Blog, Historiography

Titus Livy (59 BCE-17 ce)

Titus Livy National historian of Rome

Livy, considered as the nationalist historian of Rome, was born at Padua and was a contemporary of Emperor Augustus Caesar. Wealthy and learned, he developed an aversion for public career and decided to seek a scholastic life at the imperial city. The glorious ascendancy of Rome in the great struggle against the formidable powers of Europe exercised an abiding influence upon Livy.

Livy cherished an ambition to preserve the glory of his land for the benefit of posterity. He stated in the preface to his work: ‘ I wish to write the history of the Roman people from the foundation of city to my own times’ and gave the title From the Foundation of the City to the history of Rome.

In this voluminous work he narrated the history of Rome from its foundation by 753 BCE to the death of Drusus in 9 CE. The entire work was divided into 142 books but only 35 of them have survived in full. Fragments of some of the other books were traced while the rest were lost.

Livy’s History of Rome represented his life work. His approach was humanistic, for he dealt with the human beings, their life and manners and incorporated detailed accounts about wars, treaties and colonies. As a philosophical historian, he cherished the idea that history should be didactic- it should inculcate private virtue and public morality.

Though he was noted for his intellectual honesty and impartiality, his treatment of source material was haphazard. When there were two versions, he accepted what was probable and what appeared best suited for the scheme of his history, without making any attempt to substantiate his preference. Inaccuracy in geography and inadequacy in his knowledge of figures and military science too eroded the quality of his work.

Besides, as some of the other historians, Livy approached history as a subject suited for rhetorical expositions and as an art. He gave importance to a flowing style and aimed at a pleasingly expressed narration rather than a minute inquire and critical analysis.

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