The Rise of the Roman Empire

Criticism of Livy’s The Early History of Rome

Livy’s The Early History of Rome chronicles the rise of the Roman Empire, from its founding (traditionally dated to 753 BC) through the reign of Augustus Caesar in his own time. His catalogue details the accomplishments and failures of major Roman figures and puts forth a model of greatness for all of Rome to follow. For Livy, “History is…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 your country both examples and warnings; fine things to take as models, base things, rotten through and through, to avoid.” (30) His aim was to dictate history without bias. Livy, however, fails to achieve this goal. By presenting biased representations of Romulus and Tarquinius Superbus, two of the seven legendary kings of Rome, he denies the general populace the opportunity to draw the same sort of conclusions that he made in constructing his histories. Instead, Livy presents a pre-constructed model of the ideal Roman citizen and leader, basing his judgments primarily on military prowess and strength.

Livy initiates his history with the foundation of Rome and the clash between Romulus, arguably the most notable Roman in history, and his brother Remus. Livy...

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