Contested Triumphs: Politics, Pageantry, and Performance in Livy's Republican Rome


In 1982, R. M. Ogilvie pronounced thus on Livy's political acumen: 'His exclusion from the Senate and the magistracies meant that he had personal experience of how the Roman government worked ... It also deprived him of first-hand access to much material (minutes of Senate meetings, texts of treaties, laws ...). But the chief effect is that Livy did seek historical explanations in political terms. For others history was a political study, through which one might hope to explain or excuse the past and the present, but Livy saw history in personal and moral terms' (Cambridge History of Classical Literature, Vol. II, p. 459). Seventy years Syme dismissed him far less charitably: 'Pollio knew what history was. It was not like Livy' (The Roman Revolution, p. 486). Though Livy has undergone considerable rehabilitation in the past three decades, Miriam Pittenger breaks new ground in presenting him as a political historian. Neither Ogilvie nor Syme, and certainly not Asinius Pollio, would recognize the Livy depicted her book. For P., Livy has his finger on the pulse of the Roman Republic's elite, as its blood courses and surges in the swirls and ebbs of debates over the right to triumph. She argues that, because Livy's speeches themselves convey what was said in those third- and second-century meetings, his representations of these debates afford an authentic view of the ways senators and generals fashioned themselves for public consumption. This position is bracing, but not without problems of method, argument, and evidence.


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