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Cornelius Nepos, Life of Hannibal

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Cornelius Nepos

Preface

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1This book contains the Latin text, notes, and vocabulary for Cornelius Nepos′ Life of Hannibal. It also includes the Prologus (Preface) to Nepos′ biographies of foreign commanders. Although the Prologus is not essential for understanding the Life of Hannibal, it does provide valuable insight into why Nepos wrote biography and how he understood the relationship between Roman and non‒Roman values.

2As Rome completed its bloody transition from dysfunctional republic to (mostly) stable monarchy, Cornelius Nepos (ca. 100‒27 BC) labored to complete an innovative and influential collection of concise biographies. Putting aside the detailed, chronological accounts of military campaigns and political machinations that characterized most writing about history, Nepos surveyed Roman and Greek history for distinguished men who excelled in a range of prestigious occupations. In the exploits and achievements of these illustrious men, Nepos hoped that his readers would find models for the honorable conduct of their own lives.

3Although most of Nepos′ works have been lost, we are fortunate to have his biography of the Carthaginian general Hannibal. One of history′s most celebrated military leaders, Hannibal waged a brilliant – if ultimately futile – campaign against Rome during the Second Punic War (218‒202 BC). Nepos sketches Hannibal′s life from the time he began traveling with his father′s army as a young boy, through his sixteen‒year invasion of Italy and his tumultuous political career in Carthage, to his perilous exile and eventual suicide far from Carthage. Nepos′ biography offers a surprisingly balanced portrayal of a man that many Roman authors vilified as the most monstrous foe that Rome had ever faced.

4Nepos′ preference for common vocabulary, his relatively straightforward style, and the historical interest of the material make this text suitable for those who are beginning to read continuous Latin prose. Attention is paid throughout this commentary to how Nepos constructs his sentences and how he combines these sentences into a continuous narrative. Each chapter features a running list of the (relatively few) words that are not found in the Dickinson College Commentaries Latin Core available at http://dcc.dickinson.edu/​latin-vocabulary-list. To help readers acquaint themselves with the events of Hannibal′s lifetime, historical notes and explanations of Roman and Carthaginian culture are frequent. Customizable vocabulary lists for this text are available at http://bridge.haverford.edu

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