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Livian techniques

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Note to students: (1) You do not have to copy exactly the sentence structure "In order to..." (2) If you do so, go for something more specific than "to write history"! What is the author's technique for approaching some particular kind of subject, issue, or situation? Wareh 14:18, May 4, 2011 (UTC)

Prefacing in a Livian wayEdit

In order to approach a preface in the style of Livy, your must be concise, explicit and appear humble. Livy begins by acknowledging his predecessors and how each believes that they are providing new insight into what is already known, he then states that he is writing because ' it nevertheless will be a pleasure to have celebrated, to the best of my ability, the memory of the past achievements of the greatest people on earth.' (3) With this Livy humbly states that he is writing this history because the joy recieves in it's undertaking. Livy makes his position on myth and religion clear, saying 'however they will be regardedand judged, I shall not for my own part regard as of great importance'(8). this is similar to the methods of other historians we have seen, and would seem nessesary to include within any prefacing of a history. Livy provides a guideline for his history in saying that he will trace the degridation of morals, and and how Rome's 'dominion was born and grew.' In his style he comments upon the current state of Rome and how he intends to trace how it has come about. And he ends with a humble plea for a blessing as he begins his history. In contrast with the other writers we've seen Livy appears to spends less time talking about himself and more time talking about his works and his aims in writing. His preface is very short and concisly hits upon the major issues that he feels are important to introducing his work. Farrellh 19:26, April 26, 2011 (UTC)

Livy's use of religion and its similarities with HerodotusEdit

Livy's writing technique is similar to Herodotus' writing technique. Born hundreds of years after he passed away, it is easy to find traces of the other historians in Livy's work. One important aspect in Herodotus' writing was the use of religion in explaining things. Herodotus would not shy away from bringing in religious concepts into the history of the Greek people. Livy uses the same technique when describing Romulus' disappearance. "Suddenly a storm arose with loud claps of thunder, enveloping him in a cloud so dense that it hid him from the view of the people. From then on Romulus was no longer on earth...they all decided that Romulus should be hailed as a god, son of a god, king, and father of Rome" (26). This is similar to Herodotus in that both writers bring in supernatural events into their histories. In this instance, Livy is saying that because Romulus disappeared without anybody knowing how, or where he went, he must be a god! Similar to Herodotus, Livy offers a one sentence explanation for Romulus' disappearance that does not make him out to be a god. "I suppose that there were some, even then, who privately claimed that the king had been torn into pieces by the hands of the senators" (26). Even though Livy gives another explanation, he casts his doubt in it by starting off the phrase with "I suppose." It is clear to the reader, at this point, that although Livy gives two explanations for Romulus' disappearance, he clearly supports the story that Romulus was taken in by the gods and that Romulus, himself, was a god. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Pearlmanspencer (talkcontribs)


In order to understand the foundation of Rome in a Livian way, one must consider the role that family ties played in the development of the history. Family relationships are among the strongest forces of trust and strength; since royalty is a heritable position, having offspring becomes essential to the prosperity of the kingdom. This is evident in the long list of names of kings and their successors that Livy outlines in th beginning of book 1. Romulus calms the upset Sabine women that had just been abducted by reminding them that they will have "the dearest possession that the human race has - children" (Ch. 9). However, while family is a unifying force in the History of Rome, ---- it plays a large role in the violence and war that shape the early years of Rome. Although Romulus and Remus work together to kill Amulius and restore the throne to their grandfather, when it comes time for one of them to assume the throne, they refuse to share rule or concede to each other and Remus ends up being killed, by two accounts given by Livy, who refers to it as "the ancestral evil that had beset Numitor and Amulius - desire for kingship" (Ch. 6). Perhaps more importantly, though, considerations of family can play just as much of a role in ending wars, as exemplified by the Sabine women interfering in the battle waged by their own fathers and husbands. Livy himself reveals his own tendency to think of Rome as being somewhat of a family itself, describing the citizens left after the ascension of Romulus as being "stricken with fear as though they had been orphaned" (Ch. 16) It is clear that, political motives and military strength aside, Livy considers family as an important aspect of the growth and unity of early Rome, and especially its subsequent period of peace. Aglids 18:50, April 27, 2011 (UTC)

Livy's Use of Multiple Stories and ExplanationsEdit

In order to approach history in a Livian way, one must include multiple stories for single events. One must give the reader multiple choices of what to believe. Numerous times throughout the development of Rome, Livy gives multiple stories or reasons for the events. This may seem extremely contradictory of what a historian today would view correct. To give multiple stories for a single event today would be seen as vague, untrue and unorthodox. Livy presents some of these multiple stories in a way to direct the reader in which case to believe. In this way he allows the reader to choose what to believe, but persuades the reader through the presentation of each event. One example of this technique used by living is the explanation of Remus’s death. “Arguments broke out, and the angry conflict resulted in bloodshed. Amid the throng, Remus was struck dead. The more common story is that Remus leaped over the new walls, jeering at his brother. He was killed by the enraged Romulus.” (1.7) This shows that there has been multiple stories of how Remus died, but Livy and others more commonly believe that the second account to be true. Another event when Livy gives two stories for events is the explanation of the nine-day sacrifice of the Romans. “In response to this same prodigy, the Romans held a sacrifice over a nine-day period, whether because of divine utterance that issued from Mount Alba … or on the advice of the soothsayers.” (1.31) These are only two examples when Livy gives multiple stories and reasons for events.Stuarts 20:55, May 2, 2011 (UTC)

Livy's use of Religion and MythsEdit

In order to tell a history in a particularly Livian way, one must not disregard myths and "prophecies" in his or her stories. In contrast to Thucydides, who did not use prophecies or myths at all in his history, Livy uses them fairly frequently in his writing. One specific example I came across was in regards to Tranquinius Piscus' son Lucumo and his travels to Rome with his wife. On their journey, when they got to the Janiculum, an Eagle came down over their chariot, and lifted Lucumo' cap from his head. After flying over the wagon, letting out loud screeches for a while, it gently placed the cap back on his head (1.34). Lucumo's wife Tanaquil was "a woman skilled in interpreting prodigies from the sky" (1.34) and explained to her husband that he should expect a good welcome and a high, exalted position because of this event. Livy speaks of this event as if it were fact that Lucumo would see a high position, which he eventually did as guardian of the king's children in the king's will, and ultimately king (1.34-35). These techniques were never used by Thucydides and would most likely not be used today by historians. Today people would most likely not use an eagle removing and replacing a hat as a pretext to someone becoming king of Rome. Diestelt 00:50, May 3, 2011 (UTC)

Lack of EvidenceEdit

In order to articulate personal passions while writing in a purely objective manner, there is no better style worth replicating than that of the distinguished historian, Livy. The first pentad of Livy’s The History of Rome (as one might expect) tracks the most prominent events leading up to and following Rome’s founding. As Livy guides his audience through both inspiring and atrocious tales, he incorporates colorful language to better convey the intense emotions and unique personalities of the historical figures. In light of this, many political and social theorists have attempted to pin down Livy’s personal beliefs; inherently proposing that the more an objective history resembles a work of prose, the more such an account is considered interpretive rather than factual. On the contrary, Livy’s preface outright states his intentions to make the described events seem more impressive by “intermingling them” with facts derived in research, thusly implying that the information provided is neither replaced nor altered. In addition known facts are both frequently and patently distinguished from Livy’s personal conjecture. Rather than simply telling a continuous story, Livy breaks his flow with reported speech in order to concede to his own doubt “with words something like this”. Creative license with adjectives can also be ruled out as indications of Livy’s personal views. Though he may state that one particular battle or event is placed as a superlative in Roman history, these descriptions are always stated in comparison to he past, previously described events. Livy’s application and decision to use one descriptive word over another is simply a scale less comparison; although there is no observable reasoning behind his choosing to use one word in place of another, Livy does not refrain from applying the same malevolence or praise indiscriminately. The strongest evidence of this perhaps comes from Livy’s own words in the preface: “However that will be, it nevertheless will be a pleasure to have celebrated, to the best of my ability, the memory of the past achievements of the greatest people on earth [the Romans]” [Livy, 0.3]. After this indisputably opinionated statement that he favors the Roman people, Livy both extols and bashes all groups based on only merit determined through research. Through simply admitting his lack of concrete evidence, Livy’s perspective on the matters discussed cannot be mistaken or derived outside of his own voice and unconcealed passion for the Roman people. Macminnd 20:24, May 4, 2011 (UTC)

Livy's approach to class struggles in Books II and III follow a certain trend. First, Livy begins by listing the grievances of the plebeians, then by following up with events and back-and-forth retaliation until one of the parties (either the plebeians or patricians) is satisfied. By giving insight into the thoughts of the masses and their reasons for being involved in the internal strife, Livy paints a grim outlook for the early days of Rome’s republic. The mentality of the plebeians can be seen in Book II, where the plebeians are angry at the fact that they are indebted to the patricians. Livy writes, “[The plebeians] thought that [though] they fought abroad for freedom and dominion, at home they had been enslaved and oppressed by their fellow citizens. The freedom of the plebeians, they said, was safer in war than in peace, amid enemies rather than amid fellow citizens” (2.23). By suggesting that they were safer in the hands of enemies than their own Roman blood, Livy’s insight into the rationale of the plebs shows that peace seems rather impossible. Later on in Book III during negotiations with the plebs, some envoys state, “Will our state never have a rest from senators punishing plebeians, or plebeians punishing senators? You need a shield rather than a sword” (3.53). While it is certainly the envoys asking this question to the plebs, by incorporating it into his work Livy is stating the overall theme of Book III, that the class struggle inside Rome seems utterly endless, and indeed it also somewhat stretches into his present day. By incorporating the insights of individuals, Livy provides an etiological understanding of the problems facing the early days of Rome’s republic and how they may be similar to his present day issues. Zaidi2013 04:21, May 6, 2011 (UTC)

In order to understand Livy's accounts of Rome from its creation, one must also realize that he was writing during the reign of Emperor Augustus. So, he wrote about events that had occurred hundreds of year beforehand to the best of his ability. This is why, for one, that many critics find it hard to believe much of what he had written. He describes some accounts after saying "it is said" or even writes of rumors that might have been believed by people during a specific time period before his existence. It is almost as if he forms the beliefs and mindsets of the people to what he would have thought during any event. This might be the reason why he gives alternate reasons for things happening and incorporates possible religious influence such as for the mysterious disappearance of Romulus (1.16). Livy's ignorance though gave him more flexibility to speak his mind and tell the reader how he felt about the history of Rome.Cpao03 01:11, May 12, 2011 (UTC)

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