Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Titus Livius Patavinus (named for his birthplace, Padua) was originally a teacher of rhetoric and apparently, from casual references in his writing, a friend of the emperor Augustus. Perhaps the emperor, as part of his program to glorify Rome, suggested that Livy stop teaching and write a history of the city. The project represented a challenge. His only sources were traditions, the official temple annals listing the consuls and the chief events of each year, and personal records, frequently exaggerated, kept by the famous families. In The History of Rome, Livy attempts to narrate the history of nearly eight centuries, from the time of Romulus and Remus to the reign of Tiberius. The work comprised 142 books, of which barely a quarter have been preserved: books 1-10 and 21-45, along with some fragments of several others. Even so, this material is enough to fill six volumes in one English translation and thirteen in another.
Like Herodotus, Livy was always attracted to a colorful story. Thomas Macaulay declared in disgust: “No historian with whom we are acquainted has shown so complete indifference to the truth.” A truthful chronicle probably was not what Livy set out to produce. In addition to his patriotic duty, he wanted by his dramatic power and the charm of his style to impress the sophisticated readers of Rome. Accuracy came second. He was no soldier in his battles, no statesman in recording the problems of government; even as a...
(The entire section is 1328 words.)
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