Livy (59 B. C. A. D. 17), History of Rome



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Livy (59 B.C.-A.D. 17), History of Rome

Book IV, The Growing Power of the Plebs, The Law respecting the Intermarriage of Patricians and Plebeians.
The year was a troubled one both at home and abroad. In the beginning of the year C. Canuleius, a tribune of the plebs, introduced a law with regard to the intermarriage of patricians and plebeians. The patricians considered that their blood would be contaminated by it and the special rights of the houses thrown into confusion.
Then the tribunes began to throw out hints about one consul being elected from the plebs, and matters advanced so far that nine tribunes brought in a measure empowering the people to elect consuls from the plebeians or the patricians as they chose. The patricians believed that, if this were carried, the supreme power would not only be degraded by being shared with the lowest of the people, but would entirely pass away from the chief men in the State into the hands of the plebs. . . .
What enormous questions had C. Canuleius raised! He was advocating the breaking up of the houses, tampering with the auspices, both those of the State and those of individuals, so that nothing would be pure, nothing free from contamination, and in the effacing of all distinctions of rank, no one would know either himself or his kindred. What other result would mixed marriages have except to make unions between patricians and plebeians almost like the promiscuous association of animals? The offspring of such marriages would not know whose blood flowed in his veins, what sacred rites he might perform; half of him patrician, half plebeian, he would not even be in harmony with himself. . .
Canuleius delivered the following speech in defense of his laws and in opposition to the consuls:

`I fancy, Quirites, that I have often noticed in the past how greatly the patricians despise you, how unworthy they deem you to live in the same City, within the same walls, as they. Now, however, it is perfectly obvious, seeing how bitter an opposition they have raised to our proposed laws. For what is our purpose in framing them except to remind them that we are their fellow-citizens, and though we do not possess the same power, we still inhabit the same country? In one of these laws we demand the right of intermarriage, a right usually granted to neighbors and foreigners-indeed we have granted citizenship, which is more than intermarriage, even to a conquered enemy. . . What possible reason is there why they should embroil heaven and earth, why recently in the Senate-house I was on the point of being subjected to personal violence, why they declare they will not keep their hands off, and threaten to attack our inviolable authority? Will this City be no longer able to stand, is our dominion at an end, if a free vote is allowed to the Roman people so that they may entrust the consulship to whomsoever they will, and no plebeian may be shut out from the hope of attaining the highest honor if only he be worthy of the highest honor? Does the phrase `Let no plebeian be made consul' mean just the same as `No slave or freedman shall be consul'? Do you ever realize in what contempt you are living? They would rob you of your share in this daylight, if they could. They are indignant because you breathe and utter speech and wear the form of men. Why! Heaven forgive me, they actually say that it would be an act of impiety for a plebeian to be made



consul! . . .
Are you then to regard a plebeian consul with disgust, when our ancestors showed no aversion to strangers as their kings? Not even after the expulsion of the kings was the City closed to foreign merit. The Claudian house, at all events, who migrated from the Sabines, was received by us not only into citizenship, but even into the ranks of the patricians. Shall a man who was an alien become a patrician and afterwards consul, and a Roman citizen, if he belongs to the plebs, be cut off from all hope of the consulship? Do we believe that it is impossible for a plebeian to be brave and energetic and capable both in peace and war, or if there be such a man, are we not to allow him to touch the helm of the State; are we to have, by preference, consuls like the decemvirs, those vilest of mortals-who, nevertheless, were all patricians-rather than men who resemble the best of the kings, new men though they were?'
What are the major points of this excerpt?
Early Roman Histories: Livy & the annalistic tradition
Excerpted from www.britannica.com

Article on Ancient Rome, Historical sources on early Rome
The regal period (753-509 BC) and the early republic (509-280 BC) are the most poorly documented periods of Roman history because historical accounts of Rome were not written until much later. Greek historians did not take serious notice of Rome until the Pyrrhic War (280-275 BC), when Rome was completing its conquest of Italy and was fighting against the Greek city of Tarentum in southern Italy. Rome's first native historian, a senator named Quintus Fabius Pictor, lived and wrote even later, during the Second Punic War (218-201 BC). Thus historical writing at Rome did not begin until after Rome had completed its conquest of Italy, had emerged as a major power of the ancient world, and was engaged in a titanic struggle with Carthage for control of the western Mediterranean. Fabius Pictor's history, which began with the city's mythical Trojan ancestry and narrated events up to his own day, established the form of subsequent histories of Rome. During the last 200 years BC, 16 other Romans wrote similarly inclusive narratives. All these works are now collectively termed "the Roman annalistic tradition" because many of them attempted to give a year-by-year (or annalistic) account of Roman affairs for the republic.
Although none of these histories are fully preserved, the first 10 books of Livy, one of Rome's greatest historians, are extant and cover Roman affairs from earliest times down to the year 293 BC (extant are also Books 21 to 45 treating the events from 218 BC to 167 BC). Since Livy wrote during the reign of the emperor Augustus (27 BC-AD 14), he was separated by 200 years from Fabius Pictor, who, in turn, had lived long after many of the events his history described. Thus, in writing about early Rome, ancient historians were confronted with great difficulties in ascertaining the truth. They possessed a list of annual magistrates from the beginning of the republic onward (the consular fasti), which formed the chronological framework of their accounts. Religious records and the texts of some laws and treaties provided a bare outline of major events. Ancient historians fleshed out this meager factual material with both native and Greek folklore. Consequently, over time, historical facts about early Rome often suffered from patriotic or face-saving reinterpretations involving exaggeration of the truth, suppression of embarrassing facts, and invention.
The evidence for the annalistic tradition shows that the Roman histories written during the 2nd century BC were relatively brief resumes of facts and stories. Yet in the course of the 1st century BC Roman writers were increasingly influenced by Greek rhetorical training, with the result that their histories became greatly expanded in length; included in them were fictitious speeches and lengthy narratives of spurious battles and political confrontations, which, however, reflect the military and political conditions and controversies of the late republic rather than accurately portraying the events of early Rome. Livy's history of early Rome, for example, is a blend of some facts and much fiction. Since it is often difficult to separate fact from fiction in his works and doing so involves personal judgment, modern scholars have disagreed about many aspects of early Roman history and will continue to do so.
What are the dangers of using Livy as an historical source on the early Roman Republic?


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