Livy

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Bust of Livy
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Bust of Livy

Titus Livius (around 59 BC - 17 AD), known as Livy in English, wrote a monumental history of Rome, Ab Urbe Condita, from its founding (traditionally dated to 753 BC). Livy was a native of Padua on the Po River in northern Italy.

Life and works

The book's title, Ab Urbe Condita ("From the Founding of the City"), makes Livy's ambition clear, but not his method. He wrote in a mixture of annual chronology and narrative—often having to interrupt a story to announce the elections of new consuls at Rome for dating purposes. A lack of historical data prior to the sacking of Rome in 386 BC by the Gauls made Livy's task more difficult.

Livy wrote the majority of his works during the reign of Caesar Augustus. However, he is often identified with an attachment to the Roman Republic and a desire for its restoration. Since the later books discussing the end of the Republic and the rise of Augustus did not survive, this is a moot point. Certainly Livy questioned some of the values of the new regime but it is likely that his position was more complex than a simple 'republic/empire' preference.

Livy's work was originally composed of 142 books, of which only 35 are extant; these are 1-10, and 21-45 (with major lacunae in 40-45). A fragmentary palimpsest of the 91st book was discovered in the Vatican Library 1772. Some idea of the contents of the remaining books can be gleaned from a thin epitome, the Periochae, and an epitome of books 37-40 and 48-55 uncovered at Oxyrhynchus. A number of Roman authors used Livy, including Aurelius Victor, Cassiodorus, Eutropius, Festus, Florus, Granius Licinianus and Orosius. Julius Obsequens used Livy, or a source with access to Livy, to compose his De Prodigiis, an account of supernatural events in Rome, from the consulship of Scipio and Laelius (A.U.C. 453) to that of Paulus Fabius and Quintus Aelius (A.U.C. 742).

A digression in book 9, sections 17-19, of this history of Rome, suggests that the Romans would have beaten Alexander the Great if he lived longer and turned west to attack the Romans, making this the oldest known alternative history.

External links and references

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