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Appian's History of Rome: Preface (1)


Legionary standard (of XXX Ulpia Traiana reenactment group). Photo Jona Lendering.
Appian of Alexandria (c.95-c.165) is the author of a Roman History and one of the most underestimated of all Greek historians. Although only his books on the Roman Civil Wars survive in their entirety, large parts of other books have also come down to us, and among these is the preface of the Roman History.

Because the text has to be reconstructed from several medieval manuscripts, not all editions of Appian's History of the Samnite Wars are numbered in the same way; here, the separate units are counted strictly chronologically. The translation was made by Horace White; notes and additions in green by Jona Lendering.


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[§1] Intending to write the history of the Romans, I have deemed it best to begin with the boundaries of the nations under their sway. They are as follows: In the Ocean, the major part of those who inhabit the British Isles. Then entering the Mediterranean by the Pillars of Hercules and circumnavigating the same we find under their rule all the islands and the mainlands washed by that sea. The first of these on the right hand are the Mauritanians of the coast and various other African nations as far as Carthage. Farther inland are the nomad tribes whom the Romans call Numidians and their country Numidia; then other Africans who dwell around the Syrtes as far as Cyrene, and Cyrene itself; also the Marmaridae, the Ammonii [1], and those who dwell by the lake Mareotis; then the great city founded by Alexander[the Great] on the border of Egypt, and Egypt itself, as one sails up the Nile, as far as eastern Ethiopia; and as far as Pelusium by sea.

[§2] Here turning our course we take in Palestine-Syria, and beyond it a part of Arabia. The Phoenicians hold the country next to Palestine on the sea, and beyond the Phoenician territory are Coele-Syria, and the parts stretching from the sea as far inland as the river Euphrates, namely Palmyra and the sandy country round about, extending even to the Euphrates itself. The Cilicians come next to the Syrians, and their neighbors are the Cappadocians, and that part of the Armenian country called Lesser Armenia. Along the Euxine are other nations called by the common name Pontic, subject to the Roman rule. The Syrians and Cilicians border on the Mediterranean, the Armenians and Cappadocians extend to the Pontic nations and to the interior as far as Greater Armenia, which is not subject to the Romans in the way of tribute, but its people appoint their own kings. Descending from Cilicia and Cappadocia to Ionia we find the great peninsula bounded on the right by the Euxine, the Propontis, the Hellespont, and the Aegean, and on the left by the Pamphylian or Egyptian sea, for it is called by both names. Some of the countries embraced in it look toward the Egyptian sea, namely: Pamphylia and Lycia and after them Caria extending to Ionia. Others look toward the Euxine, the Propontis, and the Hellespont, namely: the Galatians, Bithynians, Mysians, and Phrygians. In the interior are the Pisidians and Lydians. So many nations inhabit this peninsula and all are under Roman rule.

[§3] Crossing from these coasts they rule other nations around the Euxine, the Mysians of Europe and the Thracians who border that sea. Beyond Ionia are the Aegean sea, the Adriatic, the straits of Sicily, and the Tyrrhenian sea stretching to the Pillars of Hercules. This is the distance from Ionia to the ocean. Following the coast line we find the following countries subject to the Romans: all of Greece, Thessaly, and Macedonia, also the adjoining Thracians, the Illyrians, and Pannonians, and Italy itself, the longest of all, extending from the Adriatic and bordering the greater part of the Tyrrhenian sea as far as the country of the Celts (whom the Romans call Gauls), some of whom border the Mediterranean, others the Northern ocean, and still others dwell along the river Rhine; also all of Spain and Celtiberia on the Northern and Western oceans as far as the Pillars of Hercules. Of these I shall speak more particularly when I come to deal with each nation. But for the present let this suffice for the principal boundaries which define their empire along the sea.

[§4] On the landward side the boundaries are a part of Mauritania lying against western Ethiopia and the remainder of Africa (having a very warm climate, or much infested with wild beasts) extending to eastern Ethiopia. These are the Roman boundaries in Africa. Those of Asia are the river Euphrates, Mount Caucasus, the kingdom of Greater Armenia, the Colchians who dwell along the Euxine sea, and the remainder of that coast. In Europe the two rivers, Rhine and Danube, for the most part bound the Roman empire. Of these the Rhine empties into the Northern ocean and the Danube into the Euxine. On the other side of these rivers, however, some of the Celts beyond the Rhine are under Roman sway, and beyond the Danube some of the Getae, who are called Dacians. These, with the nearest approach to accuracy, are the boundaries on the mainland.

[§5] All the islands of the sea also, the Cyclades, Sporades, Ionian isles, Echinades, the Tuscan isles, the Balearic isles, and all the rest in Libyan, Ionian, Egyptian, Myrtoan, Sicilian, and Mediterranean waters, by whatever names called; also those which the Greeks by way of distinction call the great islands, Cyprus, Crete, Rhodes, Lesbos, Euboea, Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica, and whatever other isle there may be, large or small - all are under Roman rule. Crossing the Northern ocean to Britain, a continent in itself, they took possession of the better and larger part, not caring for the remainder. Indeed, the part they do hold is not of much use to them.

Appian   :   Roman History   :   Preface, part two
Note 1:
The inhabitants of the Siwa oasis, well-known for the oracle of Ammon.
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