Livy

Livy

Overview
Titus Livius — known as Livy in English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 — was a Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 historian who wrote a monumental history of Rome and the Roman people. Ab Urbe Condita Libri
Ab Urbe condita (book)
Ab urbe condita libri — often shortened to Ab urbe condita — is a monumental history of ancient Rome written in Latin sometime between 27 and 25 BC by the historian Titus Livius. The work covers the time from the stories of Aeneas, the earliest legendary period from before the city's founding in c....

, "Chapters from the Foundation of the City," covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome well before the traditional foundation in 753 BC through the reign of Augustus
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

 in Livy's own time. He was on familiar terms with the Julio-Claudian
Julio-Claudian Dynasty
The Julio-Claudian dynasty normally refers to the first five Roman Emperors: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula , Claudius, and Nero, or the family to which they belonged; they ruled the Roman Empire from its formation, in the second half of the 1st century BC, until AD 68, when the last of the line,...

 family, advising Augustus's grandnephew, the future emperor Claudius
Claudius
Claudius , was Roman Emperor from 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he was the son of Drusus and Antonia Minor. He was born at Lugdunum in Gaul and was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italy...

, as a young man not long before 14 AD in a letter to take up the writing of history.
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Unanswered Questions
Quotations

Rome has grown since its humble beginnings that it is now overwhelmed by its own greatness.

Praefatio, sec. 4

We can endure neither our vices nor the remedies for them.

Praefatio, sec. 9

This above all makes history useful and desirable: it unfolds before our eyes a glorious record of exemplary actions.

Praefatio, sec. 10

Sic deinde, quicumque alius transiliet moenia mea!

Translation: And so be damned, whomever shall jump over my walls!

The old Romans all wished to have a king over them because they had not yet tasted the sweetness of freedom.

Book I, sec. 17

Before anything else [Numa] decided that he must instill in his subjects the fear of the gods, this being the most effective measure with an ignorant, and at that time uncultured, people.

Book I, sec. 19

Law is a thing which is insensible, and inexorable, more beneficial and more profitious to the weak than to the strong; it admits of no mitigation nor pardon, once you have overstepped its limits.

Book II, sec. 3

Shared danger is the strongest of bonds; it will keep men united in spite of mutual dislike and suspicion.

Book II, sec. 39

Fame opportunely despised often comes back redoubled.

Book II, sec. 47
Encyclopedia
Titus Livius — known as Livy in English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 — was a Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 historian who wrote a monumental history of Rome and the Roman people. Ab Urbe Condita Libri
Ab Urbe condita (book)
Ab urbe condita libri — often shortened to Ab urbe condita — is a monumental history of ancient Rome written in Latin sometime between 27 and 25 BC by the historian Titus Livius. The work covers the time from the stories of Aeneas, the earliest legendary period from before the city's founding in c....

, "Chapters from the Foundation of the City," covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome well before the traditional foundation in 753 BC through the reign of Augustus
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

 in Livy's own time. He was on familiar terms with the Julio-Claudian
Julio-Claudian Dynasty
The Julio-Claudian dynasty normally refers to the first five Roman Emperors: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula , Claudius, and Nero, or the family to which they belonged; they ruled the Roman Empire from its formation, in the second half of the 1st century BC, until AD 68, when the last of the line,...

 family, advising Augustus's grandnephew, the future emperor Claudius
Claudius
Claudius , was Roman Emperor from 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he was the son of Drusus and Antonia Minor. He was born at Lugdunum in Gaul and was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italy...

, as a young man not long before 14 AD in a letter to take up the writing of history. Livy and Augustus's wife, Livia
Livia
Livia Drusilla, , after her formal adoption into the Julian family in AD 14 also known as Julia Augusta, was a Roman empress as the third wife of the Emperor Augustus and his adviser...

, were from the same clan in different locations, although not related by blood.

Life


Livy was born as Titus Livius in Patavium in northern Italy, now modern Padua
Padua
Padua is a city and comune in the Veneto, northern Italy. It is the capital of the province of Padua and the economic and communications hub of the area. Padua's population is 212,500 . The city is sometimes included, with Venice and Treviso, in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area, having...

. There is a debate about the year of Titus Livius' birth, 64 BC or more likely 59 BC. At the time of Livy’s birth, his home city of Patavium was the second wealthiest city in the Italian peninsula. Patavium was a part of the province of Cisalpine Gaul
Cisalpine Gaul
Cisalpine Gaul, in Latin: Gallia Cisalpina or Citerior, also called Gallia Togata, was a Roman province until 41 BC when it was merged into Roman Italy.It bore the name Gallia, because the great body of its inhabitants, after the expulsion of the Etruscans, consisted of Gauls or Celts...

 at the time. In his works, Livy often expressed his deep affection and pride for Patavium, and the city was well known for its conservative values in morality and politics.

Livy’s teen years were during the 40s BC, a time that coincided with the civil wars that were occurring throughout the Roman world. The governor of Cisalpine Gaul at the time, a man called Asinius Pollio
Gaius Asinius Pollio (consul 40 BC)
Gaius Asinius Pollio was a Roman soldier, politician, orator, poet, playwright, literary critic and historian, whose lost contemporary history, provided much of the material for the historians Appian and Plutarch...

, had tried to bring Patavium into the camp of Marcus Antonius
Mark Antony
Marcus Antonius , known in English as Mark Antony, was a Roman politician and general. As a military commander and administrator, he was an important supporter and loyal friend of his mother's cousin Julius Caesar...

 (Mark Antony), who was one of the three men in the fight for control over Rome. The wealthier citizens of Patavium refused to contribute money and arms to Asinius Pollio and went into hiding. Asinius Pollio then attempted to bribe the slaves of the wealthy citizens of Patavium to expose the whereabouts of their masters. Asinius Pollio's bribery did not work, and the citizens of Patavium pledged their allegiance to conservatism and the senate instead. Therefore, Livy and the other citizens of Patavium did not end up supporting Marcus Antonius in his campaign for control over Rome. It is likely, then, that the Roman civil wars prevented Livy from pursuing a higher education in Rome or going on a Grand Tour of Greece, which was common for adolescent males during the time. Later on, Asinius Pollio made a jibe at Livy's "patavinity," saying that Livy's Latin showed certain "provincialisms" frowned on at Rome. His jibe at Livy and his "patavinity", however, may have been said because of the fact that the city of Patavium had rejected Asinius Pollio, and he still harboured harsh feelings toward the city as a whole.

Titus Livius probably went to Rome in the 30s BC, and it is likely that he spent a large amount of time in the city after this, although it may not have been his primary home. During his time in Rome, he was never a senator nor held any other governmental position. His elementary mistakes in military matters show that he was never a soldier. However, he was educated in philosophy and rhetoric. It seems that Livy had the financial resources and means to live an independent life. He devoted a large part of his life to his writings, which he was able to do because of his financial freedom.

Livy was known to give recitations to small audiences, but he was not heard of to engage in declamation, which was a common pastime. He was familiar with the emperor Augustus, formerly Octavian
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

, and the imperial family. Octavian was one of the three men fighting for the control of Rome during the Civil Wars in the 40s BC. Octavian gained power after defeating Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra, and was later given the honorary name of Augustus. Considering Augustus came to be known as the greatest Roman Emperor in the eyes of the Romans, being a historian under Augustus was very beneficial to Livy’s career even after his death. It is said that Livy was the one who encouraged the future emperor Claudius, who was born in 10 BC, to explore the writing of history during his childhood. Livy himself was married and had at least one daughter and one son.

Perhaps Livy’s most famous work was his history of Rome. In it he explains the complete history of the city of Rome, from its foundation to the death of Augustus. Because he was writing under the emperor Augustus, Livy’s history emphasizes the great triumphs of Rome. He wrote his history with embellished accounts of Roman heroism in order to promote the new type of government implemented by Augustus when he became emperor. In Livy’s preface to his history, he said that he did not care whether his personal fame remained in darkness, as long as his work helped to “preserve the memory of the deeds of the world’s preeminent nation.” Because Livy was writing about events that had occurred hundreds of years beforehand, the value of his history was questionable, although many Romans came to believe what he wrote to be the true history of Rome’s foundation. He had also written other works, including an essay in the form of a letter to his son, and numerous dialogues, most likely using Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

 as a model.

Titus Livius is said to have died in the year AD 17 (three years after the death of the emperor Augustus) in his home city of Patavium.

Works




Livy's only surviving work is the "History of Rome" (Ab Urbe Condita), which was his career from an age in middle life, probably 32, until he left Rome for Padua in old age, probably after the death of Augustus in the reign of Tiberius
Tiberius
Tiberius , was Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced Nero and married Augustus in 39 BC, making him a step-son of Octavian...

. When he began this work he was already past his youth; presumably, events in his life prior to that time had led to his intense activity as a historian. Seneca the Younger
Seneca the Younger
Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero...

 gives brief mention that he was also known as an orator and philosopher and had written some treatises in those fields from a historical point of view.

In Roman Empire


Livy's History of Rome was in demand from the publication of the first packet. Livy became so famous that a man from Cadiz
Cádiz
Cadiz is a city and port in southwestern Spain. It is the capital of the homonymous province, one of eight which make up the autonomous community of Andalusia....

 travelled to Rome just to see him, and once he had seen, returned home. The popularity of the work continued through the entire classical period. A number of Roman authors used Livy, including Aurelius Victor
Aurelius Victor
Sextus Aurelius Victor was a historian and politician of the Roman Empire.Aurelius Victor was the author of a History of Rome from Augustus to Julian , published ca. 361. Julian honoured him and appointed him prefect of Pannonia Secunda...

, Cassiodorus
Cassiodorus
Flavius Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator , commonly known as Cassiodorus, was a Roman statesman and writer, serving in the administration of Theodoric the Great, king of the Ostrogoths. Senator was part of his surname, not his rank.- Life :Cassiodorus was born at Scylletium, near Catanzaro in...

, Eutropius, Festus
Festus
Festus is a Latin word meaning "festive, festal, joyful, merry" and may refer to:* Festus, Missouri, a town in the United States*Festus, a poem by the English poet Philip James Bailey*Drew Hankinson, professional wrestler...

, Florus
Florus
Florus, Roman historian, lived in the time of Trajan and Hadrian.He compiled, chiefly from Livy, a brief sketch of the history of Rome from the foundation of the city to the closing of the temple of Janus by Augustus . The work, which is called Epitome de T...

, Granius Licinianus
Granius Licinianus
Granius Licinianus was a Roman author of historical and encyclopedic works that survive only in fragments. He most likely lived at the time of Hadrian.-History:...

 and Orosius. Julius Obsequens used Livy, or a source with access to Livy, to compose his De Prodigiis, an account of supernatural
Supernatural
The supernatural or is that which is not subject to the laws of nature, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature...

 events in Rome, from the consulship of Scipio
Scipio
-Classical:* Scipio, a representation of the Cornelii Scipiones, branch of the illustrious Cornelii family from Ancient Rome.* Scipio Africanus, Roman general who defeated Hannibal at Zama, the final battle of the Second Punic War....

 and Laelius
Laelius
Laelius is a personal name and can refer to:*Gaius Laelius, a Roman statesman, who was consul in 190 BC and friend of Scipio Africanus*Gaius Laelius Sapiens , a Roman statesman, son of the above, who was consul in 140 BC, and was friend to Scipio's adoptive grandson Scipio Aemilianus*Laelius de...

 to that of Paulus Fabius and Quintus Aelius.

Livy wrote during the reign of Augustus, who came to power after a civil war with generals and consuls claiming to be defending the Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

, such as Pompey
Pompey
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, also known as Pompey or Pompey the Great , was a military and political leader of the late Roman Republic...

. Patavium had been pro-Pompey. To clarify his status, the victor of the civil war, Octavian Caesar, had wanted to take the title Romulus (the first king of Rome) but in the end accepted the senate proposal of Augustus. He did not abolish the republic de facto but adapted its institutions into the empire.

Livy's enthusiasm for the republic is evident from the first pentade of his work, and yet the Julio-Claudian family (the imperial family) were as much fans of Livy as anyone. He could not have been an advocate of any sort of sedition in favor of restoring the Republic; he would have been put on trial for treason and executed, as many had been and would be. He must have been viewed as a harmless and relevant advocate of the ancient morality, which was a known public stance of the citizens of Patavium. His relationship to Augustus is defined primarily by a passage from Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

 in which Cremutius Cordus is put on trial for his life for offenses no worse than Livy's and defends himself face-to-face with the frowning Tiberius as follows:
"I am said to have praised Brutus and Cassius, whose careers many have described and no one mentioned without eulogy. Titus Livius, pre-eminently famous for eloquence and truthfulness, extolled Cneius Pompeius in such a panegyric that Augustus called him Pompeianus, and yet this was no obstacle to their friendship.

To avoid conviction, while waiting for a verdict Cordus committed suicide by self-starvation. His worst fears were realized in absentia: his books were sentenced to be burned by the aedile
Aedile
Aedile was an office of the Roman Republic. Based in Rome, the aediles were responsible for maintenance of public buildings and regulation of public festivals. They also had powers to enforce public order. There were two pairs of aediles. Two aediles were from the ranks of plebeians and the other...

s, but they performed the task without zeal and many escaped. Livy's reasons for returning to Padua after the death of Augustus (if he did) are unclear, but the circumstances of Tiberius' reign certainly allow for speculation.

Later


During the Middle Ages interest in Livy declined. Due to the length of the work the literate class were already reading summaries rather than the work itself, which was tedious to copy, expensive, and required a lot of storage space. It must have been during this period, if not before, that manuscripts began to be lost without replacement.

The Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 was a time of intense revival; the population discovered that Livy was being lost and large amounts of money changed hands in the rush to collect Livy manuscripts. The poet Beccadelli sold a country home for the money to purchase one manuscript copied by Poggio. Petrarch
Petrarch
Francesco Petrarca , known in English as Petrarch, was an Italian scholar, poet and one of the earliest humanists. Petrarch is often called the "Father of Humanism"...

 and Pope Nicholas V
Pope Nicholas V
Pope Nicholas V , born Tommaso Parentucelli, was Pope from March 6, 1447 to his death in 1455.-Biography:He was born at Sarzana, Liguria, where his father was a physician...

 launched a search for the now missing books. Laurentius Valla published an emended text initiating the field of Livy scholarship. Dante
DANTE
Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe is a not-for-profit organisation that plans, builds and operates the international networks that interconnect the various national research and education networks in Europe and surrounding regions...

 speaks highly of him in his poetry, and Francis I of France
Francis I of France
Francis I was King of France from 1515 until his death. During his reign, huge cultural changes took place in France and he has been called France's original Renaissance monarch...

 commissioned extensive artwork treating Livian themes; Niccolò Machiavelli
Niccolò Machiavelli
Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was an Italian historian, philosopher, humanist, and writer based in Florence during the Renaissance. He is one of the main founders of modern political science. He was a diplomat, political philosopher, playwright, and a civil servant of the Florentine Republic...

's work on republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

s, the Discourses on Livy
Discourses on Livy
The Discourses on Livy is a work of political history and philosophy written in the early 16th century by the Italian writer and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli, best known as the author of The Prince...

is presented as a commentary on the History of Rome. Respect for Livy rose to lofty heights.

After a few hundred years of Livy being studied by the youth of every Western population, moderns have developed their own views of Livy and his place in the ancient world, which were not current in ancient times. For example, one text on western civilization pronounces: "Livy was the prose counterpart of Vergil
Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...

", as both have been standard in the study of Golden Age Latin literature. Golden Age Latin was not known as such in classical times and the ancient reader could choose from a vastly larger bibliography; but in fact, private reading was a privilege of the literate few, who had the wealth to buy manuscripts or have them copied and had the time for library research. Public readings of works, however, were common and were the main way in which an author became known.

Dates


The authority supplying information from which possible vital data on Livy can be deduced is Eusebius of Caesaria, an early Christian-era bishop. One of his works was a summary of world history in ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

, termed the Chronikon
Chronicon (Eusebius)
The Chronicon or Chronicle was a work in two books by Eusebius of Caesarea. It seems to have been compiled in the early 4th century. It contained a world chronicle from Abraham until the vicennalia of Constantine I in 325 AD...

, dating from the early 4th century. This work was lost except for fragments (mainly excerpts), but not before it had been translated in whole and in part by various authors such as St. Jerome. The entire work survives in Armenian
Armenian language
The Armenian language is an Indo-European language spoken by the Armenian people. It is the official language of the Republic of Armenia as well as in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The language is also widely spoken by Armenian communities in the Armenian diaspora...

. St. Jerome wrote in Latin. Fragments in Syriac exist.

Eusebius' work consists of two books, the Chronographia, a summary of history in annalist form, and the Chronikoi Kanones, tables of years and events. St. Jerome translated the tables into Latin as the Chronicon
Chronicon (Jerome)
The Chronicle was a universal chronicle, one of Jerome's earliest attempts in the department of history...

, probably adding some information of his own from unknown sources. Livy's dates appear in Jerome's Chronicon.

The main problem with the information given in the MSS
Manuscript
A manuscript or handwrite is written information that has been manually created by someone or some people, such as a hand-written letter, as opposed to being printed or reproduced some other way...

 is that between them they often give different dates for the same events or different events, do not include the same material entirely and reformat what they do include. A date may be in Ab urbe condita or in Olympiad
Olympiad
An Olympiad is a period of four years, associated with the Olympic Games of Classical Greece. In the Hellenistic period, beginning with Ephorus, Olympiads were used as calendar epoch....

s or in some other form, such as age. These variations may have occurred through scribal error or scribal license. Some material has been inserted under the aegis of Eusebius.

The topic of manuscript variants is a large and specialized one, on which authors of works on Livy seldom care to linger. As a result standard information in a standard rendition is used, which gives the impression of a standard set of dates for Livy. There are no such dates. A typical presumption is of a birth in the 2nd year of the 180th Olympiad and a death in the first year of the 199th Olympiad, which are coded 180.2 and 199.1 respectively. All sources use the same first Olympiad, 776/775-773/772 BC by the modern calendar. By a complex formula (made so by the 0 reference point not falling on the border of an Olympiad) these codes correspond to 59 BC for the birth, 17 AD for the death. In another manuscript the birth is in 180.4, or 57 BC.

Jerome says that Livy was born the same year as Marcus Valerius Messala Corvinus and died the same year as Ovid
Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

. Messala, however, was born earlier, in 64 BC, and Ovid's death, usually taken to be the same year as Livy's, is more uncertain. As an alternative view, Ronald Syme
Ronald Syme
Sir Ronald Syme, OM, FBA was a New Zealand-born historian and classicist. Long associated with Oxford University, he is widely regarded as the 20th century's greatest historian of ancient Rome...

 argues for 64 BC-12 AD as a range for Livy, setting the death of Ovid at 12. A death date of 12, however, removes Livy from Augustus' best years and makes him depart for Padua without the good reason of the second emperor, Tiberius, being not as tolerant of his republicanism. The contradiction remains.

Additional reading

Also in .

External links