Titus Livius Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Titus Livius, or Livy (LIHV-ee), the greatest prose writer of the Augustan Age, was born of a noble family and spent most of his life in Rome. He had a son and a daughter. A student of rhetoric, he admired Demosthenes and Cicero and adapted the oratorical style to his narration, with an added touch of poetry.{$S[A]Titus Livius;Livy}

Livy’s purpose being “[t]o do my duty to the memory of the deeds of the most important people on earth,” he wrote The History of Rome (also known as Annals of the Roman People) in 142 books, covering eight centuries from the time of Romulus and Remus (753 b.c.e.) to the death of young Drusus, brother of Emperor Tiberius, in 9 b.c.e. Livy sets out to glorify the achievements of the Roman people; his history is pervaded by examples of traditional Roman virtues such as patriotism, courage, and self-sacrifice. Apparently the history was intended to be issued in installments, since there are prefaces at four intervals in the work. Though only books 1-10 and 21-45 still exist, fragments of the other volumes and their summaries in epitome give a good idea of the general scope and content of the whole work.

Livy gathered material from many ancient Greek and Roman sources, but he confessed: “I neither affirm nor deny the traditions engendered by poets.” Certainly the accuracy of the details is often dubious, and the variety of his sources resulted in some inconsistencies. However, Livy wrote with the enthusiasm of a patriotic Roman, and though the nineteenth century English chronicler Thomas Macaulay complained that no other historian had ever showed “so complete an indifference to truth,” his vivid descriptions and swift narrative still provide good reading.