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I would imagine it gives as good a feel of Roman military and political life in ...
on 22 December 2014
This is a gem if you have the staying power. The original Victorian translation was over 2000 pages long and I decided to use it as my 'travelling' book - train, bus and coach journeys etc. I am three quarters of the way through. It can be repetitive, pedantic and at times obscure but the translation and style feel fresh and real. I would imagine it gives as good a feel of Roman military and political life in the first six hundred years (although just over two thirds of the text has been lost) of Rome as you are likely to get anywhere. Livy seems scrupulous in the use of the historical texts and state records he had access to and not unquestioning.
What emerges is a picture of Rome as a state with an impenetrable will to survive even in the face of disaster as great as the defeat at Cannae; how small the Roman territory was for hundreds of years and how 'close to home' its interminable wars were fought; the intensity of it's internal politics and how powerful the plebs were for hundreds of years, the strength of the Republic's political and religious rules and rituals even in extremis - Consuls were called home from prosecuting wars to conduct elections etc. The feeling that emerges that it never entered the heads of the Romans that the state would not survive however desperate things were is palpable and reminds me of the things I read of Britain's attitude in 1940. After nearly eight hundred years of what comes over as virtually annual wars I can understand why 200 years of the Pax Romana after Augustus came to power meant so much to the Romans.
If you have the time and the staying power of the Roman State read this book.