Hellenistic and Roman Sources

copyright 1997 by Historical Novelists Center

These are the original sources of history in most cases. They can be found in English translation in many different editions, often at the websites that follow the list.


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Apuleius Africanus, Lucius

Go To Project GutenbergThe Golden Ass ***
Translated by William Adlington, 1566
This version does require the ability to handle Renaissance prose (irregular to us, bu with its own racy charm). Apuleius sets you right into the mind of an ancient Roman who believes in witches, transformations, and all sorts of mortal and godly magic. A fun romp through the world and imaginary wonders, the non-rational side of this age. T2


The Campaigns of Alexander ***
See the sourcesites near the end, like Classics Archives, for an on-line copy. As usual, the main flaw with the ancients is trying to fit them to our system of years. T2


Letters to Atticus
Get in translation on sourcesites, below. T3

Cornelius Tacitus, Publius (Tacitus)
Guestimated to have been born 55 CE, and died about 120. At least, he married in 78 and wrote about events in 116 as from several years after.

The Annals of Imperial Rome ****
Of the 16 parts, covering from the death of Augustus to the end of the reign of Nero, 1-4, parts of 5 and 6, and 11-16 survive. Missing years 29-31 of Tiberius, all Caligula, the first 6 years of Claudius, and the last two of Nero. T3

Go To Project GutenbergGermania *****!

Tacitus on on the Germanic tribes. T3

The Histories ****
A more general work, partaking like Herodotos of the travelogue, to tell what was believed about foreign parts. The surviving parts, 1-5 of 12, cover from 68 to 70, starting after the death of Nero. T2

Flavius Josephus

Go To Project GutenbergThe Antiquities of the Jews ***
Translated by William Whiston; originally 93 CE
Begins with a re-hash of the Old Testament. If you have already studied that to perdition in youth, you will want to skip the first ten of the twenty. After that, it is an interesting but not always unquestionable view of the Eastern Mediterranean history into the Roman Imperial period. Interesting for the view of Jewish missionary work. Whiston's Victorian "world created in 4004 BC" notes are interesting in themselves. T3
Go To Project GutenbergThe Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem ****
Translated by William Whiston; originally 75 CE
A primary source document on the later wars of the Jewish states, beginning with the fall of Jerusalem to Antiochus Epiphanes. Not always accurate, as he seems not to have found certain source documents considered reliable. He corrects himself in Antiquities. T3

Iulius Caesar, Gaius (Julius Caesar)

The Civil War
Caesar was a young observer of the Civil War, where the parties nearly destroyed the growing power of the legions, trying to come out on top of the power struggle.

Go To Project GutenbergThe Conquest of Gaul
Caesar was an early practitioner of the inflated body count. Notice that the Romans are always triumphing over overwhelming hordes of barbarians, whom they slaughter in the route. They must have depopulated Northern Western Europe. Never once do they manage to catch a smaller group on its way to join a larger force, or anything else sensible. Read after Delbrueck, who will innoculate you with a healthy scepticism. Then this is really good. T3

Iunius Iuvenalis, Decimus (Juvenal)

The Satires of Juvenal *****!
Juvenal had a lot to say about sham and hypocrisy around him from 110 to 130 CE. See the sourcesites or Hubert Creekmore's 1963 trans. from The New American Library, NY. T2

Lucanus, Marcus Annaeus (Lucan)

Go To Project GutenbergPharsalia (aka "The Civil War") ***
This is a poem with made-up speeches, but otherwise covers reasonably well Caesar's march on Rome, etc. Prepare to flow with or hack through the metaphors, the classical referents, and a lot of general floridity. T3


Guide to Greece ****
Active about 150-170 CE, Pausanias travelled the Roman province of Hellas, building a detailed travelogue of the routes, towns, and notable sights, as well as the history of the area and various legends. Used by archeologists to this day to locate things. While the bald version available on-line is good, best yet is Peter Levi's translation with its extremely helpful notes, from Penguin Classics. Remember to allow for what isn't yet built in your period, whether Periclean, Roman or Macedonian. T2

Plutarkhos (Plutarch)
Go To Project GutenbergWorked around and after 75 CE, compiling biographies of famous Greeks from earlier sources. Interesting, but in our minority opinion not authoritative, just because he is synthesizing out of so many sources. He is more interested in agreement than any checking of accuracy or authenticity, and attributes to the life of Agesilaos events which others tell about Arkhidamos, which by internal logic cannot be about Agesilaos. Certainly one cannot attribute his descriptions of present cultural habits to 400 years earlier when earlier authors disagree. T3

Polybios (Polybius)
Son of a notable Greek statesman, born about 205 BC and dying about 125 BC, Polybius fought in the Achaean League, was a hostage after the Third Macedonian War, and accompanied Scipio to the fall of Carthage. His History is very pro-Roman, organized by a fine mind with a Stoic's attention to cause and effect, and while prolix in the original, is not bad in a good translation. The worst part is that only the first five books survive entire, the other 35 being fragmentary. The first two books cover history in the Mediterranean world from 266 to 220. Many later historians are greatly indebted to his work.

The Histories *****!


Jugurthine War/Conspiracy of Catiline ***
Once again, necessary reading if your story happens at the time. T3

Strabon (Strabo)
The Stoic, Strabo, born about 64 BC, spent much of his early life travelling in search of knowledge. His 43-volume history of history from the end of Polybius' history to the battle of Actium is lost, except for fragments surviving usually in other people's works as quotes. All except the seventh book of his 17-volume geography has survived. Like Herodotos, his geography is a general guide to history and great figures in the different areas. One book covers Egypt and Libya, six the Near East, known to the Romans as Asia, and the remainder Europe. The Loeb edition is often recommended.

Geography ****

Suetonius Tranquillus, Gaius

The Twelve Caesars ****
Penguin classics, 1957; translation by Robert Graves; others available at MIT Classics, below
Originally written about 130 CE, this covers palace stories through Domitian, who died in 96. Graves' translation is liberal rather than rigourous, and easy to read. T2

Titus Livius (Livy)
Lived 59 BC to 17 CE, mostly at Rome, his life work being 142 sections of his _Ab urbe condita libri_ or _History of Rome_, covering from the mythical days of Aeneas to the death of Drusus in the reign of Tiberius in 9 BC. Still surviving are the first 10 "books" which end in 293 BC, and books 21-45, for 218-167 BC, as well as a couple of fragments and tables of contents. These have been translated and published in various choices of sections, and can be found online below.

The Early History of Rome
Rome and the Mediterranean

The War with Hannibal
Covers the early Punic Wars.


Ten Books on Architecture ***
Morgan translation, from Dover Publications, Inc., NY; 331 pg,
If for some reason you wish to get eye-brow deep in architectural detail (one of your characters is an architect, or using one), you need this. Otherwise, it's a lot of deep water with few fish. T3

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Official and Original Project Gutenberg Web Site and HomePage*****!


"Fine Literature Digitally Republished. Since 1971 putting classic books into electronic form." You can download all the major classics for free, each as a single big text file. MUCH better than Perseus for this. Burn your own reference CD-R.

The Internet Classics Archive: English Language Translations of Classical Texts Online *****!


MIT Classics department compiles the Perseus Project and other sources. Includes Hippocrates, Homer, Xenophon, and a lot of others. Each work (play, essay, epic) loads as a single page, making it easy to Search for specific words, and has a Download option. Very large works are available as one page or three, to cut time. Get the "unlimited time for $20" deal from a direct web service with a local access number for you, and you can consider this site part of your home library that doesn't have to be dusted. This is what we all hoped the Internet would be!

Online Medieval & Classical Library ****


Exceedingly large index page takes a long time to load, so you can guess how many entries it has! This is one of those online libraries, with texts in translation, not just a linksite.

To the Classical Rome and Hellenistic Mediterranean Bibliography

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