About Memoria Romana

Memoria Romana will contain new translations in 21st Century English of books written by ancient Romans about the history of ancient Rome. The first project is Ab Urbe Condita (From the Founding of the City) by Titus Livius, usually called Livy in English. This is a big project and not likely to be finished any time soon. The blog format allows each chapter to be made available as it is finished. There are two purposes for these translations.

First, they supply an alternative to the other translations available on the Internet which were made a century ago or more. Those translations, while of course quite readable, suffer (in my view) from Victorian language and academic style. The attraction to me of reading these books in the original Latin was the possibility of reading just what the author wrote, without the interpretation or “improvements” of the translator; any errors of translation would be my own, a risk I was willing to take. But others may not want (or be able) to invest the time to learn Latin and the extra time needed to read in a foreign language. For them I am attempting a straightforward translation which neither omits nor adds anything, but renders the Latin in readable 21st Century English.

Second, I have been reading Roman history in an effort to understand how the Romans lost their grip on republican government and slipped back into monarchy. Perhaps there are things we can learn from the Romans (or their errors) that will help us manage our own republic; or things which, while known to the generation of our Founding Fathers, each later generation needs to relearn. In a companion blog, A Wealth of Examples, I hope to make some intelligent remarks relating Roman events and attitudes to modern politics. This blog gives me a text on which that blog can comment.

Mr. Livy comments in the Preface to his history that he does not know whether the effort of writing a new history of Rome will be worth while. He notes also that every new author thinks he will do a better job than his predecessors. Of course, I do not know, either, whether this project will be of any value to me or to the public. But I am trying to sidestep hubris by thinking of my goal as different from that of previous translators. Although I do not intend to produce literal word-for-word translations — the differences in the languages do not allow it — I am also not trying to make the translation a smoother piece of literature than the original. We shall see what comes of it.


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