering of Pthiotis and its related forms, i.e., 31.46.7: for “Pthiotis” read “Phthiotis”; 32.33.16: for “Thebes of Phthia” read “Phthian Thebes” or “Phthiotic Thebes” (the same error occurs also in 33.5.1, 33.34.7, and 39.25.9; cf. 33.13.6); 33.3.10: for “Pthiotic” read “Phthiotic” (the same error occurs also in 33.6.10); and 33.32.5: for “Achaeans of Pthiotis” read “Achaeans of Phthiotis” (the same error occurs also in 33.34.7 and 36.15.7). Furthermore, it should be noted that the “Thebes” mentioned in 32.35.11 and 33.6.3 is also Phthiotic Thebes, not that in Boeotia. Similarly, 34.62.10: for “Apthir” read “Aphthir”. Finally, it should be noted that some of the entries in the General Index are either incomplete or inaccurate.

7. For a full discussion of this difficult subject, see A. N. Sherwin-White, The Roman citizenship (Oxford, 1973), 96-118 and A. Bernardi, Nomen Latinum (Pavia, 1973), as well as the important review of the latter by Sherwin-White in JRS 66 (1976): 227-228. For a brief overview of the topic, see “Latini” and ” ius Latii” in the OCD.

8. Additional misprints in the Teubner volumes include passum for passuum in 31.25.1; host

  • bus for hosti
  • bus in 34.30.2; manicipium for mancipium in 34.35.4; diuississet for diuisisset in 36.24.8; mihil for mihi in 36.28.3; manicipia for mancipia in 36.44.9; absumpisisset for absumpsisset in 37.25.12; and the superfluous dash after eius in 39.11.6. Furthermore, hiemps should be read for hiems in 37.37.5, since Briscoe adopts this orthography elsewhere in his edition. Unfortunately, the spines of both Teubner volumes incorrectly read “Libri XXXII-XL”. In a similar vein, there is an important onomastic error on the back cover of the book under review: “T. Q. Flamininus” should read “T. Quinctius Flamininus”. Finally, the running header in the book under review marking the date should read “181 BC” on pp. 506-515, “181/180 BC” on p. 516, “180 BC” on pp. 517-525, “180/179 BC” on p. 526, and “179 BC” on pp. 527-538.

    9. For this, see John D. Grainger, The League of the Aitolians (Leiden, Boston, and Köln, 1999), 171-173.

    10. Jane Chaplin’s translation of books 41-45, as well as the periochae, is forthcoming in the Oxford World’s Classics, and it is to be hoped that a translation of books 6-10 may follow, in order to complete the first full unabridged English translation of Livy since the Loeb.