Characters

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 380

Livy's The History of Rome covers such an immense period of time—over eight centuries—that there are a huge number of characters who play major roles. We can identify a few of them that he spends the most time on, however.

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At the commencement of his story, Livy introduces us to the mythical brothers who founded Rome: Romulus and Remus, the legends who were suckled by a she-wolf from birth. Livy gives us a number of anecdotes about their birth, growth, and return to Roman society, as well as the circumstances that caused Romulus to murder his brother, Remus.

Livy proceeds next to discuss the kings of Rome, and no king is more important than the last king, Tarquin, who so enrages the nobility of the Romans that they rise up against him. They are led by Brutus, an ancestor of the Brutus who famously assassinated Julius Caesar (the two men's connection to destroying a tyrant is a common theme when historians write about them). The historical Brutus was enraged because Tarquin's son raped a noblewoman named Lucretia, who took her own life out of shame. The overthrow of Tarquin ended the Roman kingdom and established the Roman Republic.

Perhaps the most famous character of the Roman Republic was the noble dictator named Cincinnatus. While the word "dictator" has a negative connotation today, in ancient Rome, it was an honorable but temporary office given at certain moments. Cincinnatus was a shining example of this honor: while plowing his fields, he was called to defend Rome against the Aequi tribes. After defeating the foe, he gladly gave up the supreme power of dictator and returned to his farm.

Next, Livy details the great fight with Rome's greatest enemy, Hannibal of Carthage. Hannibal was one of the greatest generals in history and nearly defeated the Romans long before they had formed an empire. Livy details Hannibal's campaigns in the Second Punic War as well as the counter-actions taken by the Roman general who ultimately defeated him, Scipio Africanus.

Many of the books of The History of Rome written about the next period of time have been lost. The remainder of the surviving books deal with the collapse of the Republic and include figures like Sulla, the Graechi brothers, and Caesar himself.

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