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Titus Livius, the celebrated Roman historian, was born at Patavium, (59 B.C.), apparently of good family. He was carefully educated, and betook himself early (certainly before 31 B.C.) to Rome, where he soon became acquainted with the most distinguished men of the time. Even Augustus entertained friendly relations towards him in spite of his openly expressed republican convictions, for which he called him a partisan of Pompey. He does not seem to have taken public office, but to have lived exclusively for literature. Esteemed by his contemporaries, he died in his native town in 17 A.D. He must have begun his great historical work between 27 and 25 B.C.; it can only have been completed shortly before his death, as he did not publish the first twenty-one books until after the death of Augustus (14 A.D.). He recounts the history of Rome in 142 books, extending from the foundation of the city (whence the title Ab Urbe Condita libri) to the death of Drusus (9 A.D.). His own death must have prevented its continuation to the death of Augustus, as he doubtless proposed. He published his work from time to time, in separate parts. He arranged his material--at least for the first ninety books--as far as possible in decads (portions consisting of ten books), and half-decads; the division into decade was however first carried through in the 5th century, probably for convenience of handling so vast a series of books. There still remain only the first decad (to 293 B.C.), the third, fourth, and half of the fifth decad (218-167); of the remainder, with the exception of a fairly large portion of book 91, only inconsiderable fragments. We also possess from an unknown pen, summaries (periochoe) of all the books except 136 and 137, and a scanty extract from the account of the portents (prodigia), which appeared in 249 B.C. and following year; this is by a certain Iulius Obsequens, and perhaps dates from the 4th century. Livy's importance rests more on the magnitude of his patriotic undertaking and the style of his narrative than upon his thoroughness as a historic inquirer. His preliminary studies were inadequate, and his knowledge of Roman law, and still more of the military system of Rome, was insufficient. He was content to select what seemed to him the most probable and reasonable statement from the authorities which happened to be familiar and accessible to him, without regard to completeness, and without severely scrutinising their value,--a method which necessarily led to numerous inaccuracies and serious errors. Primarily, his great aim was not critical research into the history of his country. He desired rather by a lively and brilliant narrative, which should satisfy the more exacting taste of the time, to rekindle the flagging patriotism of his countrymen, and to raise his politically and socially degraded contemporaries to the level of their ancestors' exploits. And his narrative in fact deserves the fullest admiration, especially for its descriptions of events and the actors in them, and for the speeches which are inserted in the work. The latter show his rhetorical training in all its brilliance. His language is choice and tasteful, although in details it marks a decline from the strictly classical standard. Asinius Pollio, in allusion to the author's birthplace, charged it with a certain patavinitas. This can only mean a provincial departure from the peculiar language of the metropolis, which is to us no longer perceptible. Livy's work enjoyed the greatest renown down to the latest days of Roman literature, and has been the great mine of information for knowledge of the past to all succeeding generations.
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