Introduction: Livy's Use of Exempla

LIVY AND EXEMPLA

Hoc illud est praecipue in cognitione rerum salubre ac frugiferum, omnis te exempli documenta in inlustri posita monumento intueri; inde tibi tuaeque rei publicae quod imitere capias, inde foedum inceptu foedum exitu quod uites.

For in the study of history it is especially improving and beneficial to contemplate examples of every kind of behaviour, which are set out on a clear monument. From it you can extract for yourself and your commonwealth both what is worthy of imitation and what you should avoid because it is rotten from start to finish. (Praef. 10)

In the Preface Livy invites his audience to seek exempla in his narrative of Roman history. In accepting the offer, modern readers have tended to look to Livy's treatment of well-known figures, especially those from the early days of the city. Lucretia, the victim of Sex. Tarquinius' lust, is a regular choice,1 and justifiably so, for she herself recognizes her exemplary potential with her dying words: 'nec ulla deinde impudica Lucretiae exemple uiuet'.2 With this speech she seems to offer exactly the kind of lesson indicated in Preface 10. Curiously enough, however, in the extant books and fragments of Livy, Lucretia is never cited as an exemplum, and no one ever takes her as a model of conduct. In this sense she disappoints the expectation raised by the Preface that it is possible to learn from history.3 She can be understood only as a lesson for

1 See e.g. Haberman (1981), Philippides (1983), Calhoon (1997), and
Feldherr (1998) 196.

2 'Nor from now on shall any unchaste woman live with Lucretia as her
model' (1. 58. 10).

3 It is true that Lucretia does not vanish altogether. She is commemorated,
though not named, at Brutus' funeral when he is credited with avenging her
suicide (2. 7. 4). Further, Livy refers to her in his introduction to the parallel
story of Verginia (3. 44. 1), and her story underlies all subsequent tales of
inappropriate lust mingled with political tyranny: on Livy's use of the
Lucretia narrative as a paradigm, see Kraus (1991). Her typological function
makes her lack of impact as an exemplum all the more striking, but see the

-1-

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Livy's Exemplary History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations and Editions Used xi
  • Introduction: Livy's Use of Exempla 1
  • 1: Caudium as Event and Exemplum 32
  • 2: Speaker, Audience, and Exemplum 50
  • 3: Reading the Past 73
  • 4: Past and Present 106
  • 5: Precedents and Change 137
  • 6: Livy, Augustus, and Exempla 168
  • Conclusion: Continuity and Change 197
  • Appendix: Models for Imitation and Avoidance 203
  • Works Cited 215
  • General Index 231
  • Index Locorum 239
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