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Bill Thayer

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Greek and Roman Authors on LacusCurtius

[image ALT: A page of a parchment manuscript with rather hard to read pasty letters.]

Part of the opening lines of Frontinus's book
on the water supply of Rome

(13th- or 14th-centurya manuscript: Codex Cassinensis 361)

— but don't believe everything you see: the color is by yours truly. Here is the black & white photo from 1899.

A good number of these classical texts by ancient authors, whether in the original language or in translation, are not to be found elsewhere online. They all have one further point in common: each one has a full set of local links, down to the section level, according to a consistent scheme in each case — see the respective sourcecode — so you can target your link to the exact passage needed.

Latin Texts

[image ALT: engraving of an erupting volcano]

The Natural History of Pliny the Elder: the complete Latin text as established by Karl Mayhoff in 1897‑1908. Here and there, annotated, illustrated with photos of my own, and linked to the Gazetteer, the Atlas, and the best and most stable sites on the Web.

[ complete Latin text ]

[image ALT: A diagram of a basin receiving water from an ascending pipe.]

Frontinus on the Water Supply of Rome: In the early 2c A.D. Sextus Julius Frontinus was called on to administer the city's water, and methodically set out to discover and put an end to endemic theft of the resource, and prevent it in the future. Having done so, he wrote a very accurate and engagingly sober book about it, which is a mine of information for modern archaeologists and historians. Of everything Roman I've ever read, this is my favorite work, and I'm pleased to be able to share it with you.

In progress, if at a glacial pace: I'm linking each paragraph of the Latin to a photograph of it in the only surviving ancient manuscript, sometimes commented with a rudimentary apparatus: so far, 13 of these 130 paragraphs of the facsimile are online.

[ complete Latin text and English translation ]

[image ALT: A ten-columned temple surmounted by a pyramid capped with a quadriga. It is a 19th‑century idea of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.]

Vitruvius on Architecture: another work I expected would have been online long before this. Since it has failed to appear courtesy of anyone else, I entered it myself. [The next step would ideally be to add commentary and many, many drawings.]

[ complete Latin text and English translation ]

[image ALT: A photograph of the sculptured bust of a stern-faced old man. It is a modern imaginative portrait of the ancient Roman historian Sallust. On this site, it serves as the icon for the works of Sallust.]

Sallust's Catiline and Jugurthine War are among the best-written works onsite. The story of Catiline's revolt is interesting to students of Roman history as a dry run for Caesar's revolution; but also to modern man, dealing as it does with terrorism, the infiltration of republican government, and preëmptive strikes at them to preserve liberty. Similarly, the war with Jugurtha deals among other things with conducting a foreign war with a polarized citizenry, in which the defeatist half may have been bribed by the enemy to call off the war.

Other material by Sallust and ps‑Sallust are also available from the page.

[ complete Latin texts, English translations ]

[image ALT: The stone head of a balding man in middle age. It is an antique portrait-bust of Julius Caesar in Corinth (Greece). On this site, it serves as the icon for Caesar's works.]

The Gallic War and The Civil Wars (military history by the man who made it: the Roman conquest of Gaul; then the defeat of Pompey as recounted by the victorious general, and the first step to the destruction of republican Rome; in each case, with maps of the principal battles).

And by others, but traditionally under Caesar's name: The African War The Alexandrian War The Spanish War

[ complete English translations,
some of the Latin texts ]

[image ALT: A round metal plaque with an inscription. It is a phalera, a Roman military decoration. On this site, it serves as the icon for the works of Tacitus.]

Tacitus' Histories and Annals are also notoriously well written; more importantly, they're also very well thought. My memory of Tacitus from my school days is of someone fiendishly hard to translate; in my old age, I'm glad that the interesting stories of the Year of the Four Emperors and the Batavian Revolt should be readable in English — and good English, too, by an excellent translator. (The Annals are less well translated, although not badly.)

[ complete English translation ]

[image ALT: A bust of a bald old man. It is a contemporary portrait of the emperor Vespasian, serving here as a link to the Lives of the Twelve Caesars by Suetonius.]

The Lives of the Twelve Caesars by Suetonius is the primary source for all kinds of information on the first twelve rulers of imperial Rome; some of it strange, some of it titillating, almost all of it just plain interesting. The surviving bits of The Lives of Famous Men (Grammarians, Poets, Rhetoricians, and a few others) are also onsite.

[ complete Latin text and English translation ]

[image ALT: A bust of a curly-haired man with a ferocious expression. It is a contemporary portrait of the emperor Caracalla, serving here as a link to the Historia Augusta.]

The Historia Augusta is also a primary source, sort of: picking up where Suetonius left off, but mixing in great gobs of fantasy, falsification and forgery; not so much a mine, as a minefield of information.

[ complete Latin text and English translation ]

[image ALT: A small map of the empire of Alexander the Great, from Greece to India; superimposed on it, the representation of Alexander and his horse Bucephalus on the famous mosaic in Pompeii.]

Quintus Curtius: The history of the conquests of Alexander the Great. If you are new to Latin, in addition to being an interesting, readable story — it's also a very easy text to read in the original. For this reason, excerpts of this work are often given as homework; therefore I have no intention of putting any translation of it online.

[ complete Latin text with critical apparatus ]

[image ALT: Link to the text of Isidore of Seville]

Isidore of Seville: Etymologies. Last of the writers of Roman antiquity, first of the medieval world, the bishop of Hispalis left us both more and less than he lets on from the title of the work. Less, because as etymology goes, he shares with all Roman scholars (even Varro) a taste for the most facile, dubious or even fantastic word origins; far more, because sensing the end of a world, he preserved us an encyclopedic record of it. The Latin is so very easy, by the way — except for Book II — that almost all of the Origines can be read by any first-year Latin student: another text to cut your teeth on.

[ complete Latin text ]

[Link to the text of Quintilian]

Quintilian's Institutio Oratoria is his only work to have come down to us: a teacher's manual to the education of a young orator, it's essential reading for anyone who wants to understand Roman education, literature and style, trial procedure. Quintilian's warm personality and his sympathetic and commonsense approach to teaching (a good teacher is a wonderful resource) and many vignettes of Roman life make the book a surprisingly good read.

[ 2/22/04: complete English translation,
although not fully proofread ]

[Link to the text of Gellius]

The Noctes Atticae of Aulus Gellius are a large miscellany of antiquarian and philological notes. The text on LacusCurtius was rescued from another website that suddenly vanished — see my orientation page.

[ 10/12/06: complete Latin text ]

[Link to the text of Celsus]

The De Medicina by A. Cornelius Celsus is properly only a rather small part of what ought to be the third encyclopedic work on this site, since in addition to medicine it included agriculture, military science, rhetoric, philosophy and jurisprudence; but only the section on medicine has survived.

[ 4/8/03: complete Latin text and English translation,
although not fully proofread ]

[image ALT: The stone bust of a stern-looking old man, with curly hair but almost bald. It is a contemporary portrait of Cato the Elder.]

Cato's handbook on farming (the de Re Rustica or de Agricultura) is probably not all by him, and it's not very well put together, and it's been further disarranged over centuries of copying — and it's well worth reading if you want to get an idea not only of a Roman farm, but of the stuff the older Romans were made of.

[ complete Latin text and English translation ]

[image ALT: A stylized drawing of a long rectangular building with a square tower at either end, in an even more stylized park. It is a 4c mosaic from the depicting an ancient Roman farm, and serves as the icon for Varro's 'de Re Rustica' on my site.]

Varro's handbook on farming (the de Re Rustica) is a longer and more organized work, covering not only crops but livestock and the raising of poultry, game fowl, fish, bees, and dormice.

[ complete Latin text and English translation ]

[image ALT: The stone bust of a stern-looking old man, with curly hair but almost bald. It is a contemporary portrait of Cato the Elder.]

Columella's work on farming (also known as the de Re Rustica) is longer still and more even detailed, the main source of our knowledge of Roman agricultural practices.

[3/21/05: Latin text and English translation, in progress ]

[image ALT: A naïve drawing of a landscape, left to right: land and sea. On land, distant mountains but in the grassy foreground two dogs mating rear to rear; in the sea, a pair of sea monsters talking to each other, two eels twined around each other much like the snakes of a caduceus, a pair of fish; a lone eel advances from the sea to meet a snake at the shore. The scene illustrates a passage of Oppian's Cynegetica on the mating of various animals, and serves as my icon for that author.]

The complete extant output of Oppian is onsite: the Cynegetica, on Hunting; and the Halieutica, on Fishing; even more than hunting and fishing manuals, they are textbooks of zoology that mined the works of Aristotle and mediated him to the Middle Ages, when in turn they became one of the sources of all those wonderful bestiaries.

[ complete Greek text and English translation ]

[image ALT: A photograph of the head of a hyena. It is my icon for the Cynegeticon, by Grattius.]

The Cynegeticon of Grattius, a Roman author of the 1c A.D., is another didactic poem on hunting. It runs to 500 lines, and is about weapons and nets and horses: but mostly about Dogs. Opinions differ as to just how good it might be.

[ complete Latin text and English translation ]

[Link to Nemesianus]

A third work on the hunt, Nemesianus' Cynegetica, less technical and better versified — but he'd read Grattian. Unfortunately, not at all of it, probably not even most it, has survived. Four of the Eclogues now attributed to him are included also, as well as a fragment on Bird-Catching.

[ complete Latin text and English translation ]

[Link to Calpurnius Siculus]

The Eclogues of Calpurnius Siculus, whom Nemesianus very likely had carefully read, are also onsite. As is common with pastoral verse, not all of it by any means is about life in the country, nor even are they all love poems.

[ complete Latin text and English translation ]

[Link to Calpurnius Siculus]

The Einsiedeln Eclogues are related to those of Calpurnius Siculus; exactly how, who knows. As is common with pastoral verse, not all of it by any means is about life in the country, nor even are they all love poems.

[ complete Latin text and English translation ]

[Link to Calpurnius Siculus]

The Laus Pisonis or Panegyric on Piso is yet another poem with a puzzle, written in praise of a Roman nobleman named Calpurnius Piso — but which one he was, we don't know — by an author who may be Calpurnius Siculus, or then again maybe not.

[ complete Latin text and English translation ]

[image ALT: A piece of drawn-work, loosely speaking that's embroidery, depicting an old man in full stride and carrying a baby. The composition, surrounded by vine tendrils, also includes a scythe and a flaming pot on the ground: it can be taken as a representation of Saturn.]

Macrobius: Saturnalia. Although we only have parts of it, this book, written in the 5c A.D., is one of the longest extant works from Late Antiquity; it purports, in the tradition of such works as Athenaeus' Deipnosophistae, to be a transcript of dinner table conversations over the December holidays in the house of Vettius Agorius Praetextatus (a major pagan literary and political figure of his time: see this page), and is thus an informative if curious hodge-podge of antiquarian and philological lore, of medicine and literary criticism mostly of Vergil, in which many fragments of now lost ancient literature give us an idea of authors who would otherwise be mere names.

[ complete Latin text ]

[image ALT: An astrological chart.]

Censorinus: de Die natali. An ancestor of the modern Festschrift, it was written in the 3c A.D. as a birthday gift for the author's beloved teacher. It is a clear-headed little book containing some fascinating information on music, astrology, and ancient philosophy and biology; it is particularly valuable today for its information on ancient chronology and the Roman calendar.

[ complete Latin text and French translation ]

[image ALT: Link to the text of the Strategemata of Frontinus]

The Strategemata of Frontinus are a collection of over 500 examples of devices, ruses, ploys, creative ideas from history, intended by the Roman author as a sort of checklist for the military commander. The work is an appendix to his work on the Art of War, which has not survived; I suspect the interesting "stories" appealed far more to medieval copyists and readers than the deeper theoretical work: it's a great pity.

[ complete Latin text and English translation ]

[Link to the Res Gestae]

The Monumentum Ancyranum (often called the Res Gestae Divi Augusti, which translates loosely as "The Achievements of the Emperor Augustus") is an unusual text in a couple of ways: it was written by an emperor, and it has come down to us not on parchment or paper, but chiseled on the stone walls of a building in Turkey. It is an exceptional first-hand source for the career of Augustus; presented here in 3‑column facing text, with critical apparatus and a wealth of notes for the mid-level student.

[ complete bilingual Latin/Greek text and English translation ]

[Link to the Velleius Paterculus homepage]

Velleius Paterculus: a brief history of Rome from the beginning of time to the author's own days. Uninspired, and heavy on the flattery of the reigning emperor, but useful and finally not that bad.

[ complete Latin text and English translation ]

[Link to the Florus Epitome homepage]

Florus' Epitome: another summary history of Rome, spanning slightly less — from Romulus to Augustus — but longer and more carefully written. Florus customarily gets mediocre grades from critics, but they're largely undeserved: if you want to sit down and read a solid, concise account of Roman history in two hours, you cannot find better.

[ complete Latin text and English translation ]

[Link to the poems of Florus]

The poems of Florus may not be by the same man, so they get their own page. Very few have survived, and they're short; but they're good.

[Link to the Claudian homepage]

Claudian was a better poet than most of his subjects deserved, with the exception possibly of his hero the Roman general Stilicho. Most of his verse is political propaganda, panegyrics, and invective, and is thus of primarily historical interest, giving us a snapshot of Rome in the decade after the death of Theodosius.

[ complete Latin texts and English translations ]

[Link to Rutilius Namatianus]

Within the decade after the sack of Rome by Alaric — an unthinkable event that stunned the ancient world — an imperial functionary goes back to his native Gaul, and describing his trip, leaves us a moving and fascinating glimpse into the New Normal of his time: Rutilius Namatianus' Returning Home.

[ complete Latin text and English translation;
1 map, 2 photos; a related journal article ]

[Link to the poem 'Aetna']

Aetna, a didactic poem on volcanoes, of uncertain authorship if long attributed to Vergil, is not so far off the mark on the causes of vulcanism as some might think. I would have liked, though, to hear more about the actual Mt. Etna — but I suspect the author had never been there.

[ complete Latin text and English translation ]

[Link to Paulinus of Pella]

Paulinus of Pella was a very ordinary man who wound up living a somewhat extraordinary life because of the tenor of his times. He tells us that when he was in his twenties he liked pretty girls and fast cars, trendy fragrances and falconry — but he loses almost everything in the barbarian invasions and eventually gets religion. At 83 he summarizes his life for us: God has watched over him.

[ complete Latin text and English translation ]

[Link to Cicero]

There's also some Cicero onsite; as of Nov 12, a bit less than 10% of his output: the Cato de Senectute, the Laelius de Amicitia, the de Divinatione, the de Officiis, and the de Finibus. I'm more interested in technical writing than in polemics or philosophy, so he's not high on my list; but more will probably follow.

[ Latin texts, English translations ]

[Link to Ampelius]

Ampelius' Liber Memorialis is a summary of the essentials of world history, probably written in the 3c A.D., for a little boy who "wanted to know everything". It gives us a view of history as younger Roman schoolboys were expected to learn it; it survived in a single manuscript, which in turn is now lost.

[ complete Latin text ]

[Link to the Excerpta Valesiana]

The Excerpta Valesiana (also known as the Anonymus Valesianus) are in fact two different works written a century and a half apart. Both of them are short and surprisingly dull considering their interesting subjects: the first of them is a brief Life of Constantine; the other, written in some very nasty Latin, is a chronicle of the fall of the Roman empire and the reign of Theodoric.

[ complete Latin text and English translation ]

[Link to the Liber Pontificalis Ecclesiae Ravennatis]

The Liber Pontificalis Ecclesiae Ravennatis is a catalogue of some forty-odd bishops of Ravenna. Written in the first half of the 9c in imitation of the much more important Liber Pontificalis (of the Bishops of Rome), it's a quirky document written in the most barbarous Latin, but with much to say about Ravenna, its church, and some background history of the late Roman Empire and the early Middle Ages.

[ complete Latin text,
including the marginalia and Holder-Egger's notes ]

Greek Texts

[Link to the text of Cassius Dio]

Cassius Dio's Roman History is one of the principal sources for what we know about the imperial period; but among the fragmentary Books come down to us we also find fairly complete accounts of the Punic Wars and the Civil Wars of the late Republic.

[ complete English translation ]

[Link to the text of Polybius]

The Histories of Polybius, a Greek writer, include large portions dealing with Greek history, as might be expected; but the author, a military man, was also a friend of Scipio's, and an eyewitness, at just the right time to leave us the most careful description of the Roman republican army, when it was conquering much of the Western world.

[ complete English translation ]

[image ALT: A small map of Sicily, with the Greek name of Diodorus superimposed on it.]

Diodorus Siculus' Library of History is often said to be dull, but it's not: mostly just very long — and for some periods of Greek history, very valuable, as our only connected ancient account of them.

[4/11/12: Greek text — Books 6‑8;
English translation — Books 1‑32 ]

[Link to the Plutarch subsite]

Plutarch was a Romanized Greek author of many books; their survival rate, much higher than that of many other copious writers, is due to his engaging personality, his popular approach, and his flexible, attractive style.

The Parallel Lives are onsite — this is the only place on the Web to have them absolutely complete — and just over 50% of the Moralia, including all the works dealing specifically with Rome but also, filtering onsite little by little, many of the philosophical and proto-scientific essays.

These are 20c English translations, thus different from the 18c translations found elsewhere; they also have the advantage of a full complement of local links allowing quick cross-referencing from one to the other, and from other parts of LacusCurtius or any other site that finds them useful.

[Marks the text of Procopius]

The 6c Greek historian Procopius wrote 3 major works on the events and personalities of his own time: the History of the Wars is the most important, and I'll eventually put it online. For now, the other two: Buildings (Greek text also), a catalogue of Justinian's construction spree throughout the empire; and the Anecdota or Secret History, a malevolent, scandal-raking account of Justinian and Theodora.

[ complete English translations ]

[image ALT: A woodcut of the head and shoulders of a man in late middle age. He is bearded and moustached and wears a slashed silk blouse and an elaborate flat hat, and holds a paper in his hand. It is an imaginative Renaissance 'portrait' of the Greek astronomer and mathematician Ptolemy.]

For a thousand years, Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos was one of the most popular technical manuals in the world, that taught the rudiments of casting an astrological chart to many generations of practitioners. Compared to his other works — the Geography, the Almagest, the Optics — it's a rather slight work; but it provides fairly comprehensive coverage of a subject essential for understanding ancient history and literature.

[ complete English translation ]

[image ALT: missingALT.]

Dio Chrysostom wrote, well, mostly practical philosophy — what today would be called self-help, self-improvement, or even popular psychology — but also some speeches connected with his involvement in local municipal politics, and even a few items that seem to have been written just for the fun of it.

[ complete English translations;
most of the Greek text ]

[Link to Aristotle]

There's also a little dose of Aristotle — or ps‑Aristotle — onsite. As of Nov 12, just three items: de Coloribus, de Mirabilibus Ausculta­tionibus, Mechanica. A bit more will probably follow, but again, don't expect much of the philosophical writings.

[ Greek texts, English translations ]

[image ALT: A photograph of a single bloom of Anemone sylvestris, serving as the icon on this site for the works of Theophrastus.]

Theophrastus, philosopher, polymath, and the Father of Botany, is for now represented onsite by two minor works of his, Odors and Weather Signs.

[ complete Greek texts and English translations ]

[image ALT: A photograph of a massive but fairly short two-story stone tower and a short fragmentary stretch of wall, in a countryside of broom and distant vineyards, with a range of low hills in the far background. It serves on this website as the icon for my transcription of the Loeb edition and translation of Aeneas Tacticus.]

Aeneas Tacticus' Siege Defense (almost certainly 4c B.C.) is one of the earliest didactic military manuals from classical Antiquity to have survived. It sets down some of the basic principles of defending a fortified place that is being besieged.

[ complete Greek text and an English translation ]

[image ALT: The Greek name Ὀνάσανδρος superimposed on a fragment of a rectangular stone inscription. It serves on this website as the icon for my transcription of the Loeb edition and translation of Onasander.]

The 1c writer Onasander's Strategikos is a sort of personal manual for generals: some basic military advice, but mostly, the kind of person he ought to be, what he should be concerned with, how to think, how to treat the enemy, his subordinates, and civilian populations.

[ complete English translation ]

[image ALT: The Greek name Ἀσκληπιόδοτος in the center of a rectangular border containing 6 pairs of small circles on each of the long sides and 3 pairs on each of the short sides, with a square grouping of 4 circles in each corner. It serves on this website as the icon for my transcription of the Loeb edition and translation of Asclepiodotus.]

Onsite too is the sole surviving work of Asclepiodotus, called a philosopher in Antiquity: his Tactics is a dry and skeletal look at the composition and evolutions of the Greek army, a topic which by his time had come to be of purely antiquarian interest.

[ complete English translation, 9 diagrams ]

[image ALT: A schematic photograph of the carved head of an old man. On this site, it serves as the icon for the works of Colluthus.]

Similarly, the sole surviving work of Colluthus, a poet whose floruit spanned the 5c and 6c A.D. His Rape of Helen is a formulaic mini-epic of the episode that touched off the Trojan War. Some people think it's good; most do not.

[ complete Greek text and English translation ]

[image ALT: A partial view of two of the Pyramids of Egypt on which ⲙⲁⲛⲉϩⲧⲟ (Coptic for 'Manetho') is superimposed. It serves on this website as the icon for my transcription of the Loeb edition and translation of Manetho.]

Manetho, though he wrote in Greek, was an Egyptian priest of the 3c B.C., and his subject is Egyptian History. His works would be extremely valuable if we had the original text in full: unfortunately, what we have is a collection of conflicting, mangled excerpts in Greek, Latin, and Armenian; to turn them into history requires ingenuity and confirmation from other sources.

[ complete English translation;
some of the Greek text ]

[image ALT: A rosette design formed of intersecting circles, derived from the Latium Parapegma. It serves on this website as the icon for my transcription of the Hooker translation of the 'de Mensibus' of John Lydus.]

Johannes Lydus' de Mensibus is an antiquarian miscellany — its 6c Byzantine author free-associatively ringing the changes on the Roman months: religion, history, biology, meteorology, astronomy, philosophical speculation. The English translation is a work in progress by our own twenty‑first-century Mischa Hooker.

[ partial English translation;
some of the Greek text ]

Minor Works

[image ALT: a blank space]

Precatio TerraePrecatio Omnium Herbarum (Latin and English)

Origo gentis Langobardorum (Waitz's critical edition; Latin — if of the most barbarous and ungrammatical kind — linked to an English translation offsite)

Other Ancient Sources

[Link to my Roman Topography homepage]

Topographia Antiqua: a number of ancient and early medieval topographical texts have survived, and I'm putting good editions of them onsite. Currently:

  • Ptolemy's Geography

  • the Regionary Catalogues of the City of Rome

  • the short route map known as the Ordo Benedicti.

The site also includes modern topographical works: Codrington's Roman Roads in Britain, Lanciani's Pagan and Christian Rome, Hülsen's Il Foro Romano, and a constantly increasing selection, now up to several hundred entries, of Platner & Ashby's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome.

[ 9/15/12: 3 primary sources, 4 modern works ]

[image ALT: A fragmentary Roman inscription set in a wall.]

Finally, this seems to be a good place also to mention my Latin Inscriptions Site that includes

  • a bare listing of all the Etruscan and Roman inscriptions currently available onsite (currently over 200), each one transcribed

  • a student's primer, with a selection of about 25 photographed inscriptions, sorted by level of difficulty: each one is first presented without comment, then linked to a "solution" — follow that light bulb in the navigation bar at the bottom of each page.

Note on the photograph of the Frontinus manuscript:

a Nothing is simple. Herschel, to whom we owe this photo, dates this manuscript of Frontinus to the 15c, but he was not a palaeographer; the catalogue of the library at Monte Cassino assigns it to around the year 1100, which I find most unlikely since at that time the prevailing scripts were forms of uncial.

The opinion of palaeographical experts dates the manuscript to the 13c (Bücheler) or to the end of the 13c or the beginning of the 14c (Poleni).

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Site updated: 2 May 20