Archive for the ‘Roman History’ Category

T. Livius, Ab Urbe Condita: 001-01

2009 February 26

Translation of the book on Roman history Ab Urbe Condita by Titus Livius (Livy): Book 1 Chapter 1

Now first of all, everyone agrees that when Troy was taken there was brutality toward the Troians, except that the Achaeans forbore all prerogative of war toward two, Aeneas and Antenor, under the ancient right of hospitality because they were always advocates of peace and of returning Helen.

Then after various misfortunes Antenor with a large number of the Eneti, who were looking for both homes and a leader (they had been driven out of Paphlagonia by an insurrection and their king Pylaemenes had been lost at Troy), came into the innermost curve of the Adriatic Sea; and after the Euganei, who were living between the sea and the Alps, had been driven off, the Eneti and Troians occupied those lands. And the place where they first landed is called “Troy” and from that the region has the name “Troian”; the entire population are called “Veneti”.

Aeneas, a refugee from a similar disaster at home but with divine words guiding him to bigger historical beginnings, came first to Macedonia, from there was carried away to Sicilia looking for homes, and from Sicilia continued with his fleet to the territory of Laurentum. This place also has the name “Troy”.

When the Troians came ashore there, as almost nothing remained to them after their immense wandering except weapons and ships, they stole cattle from the fields. King Latinus and the Aborigines who were then occupying those places ran armed from the city and fields to prevent the violence of the strangers. From this point, the report is divided. Some hand down that Latinus, defeated in a battle, united in peace with Aeneas and later in a connection by marriage.

Others say that when the drawn up battle lines were standing face-to-face, before the signals sounded, Latinus went forward between the front ranks and called out the leader of the strangers for a discussion. Then he asked: What mortals were they? For what reason or because of what mishap had they left home? Or, seeking what had they gone out into the territory of Laurentum? After he heard that the crowd were Troians, that their leader was Aeneas, son of Anchises and Venus; and that, refugees from home because their homeland had been burned, they were looking for a home and a place to start a city; then, admiring the nobility of the folk and of the man and admiring that their spirit was prepared for either war or peace, he confirmed a promise of future friendship by offering his right hand. Then a treaty was struck between the leaders; a greeting was made between the armies; Aeneas was a guest in the house of Latinus; and there Latinus, in the presence of his household gods, joined a domestic treaty to the public one by giving his daughter to Aeneas in marriage.

For the Troians this event affirmed their hope of ending their wandering at last in a stable and certain home. They built a town; Aeneas called it “Lavinium” after the name of his wife. Soon there was also a male offspring from the new marriage to whom the parents gave the name “Ascanius”.

Remarks: Checks and Balances vs. Personal Agenda
Remarks: Preventing Invasions and War
Remarks: Mutually Beneficial Treaty

Translation Copyright 2009 Verbifex


T. Livius, Ab Urbe Condita: Preface

2008 June 27

Translation of the book on Roman history Ab Urbe Condita by Titus Livius (Livy): Preface

Whether it will be worth my while if I write out the full history of the Roman nation from the very beginning, I do not know well enough to say and, if I did know, I would not dare to say it, since I may see that the institution [of writing such histories] has been around a long time and will be well known as long as new authors always believe either that they are going to bring more certainty to the matter or that, with respect to writing skill, they will surpass the unsophisticated ancients. However that may be, it will please me, nevertheless, that I myself to the best of my ability will have tended to the memory of the accomplishments of the leading nation of the world; and if in such a crowd of writers my fame may be doubtful, I may console myself with the widespread fame and the greatness of those who overshadow my own name.

And besides, it is a subject needing immense work, since it is one which stretches back more than seven hundred years and which, having started out from tiny beginnings, has grown so much that now it suffers from its own great size. I do not doubt that the events at and immediately after the city’s origins may offer less enjoyment to most readers as they hurry on to these recent times in which the powers of a once exceptionally strong nation are now destroying themselves. In contrast, I will seek also for myself, as a reward of the labor, that I may withdraw out of sight of the evils that our age has seen for so many years, just as long as I am recalling in my mind all those former times, of course, freed from all the care which, although it can not turn a writer’s mind away from the truth, can however worry it.

I do not intend to either affirm or refute those traditions, more suitable to poetic fables than to authentic historical records, which are handed down from times before the founding of the city or from times just before it was founded. This favor is granted to antiquity: that it may make the beginnings of cities more majestic by mixing human activities with the divine; and if it is proper to permit any nation to immortalize its origins and to relate its founders to the gods, then when the Roman nation, having such a source of pride in war, calls the supremely powerful Mars its ancestor and its founder’s own father, the human races may indeed tolerate this as calmly as they tolerate its political dominion.

But, however those and similar myths are considered and judged, I myself will give them no importance. In my opinion each reader should focus attentively on these points: what were the life and customs? Through the actions of which men and by means of what skills, at home and in war, was dominion brought forth and increased? Thereafter the reader may follow mentally how morals collapsed, as is characteristic of a thing sitting idle, little by little when discipline was first slipping, then more and more, then began to plummet, until these times arrived in which we can tolerate neither our faults nor the remedies.

In light of this, it is especially beneficial and fruitful in the learning of history that you are examining reports of every pattern of behavior set down in a clear record; from that source you may adopt, for yourself and your government, what to imitate; from that source you may avoid what is foul from the beginning and what is foul in its outcome. Besides, either the love for this project which I have undertaken misleads me, or there has never been a country greater or more venerable or richer in good examples, nor any community which greed and extravagance entered so late, nor where poverty and thrift had so much respect for so long. There was less greed to the extent that there was less property. Recently riches have carried in greed, and overflowing sensual pleasures have brought a craving to lose oneself and blot out the entire world through luxury and pleasure.

But complaints, not welcome even when they will perhaps be necessary, may at least be absent from the beginnings of such a large undertaking. Rather, if we also may have the custom that poets have, let us more willingly begin with good omens and wishes, with prayers to the gods and goddesses that they may give us fortunate outcomes from the very beginnings of the work.

Remarks: Unintentional Chauvinism

Translation Copyright 2008 Verbifex