Saturday, April 23, 2016

Hannibal biography as Latin textbook

Bret Mulligan, Cornelius Nepos, Life of Hannibal: Latin Text, Notes, Maps, Illustrations and Vocabulary. Dickinson College commentaries. Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2015. Pp. xii, 156. ISBN 9781783741328. £17.95 (pb)​. ISBN 9781783741359. (epub).

Reviewed by Rex Stem, University of California, Davis (

Preview and pdf

This title is a textbook for intermediate Latin students. It came to BMCR as a printed title from Open Book Publishers, but it was originally written and designed to be used on the web through Dickinson College Commentaries. Since the printed book reproduces the pages on the web, this review treats both formats.

Mulligan explains in his preface that Nepos’ common vocabulary and straightforward style, as well as overall historical interest, make his Hannibal a good choice for the intermediate Latin student (and I agree). The commentary, accordingly, offers lucid comments about Nepos’ syntax and fills in the historical background, while the design of the online format renders the study of Nepos’ vocabulary easy and effective. Largely absent, however, is an assessment of the structuring and content of Nepos’ biography. Instead, Mulligan devotes half of his introduction to providing an overview of the Punic Wars, and reading Nepos’ Hannibal as a history of the Punic Wars makes for an awkward fit. In sum, this commentary is a strong resource for learning Latin but a weak one for assessing the figure of Hannibal within the biography of Nepos.

Cross-file under Punic Watch.