is livy an accurate historian?

Essay by hencamUniversity, Bachelor'sA, April 2012

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Does Livy have a consistent standard of historical accuracy in Books 1-5?

In books 1-5 of the Ab Urbe Condita, Livy sets down in detail the foundation of Rome and tells the story right through to the defeat by the Gauls in 390BC. Livy draws on a number of sources to create his history and is the only ancient author to attempt the feat of writing Rome's history on such a grand scale. As Mellor reminds us, 'no other ancient historian even attempted a history of the remote past on anything like this scale.�' For this he can be commended hugely. However, despite his thorough nature, spanning 142 books in total, the reliability of Livy's work is certainly a matter for conjecture. In this essay I will focus upon the accuracy of Livy's work as well as his consistency as an historian, with a view to determining whether Livy has a consistent standard of historical accuracy or not.

Indeed Livy demonstrates his skill as a historian, clearly showing his knowledge by including precise dates, names and places. We are given highly specific information on the census in 465bc at 3.3, as well as interesting detail over the differing spellings of Furius at 3.5. The names of the consuls for each year are almost always stated with confidence, and the chronological structure of the books adds further weight to its sense of accuracy. Mellor shows his respect for Livy's work, and suggests its accuracy in explaining that 'unlike many of his predecessors he did not embellish he legends with additional fictions'. He furthers his support stating that even if there are errors, they are 'relatively few for the size and scope of the book�'. I think that this is an important point that must be taken into account when assessing...