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 7 volumes of Procopius in the Loeb series which include all his known works. Procopius was the last great Classical historian and a personal favorite of mine. His works were written in the middle of the 6th Century during the reign of Justinian when the Empire was once again on the rise. His books are about the wars to reconquer the Western Empire which had fallen in 476. As an author Procopius is highly readable. His works cover a very interesting period and do so with great skill. He is from the Sallustan school of history writing and divides his work into sections based on similar topics instead of following a strictly chronological approach. This makes his books both easier to follow and more entertaining for the reader. While his books are technically focused on the wars they cover much more than that including politics and economic matters. Procopius is also the author of two other very different books. One a very boring panegyric on the building works of Justinian and the other called the 'Anecdota' or 'Secret History' which is basically a collection of every possible slander he could make against Justinian, his wife Theodora, and just about everybody else he'd ever met. As you might gather from those two different books Procopius suffers on accuracy issues. While he doesn't seem to have told direct lies (except in his secret history) his lies of omission are likely to be serious. Unfortunately he is our main source for that era which makes it hard to check him against other sources. Still, even if he fudges facts a little to obscure some points he is unlikely to have completely changed the events described. The translation is quite good.
This volume contains Procopius' two books on Justinian's Persian Wars. The first one is more interesting because it deals completely with Belisarius and takes place before the other wars. The second book takes place after Belisarius had returned from Italy and have less detail. So essentially the prequel and the sequel to his other books are included in the same set. This demonstrates the problem with organizing books by subject rather than the strictly chronological approach. I'd recommend reading the first book and then saving the second book for last.
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I purchased the first five volumes of Procopius's "History of the Wars" after reading a review somewhere, basically buying the volumes sight unseen, a stab in the dark. Well, how right was that decision! I have only read the first volume, Books 1-2, which covers the Persian Wars and I had a great time. The book was so easy to read, full of interesting facts and stories of peoples and places long gone and lost to history.
What is so amazing about this book was that it was written sometime in the 540's AD and translated in the early 1900's. I was a bit worried that the narrative would be difficult to read and boring, how wrong could I be! The story fairly raced along and I never got bored with the book. I can't wait to read the next few volumes which cover Belisarius in his campaigns and wars against the Vandals in 533 and again in 535 against the Ostrogoths.
This is a great book, highly recommended to those who enjoy accounts of the ancients and those times and places from times long past.
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