Is Livy An Accurate Historian? Essay

2241 words - 9 pages

Does Livy have a consistent standard of historical accuracy in Books 1-5?In books 1-5 of the Ab Urbe Condita, Livy sets down in detail the foundation of Rome and tells the story right through to the defeat by the Gauls in 390BC. Livy draws on a number of sources to create his history and is the only ancient author to attempt the feat of writing Rome's history on such a grand scale. As Mellor reminds us, 'no other ancient historian even attempted a history of the remote past on anything like this scale.' For this he can be commended hugely. However, despite his thorough nature, spanning 142 books in total, the reliability of Livy's work is certainly a matter for conjecture. In this essay I will focus upon the accuracy of Livy's work as well as his consistency as an historian, with a view to determining whether Livy has a consistent standard of historical accuracy or not.Indeed Livy demonstrates his skill as a historian, clearly showing his knowledge by including precise dates, names and places. We are given highly specific information on the census in 465bc at 3.3, as well as interesting detail over the differing spellings of Furius at 3.5. The names of the consuls for each year are almost always stated with confidence, and the chronological structure of the books adds further weight to its sense of accuracy. Mellor shows his respect for Livy's work, and suggests its accuracy in explaining that 'unlike many of his predecessors he did not embellish he legends with additional fictions'. He furthers his support stating that even if there are errors, they are 'relatively few for the size and scope of the book'. I think that this is an important point that must be taken into account when assessing Livy's work as a whole since in relation to its size, inaccuracies could be argued to be very minor. Additional evidence of his accuracy can be seen from more recent discoveries surrounding the physical aspect of Rome. Indeed Livy's description of places and events, for example the rape of the Sabine women at 1.9, can now be supported further by archaeological findings which link to these stories. Indeed as Mellor argues, Archaeology and epigraphy unexpectedly lent Livy greater credibility, and the excavations of the roman forum...give historical framework for the rape of the Sabine women. Thus it is clear that Livy does include historically accurate information within his writing.Furthering this, it could be argued that his evidence appears even stronger because it is drawn from earlier authors such as Macer, Antias and Fabius Pictor. The fact that he uses a range of authors to supply information for his work points to the conclusion, in my opinion, that he is keen to get the best possible information with which to narrate his history. This consequently gives the reader a sense of reassurance with regard to its accuracy. Such conduct can be seen throughout books 1-5, which in turn highlights that he was consistent in his method, and teamed with the apparent...

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