The work called Ab urbe condita (English: From the Founding of the City), sometimes referred to as Ab urbe condita libri (Books from the Founding of the City),[a] is a monumental history of ancient Rome, written in Latin between 27 and 9 BC by Livy, a Roman historian.[b] The work covers the period from the legends concerning the arrival of Aeneas and the refugees from the fall of Troy, to the city's founding in 753 BC, the expulsion of the Kings in 509 BC, and down to Livy's own time, during the reign of the emperor Augustus.[c][d] The last event covered by Livy is the death of Drusus in 9 BC. 35 of 142 books, about a quarter of the work, are still extant. The surviving books deal with the events down to 293 BC (books 1–10), and from 219 to 166 BC (books 21–45).
The History of Rome originally comprised 142 "books", thirty-five of which—Books 1–10 with the Preface and Books 21–45—still exist in reasonably complete form. Damage to a manuscript of the 5th century resulted in large gaps (lacunae) in Books 41 and 43–45 (small lacunae exist elsewhere); that is, the material is not covered in any source of Livy's text.
A fragmentary palimpsest of the 91st book was discovered in the Vatican Library in 1772, containing about a thousand words (roughly three paragraphs), and several papyrus fragments of previously unknown material, much smaller, have been found in Egypt since 1900, most recently about 40 words from Book 11, unearthed in 1986.
Livy was abridged, in antiquity, to an epitome, which survives for Book 1, but was itself abridged in the fourth century into the so-called Periochae, which is simply a list of contents. The Periochae survive for the entire work, except for books 136 and 137.
In Oxyrhynchus, a similar summary of books 37–40, 47–55, and only small fragments of 88 was found on a roll of papyrus that is now in the British Museum classified as P.Oxy.IV 0668. There is another fragment, named P.Oxy.XI 1379, which represents a passage from the first book (I, 6) and that shows a high level of correctness. However, the Oxyrhynchus Epitome is damaged and incomplete.
Books 1–5 – The legendary founding of Rome (including the landing of Aeneas in Italy and the founding of the city by Romulus), the period of the kings, and the early republic down to its conquest by the Gauls in 390 BC.[e]
Books 11–20 – The period from 292 to 218, including the First Punic War (lost).
Books 21–30 – The Second Punic War, from 218 to 202.
Books 31–45 – The Macedonian and other eastern wars from 201 to 167.
Books 46 to 142 are all lost:
Books 46–70 – The period from 167 to the outbreak of the Social War in 91.
Books 91–108 – From 78 BC through the end of the Gallic War, in 50.
Books 109–116 – From the Civil War to the death of Caesar (49–44).
Books 117–133 – The wars of the triumvirs down to the death of Antonius (44–30).
Books 134–142 – The rule of Augustus down to the death of Drusus (9).
Table of contentsEdit
|Book number||Status||Years covered||Main events covered|
|1||Complete||Down to 510 BC||Foundation myths: Aeneas, Ascanius, Romulus and Remus, Rape of the Sabine women; history of the Roman Kingdom, expulsion of Tarquinus Superbus.|
|2||Complete||509–468 BC||Foundation of the Republic by Brutus, wars against Tarquinius Superbus and Porsena, Secession of the Plebs, Volscian Wars.|
|3||Complete||467–446 BC||The Decemvirate.|
|4||Complete||445–404 BC||Conflict of the Orders, murder of Spurius Maelius by Ahala, war against the Fidenates.|
|5||Complete||403–387 BC||War against Veii, Sack of Rome by Brennus.|
|6||Complete||387–366 BC||Story of Marcus Manlius Capitolinus, Leges Liciniae Sextiae.|
|7||Complete||366–342 BC||Stories of Titus Manlius Torquatus and Marcus Valerius Corvus, First Samnite War.|
|8||Complete||341–322 BC||First Samnite War, Latin War.|
|9||Complete||321–304 BC||Second Samnite War, defeat of the Caudine Forks, alternate history with Alexander the Great defeated by Rome.|
|10||Complete||303–293 BC||Third Samnite War, sacrifice of Publius Decius Mus.|
|11||Fragments[f]||292–287 BC||Third Samnite War, plague in Rome, Secession of the Plebs.|
|12||Lost||284–280 BC||War against the Senones, Pyrrhic War, campaigns against the Samnites and Italians, betrayal of Decius Vibullius at Rhegium.|
|13||Lost||280–278 BC||Pyrrhic War, treaty with Carthage, campaigns against Italic peoples.|
|14||Lost||278–272 BC||Pyrrhic War, treaty with Ptolemy II, Carthage breaks the treaty with Rome, campaigns against Italic peoples.|
|15||Lost||272–267 BC||Rome recovers Tarentum and Rhegium. The Picentes, Umbrians and Sallentini submit.|
|16||Quotes[g]||264–263 BC||First Punic War, first gladiatorial games.|
|17||Lost||260–256 BC||First Punic War|
|18||Quote[h]||255 BC||First Punic War|
|19||Quote[i]||251–241 BC||First Punic War|
|20||Lost||237–220 BC||Wars against the Faliscans, Sardinians, Corsicans, Illyrians, Gauls, Insubres, and Istrians.|
|21||Complete||219–218 BC||Second Punic War: Battle of the Trebia.|
|22||Complete||217–216 BC||Second Punic War, defeats of the Lake Trasimene and Cannae.|
|23||Complete||216–215 BC||Second Punic War.|
|24||Complete||215–213 BC||Second Punic War, First Macedonian War.|
|25||Complete||213–212 BC||Second Punic War, fall of Syracuse.|
|26||Complete||211–210 BC||Second Punic War, First Macedonian War. Source for The Continence of Scipio.|
|27||Complete||210–207 BC||Second Punic War, First Macedonian War.|
|28||Complete||207–205 BC||Second Punic War, First Macedonian War.|
|29||Complete||205–204 BC||Second Punic War, revolt of Indibilis and Mandonius.|
|30||Complete||203–201 BC||Second Punic War, Battle of Zama.|
|31||Complete||201–199 BC||Second Macedonian War.|
|32||Complete||198–197 BC||Second Macedonian War.|
|33||Complete||197–195 BC||Second Macedonian War, Battle of Cynoscephalae.|
|34||Complete||195–194 BC||Lex Oppia repealed, victory of Cato in Hispania, War against Nabis, triumphs of Cato and Flamininus.|
|35||Complete||193–192 BC||Campaign against the Ligurians, discussion between Scipio Africanus and Hannibal, affairs of Greece, talks with Antiochus III, who then invades Greece.|
|36||Complete||191 BC||Roman-Seleucid War, Battle of Thermopylae.|
|37||Complete||190–188 BC||Roman-Seleucid War.|
|38||Complete||188 BC||Operations in Greece, campaign against the Galatians, Treaty of Apamea, trial and exile of Scipio Africanus.|
|39||Complete||187–181 BC||The Bacchanalia, causes of the Third Macedonian War, deaths of Scipio Africanus and Hannibal.|
|40||Complete||184–179 BC||Perseus kills his brother Demetrius, and inherits the kingdom of Macedon. Campaign against the Ligurians.|
|41||Almost complete||179–174 BC||Campaigns against the Ligurians, Histrians, Sardinians and Celtiberians; Perseus' activities in Greece.|
|42||Complete||173–171 BC||Third Macedonian War.|
|43||Almost complete||171–169 BC||Third Macedonian War.|
|44||Almost complete||169–168 BC||Third Macedonian War, Battle of Pydna.|
|45||Almost complete||168–166 BC||Third Macedonian War, capture of Perseus, Sixth Syrian War, triumph of Aemilius Paullus.|
|46||Lost||165–160 BC||Eumenes II's visit to Rome, campaigns in North Italy, embassies to Ptolemy VI and Ptolemy VIII, and Ariarathes V, death of Paullus Aemilius, the Pomptine Marshes are drained.|
|47||Lost||160–154 BC||Division of Egypt between Ptolemy VI and Ptolemy VIII, support of Ariarathes V against Demetrius I, campaigns against the Dalmatians and Ligurians.|
|48||Lost||154–150 BC||Origin of the Third Punic War, death of Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, Second Celtiberian War, Lusitanian War.|
|49||Lost||149 BC||Third Punic War, Lusitanian War, Fourth Macedonian War.|
|50||Lost||149–147 BC||Prusias II of Bithynia is killed by his son Nicomedes II, death of Massinissa, Third Punic War, Scipio Aemilianus elected consul, Fourth Macedonian War.|
|51||Lost||147–146 BC||Third Punic War, destruction of Carthage, Achaean War.|
|52||Lost||146–145 BC||Achaean War, Lusitanian War, war between Alexander Balas and Demetrius II.|
|53||Lost||143 BC||Lusitanian War.|
|54||Lost||141–139 BC||Numantine War, Lusitanian War, death of Viriathus.|
|55||Lost||138–137 BC||Numantine War, murder of Antiochus VI by Diodotus Tryphon.|
|56||Lost||136–134 BC||Numantine War, First Servile War.|
|57||Lost||133 BC||Numantine War, campaign of Scipio Aemilianus.|
|58||Lost||133 BC||Reforms of Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, his death; First Servile War.|
|59||Lost||133–129 BC||Numantine War, victory of Scipio Aemilianus; First Servile War, revolt of Eumenes III of Pergamon, war between Antiochus VII and Phraates II, crisis in Egypt, riots in Rome in the aftermath of Tiberius Gracchus' reforms.|
|60||Lost||126–123 BC||Reforms of Gaius Sempronius Gracchus, Quintus Caecilius Metellus' campaign in the Balearic Islands.|
|61||Lost||122–120 BC||War against the Gauls, victory of Fabius Maximus Allobrogicus against Bituitus, death of Gaius Gracchus.|
|62||Lost||118–117 BC||Affairs of Numidia, with a civil war started by Jugurtha.|
|63||Lost||114–112 BC||Campaigns against the Scordiscians in Thrace, beginning of the Cimbrian War.|
|64||Lost||112–110 BC||Jugurthine War.|
|65||Lost||109–107 BC||Jugurthine War, Cimbrian War.|
|66||Lost||106 BC||Jugurthine War.|
|67||Lost||105–104 BC||Cimbrian War, Marius' triumph and successive consulships.|
|68||Lost||103–100 BC||Cimbrian War.|
|69||Lost||100 BC||Reforms of Saturninus and Glaucia, their deaths.|
|70||Lost||97–91 BC||Campaign against the Celtiberians, Ptolemy Apion bequeaths his kingdom, Sulla reinstates Ariobarzanes in his kingdom, reforms of Marcus Livius Drusus.|
|71||Lost||91 BC||Drusus is murdered, Social War.|
|72||Lost||91 BC||Social War.|
|73||Lost||90 BC||Social War.|
|74||Lost||89–88 BC||Social War.|
|75||Lost||88 BC||Social War.|
|76||Lost||89–88 BC||Social War, Mithridates conquers Cappadocia and Bithynia.|
|77||Lost||88 BC||Sulla's march on Rome, First Mithridatic War.|
|78||Lost||88 BC||First Mithridatic War.|
|79||Lost||87 BC||Bellum Octavianum.|
|80||Lost||87–86 BC||Citizenship given to Italian allies, Bellum Octavianum, death of Marius.|
|81||Lost||87–86 BC||First Mithridatic War, Sulla takes Athens.|
|82||Lost||86 BC||First Mithridatic War, battles of Chaeronea and Orchomenus, Valerius Flaccus is murdered by Flavius Fimbria.|
|83||Lost||86–84 BC||First Mithridatic War, Sulla's civil war.|
|84||Lost||84 BC||Sulla's civil war, death of Cinna.|
|85||Lost||83 BC||Sulla's civil war.|
|86||Lost||83–82 BC||Sulla's civil war, Second Mithridatic War.|
|87||Lost||82 BC||Sulla's civil war.|
|88||Lost||82 BC||Sulla's civil war, Battle of the Colline Gate, death of Marius the Younger.|
|89||Lost||82–81 BC||Sulla's civil war, death of Carbo, Sulla's proscriptions and reforms, Pompey's first triumph.|
|90||Lost||78 BC||Death of Sulla, uprising of Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, Sertorian War.|
|91||Fragment||77 BC||Sertorian War.|
|92||Lost||76 BC||Sertorian War, campaign of Gaius Scribonius Curio against the Dardanians.|
|93||Lost||76–75 BC||Publius Servilius conquers Isauria, Third Mithridatic War, Sertorian War.|
|94||Lost||74 BC||Third Mithridatic War, Sertorian War.|
|95||Lost||74–73 BC||War of Gaius Scribonius Curio against the Dardanians, Third Servile War, Third Mithridatic War.|
|96||Lost||73–72 BC||Third Servile War, Sertorian War.|
|97||Lost||71–70 BC||Third Servile War, campaign of Marcus Antonius Creticus in Crete, Third Mithridatic War, Crassus and Pompey become consuls.|
|98||Lost||70–69 BC||Third Mithridatic War, campaign of Quintus Caecillius Metellus in Crete.|
|99||Lost||68–67 BC||Third Mithridatic War, Pompey's expedition against the Cilician pirates, campaign of Quintus Caecillius Metellus in Crete.|
|100||Lost||66 BC||Third Mithridatic War, wars in Armenia.|
|101||Lost||66–65 BC||Third Mithridatic War, Catilinarian conspiracy.|
|102||Lost||64–63 BC||Third Mithridatic War, death of Mithridates, Pompey takes Jerusalem, Catilinarian conspiracy.|
|103||Lost||62–58 BC||Catilinarian conspiracy, Publius Clodius Pulcher goes over to the plebeians, First Triumvirate, Gallic Wars.|
|104||Lost||58–56 BC||Gallic Wars, Cicero returns from exile.|
|105||Lost||56–54 BC||Cato's attempt to obstruct the Triumvirate, Gallic Wars, first Crossing of the Rhine.|
|106||Lost||54–53 BC||Gallic Wars, Battle of Carrhae, death of Crassus.|
|107||Lost||53–52 BC||Gallic Wars, murder of Clodius by Milo, Pompey elected sole consul, revolt of Vercingetorix.|
|108||Lost||52–50 BC||Gallic Wars, Battle of Alesia, victory of Gaius Cassius Longinus against the Parthians.|
|109||Lost||50–49 BC||Caesar's Civil War, Crossing of the Rubicon.|
|110||Lost||49–48 BC||Caesar's Civil War.|
|111||Quote||48 BC||Caesar's Civil War (Battle of Pharsalus).|
|112||Quote[j]||48 BC||Caesar's Civil War.|
|113||Lost||47 BC||Caesar's Civil War.|
|114||Lost||46 BC||Caesar's Civil War.|
|115||Lost||46 BC||Caesar's Civil War.|
|116||Lost||45–44 BC||Caesar's Civil War, assassination of Caesar.|
|117||Lost||44 BC||Octavian arrives in Italy, Antony disrupts the allotment of provinces, preparations for war on multiple sides.|
|118||Lost||44 BC||Brutus takes the army of Publius Vatinius in Greece, Octavian builds an army, Antony besieges Modena.|
|119||Lost||44–43 BC||Publius Cornelius Dolabella is declared enemy of the state, Battle of Mutina, Octavian becomes consul at 19.|
|120||Quote[k]||43 BC||Second Triumvirate, proscriptions, death of Cicero.|
|121||Lost||43 BC||Cassius besieges Dolabella in Laodicea, who commits suicide; Brutus executes Gaius Antonius.|
|122||Lost||43 BC||Brutus' campaign in Thrace.|
|123||Lost||42 BC||Sicilian revolt by Sextus Pompey, Liberators' Civil War.|
|124||Lost||42 BC||Battle of Philippi.|
|125||Lost||41 BC||Perusine War.|
|126||Lost||41–40 BC||Perusine War.|
|127||Lost||40–39 BC||Pompeian–Parthian invasion, Pact of Misenum.|
|128||Lost||38–37 BC||Sicilian revolt, Antony's Parthian War, Siege of Jerusalem.|
|129||Lost||36 BC||Sicilian Revolt, Battle of Naulochus, Octavian defeats Lepidus.|
|130||Lost||36 BC||Antony's Parthian War.|
|131||Lost||35–34 BC||Sextus Pompey is captured and executed by Antony, Octavian's campaigns in Illyria, Antony's conquest of Armenia, Donations of Alexandria.|
|132||Lost||34–31 BC||Antony's Civil War: Battle of Actium.|
|133||Lost||30–28 BC||Antony's Civil War: suicides of Antony and Cleopatra; conspiracy of Marcus Aemilius Lepidus Minor.|
|134||Lost||27 BC||Octavian becomes Augustus, census in the three Gauls, campaign of Marcus Licinius Crassus against the Basterni and Moesians.|
|135||Lost||25 BC||Campaigns of Marcus Crassus against the Thracians, and of Augustus in Hispania.|
|136||Lost||Missing in the Periochae.|
|137||Lost||Missing in the Periochae.|
|138||Lost||15–12 BC||Tiberius and Drusus conquers Raetia, death of Agrippa, Drusus makes a census in Gaul.|
|139||Lost||12 BC||Drusus' campaign in Germania, Imperial cult at Lugdunum.|
|140||Lost||11 BC||Conquest of Thracia, Drusus' campaign in Germania, death of Octavia.|
|141||Lost||10 BC||Drusus' campaign in Germania.|
|142||Lost||9 BC||Death of Drusus.|
Livy wrote in a mixture of annual chronology and narrative. This emerged from his decision to organise his narrative on a year-by-year scheme with regular announcements of elections of "consuls, prodigies, temple dedications, triumphs, and the like". This kind of year-by-year list of events is termed "annalistic history". Livy employed annalistic features to associate his history with the dominant traditional of Roman history, which was to write these annalistic chronicles; in so doing, he "imbued his history with an aura of continuity and stability" along with "pontifical authority".
The first and third decades (see below) of Livy's work are written so well that Livy has become a sine qua non of curricula in Golden Age Latin. Some have argued that subsequently the quality of his writing began to decline, and that he becomes repetitious and wordy. Of the 91st book Barthold Georg Niebuhr says "repetitions are here so frequent in the small compass of four pages and the prolixity so great, that we should hardly believe it to belong to Livy...." Niebuhr accounts for the decline by supposing "the writer has grown old and become loquacious...", going so far as to conjecture that the later books were lost because copyists refused to copy such low-quality work.
However, Livy also employed repetitive and formulaic wording in description of repetitive military affairs, described by Ogilvie as "mechanical and careless". Modern readers, however, view Livy's repetitive prose more positively at least in performance of prayers, blessings, and public religious rituals.
A digression in Book 9, Sections 17–19, suggests that the Romans would have beaten Alexander the Great if he had lived longer and had turned west to attack the Romans, making this digression one of the oldest known written alternate history scenarios.
The first five books were published between 27 and 25 BC. The first date mentioned is the year Augustus received that title: twice in the first five books Livy uses it. For the second date, Livy lists the closings of the temple of Janus but omits that of 25 (it had not happened yet).
Livy continued to work on the History for much of the rest of his life, publishing new material by popular demand. This explains why the work falls naturally into 12 packets, mainly groups of 10 books, or decades, sometimes of 5 books (pentads or pentades) and the rest without any packet order. The scheme of dividing it entirely into decades is a later innovation of copyists.
The second pentad did not come out until 9 or after, some 16 years after the first pentad. In Book IX Livy states that the Cimminian Forest was more impassable than the German had been recently, referring to the Hercynian Forest (Black Forest) first opened by Drusus and Ahenobarbus. One can only presume that in the interval Livy's first pentad had been such a success that he had to yield to the demand for more.
There is no uniform system of classifying and naming manuscripts. Often the relationship of one manuscript (MS) to another remains unknown or changes as perceptions of the handwriting change. Livy's release of chapters by packet diachronically encouraged copyists to copy by decade. Each decade has its own conventions, which do not necessarily respect the conventions of any other decade. A family of MSS descend through copying from the same MSS (typically lost). MSS vary widely; to produce an emendation or a printed edition was and is a major task. Usually variant readings are given in footnotes.
All of the manuscripts (except one) of the first ten books (first decade) of Ab urbe condita, which were copied through the Middle Ages and were used in the first printed editions, are derived from a single recension commissioned by Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, consul, AD 391. A recension is made by comparing extant manuscripts and producing a new version, an emendation, based on the text that seems best to the editor. The latter then "subscribed" to the new MS by noting on it that he had emended it.
Symmachus, probably using the authority of his office, commissioned Tascius Victorianus to emend the first decade. Books I–IX bear the subscription Victorianus emendabam dominis Symmachis, "I Victorianus emended (this) by the authority of Symmachus." Books VI–VIII include another subscription preceding it, that of Symmachus' son-in-law, Nicomachus Flavianus, and Books III–V were also emended by Flavianus' son, Appius Nicomachus Dexter, who says he used his relative Clementianus' copy. This recension and family of descendant MSS is called the Nicomachean, after two of the subscribers. From it several MSS descend (incomplete list):
|Location & Number||Name||Date|
|V||Veronensis rescriptus||10th century|
|F||Paris 5724||Floriacensis||10th century|
|P||Paris 5725||Parisiensis||9th/10th century|
|R||Vaticanus 3329||Romanus||11th century|
|O||Bodleianus 20631||Oxoniensis||11th century|
Epigraphists go on to identify several hands and lines of descent. A second family of the first decade consists of the Verona Palimpsest, reconstructed and published by Theodore Mommsen, 1868; hence the Veronensis MSS. It includes 60 leaves of Livy fragments covering Books III-VI. The handwriting style is dated to the 4th century, only a few centuries after Livy.
During the Middle Ages, there were constant rumours that the complete books of the History of Livy lay hidden in the library of a Danish or German Monastery. One individual even affirmed under oath in the court of Martin V that he had seen the whole work, written in Lombardic script, in a monastery in Denmark. All of these rumours were later found to be unsubstantiated.
The orthodox view is that "Livy was a very poor historian indeed, whether by ancient or modern standards". This is rooted in a few major reasons. He did "no primary research", relying "exclusively on earlier histories". His understanding of those sources was poor: with Livy relating the same event twice on multiple occasions. Moreover, "there are clear signs that his Greek was not good enough to understand properly one of his major sources, the Greek historian Polybius", which he followed closely for events in the east in books 31 to 45.
Livy also did not intend to produce a history in terms of cataloguing and understanding the past, but rather, in terms of preserving a "memory ... [that] equips the reader with a sense of wrong and right as determined or exemplified by the actions of one’s predecessors". Moreover, the work was also written "under the shadow of the new emperor" with the goal of supporting "the idea that the Augustan principate was the culmination of Roman history".
While other sources have attempted to rehabilitate Livy's history in terms of its literary quality (for example, DS Levene's Livy on the Hannibalic War), this is not a defence of the history's historicity. Modern criticism of Livy also goes into the "inaccuracy of his battle accounts, the vagueness of his geography, ... the excessive partiality shown to one or [an]other of his 'heroes', and in general the highly rhetorical nature of not only his speeches but also of his dramatic narrations".
However, judgement on Livy's whole work ought to be withheld insofar as only the first third of Ab urbe condita survives; the portions of Livy that survive, heavily relying on an uncritical repetition of earlier sources, may not be the same approach he took for later periods of the republic or his own time, where he would have needed "to do his own research using contemporary testimonies from eyewitnesses[,] the records of the senate and the assemblies[, and records of the] speeches of the great orators".
The details of Livy's History vary from the legendary and mythical stories at the beginning to detailed accounts of real events toward the end. Livy, in his preface on discussing the early history of Rome, noted the difficulties of interpreting or reconciling the sources in his own day:
So many chronological errors, magistrates appearing differently in different authors, suggest ... you cannot tell which consuls came after which or what belonged [to] any one year...
It is not easy to prefer one thing over the other or one author over another. I think that the tradition has been contaminated... since various families have fraudulently arrogated to themselves the repute of deeds and offices. As a result, both individuals' deeds and the public records of events have certainly been thrown into confusion. Nor is there any writer contemporary with those times who could serve as a reliable standard.
Livy too recognised that the early years of Rome were profoundly ahistorical, saying "the traditions of what happened prior to the foundation of the city or whilst it was being built, are more fitted to adorn the creations of the poet than the authentic records of the historian". The first book has been one of the most significant sources of the various accounts of the traditional legend of Romulus and Remus. However, when comparing Livy's account of the kingdom to that of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, his scepticism is better evident, as he omitted "many stories which seemed rather improbable to him". And in general, the early parts of the books are important accounts of early Rome surviving from antiquity.
But while Livy did recognise "the higher reliability of older contemporary authors compared to younger ones" but did little to ensure that his history was internally consistent or follow his own insights on unreliability regularly, preferring the story of his chosen choice without changes, "even if he afterward detected capital errors".
Livy's treatment of his own sources was more in terms of arranging material and synthesising a narrative rather than engaging in original research into official documents; in doing so, he "did little more than [trying] to reconcile discrepancies in his sources by using arguments from probability". However, Livy did not substantially grapple with the possibility that annalists knew how to invent probable stories. Furthermore, rarely did Livy provide the names of his sources, especially in the long passages where he followed one major source with infrequent comparisons to other sources to correct errors. Fortunately, Livy's goal in telling existing narratives with "better style and arrangement" means he seemingly did not introduce into his history "invented episodes of exaggerations".
Livy's work "came at the end of a long line of historians ... conventionally known as the 'annalistic tradition'". Where he relied on these sources (along with other narrative sources available in his day) his principle was similar to that of Herodotus': "tell what he had been told".
Roman historiography goes back to Quintus Fabius Pictor who wrote c. 200 BC, heavily influenced by Greek historiographical canons and methods. Other annalists included Quintus Ennius, Marcius Porcius Cato the censor, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Frugi, Lucius Cassius Hemina, Gnaeus Gellius, Vennonius, Valerius Antias, Licinius Macer, Quintus Claudius Quadrigarius, and Quintus Aelius Tubero. The last three annalists (operating in the first century BC) are, however, "widely believed to have been less scrupulous than their second-century predecessors", supplying stories about the archaic period "from their own imaginations". However, as to certain elements of his narrative, Livy may have relied on "unscrupulous annalists" who "did not hesitate to invent a series of face-saving victories".
Livy, however, did not use the libri lintei or the annales maximi kept by the pontifex maximus; nor did he "walk around in Rome, or elsewhere, to discover inscriptions or other new documents". The difficulties of using the senate's own archives, documented in speeches by Cicero, "hint... at the possibilities of falsifying evidence" and the poor transmission of authoritative historical records.
The first complete rendering of Ab urbe condita into English was Philemon Holland's translation published in 1600. According to Considine, "it was a work of great importance, presented in a grand folio volume of 1,458 pages, and dedicated to [Queen Elizabeth I]".
A notable translation of Livy titled History of Rome was made by B.O. Foster in 1919 for the Loeb Classical Library. A partial translation by Aubrey de Sélincourt was printed in 1960–1965 for Penguin Classics.
The version of Livy available on Wikisource is that from the 1905 translation of Reverend Canon Roberts for Everyman's Library.
- Livy himself called his history the Annales, but this title has not been used by modern scholars, who usually refer to it simply as the History of Rome, or History of Rome from the Founding of the City, or in Latin, Ab urbe condita (From the Founding of the City or Since the Founding of the City). As with other Latin works, the number of books is frequently appended to the title, hence the occasional rendering Ab urbe condita libri CXLII (From the Founding of the City in 142 Books).
- Various indications point to the period from 27 to 20 BC as that during which the first decade was written. In the first book (XIX. 3) the emperor is called Augustus, a title which he was granted by the Roman Senate early in 27, and in IX. 18 the omission of all reference to the restoration, in 20, of the standards taken at Carrhae seems to justify the inference that the passage was written before that date. In the epitome of book LIX, there is a reference to a law of Augustus which was passed in 18.
- Livy uses the chronology of Varro, one of his predecessors, whose chronology was the most widely accepted in antiquity, and remains in general use today, although scholars continue to debate the dating of specific events, including the founding of Rome itself.
- In Roman times, it was customary to date events according to the consuls of each year, rather than assigning each year a numerical name; so while it was possible to date events by reference to the founding of Rome, this was rarely done. For instance, the consuls of 439 BC were Agrippa Menenius Lanatus and Titus Quinctius Capitolinus Barbatus, so that year would typically be referred to as "the consulship of Agrippa Menenius and Titus Quinctius", rather than "the year three hundred and fifteen". From this custom, the consuls who began each year are sometimes referred to as the eponymous magistrates of that year; that is, the magistrates after whom the year was named.
- This is the traditional date, but some uncertainty exists with regard to four years during the Samnite Wars for which no consuls are named in any source, and for which no elections were supposedly held; this has led some scholars to conclude that the Gallic sack of Rome occurred in or about 386 BC, although this also creates an unexplained (and undated) gap before the event.
- Two small fragments discovered in 1986 in Egypt.
- Maurus Servius Honoratus, In Vergilii Aeneidem Commentarii 1.366, 1.738.
- "I should also mention the snake that Livy talks about in such detail and with such style. He says that in Africa, near the river Bagradas, there was a snake so huge that it was able to prevent the army of Atilius Regulus from using the river. It snatched up many soldiers in its huge mouth... Livy notes that the hide of the beast was sent t our city and measured 120 feet."
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- McDevitte 1862, p. 2219. Citing Plutarch, Caesar 47.
- McDevitte 1862, p. 2219.
- McDevitte 1862, pp. 2220, 2221.
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