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The Historian’s Silences: What Livy Did Not Know—Or Chose Not to Tell

Ronald T. Ridley
Published Online: 2013-05-03 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jah-2013-0003


The fragments of Livy’s annalistic predecessors may be meagre, but they allow us to detect variant traditions which he does not include. Polybios, Tacitus and the emperor Claudius also record such variants on early Roman history. The same is true of the antiquarians Varro, Cincius, Verrius Flaccus, Gellius and Festus. These variants are examined to suggest what Livy might have rejected and why.

Keywords: Livy; annalists; early Roman historical tradition; Roman historiography

The title of this paper is not meant in any way to disparage the author of the greatest historical undertaking of antiquity: Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita, covering more than seven centuries in 142 books. One can only, to the contrary, be amazed at what Livy mastered in his seemingly simple but genial fashion. He himself is the best witness to the breadth of his research (until recently traduced) and his awareness of the endless uncertainties which his narrative had to confront or skirt.1 There remain, however, for the alert, traditions recorded elsewhere which, given his own widely cast net and great historical curiosity, he might well have included or to which he might have alluded. In some cases they might have substantially changed his account. These variant traditions will be considered under two categories: those revealed by his predecessors, and by his successors. The fortuitous fact that only those who came after him preserve these alternatives does not, of course, mean that they were not known earlier, but that is how they are preserved to us and that is how it is logical to treat them. This paper does not attempt to investigate every other author whose text relates to Livy, but a number of the most significant. The major omission in a strict sense is Dionysios of Halikarnassos, but that would require a dedicated and lengthy study. He will nevertheless often be cited.2 The examples to be discussed come from Livy’s first seven books.

I The Pre-Livian Annalistic Tradition

We have here, admittedly, to rely on our judgement to choose those traditions which are historically interesting and which Livy might be expected to have noticed. That he did not means either that he did not know of them, which is unlikely, or that he judged them to be unreliable traditions or insoluble problems, or simply distracting.

First, Fabius Pictor.3 One might have thought that the introduction of writing would interest someone who did so much of it, but Livy does not refer to the Phoenician invention of the alphabet and its coming to Rome via Greece (Fabius frag. 2 B&W, C; also Cincius frag. 1 B&W, C), although he does mention Evander (I 5, 2).4 He must have considered the matter a digression.

One of the most famous portents in all of Roman history was the white sow with the thirty piglets, which appeared to Aeneas (Fabius frag. 5 B&W, C). This was interpreted as a prediction of the new capital Alba Longa, to be settled after thirty years. Livy mentions only the interval (I 3, 4), but not the sow. The incident was made famous by Varro (Rust. II 4,18): the body of the sow was preserved in brine at Lavinium, but the story goes back at least to Timaios c. 300 BCE (ap. Lykophron Alex. 1253) and was well known to Vergil (Aen. VIII 38–49) and Dionysios (I 56). Robert Ogilvie explained Livy’s omission very plausibly, “[he] presumably … regarded it [sc. the prodigy] as a piece of superstitious gullibility.”5 There might, however, be another explanation (see conclusion).

Fabius, of necessity, introduced what was to become the vexed question of the date of Rome’s foundation (frag. 8 B&W, C). Dionysios (I 74) provides an amazing array of estimates: thirty-eight years before the first Olympics = 814 (Timaios), Ol.9.1 = 747 (Fabius), Ol.12.4 = 728 (Cincius Alimentus), 432 years after the Trojan War = 751 (Cato), Ol.7.2 = 750 (Polybios). Livy, in fact, gives no year for the foundation, but one may count back his 244 years for the monarchy from 509 (or 507). Livy presumably regarded the matter as settled and not worth renewed discussion, and gave, as Ogilvie put it, “the settled date of the late annalists.”6

The great reorganisation of the city by Servius Tullius led to enormous controversy over details, especially the number of the tribes. Fabius (frag. 13 B&W, C) thought that there were thirty, viz. the four urban and twenty-six rural. This meant that Rome’s territory was almost as extensive as when the total of thirty-five was reached in the later third century! Cato seems to have agreed (frag. I 24 C) and perhaps also Varro (Vita Pop. Rom. 1). Livy, in contrast to Dionysios (IV 15, 1), writes nothing of this, clearly rejecting it. He admits only four urban tribes under Servius (I 43, 13), and states that by 495 there were twenty-one tribes (II 2l, 7). Most moderns have approved of Livy’s caution.7

When the foundations of the Capitoline temple were being laid, a human head was uncovered, presaging Rome’s position as caput rerum (Livy I 55, 5–6). An alternative explanation was the etymology of Capitolium as caput Oli—but that required knowing who Olus was, which Livy entirely omitted. Fabius (frag. 16 B&W, C) and Valerius Antias (frag. 14 B&W, C) knew that it was Olus of Vulci. Arnobius, in the fourth century CE, quoting these two sources, states that they told Aulus’ full story. The emperor Claudius was to put everything into context (see below).8

Cincius Alimentus (pr. 210) provided one vital variation in a very famous story, that of Sp. Maelius (frag. 8 B&W, C). The contradictory Calpurnius Piso (frag. 31F)9 also knew it, and Dionysios (XII 4, 2) noticed the variant. Servilius Ahala was not magister equitum when he killed Maelius, but simply a young man authorised by the senate. Livy clearly preferred a more legal situation (IV 13–16). This would indicate that the variant was known earlier than the murder of Tiberius Gracchus by a senatorial mob, although the optimates were undoubtedly glad to find that version.10

The most voluminous fragments of any Republican annalist belong to M. Porcius Cato (cos.195),11 “quarrelsome and opinionated.”12 He had special interest in the stories of Rome’s foundation, and investigated some characters. Aeneas escaped from Troy with his father and son. The fate of Anchises was contested. Cato has him reach Italy (frag. I 9 C, I 9a B&W). Livy missed the question. Here was fertile ground for conjecture, which may be considered in order of time, not place. Varro relates that Diomedes gave back his bones to Aeneas (Serv. ad Aen. IV 427); Vergil has him buried at Eryx/Drepana (Aen. V 759–61); Theon of Alexandria (first century BCE) locates his death at Aineia in the Chalkidike (Steph. Byz. ed. M. Billerbeck, Berlin 2006, I 96); Pausanias has him die in Arcadia: Mt. Anchisia was named after him (VIII 12, 8); Prokopios places his death in Epiros: Anchialos was named after him (Goth. IV 22, 31); Eustathios in the twelfth century has him buried on Mt. Ida in Phrygia (Commentarii ed. M. van der Valk, Leiden 1979, III 360). Geographical guesswork was obviously on high show. We may suspect that Livy’s silence was prudent.

The fate of Mezentius king of Caere was contentious. According to Cato he was killed by Ascanius (frags. I 9–11 C, I 9a B&W). Livy writes that Turnus looked to him for help (I 2, 3) and that he survived Aeneas (I 3, 4). That is all; he may have agreed with Cato. According to Vergil and Ovid, however, he fell against Aeneas in the war with Turnus (Aen. XI 896–908, Fast. IV 877–896). Most moderns, of course, follow the latter.13

The list of Alban kings, as we know, soon became important. To the question what relationship was Ascanius to his successor Silvius, father and son is the obvious answer (and it was Livy’s: I 3, 6), but Cato made them step-brothers (frag. I 11 C, B&W) as do also Vergil (Aen.VI 760–2) and Dionysios (I 70, 1): son of Aeneas and Lavinia. Most moderns, again, favour this latter version.14

Cato tells of the foundation of Rome and the famous laying out of the pomerium by Etruscan rites (frag. I 18 C, B&W). It is extraordinary that Livy pays no attention to this; he jumps from the augury (I 6, 4) to the building of the walls (I 7, 2) and then their extension under Servius (I 44, 3–5), with an excursus on its meaning (see further, Varro, below).

Another vital fragment of Cato comes from his speech on the Voconian law (Gell. NA VI 14), where he discussed the Servian army. The classici were the members of the first class of infantry; everyone else was infra classem. Livy was perfectly well acquainted with Cato’s speeches, yet one of the most disturbing—or amusing—incidents in Livy’s early history comes in the Etruscan wars. In 426 the Romans captured Fidenae: “Some annalists record that there was a naval battle (classi pugnatum) with the Veientines near Fidenae, but this is difficult and incredible in equal measure. Even today the river is not wide enough for this, and then it was somewhat narrower, as we learn from older writers (IV 34, 6–7).” From as early as the First Punic War, classis also meant a fleet (Duillius’ inscription, CIL I2 p. 25 = ILLRP 319). The irony is that Livy knew the older sense of the word (IV 4, 2, only a few chapters earlier).15 With his training as a grammarian, he surely could not have been unaware of the meanings of this word.

The most important fragment of Cato, however, deals with the Latin League (frag. II 28 C, B&W). Cato lists the members: Tusculum, Aricia, Lanuvium, Laurentum, Cora, Tibur, Pometia and the Rutuli of Ardea, meeting under the command of Baebius of Tusculum, the dictator Latinus. The league traditionally numbered thirty, so this list seems incomplete, but it is an invaluable document from c. 500 BCE. Livy never gives a list of the members, and relates nothing of the Latin dictator (he has two praetors at the head of the league in 340: VIII 3, 9).16

Calpurnius Piso (cos. 133) was a very distinguished Optimate and a most contrary historian. Despite this, Livy often quoted him. There are two important cases, however, where he did not. Tarpeia is depicted in Livy in the standard fashion as a traitor, bribed to admit the Sabines to the citadel. Her punishment suited her treachery (fraus) (I 11, 9). There is perhaps an allusion to another version, in that she asked not for the Sabine’s bracelets, but for their shields. Piso, in fact, rewrote her story to make her a heroine, whose plan was to strip the Sabines of their arms but the messenger she sent to Romulus betrayed her (frag. 11 F, C, 7 B&W). This version ran counter, of course, to the general understanding of the etymology of the rupes Tarpeia, but against this there is quite an array of evidence: the libations later poured at Tarpeia’s grave (DH II 40, 3), her statue in the temple of Jupiter Stator (Festus 496L), the coins of Titurius Sabinus c. 80 BCE and of Petronius Turpilianus under Augustus, and the relief in the Basilica Aemilia, which seems to follow the Pisonian version, given her demeanour. What has never been explained is the star in the crescent moon above her on Sabinus’ coin. Another anomaly is that the account of Tarpeia’s death does not work aetiologically: traitors were thrown to their deaths from the rock supposedly named after her, yet she herself was smothered with shields. Almost the only constant in all the versions is the ambiguity over her reward being what the Sabines carried on their left arms. If the Antigonos quoted by Plutarch (Rom. 17) is from Karystos in the third century BCE, he is the earliest source and defines her as the daughter of Tatius, “detained” by Romulus! Grant saw Livy as leaving the controversy open: “Livy is much less informative about variant versions of the myth, because as usual, he tells a more economical tale.”17

The much more important case of rewriting by Piso concerned the dynasty of the Tarquins, where, with unimpeachable logic, he proved that Tarquin II could only be the grandson, not the son, of Tarquin I if the forty-four years reign of Servius intervened (frag. 22A F, 17 B&W, C). Livy here certainly alluded to Piso’s view (I 46, 4), but did not mention his name or his argument. This undercuts, be it noted, Dionysios’ claim that Piso’s views had gone unnoticed. Given the antagonism of the arguments of modern scholars on this matter, one can only compliment Livy’s prudence.18

Licinius Macer (tr. pl. 73), the popularist annalist, recorded the first case where, if a commander did not deserve a full triumph for a victory, he might be accorded an ovatio. This he dated to 503 (frag. 11 B&W, C). Livy records the first case of this honour, however, in 462 (III 10, 4), and lists a full triumph in 503 (II 16, 9). Macer is followed by the Acta Triumphalia (Inscriptiones Italiae XIII I, 65, 536), Dionysios (V 47, 2) and Pliny (HN XV 125). Moderns almost unanimously follow Macer—or rather the Acta Triumphalia—against Livy. Only Ogilvie attempts an explanation, which is rather tortuous: that Macer was at fault in trying to “dignify” the ovatio by making it earlier in origin, because his kinsman Crassus won an ovatio in the Slave War in 71 (Plut. Crass. 11)!19

The most potent magistracy was the dictatorship. Its history was therefore important. The date of its introduction was debated, as was, much more interestingly, its origin. Macer claimed that it was copied from the Albans (frag. 7 B&W, C). Livy knew that view (I 23, 4), but implied that the Romans modelled their dictatorship on the Latin federal office (II 18, 3). It is now well known that many Latin cities were ruled by dictators after their monarchies fell, and that the Latin League was headed by a dictator. Arthur Rosenberg made two important observations: that the Roman magistrate was not originally called dictator but magister populi, and that the local Latin dictators were annually elected magistrates, whereas the Roman was extraordinary, and nominated for a maximum of six months. He nevertheless thought that Macer was right “in all essentials”!20 All these complications are avoided if Livy’s lead is followed.

Valerius Antias, finally, provides several interesting variants on early history. If we can trust Arnobius, the fourth century Christian polemicist, Antias told a long story about Numa’s outwitting of Jupiter (frag. 8 B&W, C), which Livy quite ignored. Numa wished to avoid some evil portent indicated by thunder, and summoned Jupiter to earth, but distorted the god’s prescription of human sacrifice into an offering of onion, hair and a fish! Ovid (Fast. III 339–344) and Plutarch (Num. 15) also tell the story; it was therefore well known. This is another case of Livy’s discrimination.21

The source of the enormous sums of money required to finance the Capitoline temple and the part played by each of the Tarquins were matters of contention. Antias claimed that it was begun by Tarquin I with the proceeds from the booty of Apiolae (frag. 11 B&W, 12 C). Livy, following Fabius (frag. 15 B&W, C) and Piso (frag. 18 B&W, C, 24 F), stated that Priscus captured Apiolae (I 35, 7), then laid the foundations of the temple (I 38, 7), but without making any connection between these two events. It was Superbus who captured Pometia and used the booty to conduct the exauguratio and dig the foundations (I 55). Much the same story is found in Dionysios (III 49, 1–3, 69, 1, IV 20, 2–5). Moderns have for the most part followed de Sanctis’ lead in equating the two cities, but disagree over the role of the two kings.22 Livy, in short, is upheld by the moderns, and he certainly did not follow Antias.

II Polybios

We shall not here undertake yet another analysis of Livy’s relationship with Polybios for the account of the Greek wars in the second century. We know that the Greek historian was Livy’s major source, and the relationship was naturally very close. For our purposes, the early history of Rome in each is more revealing of major divergences, although Polybios’ account is naturally very selective.23

In the famous episode of Horatius and the bridge, Polybios has the hero plunge into the river in full armour and drown (VI 55, 3). In Livy (II 10, 11) he survived. This is simply the most striking divergence. The whole episode is transformed by Livy’s narrative skills, his psychological analysis, and Horatius’ prayer to Father Tiber. Given the circumstances of Horatius’ death, it must be confessed that Polybios is more convincing about his fate. Livy, at the end of it all, however, confesses that the story gained more fame than credibility with posterity! Moderns have, in fact, interpreted Horatius as symbolic rather than historical.24

A much more serious matter is the treaties between Rome and Carthage. Polybios notoriously dated the first to 509 and gave its text (III 22), while Livy has no mention of any treaty until 348 (VII 27, 2). This is a real dilemma, because Livy could hardly have been unaware of this document. The basic modern approach is “amalgamation”, without addressing the problems of Livy.25 All in all, there are two possibilities:

i) that he omitted treaties earlier than 348 out of carelessness. That is hardly credible. Even if he had forgotten the treaty of 509 under that year, he would have been reminded of it by his sources when he came to the Punic wars. As Mommsen pointed out, knowledge of them became more common in connection with the third war. If Livy himself had come upon this evidence when it was too late to emend 509, he could have discussed the treaties in 149—but there is no evidence from the Periochae that he did. It has sometimes been argued that Livy’s reference to “ancient” treaties under 319 (IX 19, 12) can only refer to 509. This is quite uncertain, and Livy certainly did not indicate it.

ii) that he omitted the early treaties deliberately. There is, in fact, clear evidence that there was an alternative to the Polybian school which stated that the treaty of 348 was the first (Diod. Sic. XVI 69, 2, Oros. III 3, 1).

The third episode of early Roman history included by Polybios is the Gallic sack. He is dramatically divergent from Livy: he dates the sack to 387/6 in a famous synchronism (I 6, 2)—but that is the least of the problems. He has the Romans make a truce “on conditions satisfactory to the Gauls” (ibid). Three days after the battle of the Allia the Gauls occupied the whole city except the Capitol (II 18, 2). He states that the Gauls occupied the city for seven months (II 22, 5). The Gauls finally withdrew after making a treaty because their own country had been invaded by the Veneti (II 18, 3). Livy by contrast has the Gauls occupy the city by sunset of the same day as the battle (V 39, 2). For him the defence of the Capitol is the centrepiece of the whole account. He stresses the discomfort of the Gauls (V 48, 1–3), but the duration of the occupation is unspecified. The Capitol finally surrenders, but the Gauls are instantly annihilated by Camillus (V 48, 8–49, 6)—unknown to Polybios. Walbank argued that Polybios’ account went back to Fabius. That the Gauls entered Rome after three days is standard (Diod. Sic. XIV 115, Plut. Cam. 22): Livy has “enlivened the story.” Ogilvie posited a late source, on the other hand, for Livy, and drew parallels with the Persian sack of Athens in 480. De Sanctis stressed that the story of Camillus was also standard, known to Dionysios, Plutarch and Dio; for him also there was no reason to reject the resistance of the Capitol. What is “standard” is one thing, quite another is the clear evidence of earlier and later traditions. Livy is obviously following the latter, even though he was well acquainted with Fabius and Polybios.26

III The antiquarian tradition: M. Terentius Varro

As a complement to the annalistic tradition, the antiquarian tradition springs into full life with Varro (116–27), who was therefore two generations older than Livy.27 His polymathy was daunting, but it will be sufficient here to consider his Antiquitates Rerum Humanarum (pub. c. 56)28 and De Lingua Latina (pub. 43).

Varro was very interested in Aeneas (Ant. II 8–11). He has him guided by Venus’ star (II 10), and Anna, Dido’s sister, committed suicide because of him (II 11). Livy has Aeneas guided by fate (ducentibus fatis, I 1, 4); he entirely omits the Carthaginian interlude.29 Varro is also explicit that Aeneas left Troy with two sons, Ascanius and Eurybates (Ant. II 9). In comparison, Livy named both Ascanius, son of Lavinia, and Iulus, an older brother by Creusa, but notoriously refused to say who succeeded Aeneas (I 1, 11; 3, 2).

Romulus’ Rome was famously described by Varro as Roma quadrata (Ant. IV 1), although he did not specify its boundaries. Livy does not mention this term at all. The city was laid out by augury (I 6, 4–7, 1), and the Palatine alone belonged to Romulus’ city.30 A feature of a later stage of the city mentioned by Varro was the Septimontium (Ling. V 41, VI 24), and although he did not here list its elements, he must have done so elsewhere. It is not mentioned by Livy. Antistius Labeo (d. c. 10/20 CE), the leading lawyer, stated that it was a festival celebrated on the Palatine, Velia, Fagutal, Cermalus, Caelian, Oppian and Cispian, and in the Subura (Fest. 474L).31 A favourite subject for etymologies was Palatium. According to Varro, the name derived from Evander’s daughter Pallantia (Ant. VIII 1); for Livy from Palanteum in Arcadia (I 5, 1); for Vergil, from Evander’s ancestor Pallas (Aen. VIII 54).32

Varro stated firmly that the names of the three Romulean tribes were Etruscan in origin, giving as his authority Volnius, the Etruscan tragedian, mentioned only here (Ling. V 55). Livy admitted only that the Luceres were mysterious in origin (I 13, 8).33 And although Varro stated that tributum was derived from tribus (Ling. V 181), Livy reversed the relationship (I 43, 13)!

Varro protested against the accepted origin of the names of the curiae: they could not be named after the kidnapped Sabine women, because there were hundreds of them, not thirty. They were therefore named earlier by Romulus (Ant. IV 6). Livy retained the traditional view (I 13, 6).34

Livy tells little of Titus Tatius. After the rape of the Sabine women, he made war on Rome. He captured the citadel but was defeated in the forum, before the two sides were reconciled by the women. He was assassinated at Lavinium because of his disregard for the ius gentium (I 10–14). Varro, on the other hand, gave a long list of the altars which he dedicated at Rome (Ling. V 74), which suggests a pious king very different from Livy’s (but see I 55, 2). And perhaps he was buried on the Aventine (Ling. V 152).35

The derivation of the name of the Oppian Hill was given by Varro as originating from a Tusculan who came to Rome to help defend it while Tullus Hostilius was fighting Veii. The Cispian similarly was named after an Anagnian in Rome for the same purpose (Ant. VIII 4). Livy knows nothing of these allies.

Fabius knew about Aulus Vibenna (see above), and now Varro filled in another part of the story. Caeles Vibenna was a noble Etruscan dux who came to Rome with his band (manus). They settled on the hill named after him (the Caelian), but later were brought down to the vicus Tuscus. The vital matter of date was addressed by Varro: Vibenna came to Rome to help Romulus against Titus Tatius (Ant. IV 5, Ling. V 46). Livy does not mention the Vibenna brothers, and assigns the vicus to Porsenna’s men (II 14, 9), as did Dionysios (V 36, 4); compare Tacitus Ann. IV 65: in the time of Tarquin I.36 For the full story one had to await Claudius (see below).

Varro gave a very detailed account of Siccius Dentatus, the “Roman Achilles” (Ant. XXII 9). It is striking that Livy eschewed all this and mentioned only his death (III 43). Ogilvie plausibly suggested that Livy “minimises his importance,” so as not to “destroy the proportions of his account of the Decemvirate.”37 Varro’s interest was continued, appropriately, in the later antiquarian tradition, by Gellius, who stated that Dentatus fought in 120 battles, won eight gold crowns, one siege crown, three mural crowns, and fourteen civic crowns (NA II 11). The same statistics are given by Dionysios (X 37, 3), who devoted many chapters to him (37–39, 43–49, 52) and gave an entirely different account, relying, suggested Forsythe, on Valerius Antias: he triumphantly survived the ambush.38

In one of the most famous—and misunderstood—pages of his history Livy stated that all the annalists agreed about Cornelius Cossus’ winning of the spolia opima while he was only a military tribune (so in 437 BCE) (IV 20). Varro indeed specified that this honour could be won even by a miles manipularis (Ant. XXII 10). Augustus notoriously discovered Cossus’ original linen breastplate, which stated that he was consul (so 428), exactly when an inconvenient claimant (Crassus) to the spolia appeared.39

The Busta Gallica, according to Varro, were where the Gauls’ bones were heaped up and fenced in after the recovery of the city (Ling. V 157). For Livy it was where the Gauls themselves cremated their dead during the occupation (V 48, 3). And near the Cloaca Maxima were the Doliola. Varro could not decide whether these jars contained burials or religious objects of king Numa (Ling. V 157). Livy is firm, however, that the jars contained the sacred objects which the Vestals could not carry from Rome in 390 (V 40, 8, and thus Festus 60L).40

We turn finally to two general matters. Varro had a great interest in the calendar: intercalation (Ant. XVI 5); the nundinae (Ant. XVI 7): mentioned by Livy only three times (III 35, 2; VII 15, 13; XXII 56, 4); the names of the months (Ant. XVII 1): quite evaded by Livy (I 19, 6); the old ten months’ calendar (Ant. XVIII 3): Livy has a twelve months’ calendar from Numa, and nothing earlier (I 19, 6).

There are features of the Latin language where Livy paradoxically reveals striking gaps in his understanding. Under the year 464 he notes the new consuls, one of whom was Sp. Furius Fusus, and the fact that “some writers” (scripsere quidam) gave Fusius instead of Furius (III 4, 1). A few chapters further on (III 8, 2), he is equally puzzled by Vetusius for Veturius, although he had already written it twice without comment (II 19, 1, 28, 1). The phenomenon is, of course, rhotacisation, whereby an early “s” was later replaced by “r”, as Varro knew (Ling. VII 26; Festus 323L also commented on the change: maioses, melioses, lases, fesii etc).

The antiquarian Cincius was Livy’s contemporary.41 In a few lines, he demolished books of Livy, according to whom the Roman kings had soon established domination over the thirty Latin cities and, despite the occasional reverse (the Gallic sack), that domination was maintained until Rome defeated and dissolved the league in 338 (note, for example, the outrageous story that the Latins were not allowed to touch weapons without Roman consent, even in their own defence: III 19, 8). Cincius told another story:

The people of Alba held power down to the time of king Tullus Hostilius. After the destruction of Alba, down to the consulship of Decius Mus (340), the Latin people used to meet at the spring of the river Ferentina under the Alban Mount and confer command by common council. In any year, therefore, in which the Romans had to send generals to the army by order of the Latins, several Romans used to take the auspices on the Capitol at dawn, and the troops sent by the Latins used to greet as leader (praetor) the man whom the birds indicated (Cincius ap. Fest.276L).

This was the true working of the foedus Cassianum—the terms of which Livy significantly did not provide.42

Another contemporary antiquarian was Verrius Flaccus (c. 60 BCE—after 14 CE),43 “the most erudite of the Augustan scholars,” author of de significatu verborum. He was epitomised in the late second century by Festus, but that is half-lost, and thus we rely on the epitome of Paul the Deacon in the eighth century. This text remains a veritable thesaurus for the historian of early Rome. Verrius was one of the scholars, mostly Greek (Dion. Hal. I 72–3, Plut. Rom. 1–2), who recorded the multitude of variant traditions on the founding of Rome (Fest. 326–369L).44

Verrius was also very interested in the priesthoods, about which Livy is often uninformative.45 His most important extract allows us to make sense of a vital religious development which Livy seems not to have understood at all. Livy tells us that in 509 a rex sacrificulus was appointed. “This priesthood they subordinated to the pontifex” (II 2). Flaccus, on the other hand, preserved the original ordo sacerdotium:

The order of priests follows that of the gods. The chief priest is the Rex, then the (Flamen) Dialis, after him the (Flamen) martialis, in fourth place the (Flamen) Quirinalis, in fifth place the Pontifex Maximus … The Rex is first because he is the most powerful (Festus 198L).

What Livy knew was the revised order from about the third century when the pontifex maximus was in first place, and the rex, chosen by the pontifex (Liv. XL 42, 8), was a member of the pontifical college (Cic. Har. Resp. 12). The truth was otherwise and highly significant, as Kurt Latte enunciated:

One of the most significant revolutions in the political-religious field and the political struggles connected with it has disappeared without trace from the pseudo-tradition on the earliest Roman history: the revolution which brought the pontifex maximus and the college under him to the peak of the Roman sacral organization.46

Ogilvie dated the revolution perhaps to the third century. The earlier importance of the rex was demonstrated by the Regia, the dating of the religious calendar by him (Plin. HN XI 186), and his ceremonies to open and close the campaign season (Varro Ling. VI 31). The even greater importance of the story of the rex will be discussed below.

IV Livy’s successors

The above examples are drawn from Livy’s predecessors and contemporaries. It is extraordinary, however, to investigate how much was available to—or to be discovered by—writers who came after him. First in order of time was his own student, the later emperor Claudius. He wrote twenty books on Etruscan history and eight on Carthaginian (Suet. Claud. 42). What we would give to have them! He is therefore to be taken very seriously in these fields, and we have a most remarkable indication of his historical research in the speech which he made to the senate in 48 CE (CIL XIII 1668 = ILS 212, an inscription known, note, since 1528). In arguing for Roman willingness to admit and foster immigrants, he quoted the example of Servius Tullius: according to Roman historians he was the son of a slave woman Ocrisia, but according to Etruscans he was the faithful companion of Caeles Vibenna, and his comrade in all his vicissitudes. Driven out of Etruria with the remnants of the Caelian army, he came to Rome, occupied the Caelian hill, and changed his name from Mastarna, succeeding Tarquinius Priscus. Livy, on the other hand, unlike Claudius, almost certainly did not read Etruscan. He saw Servius as a Latin, son of the ruler of Corniculum (I 39, 5). Such divergences would have constituted a difference of opinion which could be relegated to a footnote but for the discovery in 1857 of the François tomb at Vulci, with paintings dating to as early as c. 350 BCE, showing “Macstarna” and the Vibenna brothers in war against a Tarquin of Rome and other leaders.47 Here is a genuine Etruscan tradition at least a century earlier than Fabius Pictor, and quite incompatible with the elaborated patriotic Roman tradition—which was in fundamental contradiction over even Servius’ origins, servile or aristocratic (!), and the nature of his rule, autocratic or “democratic.”48 One can only be amazed at the manoeuvres by the modern conservatives to deny importance to this invaluable source precisely because it contradicts the Roman tradition (viz. that the praenomen of Tarquinius Priscus is Lucius while the Tarquin being killed is Gnaeus!).49

Cornelius Tacitus (50s—after 113) ostensibly wrote the history of the first century CE. Included, however, are many notes on monarchical and Republican history which often diverge sharply from the traditions reported by Livy.50

On the origin of the quaestors, Tacitus believed that they were first appointed by the kings (Ann. XI 22, 4): he makes clear that this is his own deduction. Livy simply introduces them without note in 485 (II 41, 11: the quaestores parricidii) and 466 (III 69, 8: the treasurers). There was a third alternative: that they were introduced along with the consuls (Plut. Popl. 12), but this is obviously based on the classical relationship between the two (Cic. Div. Caec. 61). Moderns diverge.51

The most startling of Tacitus’ revelations are the three words: Porsenna dedita urbe (“when the city surrendered to Porsenna:” Hist. III 72), in 508. Three words demolish pages of Livy, as Syme declared—but also the whole Republican annalistic tradition.52 Pliny, in fact, also discovered the revised version: the treaty which Porsenna “gave” to the Roman people among other things forbade their use of iron, save for agricultural implements (HN XXXIV 139), but even Dionysios had admitted that the Romans gave Porsenna royal regalia and privileges (V 35, 1)! One of the most glorious episodes in the Republican annalistic tradition had been totally overturned during the first century. In this case, interesting to note, moderns accept the revised version without protest.53

The antiquarian tradition continued in the later second century with Aulus Gellius (c. 130—c. 180).54 On the monarchy and early institutions, Gellius has a detailed discussion of the appointment of the Vestals (NA I 12), drawing in part on Fabius’ Iuris Pontificii Libri; Livy’s account is the most summary (I 20, 3). Gellius furthermore writes a great deal about the mythical Gaia Taracia (VII 7), whom Livy wisely omits. In the same chapter Gellius offers an explanation of the origins of the Arval Brethren: they were Romulus and eleven sons of Acca Larentia (!); Livy does not mention these priests. Gellius also has a strong interest in the flamen Dialis, drawing on the anonymous De Sacerdotibus Publicis and Fabius Pictor, Book I (NA X 15); Livy has a dozen references, beginning with the briefest note (I 20, 2).

Gellius goes to pains to explain the pomerium, relying in part on the augur Messala (cos. 53) (NA XIII 14); Livy has three references (I 26, 7, 11; 44, 4–5; V 52, 15), and it is only in the second that he discusses its meaning, but not its circuit. Relying on Messalla’s De Auspiciis, Gellius famously explained the greater and lesser auspices (NA XIII 15). He also defined the pedarii senatores (III 18), using Gavius Bassus’ Commentarii and Varro’s Satira Menippea. Livy omitted both of these matters.

Military institutions also interested Gellius: the fetiales and their formula (NA XVI 4), quoting Cincius, the antiquarian; Livy gives a different form (I 32, 6). Another military matter was the definition of proletarii and capite censi (NA XVI 10), concerning which he quotes Ennius and the XII Tables, two sources known to Livy: they were the groups in the census exempt from military liabilities until Marius’ reforms. Livy in fact uses neither term. And on the matter of military decorations, Gellius explained the various crowns (NA V 6), quoting Mesurius Sabinus, Memoralia (the Julio-Claudian jurist) and Cato. Livy never explains these honours: he introduces the mural and civic crowns in 384 (VI 20, 7), without explanation, and the grass crown in 343 (VII 37, 2) with a brief note.

Gellius also told the well-known story of the Sibyl who offered the books of oracles to Tarquin II, and each time he rejected them as too expensive, she burned three of them. The king finally bought the last three at the original price, and they were kept by the Xviri sacris faciundis (NA I 19). Although Livy refers to the books some nine times (first V 13, 6), he nowhere tells the story of how they came to Rome.

V Further problems

Apart from what predecessors, contemporaries and successors have revealed as variant traditions or omissions in Livy, we may add some other very important matters. Livy’s ignorance of some vital things is striking. He dated the first Senatus Consultum Ultimum to 464 (III 4, 9). This was one of the most momentous inventions of the late Republic, designed to deal with Gaius Gracchus in 121. Some overzealous Optimate sought to give some authority of antiquity to this hideous brushing aside of constitutional rights in support of mass murder.55

Livy explicitly states that Publilius Philo was the first to have his imperium extended (as a proconsul, VIII 26, 7), yet he lists Quinctius in 464 as proconsul (III 4, 10). The Fasti Capitolini agree that Philo was the first. Livy has been misled by some source and has forgotten by the time another five books had been written.56

Book 7 provides a fascinating confusion about an antiquarian matter. Livy is describing efforts to avoid a plague, which included the appointment of a dictator to drive in the nail (VII 3). This was an “apotropaic nail”, as we might say, to “nail down” the disease (an intriguing case is cited by Pliny: hammering in a nail where an epileptic fell: HN XXVIII 63). It is to be noted that Livy does not specify where the plague-averting nail is to be driven. He instead cites the old law which prescribed the driving in of the “annual nail” by the praetor maximus into the wall of the Capitoline temple, to count off the years, a practice followed also by the Etruscans. There is another problem: Livy does not tell us which years. They are those since the temple’s dedication: the “Capitoline era.” It is strange that the revival of this ceremony by Augustus (Cass. Dio LV 10, 4) did not alert him to the difference between the two kinds of nail. It was Krister Hanell who explained this with total clarity.57

These are matters of detail, however, in comparison with two other most fundamental matters for the history of the Republic. The setting for Livy’s whole account is the revolution against the tyrannical king and his replacement by a collegiate magistracy of limited tenure (I 49-II 1). The rex marked by superbia was replaced by libertas, annui magistratus, and leges (II 1, 1–2). Livy himself, however, reveals facts which completely contradict that version. He knows that the “revolution” was a palace coup carried out by members of the Tarquin dynasty. One of the first consuls was in fact a Tarquin, who had to be removed. And Livy soon introduces a caveat: the consuls possessed the same power as the king (II 1, 8), although only one at a time had the fasces. There was, however, no danger; for the first consul Brutus made the people swear that they would tolerate no king (neminem Romae passuros regnare, II 1, 9). What, then, is our surprise to be told a few lines later that a rex was appointed (II 2, 1: regemcreant)—but he did not tell how. Livy himself did know something else vital, but it was not revealed for thirty-nine books: the rex was forbidden to hold political office (XL 42, 8). He was the only priest, in fact, to suffer that restriction. Livy seems unable to make the obvious deduction. Gaetano de Sanctis made it a century ago: the Athenians admitted that they had originally been ruled by kings, who were replaced by magistrates, and one of those was the chief priest—who was called basileus! The Romans had undergone a similar evolution.58

The second fundamental matter is Livy’s failure to understand that every Republican magistrate had a terminus, which was of one of two kinds: either, as was more usual, a fixed term (one year in the case of most magistrates, although the censors had eighteen months), or for the completion of a task: the classic example is the dictator rei gerundae causa, but there was a maximum of six months. This is because the dictator was primarily appointed to deal with a military emergency and this was the extent of the campaign season; this is also why the dictator was not appointed after 202, because wars were henceforth overseas, and the limit rendered their task impossible. Even the later counterfeit form, held by Sulla and Caesar, was for a task (legibus scribendis causa) or a time (for life) respectively. Livy, however, becomes entangled over the Decemviri legibus scribendis causa (451–449), in that he considered them annual magistrates (III 32, 6; 34, 7), raising the matter of appeal against such mere drafters of laws (III 32, 6) and regarding them as replacements for the annual military commanders, the consuls (III 33, 1). The truth glimmers feebly (III 40, 12)—but, of course, Livy was following orthodox tradition in all of this.59

It would only be fair to conclude with something striking which Livy did know. It comes, in fact, as an obiter dictum. It is 449. There have been fifty-eight colleges of consuls and two years of decemvirs. Livy is describing the restoration of sacrosanctity of the plebeian tribunes, and in the course of this with eight words he undermines all the preceding two books: the chief magistrate was not yet called consul, but praetor (nondum consulem iudicem sed praetorem appellari mos fuerit: III 55, 11). We can easily substantiate this by two facts. The randomly preserved extracts from the Twelve Tables four times mention a praetor but nowhere a consul; and the lex vetusta (VII 3, 5–8) already discussed, nominates the praetor maximus as the one who hammers in the annual nail. A text of this date cannot possibly mean “whoever is chief magistrate;” it means the praetor maximus. Here is the origin of the famous “three praetor theory” as the link between king and consuls.60

VI Conclusion

Much has been gleaned about Livy’s relationship with his sources and his own views. He had read most of the Republican annalists. He rejected many of Fabius’ best stories; he rejected much more of Cato; he would not adopt Piso’s unorthodoxies; he had major disagreements with Polybios, although acknowledging his great authority; and there are clear cases of divergence with what used to be regarded as his major sources, Macer and Antias. The most important discovery about source, however, is quite surprising: his attitude to Varro, an authority difficult to ignore. Peter Wiseman suggested that Livy had used him, but Hippolyte Taine, Ronald Syme and James Luce saw the truth, as the above examination has confirmed. On one significant matter the two agreed: the spolia opima—but that was the pre-Augustan version. There is ample evidence in all this for the independence of Livy, because all these authorities were available and known to him.

Equally significant is what we can deduce about Livy’s working methods: the reasons that he might have had for making the choices he did. Some matters were by now settled and needed no discussion: for example, the foundation date of Rome. Attempts to upset the tradition regarding Tarpeia or the Tarquins Livy ignored, although he frequently cited variants.61 A patriotic version was more appealing in the case of Horatius (although a telling note of scepticism intrudes), Porsenna, and the Gallic sack, or the readers’ expectations could not be betrayed by demolishing the stories on which they had been nourished. A “legalistic” version was preferred in the case of Ahala. He obviously was not convinced about any “grand Rome of the Tarquins” such as Fabius claimed. He was not interested in the antiquarians’ indulgences on topographical etymology (matters such as Roma quadrata or the Septimontium), or military decorations, and they obviously failed to give him the necessary guidance on nails chronological and apotropaic. A constitutional lawyer presumably could have set him right about the duration of magistrates’ powers. There were, finally, simply cases where amid much uncertainty prudence was obviously recommended: the fates of Anchises or Mezentius; or where common-sense might indicate an answer: the sons of Ascanius, and the origins of the dictator; or where concern for proportion may have been decisive: Siccius Dentatus.

There are several notable categories of material which were abundantly available, and which, surprising to say, it seems he studiously avoided, or in which he had little interest. One was religious antiquarianism: Livy left his reader without introductory notes on the main priesthoods. The fundamental matter of the auspices was never explained. And the stirring story of Tarquin and the Sibyl is not found in his pages. Livy as a provincial might have been expected to be interested in the history of Rome’s closest neighbours and earliest allies, the Latins, but he ignored the rich material provided by Cato (the members of the league) and Cincius (Rome’s place in it): the former too archaic, perhaps, the latter too upsetting to the received version. Not even the famous sow of Alba, whose preserved body was well known to many, was mentioned. He did allude to the league, however, in his explanation of the dictator. Another pattern is suggested by what is, surprising to say, missing in connection with the Etruscans; for Livy had a great respect for that culture. One cannot expect him, of course, to have known of Claudius’ discoveries about Mastarna, but he must have thought about, or read about, the names of the Capitol, the Caelian hill, and the tribes, and who invented part of the very foundation of Rome, the pomerium. Another very important people not given the same prominence in early Roman history by Livy as by other writers are the Carthaginians: the total omission of the Aeneas and Dido story, and the first treaties, according to some dated to 509. Here is that famous people precisely at two vital stages of Rome’s history, the foundation and the revolution.62 Livy’s interest in drama is well known, but he may have considered the former to be melodrama.

From all of this one could make a case for even an antipathy on Livy’s part towards antiquarians. They had very different purposes and emphases from those of historians, but they could have helped him in so many different ways. He seems to have seen them as more likely to muddle him with their pettifogging (such as over the curiae and the Sabine women) and distract him from his urgent narrative. He should not have needed their help, however, to understand classis and rhotacisation. His stumbles here are not easily explained.

One question which comes to mind in this connection is how much interaction there was in Augustan Rome among literary figures. Vergil’s public reading of his poetry is well known (Serv. ad Aen. 6.861), but were there other literary gatherings where, for example, people such as Livy, Cincius and Verrius might meet? Is it conceivable that such devoted scholars did not know of each others’ work?

A particular problem is raised by the cases of variant traditions regarding the early Republic which we know of only through Livy’s successors. To keep them separated in this way makes the problem more distinct. It is, of course, understood that the sources quoted later must have existed all along, but were unknown or undiscovered. A prime case is Porsenna. Dionysios reported the granting of symbols of rule to this king. It was as if he did not understand the import of what he was writing, but the meaning had been transformed to be the tribute of a free and grateful people! Pliny found a clause from the very treaty—but his interest was not in history but in metals. Where were these vital texts preserved? Tacitus made no sensational announcement about his rewriting of history, but totally overthrew the tradition in an obiter dictum, as if it were by now a common understanding. Livy, it is to be noted, had already had trouble with the bona Porsennae (II 14, 1–4).

One could, finally, hardly expect Livy to think again about the “glorious revolution” of 510. Another revolution is as distant from us as that Roman revolution was from the first Roman historian, that is, three centuries. The “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 instantly became—and remains—the subject of diametrical polemic between Jacobites and conservatives, who lament the overthrow of the rightful dynasty, albeit by another branch of the family, and Whig upholders of the triumph of freedom, and even a return to an ancestral constitution. The parallels are uncanny. Who are we to criticise Livy for being in thrall to such stirring interpretations of the beginnings of the Roman Republic, which was to last for half a millennium?


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  • 1

    Ridley (2014): forthcoming. 

  • 2

    To discuss Dionysios here would double the length of this essay. His relations with Livy have, in fact, been little investigated: Burck (1934), passim (style); Walsh (1970), 91 (Veturia), 164–5 (perspicacity), 170 (psychology), 179 (Tarquin II), 183 (Fufetius), 228, 230-l (speeches); Gabba (1991), 93–6; Luce (1977), 160–1 (antiquarianism), 169 (Struggle of the Orders), 246–7 (early history). 

  • 3

    We are most fortunate now to have two excellent editions of the annalists: Beck and Walter (2001–4) (henceforth the fragments will be identified as B&W); Chassignet (2003–4) (henceforth the fragments will be identified as C). Separate is C’s edition of Cato, Origines (1985). 

  • 4

    On this matter see Jeffrey (1982); Garbini (1996), 43–46; Cornell (1995), 103–105. 

  • 5

    Ogilvie (1965), 43. Few moderns comment. Alföldi (1965), 27–8 made the unlikely claim that Fabius knew the story from oral tradition, transmitted from generation to generation. 

  • 6

    Ogilvie (1965), 230. See also Mommsen (1859), 121–133; Walbank (1957–1979), I 665–671 who pointed to the problems: variations in the date of the fall of Troy, and in the fasti, especially the “dictator years.” It is unlikely, however, that Fabius did not have a complete consular fasti, as suggested by Beck and Walter (2001–4), I 92. The fasti were a calendar, and were already being used as such by Cn. Flavius in 304 (Plin. HN. XXXIII 19). Pallottino (1993), 21–22 suggested that calculations of Rome’s foundation using the Trojan War gave way by the fourth century to calculations using pontifical and clan records and the duration of the monarchy. 

  • 7

    Mommsen (1887), III 161–9 accepted only the urban tribes, and suggested that more generous estimates for the late monarchy confused tribus, regio and pagus. De Sanctis (1907–1979), I 32: the later annalists had more accurate information; Ogilvie (1965), 292 and Alföldi (1965), 306–318: Servius instituted only the four urban tribes; Thomsen (1980), 115: Livy’s note on 495 is “an insurmountable obstacle” to the acceptance of Fabius; Cornell (1995), 173; Beck and Walter (2001–4), I 99: Fabius is anachronistic. Cornelius (1940), 106 was one of the few to accept Fabius. Beloch (1926), 265ff. argued that the urban and rural tribes were instituted together, because they were used by the army; he dated 1–20 to the mid-late fifth century; Gjerstad (1953–1973), V 116 similarly argued that Servius’ census (Livy I 42, 5) required both rural and urban tribes. Taylor (1960), 137, on the other hand, assigns the first fifteen rural tribes to the late monarchy because of their gens names. 

  • 8

    Chassignet (2003–4) I 82 does not believe that Fabius knew this story: it was found by Claudius using Etruscan sources. Grant (1971), 165 astoundingly dates this tradition only from the mid-fourth century CE, followed by Tagliamonte (1993), I 227. Alföldi (1965), 218–20 accepted that Fabius was already using Etruscan traditions; the portent was illustrated on many Etruscanizing gems of the early third century BCE. Pallottino (1993), 242 also accepts Fabius as a source. The Etruscan interests of the Fabii were famous: see Münzer (1920/1999), 56. 

  • 9

    Piso’s fragments are also quoted from Forsythe (1994). 

  • 10

    It was Mommsen who famously separated the earlier and later versions of the story: in his study (1871) of the “three demagogues” (1864–1879), II 199–218; de Sanctis (1907–1979), II 14ff. suggested that the older version was to explain Servilius’ cognomen Ahala—but it was already in the fasti from 478. That the alternative “private” version went back to Alimentus is accepted by Münzer (1928), 239–244, Ogilvie (1965), 550, and Müller (2006), 114; Cornell (1995), 268 describes Ahala only as patrician. Beck and Walter (2001–4), I 307–9 on the other hand claim that the “private” version cannot be earlier than Piso. 

  • 11

    Discounting Cornelius Sisenna, because three-quarters in his case come from Nonius for linguistic, not historical, reasons. 

  • 12

    Alföldi (1965), 210. 

  • 13

    Ogilvie (1965), 40; Grant (1971), 60, and by implication Torelli (1997), 19. Cristofani (1985), 174 is undecided, while Marbach (1932), 1511–14 seems to favour Cato. 

  • 14

    Zwicher (1927); Junk (2008); Beck and Walter (2001–4), I 164. Grant (1971), 96 cannot decide. 

  • 15

    Moderns have no comment on Livy’s lapse: de Sanctis (1907–1979), II 128; Ogilvie (1965), 588–9; Cornell (1995), 189. 

  • 16

    De Sanctis (1907–1979), II 86 believed that Cato copied the list dated c. 500 BCE in the very sanctuary and that it was complete. In this date he is followed by many famous scholars: Alföldi (1965), 49 (incomplete); Bernardi (1973), 25 (complete); Cornell (1995), 297 (incomplete); Pallottino (1993), 267; Cicala (1976) (a rededication of the grove). Mazzarino (1947), 154–7 dates the document c. 530/20. Mommsen (1887), III 617 asserted, of course, that Baebius was only a Tusculan magistrate. 

  • 17

    Grant (1971), 125. A major modern view, relying on the “positive” evidence, is that Tarpeia was a real person, one of the first Vestals with a tomb and cult on the Capitol, and the saxum Tarpeium was named after her family who lived nearby: Sanders (1904), Semioli (2010). Two major interpretations see Tarpeia as not human at all, she was simply a misunderstanding of tropaia, a pile of arms: Reinach, (1908): the trophy became connected with a local goddess; Gansiniec (1949): the trophy was set up in the third century, perhaps the one of golden jewelry of Flaminius 223 (but this is rather late for such a misunderstanding, and this is a victory over the Gauls); Charles-Picard (1957), 107. For others, Tarpeia was a deity of the Capitoline: going back to Schwegler (1853–8), I 485–8; Pais (1905), 95–108 (of course); Gjerstad (1963–1973), V 25. A third possibility here is that Tarpeia is simply an exemplary legend, common to Greece, Scandinavia, and India, of the girl corrupted by gold: Dumezil (1947). Beck and Walter (2001–4), I 290–1 stated that the contradiction in sources was resolved by Piso. See also de Sanctis (1907–1979), I 229, 312; Mielentz (1932); Ogilvie (1965) 74; Forsythe (1994), 152–157; Gagé (1976), 34–6; Zimmermann (2009), 147. 

  • 18

    For modern attempts to follow Piso, see Gantz (1975) and Bessone (1982). De Sanctis (1907–1979), I 31, 375 was scathing (as he often could be): the Tarquins were duplicates (as his master taught him: Beloch (1926), 226, and this was “a cheap rationalisation which spoiled the story and did not reconstruct history”); Cornell (1995), 123–5 followed suit: “this revision of the traditional story deserves no more credence than the dynasty of the Alban kings [sic] and should be consigned to the same dustbin;” it goes against the authority of the oldest tradition. It could all be solved by dating the dynasty down to 616–570! What tradition does that flout? Gjerstad (1963–1973), VI 142 accepted the dynasty but changed the chronology: c. 530–450. Incredible to say, Gagé (1976) is not interested. Pallottino (1993), 271 stated that it was impossible to define the relationship between the two Tarquins. Ogilvie (1965), 187 suggested that Livy was not quoting at first hand—but Livy did use Piso. 

  • 19

    Following Macer, Versnel (1970), 166; Cornell (1989), 290; Künzl (1988), 100–101. Rohde (1942), 1890–1903 states that 503 has no claim to historical credibility, but has no note on Livy. Gizewski (2007), 298 has no note on the first occasion. Walt (1997), 238 generously admits that the tradition is not unanimous. Ogilvie (1965), 277. 

  • 20

    For full discussions of the Latin dictatorship, see de Sanctis (1907–1979), I 465–485, and Mazzarino (1947), 152–171. Mommsen (1887), II 143 declared the dictatorship an integral part of the Republican constitution. Bandel (1910), 4–6 is unhelpful. Beloch (1926), 230–236 famously made the dictator the link in Rome between rex and consul, until c. 450. He accepted a Latin origin, but did not mention Macer or Livy. Rosenberg (1913), 71–79. Ridley (1979) uncovered Livy’s insight. 

  • 21

    Grant (1971), 145–6 bemusedly notes that neither the ancients nor we understand why these substitutes were chosen. Beck and Walter (2001–4), II 177 see Pythagorean connections; for he opposed blood sacrifices. 

  • 22

    De Sanctis (1907–1979), I 375 gives both kings a role, but Alföldi (1965), 139, followed by Cornell (1995), 129, dismissed any role by Priscus. All agree in equating the two cities. On this question see Olshausen (2002) and Uggeri (2008): both were in Latium. Colonna (1981) does not discuss this question. 

  • 23

    It is to be noted that Tränkle (1977) does not discuss any of the three matters listed here. 

  • 24

    De Sanctis (1907–1979), I 453: Horatius is a lame Cyclops; Ogilvie (1965), 258: a combination of a religious act (Horatius’ devotio) and an historical act, illustrated by the statue in the comitium; Grant (1971), 181–5: it all arose from the statue of the one-eyed and perhaps lame man opposite the pons Sublicius, who in fact was Vulcan. Müller (2005), 486 simply lists the two fates. 

  • 25

    Mommsen (1859), 320–5; it is more commonly claimed that Polybios is right about 509, so that Livy’s 348 is the second treaty: Warmington (1969), 159–164, Scullard (1989), 517, Forsythe (2005), 122–4. De Sanctis (1907–1979), II 239–240 incredibly declared the annalistic tradition “in agreement.” Cornell (1995), 210–214 simply focussed on Polybios. For a good discussion, see Oakley (1997–2005), II 252–262. 

  • 26

    Walbank (1957–1979), I 185; Ogilvie (1965), 720; de Sanctis (1907–1979), II 161. 

  • 27

    On the interests and methods of the antiquarians, see Rawson (1988), 233–249; Stevenson (2004). 

  • 28

    The Antiquitates are quoted in the edition of Mirsch (1882). 

  • 29

    Grant (1971), 84 noted that Dionysios also omitted Carthage here, and suggested that Varro was inspired by Vergil—but the date of c. 56 for the Antiquitates will not allow that. 

  • 30

    See Coarelli (1999a). 

  • 31

    See Coarelli (1999b). 

  • 32

    See Ogilvie (1965), 52 for the range of views—but no Varro! Tagliamonte (1999) describes Livy’s view as the most accredited tradition. 

  • 33

    Varro is mostly accepted: Ogilvie (1965), 80; Cornell (1995) 114; Pallottino (1993), 165–7. Palmer (1970), 8 stated that “the origin of the names cannot be ascertained.” 

  • 34

    Moderns agree that the names are gentilicial and topographical: Palmer (1970), 75; Cornell (1995), 117; Pallottino (1993), 163–165. 

  • 35

    Moderns’ reaction is well summed up by Ogilvie (1965), 72: “a mysterious and colourless figure.” 

  • 36

    Moderns are often uncommitted about the vicus Tuscus—as well they might be: Papi (1999) noted the three different chronologies: Romulus (Varro), Tarquin I (Tacitus) and Porsenna (Livy and Dionysios). Pallottino (1993), 206–210 plumps for Tarquin I and has an interesting analysis of exactly who these Etruscan settlers might be. Gagé (1976), 115–6 emphasises the clear differences between Etruscans from Vulci or from Chiusi, and accounts Varro’s explanation correct. The question is: what was his source? 

  • 37

    Ogilvie (1965), 475–6. It may be noted, as well, that Siccius was much more celebrated in imperial times: as well as Gellius, Val. Max. III 2, 24, Plin. NH VII 101, Festus 208L: Müller (2008). 

  • 38

    Forsythe (2005), 208–209. 

  • 39

    437: de Sanctis (1907–1979), II 129, Drummond (1989), 168; 437 or 426: Ogilvie (1965), 563–4, Forsythe (2005), 242–6; 437 or 428 or 426: Cornell (1989), 290! It is the signal contribution of John Rich to prove that Crassus’ claim to the spolia could not be rejected on any technical grounds (Dio misled everyone)—and he fought under his own auspices, because he was granted a triumph: Rich (1996). His picture of the innocent antiquarian Augustus is, however, not credible—given that the rules were henceforth changed: Augustan sources significantly all fell into line. It had to be dux killing dux. Augustus carried out some hasty research to check on Cossus, not sure what might be needed to block Crassus. 

  • 40

    Busta Gallica: Coarelli (1993): no problem, mentioning only Livy. Doliola: Coarelli (1995): Varro is to be preferred. 

  • 41

    Wissowa (1899); W. Kierdorf (2003). 

  • 42

    De Sanctis (1907–1979), II 94; Bernardi (1973), 30–2; cf. Cornell (1995), 299: the meaning is ambiguous: the commander was always Roman, but not needed every year! 

  • 43

    Dihle (1955); Elvers (2010). 

  • 44

    Conveniently translated in Wiseman (1995), 160. 

  • 45

    The flamen Dialis: 72, 77, 79, 82, 92, 94, 144, 238, 250, 292, 295, 342, 368, 484 L; the Vestals: 152, 277, 296, 310, 448, 454, 466, 468, 474 L; the pontiffs: 113, 160, 168, 294, 422, 444 L; the augurs: 316 L; the rex sacrificulus: 422 L; the Salii: 334, 438 L. 

  • 46

    Latte (1960), 195; Ogilvie (1965), 237–8; accepted also by Momigliano (1969), 97: the rex was “later” displaced from the Regia by the pontifex maximus. Rejected: the rex sacrorum was always subordinate to the pontifex maximus; this is an “abstract” order: Momigliano (1969); the pontifex maximus was already the highest priest on the expulsion of the kings: Gjerstad (1963–1973), V 252; the seniority of the rex sacrorum was “always purely formal:” Gordon (2007), 595. In contrast, the text refers to the real king, reduced to priestly functions under the monarchy: Cornell (1995), 234. 

  • 47

    For the best photographs, see Alföldi (1965), pls. 8–12; for the date of the frescoes: Spivey (1997), 153–8. It is interesting to recall that de Sanctis (1907–1979), I 452, notoriously conservative, identified Mastarna with Porsenna! There are few moderns qualified to comment. The idea that mastarna is a title (and = magister) goes back to Herbig (1917), 185. Alföldi (1965), 212–231 rejected this. It was a personal name cf. Perperna, Saserna, and even appears in Latin (ILS 9272). He saw the overlooked clue in Dionysios (III 65, 6): Tarquin I placed a valiant foreigner who had lost his nationality in charge of the allies: this was Mastarna. The heroes, save Larth Ulthes, are naked: they had been prisoners. The slain are wearing red borders on their clothes: they are princes. Alföldi accepts that the Vibennas and Mastarna ruled Rome c. 550–524. Roncalli (1987), 89–92 analysed the painting: the central figure (the most important) is Laris Papathnas of Volsinii: perhaps the scene was located at his city. Pallottino (1987) returned to Herbig: mastarna shows a suffix—na; it therefore means “of the magister.” The magister was Caeles Vibenna, whom he frees and to whom he was notoriously attached. The Vibennas’ foes come from Volsinii, Sovana (?) and Rome, along the Tiber. The tomb celebrates the glories of the Vibennas from Vulci. Pallottino could later add to this (1993), 238–50: like Mastarna, Rasce has only one name, so they are of lower status; he is surely “the Etruscan.” Perhaps Caeles reached Rome; perhaps he was succeeded as ruler by his brother Aulus; the latter, according to Arnobius, was overthrown by Mastarna. Circumstantial evidence indicates the identity of Mastarna and Servius. Suffice to say the tomb documents great upheavals in S. Etruria c. 600–550. As for the Caelian hill, Livy simply mentions its being added to the city by Tullus (I 30, 1), without etymology. Giannelli (1993) states that the tradition is “agreed” that it was named after Caeles Vibenna. 

  • 48

    Ridley (1975). 

  • 49

    Momigliano (1963), 98 listed linguistic data, religious ceremonies and archaeological discoveries as sources of information for early Rome, but then outrageously declared that “the literary tradition, however doubtful, must still be our only guide” (my italics). 

  • 50

    The vast majority of these Tacitean references, however, relate to the late Republic, where we do not have a text of Livy. 

  • 51

    Drummond (1989), 196: originally nominated by kings and consuls; cf. Kierdorf (2008), 320: the Romans’ views are pure speculation, but it is more credible that the office began in 447. 

  • 52

    Syme (1958), 398. 

  • 53

    For example, Alföldi (1965), 72–84: Porsenna captured Rome, but was then defeated at Aricia in 504; Gjerstad (1963–1973), V 346; Gagé (1976), 91–3; Forsythe (2005), 148; Eder (2007). 

  • 54

    Holford-Stevens (1988), 248 notes that Livy is never quoted by Gellius; she therefore does not treat their relationship. 

  • 55

    Von Ungern-Sternberg (2008) ironically notes that the modern name derives from Livy’s anticipation. 

  • 56

    Ogilvie (1965), 299 called this “a curious anachronism.” 

  • 57

    Hanell (1946), 125–140. Mommsen (1859), 176–80 focussed on the annual nail, but thought it unimportant and not long used. He preferred a century nail (463, 363, 263? BCE)! Momigliano (1931) has little to do with this dictator (the apotropaic dictator he regarded as an annalistic invention). Latte (1960), 154, to the contrary, accepted that the apotropaic nail was well known, but that the annual nail represented a “rationalizing new meaning.” Drummond (1989), 138 combined the two: the annual nail was also a remedy against the plague. 

  • 58

    De Sanctis (1907–1979), I, 403–407. The pull of the tradition is too much for most: Bloch (1961), 100 (although the Etruscans stayed until c. 475), Cornell (1995), 216–218. Compare: Porsenna ended the monarchy: Alfoldi (1965), 72–84, Forsythe (2005), 147–149; Heurgon (1973), 156–165 (accepting an evolution from king to consuls via the praetor maximus), Ogilvie (1976), 79–91 (following the expulsion of the Etruscans in 507 there were “some years of chaos”). 

  • 59

    The classic discussion is Coli (1953). 

  • 60

    Most notably de Sanctis (1907–1979), I, 408. 

  • 61

    Ridley (2014). 

  • 62

    This is not to say that Livy was not capable of great and sympathetic interest in such enemies: Ridley (2000). 

About the article

Ronald T. Ridley

Published Online: 2013-05-03

Published in Print: 2013-05-01

Citation Information: Journal of Ancient History, Volume 1, Issue 1, Pages 27–52, ISSN (Online) 2324-8114, ISSN (Print) 2324-8106, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jah-2013-0003.

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