Was there any basis for an optimistic view of Rome in Livy and Ovid?

Livy, or Titus Livius Patavinus (59 BC-17 AD), was  a Roman historian.  Among his works, he wrote a series of accounts on the history of Rome, which survey a period of about 700 years.  Unfortunately, most of these books did not survive.  Livy acknowledges the weaknesses in historical writing, and explains that it is the work of a poet and not the work of historian.  Without account on ancient events, the historian is required to either leave out detail, or fill in the blanks with what might have happened.  Livy’s writings on the history of early Rome provide us with insight, but we cannot rely on them literally.

Ovid, or Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC-17/18 AD), was a Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus.  Ovid was banished to the black sea region by Augustus in 8 AD, around the same time in 8 AD, he wrote the metamorphoses. The metamorphoses tell the story from the creation, through to the death of Julius Caesar (44 BC).  The central  theme of the metamorphoses, is the change of the gods, and thus the world they were worshiped by.  Both of these writers start with the story of creation and provide background, and use this background when they later describe the events that brought  Rome to be an important part of western civilization

Livy and Ovid both provided accounts of the origins of Rome.  These two accounts are distinct, however, similarities are drawn between the two.  It is the same basic story of creation that we are given by the Greek writer Hesiod in Theogony.  They are slightly different, but it’s the same general story line.  Following the story of creation, the stories follow different paths, but they both include the idea of the corruption of mankind.  The metamorphoses and Livy’s series of books, each displayed different ways of dealing with this corruption of mankind, it was not the same series of historical events.  However, they both resulted in establishing hope for the city of Rome.

Livy wrote about the twin brothers Romulus and Remus, Romulus killed Remus, and he reforms and goes on to develop Rome.  He gives the Roman people a set of laws.  He gives the city hope, and he builds it up.  Some of his methods lacked a system of ethical balance, but he was believed to have led the early Romans and build their civilization.  Ovid, in comparison, writes about an event that reflects the story of Noah and the flood.  The corruption of mankind was so vast that Jupiter sent a flood to wipe mankind from the face of the earth.  There were two survivors,  Deuclion and Pyrra, who repopulated the earth, by tossing stones over their shoulders that turned into human beings.

The basis for an optimistic view, in both stories, is hope.  Hope that the corruption will be demolished.  These people had motivation to build a city, and they did.  Hope for relief is a powerful motivation in the mind of man.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s