BMCR 2011.06.51

Appien: Histoire romaine. Tome X, livre XV: Guerres civiles, livre III. Collection des universités de France. Série grecque, 474

, , Appien: Histoire romaine. Tome X, livre XV: Guerres civiles, livre III. Collection des universités de France. Série grecque, 474. Paris: Belles lettres, 2010. cxxvi, 182. ISBN 9782251005584. €55.00 (pb).

A little over a century ago, in 1905, Paul Viereck published with Teubner a revised edition of Ludwig Mendelssohn’s Greek text of Appian’s Civil Wars. Scholarship in the last century has made many noteworthy advances, and the lack of a critical edition that had kept pace was keenly felt. Part of an ongoing project under the aegis of the Collection des Universités de France, there has now appeared a new edition of Book 3 of Appian’s Civil Wars, the work of Paul Goukowsky and Philippe Torrens. This new edition consists of an ample introduction (pp. vii-cxxvi), a fresh Greek text with critical apparatus and facing translation in French (pp. 1-90), and a detailed historical commentary to which philological notes have been usefully added from time to time (pp. 91-182). As a result of lavish attention to detail and the exercise of critical acumen, there is no doubt that this will henceforth be the standard edition of reference for anyone working on Appian and the convoluted history of the period extending from mid-March 44 to mid-September 43 BCE. The work of Goukowsky and Torrens in this new edition constitutes an important and most welcome addition to what seems to be a revival of interest in the historiographical production of Appian of Alexandria.

The Greek text established afresh by Goukowsky represents a marked improvement upon the past. For one thing, the stemma has been streamlined by eliminating three apographs (Laurentianus LXX-33, Parisinus gr. 1681, and Parisinus gr. 1682), and two new witnesses have been identified (Laurentianus LXX-5 and Vaticanus gr. 2156). Subsequently, there are more than 500 points where the transmitted Greek text manifestly or plausibly requires an editor’s intervention. Frequently, as with ἠπείλει at and τιμώμενον at, Goukowsky provides a new reading that is both attested and preferable. Sometimes, as with στασιῶται at, one of the new witnesses confirms an emendation proposed by a previous editor. Only rarely does Goukowsky hazard an emendation that seems improbable, e.g. τὸ rather than τὰ at and ὡς ἐς instead of deciding between these two words at Occasionally displaying brilliance, as with the conjecture of ἀρεστῆς at, Goukowsky’s work of textual restoration overall proves persuasive.

Goukowsky’s translation is admirably elegant and achieves a precision in French that consistently reflects what is occurring at various levels of the text. Whether as a “pony” or a substitute for those without Greek, it displays philological acumen. Which is not to say that it altogether avoids the pitfalls inherent in that exercise, so memorably expressed by the Italian aphorism traduttore traditore. So, for example, the translation of App. BC 3.3.7 employs the first person singular and thereby endows Appian with an authorial voice not to be found within the original Greek. The distance separating subject from verb as a result of an inordinately lengthy intervening subordinate clause (ὅτι … τιμώμενον) makes any straightforward rendering in a modern European language virtually incomprehensible, but the solution adopted by Goukowsky is unfortunate in view of the importance attached to narrative personae today. Notwithstanding these cavils, it is welcome to have a translation that indicates what the editor of the text believes the text to be saying in the original language.

Largely the work of Philippe Torrens, the notes accompanying the translation are dense and informative, situating Appian’s narrative within an overall historical context. Performed with scrupulous attention to detail, the decision to furnish readers with telling citations from the other sources on many an occasion was felicitous and renders this commentary highly useful. Other narratives supply additional detail that is useful in reconstructing the historical context or serve as a corrective to the version given by Appian. As the work of Torrens demonstrates, the contrast between Cicero’s correspondence and later narratives is particularly salutary.

It is extremely easy to accept a written narrative as being an accurate representation of historical reality. Indeed, it is precisely that premise that informs most scholastic manuals. Hence, Goukowsky performs an important and essential service for readers by discussing at length in the introduction the false thesis that M. Brutus and C. Cassius had been designated governors of Macedonia and Syria prior to the assassination of Caesar (pp. xviii-xxv). Although the erroneous nature of this historical reconstruction and its significance for Appian’s narrative were demonstrated by W. Sternkopf in 1912 (duly remarked at p. xviii and 95 n.16), error is persistent and the truth lurks in footnotes or amidst a welter of details in commentaries.1 The assimilation of the leaders of the assassins to other individuals, such as Decimus Brutus and C. Trebonius, was easy and is best attributed to Livy or a later author not so intimately acquainted with the course of politics in Rome in 44-43 BCE (p. xviii n.73, remarking what Goukowsky sees as the probability that Florus was acquainted with the work of Appian).

In discussing the sources for Appian’s narrative, Goukowsky displays both intellectual rigour and a profound awareness of the various possibilities. Hence, readers will not be presented with an Appian who mindlessly copied most, if not all, of the Civil Wars from the Historiae of C. Asinius Pollio. Much more might have been said, but that is a promising beginning. Similarly, Goukowsky refuses to change the paradosis giving the cognomen of C. Scribonius Libo (App. BC 3.77.315, with commentary at p. 163-164 n.510) so as to obtain a reference to the work of Livy. On the other hand, his discussion in this instance of the differences and similarities between the narratives of Appian and Cassius Dio is wanting in two signal respects: observation of the significant fact that both authors provide a retrospective at this moment in time and allowance for the possibility (other characteristics of his narrative for the 40s BCE suggest probability) that Dio used the source available to Livy. Indeed, just as Appian would seem to have used Pollio at second-hand, so it may be wondered whether this was not also the case when he makes reference to the account of Libo. Be that as it may, there can be no doubt that Goukowsky’s discussion of the problem of Appian’s sources and the relationship of his narrative to the others that survive marks a solid contribution upon which others will build in the years to come.

There are problems, of course, and some note should be taken of these and their possible means of resolution.

Most surprising perhaps is a fundamental question of topography. In describing meetings of the Senate at which Cicero spoke against M. Antonius, Appian consistently writes of the “senate-house” or βουλευτήριον (App. BC 3.50.206, 51.211). This language strongly suggests that he believed that the meetings took place within the Curia Iulia at the northeastern edge of the Forum Romanum. Torrens quite rightly notes that they were held in the Temple of Concord (p. 145 n.357), but fails to remark the elementary fact that meetings in the Curia Iulia were impossible because the building was yet under construction.2 The ancient historian would seem to have envisioned the Forum Romanum as it stood in his day, and the modern commentator perhaps inadvertently abets this vision. In any case, readers are never informed why the meetings of the Senate described by Appian in this period occur elsewhere.

It is most welcome to have the translator commenting upon the translation offered here. Even when the comments do not prove convincing, they are nonetheless of great service. For instance, in remarking upon the remote possibility of a spatial understanding of the prepositional phrase ἐκ πολλοῦ (App. BC 3.63.259), Goukowsky draws readers’ attention to an interesting bit of evidence not previously remarked by historians (p. 151 n.408). The port city of Demetrias was situated in southern Thessaly, within easy reach of Pharsalus. It would seem that the “many weapons … long present” in that city had been transported there in the wake of the battle of Pharsalus. If that surmise be accepted, then this is yet another passage in which Appian sheds light upon the early 40s while discussing what occurred later in that same decade (cf. App. BC 3.77.312, with commentary at p. 162 n.504; 3.78.318). Without Goukowsky’s query, such evidence is easily overlooked.

On another note, references to the specialist bibliography in English seem unwarrantably meagre. Commentary upon M. Antonius’ punishment of mutineers would have benefited from reference to Chrissanthos 1997.3 The description of troops’ behaviour at the battle of Forum Gallorum could have been discussed, thanks to Bucher 2005.4 Curiously reference is made to the doctoral dissertation of Alain Gowing, but not to the finished book that subsequently appeared.5 Nor is there any display of an awareness of the highly relevant work of Christopher Pelling.6 The adjective insular comes to mind.

Similarly, it seems a shame that Torrens’s historical commentary, so extraordinarily rich in other respects, makes so little use of Caesar and his epigonoi when furnishing remarks concerning the occasional flashback in Appian’s narrative. For instance, while concurring in his judgement that Caesar “indubitably” determined upon the Parthian expedition at a time later than 47 BCE, the disposition of a legion in Syria then would well have been illustrated by Caesar’s own critical view of the behaviour of the governor of Syria in the winter of 49-48 BCE (p. 162 n.505; cf. Caes. BC 3.31). Similarly, acquaintance with Caesar and other sources might have produced useful commentary upon Appian’s odd remark that the four legions left in Egypt by Caesar in 47 BCE were made up of former soldiers who had survived the defeats of Pompeius and Crassus (App. BC 3.78.318). Whatever the precise cause for Appian’s reference to Crassus, it seems to be a pale reflection of the fact that the Syrian governor A. Gabinius had left troops in Egypt after restoring Ptolemy XII to power. Readers will unquestionably find the commentary of immense assistance, but its utility would have been even greater had Torrens avoided the historiographical myopia common to so many works dealing with the establishment of the Principate.

Incredibly, some of the most basic aids for readers are lacking. First and foremost, there is no index nominum for this edition, which means that readers must either have a very good memory or else create one for themselves. Secondly, there are no maps despite the wide geographical range of Appian’s narrative. Even people fairly well acquainted with the topography of Italy would likely benefit from being able to consult a map when reflecting upon the conflicting reports for the movement of legions and individuals in 44-43 BCE. In view of the excellence of French cartography this is a particularly incomprehensible omission. Thirdly, it is rather annoying to consult the preface in order to have information on the manuscript tradition and then be informed that one must turn to yet another volume for that information (p. cxix). Essential to any evaluation of the editor’s work, such information should in theory be provided with each volume. Faith is agreeable, but verification far better.


1. To cite but two standard works: R. Syme, The Roman Revolution, (Oxford 1939) 102-103 n.6; C.B.R. Pelling, ed., Plutarch: Life of Antony, (Cambridge 1988) 152.

2. LTUR 1.332.

3. S. Chrissanthos, “Caesar and the Mutiny of 47 B.C.” JRS 91 (2001) 63-75.

4. G. Bucher, “Fictive Elements in Appian’s Pharsalus Narrative,” Phoenix 59 (2005) 50-76.

5. A. Gowing, The Triumviral Narratives of Appian and Cassius Dio, Ann Arbor 1992.

6. Foremost amongst a series of articles and books is C. Pelling, “Plutarch’s Method of Work in the Roman Lives,” JHS 99 (1979) 74-96.