Western Literature to Dante

Bruce A. McMenomy, Ph.D. for Scholars Online
2019-20: Mondays, 1:00 p.m.- 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time
2019

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November

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December

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2020

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Unit VI: Augustan Rome 44 B.C. - A.D. 14

Week 22: T. Livy, 59 B.C. - A.D. 17

Romulus, Remus, and the wolf.
Romulus, Remus, and the wolf: the wolf is ancient, but the babies are from the Renaissance, © Image courtesy VRoma.

For this week, please have read by class time:

This week we will look at a portion of the first book of Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita (From the Foundation of the City). Though he wrote during the early years of the Empire, his massive history (of which only a few books remain) took in almost the whole of the history of Rome down to his time. His discussion of its earliest days, as presented here, contains a series of stories that were clearly already in currency before his time, but is mainly legendary in character. His account of the Second Punic War (the one with Hannibal), on the other hand, is likewise exciting and gripping writing. Note the kinds of hero that the different passages represent, and also the ways in which the accounts of Aeneas, for example, differ from Vergil’s accounts, or from Caesar’s self-portrait, or from what we know of Achilles.

Consider for class discussion:

  1. How do Livy’s characters express moral qualities?
  2. How do Livy’s techniques differ from those of the Greek historians you have read?
  3. How is Livy’s historiography different from Caesar’s?
  4. What, according to Livy, is the point of writing history? Do you agree? How does this square with, say, Herodotus’ purposes? Thucydides’?