Page from a 15th c. Italian manuscript of Livy

Page from a 15th c. Italian manuscript of Livy

This page is designed to provide a brief introduction to the Roman Historian Livy, and to provide tools for further research on his History, Ab Urbe Condita (From the Founding of the City). Click on any of the following topics to explore them further.

1. Biography of Livy

2. Timeline of Livy's History

3. Modern Scholarly Views of Livy's History (a brief selection).

4. Texts of Livy's History.

5. Selected Bibliography of modern scholarship on Livy

6. Links to Other On-Line Resources for Livy

1. Biography of Titus Livius (Livy), c. 59 BC - AD 17.

Not many details are known about Livy's life. He was born about 59 BC in Patavium (modern Padua) in Northern Italy, where he spent the early part of his life. He is said to have written philosophical dialogues in his youth (Elder Seneca, Controversiae 10 Praef. 2), but his fame rests on his 142 book history of Rome, called Ab Urbe Condita (From the Founding of the City), which he began to write around 29 BC, after he had moved to Rome. As far as we know, Livy never held public office nor played a role in public life. Livy was acquainted with the emperor Augustus, but scholars debate the extent to which they shared common goals. The later Roman historian Tacitus (Annals 4. 34) reports that Augustus called Livy a "Pompeian", i.e. thought that he had Republican sympathies. We also hear that Livy encouraged the future emperor Claudius in his historical studies (Suetonius, Life of Claudius 41). He published his history of Rome in installments, working on it for most of his life. He lived three years longer than Augustus, dying in AD 17 in his native Patavium.

2. Timeline of Livy's History
  (special emphasis given to Books 1, 2, and 5)


Livy, Book 1

c. 1184      Fall of Troy; beginning of Aeneas' wanderings
c. 1176      Aeneas founds Lavinium
c. 1152      Aeneas' son Ascanius founds Alba Longa
c. 1152-753   Period of kings at Alba Longa
  753       Traditional date of founding of Rome by Romulus and Remus
  753-509    Period of kings at Rome
c. 753-715    Romulus
c. 715-673    Numa Pompilius
c. 673-642    Tullus Hostilius
c. 642-617    Ancus Marcius
c. 616-579    L. Tarquinius Priscus
c. 578-535    Servius Tullius
c. 534-510    L. Tarquinius Superbus

Livy, Book 2

  509       Foundation of the Republic (consuls replace king); first treaty with Carthage
c. 506       Horatius Cocles at the Bridge
c. 506       Mucius Scaevola and Cloelia perform acts of heroism
c. 496       Romans defeat Latins at the Battle of Lake Regillus
  494       Conflict of the Orders begins (struggle between the patricians and plebeians)

Livy, Book 3

  450       Twelve Tables (Roman laws written down by committee of 10)

Livy, Book 5

  405-396    Seige and capture of Veii, an Etruscan town and Rome's chief rival
  390       Gauls sack Rome
c. 386       Camillus helps Romans defeat Gauls; called a second Romulus

Roman History after Livy, Book 5

  340       Latin War; Latin League dissolved
  327-304    Romans fight the Samnites of Central Italy
  280-275    Romans defeat Pyrrhus, general helping Greek cities of Southern Italy
  272       Tarentum (in Southern Italy) surrenders to Rome
  264       First gladiatorial show at Rome; Roman army enters Sicily, fights Carthaginians.
  264-241    First Punic War (War with Carthage)
  227       Sicily and Sardinia are made the first Roman provinces
  218-201    Second Punic War (Rome vs. Carthage); Hannibal invades Italy
  202       Roman general Scipio defeats Hannibal at battle of Zama; Carthage dependent of Rome
  202-191    Romans conquer Cisalpine Gaul (= Northern Italy)
  197-133    Rome fights wars in Spain
  133       Tiberius Gracchus is tribune at Rome; Rome gains province of Asia
  121       Gallia Narbonensis (Southern France) becomes a Roman province
  107-100    Gaius Marius consul 6 times, reforms the army
  100       Julius Caesar born
  91-88      Rome fights war with its Italian allies (the Social War)
  88        Roman general Sulla marches on Rome
  83-82      Sulla returns to Rome; civil war
  73-71      Spartacus leads slave revolt in Italy
  60        First Triumvirate (Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus form coalition to run government)
  59       Livy born in Patavium (Padua) in Northern Italy
  58-49      Caesar leads military campaigns in Gaul
  49        Civil War between Caesar and Pompey (Caesar defeats Pompey in 48)
  47-44      Dictatorship of Julius Caesar; Caesar murdered on the Ides of March, 44.
  43        Second Triumvirate (Octavian, Antony, and Lepidus)
  31        Octavian defeats Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium
  29       Livy begins to write his history at Rome
  27        Octavian takes name of Augustus; "restores the republic"
  19        Vergil dies, leaving Aeneid almost complete
  27-AD14  Augustus first Roman emperor
  9         Ara Pacis (Altar of Peace) dedicated at Rome


 c. 2        Ovid begins the Metamorphoses
  14        Augustus' Res Gestae published after his death
  14-37      Tiberius emperor
  17        Livy dies in Patavium (Padua)

3. Some Modern Views of Livy.

Modern scholars have disagreed about what Livy's goals are for writing his History, and how successfully he accomplished them. Here are some representative quotations from influential studies of Livy. Works cited are listed in the Bibliography below.

A. Livy as a Historian (Collingwood 1946: 43-44)

Livy set himself the task of writing a history of Rome. Now a modern historian would have interpreted this as meaning a history of how Rome came to be what it is, a history of the process which brought into existence the characteristic Roman institutions and moulded the typical Roman character. It never occurs to Livy to adopt any such interpretation. Rome is the heroine of his narrative. Rome is the agent whose actions he is describing. Therefore Rome is a substance, changeless and eternal. From the beginning of the narrative Rome is ready-made and complete. To the end of the narrative she has undergone no spiritual change.

B. Livy's Use of Sources (Walsh 1961: 141)

Above all, in considering Livy's choice of sources, one should remember that he is not an original researcher; his aim was to encase reliable facts ascertained by others in a worthy literary framework. One can condemn his lack of historical sense in failing to approach directly the documentary and earliest literary evidence; but one can also applaud the astute choice of sources which were the best available for his literary and patriotic approach, and which were also easily accessible and easily read.

C. Livy as a Historian: Contra Collingwood (Luce 1977: 238)

The remarkable aspect of Livy's account of the Regal Period [Livy, Book I] is not its lack of historical merit but the striving to lend the material as much historicity as possible. The central theme of his narrative is that the growth of Rome and the genesis of her institutions was a gradual, piecemeal process that took many centuries.

D. Livy's Goals as a Historian (Miles 1995: 74)

All this is not to say that Livy's critics have been altogether wrong when they castigate him for being careless and indifferent in his analysis of historical evidence. Rather they have in an important sense missed the point of Livy's text; they have been evaluating it by a standard that the text itself not only dismisses but even seeks to discredit, and they have failed to appreciate the positive functions that displays of analytical confusion perform in their immediate contexts and in the larger context of the narrative as a whole....History in this version remains useful not because it represents accurate reconstructions of past events that can serve as analogies in the present but rather because it perpetuates and interprets the collective memory on which the identity and character of the Roman people depend. This is not the only kind of history, to be sure, but one particularly well suited to a society that regulated itself less by a body of written law than by stories, examples, and wisdom transmitted through a rich array of oral traditions that had only recently begun to be reduced to writing.

4. Texts of Livy's History.

A. Latin Text of Livy's History.

Text of Livy's History from Perseus.

B. A literal English translation of parts of Livy's History.

From Perseus.

5. Selected Bibliography of modern scholarship on Livy

Dorey, T.A., Latin Historians. London, 1966.
Dorey, T.A., Livy. London, 1971.
Edwards, C. Writing Rome: Textual Approaches to the City. Cambridge, 1996.
Grant, M. The Ancient Historians. London, 1970.
Gries, K. "Livy's Use of Dramatic Speech." American Journal of Philology 70 (1949) 118-141.
Haley, S. P. "Livy, Passion, and Cultural Stereotypes." Historia 39 (1990) 375-381.
Jaeger, M.K. "Custodia fidelis memoriae: Livy's Story of M. Manlius Capitolinus." Latomus 52 (1993) 350-63.
Joshel, S.R. "The Body Female and the Body Politic: Livy's Lucretia and Verginia." In A. Richlin, ed., Pornography and Representation in Ancient Rome. New York, 1992.
Kraus, C. "'No Second Troy': Topoi and Refoundation in Livy, Book V." Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 124 (1994) 267-289.
Laistner, M.L.W. Greater Roman Historians. Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1947.
Levene, D.S. Religion in Livy. Leiden, 1993.
Luce, T.J. Livy, The Composition of his History. Princeton, 1977.
Luce, T.J. "Livy, Augustus, and the Forum Augustum." in Between Republic and Empire, edd. Raaflaub, K. and Toher, M. Berkeley, 1990.
McDonald, A.H. "The Style of Livy" Journal of Roman Studies 47 (1957), 155-172.
Miles, G. Livy: Reconstructing Early Rome. Ithaca and London. 1995.
Peterson, H. "Livy and Augustus." Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 91(1961) 440-452.
Santoro L'Hoir, F. "Heroic Epithets and Recurrent Themes in Ab Urbe Condita." Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 120 (1990) 221-241.
Smethurst, S.E. "Women in Livy's History." Greece and Rome 19 (1950) 80-87.
Stadter, P.A. "The Structure of Livy's History." Historia 21 (1972) 287-307.
Steele, R.B. "The Historical Attitude of Livy" American Journal of Philology 25 (1904) 15ff.
Syme, R. "Livy and Augustus." Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 64 (1959) 27-87.
Walsh, P.G. "Livy's Preface and the Distortion of History." American Journal of Philology 76 (1955) 369-383.
Walsh, P.G. "Livy and Stoicism." American Journal of Philology 79 (1958), 355 ff.
Walsh, P.G. Livy: Historical Aims and Methods. Cambridge, 1961.

6. Links to other on-line resources for Livy

A. Livy Bibliography.

A. Livy bibliography by Professor Tim Moore, University of Texas. Many items on Livy, arranged by topic.

B. Some lecture notes on the early books of Livy.

Lecture notes on Livy from Professor Bernard Frischer's Roman Civilization Course (Classics 20) Spring Quarter, 1996, University of California, Los Angeles.

C. Review of D.S. Levene, "Religion in Livy."

Christina Kraus' review of a recent book on Livy and religion in Bryn Mawr Classical Review.

This page developed by Walter Englert for Hum110 Tech. Comments and suggestions welcome.

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