(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)


A provincial free of cynicism, Livy (LIHV-ee) held a fervent, patriotic belief that virtue was the foundation of Roman greatness. This sentimental admiration for the past gained him entrance into the literary circle fostered by the emperor Augustus. In keeping with imperial ambitions, Livy worked to fashion a monumental history that was worthy of Rome’s glorious achievements. The result, Ab urbe condita libre (c. 26 b.c.e.-15 c.e.; The History of Rome, 1600), contained 142 books that chronicled Roman history from 753 to 9 b.c.e. Thirty-five books survive. Books 1-10 record remembrances beginning at the legendary foundation of Rome and ending with the Third Samnite War. Books 21-45 cover the period from the Second Punic War through the wars of the early second century to 167 b.c.e. Unlike previous historians, Livy was not a man of action. He held no public position and worked largely in isolation, compiling and organizing the personalities, morals, and means through which the Roman people came to be.


Livy was the greatest of the annalistic historians, perfecting the rhetorical, year-by-year chronicles that were Roman history. His early books became the prose epic of Rome, ranking him with Vergil as the creator of Roman identity. Very popular in his own time, Livy was essential reading during the Renaissance. However, his uncritical use of sources damages his reputation today.

Further Reading:

Chaplin, Jane D. Livy’s Exemplary...

(The entire section is 636 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Further Reading:

Chaplin, Jane D. Livy’s Exemplary History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. Uses techniques of literary criticism to assess Livy’s historiography.

Duff, John W. “Augustan Prose and Livy.” In A Literary History of Rome: From the Origins to the Close of the Golden Age. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1960. A brief but good analysis of Livy and other literary figures of the age of Augustus, with special emphasis on the Ciceronian literary style of Livy.

Feldherr, Andrew. Spectacle and Society in Livy’s History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. Feldherr’s analysis of several episodes in Livy’s history shows how Livy uses specific visual imagery to give his reader the sense of being a participant in the events described.

Frank, Tenney. “Republican Historiography and Livy.” In Life and Literature in the Roman Republic. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971. An excellent summary and analysis of Livy’s predecessors in writing Roman history. Special emphasis is placed on archaeological discoveries that have confirmed some of the early legends about the founding of Rome mentioned by Livy.

Grant, Michael. “Livy.” In The Ancient Historians. London: Duckworth, 1995. Grant summarizes the...

(The entire section is 410 words.)