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Appian's History of Rome: Preface (3)


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; additions in green by Jona Lendering.


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[§11] Through prudence and good fortune has the empire of the Romans attained to greatness and duration in gaining which they have excelled all others in bravery, patience, and hard labor. They were never elated by success until they had firmly secured their power, nor were they ever cast down by misfortune, although they sometimes lost 20,000 men in a single day, at another time 40,000, and once 50,000, and although the city itself was often in danger. Neither famine, nor frequently recurring plague, nor sedition, nor all these falling upon them at once could abate their ardor; until, through the doubtful struggles and dangers of seven hundred years, they achieved their present greatness, having enjoyed the favors of fortune through wisdom.

[§12] These things have been described by many writers, both Greek and Roman, and the history is even more copious than that of the Macedonian empire, which was the longest history of earlier times. Being interested in it, and desiring to compare the Roman prowess carefully with that of every other nation, my history has often led me from Carthage to Spain, from Spain to Sicily or to Macedonia, or to join some embassy to foreign countries, or some alliance formed with them; thence back to Carthage or Sicily, like a wanderer, and again elsewhere, while the work was still unfinished.

At last I have brought the parts together, showing how often the Romans sent armies or embassies into Sicily and what they did there until they brought it into its present condition; also how often they made war and peace with the Carthaginians, or sent embassies to them or received the same from them, and what damage they inflicted upon or suffered from them until they demolished Carthage and made Africa a Roman province, and how they rebuilt Carthage and brought Africa into its present condition. I have made this research also in respect to each of the other provinces, desiring to learn the Romans' relations to each, in order to understand the weakness of these nations or their power of endurance, as well as the bravery or good fortune of their conquerors or any other circumstance contributing to the result.

[§13] Thinking that the public would like to learn the history of the Romans in this way, I am going to write the part relating to each nation separately, omitting what happened to the others in the meantime, and taking it up in its proper place.

It seems superfluous to put down the dates of everything, but I shall mention those of the most important events now and then.

The Roman citizens, like other people, formerly had only one name each; afterwards they took a second, and not much later, for easier recognition, there was given to some of them a third derived from some personal incident or as a distinction for bravery. In like manner surnames have been added to the names of certain Greeks. For purposes of distinction I shall sometimes mention all the names, especially of illustrious men, but for the most part I shall call these and others by the names that are deemed most characteristic.

[§14] As there are three books which treat of the numerous exploits of the Romans in Italy, these three must together be considered the Italian Roman history; but on account of the great number of events in them the division has been made. The first of these will show the events that took place in successive reigns while they had kings, of whom there were seven, and this I shall call the History of Rome under the kings

Next in order will be the history of the rest of Italy except the part along the Adriatic. This, by way of distinction from the former, will be called the second Italian book of Roman history.

With the last nation, the Samnites, who dwelt on the Adriatic, the Romans struggled eighty years under the greatest difficulties, but finally they subjugated them and the neighbors who were allied with them, and also the Greeks who had settled in Italy. This, by way of distinction from the former, will be called the Samnite Roman history.

The rest will be named according to its subject, the Celtic, Sicilian, Spanish, Hannibalic, Carthaginian, Macedonian, and so on. The order of these histories with respect to each other is according to the time when the Romans began to be embroiled in war with each nation, even though many other things intervened before that nation came to its end. The internal seditions and civil wars of the Romans -to them the most calamitous of all- will be designated under the names of their chief actors, as the wars of Marius and Sulla, those of Pompey and Caesar, those of Antony and the second Caesar, surnamed Augustus, against the murderers of the first Caesar, and those of Antony and Augustus against each other. At the end of this last of the civil wars Egypt passed under the Roman sway, and the Roman government itself became a monarchy.

[§15] Thus, the foreign wars will be divided into books according to the nations, and the civil wars according to the chief commanders. The last book will show the present military force of the Romans, the revenues they collect from each province, what they spend for the naval service, and other things of that kind. It is proper to begin with the origin of the people of whose prowess I am about to write.

Who I am, who have written these things, many indeed know, and I have already indicated. To speak more plainly I am Appian of Alexandria, having reached the highest place in my native country, and having been, in Rome, a pleader of causes before the emperors, until they deemed me worthy of being made their procurator. And if any one has a great desire to learn more [about me] there is a special treatise of mine on that subject.

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