Sunday, April 29, 2012

Classic Texts: Livy's the Rise of Rome

I recently finished reading the first five books of Livy's Histories:

As with most of the classics, it is not for the style of the prose that one reads these, but for the period insight and volume of narrative.  Of course given that this covers the legendary founding of Rome and the period of kings in the first book, not all of it should be taken at face value.  However once into the period of Consuls until the end of book five - with the Celtic sack of Rome and Rome's immediate recovery - there is an awful lot of material about both the politics and wars of Rome.

From the Wargamers standpoint it is the latter that is of interest, and not only Rome but its' Latin neighbours appear to be in a constant state of warfare.  It beggars belief that any nation, never mind a city state, could sustain so many battles on a yearly basis, and sadly the sort of wider detail of society that may shed light on how this was creditable falls outside of Livy's remit.  One has to assume that in many battles losses were light, and there are a number of accounts of battles were an enemy was allowed to surrender with honour after slight or indeed no casualties to support this.

Some of the major engagements are covered in fairly precise details which would make creating scenarios for refights quite practical, but details of numbers engaged are scant so one has to draw your own conclusions.

In general it is a reasonably good and relatively easy read, though the politics can plod somewhat.  For a military historian there is a lot to digest.  A worthwhile read.

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