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Roman Optimism Before Cannae: The Vow of the Ver Sacrum (Livy 22.10)

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This article examines the consequences of Justus Lipsius’ emendation of Livy 22.10.6, the final sentence of the ver sacrum vowed after the Roman defeat at Lake Trasimene in 217 bce. After a brief discussion of the historical context of the vow, we turn to the text as transmitted by the earliest manuscript, the fifth-century Codex Puteanus. Lipsius rendered the mss. anteidea as antidea, a hapax legomenon. Subsequent editors experimented with a range of other changes in order to facilitate a particular understanding of the clause in question, and this process has had a lasting impact on translations and interpretations of the vow. If we dispense with the historical expectations that complicated the text in the first place, the importance of Lipsius’ antidea becomes both simple and clear: in 217, the harsh antithesis between rash and prudent commanders had yet to be articulated, and the collectivity of the Senate and Roman people looked forward to a swift end for the Hannibalic War.

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