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Livy and Polybius - Biases?
#1
I am interested in the 2nd Punic War and am interested to know if either source were sponsored by Roman families in order to make their military relative's memory look good for history (ie. the slain Consul Paulus at Cannae vs the ''aggressive'' surviving Varro)?

I understand that Polybius was a military man and wrote for the Scipio family, but what about Livy?
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#2
(06-12-2019, 03:38 PM)Johnny66 Wrote: I am interested in the 2nd Punic War and am interested to know if either source were sponsored by Roman families in order to make their military relative's memory look good for history (ie. the slain Consul Paulus at Cannae vs the ''aggressive'' surviving Varro)?

I understand that Polybius was a military man and wrote for the Scipio family, but what about Livy?

It would be wrong to say that Polybios "wrote for the Scipio family". They were most certainly his patrons while in Roman exile from Achaia and, as such, he's unlikely to be critical of them. That does not mean he overly exaggerated their importance or actions. Nor does it mean he is uncritical of Rome; he does indeed criticise.

Polybios wrote for several reasons but the central thread is his need to explain (mainly to his Greek readers) how it was that Rome came to subsume the Greeks and the oikumene. How the Macedonians fell as well as the Seleukids and Carthaginians. Polybios sees his starting Olympiad as the crux: there is Rome and Carthage in the west and in the east, three new rulers of the great Hellenistic kingdoms. It sets the stage for his narrative of power politics over the next seven decades as each power contends for prize. Ptolemy cravenly leaves the stage; Carthage is toppled; Philip V overreaches and, finally, Antiochos is defeated. Rome stands alone.

Livy is another kettle of fish. Not a military man, he culls the works of earlier authors (Polybios among them) and the Roman analysts. His access to these varied sources is demonstrated over and again and examples which spring to mind are Scipio's forces which left Sicily for Africa (where he lists several numbers as well as the make of the the two legions he bulked up with volunteers ) and Cannae where he reports the two traditions providing Roman numbers. A patriotic Roman, Livy enthuses over Roman virtus and rectitude and rarely misses an opportunity to demonstrate such. He is also guilty, at times, of adding what might be described as "Roman colour" to his narrative. That said, his casualty figures for Cannae are likely the more reliable and he provides detail we do not have in other sources (such as the right flank turning assault by Antiochos at Magnesia for example).
Paralus|Michael Park

Ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας, ὦ κακαὶ κεφαλαί, τοὺς μετὰ Φιλίππου καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρου τὰ ὅλα κατειργασμένους

Wicked men, you are sinning against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander!

Academia.edu
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#3
(06-14-2019, 02:44 AM)Paralus Wrote:
(06-12-2019, 03:38 PM)Johnny66 Wrote: I am interested in the 2nd Punic War and am interested to know if either source were sponsored by Roman families in order to make their military relative's memory look good for history (ie. the slain Consul Paulus at Cannae vs the ''aggressive'' surviving Varro)?

I understand that Polybius was a military man and wrote for the Scipio family, but what about Livy?

It would be wrong to say that Polybios "wrote for the Scipio family". They were most certainly his patrons while in Roman exile from Achaia and, as such, he's unlikely to be critical of them. That does not mean he overly exaggerated their importance or actions. Nor does it mean he is uncritical of Rome; he does indeed criticise.

Polybios wrote for several reasons but the central thread is his need to explain (mainly to his Greek readers) how it was that Rome came to subsume the Greeks and the oikumene. How the Macedonians fell as well as the Seleukids and Carthaginians. Polybios sees his starting Olympiad as the crux: there is Rome and Carthage in the west and in the east, three new rulers of the great Hellenistic kingdoms. It sets the stage for his narrative of power politics over the next seven decades as each power contends for prize. Ptolemy cravenly leaves the stage; Carthage is toppled; Philip V overreaches and, finally, Antiochos is defeated. Rome stands alone.

Livy is another kettle of fish. Not a military man, he culls the works of earlier authors (Polybios among them) and the Roman analysts. His access to these varied sources is demonstrated over and again and examples which spring to mind are Scipio's forces which left Sicily for Africa (where he lists several numbers as well as the make of the the two legions he bulked up with volunteers ) and Cannae where he reports the two traditions providing Roman numbers. A patriotic Roman, Livy enthuses over Roman virtus and rectitude and rarely misses an opportunity to demonstrate such. He is also guilty, at times, of adding what might be described as "Roman colour" to his narrative. That said, his casualty figures for Cannae are likely the more reliable and he provides detail we do not have in other sources (such as the right flank turning assault by Antiochos at Magnesia for example).

Thanks for your detailed reply. I understand alot more about Polybius.

Was Livy also sponsored by any relatives of Punic War survivor's descendents?
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#4
‘Michael’ Wrote:It would be wrong to say that Polybios "wrote for the Scipio family". They were most certainly his patrons while in Roman exile from Achaia and, as such, he's unlikely to be critical of them. That does not mean he overly exaggerated their importance or actions.

I believe Polybius played down the mistakes of the Scipio family, especially Scipio Africanus’ father and uncle. In a speech found in Livy, Fabius Maximus blames Rome’s defeat at the Trebbia and Lake Trasimene to incompetent commanders and poor troops. I think there is a lot of value in this, and I would add Cannae to the list. Polybius even comments that the Trebbia could have been lost to Publius Scipio’s rashness, or the treachery of the Gauls. The various accounts of the death of Scipio Africanus’ father indicate his father did not learn anything from the Ticinus.

‘Michael’ Wrote:Livy is another kettle of fish. Not a military man…

Livy not being a military man has not been proven. He would have been of military age during the Roman civil wars, of which much of Livy’s work has not survived. Polybius claims to have held a military ranking, but most likely in name only. In comparison, although both writers have made mistakes, I find Livy’s understanding of the Roman army in higher regard than that of Polybius.

‘Michael’ Wrote:He is also guilty, at times, of adding what might be described as "Roman colour" to his narrative.
Could you be more specific on this? Does Livy do this specifically of his own accord, or is he just following his source?

I give up.
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#5
(06-15-2019, 07:56 AM)Steven James Wrote:
‘Michael’ Wrote:I believe Polybius played down the mistakes of the Scipio family, especially Scipio Africanus’ father and uncle. In a speech found in Livy, Fabius Maximus blames Rome’s defeat at the Trebbia and Lake Trasimene to incompetent commanders and poor troops. I think there is a lot of value in this, and I would add Cannae to the list. Polybius even comments that the Trebbia could have been lost to Publius Scipio’s rashness, or the treachery of the Gauls. The various accounts of the death of Scipio Africanus’ father indicate his father did not learn anything from the Ticinus.

"Playing down" or glossing over mistakes is eminently possible but that is a different thing to writing for or on behalf of the Scipios. Of his own admission, Polybios wrote to explain Rome's rise to the sole surviving power in the oikumene - again, mostly an explanation for his Greek audience who, within a generation, had become a Roman "backwater".

(06-15-2019, 07:56 AM)Steven James Wrote: Livy not being a military man has not been proven. He would have been of military age during the Roman civil wars, of which much of Livy’s work has not survived. Polybius claims to have held a military ranking, but most likely in name only. In comparison, although both writers have made mistakes, I find Livy’s understanding of the Roman army in higher regard than that of Polybius.

Livy's military service is an open question and being born in 59, he might have been eligible for the closing years. His handling of military matters is widely accepted as showing a lower level of comprehension of same than Polybios and his muddling of Greek speaks to a lower education than the more "important" families. One might note that, at Zama,  Livy claims that Hannibal kept his experienced Italian veterans in the rear at Zama because he could not trust them whereas Polybios correctly divines Hannibal's purpose. 

There is no question that Polybios both served and was trained in military matters. As hipparch of the Achaian League, he commanded cavalry operations - something he was doing at the time of the war against Perseus (170). We know he wrote a military treatise (Tactike) which has not survived and his interest in military matters (and desire to explain such) is a frequent component of his work.
 
(06-15-2019, 07:56 AM)Steven James Wrote:
‘Michael’ Wrote:He is also guilty, at times, of adding what might be described as "Roman colour" to his narrative. 
Could you be more specific on this? Does Livy do this specifically of his own accord, or is he just following his source?

I give up.

I'm assuming the questions are misplaced as they are not mine. Livy, where he can be compared with his source, often does this himself. An example which comes to mind is the conference at Lysimachaia between the Roman legates and Antiochos. Livy's source, Polybios (18.50-52), relates the speeches of both sides: the Roman is short and to the point; that of Antiochos some two and a half times longer. Livy (33.39-40) not only evens these up but alters the order of Antiochos' reply to match the Roman demands. In Polybios' text, the Romans attempt to blindside Antiochos by introducing coached ambassadors from Lampsakos and Smyrna resulting in Antiochos abruptly terminating matters on the basis he will not have such disputes mediated by Romans, though he was happy for the Rhodians to do so. Livy edits this out in its entirety as it will not do to have Romans being so belligerent: the war is all Antiochos' fault and Rome only defends herself.

I also find it more than odd that the Macedonians are horrified by the wounds caused by the gladius (31.34-3-4). It's not as if Macedonian cavalry, using the deadly kopis for slashing, had not ever seen such. Nor, for that matter, the infantry gutting the enemy with sarisai. Here John Ma ("Chaironeia 338: Topographies of Commemoration" JHS 2008, 72-91) is instructive. One might also question whether in hand to hand combat a gladius could so neatly decapitate the enemy.

Why do you "give up"?
Paralus|Michael Park

Ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας, ὦ κακαὶ κεφαλαί, τοὺς μετὰ Φιλίππου καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρου τὰ ὅλα κατειργασμένους

Wicked men, you are sinning against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander!

Academia.edu
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#6
(06-14-2019, 09:12 PM)Johnny66 Wrote: Thanks for your detailed reply. I understand alot more about Polybius.

Was Livy also sponsored by any relatives of Punic War survivor's descendents?

There's very little known about Livy's family connections. He came from modern Padua and so was a "provincial". From what we know he and others (Dionysios for example) came to Rome after the civil wars had been settled and others such as Trogus would follow closer to the end of the first century BC. Current views hold that Livy's first books were published in the twenties BC and there seems no reason to suppose any patronage which would stem from the time of the second Punic war. He seems one of many writers flourishing in Rome post the upheavals of the civil wars.
Paralus|Michael Park

Ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας, ὦ κακαὶ κεφαλαί, τοὺς μετὰ Φιλίππου καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρου τὰ ὅλα κατειργασμένους

Wicked men, you are sinning against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander!

Academia.edu
Reply
#7
Michael wrote:
"Playing down" or glossing over mistakes is eminently possible but that is a different thing to writing for or on behalf of the Scipios.
 
I don’t think Polybius was writing for the Scipios. However, Polybius could have used as his source the writings of Africanus’ son. That to me is the elephant in the room. The sad part is we do not know how much impact or influence the writings of Africanus’ son had.
 
Michael wrote:
Livy's military service is an open question
 
And that is why I believe academics should not make the claim Livy had no military experience. It is not fact, just opinion.
 
Michael wrote:
His handling of military matters is widely accepted as showing a lower level of comprehension of same than Polybios
 
Yes, academics have come to the conclusion without a thorough investigation of Polybius. Now if Polybius is suppose to provide the most reliable breakdown or description of the Roman legion, then how is it that this legion cannot be substantiated with the army numbers provided by Polybius for the Second Punic War? Both are at odds. And I have yet still to see the great study that proves that Polybius is more reliable in military matters than Livy. The only one I know of is the one I have undertaken. And Livy is far more aware of what an ordo is than Polybius will ever be. And Livy knew an ordo was not another name for a maniple as academia seems to believe.
 
Michael wrote:
One might note that, at Zama, Livy claims that Hannibal kept his experienced Italian veterans in the rear at Zama because he could not trust them whereas Polybios correctly divines Hannibal's purpose.
 
You cannot hide a dead elephant with one grasshopper. How do we know that Polybius “correctly divines Hannibal’s purpose” when none of us were an eye witness to Zama. Just because Polybius tells us does not mean Polybius is right.
 
Michael wrote:
There is no question that Polybios both served and was trained in military matters.
 
That does not make Polybius an expert on Roman military matters. In fact it could be an impediment. The Romans are not organised in the same manner as the Greeks. My translation of Polybius’ account of Ecnomus has Polybius describing the wedge formation in relation to the file organisation, and yet, I have not found anything to suggest the Roman fought by file or even acknowledged a file system. They do have an ordo system to do that.
 
Michael wrote:
Livy, where he can be compared with his source, often does this himself. An example which comes to mind is the conference at Lysimachaia between the Roman legates and Antiochos. Livy's source, Polybios (18.50-52), relates the speeches of both sides: the Roman is short and to the point; that of Antiochos some two and a half times longer. Livy (33.39-40) not only evens these up but alters the order of Antiochos' reply to match the Roman demands. In Polybios' text, the Romans attempt to blindside Antiochos by introducing coached ambassadors from Lampsakos and Smyrna resulting in Antiochos abruptly terminating matters on the basis he will not have such disputes mediated by Romans, though he was happy for the Rhodians to do so. Livy edits this out in its entirety as it will not do to have Romans being so belligerent: the war is all Antiochos' fault and Rome only defends herself.
 
The question is who was Polybius’ source? Both could have changed the original source. When it comes to army numbers concerning Greece, Plutarch does mention that Polybius got his army numbers wrong. I’ve shown in another post (Nameless city) how Polybius has manipulated the figures for the Carthaginian army.
 
Michael wrote:
I also find it more than odd that the Macedonians are horrified by the wounds caused by the gladius (31.34-3-4). It's not as if Macedonian cavalry, using the deadly kopis for slashing, had not ever seen such. Nor, for that matter, the infantry gutting the enemy with sarisai. Here John Ma ("Chaironeia 338: Topographies of Commemoration" JHS 2008, 72-91) is instructive. One might also question whether in hand to hand combat a gladius could so neatly decapitate the enemy.
 
Ah Michael, you are testing my memory, which at this point fails me. I have read another academic article that explains this.
 
Michael wrote:
Why do you "give up"?
 
[size=5]My method of replying to this forum is to copy what has been written, and then paste it in a Word document. Then I copy and paste back into the forum. Every time I did this, the posting came out in a font too small to read. After trying different ways, the result was the same so I wrote “I give up” and left it. It has now been fixed, I presume by a moderator.[/size]
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#8
(Yesterday, 06:33 AM)Steven James Wrote: I don’t think Polybius was writing for the Scipios. However, Polybius could have used as his source the writings of Africanus’ son. That to me is the elephant in the room. The sad part is we do not know how much impact or influence the writings of Africanus’ son had.



There is little doubt Polybios used the Scipionic circle for information but it is equally clear that he utilised many sources outside of this circle.



(Yesterday, 06:33 AM)Steven James Wrote: And that is why I believe academics should not make the claim Livy had no military experience. It is not fact, just opinion.




"Opinion" based on Livy's work and the failings in his military narrative.



(Yesterday, 06:33 AM)Steven James Wrote: Yes, academics have come to the conclusion without a thorough investigation of Polybius. Now if Polybius is suppose to provide the most reliable breakdown or description of the Roman legion, then how is it that this legion cannot be substantiated with the army numbers provided by Polybius for the Second Punic War? Both are at odds. And I have yet still to see the great study that proves that Polybius is more reliable in military matters than Livy. The only one I know of is the one I have undertaken. And Livy is far more aware of what an ordo is than Polybius will ever be. And Livy knew an ordo was not another name for a maniple as academia seems to believe



Polybios has been well studied. Book six is an excellent example of his interest in both political and military matters. "Ordo" would appear to be non-technically used as a unit of troops (Cic. Phil. 1.8.20). Polybios, on the other hand, regularly uses "speirai" to describe such.



I see no great problem with Polybios' numbers for the second Punic war. Now, I've not gone and counted every single notice of Roman troops in his work, but the main battles seem fine. The oversize legions for Cannae (where Livy reports two traditions) are not problematical and nor is Polybios' explanation of the mid-Republican army and its recruitment. These are things he may well have been privy to and the Scipionic circle could certainly supply such detail. I'm more of a believer in that Polybios' numbers (4,200) are the minimum and "regular" draft and that the state levied legions to a number it thought fit for purpose (Flamininus had oversize legions in the second Macedonian war for example).



(Yesterday, 06:33 AM)Steven James Wrote: You cannot hide a dead elephant with one grasshopper. How do we know that Polybius “correctly divines Hannibal’s purpose” when none of us were an eye witness to Zama. Just because Polybius tells us does not mean Polybius is right.



The final row of Hannibal's troops were his hardened veterans of the Italian campaign - including former allies of Rome. These troops followed him out of Italy for the very good reason, one strongly suspects, that they will have been dealt with summarily by Rome. Nothing alters for Zama: running away here is unlikely in the extreme to save them from Roman retribution. They would fight.



Livy uses Polybios for the battle description and even follows the Megalopolitan's praise for Hannibal's tactics and command of his army. Where he differs is in relation to Hannibal's third line. The plan was clearly to wear the Romans down so that by the time the Romans reached the third line, they would be prey to Hannibal's best troops. It did not turn out that way - as happens in battle. But Livy clearly errs in thinking Hannibal placed his best troops last because he did not trust them.

Livy also misunderstands Polybios' description of the fighting styles of the opposing troops at Zama. Polybios describes the Carthaginian mercenaries as more dextrous compared to the Roman maniple and that this sees the mercenaries winning at first by inflicting many wounds. Livy misunderstands that this agility meant the mercenaries had no real fighting strength and were immediately pushed back.



(Yesterday, 06:33 AM)Steven James Wrote: That does not make Polybius an expert on Roman military matters. In fact it could be an impediment. The Romans are not organised in the same manner as the Greeks. My translation of Polybius’ account of Ecnomus has Polybius describing the wedge formation in relation to the file organisation, and yet, I have not found anything to suggest the Roman fought by file or even acknowledged a file system. They do have an ordo system to do that.



Can you supply a reference to that please?



(Yesterday, 06:33 AM)Steven James Wrote: The question is who was Polybius’ source? Both could have changed the original source.



Livy is clearly following the earlier author (Polybios) here as he does for much of this part of his history as a reading of both will conclusively show (where Polybios survives). It far less likey that Polybios was transcribing a source which Livy, much later, also happened to transcribe. So the question is: why did Livy alter what he found in Polybios?



(Yesterday, 06:33 AM)Steven James Wrote: When it comes to army numbers concerning Greece, Plutarch does mention that Polybius got his army numbers wrong. I’ve shown in another post (Nameless city) how Polybius has manipulated the figures for the Carthaginian army.



Numbers in ancient sources are ever problematic as we've discussed elsewhere (concerning that army). Again it depends upon the source being used and claiming that Polybios manipulated figures would need a decent rationale.



(Yesterday, 06:33 AM)Steven James Wrote: Ah Michael, you are testing my memory, which at this point fails me. I have read another academic article that explains this.





Quote:Livy, 31.34.3-4:
Nothing is so uncertain or so unpredictable as the mental reaction of a crowd. What he thought would make them more ready to enter any conflict caused, instead, reluctance and fear; [4] for men who had seen the wounds dealt by javelins and arrows and occasionally by lances, since they were used to fighting with the Greeks and Illyrians, when they had seen bodies chopped to pieces by the Spanish sword,1 arms torn away, shoulders and all, or heads separated from bodies, with the necks completely severed, or vitals laid open, and the other fearful wounds, realized in a general panic with what weapons and what men they had to fight.




(Yesterday, 06:33 AM)Steven James Wrote: My method of replying to this forum is to copy what has been written, and then paste it in a Word document. Then I copy and paste back into the forum. Every time I did this, the posting came out in a font too small to read. After trying different ways, the result was the same so I wrote “I give up” and left it. It has now been fixed, I presume by a moderator.



That explains much. I had to enlarge your post 250% to read it it is so small. That line above is unintelligible on the site. Often the only way to read your post is to qoute it so as the text appears normal size. Can I suggest using the reply box to compose so as we can all read what you're writing? Utising the "quote" feature will make matters far more user-friendly as well.
Paralus|Michael Park

Ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας, ὦ κακαὶ κεφαλαί, τοὺς μετὰ Φιλίππου καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρου τὰ ὅλα κατειργασμένους

Wicked men, you are sinning against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander!

Academia.edu
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