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de Bello Civili

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  807 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
The first full-scale commentary on the neglected second book of Lucan's epic poem on the civil war between Caesar and Pompey pays particular attention to Lucan's inheritance from Virgil's Augustan epic and responds to its challenge.
Paperback, 260 pages
Published December 4th 2002 by Cambridge University Press (first published 61)
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David Sarkies
Aug 23, 2016 David Sarkies rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ancient Roman Buffs
Recommended to David by: Saw it in a bookshop
Shelves: history
An Anti-Caeserian Account of the Civil War
24 August 2011 - Lausanne

Lucan was a contemporary of Nero, and in fact died at the age of 25 when he slit his own wrists after he was discovered involved in a plot to overthrow the emperor (it seems as if this was a dignified way to die in the early empire). As such Lucan's poem regarding the civil war between Caeser and Pompey remains unfinished. It is clear from the text that Lucan does not like Julius Caeser, and that the translator of the version I
Evan Leach
Civil War is the only surviving work of Lucan, a Roman writer from the 1st century. Written during the reign of Nero, Lucan’s Civil War was arguably the last great epic poem written in antiquity (at least in the West). The poem as we have it is unfinished (Nero ordered Lucan to commit suicide at the age of 25), but what’s left is a fairly complete story of the war between Julius Caesar and Sextus Pompey, all the way to its grisly end.

img: Pompey-Head
“They all bought, but he sold Rome.” IV. 824

The Oxford World’s
Jim Coughenour
Lucan's Civil War, written in his early 20s before he was compelled to kill himself by Nero, is an astonishingly exuberant poem that presents history as political theater – in this case, the clash between Julius Caesar and Pompey. Unlike the usual epic, he dispenses with the machinations of deities and stages instead the raw contest between two egomaniacs with armies criss-crossing the Mediterranean. The narrative is high-spirited, packed with the pornography of war, and races from scene to scen ...more
"The men, too, as they head for war and the opposing camps,
pour out just complaints against the cruel deities:

‘O how unfortunate that we were not born in the time
of the Punic war, to fight at Cannae and at Trebia!
It is not peace we ask for, gods: inspire with rage the foreign nations,
now rouse the fierce cities; let the world league together
for war: let lines of Medes swoop down from Achaemenid
Susa, let Scythian Danube not confine the Massagetae,

let the Elbe and Rhine’s unconquered head let loos
Samuel Valentino
This book was both fascinating and boring. Not in turns - simultaneously. I've never read anything else like it - I would be falling asleep while wanting to turn the page. And it keeps on lumbering away, in it's enthrallingly tedious way, until chapter 6.

And suddenly it turns into Conan the Barbarian.

Or something very similar. Lucan goes from a grandiose if straightforward account of the end of the Republic right into the Thessalian Witches. These are magicians so powerful that it leads to a the
Andrew Fairweather
"Grievous alas! is it, and ever will be, that Caesar profited by his worst crime—his fighting against a kinsman who had scruples."

Lucan's Civil War is some of the most insane stuff I've read in a very long time. If Hieronymus Bosch wrote history, surely this is not far from what he'd come up with. Passages spare no detail in describing the eye popping (literally, eyeballs are popped from their sockets) and gore encrusting madness that results from Caesar's challenge to Pompey (worse than Hanya Y
else fine
I'm actually reading the Robert Graves translation, which I was too lazy to import manually. I love his informal introductions. So far, it's very enjoyable.
Catherine Woodman
I have been reading Roman poetry to my youngest son for the last several months, and I have to say that while I would not have guessed it, I have really enjoyed it, content wise. Most surprisingly, this is my favorite one. I had heard of the other three poets. They are big names from the ancient world--Catullus, Ovid, and Virgil--heavy hitters all three. But I had never heard about Lucan.

He was from Cordoba, a family with minimal Italian blood but his grandfather was Seneca the elder, and his un
Sep 25, 2014 sologdin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancient, literary
silver age literate epic, taken from history rather than mythology. Caesar is almost a standard epic hero, to the extent that he is kinda a dick, similar to earlier Achilles (and later Lucifer). famous scene is the inverted katabasis in book VI, wherein pompey, instead of descending to the underworld, as is proper, has erichtho bring unfortunate decedent back to earth. great stuff.
Jul 01, 2008 Shannon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It's alright. Some of it is a little hard to follow but the gorey bloody bits were pretty good. I don't like Lucan half as much as I like Statius or Ovid.
This book is better than the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid and it is a shame that it has not been read by more people.
Dec 20, 2012 Adrienne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent and readable translation.
May 01, 2016 Al rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Bellum Civile is Lucan’s chief work, and the only one preserved, other than some fragments of other works. The epic poem is composed of over 8,000 hexameters (which are very hard to translate) and most translations, such as this one by J.D. Duff, are done in prose. This translation is serviceable but I don’t think it reflects the emotional range that Lucan tried to convey, and is present in the Latin. Lucan glorifies ancient republican liberty and explicitly condemns the imperial system. Sin ...more
Joseph F.
Feb 22, 2015 Joseph F. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh Lucan! you're so over the top. Maybe that's why people have such a hard time with you. Maybe it has something to do with Roman taste that Lucan overstates just about everything. The coming of civil war is described in ghoulish predictions: the sickly guts of a bull for the augurs to examine, the stars in the sky that spell disaster, and a crazy priestess running through the streets with disheveled hair.
The deaths of soldiers are so gory that they would give the Friday The 13th films a run for
Lucanus (39-65 na Chr.) is één van de minder bekende Romeinse dichters, maar zijn Pharsalia, over de burgeroorlog tussen Pompeius en Ceasar (49-45 na Chr.), is een epos dat iedere liefhebber van de Klassieken ten minste een keer in zijn leven zou moeten hebben gelezen.

De jonge poëet – die na een kort en meeslepend leven zijn eigen polsen doorsneed om aan de furie van keizer Nero te ontsnappen – schreef met Pharsalia een eigenzinnig en vurig epos in bombastische stijl. Om zo’n werk in het Nederl
Marc Gerstein
May 16, 2015 Marc Gerstein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancient-classics
This certainly is not the first lengthy ancient war epic ever composed and like the others, it has ample amounts of gore, battle strategy, troop whining, inspirational pep talks, etc. But it seems to break the mold in the way it accounts for outcomes, not so much by the will of Gods (who play no real role here) but the will of man. Actually, make that the extraordinary will of one man, Caesar who comes off a bit like the Francis Underwood character in the Netflix series “House of Cards.”

Roman Clodia
Lucan was the nephew of Seneca the Younger (one-time tutor to Nero and forced by him to commit suicide) and so he has a very personal response to hereditary monarchy which comes over very clearly in this text. Re-telling the story of the civil war waged between Julius Caesar and Pompey, he also explores the re-establishment of monarchy vs. the supposed independence of the republic.

This is a very literary text and relies on the reader's knowledge of other Roman epics especially Virgil's Aeneid, b
Silvio Curtis
Aug 28, 2013 Silvio Curtis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An epic about the Roman Civil War between Julius Caesar and Pompey, which is not finished because the author joined a conspiracy against Emperor Nero and was killed for it. Considering what the poem is like, I'm not surprised. Though Lucan says either side should have yielded rather than start a civil war, he explicitly sides with Pompey, the loser, and makes a lot of admiring statements about him. Most of all, he praises Cato, laments the end of the Republic, and calls the rule of the emperors ...more
Dec 10, 2008 Meghan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of gore, Classics, and the end of the Republic
Delightful. Don't let its status as an epic or the fact that it's incomplete put you off. I had to slog my way painfully through Homer and Vergil, but I couldn't put this down. Filled with gory details and weird supernatural events, Lucan is nothing if not entertaining. People in battle scenes die in disgusting and creative ways, including being crushed between ships and having gore pour out of their mouths and having gushes of blood squirt spears out of their bodies. The witch, Erictho, who app ...more
Brent Venton
Sep 14, 2012 Brent Venton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bombastic poetry decrying the perversion of former and current times, this Roman epic poem from the 1st century AD is less art and more political protest. The author himself was compelled to commit suicide after being implicated in a plot to assassinate Emperor Nero, leaving the work unfinished and for the most part unpolished. Lucan hatefully describes the civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey, the verses are loaded with histrionics on the corruption of Roman values and gleeful description ...more
Robert Gourley
Apr 02, 2014 Robert Gourley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As violent and gruesome an epic poem from Antiquity as I have ever read, and fascinating because of it.

Lucan expresses a palpable disdain for Caesar, presents a complex portrait of Pompey, and reserves his highest praise for Cato the Younger. His detailed and frightening description of the actions of the witch in Book VI could be used to explain Jewish and Christian strictures against necromancy. And his many digressions into myth and legend, reminds one of Tolkien.

But still, as searing as this
Dustin Simmons
Lucan's historical epic poem is very different from other Classical, literary epics. He takes historical events (the Civil War between Julius Caesar and Pompey Magnus) as his subject rather than mythological events, and his indebtedness to previous authors, particularly Vergil and Ovid. While his style and obvious vitriol against Caesar were not to my liking, he has moments of brilliance (e.g., the desecration of the sacred grove at Massilia, Caesar's speech to quell a mutiny, Erichtho's necroma ...more
Nov 28, 2009 Pirata rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
re-reading this one. it has been a while. i read it in college but only in snippets given as packets. im extremely happy i never had to translate it because i hear that is insanely hard.

i just bought this copy from and im really happy to finally own this. so far the translation seems really good and the small biography on Lucan in the first part of the book is really good as well. i entirely forgot that his grandfather was Seneca the Elder! and Seneca the Younger was his uncle, who tut
Ken T
Dec 20, 2011 Ken T rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classical-works
This book is a tough read. A product of Silver Age epic, it requires a thorough knowledge of Virgil and Julius Caesar's Civil Wars to appreciate the genius that went into this book. Granted it is incomplete (ending at book 10 rather than 12) and Lucan is a bit verbose, but the way in which he alters the epic paradigm and reshapes famous scenes from Virgil is fantastic. You can also add courage to Lucan's genius in that he wrote this anti-emperor panegyric under the reign of the paranoid Nero. Wh ...more
James Violand
Jul 01, 2014 James Violand rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: students of ancient Rome
Shelves: own
An epic poem of ancient Rome pits Caesar 'gainst Pompey the Great. Unfinished. Nero forced Lucan to commit suicide before he could end it. Shows a bias against Julius Caesar. Well worth the read. Reinforces what you may know about one of the Roman Civil Wars -- yes, there were more than one.
Jul 14, 2008 Danielle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Gory and weird. Lucan is a master of characterization, which becomes clear every time a sympathetic character is revealed as corrupt or narrow minded. The reader is consistently challenged to question the subtext of her own sympathies.
Jul 19, 2008 junia marked it as gave-up  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to junia by: CL 100
Shelves: school
i read the introduction, and probably the first few pages....

I somehow managed to achieve a tolerable grade without having read this book and having missed the lectures (I was sick.. really!)...

Alas, alack.
Where is my CULTURE?!
Craig Herbertson
The Pharsalia is an incomplete Roman epic poem by the poet Lucan. It's often cited by authors during civil wars so with the state of the world today, competing groups, factions, political and religious divides I'd advise you to take a look, particularly as this is a good prose translation.
Jun 16, 2015 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's worth trying to track down this edition if only to read Robert Graves's wonderful footnotes: Snark of the Finest Kind. His translation is also quite readable, in that I could actually tolerate reading Lucan, something no other translation has yet been able to pull off.
Oct 31, 2015 Guguk rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: martabak-telor
Seru!! Biarpun bentuknya puisi (yang panjang banget kayak novel) tapi segala pertempuran dilukiskan dengan mempesona (^^)
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Lucan translations - anyone have a good one? 4 29 Apr 22, 2012 05:18PM  
  • Fasti
  • The Poems
  • The Fall of Troy
  • Epigrams
  • The Thebaid: Seven Against Thebes
  • The Sixteen Satires
  • The Jugurthine War and the Conspiracy of Catiline
  • The Civil Wars
  • Julius/Augustus/Tiberius/Gaius/Caligula (Lives of the Caesars 1)
  • Theological Tractates/The Consolation of Philosophy
  • On the Nature of the Gods. Academics
  • The Odes of Horace
  • Leucippe and Clitophon
  • Moral Essays: Volume I
  • The Georgics
  • The Pot of Gold and Other Plays
  • The Satyricon and The Apocolocyntosis

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