Titus Livius (traditionally 59 BC – AD 17 [Ronald Syme, following G. M. Hirst, has argued for 64 BC–AD 12] ), known as Livy in English, was a Roman historian who wrote a monumental history of Rome, "Ab Urbe Condita", from its founding (traditionally dated to 753 BC) through the reign of Augustus in Livy's own time.

Life and works

Livy was born in "Patavium", the modern Padua. The title of his most famous work, "Ab Urbe Condita" ("From the Founding of the City"), expresses the scope and magnitude of Livy's undertaking. He wrote in a mixture of annual chronology and narrative—often having to interrupt a story to announce the elections of new consuls as this was the way that the Romans kept track of the years. Livy claims that lack of historical data prior to the sacking of Rome in 387 BC by the Gauls made his task more difficult. [Many modern historians do not think there were actually many records to lose at this early point.Facts|date=February 2007]

Livy wrote the majority of his works during the reign of 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. Augustus does not seem to have held these views against Livy, and entrusted his great-nephew, the future emperor Claudius, to his tutelage. His effect on Claudius was apparent during the latter's reign, as the emperor's oratory closely adheres to Livy's account of Roman history.

Livy's writing style was poetic and archaic in contrast to Caesar's and Cicero's styles. Also, he often wrote from the Romans' opponent's point of view in order to accent the Romans' virtues in their conquest of Italy and the Mediterranean. In keeping with his poetic tendencies, he did little to distinguish between fact and fiction. Although he frequently plagiarized previous authors, he hoped that moral lessons from the past would serve to advance the Roman society of his day.

Livy's work was originally composed of 142 books, of which only 35 are extant; these are Books 1–10 and 21–45 (with major "lacunae" in 41 and 43–45). A fragmentary palimpsest of the 91st book was discovered in the Vatican Library in 1772, containing about a thousand words, and several papyrus fragments of previously unknown material, much smaller, have been found in Egypt since 1900, most recently about forty words from Book 11, unearthed in the 1980s. Livy was abridged, in antiquity, to an epitome, which survives for Book 1, but was itself abridged into the so-called "Periochae", which is simply a list of contents, but which survives. An epitome of Books 37–40 and 48–55 was also uncovered at Oxyrhynchus. So we have some idea of the topics Livy covered in the lost books, if often not what he said about them.

His sources include the annalists, including Quintus Fabius Pictor, Quintus Claudius Quadrigarius, Sempronius Asellio and Valerius Antias, but for events in the east of the Roman Empire also the Greek historian Polybius.

In turn, 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 to that of Paulus Fabius and Quintus Aelius. A digression in Book 9, Sections 17–19, 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 alternate history. [cite book | last = Dozois | first = Gardner | authorlink = Gardner Dozois | coauthors = Stanley Schmidt | title = Roads Not Taken: Tales of Alternate History | publisher = Del Rey | date = 1998 | location = New York | pages = 1-5 | isbn = 0345421949]


Livy's work met with instant acclaim. His books were published in sets of ten, although when entirely completed, his whole work was available for sale in its entirety. His highly literary approach to his historical writing renders his works very entertaining, and they remained constantly popular from his own day, through the Middle Ages, and into the modern world. Dante speaks highly of him in his poetry, and Francis I of France commissioned extensive artwork treating Livian themes; Niccolò Machiavelli's work on republics, the "Discourses on Livy" is presented as a commentary on the "History of Rome". That he was chosen by Rome's first emperor to be the private tutor to his eventual successor indicates Livy's renown as a great writer and sage. As topics from his history appear to have been used for writing topics in Roman schools, it is more than likely that his works, or sections, were used as textbooks. The two ten-book sets that remained popular throughout the millennia are the first ten books, describing the founding of Rome and its conquest of Italy, and the third set of ten books (XXI to XXX) recounting the war with Hannibal, which he himself indicates is his greatest theme. He can be looked upon as the prose counterpart of Vergil in Golden Age Latin literature.


Many of Livy's comments on Roman politics seem surprisingly modern today. For example, he wrote (of the year 445 BC):

References and further reading

* Burck, E (1934), Die Erzählungskunst des T. Livius (Berlin)
* Chaplin, J (2000), Livy's Exemplary History (Oxford)
* Ed. Hornblower, Simon, and Antony Spawforth (2003), The Oxford Classical Dictionary (Oxford)
* Feldherr, A (1998), Spectacle and Society in Livy's History (Berkeley and London)
* Jaeger, M (1997), Livy's Written Rome (Ann Arbor)
* Kamm, Antony (1995), The Romans (London)
* Kraus, C S and Woodman, A J (1997), Latin Historians (Oxford)
* Lipovsky, James P (1984), A Historiographical Study of Livy: Books VI-X
* Luce, T J (1977), Livy: The Composition of his History (Princeton)
* Mackail, J.W. (1895), Latin Literature (New York)
* Miles, Gary B. "Livy: Reconstructing Early Rome". Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997 (paperback, ISBN 0-8014-8426-X).
* Oakley, S P (1996-2005), A Commentary on Livy, Books VI-X, 4 vols. (Oxford)
* Ogilvie, R M (1965), A Commentary on Livy Books 1 to 5 (Oxford)


External links

Primary sources
* [ Ab Urbe Condita (Latin)]
* [ The History of Rome]

** [ Roman History, Books I-III]
** [ The History of Rome, Books 09 to 26]
** [ The History of Rome, Books 27 to 36] Secondary sources
* [ Livy]

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  • LIVY° — (Titus Livius; 59 B.C.E.–17 C.E.), Roman historian who mentioned Jews at least twice in his writings. He records that until the capture of the Temple in Jerusalem by Pompey (63 B.C.E.), the sanctuary had never been violated (Epitome, book 102).… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Livy — [liv′ē] (L. name Titus Livius) 59 B.C. A.D. 17; Rom. historian …   English World dictionary

  • Livy — /liv ee/, n. (Titus Livius) 59 B.C. A.D. 17, Roman historian. * * * orig. Titus Livius born 59/64 BC, Patavium, Venetia died AD 17, Patavium Roman historian. Little is known of his life, most of which must have been spent in Rome. His lifework… …   Universalium

  • Livy Wijemanne — Infobox Person name = Livy Wijemanne image size = caption = birth name = birth date = 1917 birth place = Sri Lanka death date = Sunday 24th November, 2002 death place = Colombo death cause = resting place = resting place coordinates = residence …   Wikipedia

  • Livy — biographical name 59 b.c. a.d. 17 Titus Livius Roman historian …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Livy — noun Titus Livius, a Roman historian …   Wiktionary

  • Livy — Liv|y (59 BC AD 17) a Roman historian known for his very large history of Rome, which greatly influenced historical writing. His Latin name was Titus Livius …   Dictionary of contemporary English

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  • Livy — n. Titus Livius (59 BC AD 17), Roman historian who wrote monumental history of Rome in 142 volumes as from its founding in 753 BC …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Livy — Liv•y [[t]ˈlɪv i[/t]] n. anh big (Titus Livius) 59 b.c. – a.d. 17, Roman historian …   From formal English to slang

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