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The Roman historians can seem deceptively familiar. Three authors especially from the late Republic and early Empire left works that survived in substantial enough form to shape our understanding of the periods they wrote about. From the pen of Sallust, writing just after the civil war between Caesar and Pompey ended and as the new civil war between Antony and the future Augustus was coming into view, we have two monographs. One relates a recent domestic crisis, the coup attempt of Catiline (63 BCE); the other the war against the North African king Jugurtha from two generations before. A decade after Sallust, as that period of extreme internal violence was giving way to the nervous stabilities of the Empire, Livy began a history of Rome from its foundation, concluding eventually with the death of the emperor’s stepson Drusus in 9 BCE. This enormous project would take its author many decades and fill 142 book rolls; from it, we possess the first ten books on the early history of Rome up to the beginning of the third century BCE and another twenty-five taking the story from the struggle against Hannibal (218-201 BCE) through the conquests of the early second century BCE. Finally Tacitus, writing a century after Livy’s death, produced two extended works that together tell the story of the Empire, from the moment it became clear it was an empire (that is, when Augustus died and was succeeded by Tiberius) up to the revolution that gave power to the dynasty under which he wrote.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to the Roman Historians
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781139002714
ISBN (Print)9780521854535
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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