Liviana: Studies on Livy by John Briscoe
As the author himself explains in his preface, the idea for John Briscoe's Liviana began to take shape in 2012 when, having just completed his commentary on Livy 41–45, he proposed to the Oxford University Press the formation of what became his Oxford Classical Text of Livy 21–25. In that proposal, Briscoe noted that, in keeping with the usual tendency in Oxford Classical Texts, he would have a briefer apparatus than was customary for Teubner editions. A dialogue with the press ensued, in which it was suggested that what he was compelled to omit from his apparatus might perhaps be included in a companion volume. This material alone, Briscoe avers, would not have been sufficient to fill a volume on its own, but it could be supplemented with a brief history of the printed editions of Livy, a few essays on some controversies in the identification of certain manuscripts, some corrections of and additions to his commentaries on books 38–40 and 41–45, some emendations to his Teubner volumes, and a correction to a point he made in his contributions to The Fragments of the Roman Historians (Oxford 2014). The result is the current volume under review, which, while not as expansive as a full-fledged commentary on books 21–25—Briscoe himself suggests that he came to consider parts of Liviana as something of an "embryo commentary" on those books—nevertheless succeeds admirably as a supplement to his OCT and, indeed, to all of his recent works on the text of Livy.
As hinted at above, the majority of the space in Liviana is devoted to textual matters. These consist of observations of varying lengths on some of the more troublesome passages, made with the unparalleled knowledge of Latin and of [End Page 229] Livy, the editorial acumen, and the sharp eye for discerning textual soundness that are so typical of Briscoe. On these sections little needs to be added here beyond the certainty that for serious classicists, and especially for students of Livy, consultation of these notes will prove exceedingly worthwhile. In addition to this wealth of textual material, Briscoe provides an overview of editions of the Ab Urbe Condita from incunabula all the way down to the twenty-first century. He also proffers evaluations of these editions—an overview that is at points trenchant, especially about those produced in the twentieth century: Briscoe is unsparing in his praise for the excellence that he perceives in these works, but is also unflinching in his assessments when that excellence is harder to find. The same bluntness and vigor are found in later chapters, particularly one that discusses some additions to a manuscript (Harley 2493) that Briscoe, breaking with received wisdom, attributes not to Lorenzo Valla but to a hand that he designates Az. This attribution has not gone unchallenged, and Briscoe takes the opportunity to expand upon his reasoning for it in what are often very direct terms.
For the specialist, particularly for the philologist looking to delve deeply into Livy, it cannot be doubted that Liviana will be of great utility. The book will therefore make a welcome addition to the personal libraries of such users, and will obviously be indispensable as a research tool in academic libraries. Further, the committed historian investigating Livy's account of the opening years of the Hannibalic War will find this book to be of considerable use, though it should be understood that strictly historical investigations in Liviana are quite limited, and that textual exegesis receives the bulk of the space. On the other hand, the reader might also question whether it would be of equal use to those whose academic interests do not require such a tight textual focus. As may be anticipated, Liviana presupposes an extensive knowledge of the text of Livy, and was almost certainly written for persons possessing this. In sum, Liviana will probably be of limited relevance to the generalist, but for its intended audience it will certainly be invaluable.