When Livy began his epic The History of Rome, he had no idea of the fame and fortune he would eventually attain. He would go on to become the most widely read writer in the Roman Empire and was eagerly sought out and feted like a modern celebrity. And his fame continued to grow after his death. His bombastic style, his intricate and complex sentence structure, and his flair for powerfully recreating the searing drama of historical incidents made him a favorite of teachers and pupils alike. Along with Virgil and Cicero, Livy formed the Latin triumvirate of essential studies for 2,000 years. Hardly anyone who was educated was unaware of at least some of the more famous stories of Roman myth and history as told by Titus Livius. When completed, Livy's magnificent work consisted of 142 "books" (i.e. long chapters) and covered the period from the mythical founding of Rome through the time of Augustus. Books 1 - 10 and 21 - 45 are all that have come down to us in reasonably complete form. Volume 1 consists of books 1 - 5, which takes us from the founding of Rome in the eighth century BC to its sack by the Gauls in 390 BC. The Audio Connoisseur series will eventually come to six volumes. This version was translated by Roberts.
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First one of these for me I was impressed I have of course heard of Livy and have read small portions of it in the past but this was something else and new I plan to list to it again and get more info out of it. The writing and narrator at times made it hard to listen to but the second time should be much better.
Look, that you may see how cheap they hold their bodies whose eyes are fixed upon renown!" - Livy, Book II, xii 13
"Oratory was invented for doubtful matters" - Livy, Book III, lv 3
"Vae victis!" - Livy, Book V. xlviii. 9
Book 1 (Rome Under the Kings) & Book 2 (The Beginnings of the Republic)
This might be the first book to bankrupt me. Or rather books. I own several versions of Livy (Folio, The first Penguin (Books 1-5), second (Books 6-10), and third (Hannibal; Books 21-30), plus the first six volumes of the Loeb's History of Rome by Livy). I've decided to track and read through the Loeb, while listening to Audible, but that is going to require me to buy another 8 volumes. The good from that is, well, eight more little red books. The bad? Well, these little books retail for $26 (although you can usually find either really good used copies or new copies for $12-$18). So I'm looking at almost $200 to finish purchasing these books and I've already spent about $60. So, why read the Loeb version?
Quod est in Latinam verso | Because Latin is on the left Et lingua mea sedenti in recto | And English sits on the right *
Now those who know me, KNOW I don't read or speak Latin. So, why is having Livy in Latin and English that important? Because some day I DO want to read Latin. Because it pleases me. Because if I read on the recto side a phrase that strikes my fancy, like:
"Their name was irksome and a menace to liberty." - Livy, Book II. ii. 4
I can go almost straight across and discover what that was in Latin:
"Non placere nomen, periculosum libertati esse."
It delights me. I know that probably sounds a bit affected and effete, but hell it entertains me. I don't complain that American consumers spend more than $25.3 billion a year on video games. So, let me have my 14 little red books. I'm not sure how fast I'll get through all of them. I think for my family's financial stability I'll drip and drab these out through-out the year.
* I kill me. ______________________________
Book 3 (The Patricians at Bay) & Book 4 (War and Politics)
My second (of fourteen) Livy's History of Rome covers books 3 and 4 (467-404BC). It largely deals with early growing pains in Rome as its second census shows its population swollen beyond 100,000. The tensions between the plebs (represented politically by the tribunes) and the patricians (represented politically by the senate). My favorite parts of Book 3 dealt with Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus, the machinations of the decemvirs, and Appius Claudius claiming Verginius' daughter Verginia as a slave.
My favorite part of Book 4 was the debate over a law about marriage between patricians and plebeians and the right for plebeians to be consuls. Canuleius' speech from this section was brilliant, and could easily have been used 2000+ years later when debating a woman's right to vote, etc.. Here are some of Livy's best lines:
'When we raise the question of making a plebeian consul, is it the same as if we were to say that a slave or a freedman should attain that office? Have you any conception of the contempt in which you are held? They would take from you, were it possible, a part of the daylight. That you breathe, that you speak, that you have the shape of men, fills them with resentment." (Book IV, iii 7-8)
"'But,' you say, 'from the time the kings were expelled no plebeian has ever been consul.' Well, what then? Must no new institution be adopted? Ought that which has not yet been done -- and in a new nation many things have not yet been done -- never to be put in practice, even if it be expedient?" (Book IV, iv 1).
"Finally, I would ask, is it you, or the Roman People, who have supreme authority? Did the banishment of the kings bring you dominion, or to all men equal liberty?" (Book IV, v 1).
Book 5 (Gauls at Rome)
One of my favorite characters in the book is Marcus Furius Camillus, one of Rome's great, early generals. He was given at his death the title of Second Founder of Rome after he helped to defend a sacked Rome against the Senoni chieftain Brennus and his gallic warriors.
Some men are generals. Some are statesmen. Others just seem to have it all. Camellus is one of those men who seem destined to lead, protect, and inspire. These three books are filled with battles, wars, and manly, martial speeches. I think one of the best parts of these early Roman histories of Livy are his speeches. Obviously, he is embellishing things and probably making a great deal up, but still -- this is damn good stuff. Here are some of Livy's best lines:
'Do we think the bodies of our soldiers so effeminate, their hearts so faint, that they cannot endure to be one winter in camp, away from home; that like sailors they must wage war with an eye on the weather, observing the seasons, incapable of withstanding heat or cold?" (Book V, vi 4)
"The gods themselves never laid hands upon the guilty; it was enough if they armed with an opportunity for vengeance those who had been wronged." (Book V, xi 16).
"...since it commonly turned out that in proportion as a man was prone to seek a leading share of toil and danger, he was slow in plundering." (Book V, xx 6).