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VINE VOICEon 13 June 2009
Professor Luce, an eminent Livian scholar, has rendered the first five books of Livy's "Ab Urbe Condita" in concise English that not only retains the essence of the Latin but also conveys the vividness of the narrative. In other words, he tells the tales of the founding of Rome in an entertaining manner that is accessible to today's students, who have little patience for long-winded or stilted prose.

The book includes an informative introduction, two maps, a brief chronology, and copious notes. My only quibble is with the index, which has been geared for scholars of Roman history. For example, a student looking up the dictator Cincinnatus must be aware that he is listed by the gens name of Quinctius (There is no cross-reference.); and then the student has to decide between Titus, Lucius, and Quintus. While this is good practice for the serious scholar of Roman history, it might be infuriating for the casual reader (One hopes that Oxford will correct this flaw in a future edition). Nevertheless, the book is so enjoyable that I recommend it highly and have adopted it for my Roman Civilization class.

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on 31 May 2010
For those of you who don't know, Livy was a historian who lived in the time of Augustus. He wrote a history of Rome from its birth up to his own time: the 'Ab urbe condita libri' which was comprised of 142 books. Only 35 still exist in a reasonably complete form. The following are available in the same series:

Hannibal's War: Books 21-30
The Dawn of the Roman Empire: Books 31-40
Rome's Mediterranean Empire: Books 41-45 and the Periochae

This volume consists of Books 1-5 and and details major historical events such as the birth of Rome, the story of Romulus and Remus; the ongoing battles with neighbours such as the Sabines and Veii; the dictatorship of Cincinattus and the sack of Rome by the Gauls which closes this first volume.

The translation is good and there are many valuable footnotes to establish context. They also help to clear up the frequent inconsistencies in Livy's account (Livy didn't seem to be one for fact-checking!).

Of course the style of these will not be to everyone's taste but those interested in classical history will enjoy this book.
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Livy, writing under Augustus, was, like his contemporary Vergil, mythologising about the foundation of Rome, and his story of where the Romans came from and how the Roman character was formed, tells us more about Roman self-identity (or the way they wanted to see themselves) at the turning point between the Republic and the principate than about the past.

Having said that, Livy tells a fabulous (literally) story: from the early kings to their expulsion by the first Marcus Brutus and the beginning of the Republic; from Rome's small beginnings to her conquests and domination of Italy. The stories of Romulus and Remus mothered by the wolf, Horatius at the bridge, the rape and suicide of Lucretia, the tragic story of Corialanus and his mother are here, and it's fascinating to read them in their original context.

Livy is lively, tragic, vivid and witty and that all comes over in the translation. Read this together with Vergil and compare their creative conception of what it means to be Roman, where they have come from and where they are going.
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