Ab Urbe Condita Libri by Titus Livius Livy Patavinus

A review of the historical text Ab Urbe Condita Libri by Titus Livius Livy Patavinus.

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Ab Urbe Condita Libri (also known as The History of Rome) is a book comprising of 35 complete volumes and several incomplete snippets of the 142 originals that tell the tale of the Roman Republic. It was written in around 28BC by Titus Livius Patavinus, or Livy, one of the greatest Roman historians. The missing volumes were most likely lost during the fall of the Roman Empire.

Included throughout the surviving volumes of this historical book are: the founding of Rome by Romulus; the rule of the Roman kings until Tarquin was overthrown by Brutus and his followers; the sacking of Rome by the Gauls after the Romans were defeated at the battle of the Allia; the second founding of Rome by Marcus Furius Camillus; the second Punic war in which Hannibal Barca—a Carthaginian, and Rome’s greatest enemy—invaded Italy; and the late republic period, which came after the defeat of Carthage, where the Romans subjugated—through either war or alliances—most of the ancient Mediterranean world.

I enjoyed this book for its historical significance and the writer’s attention to detail. Livy aimed to tell the story of Rome, including the mythology taught—at the time—as history, such as the legend of Romulus. Occasionally he veers off and gives his opinion of other historical people and events, such as Alexander the Great, who Titus believed wasn’t in fact as great as people made him out to be.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the Roman republic, especially as I feel this period in Roman history has been somewhat overshadowed by the time of the emperors. This is because Livy shows how Rome got to be as great as it was.

Even at far less than a third of its original size, the surviving text of Livy is an epic read and proves that there is far more to the republic of Rome than Julius Caesar.

David Delphine lives in Margate with his wife and daughter. He is an avid reader of historical fact and fiction.

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