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Book Review: Sallust: Impressive New Translation from Quintus Curtius

Quintus Curtius is one of my favorite writers. Part of this has to do with who he is as a person. He is one of the last, true Rennaissance Men of modern day. A former marine officer, who then became a lawyer who is also a painter, writer and translator, Quintus Curtius shares his views on discipline, honor, art, politics, philosophy and society on his blog Fortress of the Mind.

What is most compelling about Curtius is his ability to blend the intellectual with the everyday. When he offered to send me an advance copy of Sallust, I was thrilled. This translation of  “Conspiracy of Catiline” and “War of Jugurtha” is an extremely impressive achievement. Every page shows the labor of the translator. The language is clear, clean, and precise. But it’s the extras that really make this worth buying and having in your library: the notes, tables, maps, and explanations.

For me, these special features were a tremendous help. I am not a history buff and often, if the story doesn’t feel real and the people aren’t brought to life on the page, I will lose interest. I tend to forget names and get confused about timelines and locations.  Curtius’s writing style kept the story going in a way that felt natural. It was easy to forget that this was a translation as the transitions were clear and flowed.  The footnotes especially give additional information about word choice, providing insights into idioms or phrases that have a special meaning that isn’t obvious to a casual reader of history.

No other historical book has ever given me so many easily available resources to make reading so enjoyable. Furthermore, his writing is charged with his love of the subject matter. Quintus Curtius does more than translate the words of classics into English, he translates the environment, the emotion, the mood and the conflict of a faraway time and place and makes it real and relevant to us today. His translations breathe life into characters that, to me, were once no more than indistinguishable stone sculptures I viewed in museums. When history comes alive we can clearly see the similarities in the conflicts that played out in Roman times with those we face today.

All in all, this is another triumph from Quintus Curtius!

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