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Ab Urbe Condita: Volume I: Books I-V (Oxford Classical Texts) (Bks.1-5)

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  4,787 ratings  ·  105 reviews
Written primarily in Latin, 1914/1930/1981 edition
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published December 12th 1974 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published -29)
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I read the reviews of Livy's History and I see that his writing has been badly misunderstood. Critics make two charges against it; one worthless, and one worthwhile.

The first is that Livy is reliant on myth and miraculous stories. He includes tales that are not possibly true, or have been pilfered from the Greeks. They complain also that Livy is too credulous about fantastic occurrences like, for example, when he observes talking cows or phenomenal weather.

But this charge is frankly stupid. It
This year I have determined to read a number of books written during the Roman Republic and Empire. I have started with Livy's The Early History of Rome, which covers the period from the founding of Rome to the sacking of the city by the Gauls in 386 B.C.

Although Livy was no match for the dark power of Tacitus, the story he tells is one of war all the time. From its founding, Rome was constantly at war with the Etruscans, the Sabines, the Volsci, and other nearby peoples. At the same time, from
This translation was first published in 1960 and it retains a scholarly and serious tone that tends to be abandoned in favor of a more accessible simplicity such as is found in modern translations of ancient texts. Where "accessible simplicity" means "dumbed down patter". All the same it really is accessible to all but the most simple-minded reader. How do I know? I read it with what I think was great success. I even enjoyed it and looked forward to my hour with this book and a mug of coffee eve ...more
Straight forward and enjoyable, there are none of those 20 page long digressions which plague the greek historians. The real draw of this is that it shows how a small settlement in the ancient world developed and gained power until it became an entire civilization. It's obvious that Livy really really loves Rome, and at times it can feel like pure propoganda, but its balanced out with some very even-handed depictions of major conflicts and crazy personal ambitions. In their early stages, you can ...more
Pete daPixie
I thought Livy's 'The Rise of Rome' Books 1-5 to be some of the hardest reading I've done for quite some time. Like eating cardboard. The more I read, the harder it was to digest the thing. A historian whose work I read recently, my colander brain prevents recall of who this was, advocated strongly for reading the literature of a period to fully understand the history. So I met the advice half way in deciding to read this book.
Titus Livius wrote 142 books in this monster series of his history of
Nowhere is the class struggle so vividly laid out as in Livy. Plebeians want more land and equality, so the patricians distract them by going to war; plebeians want equal political representation, so the patricians distract them by invoking the gods ("What would the Gods think? You're too poor!"). My dog, is Appius Claudius not ready for Fox News? This is an excellent translation, superior to the Penguin edition, too, in my regard, for politely breaking up the consulships. By the time the kings ...more
T.F. Rhoden
There is more than enough in Livy’s work to keep one’s self busy. Though I had only planned on reading the first ten of the forty or so books in his history (each book contains around 40-50 chapters or around 50 pages a book), I now plan on reading all of the books. Livy was born in c.59 BCE and wrote these books from the middle part of his life till his death after the turn of the millennium.

As for the first book, it mainly tells the story of the founding of Rome (which was in 753 BCE for Livy)
Even for a huge Latinophile, this history is a bit hard-going. I've probably been spoiled having read Tacitus and Plutarch in the past, with their endlessly entertaining sassy character assassinations. Livy is a lot more... sober.

I suppose it's mainly because so little is actually known about the history of early Rome. For the first book in this volume, this actually makes for a fascinating weaving of fact and myth: the almost certainly mythological figures of Aeneas, Hercules (and maybe Romulus
I found reading this book to be a mixed experience. It clearly gives a sense of Roman history up to 386 BC, much of course being based on myth and legend, and as such it is an invaluable introduction to the history of Rome.

The writing itself seems uneven. There are seemingly interminable chronological lists of consuls and tribunes, squabbles between patricians and plebians, repetitive conflicts with neighboring tribes and cities that become mind-numbing. Interspersed with these are fascinating "
Amazon review:

When Livy began his epic The History of Rome, he had no idea of the fame and fortune he would eventually attain. He would go on to become the most widely read writer in the Roman Empire and was eagerly sought out and feted like a modern celebrity. And his fame continued to grow after his death. His bombastic style, his intricate and complex sentence structure, and his flair for powerfully recreating the searing drama of historical incidents made him a favorite of teachers and pupil
Steve Hemmeke
Livy was a prolific ancient Roman historian, writing around the time of the birth of Christ. He chronicles the political and military history of Rome from its founding by Aeneas to its sacking by the Gauls around 386 BC.

He is keen to uphold certain values.

"When we followed God's guidance all was well; when we scorned it, all was ill" (pg. 397). Following omens and divinations was more convincing even than reasoned oratory. It is more important to obey the gods than to follow the persuasion
Feb 09, 2014 Richard rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in history or Latin classics
Recommended to Richard by: Machiavelli, after general learning
I've had this lying around for years, started it once; this time, I went through it because I intend to read through Machiavelli's works, one of which is a commentary on Livy. I did enjoy reading this if only because I came upon names I recognized--Coriolanus, Tarquin, Cincinnatus, and so on, and some I should have known, especially Camillus. This old Penguin could have used some maps and a chronology of sorts (the founding of Rome is mythic and a suggested date is c. 753 BCE?); the dating was b ...more
Esteban Gordon
I'd say my favorite parts of this work revolve around the ever recurring class struggle between kings, patricians, and the commons, as well as the varying conflicts involving the enforcement of military discipline. It just goes to show.... where there are classes... .there is class struggle.
Emma Brown
I have a soft spot for history, so I could only avoid this book for so long. The tales and speeches interested me the most, though the author made meticulous note of the wars and naming each man who filled the slot of a political leader, which wound up being more monotonous than than not. Other than that, I enjoyed looking at the cultures and trying to understand just how Livy viewed his country.

He was right, at least, in regarding human nature as remaining similar enough that a glimpse of the p
Tyler Windham
My classicist field of knowledge was firmly routed in the history of the Greeks and of Rome from the Punic Wars through the Caesars who were the subject of Suetonius' work. Needless to say I did not feel the picture fully painted without a study into the earlier centuries of Rome's existence, of the archaic kingdom, and the desperate struggle to survive against their much stronger Latin neighbors and, of course, the invasion by those great barbarian bogymen of Roman history, the Celts. Livy sati ...more
Apr 12, 2009 Derrick rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Derek Benz
First, note that the translation I have is the Barnes and Noble version! Maybe look for others...

For its historical significance Livy's work is a 5. The writing, however, is just bad. Not sure if the translation is to blame or if Livy was that bad of a writer, Latin or no. There were times where I simply wasn't sure who was doing what. This type of confusion and ridiculously long and awkward sentences are common making the flow almost non existent. The end notes are bad too. Not enough useful in
I think reading this unthinkable book by Livy is like reading an epic. In other words, don't expect to enjoy reading him or understand every event, dialog, uprising, etc. since there're innumerable complexities in there. However, reading him is worth spending our time so that we can grasp some ideas from one of the great three Roman historians; the trio being Livy, Sallust and Tacitus (according to a synopsis from a Penguin paperback, I wonder how about Polybius, why not?).

Therefore, I'd like to
Curt Hopkins Hopkins
If anyone EVER tells you Livy is deadly, well. Yeah, believe them. He's awful. He managed to turn 400 years of Roman history into 400 pages of the dullest Bachelor Sitcom History Professor porno you could ever hope to hate. In all those pages he managed to tell two stories I retained, both near the end: the conquest of Veii and the sack of Rome by the Gauls. (So soporific and sententious I wound up cheering for the Gauls.)

There is a reason to read it, however, aside from the consul lists and rot
I was introduced to Livy's work by Machiavelli, who was among the first of the moderns to take a deferential view toward the ancients, as Europe climbed out of its Dark Age ditch and labored toward the domineering heights of the Enlightenment. Classical authors, Livy among them, were being unearthed and gave intellectuals a new array of secular (or so they thought) observations to work with. What Galileo did with astronomy and Da Vinci did with anatomy and engineering, Machiavelli attempted to d ...more
Aug 21, 2014 max added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rome
Quintilian credited Livy with a style he curiously described as possessing "lactea ubertas," i.e., milky richness. There is a striking variety in his compositional method. Longer sentences wind on at a leisurely pace, while other, shorter ones hit home with an epigrammatic punch. To read him in Latin is to savor one of the great stylists of the language. He is unlike Cicero and nothing akin to Tacitus. Caesar is an affordable Barolo; Livy is an expensive Amarone. But this is a translation, and a ...more
Feb 26, 2010 max added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: latin
Livy is like fine wine. I keep coming back to him and am never let down. He is the single most important Roman historian when it comes to Rome's early history. He reads rather like Herodotus in many ways. As a storyteller, he appreciates the importance of character and dramatic presentation. He is colorful and entertaining, never dry and tedious. The period of the monarchy, the Struggle of the Orders, the establishment of the Republic: all of these are treated in depth. If you want to know more ...more
Robert Sheppard


"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." is an apt admonition to
This is only for people with a strong interest in the early history of ancient Rome. It adheres to none of the rigors of modern scholarship -- the author fills in a lot of blanks in an effort to instruct the reader on Roman character. However, the book is not a fairy tale either, the author conscientiously attempts to identify what he believes only to be myth. The accounts of early Roman engagements are very repetitive, Livy essentially records what happened in Rome year by year.

My biggest inter
M. Milner
Livy's first five books of his huge history of Rome - he originally wrote some 140+ volumes - is somewhat of a mixed bag. It covers the rise of the city-state of Rome, from it's founding in about 750 BC to the Gallic sack in about 386 BC, so there's a lot of events detailed here. But there isn't a ton of actual history, either. Livy used mostly myths about Rome's origins to recreate it's earliest days. Most of these came from ancient Greece; Aeneas and Hercules literally came to Rome from Greece ...more
I was in Sienna, Italy back in 2000/2001. My host family had been taking me around some parts of Europe that weren't too distant from Varaždin, Croatia. At one point, while we were walking to the Cathedral, I asked my host brother, "What's up with all those statues and pictures everywhere?"

"What statues and pictures?"

"The ones with the kids and the wolf." I'll never forget the look he gave me. The look of, "Are you kidding me?"

"That's Romulus and Remus..." Blank stare. "Romulus? The founder of R
Greg Morrison
"The next consuls were Marcus Genucius and Gaius Curtius. War and political dissension made the year a difficult one..." (p269)

Nearly every year in Livy's Rome is split apart by the threat of war or violence in the streets. Sometimes it's easy to forget that Rome was not always Europe, nor always Italy. Sometimes they couldn't even hold Rome against her own citizens. This is the thrill of Livy's history - watching Rome before it snatches the crown from Hannibal, before it put Vercingetorix under
Another 'Classic Work' which I had examined in parts when I was younger, the work of Livy was a major historical work of the Roman Period, composing something like 142 volumes of which only 30 or so survive. These five cover the mythical formation of rome up to it's invasion and sacking by the Gauls. It's certainy a different historical work, alternating between long stretches of tedious descriptions of Tribunes and Consules and repititive conflicts between the Senators and the Plebs, to the per ...more
Interesting read about the early days of Rome and the republic. A little boring at times, but notable to see how they threw out the kings in their desire for freedom, and the challenges that resulted from that liberty. Interesting how long they lasted with an executive branch made of two consuls who split power and were elected every year. I was also surprised at their strong belief in the gods and supernatural events. Overall very informative, and some good lessons for present times.
Reasonable secondary source history of Rome. Livy covers the time period from 1200BC to ~385BC in minor detail, but includes some famous speeches from the time. Enjoyable for a number of reasons, excruciating for a number of others.

Enjoyable: Its nice to hear a pagan bitching about how everything's going to shit because the gods aren't being followed and kids these days don't give the gods the respect they deserve.

Enjoyable: The names of Roman Senators. My favorites were definitely Spurius Furiu
Livy is the Roman equivalent of Herodotus, blending fact with myth and legend to paint a highly readable portrait of the monarchy and early republic of Rome. Before the Empire and all its imperial grandeur, Rome was a scrappy city-state with a dysfunctional government and endless enemies. A truly great book and despite heading up the syllabus for every "Classical Civilization" course and thereby evoking instantaneous eye-rolling, Livy is a great pleasure to read.
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“The study of history is the best medicine for a sick mind; for in history you have a record of the infinite variety of human experience plainly set out for all to see: and in that record you can find for yourself and your country both examples and warnings: fine things to take as models, base things, rotten through and through, to avoid.” 28 likes
“Now I would solicit the particular attention of those numerous people who imagine that money is everything in this world, and that rank and ability are inseparable from wealth: let them observe that Cincinnatus, the one man in whom Rome reposed all her hope of survival, was at that moment working a little three-acre farm (now known as Quinctian meadows) west of the Tiber, just opposite the spot where the shipyards are today. A mission from the city found him at work on his land - digging a ditch, maybe, or ploughing. Greetings were exchanged, and he was asked - with a prayer for God's blessing on himself and his country - to put on his toga and hear the Senate's instructions. This naturally surprised him, and, asking if all were well, he told his wife Racilia to run to their cottage and fetch his toga. The toga was brought, and wiping the grimy sweat from his hands and face he put it on; at once the envoys from the city saluted him, with congratulations, as Dictator, invited him to enter Rome, and informed him of the terrible danger of Minucius's army.” 4 likes
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