Livy

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Livy

Livy (Titus Livius) (lĬv´ē), 59 BC–AD 17, Roman historian, b. Patavium (Padua), probably of noble family. He lived most of his life in Rome. The breadth of his education is apparent in his evident familiarity with the ancient Greek and Latin authors. His life work was the History of Rome from its founding in 753 BC The narrative comes to an end with Drusus (9 BC). Of the original 142 books of the work (published in sections) 35 are extant (Books I–X, XXI–XLV). There are fragments of some others, and all but two are known through epitomes. Livy's history reflects his admiration for the civilization of early Rome, and his belief that the importance of history was its applicability to contemporary life. As such he was a romantic, and not a scientific, historian. His sources included mainly the writings of previous authors, but he does not evaluate these sources critically. He chose what seemed to him most authentic and credible, and presented it with the enthusiasm of a patriot in the form of annals. Livy's accuracy is often questionable; he ignored certain sources and had little practical knowledge of military affairs or the workings of politics. His reputation and popularity are based on his elegant portraits of historical figures, his vivid depictions of events, his freedom of expression, and his masterly style (developed from Cicero). There are many English translations of Livy's history; the best have been published by Penguin Classics.

See P. G. Walsh, Livy: His Historical Aims and Method (1961); T. A. Dorey, ed., Livy (1971).

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