Review of Livy’s Rome and the Mediterranean

Publisher: Penguin Classics, 1976

I will admit off the top that this book did not interest me–in its subject matter–as much as the earlier volumes of Livy’s famous history, especially the birth of Rome and the one about the Second Punic War. I am not a lover of Greece after the Peloponnesian War and especially after Alexander the Great.

Nevertheless I found value in it, as I usually do in classics. It holds clear relevance for the present: Rome’s dealings with multiple Greek kings of similar outlook and conduct serves as an immediate reminder of our recent conflicts with Mubarak and Qaddafi and others in the same North African region. The end was, for me, more intriguing than the beginning. I particularly enjoyed the Roman envoy circling around Antiochus and demanding his adherence to a Roman-imposed peace. I enjoyed watching Perseus fall victim to his own arrogance and criminality. The long speech justifiying the triumph of Aemelius Paulus was in my opinion one of the greatest speeches of all time, even if written by Livy and not by the speaker to whom he attributed it, and deserves to be studied alongside those of Cicero and Demosthenes and Clay and Churchill.

I was a little bit frustrated at how much was cut out. I could not tell whether this was due to lacunae in the existing manuscripts or to the editor’s judgment. Still at 648 pages of text it was more than enough for me, and I am thankful to be done with all 2100 extant pages of Livy!

 

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