The Civil Wars Paperback – 27 Jun 1996
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From the Back Cover
Appian's Civil Wars offers a masterly account of the turbulent epoch from the time of Tiberius Gracchus (133 BC) to the tremendous conflicts which followed the murder of Julius Caesar. For the events between 133 and 70 BC he is the only surviving continuous narrative source. The subsequent books vividly describe Catiline's conspiracy, the rise and fall of the First Triumvirate, and Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon, defeat of Pompey and untimely death. The climax comes with the birth of the Second Triumvirate out of anarchy, the terrible purges of Proscriptions which followed, and the titanic struggle for world mastery which was only to end with Augustus's defeat of Antony and Cleopatra. If Appian's Roman History as a whole reveals how an empire was born of the struggle against a series of external enemies, these five books concentrate on an even greater ordeal. Despite the rhetorical flourishes, John Carter suggests in his Introduction, the impressive 'overall conception of the decline of the Roman state into violence, with its sombre highlights and the leitmotif of fate, is neither trivial nor inaccurate'.
About the Author
Appian was born into the privileged Greek upper class of Alexandria, probably about A.D. 95. He rose to high office in his native city, and appears to have practised law at Rome, where he made the aquaintance of Fronto and pleaded in cases before the emperors Hadrian and Antoninus Pius. He composed his Roman History between c. A.D. 145 and 165, at the height of the period which Gibbon called 'the golden age of the Antonines.' John Carter retired from a Senior Lectureship at Royal Holloway college, University of London, in 1992. He collaborated with Ian Scott-Kilvert on Cassius Dio's The Roman History(1987) for Penguin Classics, and other published work includes a history of Augustus' rise to power, The Battle of Actium (1970), and editions of Suetonius' life of Augustus, Divis Augustus (1982), and of Julius Caesar's own account of his war with Pompey, Civil War (2 vols., 1991 and 1993).
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Top customer reviews
The book doesn't end in 70 BC, but rather it covers everything to the defeat of Sextus Pompeius, Pompey Magnus's son. Along the way Appian describes the revolt of Spartacus, the Catiline conspiracy, the rise and fall of the First Triumvirate, Julius Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon, and the rise of the Second Triumvirate and the terrible proscriptions that followed.
Appian isn't the best writer of the Classical World, but his book is still worth a read. John Carter's translation is good, and he also provides an introduction where he re-evaluates Appian's work as an 'impressive conception'.
If you have an interest in those pivotal years that ended with the death of the Republic, then this book is a must read. It can be difficult to get into but if you persist you will be rewarded. A thoroughly impressive work of ancient scholarship.
Appian's history, however, is beautifully written (like Sallust's), and is extant on the civil wars up to 35BC. The account of the Ides of March will be of particular interest to many readers. Only one warning to the unwary: the speeches are a standard feature of classical history-writing, but it is generally assumed they are apocryphal. Appian's work also contains inevitable inaccuracies: he has the mob burn down the curia at Caesar's funeral, for example, in revenge upon the site of his murder, but as is implied in earlier chapters, Caesar had been killed in the temple of Venus belonging to Pompey's theatre, where the senate had met that day. This is, nevertheless, a must for anyone interested in the transition from Roman Republic to empire.
My one bone to pick is that Appian left all the Egyptian elements to a different history, so if you're looking for Cleopatra and the final days of Mark Anthony, you won't find it here. So you don't get to see Octavian become Augustus and effectively end the Civil Wars. A pity.
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