29 October 2008

Florus’ Epitome is now online at LacusCurtius: original Latin, and the English translation by E. S. Forster, Loeb edition, 1929. Those not familiar with the work will find a sort of timeline of Roman military history, the wars of 700 years, as the manuscript headings put it, easily read in two hours: a good orientation to Roman history.

Several Latin texts of the Epitome preceded me online — although the one most people refer to was very poorly proofread, with at least three skips of entire lines, and many, many grammatical errors or problems with verbs that change the meaning of sentences, often nonsensically (hey, at least there was a human being rather than a scanner behind all those mistakes) — and one English translation; but not a Latin translation with a facing English, one-stop shopping as it were.

Florus traditionally gets bad press for being inaccurate, rhetorical, and dull. I’d never read him, and had never read the critics either: to my fresh eye he comes out as having done a very good job of presenting 700 years of history in a nicely readable summary, I’d be very hard put to do as well; plus the man has a quirky, dry sense of humor which I think a lot of those critics missed altogether. In sum, not dull at all.

Battle of the Trasimene Lake (217)

4 August 2008
The battlefield

The battlefield

The Battle of the Trasimene Lake was one of Hannibal‘s most splendid victories. The Romans were well aware that the Carthaginian general was a dangerous, capable opponent, and sent out several armies, making sure that he could always be attacked from two sides at the same time. Hannibal, however, managed to elude his opponents, and attacked the army of the Roman consul Flaminius on the northern bank of Lake Trasimene. Roman losses were high; in the following year, only an army of recruits could be sent out, which met its doom at Cannae.

Six Battles of Thermopylae

2 August 2008


I’ve visited Thermopylae three times, have walked a bit through the mountains, climbed into an electric pylon to make the photo to the right – in short, it’s a place I like, even though it is, to quote a poet, “a guilty landscape” with almost too many historical associations. It is hard to imagine that this was once a narrow road along the coast and the site of six ancient battles. I already had something online, but expanded it. There’s a page about the landscape, a page about the famous battle in 480 BCE against the Persians, a page with Herodotus’ account, and a page with the other five battles (actually, six, but one of them was not really at Thermopylae).