“That Mob”

Livy does not scruple to call the early settlers of Rome “homeless and destitute”.  More than that, he says (in Penguin’s Selincourt translation) “That mob was the first real addition to the City’s strength, first step to her future greatness.”  When I think about it, it’s of a piece with the story of Romulus and Remus being exposed, nursed by a wolf, and raised by shepherds to share in their rustic adventures.

I wonder if Livy is seeking a deliberate balance between this and the story of the aristocratic Aeneas.  In his telling, the Trojan prince Aeneas settled in Latium, his son founded Alba Longa, and after many generations were born the twins who, having discovered their identity, founded Rome a few miles away.  This twofold legend of Rome’s foundation needs some explanation.  On top of that, Livy records the importance of the Etruscans (via the Tarquins who ruled Rome) and Sabines in the earliest times.

In any case it seems clear that Livy loves Rome (“no country has ever been greater or purer than ours”) and all of its people.  I’ll try to bear this in mind when thinking about his account of the struggles of the plebeians and patricians.

(This is the second of my Livy top five. Stay tuned.)

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