Livy (64 BC – AD 12) wrote Ab Urbe Condita under the reign of the Princeps Augustus Caesar (r. 27 BC – 14 AD), and the Julio-Claudian dynasty of the Roman Empire, with living memory of the Roman Republic. These excerpts include a Preface, which includes Livy’s understanding of why history, even early history, should be studied; the motivating events surrounding the exile of Etruscan king Tarquin “the Proud”; and the semi-legendary resistance by Horatius, in his stand at the bridge of the River Tiber, of another Etruscan city-state king Porsena in re-installing Tarquin.
Despite the semi-legendary nature of these accounts, though they do have a historical basis, they tell us a lot about many Romans thought to be exemplary of Roman virtue.
1. With explicit reference to the readings and particular characters, what is the ideal for virtuous men and women for Roman historian Livy? How do Romans, he explains, like to think of themselves at their best? What behavior and vices of which characters are contrasted with Roman virtue?
2. Notice that like many of our stories ancient expectations of hospitality and abuses of expectations for lodging often play a critical role. First, descriptively, how are kings portrayed? What are the dangers associated with them? Second, what similarities and differences are there in the portrayal of kings in these other stories we’ve looked at?
CICERO, ON THE COMMONWEALTH EXCERPT
1. Based on this excerpt, what social and political values did Cicero consider essential to leading a good life on earth and gaining eternal life in the hereafter? In Cicero’s understanding, how were these values being presently undermined?
2. For Cicero, what is the Romans’ view of the world and their place in it?
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Ab urbe condita
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