Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Some Introductory Notes on Livy

The normal dates give for Livy's life are: born 59 BC, died AD 17 (Syme has challenged this dating and has made a case for 64 BC-AD 12; see his paper 'Livy and Augustus'). He was a native of Padua, hence Asinius Pollio's recriminations over his Patavinitas, though the meaning of this accusation remains in question.

His history, Ab urbe condita, consisted originally of 142 books. Of these, 35 books are extant: books 1-10 and 21-45. Summaries (epitomes or Periochae) of most of the remaining books have come down to us (with the exception of books 136 and 137), the value of which varies. The work spans Rome's legendary beginnings to, most likely, the death of Drusus in 9 BC, or perhaps the defeat of Varro in the Teutoberg Forest in AD 9.

For those interested in Late Antiquity, it is worth noting that 'Q. Aurelius Symmachus corrected a set of manuscripts containing the whole of Livy's work, as we know from a subscription; this was a large-scale cooperative venture of the Nicomachi and Symmachi families and is the ultimate source for all surviving manuscripts of the first decade' (Conte 374).

(For very brief introductions, see the Oxford Classical Dictionary and G.B. Conte's Latin Literature, pp. 367-76 (quoted above).)

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