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4.0 out of 5 stars A Basic History of Early Rome, 18 Sep 2011
By 
Arch Stanton (Nottingham, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Ab Urbe Condita: Bk. 21 & 22, v. 5 (Loeb Classical Library) (Hardcover)
Since there are so many of these darn things the review shall be divided into three sections. First, a brief description of the Loeb series of books and their advantages/disadvantages. Second shall be my thoughts on the author himself, his accuracy, as well as his style and the style of his translator. This is of course only my opinion and should be treated as such. The final part shall review what this particular book actually covers.

The Loeb series date back to the turn of the last century. They are designed for people with at least some knowledge of Greek or Latin. They are a sort of compromise between a straight English translation and an annotated copy of the original text. On the left page is printed the text in Greek or Latin depending on the language of the writer and on the right side is the text in English. For somebody who knows even a little Greek or Latin these texts are invaluable. You can try to read the text in the original language knowing that you can correct yourself by looking on the next page or you can read the text in translation and check the translation with the original for more detail. While some of the translations are excellent mostly they are merely serviceable since they are designed more as an aid to translation rather than a translation in themselves. Most of them follow the Greek or Latin very closely. These books are also very small, maybe just over a quarter the size of your average hardcover book. This means that you'll need to buy more than just one book to read a complete work. They are also somewhat pricey considering their size. The Loeb Collection is very large but most of the more famous works can be found in better (and cheaper) translations elsewhere. If you want to read a rarer book or read one in the original language then you can't do better than the Loeb Editions.

There are 14 volumes of Livy available in the Loeb series which include all of his known writings. Livy wrote at the end of the first century BC and the beginning of the first century AD. His books cover the period from the foundation of Rome in 753 BC to the early Principate ending in 9 BC. Like most classical writers the majority of his work has been lost. While he wrote 142 books of it only about a quarter of them survive. After book 45 they only exist in summaries. Livy is a difficult author to like. His works are filled with the self-righteous moralizing that makes so many of the classical historians so irritating. Worse still he insists on following a strict chronological order in the way of an annal. This means that he covers everything that happens in one year before moving onto the next. This means that in practice his books are filled with repetitive lists of consuls. This is particularly true in the first books where he covers what are essentially myths. Which brings us to the question of accuracy. While few people have accused Livy of falsifying evidence there are plenty examples of times when he misinterprets it. He saw the Republic as being basically fully formed from the beginning and never really understood the early conflicts simply classifying them as being the patricians against the plebeians. This translation is about as basic as Livy's original text. While Livy is touted as a model of Golden Age Latin it is the form and not the content that makes it so. Individual passages may have been well formed but the whole is still repetitive. The translation neither adds from nor takes away from that fact. It was written in the 1920s so the language is somewhat overly formal and stilted. If you're looking for a cheaper way to read Livy then I'd suggest getting the Penguin Classics edition. It includes books 21-30 and is a well written translation.

This volume includes books 21 and 22 of Livy. It covers the beginning of the Second Punic War up through Hannibal's defeat of the Romans at Cannae.
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Ab Urbe Condita: Bk. 21 & 22, v. 5 (Loeb Classical Library)
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