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TITUS LIVIUS was born at Patavium, the modern Padua, some time between 61 and 57 B.C. Of his parentage and early life nothing is known. It is easy to surmise that he was well born, from his political bias in favour of the aristocratic party, and from the evident fact of his having received a liberal education; yet the former of these arguments is not at all inconsistent with the opposite supposition, and the latter should lead to no very definite conclusion when we remember that in his days few industries were more profitable than the higher education of slaves for the pampered Roman market. Niebuhr infers, from a sentence quoted by Quintilian, that Livy began life as a teacher of rhetoric. However that may be, it seems certain that he came to Rome about 30 B.C., was introduced to Augustus and won his patronage and favour, and after the death of his great patron and friend retired to the city of his birth, where he died, 17 A.D. It is probable that he had fixed the date of the Emperor's death as the limit of his history, and that his own decease cut short his task.

No historian ever told a story more delightfully. The available translations leave much to be desired, but to the student of Latin Livy's style is pure and simple, and possesses that charm which purity and simplicity always give. If there is anything to justify the charge of "Patavinity," or provincialism, made by Asinius Pollio, we, at least, are not learned enough in Latin to detect it; and Pollio, too, appears to have been no gentle critic if we may judge by his equally severe strictures upon Cicero, Cæsar, and Sallust. This much we know: the Patavian's heroes live; his events happen, and we are carried along upon their tide. Our sympathies, our indignation, our enthusiasm, are summoned into being, and history and fiction appear to walk hand in hand for our instruction and amusement. In this latter word--fiction--lies the charge most often and most strongly made against him--the charge that he has written a story and no more; that with him past time existed but to furnish materials "to point a moral or adorn a tale." Let us consider to what extent this is true, and, if true, in what measure the author has sinned by it or we have lost.

No one would claim that the rules by which scientific historians of to-day are judged should be applied to those that wrote when history was young, when the boundaries between the possible and the impossible were less clearly defined, or when, in fact, such boundaries hardly existed in men's minds. In this connection, even while we vaunt, we smile. After all, how much of our modern and so-called scientific history must strike the reasoning reader as mere theorizing or as special pleading based upon the slenderest evidence! Among the ancients the work of the historians whom we consider trustworthy--such writers, for instance, as Cæsar, Thucydides, Xenophon, Polybius, and Tacitus--may be said to fall generally within Rawlinson's canons 1 and 2 of historical criticism--that is, (1) cases where the historian has personal knowledge concerning the facts whereof he writes, or (2) where the facts are such that he may reasonably be supposed to have obtained them from contemporary witnesses. Canon 2 might be elaborated and refined very considerably and perhaps to advantage. It naturally includes as sources of knowledge--first, personal interviews with contemporary witnesses; and, second, accesses to the writings of historians whose opportunities brought them within canon 1. In this latter case the evidence would be less convincing, owing to the lack of opportunity to cross-question, though even here apparent lack of bias or the existence of biased testimony on both sides, from which a judicious man might have a fair chance to extract the truth, would go far to cure the defect.

The point, however, to which I tend is, that the portions of Livy's history from which we must judge of his trustworthiness treat, for the most part, of periods concerning which even his evidence was of the scantiest and poorest description. He doubtless had family records, funeral panegyrics, and inscription--all of which were possibly almost as reliable as those of our own day. Songs sung at festivals and handed down by tradition may or may not be held more truthful. These he had as well; but the government records, the ancient fasti, had been destroyed at the time of the burning of the city by the Gauls, and there is no hint of any Roman historian that lived prior to the date of the second Punic war. Thus we may safely infer that Livy wrote of the first five hundred years without the aid of any contemporary evidence, either approximately complete or ostensibly reliable. With the beginning of the second Punic war began also the writing of history. Quintus Fabius Pictor had left a work, which Polybius condemned on the score of its evident partiality. Lucius Cincius Alimentus, whose claim to knowledge if not to impartiality rests largely on the fact that he was captured and held prisoner by Hannibal, also left memoirs; but Hannibal was not famous for treating prisoners mildly, and the Romans, most cruel themselves in this respect, were always deeply scandalized by a much less degree of harshness on the part of their enemies. Above all, there was Polybius himself, who perhaps approaches nearer to the critical historian than any writer of antiquity, and it is Polybius upon whom Livy mainly relies through his third, fourth, and fifth decades. The works of Fabius and Cincius are lost. So also are those of the Lacedaemonian Sosilus and the Sicilian Silanus, who campaigned with Hannibal and wrote the Carthaginian side of the story; nor is there any evidence that either Polybius or Livy had access to their writings. Polybius, then, may be said to be the only reliable source from which Livy could draw for any of his extant books, and before condemning unqualifiedly in the cases where he deserts him and harks back to Roman authorities we must remember that Livy was a strong nationalist, one of a people who, despite their conquests, were essentially narrow, prejudiced, egotistical; and, thus remembering, we must marvel that he so fully recognises the merit of his unprejudiced guide and wanders as little as he does. All told, it is quite certain that he has dealt more fairly by Hannibal than have Alison and other English historians by Napoleon. His unreliability consists rather in his conclusions than in his facts, and it is unquestioned that through all the pages of the third decade he has so told the story of the man most hated by Rome--the deadliest enemy she had ever encountered--that the reader can not fail to feel the greatness of Hannibal dominating every chapter.

Referring again to the criticisms made so lavishly upon Livy's story of the earlier centuries, it is well to recall the contention of the hard-headed Scotchman Ferguson, that with all our critical acumen we have found no sure ground to rest upon until we reach the second Punic war. Niebuhr, on the other hand, whose German temperament is alike prone to delve or to theorize, is disposed to think--with considerable generosity to our abilities, it appears to me--that we may yet evolve a fairly true history of Rome from the foundation of the commonwealth. As to the times of the kings, it is admitted that we know nothing, while from the founding of the commonwealth to the second Punic war the field may be described as, at the best, but a battle-ground for rival theories.

The ancient historian had, as a rule, little to do with such considerations or controversies. In the lack of solid evidence he had only to write down the accepted story of the origin of things, as drawn from the lips of poetry, legend, or tradition, and it was for Livy to write thus or not at all. Even here the honesty of his intention is apparent. For much of his early history he does not claim more than is claimed for it by many of his modern critics, while time and again he pauses to express a doubt as to the credibility of some incident. A notable instance of this is found in his criticism of those stories most dear to the Roman heart--the stories of the birth and apotheosis of Romulus. On the other hand, if he has given free life to many beautiful legends that were undoubtedly current and believed for centuries, is it heresy to avow that these as such seem to me of more true value to the antiquary than if they had been subjected at their historical inception to the critical and theoretical methods of to-day? I can not hold Livy quite unpardonable even when following, as he often does, such authorities as the Furian family version of the redemption of the city by the arms of their progenitor Camillus, instead of by the payment of the agreed ransom, as modern writers consider proven, while his putting of set speeches into the mouths of his characters may be described as a conventional usage of ancient historians, which certainly added to the liveliness of the narrative and probably was neither intended to be taken literally nor resulted in deceiving any one.

Reverting for a moment to Livy's honesty and frankness, so far as his intent might govern such qualities, I think no stronger evidence in his favour can be found than his avowed republican leanings at the court of Augustus and his just estimate of Cicero's character in the face of the favour of a prince by whose consent the great orator had been assassinated. Above all, it must have been a fearless and honest man who could swing the scourge with which he lashed his degenerate countrymen in those stinging words, "The present times, when we can endure neither our vices nor their remedies."

Nevertheless, and despite the facts that Livy means to be honest and that he questions much on grounds that would not shame the repute of many of his modern critics, the charge is doubtless true that his writings are not free from prejudice in favour of his country. That he definitely regarded history rather as a moral agency and a lesson for the future than as an irrefutable narrative of the past, I consider highly hypothetical; but it is probable that his mind was not of the type that is most diligent in the close, exhaustive, and logical study so necessary to the historian of today. "Superficial," if we could eliminate the reproach in the word, would perhaps go far toward describing him. He is what we would call a popular rather than a scientific writer, and, since we think somewhat lightly of such when they write on what we consider scientific subjects, we are too apt to transfer their light repute to an author who wrote popularly at a time when this treatment was best adapted to his audience, his aims, and the material at his command. That he has survived through all these centuries, and has enjoyed, despite all criticism, the position in the literature of the world which his very critics have united in conceding to him, is perhaps a stronger commendation than any technical approval.

From the standpoint of the present work it was felt that selections aggregating seven books would accomplish all the purposes of a complete presentation. The editors have chosen the first three books of the first decade as telling what no one can better tell than Livy: the stories and legends connected with the foundation and early life of Rome. Here, as I have said, there was nothing for him to do but cut loose from all trammels and hang breathless, pen in hand, upon the lips of tradition. None can hold but that her faithful scribe has writ down her words with all their ancient colour, with reverence reigning over his heart; however doubts might lurk within his brain. These books close with the restoration of the consular power, after the downfall of the tyrannical rule of the Decemvirs, the revolution following upon the attempt of Appius Claudius to seize Virginia, the daughter of a citizen who, rather than see his child fall into the clutches of the cruel patrician, killed her with his own hand in the marketplace, and, rushing into the camp with the bloody knife, caused the soldiers to revolt. The second section comprises Books XXI-XXIV, a part of the narrative of the second Punic war, a military exploit the most remarkable the world has ever seen.

The question who was the greatest general that ever lived has been a fruitful source of discussion, and Alexander, Cæsar, and Napoleon have each found numerous and ardent supporters. Without decrying the signal abilities of these chiefs, it must nevertheless be remembered that each commanded a homogeneous army and had behind him a compact nation the most warlike and powerful of his time. The adversaries also of the Greek and the Roman were in the one instance an effete power already falling to pieces by its own internal weakness, and in the other, for the most part, scattered tribes of barbarians without unity of purpose or military discipline. Even in his civil wars Cæsar's armies were veterans, and those of the commonwealth were, comparatively speaking, recruits. But when the reader of these pages carefully considers the story of Hannibal's campaign in Italy, what does he find? Two nations--one Caucasian, young, warlike above all its contemporaries, with a record behind it of steady aggrandizement and almost unbroken victory, a nation every citizen of which was a soldier. On the other side, a race of merchants Semitic in blood, a city whose citizens had long since ceased to go to war, preferring that their gold should fight for them by the hands of mercenaries of every race and clime--hirelings whose ungoverned valour had proved almost as deadly to their employers and generals as to their enemies. Above all, the same battle had been joined before when Rome was weaker and Carthage stronger, and Carthage had already shown her weakness and Rome her strength.

And now in this renewed war we see a young man, aided only by a little group of compatriots, welding together army of the most heterogeneous elements--Spaniards, Gauls, Numidians, Moors, Greeks--men of almost every race except his own. We see him cutting loose from his base of supplies, leaving enemies behind him, to force his way through hostile races, through unknown lands bristling with almost impassable mountains and frigid with snow and ice. We see him conquering here, making friends and allies there, and, more wonderful than all, holding his mongrel horde together through hardships and losses by the force of his character alone. We see him at last descending into the plains of Italy. We see him not merely defeating but annihilating army after army more numerous than his own and composed of better raw material. We see him, unaided, ranging from end to end of the peninsula, none daring to meet him with opposing standards, and the greatest general of Rome winning laurels because he knew enough to recognise his own hopeless inferiority. All stories of reverses other than those of mere detachments may pretty safely be set down as the exaggeration of Roman writers. Situated as was Hannibal, the loss of one marshalled field would have meant immediate ruin, and ruin never came when he fought in Italy. On the contrary, without supplies save what his sword could take, without friends save what his genius and his fortune could win, he maintained his place and his superiority not for one or for two but through fourteen years, during all which time we hear no murmur of mutiny, no hint of aught but obedience and devotion among the incongruous and unruly elements from which he had fashioned his invincible army; and at the end we see him leaving Italy of his own free will, at the call of his country, to waste himself in a vain effort to save her from the blunders of other leaders and from the penalty of inherent weakness, which only his sword had so long warded off.

When I consider the means, the opposition, and the achievement--a combination of elements by which alone we can judge such questions with even approximate fairness--I can not but feel that of all military exploits this invasion of Italy, which we shall read of here, was the most remarkable; that of all commanders Hannibal has shown himself to be the greatest. Some of Livy's charges against him as a man are doubtless true. Avarice was in his blood; and cruelty also, though it ill became a Roman to chide an enemy on that score. Besides, Livy himself tells how Hannibal had sought for the bodies of the generals he had slain, that he might give them the rites of honourable sepulture; tells it, and in the next breath relates how the Roman commander mutilated the corpse of the fallen Hasdrubal and threw the head into his brother's camp. So, too, his naïve explanation that Hannibal's "more than Punic perfidy" consisted mainly of ambushes and similar military strategies goes to show, as I have said, that whatever is unjust in our author's estimate was rather the result of the prejudiced deductions of national egotism than of facts wilfully or carelessly distorted by partisan spite.

To the reader who bears well in mind the points I have ventured to make, I predict profit hardly less than pleasure in these pages; for Livy is perhaps the only historian who may be said to have been honest enough to furnish much of the material for criticism of himself, and to be, to a very considerable extent, self-adjusting.

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