(BEING CONTINUED FROM 5/10/15)
Born in 59 at Padua, and died 17. Spent much of his life composing the 142 book Ab Urbe Condita, of which 1-10 and 21-45 survive, along with some fragments and summaries
The Plan of Livy’s Work and Historiograhic Method
Livy returned to an annalistic structure, rejecting the monography of Sallust. He began with Aeneas’s flight from Rome, and reached the death of Drusus in 9 BC in Book 142. He may have planned to reach book 150 with the death of Augustus.
Books 1-10 go down to 289, while 21-45 cover 218-167. The whole thing was divided into decades from at least the fifth century, and the division may go back to Livy himself. Like most Latin historians, the narrative scale increased as he approached
his own time More than half of his history dealt with the age of the Gracchi on.
Livy relied on many sources. For the first decade he used almost exclusively annalists, particularly the more recent ones such as Antias, Macer, and Claudius Quadrigarius. For Roman expansion into the east Polybius came into play and gave
Livy a unified vision of the Mediterranean world. Neither Fabius Pictor nor Cato seems to have had much impact. Livy relied almost solely on literary sources, and does not seem to have made any effort to use documentation or inscriptions that
might have been available. Some have criticized him as a mere exornator rerum,
who dramatized what he found in the literature. Some scholars would leave Livy out of the development of Latin historiography from Sallust to Tacitus, that is,outside of senatorial historiography. This contains some elements of truth, but there isn’t a direct opposition between senatorial history (written to educate politicians) and literary history with lots of moralizing. Livy is less aggressive than Tacitus, and lacks the skepticism and rationalism of Sallust and Tacitus, but he is still a fundamentally honest historian.
The New Regime and the Tendencies of Livy’s Historiography
The Augustan regime did not seek to dominate history as it did poetry. Livy was not part of the opposition, but he was not an uncritical supporter either. Tacitus said that Livy was a Pompeian, but we can’t evaluate this without the books that
dealt with the civil wars. He praised Brutus and Cassius too. This didn’t bother Augustus, who was more eager to show himself as restorer of the Republic than the heir of Caesar. Given Livy’s hatred of demagoguery and praise of values, it seems
that he and the new regime found lots to agree on.
But this did not translate into total celebration. Lacking the narrative of the Civil Wars, we can’t understand this for sure. But in the preface Livy does not seem to regard the Augustan settlement as wholly satisfactory. He probably failed to see
Augustus as the destroyer of all the seeds that caused civil war. Livy refers to Rome’s past as a refuge from the distress he feels when narrating more recent events, an implicit criticism of Sallust, who placed contemporary crisis at the center
of history. Livy tries to view the crisis in the general context of Roman history.
Justification of the Roman Empire emerges very forcefully from Livy. It is due to the strong bond of fortuna and virtus in the Roman people. No other people could stand up to the moral force of the Romans. This may be due to Livy’s tendency to
idolize the past – more contemporary periods may have been far darker. For Livy,images of the past are models of social and individual behavior, both positive and negative.
Livy is sharply opposed to the style of Sallust, and comes much closer to the Ciceronian ideal for history Where Sallust is brief and condensed, Livy is ample,flowing, and luminous, without artifice or harshness. Livy gave much more space to
the dramatic presentation of a story than Sallust, but didn’t allow it to overwhelm the historical framework – the rape of Lucretia is a good example.
Livy’s history is not a political study, but a narrative of human personalities and representative individuals. There is a moral passion, inherited from the Hellenistic schools. Livy wants to show that moral and intellectual qualities have a decisive
influence on events. He immerses himself in the affairs he describes and brings to life his characters and scenes. Indirect discourse is skillfully used to suggest the hidden minds of crowds and people. Speeches delineate the thoughts of individuals
and show impedutous ardor that the listeners feel.
But Livy’s pathetic qualities in no way approach those of Sallust. Livy prefers and airy, sentimental manner, with more ethos than pathos, which lends an epic, monumental manner to the text. This rivaled the Sallustian school in antiquity.
Livy was clearly a follower of Cicero’s precepts on history, although while Cicero’s periods are intended for speaking, Livy’s, with an overload of detail, are for reading.
Livy was wildly popular in his lifetime and had great influence on historians like Tacitus and poets like Lucan and Silius Italicus. Seneca, Tacitus, and Quintilian all praise his literary qualities. But the great mass of his work made preservation
difficult. Large numbers of summaries were made. The last record of a complete Livy is from 401.
Directions in Historiography
Asinius Pollio and the History of the Civil Wars
Asinius Pollio continued the tradition of senatorial history. A follower of Antony, he maintained his independence under Augustus and pursued a wide array of literary interests. He was a noted orator of the Atticist school, and an implacable foe of
Cicero. His Histories, written starting in 35, covered the years 60-42. Pollio was apparently unafraid to tackle controversial matters, but he does not seem to have displayed open opposition to Augustus.
As an Atticist, Pollio favored a very spare, primitive Thucydidean style, and did not hesitate to attack other historians like Caesar and Sallust. Not enough remains of his own writings to judge how well he did, but he seems to have been spare to the
point of obscurity.
Autobiography and Propaganda: Augustus
Both Agrippa and Augustus wrote comentarii on their own lives. Augustus seems to have followed Sulla in trying to put a halo around his own life with lots of references to prodigies and prophecies.
Pompeius Trogus and Reflections of Anti-Roman Opposition
Trogus came from Gaul Narbonensis and wrote a Historiae Philppicae in 44 books.
This is lost, but an abridgement by Justin survives from the second or third centuries AD The title recalls the Philippicae of Theopompus, but Pompeius wrote a universal history, even if the greater part of the narrative was concerned with
Macedonian history. Rome is only treated in the last two books, which seems to show that Pompeius considered Macedonia the greatest empire, or at least that Roman hegemony is only the most recent of many.
Pompeius Trogus relied heavily on the Greek historian Timagenes, who was very anti-Roman. However, this does not seem to have been true of Pompeius’s work. As far as we can tell, Pompeius was an imitator of Sallust in terms of style. He preferred indirect discourse to direct.
The Historiography of Consensus: Velleuis Paterculus and Valerius Maximus
Tiberius lacked ability as a literary organizer. But he did find an impassioned fan in Velleius, who served under Tiberius in Germany. His history in two books (with large gaps) covering Rome from the remote past down to the present. When it gets
to Tiberius, it becomes a virtual panegyric, in contrast to the senatorial traditions.
Velleius is also interested in cultural history and talks about the emergence of Greek culture in Rome and the evolution of public tastes.
Valerius Maximus also expressed warm support for Tiberius in nine books of Memorable Deeds and Sayings, published around 31-32 after the fall of Sejanus.
His collection is technichally a book of exempla, of models of vices and virtues for use in rhetorical schools. It looks on the Romans as superior to other peoples, and celebrates the mos maiorum.
The Historiography of the Senatorial Opposition
The strongest trends in history under Tiberius were those in opposition., and expressed itself in the worship of republican models like Cato as in history. At least one historian, Labienus, had to suffer his works being burnt and committed suicide.
Cremutius Cordus’s work almost suffered a similar fate, but survived, he did not.
Other noted opposition historians include Servilius Nonianus, a major source for Tacitus, and Aufidius Bassus.
Historiography as Literary Entertainment: Curtius Rufus
Quintus Curtius Rufus is a mysterious figure who wrote a history of Alexander in 10 books. The first two are lost and there are major gaps elsewhere. His dating is terribly unclear, with suggestions ranging from Augustus to Theodosius, but
perhaps he belongs to immediately after the reign of Caligula.
Alexander the great was always a popular figure for the Romans, and had acquired an important place in a sort of romantic literature in fabulous places. Curtius’s work derives from this train, and is written in an intense, colorful style, reminiscent
of Livy. But he is more narrator than historian, and he employs sources quite casually, sometimes contradicting himself. Clitarchus and Timagenes are the two most important sources. Curtius is more interested in a romantic narrative.
( TO BE CONTINUED )
BY GIAN BIAGIO CONTE
PROFESSOR OF LATIN LITERATURE (1941)