Polybius says that he wrote his Histories "to find out by what means and by what political system the entire world was brought under the domination of Rome..." And as he states, it was an event totally without precedent. Within the short space of about 50 years Rome went from being a provincial leader of an Italian confederacy to become the Mistress of the Mediterranean: Caput Mundi. "Surely there can be no one so shallow or so apathetic of character that he has no desire to know how and under what type of government the Romans were able in less than fifty-three years to bring under their control almost the whole of the civilized world, a passage of events which is unique to history." Indeed. And who better to write such a history than the brilliant Polybius? Polybius was one of the first historians to attempt to present history as a sequence of causes and effects, based upon a careful examination of tradition and a keen scrutiny of the facts. Of all ancient historians, only Thucydides is considered the greater.
Tragically, much of The Histories has been lost. But what remains is singularly dramatic and crucially important. It was Polybius who first made Rome's struggle with Hannibal comprehensible to scholars and later generations of historians. He is still our primary source for information about Hannibal and the events of the first half of the second century B.C. Livy used him as a source, as did Plutarch. And although much is missing, much remains: a review of the First Punic War, a detailed description of the Second Punic War, comparisons of the characters of Scipio and Hannibal, comparisons of the Greek phalanx to the Roman legion, a study of the Roman constitution, the dazzling intrigues of the Hellenistic monarchies, and much more.
Volume 1 begins with a review of events leading up to Hannibal's invasion of Italy. The amazing account of Hannibal's crossing of the Alps is one of the highlights of this volume. Volume 1 ends with Hannibal...