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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

OP

L I VY.

Titus Livius, the illustrious author of the Roman history, was descended from a noble family in Rome, and born at Patavium, now called Padua, in the 694th year of Rome, fifty-eight years before the commencement of the Christian era.

Like many other literary men, his life was contemplative rather than active ; very few particulars therefore concerning him have come down to us. He resided at Rome for a considerable period, where he was honoured with the patronage of Augustus, to whom he is reported to have been previously known by some writings which he had dedicated to him. Seneca, however, is silent on the subject of this supposed dedication, though he makes mention of the work itself, which, he says, consisted of moral and philosophical dialogues. He appears to have conceived the project of writing his history immediately after his removal to the capital; or, perhaps, he came hither for the purpose of collecting the necessary materials for that great work.

Augustus appointed him preceptor to his grandson Claudius, afterwards emperor: but Livy seems to have neglected the advantages which might have

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resulted from a connexion so promising, and to have occupied the whole of his leisure hours in the composition of his history, parts of which, as they were finished, he read to Augustus and Mecænas. Distracted with the tumult, and disgusted, it may be, with the intrigues and cabals of Rome, he sought retirement and tranquillity in the beautiful country and delightful climate of Naples. Here, in the enjoyment of uninterrupted literary ease and independence, he completed his magnificent design, comprising, in a hundred and forty-two books, the history of Rome, from the foundation of the city to the death of Drusus, containing a period of seven hundred and forty-three years, ending nine years before the birth of our Saviour. Having thus secured his reputation as an historian of the highest order, he returned to pass the remainder of his days in his native country, where he expired, A.D. 17, at the age of seventy-five years. It is said that he died the same day with Ovid.

How highly his works were esteemed, and himself personally

honoured and respected, may be gathered from the manner in which he is mentioned by many ancient authors. Tacitus tells us, that “T. Livius, that admirable historian, not more distinguished by his eloquence than by his fidelity, was so lavish in his commendations of Pompey, that Augustus called him the Pompeian:' and yet his friendship towards him remained undiminished.” The younger Pliny informs us that a certain inhabitant of the city of Cadiz was so enthusiastic an admirer of Livy, that he travelled to Rome on purpose to visit that great genius; and, as soon as he had satisfied his curiosity, returned home; as if, after having seen Livy, nothing farther could be worthy of his notice. À monument was erected to his memory in the temple of Juno, where was afterwards

founded the monastery of Justina. There, in 1413, was discovered the following epitaph on Livy: Ossa Titi Livii Patavini, omnium mortalium judicio digni, cujus prope invicto calamo invicti populi Romani res geste conscriberentur; i. e., “The bones of Titus Livius, of Padua, a man worthy to be approved by all mankind; by whose almost invincible pen the acts and exploits of the invincible Romans were written." These bones are said to be preserved with the greatest reverence to this day, and are shown by the Paduans as the most precious relics.

Of the hundred and forty-two books, of which the History of Rome originally consisted, thirty-five only have been transmitted to our times. The contents of the whole, the hundred and thirty-seventh and eighth excepted, have been preserved: these epitomes have been by some conjectured to proceed from the pen of the historian himself; while others,

equal improbability, have asserted them to be the work of Lucius Florus, author of a portion of Roman history. Whoever may have been the compiler-a fact, as useless as it is now impossible to ascertain—they are highly curious ; and, although they contain but a faint outline, they still serve to convey some idea of the original, and excite proportionable regret at the loss of so large a portion of this valuable work.

Livy's books have been divided into decades ; and it appears, from the separate prefatory introductions to each portion that the author had originally divided his work into distinct parts, consisting each of ten books. The first decade commences with the foundation of the city of Rome, and rapidly narrates the events of four hundred and sixty years. The second decade is lost: it comprised a period of seventy-five years: the principal occurrence in this period of history was the first Punic war, in which the Romans, after a long and arduous struggle, were finally victorious. The third decade is extant: it contains a particular and welldetailed account of the second Punic war, which lasted about eighteen years; in the course of which, the Romans gained so many advantages, and acquired so much military experience, that no nation was ever able afterwards to withstand them. The fourth decade contains the Macedonian war against Philip, and the Asiatic against Antiochus: these are related at considerable length, insomuch, that the ten books comprise a space of twenty-three years only. For the first five books of the fifth decade we are indebted to the researches of the moderns, who discovered them at Worms, A.D., 1431. These give an account of the war with Perseus, king of Macedonia, who gained several advantages over the Romans, but was at length subdued, and his kingdom reduced to the condition of a Roman province; of the corruption of several Roman governors in the administration of the provinces, and their punishment; and of the third Punic war, which lasted only five years. The contents of the remaining books serve only to show us the magnitude of our loss. Livy had employed forty-five books in the history of six centuries ; but so numerous and interesting were the events which he had before him for selection in the latter period of the republic, that it took him above double that number to relate the occurrences of little more than a hundred and twenty years.

From the admirable manner in which the former part of the history Has been written, we may reasonably infer the merit of the remainder, which fails us unfortunately at a most remarkable period, when rational curiosity is raised to the highest pitch. Nor can we doubt the excellence of its execution, when we consider how far

superior and how much more copious his materials must have been : for, besides what he could draw from his own personal knowledge, derived from his intimacy with the most considerable men in the empire, who were themselves principal actors in the important transactions which he relates, he had access to the best possible written materials; to the memoirs of Sylla, Cæsar, Labienus, Pollio, Augustus, and many others which were then extant.

" What writers of memorials," says Lord Bolingbroke, “what compilers of the Materia Historica, were these! What genius was necessary to fill up the pictures that such masters had sketched ! Rome afforded men that were equal to the task: let the remains, the precious remains, of Sallust, of Livy, and of Tacitus, witness this truth. What a school of public and private virtue had been opened to us at the resurrection of learning if the latter historians of the Roman commonwealth and the first of the succeeding monarchy had come down to us entire ! The few that are come down, though broken and imperfect, compose the best body of history we have; nay, the only body of ancient history which deserve to be an object of study. Appian, Dion Cassius, and others, nay, even Plutarch included, make us but poor amends for what is lost of Livy." Speaking then of Tully's orations and letters as the best helps to supply this loss, he says, that “The age in which Livy flourished abounded with such materials as these : they were fresh ; they were authentic; it was easy to procure them; it was safe to employ them. How he did employ them in executing the second part of his design, we may judge from his execution of the first; and I own I should be glad to exchange, if it were possible, what we have of this history for what we have not.”

Much as our historian was admired, and highly

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