Ab urbe condita  

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The Birth of Venus (detail), a 1486 painting by Sandro Botticelli
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The Birth of Venus (detail), a 1486 painting by Sandro Botticelli

Ab Urbe condita (literally, "from the city having been founded"), written by Titus Livius (c.59 BC–AD 17), is a monumental history of Rome, from its legendary founding ("ab Urbe condita") in c.753 BC (according to Marcus Terentius Varro and most modern scholars). It is often referred to as History of Rome. The first five books were published between 27 and 25 BC.

Originally written in 142 books, only 35 have survived to the present day. The first book starts with Aeneas landing in Italy and the founding of Rome by Romulus and Remus and ends with Lucius Junius Brutus and Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus being elected as consuls in 502 BC according to Livy's own chronology (509 BC according to Varro). Books II-X deal with the history of the Roman Republic to the Samnite Wars, while books XXI-XLV tell of the Second Punic War and end with the war against Perseus of Macedon.

The remaining books are preserved by a 4th century summary entitled Periochae, except for book 136 and 137. However, these were not compiled from Livy's original text but from an abridged edition that is now lost. In the Egyptian town Oxyrhynchus, a similar summary of books 37-40 and 48-55 was found on a scroll of papyrus that is now in the British Museum. However the Oxyrhynchus Epitome is damaged and incomplete.

Books XLVI-LXX deal with the time up to the Social War in 91 BC. Book LXXXIX includes the dictatorship of Sulla in 81 BC and book CIII contains a description of Gaius Julius Caesar's first consulship. Book 142 ends with the death of Nero Claudius Drusus in 9 BC. While the first ten books concern a period of over 500 years, once Livy started writing about the 1st century BC, he devoted almost a whole book to each year.

This collection is vital to many descriptions, portrayals, histories and other projects referring to the history of the Kingdom and Republic. Although slightly biased, it contains many references to sources, and does present the general history of Rome in a good writing style which is very understandable and readable. However, the reliability of the work has often been questioned since Titus Livy was a Roman and his account of events seems to glorify the Romans. Even so, the books are invaluable in that they reflect the reactions of the people of ancient Rome to events and their interest in various traditions. Other sources, such as Suetonius's Lives of the Twelve Caesars tend to generally agree in their hintings of the periods covered by "History of Rome."

At the end of the 4th century, the politicians Nicomachus Flavianus and Appius Nicomachus Dexter produced a corrected edition the work of Livy; all of the manuscripts of the first ten books of Ab Urbe condita that were subsequently copied through the Middle Ages into modern times are derived by this single manuscript, thanks to whom those books have survived.

Niccolò Machiavelli's work on republics, the Discourses on Livy, is presented as a commentary on the History of Rome.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Ab urbe condita" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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