Nov 06 2014

Rome and the Mediterranean by Livy

The last fifteen books of Livy’s surviving history, covering Rome’s conquest of the Hellenistic world after the Punic Wars. Aside from a few interesting anecdotes and episodes, most of this history was tedious and unmemorable. The saga might have been livened up if Hannibal had come out of retirement, but with his defeat in the Second Punic War Rome was without any serious rivals, and most of the next hundred years was a mopping up of the Mediterranean world in a steady but inglorious series of campaigns in which Rome was invariably victorious. Most of this history could have been more briefly summarized or even omitted altogether without any serious loss to posterity. Yet it seems to illustrate that Rome was a state that could only thrive when it was at war, seemingly contradicting Clausewitz’s thesis that wars become ruinous when they are fought for their own sake. It was peace, not war, that ultimately corrupted Rome and led to her downfall.

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