Authors: Livy

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Roman historian

Author Works


Ab urbe condita libri, C. 26 B.C.E.-15 C.E. (The History of Rome, 1600)


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.{$I[AN]9810000506}{$I[A]Livy}{$S[A]Titus Livius;Livy}{$I[geo]ROMAN EMPIRE;Livy}{$I[tim]0059 b.c.e.;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.

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 contents of Livy’s history and emphasizes his historiographical methods and aims, concluding that Livy deserves credit as a great historian.Kraus, C. S., and A. J. Woodman. Latin Historians. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. Assesses the historiography of Livy, Sallust, and Tacitus.Laistner, M. L. W. “Livy, the Man and the Writer” and “Livy, the Historian.” In The Greater Roman Historians. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966. A detailed treatment of Livy as an adherent of a Stoic view of history in which religious signs were considered valid.Mansfield, Harvey Claflin. Machiavelli’s New Modes and Orders: A Study of the Discourses on Livy. 1979. Reprint. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001. Machiavelli’s reading of Livy is surveyed.Mathes, Melissa M. The Rape of Lucretia and the Founding of Republics: Readings in Livy, Machiavelli, and Rousseau. State Park: State University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001. Studies the way in which republican theorists of three different eras and nationalities use the story of the rape of Lucretia to support their theories of republicanism.Miles, Gary. Livy: Reconstructing Early Rome. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1995. Critical analysis of Livy’s literary methods in writing history.Walsh, P. G. Livy: His Historical Aims and Methods. 2d ed. Bristol, England: Bristol Classics, 1981. Livy’s historiographical methods are examined, focusing on his religious, philosophical, and moral ideology.
Categories: Authors