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The purposes of both
Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita Libri and the Forum of Augustus are quite divergent to
each other and tolerate differing levels of historical indifference. These
differences are demonstrable of how Livy can aid understanding of the Forum of
Augustus (particularly in the case of the summi viri), as Livy’s account allows
the acknowledgement of the differing historical accounts present in the elogia.
Ultimately Livy’s History doesn’t really enable understanding of the Forum of
Augustus, except as a comparison of two polar opposites of historical approach.
Livy did not influence directly the Forum of Augustus or the selection of the
summi viri, except as perhaps a source to be picked apart and used for
nefarious historical editing.

 

Considering
all the summi viri, there are but two according to Luce that are unexpected or
obscure, and thus could point to the influence of Livy. One of these
individuals is L. Albinius, he was a plebeian, who escorted the Vestal virgins
to Caere when they fled the Gauls during the sack of Rome in 390 B.C. Livy is
in fact the only literary account of this event, with all later such accounts
deriving from his original (Luce, 407). This is then the most convincing case for Livy having
influenced the choices of the summi viri. However, a definitive conclusion in
this case cannot be drawn as little of the elogia survives. Furthermore,
as Luce suggests, in many instances as with Marius, the elogia pursue an
independent course in the information given concerning the summi viri,
disagreeing on numerous occasions with the accounts of Livy and all other such
sources (Luce, 414). In fact, the disagreements with Livy are so numerous in
the elogia that Luce suggests that on particular points the elogia were
deliberately making correctives or even replies to Livy’s accounts of events
(Luce, 414). For example, where in Livy, Valerius fails completely in his
attempt to relieve those oppressed by debts, in his elogium he fully succeeds
in his goal, such disagreements are numerous between the accounts of Livy and
the elogia. Thus, the elogia
assign a unified story to multi-faceted events, with there being a purpose to
the past like some kind of overarching plan. As Shaya states ‘the Roman
art of remembering was also an art of forgetting’, which is precisely what the
Forum of Augustus encouraged, and what Livy attempted to prevent (Shaya, 84).

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So,
might Livy and his Ab Urbe Condita Libri have suggested to Augustus some
candidates for the summi viri? In reality most of those included would have
needed no introduction by Livy, as most had been great triumphatores (Luce,
406). Luce goes on to state that Augustus’s selection was non-biased, though that is not quite convincing,
due to the inordinate number of associate Julii included and the exclusion of
such figures as Cicero. Figures such as Marius however were included,
who was a relative by marriage, his elogium describes the end of his career
thusly: ‘when he was seventy, he was driven from his country by civil war, and by
war he was brought back. He became consul for the seventh time’ (CIL 6.41024). This presents the picture of a character of a loyal republican soldier;
whose presence was so desired by Rome that by vote he was elected consul seven
times. However, when examined through Livy’s documentation, Marius
‘having committed a great many crimes, died on the Ides of January; if one
compares his virtues with his vices, it would be difficult to decide whether he
was more serviceable in war or more pernicious in peace – so much so that the
country he saved by war he overthrew in peacetime, first by every sort of
wrongdoing, and finally in arms like a foreign enemy’ (Livy, Per 80.9). This makes Marius seem like a
traitor to every Roman ideal, and is indeed a far cry from the soldier
described in the forum elogia. Thus, from Livy we learn just how much of a
squinted view the elogia of the forum present of certain historical and indeed
legendary characters, stating only their virtues and only in a way which lives
up to the concept of summi viri. Gowing also acknowledges the example of
the elogium of Marius as a text which manipulates memory, reading of the
achievements of Marius in the Forum of Augustus might have elicited a sense of
national pride in the reader, only if the reader knew their history well could
they supply from their own memory the failures of Marius’ career (Gowing, 143).
Gowing gives the examples of the guile with which Marius secured his force
consulship in 103 BC, his reputation for faithlessness or indeed the cruelty of
his conduct throughout the course of the Civil War of 87-86 BC (Gowing, 143).
Beard suggests that the elogium are ‘expertly reticent’, and the Marius example
in particular allows the transformation of his character ‘from butcher of the
civil war to hero of the Republic’ (Beard, 88). There is some argument
particularly by Anderson, that those represented as the summi viri, would be
expected, to share some connection with the new emperor, whether that link be
familial or indeed by virtue of the office they held or their various
accomplishments (Anderson, 83). Thus, by the upholding of this theory certain individuals will have been
excluded as they do not fit this requirement, if the comparison to Augustus was
to be this direct it is also understandable that any less than noble deeds the
summi viri committed were excluded, in this way Livy’s approach to history
could not have been applied, as it could have affected the integrity of the
Augustan legacy. This is once again particularly demonstrated by Gowing
who suggests that the importance the emperor attached to the men of the summi
viri is demonstrated further by their subsequent display at Augustus’ funeral
(Gowing, 144).

 

It has been suggested that within the canvas that was the
Forum of Augustus, Augustus attempted to create a mythology and historical
narrative befitting of the Emperor, specifically when it came to his own
lineage that of the Julii. According to the description
provided by Ovid the Julii were on one side of the forum and everyone worthy
but unrelated to the Julii on the other (Ovid, Fast, 5.563-66). Luce postulates
that this in itself seems unlikely as there was room for up to 108 niches in
the forum and it is doubtful that 54 ancestral Julii could be mustered to fill
an entire side of the forum, even with the allowance of the Alban kings and
those related by marriage or adoption only (Luce, 403). Many of the individuals
Augustus thus apparently claims as Julii, are not categorised as such by Livy.
In fact, Livy disputes the integrity of a number of those included in the summi
viri, an example, is Livy’s discussion of the descent of the Julii from Julus,
thus questioning the principle of an entire line of descension (Luce, 405).
Livy in fact writes ‘for who could confirm for certain the truth of a matter so
ancient?’, an entirely understandable quandary considering historiography,
however controversial in the extreme at the time, perhaps why Livy goes no
further in terms of passing his own judgement upon the matter (Livy, 1.3.1-3). But still, what claim would Augustus
have upon many of the summi viri if not for the genealogy of the house of
Julii, understandably no doubt is expressed in the elogia when expressing
lineage. Then, as Luce mentions, there is Livy’s sceptical attitude
towards Augustus’ version of how Cornelius Cossus won the spolia opima (Luce,
405). This due to controversy
over Crassus also achieving spolia opima, Augustus states that Crassus is not
eligible for the spolia opima because he was not the chief general at the time
of his killing his enemy, if this was the case then it may be that Cornelius
Cossus was also not eligible for the spolia opima. Augustus rebuilding
the temple of Jupiter Feretrius entered and according to Livy stated that he
had seen upon the linen cuirass that Cossus was in fact chief general at the
time and thus eligible for the spolia opima, Livy states ‘of this every man
must judge for himself’ (Livy, 4.20).

 

The Forum of Augustus
must first perhaps be understood through its intended purpose, and the
contrasting purpose of Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita Libri. As Livy states in his
preface his purpose is ‘writing a complete history of
the Roman people from the very commencement of its existence’ with particular
attention paid to accuracy where possible and if not then at least the whole
variety of sub-stories (Livy 1.pr). Livy, it would seem aims to provide enough
information to his reader so that they might ‘see, set in the clear light of
historical truth, examples of every possible type’ and derive which history
holds the greater truth (Livy 1.pr). The purpose of the Forum of Augustus however is much more linear, as a singular historical narrative
is provided for the summi viri. The monument unlike Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita
Libri is not immediately concerned with historical accuracy, it does not
attempt to profligate discussion of Rome’s summi viri, but acceptance instead
of a singular version of events. It is stated by Augustus himself that
he wishes to be judged against the example of ‘these old worthies’, the Forum
then is yet another monumental
example intended to secure the Augustan legacy (Suetonius, Aug, 31.5). Luce perhaps terms it best, expressing that the Forum
demonstrated how the emperor wished his countrymen to view the whole of Roman
history and the place of Augustus within it (Luce, 399). Gowing on the other
hand, suggests that the Forum of Augustus was more rooted in the republics
recent history, focusing not just on the new princeps, his family and its place
within Roman history, but was also an architectural declaration of the restored
Republic (Gowing, 138). In this sense, the forum of Augustus became a part of a
much broader ‘memory canvas’, Rome’s buildings were in many instances intended
to evoke particular associations with specific historical events and
personalities, thus the forum of Augustus became a tangible memory of the
qualities Augustus valued (Gowing, 139). If the forum was intended as a declaration of the restored
Republic, in this way Livy does not aid understanding, as Livy it seems did not
believe the Republic restored so to speak, but instead imitated. Besides
which the proclamation ‘I have contrived this to lead the citizens to
require me, while I live, and the rulers of later times as well, to attain
the standard set by those worthies of old’, this as Luce states meant the
statues and elogia of the forum established a competition via comparison, one
which Augustus had ensured he would win (Suetonius, Aug, 31.5) (Luce, 404). Following on the opposing argument
is thus, that the intentions behind both Livy’s and Augustus’s works are
functionally the same. Frisch argued well that the achievements
recognised in the Res Gestae are meant to be measured against those
achievements of the summi viri recorded in the elogia of the forum, and meant
to be found far more extensive (Frisch, 95). Livy wrote as already stated that he wished his reader to
weigh the worthiness of the characters about which he wrote, was this not then
also Augustus’s intention, that the summi viri’s achievements be weighed and
found less than his own. Indeed, it is more than likely that this is what
Augustus intended in one instance, he was after all aiming to secure his own
legacy, however it is more likely that there is more to the forums intended
purpose. As already stated the elogia of the forum ensure that the account of
history is linear, this is something which Livy would not abide. Augustus thus
deviates from the approach of Livy, he allows the questioning only of the
extent of the summi viri’s worthiness, not whether they actually deserve the
title, and by doing this makes his own legacy unquestionable. In this
sense it is as Shaya states ‘a highly constructed representation of the past’,
that is to say an idealised Roman past through the summi viri has been
constructed (Shaya, 84).

 

Titus Livius (64-59 BC – 12-17 AD) was
a Roman historian whose greatest work Ab Urbe Condita Libri
(Books from the Foundation of the City) covered a period from Rome’s earliest
legends through the reign of the Emperor Augustus to Livy’s own lifetime.
Livy’s approach to his history could be considered unique as he valued accuracy
and attempted to provoke his reader to analysis of the figures in his work. The
Forum of Augustus was built on the orders of the Emperor Augustus, inaugurated
in 2 BC the Forum was a monument to the Augustan regime, housing statues of 108
summi viri purportedly chosen by Augustus himself. Many of the summi viri, are
discussed in Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita Libri. Livy can only aid understanding of the Forum of Augustus
(particularly in the case of the summi viri) in comparison of the often-opposing
approaches both take to history.

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