Historical Writing in Rome – I


          Rome did not have a glorious past, hence its records were little and humble. Its origin was a small group of villages. Romans did not have a racial pride like the Greek. Greeks considered themselves superior and all others as barbarians. The Greeks influenced much on historical writing as well. Because the Romans ignored their own history. A time was needed to develop their own individuality. 


  • The register of events by religious heads was the early historical writing of Rome.
  • Next it focused on Rome and Punic wars.
  • The real founder of Roman history was Porcius Cato. He wrote history, politics and war.
  • Julius Ceaser wrote on ‘Commentaries’ – about peace, war and customs of Roman tradition.
  • Greatest historians of Rome were Titus Livy and Tacitus.

TITUS LIVY (59 BC to 17 AD):

         He was considered as the National historian of Rome and contemporary of Emperor Agustus Caeser. He did not travel much but had read many books. He believed history should teach virtues and patriotism.


  • The glorious past and great struggle against Europe had impacted Livy.
  • As Herodotus wrote on the story of Greece and Persia that it should not go unknown.
  • Thucydides records Athens and Spartans as a guide to the future.
  • Livy tried to cherish the history of Rome and hence preface of his work. In the beginning of the book he quoted, “I wish to record the history of Roman people from its foundation of the city to my own times” and titled as “From the foundation of the City”.


               He narrates the history of Rome from its foundation by 753 BC up to the death of Drusus in 9th century AD. The entire work is divided into 142 books but only 35 survived in full. To write this, he studied the books of Pictor and Polybius. There were no central archives. So, he hinted private two individuals’ places for collection of sources. But he never travelled to gain more knowledge.


  1. A complete history of Romans from the foundation of the city to the establishment of an empire.
  • He used traditional records and systematic analyzed and wielded into the work.
  • His approach is not the part of Roman history, but the entire history.
  • He made humanistic approach, as it was written on human view point, with the accounts of war, treaties and colonies.
  1. As a philosopher, his idea was history should be instructive and included private virtue and public morality.
  • Languages were lucid, it had its charm, vivid narration and the military campaign narration was the best.


  • He made no specific references to the sources he used.
  • The evidences he used did not have a critical approach and study specially literary and geographical.
  1. If there were two versions, he chooses the most probable one that suited the scheme of his history.
  • Livy approached history as a rhetorical exposition and an art.
  • He gave importance to flowery style and expressed narration rather than critical analysis.
  • Without much research, his work encountered chronological and factual errors.
  • His work appeared to be superstitious.
  1. It was filled with Omens, prodigies. Hence gave religious tone to his writings.
  • Herodotus kept god away from his writing. Livy kept on the scene of history.
  • The quality of work suffered with inclusion of tong speeches. In the 35 books there are as many as 400 speeches and most of them are not in consequence.
  • Livy glorifies Roman to inspire their patriotism, but it worked against historical objectivity.