Livy’s The Rise of Rome serves as the ultimate catalogue of Roman history, elaborating on the accomplishments of each king and set of consuls through the ages of its vast empire. In the first five books, Livy lays the groundwork for the history of Rome and sets forth a model for all of Rome to follow. For him, the “special and salutary benefit of the study of history is to behold evidence of every sort of behaviour set forth as on a splendid memorial; from it you may select for yourself and for your country what to emulate, from it what to avoid, whether basely begun or basely concluded.” (Livy 4). Livy, however, denies the general populace the right to make the same sort of conclusions that he made in constructing his histories. His biased representation of Romulus and Tarquin Superbus, two icons of Roman history, give the readers a definite model of what a Roman should be, instead of allowing them to come to their own conclusion.
Livy begins early in establishing the basic characteristics of Romulus, arguably the most notable Roman in history. Romulus and his brother Remus were “energetic young men, who [were]… strengthened… in body and spirit.” (Livy 9). Livy then describes the clash of these attributes between the two brothers, as Romulus and Remus battle for supremacy. “From a war of words, anger turned them to bloodshed. In the heat of the melee, Remus met his death.” (Livy 11). Livy wastes no time in establishing the brutal tradition of war that helped to extend the Roman Empire. Romulus came to power because of force, and furthered his rule by the same means: “By brute force and without strategy the Roman king prevailed, using the might of his veteran army alone.” (Livy 20). This overwhelm...
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...for success, he robs his audience of the right to make certain determinations about characters such as Tarquin Superbus and Romulus because of his bias toward the motivation behind their actions. Livy’s The Rise of Rome was a grand effort and an amazing undertaking. Cataloguing the years of Roman history consolidated rumor and legend into fact, creating a model for Rome to follow. Livy’s only error in this vast undertaking was in imprinting his own conception of morality and justice onto his work, an error that pulls the reader away from active thought and engaging debate. In doing so, Livy may have helped solidify a better Rome, but it would have been a Rome with less of a conception of why certain things are just, and more of a flat, basely concluded concept of justice.
Livy, The Rise of Rome. Trans. Luce. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
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