Maps of Latium and Rome

1. T. Termini

10. Regia

19. Rostra

2. T. Iovis Feretri

11. T. Iovis Statoris

20. Curia

3. Saxum Tarpeium

12. T. Telluris

21. Comitium

4. Aequimaelium

13. Aedes Vicae Potae

22. Volcanal

5. T. Fidei

14. Aius Locutius

23. Carcer

6. Asylum

15. Tabernae

24. Sacellum Carmentae

7. T. Saturni

16. Venus Cloacina

25. T. Matutae et Fortunae

8. T. Castoris

17. Lacus Curtius

26. Ara Maxima

9. T. et Atrium Vestae

18. T. Iani

27. Columna Minucia


Cited at the end of this Appendix is a list of works, which may be used to elucidate earlier references. Only works written in English will be mentioned. In most publications Latin and Greek are now translated, but in many older publications, still useful for their insights into Livy, they are not; readers may wish to use these works in conjunction with this translation of Livy and with translations of other authors.

LIVY (pp. 1–6)


Forty years after it was first published Walsh (1961) remains the best general book on Livy, providing a full discussion of Livy’s technique, both historical and literary. The chapter that has worn least well is that devoted to Livy’s use of his sources, in which the author underestimates Livy’s creative use of his predecessors. Other book–length studies of Livy are Luce (1977), Levene (1993), Miles (1995), Jaeger (1997), Feldherr (1998) and Forsythe (1999). The fact that four of these books were published in the 1990s is to be explained partly by the general increase in publishing on classical subjects in that decade but also by Livy’s return to popularity amongst students of Latin literature. Walsh (1974) is a bibliographical essay which assesses work on Livy up to the year in which it was written; Kissel (1982) (written in German but easily used) lists most of what was published on Livy between 1933 and 1978; the chapter on Livy in Kraus and Woodman (1997), worth reading in its own right, deals with more recent publications.


Our knowledge of Livy’s life is poor, and no new evidence has come to light that necessitates major modifications to Ogilvie’s account. For a recent discussion see Kraus (1994a: 1–9).

Scholars have long speculated on the nature of Livy’s relationship to Augustus. Ogilvie’s argument that he was not closely connected to the emperor is likely to be right, but he probably made too much of the anecdote that Augustus called him a ‘Pompeian’; that label may have been no more than a friendly joke. The best recent treatment of these matters is Badian (1993).

Ogilvie’s view that Livy began his history after the battle of Actium, perhaps in 29 B c, corresponds to that generally held by Livian scholars. It has been challenged by Woodman (1988: 128–34), who argues that the work could have been begun before this decisive battle. One of the passages to which Woodman alludes comes from 4 of Livy’s preface (above, p.29):

I am aware, too, that most readers will take less pleasure in my account of how Rome began and in her early history; they will wish to hurry on to more modern times and to read of the period, already a long one, in which the might of an imperial people is beginning to work its own ruin.

The image of a state collapsing under its own weight or might was often applied to Rome during the civil wars that engulfed her in the middle and late first century BC (see, e.g., Horace, Epode 16.1–2, Lucan 1.71–2); hence it is reasonable to argue that Livy wrote this passage before Augustus put an end to the civil wars.

In suggesting that our text is a revised edition and that 4.20.5–11 is an insertion into what originally had been written, Ogilvie followed the important article of Luce (1965). The argument has met with general approval amongst Livian scholars (see, e.g., Woodman (1988: 134–5)).


Anyone purchasing a copy of this book under the misapprehension that they were about to read something akin to a modern work of scholarship would swiftly have this illusion removed by Ogilvie’s introduction, in which he brings out well the unreliability of Livy, and the extent to which his interests would be called literary rather than purely historical. That the historical standards of the ancients were different from ours, and that the major ancient historians were all trying to write literary masterpieces, is now a commonplace of classical scholarship. Two works that have been particularly influential in establishing it are by Wiseman (1979) and Woodman (1988).

In pointing to Livy’s moral outlook and the way in which he wrote history so that people could learn from the past, Ogilvie directs his readers’ attention to the single most notable aspect of Livy’s historiography. It receives its classic modern exposition in Chapters 3 and 4 (pp. 46–109) of Walsh’s book (1961), which in turn makes use of Walsh’s earlier article of 1955. However, the subject is so important for our understanding of Livy that it will be worthwhile here to supplement Ogilvie’s comments.

Livy makes his didactic intentions clear towards the end of his preface ( §§ 10–12, p. 30 [my italics]):

The study of history is the best medicine for a sick mind; for in history you have a record of the infinite variety of human experience plainly set out for all to see; and in that record you can find for yourself and for your country both examples and warnings; fine things to take as models, base things, rotten through and through, to avoid.

I hope my passion for Rome’s past has not impaired my judgement; for I do honestly believe that no country has ever been greater or purer than ours or richer in good citizens or noble deeds; none has been free for so many generations from the vices of avarice and luxury; nowhere have thrift and plain living been for so long held in such esteem.

In both the italicized passages the original Latin has the word exemplum, from which the modern English ‘example’ derives. In ethical instruction exempla were important to the practical Roman mind. The orator Cicero constantly mentions the great men of the past as exempla of how Romans should behave (often in contrast to the opponents whom he was attacking in his speeches) and in the Memorable Deeds and Sayings of Valerius Maximus, a writer who was probably born towards the end of Livy’s life, we have a long handbook of such exempla, put together for the use of budding orators and others.

Ogilvie (p. 9) pointed out how Livy liked to work up stories into ‘episodes’, centred on some moral, containing direct speech at their climax, and then rounded off with a formal close. An excellent example of this technique may be found in his account of the Roman capture of Falerii in 394 BC (5.26–7, pp. 399–402), of which a brief analysis may be given here.

The introductory sentences (p. 399–400) both link the episode to the political conflicts of the book and reveal Livy’s own sympathies: he notes that while support for the tribunes dwindled at Rome glory accrued to Camillus in the Faliscan War; but on the other hand he has no hesitation in exposing as a sham the motive for the election of Camillus proffered by the senatorial party or patricians. Similarly, the references to Veii and Capena throughout the episode serve to link it with the main military action of the book. By commenting on the increase in the reputation of Camillus Livy reveals in advance that the outcome of the campaign was favourable to Rome; but the manner of the Roman victory remains a surprise, and emerges only towards the end of Chapter 27. Despite Camillus’s success in capturing the enemy camp, by the end of Chapter 26 the war seems to be drifting towards a stalemate and a repetition of the long siege of Veii.

Then comes the turning point or peripeteia, emphasized in the original Latin and well brought out in this translation [the italics are mine]:

So it appeared not unlikely to be as protracted a business as the siege of Veii had not a stroke of luck brought unexpected victory and at the same time an opportunity for Camillus to prove once again his nobler qualities as a soldier.

At this point the schoolmaster in charge of the children of the Faliscan leaders betrays his charges by taking them to Camillus and claims that in doing so he was guaranteeing Camillus victory. The reply which Livy gives to Camillus forms the heart of the episode, the place where its moral is most clearly pointed. Camillus contrasts Roman moral standards with those of the schoolmaster and shows how Rome respects the common decencies of humanity. From his behaviour Livy’s readers could learn what it meant to be truly Roman:

‘Neither my people,’ Camillus replied, ‘nor I, who command their army, happen to share your tastes. You are a scoundrel and your offer is worthy of you. As political entities, there is no bond of union between Rome and Falerii, but we are bound together none the less, and always shall be, by the bonds of a common humanity. War has its laws as peace has, and we have learned to wage war with decency no less than with courage. We have drawn the sword not against children, who even in the sack of cities are spared, but against men, armed like ourselves, who without injury or provocation attacked us at Veii. Those men, your countrymen, you have done your best to humble by this vile and unprecedented act; but I shall bring them low, as I brought Veii low, by the Roman arts of courage, persistence, and arms.’

The Faliscans are so impressed by the behaviour of Camillus that they surrender to Rome. Towards the end of Livy’s narrative the word ‘honour’ is to the fore (the original Latin uses the word fides, which has the strong implication of ‘good faith’, and to which the English ‘fidelity’ is etymologically related), and from this another moral point becomes apparent: good faith is a characteristic of the Romans and it will bring its reward. In the original Latin of ‘From this war two things have emerged which humanity would do well to lay to heart’ lies the word exemplum (‘example’): Camillus and the Faliscans thus provide an example from which Livy’s readers can learn.

As we have said, Livy liked to bring episodes to a formal close, and he does so here by characteristically brief reporting of the terms of peace and by noting that the legions were led home.

Numerous other examples of Livy’s construction of such episodes and of his concern to make moral points could be cited, but nowhere is his depiction of his characters as exempla more clear than in his account of Lucretia. Raped by Sextus Tarquinius, the perfidious son of the last king of Rome, she summons her husband and her father and makes them promise to take vengeance on Sextus (1.58, p. 102):

The promise was given. One after another they tried to comfort her. They told her she was helpless, and therefore innocent; that he alone was guilty. It was the mind, they said, that sinned, not the body: without intention there could never be guilt.

‘What is due to him,’ Lucretia said, ‘is for you to decide. As for me, I am innocent of fault, but I will take my punishment. Never shall Lucretia provide a precedent for unchaste women to escape what they deserve.’ With these words she drew a knife from under her robe, drove it into her heart, and fell forward, dead.

Here exemplo (from exemplum) is the Latin word which has been translated as ‘precedent’, and with her dying speech Lucretia enshrines herself as the great example of Roman female chastity.1 And her action does more than just make her an example for future generations: rather, she inspires her male relatives to undertake the revolution that leads to the expulsion of Rome’s royal family.

Livy’s moralizing may also be observed over larger spans of text, most obviously in Book 5. This splendid book may be read as a lesson about what it means to be a Roman, and especially about the religious and moral character that a Roman ought to possess. At the beginning of the book Veii is a rival of Rome, but in 396 BC she falls to Rome (5.22, p. 394), and Rome is left with no rival power. Livy hints strongly that, amongst other factors, Rome’s success was due to her piety (note the religious content of 5.15–22, pp. 386–95: the Romans expiate the prodigy of the Alban Lake and consult the oracle at Delphi, and Camillus prays to Apollo and Juno) and to the impiety of the Veientines, who had perverted rituals sacred to their fellow Etruscans (5.1, p. 367).

The capitulation of Falerii, already analysed, follows shortly after the capture of Veii: as we have seen, it strongly makes the point that justice, fidelity, and propriety in the waging of war are characteristic of the Romans. A less conspicuous, but revealing, story which makes one ponder about the moral qualities of a Roman may be found (5.28, pp. 402–3): Roman ambassadors returning from Delphi are captured by pirates from the Lipari islands, but, unusually, in this year (c.390 BC) the chief magistrate of the Liparenses was a just, god–fearing man, called Timasitheus, who orders that the envoys be given a free passage home. Interestingly Livy describes Timasitheus as being ‘more like the Romans than his own folk’.2

The last two–thirds of the book are dominated by Camillus, who seems in many respects to be Livy’s ideal Roman: he captures Veii, masterminds the capitulation of Falerii, is sent unjustly into exile, returns to defeat the Gauls, and then rounds off the book with an impressive speech (5.51–4, pp. 429–34), in which he argues against abandoning the site of Rome. In this speech, in which remarks about the Roman character are linked to the sacredness of the site of Rome itself, Camillus reflects on the turbulent events of the preceding chapters, in which the Gauls had captured the city but then finally had been beaten back, and offers a moral and religious interpretation of them. Nowhere does he do this more obviously than in the following section (5.51, pp. 429–30):

Only consider the course of our history during these latter years: you will find that when we followed God’s guidance all was well; when we scorned it, all was ill. Remember the war with Veii – so long, so hard – and how it ended only when we obeyed the divine injunction and drained the Alban Lake. And what of this unprecedented calamity which has just befallen us? It never showed its ugly head till we disregarded the voice from heaven warning us that the Gauls were coming – till our envoys violated the law of nations and we, who should have punished that crime, were again so careless of our duty to God as to let it pass. That is why we suffered defeat; that is why Rome was captured, and offered us again for gold; that is why we have been so punished by gods and men as to be an example to the world.

Evil times came – and then we remembered our religion: we sought the protection of our gods on the Capitol, by the seat of Jupiter Greatest and Best; having lost all we possessed, we buried our holy things, or took them away to other towns, where no enemy would see them; though abandoned by gods and men, we never ceased to worship. Therefore it is that heaven has given us back our city and restored to us victory and the old martial glory we had forfeited, turning the horror of defeat and death upon the enemy who, in his blind avarice for more gold, was disloyal to his compact and his plighted word.

We should not make the naïve mistake of assuming that in the words of Camillus we have the authentic personal voice of Livy himself, but nevertheless this speech does point us towards a reading of the end of Book 5 which reveals much of Livy’s moral concerns. The classic analysis of this episode has been provided by Luce (1971), to whose views this brief analysis is heavily indebted; other interesting discussions of the book may be found in Levene (1993: 175–203) and Kraus (1994b).

As Livy makes Camillus point out, the events of the 390s BC may be read as a lesson for Romans. When they neglect the gods and their rituals, things go badly for them; but when they return to the gods, their fortunes improve. The point of the moralizing is very clear (the Romans should practise their religion and their rituals properly). When one looks back over the text itself one finds that it is structured in a remarkable way: before a turning point (5.39, p. 416), we are presented with a series of events in which the Romans behave either badly or unwisely and for which they are punished by the crushing defeat at the Allia and by the capture of all of their city except the Capitol by the Gauls. These events may be listed schematically:

(a) the Romans ignore the divine warning about the Gauls given to Marcus Caedicius on the Nova Via (5.32, pp. 407–8);

(b) the Romans exile Camillus (5.32, p. 408);

(c) the noble Fabii on the Roman embassy to the Gauls break international law by fighting on the side of Clusium (note how Livy himself (5.36, p. 411) writes ‘unhappily, however, the envoys themselves behaved more like savage Gauls than civilized Romans’).

(d) the Senate fails to hand over the ambassadors to the Gauls, because they were members of the senatorial order (5.36, p. 412): ‘The Senate, having listened to what the Gallic envoys had to say, by no means approved the conduct of their own envoys; but though they admitted to themselves that the demand was a fair one, they refused, where three men of such rank were concerned, to take what they really knew to be the proper action: their own interests as the governing elders prevented them’;

(e) the people too fail to surrender the Fabii, and even elect them consular tribunes for 389 (5.36, p. 412);

(f) as the danger of a Gallic attack on the city draws ever closer, the Romans fail to appoint a dictator (5.3 7, p. 413): ‘The nation which so often before – against Fidenae or Veii or other familiar enemies –had as a final resource in its hour of danger appointed a Dictator to save it, now that a strange foe, of whose danger it knew nothing either directly or by hearsay, was on the march from the Atlantic Ocean and the furthest shores of the world, instituted no extraordinary command and looked for no special means of self–preservation’;

(g) in their rashness, the consular tribunes fail to hold a proper levy, despite the menace of attack from the Gauls (5.37, p.413): ‘Recruiting they carried out coolly and casually, with no more care than for any other campaign, even going so far as to play down the gravity of the danger’;

(h) when they go out to meet the Gauls, they build no proper camp (5.38, p. 413);

(i) the consular tribunes fail to sacrifice to the gods before joining battle (5.38, p. 414);

(j) in the battle itself, instead of the fighting which one might have expected (the Gauls fighting wildly and without thought or organization; the Romans fighting bravely and with good discipline), the opposite occurs: the Gauls show good discipline, but the Romans neither discipline nor courage. Note especially two comments of Livy’s (5.38, p. 414): ‘Alas, not good fortune only, but good generalship was on the barbarian side’ and ‘In the lines of the legionaries – officers and men alike – there was no trace of the old Roman manhood’;

(k) when the fighting begins the Romans do not even attempt to stand firm (5.38, p. 414);

(l) routed by the Gauls at the Allia, the Romans run to the city and do not bother to take the elementary precaution of shutting its gates (5.38, p. 415).

However, then comes the turning point (5.39, p. 416): ‘During that night and the following day Rome showed little resemblance to her fugitive army on the Allia.’ Then the Romans begin to behave in a more characteristically Roman fashion and things start to go better for them:

(m) the Romans on the Capitol defend themselves and their gods (5.39, p. 416): ‘from that stronghold, properly armed and provisioned, it was their intention to make a last stand for themselves, for their gods and for the Roman name’;

(n) the priests and Vestals look after the sacred objects in their care (5.39, p. 417);

(o) the elder statesmen, too old to be of use in defending the Capitol, sacrifice themselves in the Forum (5.39–40, pp. 417–19);

(p) Lucius Albinius reveals true piety when he puts the Vestal Virgins and their sacred objects in his cart in place of his family (5.40, p. 417):

On the slope of the hill they were noticed by a man of humble birth named Albinius, who was driving his wife and family in a cart, amongst the rabble of other non–combatants escaping from the city. Even at such a moment Albinius could remember the difference between what was due to God and what to man, and feeling it to be an impious thing that he and his family should be seen driving while priestesses of the state toiled along on foot carrying the nation’s sacred emblems, he told his wife to get out of the cart with her little boys, took up the Vestals and their burdens instead, and drove them to their destination in Caere;

(q) when the Romans next fight the Gauls in defence of their city, they fight properly, unlike their performance at the Allia. ‘The Romans remained calm’ (5.43, p. 420) – in Livy’s original Latin the words nihil temere nee trepide, of which a literal translation is ‘nothing [was done] rashly or in a panic’, echo and contrast with temeritate (‘rashness’), which was used in Chapter 37 of the consular tribunes;

(r) Camillus’s appearance at an assembly at Ardea (‘like a man inspired’, 5.43, pp. 420–21) is a sign of the return of divine favour;

(s) the Roman fugitives at Veii begin to change heart (5.45, p. 422): ‘Their first reaction was to be sorry for themselves, but self–pity soon gave way to indignation, and finally to rage at the thought that Etruscans, whom Rome had saved at her own expense from a Gallic invasion, should gaily take advantage of their misfortunes’;

(t) Gaius Fabius Dorsuo shows his piety in penetrating the Gallic lines so as to be able to carry out a family ritual on the Quirinal hill (5.46, pp. 422–3);

(u) when the Romans name Camillus dictator, they are scrupulous – even in their crisis – about keeping all the constitutional proprieties (5.46, pp. 423–4);

(v) the piety of those on the Capitol in still feeding the geese that were kept in the temple of Juno and were sacred to her pays a handome dividend when the cackling of these geese alerted Marcus Manlius, a guard on the Capitol, to a Gallic attack (5.47, pp. 424–5);

(w) when the Gauls cheat in weighing the gold which the Romans on the Capitol offer as a ransom (5.48, p. 426), their action counterbalances the breach of international law perpetrated by the Roman ambassadors at Clusium and prepares Livy’s readers for their defeat by Camillus.

THE EVIDENCE (pp. 7–12)

Over the last generation much has been written on the historical tradition that preceded Livy. In general, scholars have been concerned with two main problems. First, in view of the fact that Fabius Pictor, the first Roman to write history, lived around 200 BC,what was the nature of the evidence available to him and to his successors when they wrote about Rome between 753 and 390 BC, the years covered by Books 1–5 of Livy? Second, how faithfully did the writers who preceded Livy present the material available to them?

With regard to the first problem, most of what Ogilvie wrote remains as true as when he first wrote. He drew attention to five channels through which authentic information could have been preserved:

(i) the writings of Rome’s Greek neighbours in southern Italy;

(ii) inscriptions and other documents that survived from early Rome

into the late Republic;

(iii) the chronological records of the priests and others;

(iv) archaic institutions that survived into the middle and late


(v) the memory and records of Roman families.

For fuller discussion of this material see, e.g., Ogilvie and Drummond (1989), Cornell (1995) 4–16, and Oakley (1997) i. 21–72. Two general points may be made about it. First, it relates largely to the republican period, that is, the years after 510 BC. No scholar has yet been able to point to a channel through which significant quantities of authentic evidence about the earlier regal period could have survived, and it is noteworthy that for this period Livy does not attempt a narrative on a year-by-year basis. Second, anyone who accepts that the basic outline of Roman history provided by Livy for the years 510–390 BC is sound must regard (iii), the records of the priests and other similar documents, as by far the most important of these channels: no other source could have provided a basis for the year-by-year record that we find in Livy. The Greeks would not have wished to chronicle in such detail the exploits of a foreign state; and the records of Roman families would have related only to those years in which their members held magistracies.

Ogilvie’s view that these records of the priests were made available by P. Mucius Scaevola, who was consul in 133 BC, was standard in 1971. It was challenged by Frier (1979), who wrote a wide-ranging study of these records and, inter alia, pointed out that there is no evidence for the view that they were published by Scaevola. Frier’s view in turn has been assailed (e.g. by Forsythe (1994), pp. 53–73), and the matter remains controversial; for Ogilvie’s own qualified acceptance of Frier, see Ogilvie (1981).

It is more important to note the kind of material that could have been transmitted to later historians by way of these records, and here Ogilvie might have been more generous in his references. Most important of all are the names of the consuls or consular tribunes who were the chief annual magistrates of the state; these may be found on almost any page of the translation of Books 2–5. However, one may also point to notices of plagues and famine,3 of the vowing, building, or dedication of temples,4 of special propitiatory rituals for the gods,5 of prodigies,6 and of the foundation of colonies (listed below, p. 465). In addition, the bare facts of many of Rome’s military campaigns were probably mentioned in these records (even though many of the more glamorous episodes recounted by Livy are likely to have been invented by later historians); of particular interest are references to places or peoples whose obscurity makes it most unlikely that the campaign in which they were said to have been involved was invented by later Roman historians (e.g. Caeno (2.63, p. 186), Artena (4.61, p. 363), the Sappinates (5.31, p. 407)).

In this context a passage such as the following (2.21, p. 132) is worth quoting in full:

This same year the settlement at Signia, originally founded by Tarquinius Superbus, was freshly established and its population increased. In Rome the number of tribes was raised to twenty–one. On 15 May a temple was dedicated to Mercury.

Although one must be wary of being led astray by the simple style that Livy has adopted in this (as in similar) passages, which may be an attempt to imitate the style of the pontifical records, this passage does look like a collection of archival notices which has passed through the annalistic tradition without elaboration.7

Something should also be said about Roman family records, since Ogilvie did not make clear quite how unreliable these could be. Witness the comments of Livy himself at 8.40, generalizing about the historical record after he had found that his sources presented a particularly confused record for the year 322 BC:

Nor is it easy to prefer one item to another or one author to another. I think that in funeral speeches and in deceitful texts attached to funeral masks the historical tradition has been perverted, as with deceitful lying families appropriate to themselves the reputation of campaigning and of holding office. Certainly for these reasons both the exploits of individuals and public records have become confused. Nor does any writer contemporary with these events survive on whose sure authority one may rely.

From fabrications such as these much that is invented in Livy doubtless ultimately stems.

In recent years much has also been written about the manner in which the ancient historians of early Rome handled the material that they had inherited from the sources outlined above. Although the loss of the narratives of the sources whom Livy mentions (Fabius Pictor, writing around 200 BC; Lucius Calpurnius Piso, writing around 125 BC; and Valerius Antias, Licinius Macer, and Aelius Tubero, all writing in the first century BC) makes study of this subject awakward, it has long been agreed that much in Livy’s narrative of the early Republic, let alone the regal period, is invented – whether by Livy himself, by the sources just mentioned, by other lost writers whom Livy did not consult, or in the period before histories of Rome were written. Proof of this invention may be found in the book–numbers of the surviving fragments of Livy’s sources, which show that the historians of the first century BC were writing at far greater length than their counterparts in the second century; and, since there is no reason to think that they had access to fresh stores of authentic material, the obvious conclusion is that they invented much of what they wrote, a conclusion borne out by analysis of the reflexes of their accounts in Livy himself.

A main explanation of this invention may be found in the demand that history should be written as good literature. The canons of ancient style demanded that historical narrative should be informative and detailed, with a full explanation of cause and motivation. And in the late second century the writer Sempronius Asellio8 criticized his predecessors for writing jejune narratives that in their assemblage of trivial facts did no more than ape or repeat the style of the priestly records. Yet as regards the history of early Rome, this was hardly surprising: how could one expect full details to survive of events which took place two or three hundred years before history at Rome began to be written?

The answer of the Roman historians, and especially those of the first century, probably on some occasions including even Livy himself, was to invent the material that they required. This is seen both in Livy’s battle-scenes and in his account of political debates. In the Republic the Romans went to war in most years, and thus Livy and his predecessors had to recount numerous wars. Occasionally an authentic detail about a campaign may have been remembered, but much more often the details that we find in Livy are likely to be the product of invention, guesswork, and plausible reconstruction by Livy himself, by his immediate sources, and by the more remote sources of those sources. A good example of a fully detailed description of battle maybe found at 3.69–70 (pp. 280–81, 446 BC). From it may be quoted just a small part of Chapter 70 (p. 281), in which the consul Agrippa Furius rallies the Roman left wing:

On the enemy right was the hottest work: Agrippa, a magnificent fighter and still in the prime of life, aware that things were going worse in his own sector than anywhere else, snatched the standards from their bearers and pressed forward with them in his own hands – and even, to shame his men to greater efforts, flung some of them into the thick of the enemy ranks. The ruse succeeded; a furious onslaught followed, and the victory along the whole front was won.

The motif of the standard being hurled into the ranks of the enemy is one that is found elsewhere in Livy (4.29, p. 322; cf. 6.8, 25.14 and 26.5) and other writers dependent ultimately on the same annalistic tradition (e.g. Frontinus, strategemata 2. 8), and there can be little doubt that it was a standard motif used by writers to give colour to their descriptions.

For the political portions of their narratives Livy and his annalistic sources had to invent plausible detail when nothing substantial had been transmitted. Recurring themes which Livy used (doubtless inheriting them from his predecessors) include the meanness of the patricians with booty,9 their use of their clients or dependants,10 their favouring war as a means of distracting the plebs from politics,11 and their encouragement of the tribunician intercession as a means of thwarting the aims of radical tribunes.12

Ogilvie rightly noted (pp. 8–9) that Livy and his sources were wont to retroject themes from the political history of the late Republic into their narratives of early Rome, and this last motif is a good example of this: in the fifth century the tribunate could not have functioned successfully if tribunes were in the habit of interceding against each other, and this motif was plainly inspired by the behaviour of Marcus Octavius, the tribune of 133 BC who interceded against Tiberius Gracchus, and by later tribunes who aped his behaviour.

However, the most striking example of invention in the political portions of Livy’s narrative is his treatment of the patrician Claudii. Throughout these books, and also in the following five books, the Claudii regularly appear as reactionary politicians, jealous of the rights of the patricians, and haters of the plebs.13 The most prominent Claudius in these books is Ap. Claudius Inregillensis, the decemvir; Livy’s portrayal (3.33.1–58.11 (pp. 234–66)) of him differs somewhat from the normal stereotype in that he has many of the trappings of a conventional popular tyrant, but by the time of his fall he too is well established as an opponent of the plebeians. However, although Livy makes full use of this stereotype, it did not originate with him, as it is also found elsewhere, most notably in the nearly contemporary narrative of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, which is independent of Livy. Although other Roman families are given stereotypical portrayals in the annalistic tradition (thus the Valerii support the freedom of the plebs, the Manlii are stern disciplinarians), and although Roman aristocrats might try to model themselves on the characteristics of their forbears (thus Marcus Junius Brutus, the assassin of Julius Caesar, modelled himself on the behaviour of the Brutus who dominates the end of Livy Book 1 and the beginning of Livy Book 2), it is hard to think that the Claudii of the late Republic can openly have encouraged this portrait of their forebears. It is much more likely to have been started by some annalist hostile to the family; but, although scholars have suggested as possibilities Fabius Pictor at one end of the annalistic tradition and Valerius Antias at the other, we do not now know whom to blame.

Sometimes Livy himself seems to have detected plausible invention in his sources. Consider the following comment that he makes on enemy casualty figures at the end of his account of a Roman victory over the Aequi in 464 B C (3.5, p. 199):

Throughout these operations heavy losses were inflicted and received by both sides. In describing events so distant in time, it is difficult to make a precise or trustworthy estimate of the size of the forces engaged or the number of the casualties; none the less Valerius of Antium does venture to do so: according to his account Roman losses in the territory of the Hernici amounted to 5,200 killed, and those of the Aequian raiders in their engagement with Postumius to 2,400 killed; the rest of them, who fell into Quinctius’ trap as they were on the way home with their plunder, suffered far worse, losing no fewer (as Valerius says with punctilious exactitude) than 4,23 o men.

Note the irony in ‘with punctilious exactitude’: as Livy sees, Valerius Antias was clearly inventing a precise number to give a veneer of spurious plausibility to his battle descriptions. The invention of precise or exaggerated figures by Antias was something of which Livy was often to complain in later books (e.g. 32.10.8, 36.13, 34.10.2 and 15.9).

Further reading

Badian (1966) remains the easiest brief account of the annalistic tradition and of Latin historiography in the period before Livy. Wiseman (1979) (especially part I) well emphasizes the techniques used by the annalists in the invention and reconstruction of plausible narratives; Cornell (1986a and b) takes a more conservative view of the evidence.

THE HISTORY (pp. 12–25)


When Ogilvie wrote his introduction there was in English no serviceable history of early Rome. Now there are three: Ogilvie himself attempted to fill the gap with his short, but lucid and eminently readable, book of 1976; however, his views on Etruscan influence on Rome have not worn well, and he might have said more about archaeological developments. Very much larger in scope is the second edition of volume vii of the Cambridge Ancient History by Walbank, Astin, Frederiksen and Drummond (1989), with long and important contributions by A. Drummond and T. J. Cornell, and with excellent bibliographies. However, the best starting point for the study of the history of the period is now Cornell (1995), a work that deals comprehensibly but in reasonable compass with Roman history in the period before 264 BC. Cornell’s early chapters deal with recent archaeological discoveries in Latium; they may be supplemented by Ross Holloway (1994) and Smith (1995), books devoted specifically to the archaeology of early Rome and Latium.


Ogilvie’s view that most of what Livy tells us about the kings is unreliable is almost certainly correct. Cornell (1995) is more optimistic, but for difficulties with his views see Oakley (1997). Momigliano’s elegant contribution to the revised Cambridge Ancient History (pp. 52–112) is a good introduction.

No one now imagines that there is any literal truth in what Livy tells us about those legendary figures Aeneas, Romulus and Remus. Nevertheless, the tales about them may still be studied for the light which they shed on the period in which they originated. Wiseman (1995) is a stimulating contributon to this debate, as readable as it is controversial. There is also a full discussion of the foundation legend in Cornell (1975).


Livy’s account of Roman politics in the period covered by Books 2–5 is dominated by the so–called Struggle of the Orders – that is, the conflict between patricians and plebeians. Scholars still dispute the nature of these two orders, and discuss whether the conflict that Livy records could really have lasted down to 342 BC (the end of Book 7) and beyond. There are good accounts by Drummond in Walbank, Astin, Frederiksen and Drummond (1989), pp. 113–242 and by Cornell (1995), pp. 242–92, 327–44. Also worth consulting are Cornell (1983) and the collection of essays in Raaflaub (1986); Mitchell (1990), a full study of the topic, challenges conventional accounts, but his views have not won general acceptance.

Scholars have been much exercised by problems concerning the nature and origin of the patricians and the plebeians, and Ogilvie (pp. 21–4) points out the main difficulties. He might perhaps have pointed out that a possible explanation for the appearance of non–patricians as consuls in the first fifty years of the Republic is that the patricians consolidated their grip on power only in the years immediately before the Decemvirate.

The codification and study of law is ancient Rome’s most celebrated cultural legacy to posterity. The Twelve Tables were her first code of law, and there has recently been a new edition, translation and discussion of them in Crawford (1996), a two-volume work devoted to the study of Rome’s statutes. For a study of the cultural and social implications of the Twelve Tables, see Watson (1975). If the conventional view enshrined in Livy’s narrative can be trusted, after the expulsion of the Tarquins the chief executive magistrates at Rome were a pair of annually elected consuls. However, there are two exceptions to this: in 451 and 450 BC consuls were replaced by decemvirs, who were in some way connected with the codification found in the Twelve Tables, and from 444 to 367 BC consuls are often replaced by enigmatic officials called consular tribunes.

In Books 4 and 5 the consular tribunate looms large in Livy’s narrative and needs more extended discussion, even though the institution awaits a wholly satisfactory explanation. Livy himself offers two explanations. The first, or ‘political’ explanation, is that the office was created as a compromise after the plebeians had demanded admission to the consulate and were vetoing business until they got their way (4.6, p. 295): ‘The consuls, rendered powerless by the tribunes’ veto to get anything done through the normal procedures of the Senate, held private meetings for discussion at the houses of the leading senators. It was clear that they must admit defeat either by the enemy or by the popular party… The discussions ended in a resolution to permit the appointment of “military tribunes” – senior military officers – with consular authority, to be chosen from either party indifferently… The day was announced for the election of the new officers.’ Several arguments may be used in support of this ‘political’ interpretation. It appears, for instance, to be well grounded in Livy, in whose text we often find references to plebeian demands for the election of consular tribunes and not consuls;14 we find a plebeian, Lucius Atilius, in office in the first year of the consular tribunate; and, when the consular tribunate ends in 367 BC (at the end of Book 6 of Livy), its demise is accompanied by the beginning of regular plebeian entry to the consulate.

This approach, however, is vulnerable to several arguments. The most important is that Livy himself knew of a variant tradition which held that the consular tribunate was created because of an increasingly complex military situation (4.7, p. 296): ‘According to some writers the creation of military tribunes was not connected with the proposal to throw open the consulship to plebeians. These writers say that the appointment of the three new officers of state with the insignia and authority of consuls was due to the inability of the two consuls to cope with three simultaneous campaigns, a quarrel with Veii having arisen in addition to the war with the Volscians and Aequians and the revolt of Ardea.’ Moreover, the ‘political’ explanation has always been vulnerable to the decisive objection that, if the consular tribunate were solely a political compromise, we should expect to find a significant number of plebeian consular tribunes, but in fact we find hardly any. Livy’s sources saw this problem, and in several passages Livy himself draws attention to the fact that, though able to reward their leaders with high office, the plebeian voters in fact did no such thing. This theme is introduced first at 4.6.11–12 (pp. 295–6), where Livy comments on how the passions of the commons were less enflamed after they had carried the point that consular tribunes should be elected: ‘The three candidates returned by the people’s votes were all patricians: the fact that plebeians had been allowed to stand was enough to satisfy them.’ But a difficulty involved in accepting this as a plausible explanation for plebeians being found in only nine colleges is highlighted by the passage just quoted: Livy patiently explains why no plebeians were elected, quite oblivious to the fact that Lucius Atilius was a plebeian.

Livy’s variant explanation has found much more favour, and the fact that the name of these magistrates, whatever its precise form, certainly included the expression tribunus militum (‘military tribune’) suggests strongly that their creation must have owed something to the military situation. The standard modern ‘military’ explanation on these lines is that consular tribunes were introduced in 444 BC, because Rome needed three commanders and not two; that in later years, when this situation recurred, the government returned to consular tribunes; and that later still, as Rome’s military commitments grew larger, there was the need to elect four or six tribunes. Yet this theory too is open to powerful objections. For instance, if the purpose of the consular tribunate really was to provide several commanders, it is surprising to find that dictators were still appointed in times of crisis (e.g. in 434, 426, 418, 396 and 390 BC). More serious still is the objection that in many years in which there were consular tribunes there were no wars (e.g. in 444, 438, 433, 432, 425, 424, 422, 420, 419, 417 and 416 BC), and that at the time of the elections no one could have been certain what the next campaigning season would bring. Even if one argues that consular tribunes were elected not just in times of war but to cope with rumours of war, this evidence shows decisively that the ‘military’ explanation is insufficient to explain why consular tribunes and not consuls were elected in any given year. It is, in sum, impossible to correlate the election of consular tribunes with Rome’s known military commitments.

Thus, as total explanations of the consular tribunate both ‘political’ and ‘military’ hypotheses fail and should be abandoned. Indeed, it may be misguided to look for any total explanation, and Adcock (1957, p. 10) may have been right to suggest that during the seventy years or so of its existence the way in which the consular tribunate was viewed by both patricians and plebeians may have changed considerably. Thus the ‘military’ hypothesis, though an insufficient explanation for the first forty years of the institution, seems more plausible for the years after the Gallic Sack, when Rome’s military commitments had increased (though it is doubtful whether this can explain the original increase to six). And there are elements of the ‘political’ interpretation which are attractive: thus the appearance of the plebeian Lucius Atilius in 444 BC, the first year in which the consular tribunate had existed, makes it hard to avoid such an explanation of the election of consular tribunes in that year.

Further reading

Much has been written about the consular tribunes. Cornell (1995, pp. 334–9) makes a good starting point, and has additional bibliography.


Much less has been written about Rome’s foreign affairs in the period 509–390 BC. The most extended treatment remains Alföldi (1965). This highly original work gathers a great deal of material that is not readily accessible elsewhere. However, its main theses, that at the time of the expulsion of the Tarquins Rome was not the dominant power in Latium (as Livy and others claimed) but just a small Latin city, and that this notion of Rome’s early grandeur is an invention by the annalists, have not won general acceptance. The best starting point for study of the topic is T. J. Cornell’s chapter in Walbank, Astin, Frederiksen and Drummond (1989), pp. 242–308, but see also Cornell (1995), pp. 198–214 and 293–326, Ogilvie (1976), pp. 92–110 and 137–58, and Oakley (1997– ), i, pp. 331–46.

In his introduction to this volume Ogilvie’s discussion of Rome’s wars is clear and accurate. However, he might have laid more emphasis on that fact that in the period between the battle of Lake Regillus in 496 BC, in which Rome was victorious over the Latins, and the Gallic Sack of 390 BC, Rome was allied with other settlements on the Latin plain (the so–called ‘Latin league’) and fought many of her wars in conjunction with Latin forces. This fact is frequently obscured by the pro–Roman chauvinism of Livy and his sources, which leads Livy to ignore the Latin contribution to many of Rome’s wars.

The most interesting testimony to this cooperation is a passage of the antiquarian writer Festus (late second century AD), to be found on pp. 276–7 of Lindsay’s edition of the Latin text (there is no accessible English translation of Festus, much of whose text is fragmentary). It may be translated thus:

The praetor now hailed at the gate is one who goes out to his province as either a propraetor or a proconsul. In his book on the powers of the consuls Cincius [an antiquarian writer of the first century BC whose work is now lost] says that the customary ritual was like this: the Albans held sway until Tullus was king. Then, after Alba had been destroyed right down to the time when Publius Decius Mus was consul [i.e. 340 BC], the Latins used to deliberate at the source of Ferentina [probably a sacred spring], which is below the Alban Mount, and to exercise common planning over their military affairs. Thus in a year in which at the behest of the Latin league it was necessary for the Romans to send commanders to the army, many of our men watched the auspices on the Capitol from the time of the rising sun onwards. When the [augural] birds had approved that soldier who had been sent by the common council of the Latins, they used to hail as praetor the man whom the birds had ratified so that he might have control of that province with the name of praetor.

Much about this text is mysterious (not least how the ritual that it describes is to be reconciled with what we know of Roman magistracies), but it makes very clear the fact that Rome cooperated with the Latins in the fighting of wars.

This cooperation resulted in the establishment of a series of colonies, the purpose of which was to defend Latin territory against the incursions of the Volsci and the Aequi. It is disputed whether these colonies were founded primarily by Rome (as Livy believed) or were joint foundations between Rome and the Latin league, but there is little doubt that Latins as well as Romans were able to settle in them. For the period between the battle at Lake Regillus and the sack of Rome by the Gauls Livy records the following foundations:

Signia (modern Segni) (495 BC (2.21, p.132)); possibly a second foundation)

Velitrae (modern Velletri) (494BC (2.31,p. 144)), with further settlement in 492 BC (2.34, p. 149))

Norba (modern Norma) (492 BC (2.34, p. 149))

Antium (modern Anzio) (467 BC (3.1, p. 193))

Ardea (modern Ardea) (442 BC (4.11, po. 301–2))

Vitellia (site unknown) (before 395 BC: there is a reference to its capture at 5.29, p. 404)).

It is possible that some of these notices were invented or elaborated by Livy or his sources, but for most there is no reason to suspect this; and we have already used the notice about Signia to illustrate the presence of archival material in Livy’s work (see above, p. 453).

Today the sites of Norba (modern Norma) and Setia (modern Sezze) are still well worth visiting. Both stand between the heights of the Monti Lepini (in the fifth century BC controlled by the Volsci) and the Latin settlements on the edge of the Pomptine plain, over which they tower; and at both defensive walling from the fifth century BC may still be seen. There is no better introduction to the history of Latium in the fifth century BC than the view from these colonies, which graphically shows how the settlements of Latium were exposed to the menace of the hillsmen.


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