the Roman historian, was born at Patavium, in the consulship of Caesar and Bibulus, B. C. 59.
The greater part of his life appears to have been spent in the metropolis, but he returned to his native town before his death, which happened at the age of 76, in the fourth year of Tiberius, A. D. 17. We know that he was married, and that he had at least two children, for a certain L. Magius, a rhetorician, is named as the husband of his daughter, by Seneca (Prooem. Controv.
lib. v.), and a sentence from a letter addressed to a son, whom he urges to study Demosthenes and Cicero, is quoted by Quintilian (10.1.39). His literary talents secured the patronage and friendship of Augustus (Tac. Ann. 4.34
); he became a person of consideration at court, and by his advice Claudius, afterwards emperor, was induced in early life to attempt historical composition (Suet. Cl. 41
), but there is no ground for the assertion that Livy acted as preceptor to the young prince. Eventually his reputation rose so high and became so widely diffused that, as we are assured by Pliny (Plin. Ep. 2.3
), a Spaniard travelled from Cadiz to Rome, solely for the purpose of beholding him, and having gratified his curiosity in this one particular, immediately returned home.
Although expressly termed Patavinus
by ancient writers, some doubts have been entertained with regard to the precise spot of his birth, in consequence of a line in Martial (Mart. 1.62
):-- “Verona docti syllabas amat vatis,
Marone felix Mantua est,
Censetur Apona Livio suo tellus,
Stellaque nec Flacco minus
from which it has been inferred that the famous hot-springs, the Patavinae Aquae,
of which the chief was Aponusfons,
situated about six miles to the south of Patavium, and now known as the Bagni d'Abano,
ought to be regarded as the place of his nativity.
According to this supposition he was styled Patavinus,
just as Virgil was called Mantuanus,
although in reality belonging to Andes; but Cluverius and the best geographers believe that Apona tellus
is here equivalent to Patavina tellus,
and that no village Aponus
or Aponus vicus
existed in the days of the epigrammatist.
In like manner Statius (Stat. Silv. 4.7
) designates him as " Timavi alumnum," words which merely indicate his transpadane extraction.
The above particulars, few and meagre as they are, embrace every circumstance for which we can appeal to the testimony of ancient writers.
The bulky and minute biography by Tomasinus, and similar productions, which communicate in turgid language a series of details which could have been ascertained by no one but a contemporary, are purely works of imagination.
The greater number of the statements derived from such sources have gradually disappeared from all works of authority, but one or two of the more plausible still linger even in the most recent histories of literature. Thus we are assured that Livy commenced his career as a rhetorician and wrote upon rhetoric; that he was twice married, and had two sons and several daughters; that he was in the habit of spending much of his time at Naples; that he first recommended himself to Octavianus by presenting some dialogues on philosophy, and that he was tutor to Claudius.
The first of these assertions is entitled to respect, since it has been adopted by Niebuhr, but seems to rest entirely upon a few notices in Quintilian, from which we gather that the Epistola ad Filium,
alluded to above, contained some precepts upon style (Quint. Inst. 2.5.20
The second assertion, in so far as it affirms the existence of two sons, involves the very broad assumption that the following inscription, which is said to have been preserved at Venice, but with regard to whose history nothing has been recorded, neither the time when, nor the place where, nor the circumstances under which it was found, must refer to the great historian and to no one else: T. LIVIUS . C. F. SIBI. ET . SUIS. T. LIVIO . T . F . PRISCO. F. T. LIVIO. T. F. LONGO. ET . CSSIAE . SEX. F. PRIMAE . UXORI; while the number of daughters depends upon another inscription of a still more doubtflll character, to which we shall advert hereafter.
The third assertion is advanced because it has been deemed certain that since Virgil, Horace, and various other personages of wit and fashion were wont in that age to resort to the Campanian court, Livy must have done the like.
With respect to the fourth assertion, we are informed by Seneca (Suasor.
100) that Livy wrote dialogues which might be regarded as belonging to history as much as to philosophy (Scripsit enim et dialogos quos non magis Philosophiae annumerare possis quam Historiae
), and books which professed to treat of philosophic subjects (ex professo Philosophiam continentes libros
); but the story of the presentation to Octavianus is an absolute fabrication.
The fifth assertion we have already contradicted, and not without reason, as will be seen from Suetonius (Suet. Cl. 41
The memoirs of most men terminate with their death; but this is by no means the case with our historian, since some circumstances closely connected with what may be fairly termed his personal history, excited no small commotion in his native city many centuries after his decease. About the year 1360 a tablet was dug up at Padua, within the monastery of St. Justina, which occupied the site of an ancient temple of Jupiter, or of Juno, or of Concordia, according to the conflicting hypotheses of local antiquaries.
The stone bore the following inscription, V. F. T. LIVIUS . LIVIAE. T. F. .QUARTAE. L. HALYS . CONCORDIALIS. PATAVI . SIBI. ET. SUIS. OMNIBUS, which was at first interpreted to mean Virus fecit Titus Livius Liviae Titi filiae quarlae,
(sc. uxori) Lucii Halys Concordialis Patavi sibi et suis omnibus.
Some imagined that QUARTAE . L. HALYS denoted Quartue legionis Halys,
but this opinion was overthrown without difficulty, because even at that time it was well known that L. is seldom if ever used in inscriptions as an abbreviation of LEGIO, and secondly because the fourth legion was entitled Scythica and not Halys.
It was then decided that QUARTAE must indicate the fourth daughter of Livius, and that L. HALYS must be the name of her husband; and ingenious persons endeavoured to show that in all probability he was identical with the L. Magius mentioned by Seneca. They also persuaded themselves that Livy, upon his return home, had been installed by his countrymen in the dignified office of priest of the goddess Concord, and had erected this monument within the walls of her sanctuary, marking the place of sepulture of himself and his family.
At all events, whatever difficulties might seem to embarrass the explanation of some of the words and abbreviations in the inscription, no doubt seems fora moment to have been entertained that it was a genuine memorial of the historian. Accordingly, the Benedictine fathers of the monastery transported the tablet to the vestibule of their chapel, and caused a portrait of Livy to be painted beside it. In 1413, about fifty years after the discovery just described, in digging the foundations for the erection of new buildings in connection with the monastery, the workmen reached an ancient pavement composed of square bricks cemented with lime.
This having been broken through, a leaden coffin became visible, which was found to contain human bones.
An old monk declared that this was the very spot above which the tablet had been found, when immediately the cry rose that the remains of Livy had been brought to light, a report which filled the whole city with extravagant joy.
The new-found treasure was deposited in the town hall, and to the ancient tablet a modern epitaph was affixed.
At a subsequent period a costly monument was added as a further tribute to his memory. Here, it might have been supposed, these weary bones would at length have been permitted to rest in peace.
But in 1451, Alphonso of Arragon preferred a request to the Paduans, that they would be pleased to bestow upon him the bone of Livy's right arm, in order that he might possess the limb by which the immortal narrative had been actually penned.
This petition was at last complied with; but just as the valuable relic reached Naples, Alphonso died, and the Sicilian fell heir to the prize. Eventually it passed into the hands of Joannes Jovianus Pontanus, by whom it was enshrined with an appropriate legend. So far all was well.
In the lapse of time, however, it was perceived, upon comparing the tablet dug up in the monastery of St. Justina, with others of a similar description, that the contractions had been erroneously explained, and consequently the whole tenor of the words misunderstood.
It was clearly proved that L. did not stand for LUCIUS but for LIBERTUS, and that the principal person named was Titus Livius Halys,
freedman of Livia, the fourth daughter of a Titus Livius, that he had in accordance with the usual custom adopted the designation of his former master, that he had been a priest of Concord at Padua, an office which it appeared from other records had often been filled by persons in his station, and that he had set up this stone to mark the burying-ground of himself and his kindred. Now since the supposition that the skeleton in the leaden coffin was that of the historian rested solely upon the authority of the inscription, when this support was withdrawn, the whole fabric of conjecture fell to the ground, and it became evident the relics were those of an obscure freedman.
The great and only extant work of Livy is a History of Rome, termed by himself Annales
(43.13), extending from the foundation of the city to the death of Drusus, B. C. 9, comprised in 142 books: of these thirty-five have descended to us; but of the whole, with the exception of two, we possess summaries (the Periochae
), which, although in themselves dry and lifeless, are by no means destitute of value, since they afford a complete index or table of contents, and are occasionally our sole authorities for the transactions of particular periods.
The compiler of these Epitomes,
as they are generally called, is unknown; but they must have proceeded from one who was well acquainted with his subject, and were probably drawn up not long after the appearance of the volumes which they abridge.
By some they have been ascribed to Livy himself, by others to Florus; but there is nothing in the lan gage or context to warrant either of these con clusions; and external evidence is altogether wanting.
From the circumstance that a short introduction or preface is found at the beginning of books 1, 21, and 31, and that each of these marks the commencement of an important epoch, the whole work has been divided into decades,
or groups, containing ten books each, although there is no good reason to believe that any such division was introduced until after the fifth or sixth century, for Priscian and Diomedes, who quote repeatedly from particular books, never allude to any such distribution.
The commencement of book xli. is lost, but there is certainly no remarkable crisis at this place which invalidates one part of the argument in favour of the antiquity of the arrangement.
The first decade (bks. i-x.) is entire.
It embraces the period from the foundation of the city to the year B. C. 294, when the subjugation of the Samnites may be said to have been completed.
The second decade (bks. xi--xx.) is altogether lost.
It embraced the period from B. C. 294 to B. C. 219, comprising an account of the extension of the Roman dominion over the whole of Southern Italy and a portion of Gallia Cisalpina; of the invasion of Pyrrhus; of the first Punic war; of the expedition against the Illyrian pirates, and of other matters which fell out between the conclusion of the peace with Carthage and the siege of Saguntum.
The third decade (bks. xxi--xxx.) is entire.
It embraces the period from B. C. 219 to B. C. 201, comprehending the whole of the second Punic war, and the contemporaneous struggles in Spain and Greece.
The fourth decade (bks. xxxi--xl.) is entire, and also one half of the fifth (bks. xli--xlv.).
These fifteen books embrace the period from B. C. 201 to B. C. 167, and develope the progress of the Roman arms in Cisalpine Gaul, in Macedonia, Greece and Asia, ending with the triumph of Aemilius Paullus, in which Perseus and his three sons were exhibited as captives.
Of the remaining books nothing remains except inconsiderable fragments, the most notable being a few chapters of the 91st book, concerning the fortunes of Sertorius.
Development of the text
The whole of the above were not brought to light at once.
The earliest editions contain 29 books only, namely, i-x., xxi-xxxii., xxxivxl., the last breaking off abruptly in the middle of chapter 37, with the word edixerunt.
In 1518 the latter portion of bk. xxxiii., beginning in chapter 17th with artis faucibus,
together with what was wanting of bk. xl., were supplied from a MS. belonging to the cathedral church of St. Martin at Mayence. In 1531 bks. xli.-xlv. were discovered by Grynaeus in the convent of Lorsch, near Worms, and were published forthwith at Basle by Frobenius; and finally, in 1615, a MS. was found at Bamberg, which filled up the gap remaining in bk. xxxiii.; and this appeared complete for the first time at Rome in 1616.
The fragment of bk. xci. was copied from a palimpsest in the Vatican by Paulus Jacobus Bruns in 1772, and printed in the following year at Rome, Leipzig, and Hamburgh.
A small portion which he failed to decypher was afterwards made out by Niebuhr, who also supplied some words which had been cut away, and published the whole in his Ciceronispro M. Fonteio et C. Rabirio Orat. Fragm.,
Berlin, 1820. Two short fragments possessing much interest, since they describe the death and character of Cicero, are preserved in the sixth Suasoria of Seneca.
From the revival of letters until the reign of Louis XIV. the hopes of the learned were perpetually excited and tantalised by reports with regard to complete MSS. of the great historian. Strenuous exertions were made by Leo X. and many other European potentates in their efforts to procure a perfect copy, which at one time was said to be deposited at Iona in the Hebrides, at another in Chios, at another in the monastery of Mount Athos. at another in the seraglio of the grand signor, while must it has been confidently maintained that such a treasure was destroyed at the sack of Magdeburg; and there can be no doubt that a MS. containing the whole of the fifth decade at least was once in existence at Lausanne. Tales too were circulated the and eagerly believed of leaves or volumes having been seen or heard of under strange and romantic circumstances; but the prize, although apparently often within reach, always eluded the grasp, and the pursuit has long since been abandoned in despair.
We remarked that two of the Epitomes had been lost.
This deficiency was not at first detected, since the numbers follow each other in regular succession from 1 up to 140; and hence the total number of books was supposed not to exceed that amount. Upon more careful examination, however, it was perceived that while the epitome of bk. cxxxv. closed with the conquest of the Salassi, which belongs to B. C. 25, the epitome of bk. cxxxvi. opened with the subjugation of the Rhaeti, by Tiberius, Nero, and Drusus, in B. C. 15, thus leaving a blank of nine years, an interval marked by the shutting of Janus, the celebration of the secular games, the acceptance of the tribunitian power by Augustus, and other occurrences which would scarcely have been passed over in silence by the abbreviator. Sigonius and Drakenborch, whose reasonings have been generallyadmitted by scholars, agree that two books were devoted to this space, and hence the epitomes which stand as cxxxvi., cxxxvii., cxxxviii., cxxxix., cxl., ought to be marked cxxxviii., cxxxix., cxl., cxli., cxlii., respectively.
It was little probable, a priori,
that an undertaking so vast should have been brought to a close before any part of it was given to the world; and in point of fact we find indications here and there which throw some light upon the epochs when different sections were composed and published. Thus in book first (100.19) it is stated that the temple of Janus had been closed twice only since the reign of Numa, for the first time in the consulship of T. Manlius (B. C. 235), a few years after the termination of the first Punic war; for the second time by Augustus Caesar, after the battle of Actium, in B. C. 29, as we learn from other sources.
But we are told by Dio Cassius that it was shut again by Augustus after the conquest of the Cantabrians, in B. C. 25; and hence it is evident that the first book must have been written, and must have gone forth between the years B. C. 29 and B. C. 25.
An attempt has been made to render these limits still narrower, from the consideration that the emperor is here spoken of as Augustus,
a title not conferred until the year B. C. 27; but this will only prove that the passage could not have been published before that date, since, although written previously, the honorary epithet might have been inserted here and elsewhere at any time before publication. Again, we gather from the epitome that bk. lix. contained a reference to the law of Augustus, De Maritandis Ordinibus,
from which it has been concluded that the book in question must have been written after B. C. 18; but this is by no means certain, since it can be proved that a legislative enactment upon this subject was proposed as early as B. C. 28.
Since, however, the obsequies of Drusus were commemorated in bk. cxlii. it is evident, at the very lowest computation, that the task have been spread over seventeen years, and probably occupied a much longer time. We must not omit to notice that Niebuhr takes a very different view of this matter.
He is confident that Livy did not begin his labours until he had attained age of fifty (B. C. 9), and that he had not fully accomplished his design at the close of his life.
He builds chiefly upon a passage in 9.36, where it is said that the Ciminian wood was in these days as impenetrable "quam nuper fuere Germanici saltus," words which, it is urged, could not have been used before the forests of Germany had been opened up by the campaigns of Drusus (B. C. 12-9); and upon another in 4.20, where, after it is recorded that Augustus had repaired the shrine of Jupiter Feretrius, he is termed " templorum omnium conditorem aut restitutorem," a description which could not have been applied to him in an early part of his career. Now, without insisting that casual remarks such as these might have been introduced during a revision of the text, it must be evident that the remarks themselves are much too vague to serve as the basis of a chronological theory, except in so far as they relate to the restoration of the shrine of Jupiter Feretrius; but this we know was undertaken at the suggestion of Atticus (Cornel. Nep. Alt.
100.20), and Atticus died B. C. 32. On the other hand, the reasoning grounded on the shutting of the temple of Janus must be held, in so far as bk. i. is involved, to be absolutely impregnable; and we can scarcely imagine that the eighth book was not finished until sixteen years after the first.
In attempting to form an estimate of any great historical production, our attention is naturally and necessarily directed to two points, which may be kept perfectly distinct: first, the substance, that is, the truth or falsehood of what is set down; and secondly, its character merely as a literary composition.
As to the latter subject, Livy has little to fear from positive censure or from faint praise. His style may be pronounced almost faultless; and a great proof of its excellence is, that the charms with which it is invested are so little salient, and so equally diffused, that no one feature can be selected for special eulogy, but the whole unite to produce a form of singular beauty and grace.
The narrative flows on in a calm, but strong current, clear and sparkling, but deep and unbroken; the diction displays richness without heaviness, and simplicity without tameness.
The feelings of the reader are not laboriously worked up from time to time by a grand effort, while he is suffered to languish through long intervals of dullness, but a sort of gentle excitement is steadily maintained: the attention never droops; and while the great results appear in full relief, the minor incidents, which often conduce so materially to these results, are brought plainly into view. Nor is his art as a painter less wonderful.
There is a distinctness of outline and a warmth of colouring in all his delineations, whether of living men in action, or of things inanimate, which never fail to call up the whole scene, with all its adjuncts, before our eyes.
In a gallery of masterpieces, it is difficult to make a selection, but we doubt whether any artist, ancient or modern, ever finished a more wonderful series of pictures than those which are found at the conclusion of the 27th book, representing the state of the public mind at Rome, when intelligence was first received of the daring expedition of the consul Claudius Nero, the agonising suspense which prevailed while the success of this hazardous project was yet uncertain, and the almost frantic joy which hailed the intelligence of the great victory on the Metaurus.
The only point involving a question of taste from which we should feel inclined to withhold warm commendation is one which has called forth the warmest admiration on the part of many critics. We mean the numerous orations by which the course of the narrative is diversified, and which are frequently made the vehicle of political disquisition. Not but that these are in themselves models of eloquence; but they are too often out of keeping with the very moderate degree of mental cultivation enjoyed by the speakers, and are frequently little adapted to the times when they were delivered, or to the audiences to whom they were addressed. Instead of being the shrewd outpourings of homely wisdom, or the violent expression of rude passion, they have too much the air of polished rhetorical declamations.
Before proceeding to examine and to judge the matter or substance of the work, we are bound to ascertain, if possible, the end which the author proposed to himself. Now no one who reads the pages of Livy with attention can for a moment suppose that he ever conceived the project of drawing up a critical history of Rome.
He desired indeed to extend the fame of the Roman people, and to establish his own reputation; but he evidently had neither the inclination nor the ability to enter upon laborious original investigations with regard to the foreign and domestic relations of the republic in remote ages. His aim was to offer to his countrymen a clear and pleasing narrative, which, while it gratified their vanity, should contain no startling improbabilities nor gross amplifications, such as would have shocked his fastidious contemporaries. To effect this purpose he studied with care some of the more celebrated historians who had already trodden the path upon which he was about to enter, comparing and remodelling the materials which they afforded.
He communicated warmth and ease to the cold constrained records of the more ancient chronicles, he expunged most of the monstrous and puerile fables with which the pages of his predecessors were overloaded, retaining those fictions only which were clothed with a certain poetical seemliness, or such as had obtained so firm a hold upon the public mind as to have become articles in the national faith; he rejected the clumsy exaggerations in which Valerius Antias and others of the same school had loved to revel, and he moulded what had before been a collection of heavy, rude, incongruous masses, into one commanding figure, symmetrical in all its proportions, full of vigorous life and manly dignity. Where his authorities were in accordance with each other, and with common sense, he generally rested satisfied with this agreement; where their testimony was irreconcilable, he was content to point out their want of harmony, and occasionally to offer an opinion on their comparative credibility.
But, however turbid the current of his information, in no case did he ever dream of ascending to the fountain head. Never did he seek to confirm or to confute the assertion of others by exploring the sources from which their knowledge was derived.
He never attempted to test their accuracy by examining monuments of remote antiquity, of which not a few were accessible to every inhabitant of the metropolis.
He never thought it necessary to inquire how far the various religious rites and ceremonies still observed might throw light upon the institutions of a distant epoch; nor did he endeavour to illustrate the social divisions of the early Romans, and the progress of the Roman constitution, by investigating the antiquities of the various Italian tribes, most of whom possessed their own records and traditions.
It may perhaps be objected that we have no right to assume that Livy did not make use of such ancient monuments or documents as were available in his age, and that in point of fact he actually refers to several. We shall soon discover, however, upon close scrutiny, that in all such cases he does not speak from personal investigation, but from intelligence received through the medium of the annalists. Thus he is satisfied with quoting Licinius Macer for the contents of the Foedus Ardeatinum
(4.7); the " Lex vetusta priscis literis verbisque scripta" (7.3), and the circumstances connected with the usage there commemorated are evidently taken upon trust from Cincius Alimentus; and although he appeals (8.20) to the Foedus Neapolitanum,
he does not pretend to have seen it. On the other hand, we have many positive proofs of his negligence or indifference. When he hesitates between two different versions of the Libri Lintei given by two different writers (4.23), we might be inclined, with Dr. Arnold, charitably to believe that they were no longer in existence, rather than to suppose that he was so indolent that he would not take the trouble of walking from one quarter of the city to another for the sake of consulting them, had he not himself a few pages previously given us to understand that he had never inspected the writing on the breastplate of Cossus (4.20), and had he not elsewhere completely misrepresented the Icilian law (3.31), although it was inscribed on a column of bronze in the temple of Diana, where it was examined by Dionysius, to whom we are indebted for an accurate account of its purport : nay, more, it is perfectly clear that he had never read the Leges Regiae, nor the Commentaries of Servius Tullius, nor even the Licinian Rogations; and, stranger still, that he had never studied with care the laws of the twelve tables, not to mention the vast collection of decrees of the senate, ordinances of the plebs, treaties and other state papers, extending back almost to the foundation of the city, which had been engraven on tablets of brass, and were consumed to the number of three thousand in the destruction of the capital by the Vitellians. (Sueton. Vesp.
8; Tac. Hist. 3.71
The inquiry with regard to the authorities whom he actually did follow would be simple had these authorities been preserved, or had they been regularly referred to as the work advanced.
But unfortunately not one of the writers employed by Livy in his first decade has descended to us entire or nearly entire, and he seldom gives any indication of the sources from whence his statements are derived, except in those cases where he encountered inexplicable contradictions or palpable blunders.
The first five books contain very few allusions to preceding historians, but a considerable number of fragments relating to this period have been preserved by Dionysius, Plutarch, and the grammarians. On the other hand, scarcely any fragments have been preserved relating to the period embraced by the five last books of this decade; but here we find frequent notices of preceding historians. We are thus enabled to decide with considerable certainty that he depended chiefly upon Ennius, Fabius Pictor, Cincius Alimentus, and Calpurnius Piso; and to these must be added, after the commencement of the Gallic war, Claudius Quadrigarius ; while he occasionally, but with less confidence, made use of Valerius Antias, Licinius Macer, and Aelius Tubero. We can discern no traces of Sulpicius Galba, nor of Scribonius Libo, nor of Cassius Hemina, nor of Sempronius Tuditanus, who were not altogether destitute of weight: we need not lament that he passed over Postumius Albinus and Cn. Gellius, to the latter of whom especially Dionysius was indebted for a load of trash; but it must ever be a source of regret that he should have neglected the Annals and Antiquities of Varro, as well as the Origines of Cato, works from which he might have obtained stores of knowledge upon those departments of constitutional history in which he is conspicuously defective. From the commencement of the third decade he reposes upon a much more firm support. Polybius now becomes the guide whom, for the most part, he follows closely and almost exclusively. Occasionally indeed he quits him for a time, in order to make room for those representations of particular occurrences by the Latin annalists which he deemed likely to be more palatable to his readers; but he quickly returns to the beaten path, and treads steadily in the footsteps of the Greek.
It will be seen from these remarks that when Livy professes to give the testimony of all preceding authors (omnes auctores
), these words must be intended to denote those only which happened to be before him at the moment, and must not by any means be understood to imply that he had consulted every author accessible, nor even such as were most deserving of credit. And not only does he fail to consult all the authors to whom he might have resorted with advantage, but he does not avail himself in the most judicious manner of the aid of those in whom he reposed trust.
He does not seem at any time to have taken a broad and comprehensive view of his subject, but to have performed his task piecemeal.
A small section was taken in hand, different accounts were compared, and the most plausible was adopted; the same system was adhered to in the succeeding portions, so that each considered by itself, without reference to the rest, was executed with care; but the witnesses who were rejected in one place were admitted in another, without sufficient attention being paid to the dependence and the connection of the events. Hence the numerous contradictions and inconsistencies which have been detected by sharpeyed critics like Perizonius and Glareanus; and although these seldom affect materially the leading incidents, yet by their frequent recurrence they shake our faith in the trustworthiness of the whole. Other mistakes also are found in abundance, arising from his want of anything like practical knowledge of the world, from his never having acquired even the elements of the military art, of jurisprudence, or of political economy, and above all, from his singular ignorance of geography.
It is well known that his account of the disaster at the Caudine Forks, of the march of Hannibal into Etruria, of the engagement on the Thrasymene Lake, and of the passage of the Alps by the Carthaginians, do not tally with the natural features of the regions in question, and yet the whole of these were within the limits or on the borders of Italy, and the localities might all have been visited within the space of a few weeks.
While we fully acknowledge the justice of the censures directed against Livy on the score of these and other deficiencies, we cannot admit that his general good faith has ever been impugned with any show of justice. We are assured (Tac. Ann. 4.34
) that he was fair and liberal upon matters of contemporary history, where, from his position about court, he had the greatest temptation to flatter those in power by depreciating their former adversaries ; we know that he did not scruple to pay a high tribute to the talents and patriotism of such men as Cassius and Brutus, that his character of Cicero is a high eulogium, and that he spoke so warmly of the unsuccessful leader in the great civil war, that he was sportively styled a Pompeian by Augustus, who to his honour did not look coldly on the historian in consequence of his boldness and candour.
It is true that in recounting the domestic strife which agitated the republic for nearly two centuries, he represents the plebeians and their leaders in the most unfavourable light; and whilst he at times almost allows that they were struggling for their just rights against the oppression of the patricians, he contrives to render their proceedings odious.
This arose, not from any wish to pervert the truth, but from ignorance of the exact relation of the contending parties, combined with a lively remembrance of the convulsions which he witnessed in his youth, or had heard of from those who were still alive when he had grown up to manhood.
It is manifest that throughout he never can separate in his own mind the spirited plebeians of the infant commonwealth, composed of the noblest and best blood of the various neighbouring states subjugated by Rome, from the base and venal rabble which thronged the forum in the days of Marius and Cicero ; while in like manner he confounds those bold and honest tribunes, who were the champions of liberty, with such men as Saturninus or Sulpicius, Clodius or Vatinius.
There is also perceptible a strong but not unnatural disposition to elevate the justice, moderation, and valour of his own countrymen in all their dealings with foreign powers, and on the same principle to gloss over their deeds of oppression and treachery, and to explain away their defeats But although he unquestionably attempts to put a favourable construction upon adverse facts, he does not warp or distort the facts themselves as he found them recorded, and this enables the reader who is biassed by no national prepossessions to draw a correct inference for himself. Occasionally, especially in the darker periods, we can scarcely doubt that he indulged in a little wilful blindness, and that when two conflicting traditions were current he did not very scrupulously weigh the evidence, but, adopting that which was most gratifying to his countrymen, passed over the other in silence.
He certainly could scarcely have been altogether ignorant that his story with regard to the conclusion of the war with Porsena was not the only one entitled to consideration, although he was probably unacquainted with the treaty from which Pliny (Plin. Nat. 34.39
; comp. Tac. Hist. 3.72
) extracted the humiliating conditions of the peace, and he must have been aware that there were good reasons for believing that the evacuation of Rome by the Gauls took place under circumstances very different from those celebrated in the songs and funeral orations of the Furian and other patrician clans.
The reproaches lavished on the alleged credulity of Livy in the matter of omens and prodigies scarcely deserve even a passing comment. No one can regret that he should have registered these curious memorials of superstition, which occupied so prominent a place in the popular faith, and formed an engine of such power in the hands of an unscrupulous priesthood; nor can any one who has read the simple and eloquent observation on this very topic, in the thirteenth chapter of the fortythird book, consider that either the sentiments or the conduct of the historian stand in need of further apology or explanation. (Comp. 21.62, 24.10, 44, 27.23.)
We must not omit to notice a question which has been debated with great eagerness,--whether Livy had read Dionysius or Dionysius had made use of Livy. Niebuhr unhesitatingly maintains that the Archaeologia of Dionysius was published before Livy began to compose his Annals, and that the latter received considerable assistance from the former. We must hesitate, however, to acknowledge the certainty of this conclusion, unless there are some arguments in reserve more cogent than those brought forward in the Lectures on Roman History. For there two reasons only are advanced, the one founded upon the opinion which we have already endeavoured to prove was scarcely tenable,--that Livy did not commence his task until he had attained the age of fifty; the other founded upon the fact that Dionysius nowhere mentions Livy, which, it must be remembered, is counterbalanced by another fact, namely, that Livy nowhere mentions Dionysius, and that allattempts to prove plagiarisms or trace allusions have failed.
In reality it is most probable that while both were engaged in the same pursuit at the same time, each followed his own course independently, and both gave the result of their labours to the world without either having been previously acquainted with the researches of the other.
There is yet one topic to which we must advert. We are told by Quintilian twice (1.5. %4F 56, 8.1.3) that Asinius Pollio had remarked a certain Patavinity
in Livy. Scholars have given themselves a vast deal of trouble to discover what this term may indicate, and various hypotheses have been propounded; but any one who will read the words of Quintilian with attention cannot fail to perceive that they are susceptible of one interpretation only, and that if there is any truth in the story, which Niebuhr altogether disbelieves, Pollio must have intended to censure some provincial peculiarities of expression, which we at all events are in no position to detect, as might have been anticipated, the conjectures collected and examined in the elaborate dissertation of Morhof being alike frivolous.
From what has now been said it will be evident that if our estimate is accurate, Livy must have been destitute of many qualifications essential in an historian of the highest class.
He was, we fully believe, amiable, honest, and single-minded, sound in head and warm in heart, but not endowed with remarkable acuteness of intellect, nor with indefatigable industry.
He was as incapable of taking broad, clear, and philosophic views of the progress and connection of events, as he was indisposed to prosecute laborious and profound inquiries at the expense of great personal toil. Although a mere man of letters, knowing little of the world except from books, he was not a man of deep learning, and indeed was but indifferently versed in many ordinary branches of a liberal education. Not only was he content to derive all he knew from secondary streams, but he usually repaired for his supplies to those which were nearest and most convenient, without being solicitous to ascertain that they were the most pure.
The unbounded popularity which he has enjoyed must be ascribed partly to the fascinations of his subject, partly to his winning candour, but chiefly to the extraordinary command which he wielded over the resources of his native tongue.
No manuscript of Livy has yet been discovered containing all the books now extant.
Those which comprise the first and third decades do not extend further. Of the first and third decades we have MSS. as old as the tenth century; those of the fourth do not ascend higher than the fifteenth century.
The text of the first decade depends entirely on one original copy, revised in the fourth century by Flavianus Nicomachus Dexter and Victorianus, from which all the known MSS. of this portion of the work have flowed. Of these the two best are the Codex Mediceus
of the eleventh century, and the Codex Parisinus,
collated by Alchefski, of the tenth century, while perhaps superior to either was the codex made use of by Rhenanus, which has now disappeared.
The text of the third decade rests upon the Codex Puteanus
employed by Gronovius, and which has been pronounced less corrupt than any MS. of the first decade.
The fourth decade is derived chiefly from the Codex Bambergensis
and the Codex Moguntinus,
while the five books of the fifth decade are taken entirely from the MS. found at Lorsch, hence called Codex Laurishamensis,
now preserved at Vienna.
The Editio Princeps of Livy was printed at Rome, in folio by Sweynheym and Pannartz, about 1469
, under the inspection of Andrew, bishop of Aleria; the second edition also was printed at Rome in folio, by Udalricus Gallus, towards the close of the same year or the beginning of 1470
; the third was from the press of Vindelin de Spira. fol. Venet. 1470, being the first which bears a date.
Of those which followed, the most notable are. that of Bernard. Herasmius, fol. Venet. 1491, with the commentaries of M. Antonius Sabellicus
, which were very often reprinted; that of Ascensius, fol. Par. 1510, 1513, 1516, 1530, 1533
; that of Aldus, Venet. 5 tom. 8vo., 1518-1533, including Florus, and a Latin translation of Polybius by Perotto
; that of Frobenius, fol. Basel, 1531
, containing for the first time the five books discovered by Grynaeus and the chronology of Glareanus, reprinted in 1535, with the addition of the notes of Rhenanus and Gelenius
; that of Gryphius, Lugd. 4 vol. 8vo., 1542, with the notes of Valla, Rhenanus, Gelenius, and Glareanus
, reprinted at Paris, 1543, with the addition of the notes of Antonius Sabellicus
; that of Manutius, fol. Venet. 1555, 1566, 1572, 1592, with the epitomes and scholia of Sigonius
; and that of Gruterus, fol. Francf. 1608, 8vo. 1619, fol. 1628, 8vo. 1659.
A new era commences with researches of Gronovius, who first placed the text upon a satisfactory basis by the collation of a vast number of MSS. His labours appear under their best form in the editions printed by Daniel Elzevir, 3 vols. 1665, 1679, forming part of the Variorum Classics in 8vo.
The edition of Jo. Clericus, 10 vols. 8vo. Amst. 1710, containing the supplements of Freinsheimius entire
, and of Crevier, 6 vols. 4to., Paris, 1735-41
, are by no means destitute of value: the latter especially has always been very popular; the notes have been frequently reprinted.
It was reserved, however, for Drakenborch to follow out what Gronovius had so well begun, and his most elaborate edition, published at Leyden, in 7 vols. 4to. 1738-46
, is still considered the standard.
This admirable performance, in addition to a text revised with uncommon care and judgment, comprehends everything valuable contributed by previous scholars, and forms a most ample storehouse of learning.
Since that period little has been done for Livy; for the editions of Stroth and Döring, Goth. 1796-1819
, of Ruperti, Götting. 1807-1809
, and of Bekker and Raschig, Lips. 1829
, cannot be regarded as possessing any particular weight.
A new recension, recently commenced by Alchefski, Berol. 8vo. 1841-1843
, and carried as far as the end of the first decade, promises to be very valuable.
The edition of Drakenborch,together with the excellent Commentationes de Fontibus Historiarum T. Livii
of Lachmann, 4to. Goetting. 1822-1828, will supply everything that can be desired for general illustration. To these we may perhaps add the commentary of Ruperti, which, although frequently verbose upon what is easy and altogether silent upon what is difficult, contains much matter useful to a student.
A long list of dissertations on various isolated topics connected with Livy, will be found in Schweiger's Handbuch der Classichen Bibliographie,
8vo. Leipzig, 1832, and in the Grundriss der Classichen Bibliographie
of Wagner, Breslau, 1840.
The quaint old translation of Philemon Holland, fol. Lend. 1600, 1659, is far superior to the loose weak paraphrase of Baker.
The version published by John Hayes (Lond. 1744-1745, 6 vols. 8vo), professing to be executed by several hands, and another which appeared anonymously (fol. Lond. 1686), embrace the supplements of Freinsheim as well as the text of Livy.