Livy is chronicling the first history of Rome of its kind. His approach to this chronicle of Rome’s early history is more focused on the individual characters involved and the morality of their choices. He writes that he invites the reader to consider “the kind of lives our ancestors lived” and in doing so see “the sinking of the foundations of morality” (Livy 30). His detailed, people-centered approach was different from how other historians wrote about Rome, which tended to focus more on political and philosophical themes.
Livy’s moral pessimism may seem to oppose his glorification of the empire’s achievements. After all, he highlights its moral decline yet calls it “the greatest nation in the world” (29). However, he explains that as a historian he must study the morality of the past because it reflects the complexity of human experience.
Because Livy’s history focuses less on political critiques and functions more as an examination of ancient Roman morals, his history is more accurate than previous ones. For example, several previous historians, such as Licinius Macer, edited some of the history to fit a political agenda.
The clarification of fact is especially evident when Livy discusses the foundation of Rome. One of the most famous ancient myths is Rome’s foundation myth. The story goes that a wolf raised two human sons, Romulus and Remus, and the sons decided to establish Rome on the spot where the wolf cared for them. Livy begins his history by explaining several theories about the early settlement of the city, all rooted in Greek history and mythology (Livy 33-34). This suggests that previous foundation myths about Rome were actually adaptations of preexisting Greek legends.