Livy’s Moral Judgments: Loyalty and Betrayal

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Livy’s Moral Judgments: Loyalty and Betrayal In the preface, Livy states that his aim is not to challenge the facts of history, but to examine the lives of early Romans. In particular, he desires to investigate the morals of Rome’s early citizens. Through each story he tells, Livy passes judgments on his characters and uses them as examples of how Roman citizens should and should not act. He considers many different traits, but the one he holds above all others is loyalty to Rome. Perhaps because Livy lived in a time where men had forsaken loyalty to their country for personal gain, he places extra emphasis on loyalty. He praises self-sacrificing men who server their country and demonizes opportunistic men who are only loyal to themselves. Livy’s work is a history, but Livy is not a historian in the modern sense, he is a storyteller. Livy’s subject is the morals of the men that shaped Rome, not Rome herself. Thus, his analyses of his character’s morals are critical to his story. As Livy himself says in the preface, “This is the particularly healthy and productive element of history: to behold object lessons of every kind of model as though they were displayed on a conspicuous monument” (Livy: Preface). Without the person stories and moral judgments, Livy’s work would be a boring forgotten record of Roman history. Livy uses the kings of Rome to establish the origin of Roman customs as well as establish Roman morals. Romulus, a more mythical than factual character, is the first king of Rome. With Romulus, Livy sets the base act that shapes Roman life: war. Romulus is praised for expanding Roman borders and strengthening Rome. His death, whether by a divine act, or as Livy hints, murder by the senate, results in his deification. Num Pompilius was the second king of Rome. In contrast to Romulus’ focus on warfare, Numa focused on religion. Numa’s new focus

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