1. In parte operis mei licet mihi praefari, quod in principio summae totius professi plerique sunt rerum scriptores, bellum maxime omnium memorabile quae unquam gesta sint me scripturum, quod Hannibale duce Carthaginienses cum populo Romano gessere. 2nam neque validiores opibus ullae inter se civitates gentesque contulerunt arma neque his ipsis tantum unquam virium aut roboris fuit; et haud ignotas belli artes inter sese sed expertas primo Punico conferebant bello, et adeo varia fortuna belli ancepsque Mars fuit ut propius periculum fuerint qui vicerunt. 3odiis etiam prope maioribus certarunt quam viribus, Romanis indignantibus quod victoribus victi ultro inferrent arma, Poenis quod superbe avareque crederent imperitatum victis esse.
4Fama est etiam Hannibalem annorum ferme novem, pueriliter blandientem patri Hamilcari ut duceretur in
1. In a preface to only a section of my work1 I am able to make the claim that most historians have made at the beginning of their entire opus: that I am going to provide an account of the most momentous war ever fought, that which the Carthaginians, led by Hannibal, waged against the Roman people. For no other states or nations have come into conflict with greater resources than these, nor had the combatants themselves ever possessed more strength and power. They each also brought to the struggle strategies that were not unfamiliar to the other but ones that had been put to the test in the First Punic War;2 and so changeable were the fortunes of the war and so evenly matched the fighting that it was the eventual victors who came closer to ruin. In addition, they fought with a hatred almost greater than their might, the Romans indignant that a conquered people was presuming to attack its conquerors, the Carthaginians because they believed the authority wielded over them in defeat was high-handed and rapacious.
There is even a story3 that, at about the age of nine, Hannibal was (in boyish fashion) trying to coax his father
- 1By “section” Livy means the third decade, which he is now beginning. On his decadic/pentadic structure, see Introduction §3a.
- 2The war, which lasted from 264 to 241 and began almost by accident (cf. OCD s.v. Punic Wars), was the first of three, the last of which led to the destruction of Carthage in 146.
- 3Found first in Polybius (3.11.5–7) and then many authors (e.g., Nep. Hann. 2.3–6, Val. Max. 9.3.ext.3; see further Walbank 1.314–15). Polybius is not mentioned by name until the end of the decade (30.45.5), but he is clearly Livy’s major source: see Introduction §2a (Livy’s sources).