BMCR 2018.08.24

Livy, History of Rome, Books 38-40. Loeb classical library, 313

, Livy, History of Rome, Books 38-40. Loeb classical library, 313. Cambridge; London: Harvard University Press, 2018. vii, 576. ISBN 9780674997196. $26.00.

This volume replaces the one done for the Loeb series by Evan T. Sage in 1936. To align the decade better, it includes Book 40, which previously was found in the volume following. Yardley has already published Vol. IX, Books 31-34 (2017), and Vol. X, Books 35-37 (2018). These new Loebs are superior to the old ones in almost every way.

Not quite every way, however. The old Loeb’s pages identified the year being narrated in the upper outer margins, the date A.U.C. on the left-hand page, the date B.C. on the right: the new Loeb of Livy’s annalistic history doesn’t even identify the year at its beginning. The old Loeb included at the back four fold-out maps: in the new, map-less one, the footnotes simply refer to the Barrington Atlas. Both these features of the earlier edition were exceptionally helpful to readers, and their absence from the present one is regrettable; perhaps the restoration of at least the years in future printings would be neither a great burden nor a great expense.

The essential facts about the volume are easily set down. The text, resting on Briscoe’s 1991 Teubner, is better than the one Sage presented. The modest apparatus criticus is more rational. The translation is more accurate and, because less Latinate and more contemporary, it also flows more smoothly. The historical footnotes are more numerous and more helpful. Some qualifications will follow. This volume carries no introduction. A good introduction to the entire decade was contributed to the first volume by the Roman military historian Dexter Hoyos. Over fifty pages long, it covers Livy’s historiography; the political situations of Rome and the relevant lands of the Mediterranean; Roman institutions, such as government, armies, and calendar; and the textual transmission of the fourth decade.

I did say that the text is better than that of Sage, who based his in turn on that of Weissenborn and Müller’s 1930 Teubner, but I’m not sure of that; I’m simply supposing. Briscoe’s edition of the fourth decade has scarcely been reviewed, much less shown to be superior. Jal wrote a brief review highly critical of its preface, groupings and representations of the MSS, and apparatus criticus, whereas Hellegouarc’h with equal brevity praised its rigor and prudence.1 No other reviews have appeared. (The profession should be embarrassed that a new edition of a major author goes nearly unevaluated.) However that may be, Yardley tells us (Vol. IX, p. viii) that in choosing readings he has sometimes been “somewhat cavalier” where Briscoe was cautious. Why the Oxford Classical Texts by McDonald (Books 31-35, 1965) and Walsh (Books 36-40, 1999) go virtually unused and unmentioned is a mystery.

For a fair sample of the apparatus criticus we may take the page of text that begins with 38.43.10 (Sage’s numbering of sections follows Weissenborn and Müller’s and so sometimes differs slightly from today’s standard). Whereas Yardley has only one textual note ( rediret vs. veniret at 38.44.1), Sage has six (but not that one), all of which just waste space in a Loeb volume.

The true superiority of Yardley’s work lies, first of all, in the translation: he is an outstanding translator of Livy. This version, he tells us (Vol. IX, p. viii), is quite different from the one he contributed to the Oxford World’s Classics series, which was published in 2000 under the title The Dawn of the Roman Empire; his new, Loeb translation sticks closer to the Latin. Yardley’s English runs more smoothly than Sage’s nonetheless, and is more accurate. The beginning of Livy’s account of the notorious censorship held in the year 184, when Cato the Elder and L. Valerius Flaccus were the censors, illustrates his accuracy. Yardley understands correctly the quidem at 39.42.6, aliae quidem acerbae orationes, which, without an adversative particle, contrasts with the following longe gravissima . . . oratio : Sage lamely translates it “indeed.” The patrum of 39.42.6 is translated by Sage as “of our fathers,” which in context makes no sense: Yardley has “of those senators,” rightly. At 39.42.5 Yardley renders senatum legerunt as “revised the senate membership”: Sage says “chose the Senate,” which might mislead readers about how that body was constituted. “Male prostitute” is Yardley’s straightforward rendering of scortum at 39.42.8: vaguely, but in accordance with earlier generations’ notions of propriety, Sage renders it “degenerate.”

A long, handsomely constructed sentence from a speech delivered by Flaminius illustrates the differing approaches that the two Loeb translators take to Livy’s Latinity (38.43.10-11). Sage:

That Ambracia was besieged and captured and that its statues and works of art were removed from there and that other things were done which are usually done when cities are captured, do you think that either I on behalf of Marcus Fulvius or Marcus Fulvius on his own behalf will deny, conscript Fathers, since for these achievements he will claim from you a triumph, the captured Ambracia, and the statues that they accuse him of removing and the other spoils of that city will be carried before his chariot and fixed to his door-posts?


Ambracia was attacked and captured. Statues and artworks were taken from it, and other things were done that usually occur when cities are captured. Do you think that I will deny this on Marcus Fulvius’ behalf, members of the senate, or that Marcus Fulvius himself will deny it, when he is going to request of you a triumph for these actions and will bear before his chariot, and affix to his doorposts, conquered Ambracia, the statues they charge him with taking from there, and all the other spoils from that city?

Sage, with remarkable ingenuity and practiced skill, captures Livy’s long sentence in an equally long one of his own and, moreover, matches both the syntax and the sequence of the Latin. He keeps the aut . . . aut construction, reproducing Livy’s characteristic reliance on correlation. The main verb, “deny,” takes a very long while to show up, and the syntax of the last clause is muddy (was a “that” omitted after “city”?). Yardley, by contrast, breaks the sentence up into three and drops the first aut, and he replaces the obscure “conscript Fathers” with “members of the senate.” As a result his version reads more readily and more pleasantly; it is not so helpful a guide to construing the Latin as Sage’s version, but it does invite the readers to continue reading.

Contrast also these translations. 38.44.5: Sage “that whatever they should have ordered should be done”: Yardley “that the college’s decisions should be put into effect,” eliminating the first, fussy “should,” which needlessly reproduces the future perfect that had stood in the oratio recta. 38.44.8: Sage “released by these ceremonies”: Yardley “freed from these religious duties,” perfectly accurate. 38.46.1: Sage “both their minds and their bodies have been mixed and corrupted”: Yardley “their physique and character showed the effects of interbreeding and contamination,” far more precise and far more intelligible.

The second source of Yardley’s superiority is the notes, which of course in the interest of concision abound in references to the Oxford Classical Dictionary, Broughton’s Magistrates of the Roman Republic, Richardson’s A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, and Briscoe’s commentary. Sometimes, to be sure, Yardley’s notes may interest readers without advancing their understanding of Livy. On 39.9.5 he writes a long note on the name of Hispala, a prominent actor in the drama surrounding the Bacchanalia, and then adds a literary/philological comment to the effect that she resembles the “good” courtesan of Roman comedy. Yet in other places, where Sage offers only an identification, Yardley regularly adds the significance of the detail in question. At 39.9.2 Sage explains what an eques equo publico is: Yardley draws the relevant inference, that Aebutius’s father was well-to-do. Sage explains at 39.9.3 the role of a tutor, or legal guardian: Yardley also tells the readers what that implies, that the step-father had misappropriated part of Aebutius’s estate.

Very often Yardley supplies information lacking in his predecessor. A few examples: 38.51.8, the Capitoline triad; 38.51.11, Scipio’s age; 38.52.5, the secession of the plebs; 39.42.11, the pun on gallus/Gallus; 39.43.5, sponsio; 39.44.8, publicani and tax farming. All these notes make the narrative much more comprehensible, much richer for the readers. (But at 38.51.1, where Yardley has nothing, Sage gives a long note assessing the various charges leveled at Scipio.) Especially welcome are those notes in which Yardley expresses skepticism towards the historical tradition or the motives of characters. He suggests that a certain Sibylline oracle referred to by Livy at 38.45.3 is probably an invention. At 38.43.6 he points to a contradiction between what the Ambracian envoys claim and what the historian himself had earlier reported, and implies that the envoys exaggerate an accusation to which they knew the Romans were especially sensitive. With such a critical stance, he is more in line with modern scholarship on Roman historiography.

It should be noted that Walsh’s editions of Books 36-40 (1990-1996),2 a separate volume for each book, contain translations as good as Yardley’s along with more substantial historical, historiographical, and stylistic notes than the Loeb format allows.

Years ago, when I was selecting the editions that were to be entered into the Packard Humanities Institute’s corpus of Latin texts, and for guidance was looking to published reviews of the various editions, I discovered that the Loeb volumes were rarely or never reviewed, perhaps out of disdain for translation in general, or perhaps because of the undistinguished quality of some volumes. Nowadays, however, whether it is adding new texts to the collection, like Macrobius’s Saturnalia, edited and translated by Kaster, or revising old ones, like the remains of Ennius’s Annales, presented anew, at length, and to great advantage by Goldberg and Manuwald, the Loeb Classical Library contains scholarship of high quality, work that is often original. In the new Library, which was launched by George Goold as editor-in-chief and is now not only continued but enhanced by his successor Jeffrey Henderson, each volume deserves to be reviewed seriously. May they all come to merit the praises that are to be bestowed on Yardley’s Livy! ​


1. REL 70 [1992] 279-81; Latomus 53 [1994] 178-80.

2. Aris & Phillips, Warminster.