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Livy: The Early History of Rome, Books I-V (Penguin Classics) (Bks. 1-5) Paperback – June 25, 2002
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Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Latin
About the Author
Aubrey de Sélincourt (1896-1962) was educated at Rugby and University College, Oxford. A scholar and translator, he translated Livy’s The Early History of Rome (Books I—V) and The War with Hannibal (Books XXI—XXX), The Histories of Herodotus and The Campaigns of Alexander by Arrian, all for the Penguin Classics. A schoolmaster of genius for twenty-six years, he retired in 1947 to the Isle of Wight, where he lived until his death.
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Top customer reviews
One thing I really learned in this text is that history, espically ancient history, is a mixture of reality and myth. You may learn some facts about events, but moreso, you see how these events were precieved by the participants based on their world view. This book has done that perfectly.
The writting is smooth and its an easy read. In it you find the drama and passion and glory of Roman thru Roman eyes and watch as the...Culture, not just the city or the army, grows into a world power.
Its everything you will find in any TV drama.. deception, hurbris, cunning, avrice...and a the glory that was once Rome!
The answer to the question is dependent on what you are looking for. If you are looking to a well-researched history of early Rome then this volume of Livy (which covers Rome from its founding in the sixth century B.C.E. to 390 BC)is not for you. I recommend T.J. Cornell's The Beginnings of Rome instead.
My point is that Livy is not writing history as we know it. In his introduction, Livy makes it clear that he is trying to hold up to the watered-down Romans of his day the distant mirror of the Romans of the past. He is trying to remind his compatriots of the greatness that was Rome.
What he writes in this volume is a sort of national hagiography. He does so by telling small sequential stories that have moral climaxes usually in a great speech by one of the Romans, speeches that we can only regard as having been totally made up and which share many tropes with the speeches in Homer among other writers.
We apparently have few of the sources that Livy used in his history. Unless I am mistaken, he was largely dependent on the annalistic historical tradition. This accounts for many features of his history- not least the annual listing of who served in what office, what were the auguries that occured during that year and what fantastic omens occurred.
So, in effect, what we have in Livy could be considered a historical novel with few clear lines as to when the novel ends and the history begins. I would guess that the later volumes are founded on more solid history (as we define it) but I reserve judgment on that until I read those later volumes.
But here is the thing. Livy wrote a really good historical novel if such it is. He tells the stories of Aeneus, of Romulus and Remus, of the Tarquins, of the rape of the Sabines, the rape of Lucretia, the battle of the Horatii and the Curiatii, of the fall of the kings, the creation of the consuls, the struggles of the plebians(yeah!) and the patricians(boo!), the creation of the tribunate, and the creation of the military tribunes. We are guided through the almost annual depradations by the dastardly Volscians or the pesky Aequian on through the destruction of Veii and then the sacking of Rome by the Gauls. We come to realize that during this period Rome never started the trouble with the neighbors. It is one of Livy's more obvious moral lessons that the one time that they did start the trouble, the city was sacked. We learn of wonderful, complicated figures such as Marcus Furius Camillus or Coriolanus.
The final argument I will make for a reading of Livy in this brief space is that he serves as an entry point to understanding so many other people and events in later history. For example, our Founding Fathers (no such men exist these days!)felt that the history contained in writers like Livy and Plutarch provided the knowledge needed for understanding government and the world of politics. These writers influenced our history directly. Read the debates at the Constitutional Convention. There is much reference within Madison's Notes to what he learned in Livy among other writers.
Another example- Machiavelli wrote his Discourses as a commentary on Livy. Arguably he changed the history of political theory in so doing.
Another example- Shakespeare based his Roman plays on Livy and Plutarch.
And finally while Livy may not be Roman history as we would understand that term, he is the best of all possible places to start your study of Roman history. His history was very popular. It fit the Roman self-image. That is an important point to grasp in the study of any people. Rome and her history await you in all her glory. Livy is the best door through which to enter. He is a delight to read, he expands your soul and his history is a great medicine for any mind.
p.s. As is probably obvious, I am new to study of ancient history and philosophy. Please feel free to correct any egregious errors in a comment. Learn, I must.
The man who wrote this book, Titus Livius (Livy), lived from 59 B.C. to 17 A.D. He wrote 142 books on the history of Rome from 753 B.C. to 9 B.C. and only 35 books have survived. This book is about the first 5 books starting at the beginning when Rome was founded and ending after Romans take back their city and defeat the Gauls.
The book also works fine on my Kindlefire. There was a couple times when there were 2 pages of the same page or when 2 pages were the same, but when you keep on reading you notice they skipped a page. So you go back, and when you do, both pages are the same again. They are of a different page though, and you see it is the page you were missing (this only happened 2 times). But, besides that, it was pretty good. So I would totally recommend this book to anyone who wants to read about the history of Rome.
Livy's work is quite significant though probably of limited historical value (as the introduction discusses). On the other hand, some philologists have found Livy's work (including Dumezil) to contain patters common to other Indo-European societies and hence probably based on earlier oral and epic traditions which do not come down to us from other sources. For comparative Indo-European studies, as well as studies into early Rome, this work is indispensable.
The translation is quite accessible. Highly recommended.
another writer who can really give you a feel for the archaic period, eg., Romulus, Decius Mus, Marcus Manlius, Scipio
etc. who have really exciting stories not really duplicated anywhere else. His writing and this translation is brilliant.