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Livy on the Hannibalic War$
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D. S. Levene

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780198152958

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198152958.001.0001

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Winners and Losers

Winners and Losers

(p.261) 4 Winners and Losers
Livy on the Hannibalic War

D. S. Levene (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines Livy's battle scenes, arguing that the reader is invited to focus upon the causal sequence of events within battles, and to see the inadequacy of material explanations for their results. The things that might be expected to make a difference to the battle's outcome do not in fact prove crucial: something else seems to be determining the sequence of events. This is not simply offering patriotic ‘excuses’ for Roman defeats: not merely defeats, but even victories are treated in ways that do not allow them to be explained by normal criteria of historical causation. Similarly commanders, even when apparently effective, are constantly shown to be poor judges of events, winning for reasons that are unconnected with the plans they adopt. Livy systematically shows the failure of rationality, forcing the reader to construct other terms in which these key turning points of history are to be understood.

Keywords:   battles, commanders, rationality, victories, defeats, causation

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