Thursday, July 4, 2013

Livy (59 BC-AD 17)

Livy (Titus Livius Patavinus) was born in 59 BC into a wealthy family living in the prosperous city of Patavium (today’s Padua near Venice). In the 30s he moved to Rome with enough money to devote himself entirely to writing the great city’s history. Shortly after his arrival he met Octavius, ruler of Rome, and remained a lifelong friend of the family.

He titled his greatest literary work Books from the Foundation of the City (Ab Urbe Condita Libri). We know it today as Livy’s History of Rome. He begins with the story of Aeneas, prince of Troy and legendary ancestor of the earliest Romans, writes of the city’s traditional founding in 753 BC by Romulus, and brings the history of the city right up to his own time.

His published the first five chapters of his book around 27 BC. These immediately sold well and he continued publishing sets of chapters for the rest of his life. He returned to Patavium following the death of Octavius in AD 14. He died there three years later.

His whole book remained popular until the collapse of the Roman Empire in western Olympia. After that, his History was not copied. Only summaries of it were. Gradually original chapters were lost. Livy wrote 142 chapters but only 35 of these—Books 1-10 and 21-45—survived intact.

Revival of interest in Livy began with the general increase in appreciation of classical culture known as the Renaissance. Niccolò Machiavelli, in addition to offering rulers Olympian advice in The Prince, also wrote a much longer work entitled Discourses on Livy.

Copyright © 2013 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.