Titus Livius was born in 59 BCE in Patavium, today’s Padua. The main historian of the era of Augustus. He was widely respected at the imperial court. He was friends with the emperor himself, who – according to the historian Tacitus – jokingly referred to him as “Pompeian” because of his republican ideas.
He came from a wealthy family and in his early youth, he moved to Rome, where he received a careful upbringing as well as a philosophical and historical education. He devoted his entire life to teaching rhetoric and writing, he was not interested in a political career. During his early youth, he was clearly sympathetic to optimiates. About 30 BCE he moved from Padua to Rome.
Livy’s only legacy is a historical work describing the events from the founding of this city until 9 CE. The work was entitled “Books from the Founding of the City” (Ab Urbe condita libri CXLII) and had a volume of 142 volumes that were written and published successively from 26 BCE. until 17 CE About a quarter of this number has survived.
Preserved works of Titus Livius
In his work, Livius used the available works of Greek and Roman historians (including Polybius, Celius Antipater, Valerius Antias, Fabius Piktor, Claudius Quadrigius, Lucius Elius Tubero, Calpurnius Piso or Gaius Licinius Macer), official documents of the Senate, military-diplomatic correspondence, diplomatic correspondence and the like, lost today source materials. For this reason, Livy’s work remains to this day one of the key sources to learn about the history of Rome and the neighbouring countries.
It is worth noting that it was Titus who gave us the legend of Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome.
He was a writer with a rhetorical attitude. He related the history of Rome through the prism of the victories and heroism of the Romans. His political sympathies leaned towards the rule of the senatorial oligarchy and from this point of view, he presented the most ancient history of Rome.
Livy was also the author of philosophical writings and a rhetorical treatise, which he gave the form of a letter to his son. These works have not survived to our times.
He died in 17 CE in his hometown of Patavium, to which he returned at the end of his life.
In ancient times, Titus Livius was highly appreciated by other authors. For example, Quintilian writing during the reign of Emperor Domitian (81-96 CE) stated that Livius and Sallust were the same as Herodotus and Thucydides for Greek historiography. Quintilian treated all of Livy’s messages as crystal clear.
Titus Livius, creating his great work Ab Urbe condita libri, did not want to create a critical monograph, but only to present the history of the entire republic and significant Romans from the past, in order to restore the old values and models and virtues.